The Postwar Evolution of the Field of Strategic Studies

Publication Date: 
July 2017
Description: 

A chapter in "War, Strategy and History: Essays in Honour of Professor Robert O’Neill"

Document Type: 
Articles and Op-Eds

This chapter views the postwar evolution of strategic studies as an academic field to illuminate the intellectual and organisational context of Bob O’Neill’s scholarly achievements and organising adventures. Bob has been deeply involved in this evolution for over five decades, and has enjoyed a truly global view. Quite apart from his own research, he has been a significant animateur of research and teaching, with an amazing record of attracting and supporting students and colleagues, women as well as men, in Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and throughout Asia. Bob is also renowned as the builder and organiser of multiple collaborative efforts and numerous institutions across disciplines and across continents. It has been a remarkable career, but all the more remarkable for the far reaching lessons he has drawn, the wise counsel he has given, and the sense of integrity that Bob has made the standard for judgment and analysis.

I — and a number of others in this volume — have had the distinct pleasure of being along on the journey at different times and in different places. The context in which he has operated has too often been forgotten; he has led or fought many of the critical battles in postwar strategic studies, always with the same calm and vision. Presenting the evolutionary timeline of the field will time his career, detailed in other essays in appropriate measure.

I apologise that what I present here is far too much of an American view to do Bob’s career justice. It is also a personal view based on experiences that sometimes, but not always, have paralleled his. I hope thereby to challenge him to present his version and to write about the rest of the story as he sees it. It has not always been a smooth or a supportive context, especially given his advocacy for a more open and inclusive field, and his embracement of diversity, with emphasis on a more than a ‘Europe first’ or ‘great powers’ approach to strategy, and arguing for a greater transparency where possible. But for him, it has always been a journey of seizing and creating new opportunities, with enthusiastic appreciation of the farthest shore ahead. I suspect, too, that it has never been dull.