Document Type


Publication Date



Teaching Notes for Dynamic Tension: Security, Stability, and the Opium Trade, by Peter Curry.

This case it is about managing a set of complex or wicked problems in an uncertain environment, not about the opium trade in Afghanistan per se.. Students will learn about the tools for influencing events or potential outcomes when one does not have direct control over the stakeholders. The overall question is, "How do you get your mission accomplished when you are just one actor on the stage with several actors—each of whom is reading from a different script?"

Military officers at the War College level (executive or near-executive level) are undergoing a professional maturation process. They are leaving the tactical world, where issues tend to be fairly defined and bounded, the outcomes are relatively known, and decisions are made to fix the most urgent problem. That kind of thinking was absolutely essential when they were commanding units at the "pointy end" of the spear. Now, they are a bit more removed from the front lines. If these students rely too much on their intuition and experiences at their new level, they tend to bind and define the problem too narrowly and to default to a solution with which they are comfortable rather than making the best choice for the mission.