Published near the end of his life Theory of Strategy presents Colin Gray’s general theory of strategy. The theory is split into four components involving ideas relevant to politics, order, complexity, and cohesion, as well as two sub-categories which survey the significance of history and what may be described as strategic intuition.
“As a general rule, the armed forces need to be able and willing to do it – whatever ‘it’ is – tactically, if operational art, strategy, and high policy are to be feasible.
“Unfortunately, there has been only one long-term pattern in human affairs, and that is a perpetual readiness to resort to conflict. Regardless of the character of the political, religious, and pseudo-religious ideas that have inspired the human historical narrative, this has been its single, and therefore master, theme….A theory of strategy claiming to be general, as here, needs to be housed firmly and plausibly in a resilient basis of causal explanation.
“The search for security must lead inexorably to a quest for strategy. It is solely through strategy that military power can be translated into political influence. This influence is the currency in which security is valued.
“Strategy is in the currency-conversion business, turning military power into political influence. The general theory of strategy is entirely indifferent as to the means employed to achieve this conversion. In practice, of course, the ways in which chosen means are used are often critical to the success or otherwise of the whole conversion enterprise. It can be important to emphasize to an army that, although vitally necessary, it is only a means to an end that is political by definition.
“The theory of war needs to be nested richly within a context of broad understanding of the likely consequences of conflict.
*All excerpts have been taken from Theory of Strategy, Colin S. Gray, Oxford University Press.
The immediate post World War Two strategic landscape in the United States was dominated by the development of nuclear weapons, and their application. In his book on American strategic thought Russell Weigley includes a chapter on the ascendancy of the civilian national security establishment amid the primacy of the early nuclear age. As the Cold War progressed these civilian ‘strategy intellectuals’ would become influential on American strategic doctrine.
“Choosing among weapons systems, however, necessarily required judgments among various possible strategies. Making choices among future weapons systems and strategies would necessarily also involve choices among forms of military organization. And choices involving strategy and organization would carry the analysis far into the realms of policy. The expanded form of operations analysis which began with the effort to analyze the uses of future as well as existing weapons came to be called ‘systems analysis.’
“As Kissinger saw it, the strategy of deterrence when expressed as the doctrine of massive retaliation was the strategy that really forswore the diplomatic and strategic initiative. It amounted to a renunciation of the use of force except to counter the most unambiguous forms of aggression, because the weapons to be employed were too horrendous to be fired in any less circumstances.
“The search for a new strategic doctrine must not be confused with the search for a better weapons technology and with technical answers to technical questions. To seek refuge in technology from hard problems of strategy and policy was already another dangerous American tendency, fostered by the pragmatic qualities of the American character and by the complexity of nuclear-age technology.
“More than Ridgway, Taylor renewed the argument that without adequate capacities for limited war, America not only would face defensive disadvantages but would be unable to seize initiatives, unable to secure positive advantages that must be won in the battle for a better world. Massive retaliation, General Taylor reiterated, ‘could offer our leaders only two choices, the initiation of general nuclear war or compromise and retreat.’ A strategy of flexible response, in contrast, ‘would recognize that it is just as necessary to deter or win quickly a limited war as to deter general war.
“Therefore Morgenstern recommended a new application of sea power: to use sea power to ensure an invulnerable capacity for nuclear retaliation against the enemy’s homeland. He recommended the acceleration and enlargement of the Polaris program, so that nuclear submarines in constant movement could serve to launch the American missile force…The endurance capacity of nuclear engines would minimize the dependence of both submarines and seaplanes on fixed bases; except for occasional refueling, their supplies could be replenished from ships themselves moving in random patterns.
*All excerpts have been taken from The American Way of War: A History of United States Military Strategy and Policy, Russell Weigley, Indiana University Press.
On Guerrilla Warfare presents the ideological underpinnings of Mao Tse-tung’s theory of insurgency warfare. In true Clausewitzian style he devotes a chapter to the dynamic political dilemmas engendered by revolutionary guerrilla warfare.
“Military action is a method used to attain a political goal. While military affairs and political affairs are not identical, it is impossible to isolate one from the other.
“A revolutionary army must have discipline that is established on a limited democratic basis.
