There is quite a bit of military strategy, or generic strategic theory which has, to a greater or lesser degree, moved into the sphere of politics. Many of these theories do apply most purely to military matters, because such is the realm where the most pure forms of attack and defence apply, with some of the least path dependence. Business, meanwhile is an important avenue for strategic theory, but not one which necessarily lends itself to the study, due to the path dependence created by restrictive regulatory regimes and legal structures which dictate certain parameters or courses of action which cannot help but restrict creativity. Politics logically sits somewhere between these two established poles, as a realm in which there exists a legal framework; but in dealing with power – and often sovereign power at that, the scope for creative use of this power is great.
Let us break this all down a little then: ideology, in this context will usually form, strongly imply or inform, the desired end state or goal. Strategy is the means by which this goal will be achieved. The crucial missing element here is the identification of where one is, and what they have which will inform their competencies. This may be done at the comparably micro level of elections, or pressure groups and activists, but no such inventory exists at the exoteric grand strategy level, by which I mean – the level beyond single elections, parties, and perhaps even beyond single countries. However before progressing any further, there are already issues, because while it is relatively easy to determine one’s opposition in both war and business, politics can be a little more murky. So although the problems with this method will be discussed later, and some other options presented, for now let us use the Schmittian friend-enemy distinction to talk of broad categories of ‘left’ and ‘right’ – largely because this seems the most common framework used to discuss this issue. With this framework, we might begin to talk of the Critical Competencies of these two groups, and their respective Centres of Gravity. This in turn needs to be defined, however most definitions lend themselves rather specifically to the military application, so we shall generically search for a singular ‘source of strength’ which allows the force to achieve its objectives. These objectives, at the grand strategic level which we are discussing could be likewise generically thought of as the acquisition and maintenance of power, leading to the employing of different operational strategies to achieve these strategic and grand strategic objectives. It is worth noting however, as mentioned, that many differing definitions exist for the Centre of Gravity. Von Clausewitz defined it as: “The hub of all power and movement on which everything depends”. As this is more specifically military theory, the more modern US definition of it is: “the source of power that provides moral or physical strength, freedom of action, or will to act”. More colloquially it has also been defined as: the entity which allows one’s own force to complete their objectives, or impedes them from doing so in the case of the opposition’s Centre of Gravity. As implied by the use of the singular rather than plural, it must be a single entity. This latter definition is most relevant here, however it is worth bearing the others in mind during the adaptation of this theory, as what ought to be the result of this piece, is to encourage a different perspective on this issue. Perhaps even, if the gap is bridged successfully, it might be possible to tap into additional work to gain additional strategic insight.
Who are the respective groups then? In short, let me suggest that the ‘left’ is a coalition of the ‘outsiders’ – that being those who either are or perceive themselves to be outside of the central system (nation/ power structures/ culture) and subsequently want to shift/ change it. The ‘right’ meanwhile is a coalition of those that view the incumbent system – either in its current or a previous form, as favourable, and usually view themselves as existing within it. Modern states, (and even many pre-modern polities, though that is not the primary focus here,) tend to have at least one unifying institution or identity, which lends strength to the right by providing something of a concrete basis for the system formerly described which forms the point of distinction between the factions. The right, therefore, is empowered in relation to the empowering of this central institution – be it the nation, the church, the crown, or (much less commonly if such a thing truly exists at all,) the ethic. This is in isolation, however, from the specifics of the ideas proposed by the thought leaders of the right, which are much more complicated, but will almost always involve the strengthening of one of the above institutions, if not all. The left, meanwhile, despite implicitly gaining from the weakening of these central institutions (indeed that is usually their goal), is much more reliant on their ability to unify the disparate groups they are comprised of – into something strategically useful. This is because the qualifier of ‘being outside of the incumbent system’ unifies them strategically, the specific nature of their situation, their ideology, and their ideological goals will differ significantly from one another, such that despite being in the same faction as modelled here; islamists and feminists have very different goals, despite finding themselves as factional bedfellows. To talk of actionable specifics then: the left’s Centre of Gravity is its elites’ ability to maintain cohesion, and convince the component elements that there is a continued need for mutual support (whatever the reality may be on the ground). The right meanwhile has its Centre of Gravity located in the institution(s) particular to each state. The combination of its legitimacy, authority, and proportion of adherence in relation to the overall population and perhaps more importantly – proportion of elite support. Where these strengths are present and/or seen to be present, the right is capable of furthering and consolidating its power, where these properties are seen to be, or actually weak, the left can gain power and weaken these institutions further.
