Problems with Strategy: Often a Bridge Too Far

Colin S. Gray

in The Strategy Bridge

Published in print September 2010 | ISBN: 9780199579662
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191594458 | DOI:
Problems with Strategy: Often a Bridge Too Far

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Strategy is the art of the possible, as Helmuth von Moltke (the Elder) insisted, and what is possible is revealed by net tactical performance. And the whole military (and other) endeavour must serve not itself, but political purposes which typically will evolve under the pressure of events. Although strategy is possible, it is always difficult. Among the major sources of difficulty, which tend to manifest themselves synergistically, one must recognize the challenge that is strategy itself, the problem many people have understanding its nature and demands; that lies in the inconvenient, but for strategy essential, fact of an enemy with an independent will; of converting military effect into strategic effect, and then into political effect—which is the whole point of the project; of devising and running a strategy‐making process that is fit for purpose; of peopling the process with competent players; of sheer complexity; of friction, of the things, typically unforeseeable in detail, that go wrong; of productive civil–military relations. Remarkably, strategy is feasible, despite its myriad difficulties. Complexity of subject can translate as alternative options, while the self‐willed enemy must face a generically like large basket of challenges to his strategic effectiveness.

Keywords: Moltke (the Elder); strategy; enemy; independent will; military effect; strategic effect; political effect; friction; civil–military relations; complexity

Chapter.  24025 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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