“Officers should live under the same conditions as their men, for that is the only way in which they can gain from their men the admiration and confidence so vital in war. It is incorrect to hold to a theory of equality in all things, but there must be equality of existence in accepting the hardships and dangers of war.
“It is only undisciplined troops who make the people their enemies and who, like the fish out of its native element, cannot live.
“We further our mission of destroying the enemy by propagandizing his troops, by treating his captured soldiers with consideration, and by caring for those of his wounded who fall into our hands. If we fail in these respects, we strengthen the solidarity of our enemy.
*All excerpts have been taken from On Guerrilla Warfare, Mao Tse-tung, University of Illinois Press.
David Galula has long been considered the godfather of counterinsurgency warfare theory, and in his landmark book Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice he highlights the requisite components for success in both insurgency as well as counterinsurgency operations. The second chapter of the book examines the prerequisites critical for a robust insurgency to take hold within a state.
“It follows that any country where the power is invested in an oligarchy, whether indigenous or foreign, is potential ground for a revolutionary war.
“The problem becomes particularly dangerous when the society does not integrate those who, by the level of their education or by their achievements, have proved to belong to the true elite. For it is among this rejected elite that the insurgents can find the indispensable leaders.
“The insurgent is not restricted to the choice of a single cause. Unless he has found an over-all cause, like anticolonialism, which is sufficient in itself because it combines all the political, social, economic, racial, religious, and cultural causes described above, he has much to gain by selecting an assortment of causes especially tailored for the various groups in the society that he is seeking to attract.
“The police. The eye and the arm of the government in all matters pertaining to internal order, the police are obviously a key factor in the early stages of an insurgency; they are the first counterinsurgent organization that has to be infiltrated and neutralized. Their efficiency depends on their numerical strength, the competency of their members, their loyalty toward the government, and, last but not least, on the backing they get from the other branches of the government – particularly the judicial system.
“The border areas are a permanent source of weakness for the counterinsurgent whatever his administrative structures, and this advantage is usually exploited by the insurgent, especially in the initial violent stages of the insurgency. By moving from one side of the border to the other, the insurgent is often able to escape pressure or, at least, to complicate operations for his opponent.
*All excerpts have been taken from Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice, David Galula, Praeger Security International.
In Civilization and Its Discontents, Sigmund Freud advances his own assumptions for the essential social frictions which exist in contemporary Western civilization. Freud faults the evolved mores of Christian civilization for the frictions, but recognizes the utility of some prohibitions for the conservation of social order. Regrettably, Freud carried with him – even late in life – a very shallow understanding of Christian morality, which undermines many of his assumptions.
“Satisfaction is derived from illusions, which one recognizes as such without letting their deviation from reality interfere with one’s enjoyment. The sphere in which these illusions originate is the life of the imagination, which at one time, when the sense of reality developed, was expressly exempted from the requirements of the reality test and remained destined to fulfill desires that were hard to realize.
“In some way each of us behaves rather like a paranoiac, employing wishful thinking to correct some unendurable aspect of the world and introducing this delusion into reality. Of special importance is the case in which substantial numbers of people, acting in concert, try to assure themselves of happiness and protection against suffering through a delusional reshaping of reality.
“Happiness in life is sought mainly in the enjoyment of beauty, wherever it presents itself to our senses and our judgement – the beauty of human forms and gestures, of natural objects and landscapes, of artistic and even scientific creations. This aesthetic approach to the purpose of life affords little protection against the sufferings that threaten us, but it can make up for much. The enjoyment of beauty has a special quality of feeling that is mildly intoxicating. Beauty has no obvious use, nor is it easy to see why it is necessary to civilization; yet civilization would be unthinkable without it.
“No feature, however, seems to us to characterize civilization better than the appreciation and cultivation of the higher mental activities, of intellectual, scientific and artistic achievements, and the leading role accorded to ideas in human life. Foremost among these ideas are the systems of religion, on whose complex structure I have tried to throw some light elsewhere; next come philosophical speculations, and finally what may be called human ideals, the notions, formed by human beings, of the possible perfection of the individual person, the nation and humanity as a whole, together with the demands they set up on the basis of such notions.
