The Product: Strategic Effect

Colin S. Gray

in The Strategy Bridge

Published in print September 2010 | ISBN: 9780199579662
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191594458 | DOI:
The Product: Strategic Effect

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Strategy, like war broadly and warfare narrowly, has no intrinsic value. Strategy has worth only for its product, which is strategic effect. This is the master concept that explains the need for strategy. Whether or not strategic effect is achieved for sensible political purposes is, of course, a matter strictly for political, and possibly moral, judgement. Strategy is all about consequences. Also, it functions of necessity in an adversarial context. If a rival or enemy is not much evident in strategic calculation, then the strategy adopted is unlikely to prosper. Strategy has a ‘story arc’ from the continuous fuel of policy, or political guidance, through operationally directed tactical net achievement, to military, strategic, and ultimately political effect—with longer term political (and strategic) consequences. The concept of effect, expressed as a rather grand compounded and reified singular matter, or in the plural as effects, is as vital as it lends itself to abuse. Military organizations, especially air forces, are readily seduced by the attractive logic that because war is won by net advantageous ‘effects’, those effects should be predictable and therefore, in principle at least, capable of infliction on the duly analytically dissected foe. This idea, known as effects‐based operations (EBO), is a case of a banal and circular general truth, in theory the enemy can be beaten by the effects that must beat him, with a serious fallacy, which is the belief that those effects can in fact be calculated. Of course, even if one's calculations were correct, and how could one really know, friendly forces may be incapable of inflicting them on a living, a thinking and reacting, enemy. That said the concept of strategic effect, intelligently defined and translated for practical application, is thoroughly sound.

Keywords: consequences; effect(s); strategic effect(s); strategy; policy; tactics; effects‐based operations (EBO)

Chapter.  15837 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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