Strategy is not a rigid, inflexible construct. The purpose of a strategy is to develop a structure upon which to base national campaign efforts. Such a structure helps planners and operators plan long term operations, select targets and allocate necessary resources. The strategy should always be reviewed to ensure that it supports national goals. Unfortunately, this is not always the case; a strategy can also serve as an anchor tossed to a drowning swimmer. Strategic planners may become too wedded to a traditional concept to be able to recognize looming failure. Personal pride and overconfidence may blind leaders to strategic weaknesses and obsolescence. Such mindsets easily secure national defeat. Nations and organizations must be able to objectively review the effectiveness of their strategies and adjust them to ensure success. Strategies must be allowed to evolve to meet changing threats and national interests. The Tripolitan War of 1801-05 serves as an excellent case study illustrating the need to maintain an evolving strategy to ensure victory over potential adversaries.
The Tripolitan War holds particular significance in American history. It was the first American war fought entirely in foreign lands and waters. It was the nation’s first small war fought against a radically different culture. Less than two decades old, the nation struggled to balance critically short resources with its desired goals. Fresh off of an undeclared naval war against France, the war with Tripoli taught the young republic the value of maintaining a standing military and a sufficient force projection capability.