And lastly, beware of altogether successful analogies if they took place amid dubious circumstances. Think about the French Army’s Morice Line in Algeria (1957). FLN militants broke an army against the Morice Line. It ranks as one of history’s most impenetrable defensive frontiers. But the French-Algerian War (1954–1962) barely even qualifies as forgotten for your average American, it was a decolonization struggle in which torture played a prominent part, and France ended up losing the war despite French engineers’ excellence at defensive works. In short, the Morice Line is tainted by association with the larger North African conflict.
Strategic branding is about conveying ideas persuasively. So be choosy when sifting through history to help sell your ideas, and connect yourself with proven winners. Do that—and stand out among the voices clamoring for attention in the marketplace.
James Holmes is J. C. Wylie Chair of Maritime Strategy at the Naval War College and coauthor of Red Star over the Pacific. An archive of his works is available at his personal blog, The Naval Diplomat. The views voiced here are his alone.
This article first appeared in March 2018.