Military strategy is a collective name for planning the conduct of warfare. Derived from the Greek strategos, strategy was seen as the “art of the general“. Military strategy deals with the planning and conduct of campaigns, the movement and disposition of forces, and the deception of the enemy. The father of modern strategic study, Carl von Clausewitz, defined military strategy as “the employment of battles to gain the end of war.” Hence, he gave the preeminence to political aims over military goals, ensuring civilian control of the military. Military strategy was one of a triumvirate of “arts” or “sciences” that govern the conduct of warfare; the others being tactics, the execution of plans and manœuvering of forces in battle, and logistics, the maintenance of an army.
Fundamentals of military strategy
- “Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances.” – Sun Tzu
Strategy and tactics are closely related. Both deal with distance, time and force but strategy is large scale while tactics are small scale. Originally strategy was understood to govern the prelude to a battle while tactics controlled its execution. However, in the world wars of the 20th century, the distinction between manoeuvre and battle, strategy and tactics, became blurred. Tactics that were once the province of a company of cavalry would be applied to a panzer army.
In its purest form, strategy dealt solely with military issues. In earlier societies, a king or political leader was often the same person as the military leader. If he was not, the distance of communication between the political and the military leader was small. But as the need of a professional army grew, the bounds between the politicians and the military came to be recognized. In many cases, it was decided that there was a need for a separation. As French statesman Georges Clemenceau said, “war is too important a business to be left to soldiers.” This gave rise to the concept of the grand strategy which encompasses the management of the resources of an entire nation in the conduct of warfare. In the environment of the grand strategy, the military component is largely reduced to operational strategy — the planning and control of large military units such as corps and divisions. As the size and number of the armies grew and the technology to communicate and control improved, the difference between “military strategy” and “grand strategy” shrank.
Fundamental to grand strategy is the diplomacy through which a nation might forge alliances or pressure another nation into compliance, thereby achieving victory without resorting to combat. Another element of grand strategy is the management of the post-war peace. As Clausewitz stated, a successful military strategy may be a means to an end, but it is not an end in itself. There are numerous examples in history where victory on the battlefield has not translated into long term peace and security.
That last line seems very appropriate in todays world; P. Sperry