I have commented, very often, on grand strategy, strategy in various fields and tactics, also in many different fields. It has always seemed to me that both America and China were good at grand strategy. I think we saw two “master classes” in the 1940s, when Roosevelt, Stimson, Knox and Marshall set out the aims and the grand design for the Second World War …
… and then again, at then of the decade when Truman, Marshall and George Kennan devised the strategic doctrine for dealing with aggressive Soviet communism:
This was modern grand strategy at its very best, we have not seen its equal since. The tactics were left, by Roosevelt, Truman and Marshall to senior officials and field commanders, including at times General and later President Dwight Eisenhower and General Douglas MacArthur, although the latter was, very properly, fired, in the middle of a war, for questioning the president’s strategy. MacArthur’s job was to develop the tactics that would deliver on the strategy.
I think we should apply a similar division. in politics.
I believe that there is a grand strategic level of politics, which like a grand strategy in time of tension and war, involves defining the AIM and getting the people on board. Beginning in the summer of 1941 and extending into and beyond 1942 Franklin Roosevelt set out America’s (and the entire Western alliance’s (then fledgeling United Nations’) grand strategic aims. In politics, I think that equates to a long-term manifesto which says, for example, ‘this is what it means to be a Conservative,’ or to be a Liberal or a Green and so on. This needs to be set out by the Party’s leadership based on close and constant consultation with the grassroots. The business of giving effect to the strategic aims ~ which I would define as ‘bringing good, honest, Conservative (or Liberal or NDP) government to Canada,’ is the business of tactical ‘commanders’ ~ in politics they are the elected MPs (and MLAs) where serve in Parliament (and in legislative assemblies). The ‘commanders’ are the Parliamentary Party Leader ~ right. now Andrew Scheer for the CPC and Justin Trudeau for the LPC ~ and the cabinet ministers and shadow ministers.
If Prime Minister Trudeau and Opposition Leader Scheer are tactical ‘commanders,’ like Eisenhower, Harris, Slim, MacArthur and Canada’s Leonard Murray in 1944/45 then who are the strategic leaders? In my opinion, they are
- Suzanne Cowan for the Liberals,
- Scott Lamb for the Conservatives, and
- Mathieu Vick for the New Democrats.
But, wait a second, I can hear you saying … I’ve never heard of those people, they’re not famous and they don’t represent me.
These Party presidents are volunteers. Now, being a volunteer political party [president can look really good on a resumé and some law firms and other big business. Ms Cowan, for example, was (until January 2020) Vice President, Business Development and Corporate Affairs for the Park Lawn Corporation, and Mr Lamb is a Partner in the Vancouver law firm of Clark Wilson LLP. They are managers of their parties, ore than they are publicly visible leaders … in my opinion that should change. Party members, like me, should be much more concerned with what Mr Lamb, for example, thinks that our Conservative Party ought to be ~ more concerned that with what even Andrew Scheer, Peter MacKay, Leslyn Lewis and Erin O’Toole think about specific issues.
Ms Cowan, Mr Lamb and Mr Vick ought to be leading the grassroots in the always ongoing process of setting out the grand strategy for their parties. Party members and, especially, prospective candidates should then “sign on” to the strategy, the manifesto or statement of principles and goals ~ call ti what you will ~ that underpins each party’s election platform. In other words, the Party members, led by the volunteer party president should write the grand strategy and the ‘soldiers’ that candidates and campaign teams, led by the leader of the parliamentary caucus, should ‘sign on’ to it ~ a person cannot ball themself a Conservative, for example, if they espouse positions that are contrary to the Conservative Party‘s statement of principles. The tactics to be used during each election campaign ~ and there are 338 separate ones in this day and age, and in parliament, in government or in opposition, should be the business of the parliamentary leaders ~ in the CPC‘s case, right now, the business of Andrew Scheer, Leona Alleslev, Candice Bergan and so on.
The parliamentary wing, the elected MPs and the candidates, should select the Parliamentary Leader who, in most cases, for the Conservative and Liberal parties, will be either the prime minister or the leader of the opposition. The parliamentary wing should be able to replace the leader, even a sitting prime minister, as was done, recently, in Australia. That’s also a tactical decision. Although General George C Marshall wanted to have his man, Eisenhower, in tactical command, he would have accepted another choice. What he, Marshall, and the US team would not have tolerated would have been any allied (Churchill and/or DeGaulle) deviation from Roosevelt’s grand strategy.
I think politics should be the same. I think the Party, led by someone who works with and for the grassroots, the riding associations should set the broad outlines of Party policy. The Party should say this is what e.g. Conservatism or Liberalism means in Canada; the Party should vet all candidates for their adherence to the platform. The Parliamentary Wing should decide how to implement the Party’s platform in parliament. The Parliamentary Wing may be government or in opposition but it, and its leader, even when (s)he is prime minister, should still be answerable to the Party for adhering to the Party’s ideals and to the established, by the grassroots, platform.
Today, our parties, as such, are led (just managed?) by (relative) unknowns while the leader of the Parliamentary Wing of the Party is called the “leader.” I think that’s wrong. Perhaps there needs to be third order ~ maybe parties need an ‘elder statesman’ who is the public face of the Party, because, in modern politics, communications and public perception is strategic, the Party president who manages its affairs, including fundraising for election campaigns, in military terms, the chief-of-staff, and a Parliamnary Wing leader who actually sits in parliament, he’s the political tactician:
Tis would be the modern political equivalent of the grand strategic system that saw Henry Stmson and Lord Beaverbrook, as super chiefs of staff, and Admirals Pound and Nimitz and Generals Eisenhower and Slim, as tacticians surrounding Churchill and Roosevelt, the strategic leaders.