NEWPORT, R. I. - The Strategy and Policy Department of the Naval War College (NWC) hosted a “Developing Competitive Strategies for the 21st Century” conference August 23-24.
The conference, organized by Thomas G. Mahnken, Professor of Strategy and Jerome Levy Chair of Economic Geography and National Security, brought together approximately fifty scholars and practitioners from the Naval War College and across the globe, to examine the theory and practice of long-term peacetime military competition and explore strategies for the future.
“Given the challenges the United States faces today, and will face in the future, it is more important than ever for us to formulate long-term strategies strategies that maximize our leverage,” said Mahnken. “We have to be smart competitors.”
In the conference’s opening remarks, Rear Adm. Phil Wisecup explained that the concept of long-term peacetime strategic competition, otherwise known as “competitive strategies,” actually dated back centuries. History contains numerous examples of powers developing and implementing long-term strategies to build on their own strengths and exploit their adversaries’ weaknesses. He noted that it was during the Cold War with the Soviet Union that the idea of competitive strategies became institutionalized in the United States.
“A number of our speakers played key roles in the formulation and implementation of competitive strategies during that period,” Wisecup said. “They bring unique insight, and I’m looking forward to hearing what they have to say. There is a lot that we can learn from that experience.”
The workshop featured panel discussions about topics such as competitive strategies in theory and history, preconditions for and barriers to success, issues involving U.S. and China competition, and allied views of worldwide competition. Participants included not only American strategists, but also scholars and practitioners from Australia and Great Britain as well as senior representatives of the U.S. government.
Prof. Stephen Peter Rosen of Harvard and Paul Bracken of Yale as well as former practitioners, such as Phillip Karber of Georgetown University and Patrick Cronin of the Center for New American Security, were guest speakers at the two-day conference.
“This conference is a great example of how the Naval War College can serve the Navy and the nation as the incubator of cutting-edge strategic thought,” said Mahnken.
The conference will yield an edited volume and is likely to spark additional analytical efforts.
By David Reese, Naval War College Public Affairs