There’s no shortage of dark, pessimistic visions out there, including a revisionist Russia, an assertive China, the end of globalisation, a declining America and an endless war on terrorism. A strategist might tell you that today is the worst of times, but will add ‘don’t worry it’ll get worse’! Andrew Carr recently put forth some sound counterarguments that things aren’t really that bad in the world, but I’d like suggest that we might all gain from reimagining this assumed ‘dismal’ trade.

Strategists often like to think of themselves as realists, which is actually a complex international relations school of thought that encompasses many, often conflicting, perspectives. Fundamentally though, strategists cherry pick from realism the idea that they see things as they truly are—perceiving that conflict is endemic in human affairs. Strategists don’t dream of endless peace but instead have nightmares of forever wars. In its simplicity it has an appealing clarity—and for academics and think-tanks, it’s one that attracts outside attention and (most importantly) external funding.

The oft-quoted realist E.H.Carr was however alarmed at the intrinsic barrenness of the concept. He decided that international relations ‘…is the science not only of what is, but of what ought to be.’ In this view, strategists should aim to provide visions of preferred futures derived from an understanding of current realities.

Please click here to read the full “How to overhaul the dismal trade of strategy” article in the Strategist by Griffith Asia Institute Visiting Fellow Peter Layton.