There is the possibility inherent in this structure, for the left to be locked out by a virtuous cycle of the right strengthening its core institutions, but this is broken by corruption, realpolitik considerations leading to self-harming decisions, and outside interference. Likewise, theoretically victory for the left would lead to a virtuous cycle, but progress made in any particular direction is inherently polarising, because it shatters the illusion that it can be all things to all people, thereby splintering and disillusioning parts of the coalition. Here it is perhaps also worth noting that, in accordance with Von Clausewitz’s conclusion that (to paraphrase): “All other things being equal, the side with the greater will to win will be victorious”. This acts in combination with the axiom that (again, to paraphrase): “All other things being equal, defence is easier than offence”. In the case of politics however, this is shifted to an offensive preference, due to the fact that the present is always inferior to a proposed ideal, and so this is a morale advantage typically (but not exclusively) favouring the left. Ergo, all other things being equal, the left will win, due to a superior will to be victorious. This acts as one of their Critical Competencies, but it is contingent on their ability to present a unified front, thus depriving it of Centre of Gravity status. However, this interacts with the right’s Centre of Gravity, because desire for institutional change is inversely correlated with both participation in, and appreciation of – these institutions. So successful strategies for both of these factions consist of the following: the right attempts to strengthen and (if possible) increase participation in the institutions of the country, while the left attempts to weaken and delegitimise them (fracturing the nation in the process), while unifying the disparate out-groups under one faction platform.
One cannot help but notice here that there is nothing precluding the right from taking an offensive stance, yet we rarely see this actioned. Two explanations exist for this; the first being that it is a simple matter of morale. The right lacks the confidence in its convictions – perhaps aware of the flaws of its own position by defending an imperfect entity, while the left sets their sights on a perfect ideal. But in doing so, they resign themselves to defeat, with the only relevant factor being that of timescale, as any victory of the left is made permanent by the lack of counter-offensive by the right (despite their frequently being able to). The other potential solution to this problem might be in the modelling itself.
If, instead of super-organisms of a sort, both sides are modelled as coalitions of smaller factions with distinct objectives and competencies, we may model the right as made up, in significant part, by factions whose ideals are closely aligned with the current state of affairs, and factions who merely want a continuation of status quo. As a result, the right lacks offensive momentum, because were they to attempt to counter some of the institutional damage, they would find a portion of their support turn into opposition. Other than this point, the change in modelling affects a few other things, most notably that both coalitions will need to be able to unify the groups that form them under a single cohesive strategic unit (though still the left to a greater degree – as the groups will tend to be more numerous and more distinct), and that depending on the group or faction occupying leadership positions, the objectives, approach, and posture will change, along with the Critical Competencies and Centre of Gravity. This is because each group or faction will have its own distinct profile, featuring its own Critical Competencies and Centre of Gravity, which will then be scaled up to characterise the coalition for the duration of its leadership. Most of the objectives, however, will be more specific versions of the generic strategies listed above. For example: Nationalists and Monarchists both wish to uphold the institutions of the country/state, but have differing views as to what the central institution is and should be. Meanwhile: Feminists and minority interest factions both wish to dismantle the institutions of the country, but have different targets. Perhaps the specificities of these Centres of Gravity will be discussed in a future piece, but for now, hopefully it will suffice to say that these will be quite different for Islamists and LGBT activists, or Libertarians and Paleoconservatives. As an aside; by extension, these coalitions need not be so set-in-stone, as institutional changes will shift groups from supporters to detractors, and out-groups may be brought into the institutional fold.
To reiterate then briefly; while remaining open to other possible definitions, defining the Centre of Gravity in political terms as – the singular central entity which allows a faction to gain power – yields some potential insights. The left; as a coalition of the out-groups, relies most on their ability to unify, whereas the right, representing the in-group, relies on the integrity and/or prestige of the central institution(s). All other things being equal, both sides will attempt to multiply themselves, and diminish the quantity of the opposition. However in the current state of things, the right rarely takes an offensive posture, and thus is gradually worn down, alleviated by the integration of former out-groups into the in-group by the changing environment, but this seemingly permanently shifts the field in favour of the left (in absolute terms). That can be expected to continue (absent alternate modelling), until the right decides to conduct a counter-offensive.