I’m a bit late to comment on this, but Starbuck of Wings over Iraq has a great post on the use of Operational Design principles to conceptualize the Afghan campaign. Through problem-framing, one can conceptualize the problem to be solved through planning-a process that occurs intuitively but is brought to the fore by the specific planning methodology developed by TRADOC. However, one of the more interesting things about Starbuck’s op-ed is that he is applying the TRADOC methodology–meant for campaign planning as well as echelons below–to strategic questions:
Any ‘solution’ to the Afghanistan problem must be well-thought out, and operational design gives us a framework for examining problems of this nature. I’d like to invite everyone to not only debate the merits of further involvement in Afghanistan, but also to participate in the Army’s new operational design framework as a process for solving problems as complex as the ones we will face in small wars.
The verbiage he quotes from the Commander’s Appreciation and Campaign Designall relate to strategic concerns. Questions such as “are national interests and ideals at stake?” are by definition questions of foreign policy. As Milan Vego noted in his critique, operational design “builds an artificial bridge to the strategic level.” Grounding in strategic concerns, however, is not necessarily a weakness. The operational level implements strategic objectives, and “campaign design,” by definition, must be rooted in a solid understanding of strategic questions even if strategic decisions have already been made by civilian policymakers. As Starbuck argues, however, the “design” framework can be used in framing strategic problems as well.