Politics, War, and Strategy

Colin S. Gray

in The Strategy Bridge

Published in print September 2010 | ISBN: 9780199579662
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191594458 | DOI:
Politics, War, and Strategy

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A theory of war, perhaps the theory, cannot suffice as a theory of strategy. Strategy is a function that needs to be conducted in peacetime as well as in wartime. Because Clausewitz adheres closely to his mission, narrowly defined as On War, he tells us nothing of much note about how and why peace becomes war, or how war becomes a peace worthy of the name. The strategist today, to a greater or lesser degree, must be a grand strategist. He has to approach strategy as a permanent mission, and to see war situated politically in a continuous stream of political, and strategic, history. Clausewitz theorizes as it were above the fray of the great political narrative that from time to time conducts its transactions violently. Memorably indeed, he stresses the political instrumentality of war and its warfare, but beyond that fairly obvious claim he does not provide much guidance for statecraft. One must hasten to add that he did not seek to do so; On War is narrowly about exactly what its title claims. Unfortunately, today there is extant no general theory of war in history, or, less inclusively, of war in statecraft. Strategy, especially grand strategy—the strategy that directs and employs potentially all of the resources of a security community—as contrasted with military strategy, is the dynamic and adapting product of what is known as policy, but more truly is rendered as politics. The relations of politics, war, and strategy are complex and have yet to be treated wholly convincingly by theorists. Practitioners of statecraft and strategy, if we allow a notable distinction between the two, generally are obliged to bow to the maxim that ‘contingency rules!’

Keywords: war; theory of war; politics; grand strategy; Clausewitz; peace; policy

Chapter.  13081 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: International Relations

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