“Much of mankind’s struggle is taken up with the task of finding a suitable, that is to say a happy accommodation, between the claims of the individual and the mass claims of civilization. One of the problems affecting the fate of mankind is whether such an accommodation can be achieved through a particular molding of civilization or whether the conflict is irreconcilable.
*All excerpts have been taken from Civilization and Its Discontents, Sigmund Freud, Penguin Modern Classics.
The three recognized echelons of psychological operations are white, gray, and black. What is presented in the Manual for Psychological Operations in Guerilla Warfare is a covert black PSYOP monograph created by the United States Central Intelligence Agency for its semi-clandestine operations in Nicaragua in the 1970s against the Marxist-Leninist Sandinistas. The unorthodox complexion of the manual has engendered a somewhat controversial reputation.
“The desired result is a guerrilla who can persuasively justify his actions when he comes into contact with any member of the People of Nicaragua, and especially with himself and his fellow guerrillas in dealing with the vicissitudes of guerilla warfare.
“Armed propaganda includes every act carried out, and the good impression that this armed force causes will result in positive attitudes in the population toward that force; and it does not include forced indoctrination. Armed propaganda improves the behavior of the population toward them, and it is not achieved by force.
“When the cadres are placed or recruited in organizations such as labor unions, youth groups, agrarian organizations, or professional associations, they will begin to manipulate the objectives of the groups.
“Group discussions raise the spirit and increase the unity of thought in small guerrilla groups and exercise social pressure on the weakest members to better carry out their mission in training and future combat actions.
“As far as possible, it is recommended that all speeches be based on a syllogism, which the orator should adjust in his exposition. For example: ‘Those governing get rich and are thieves; the Sandinistas have enriched themselves governing; then, the Sandinistas are thieves.
*All excerpts have been taken from Manual for Psychological Operations in Guerilla Warfare, Congressional Research Service.
Born in India in 1927, Sir Nigel Bagnall served as Chief of the General Staff in London for the British Army in the late 1980s. In his survey of the Punic Wars between the rival city states of Rome, and Carthage he bestows upon the reader notable erudition of the subject paired with the employment of his vast practical experience as a soldier in the British Army. The blending of his learnedness in both capacities lends to manifest an uncommon narrative of the life and death struggle among the two ancient superpowers – with Rome emerging as the ultimate victor. Bagnall likewise intercedes his own narrative with a chunk of commentary following the telling of the events of the First Punic War, and it is in this commentary that the book sets itself apart from other histories of these imposing wars.
“When comparing the constitutions of Rome and Carthage, Polybius concludes that Rome was at its zenith when the Senate was at the height of its power and that its decisions were usually sound because they were being made by the best men available. Carthage on the other hand, because its strength and prosperity had preceded that of Rome, was past its prime by the time of the Punic Wars, and the people had gained too much power. In making this assessment, Polybius, however appears to have only considered the constitution as it affected a city state and to have overlooked the wider fact that, whereas Rome had forged a confederation of states which held together even when gravely threatened, Carthage had merely created a feudal empire with no sense of corporate loyalty.
“Although there will admittedly never be any way of determining exactly why Carthage and Rome went to war, there are nevertheless two clearly identifiable factors which made such a war more probable. First, that the Romans saw an opportunity to advantage themselves, and second, that because they saw that the Carthaginians were unprepared militarily they succumbed to this temptation. Nothing appears to have changed in human nature during the last twenty centuries. Whether as individuals, or collectively, most of the human race displays an unfortunate proclivity for opportunism unless deterred by the threat of sufficiently painful consequences.
“Although the terminology is today’s, it will still be helpful at this point briefly to distinguish between the three levels of war:
Strategic Level The definition of the strategic objectives to be achieved in fulfillment of government policy.
Operational Level The planning and execution of military operations to achieve stated strategic objectives.
Tactical Level The planning and conduct of battles in pursuit of the operational aim.
In nontechnical language: having decided what you want to do, you plan how this is to be achieved and coordinate the actual battles to be fought in its fulfillment.
“The effectiveness of Hannibal’s administrative and constitutional reforms, however, is demonstrated by the continuing rise in Carthaginian prosperity even after his flight. In 191 BC, Carthage offered to pay off the whole of the war indemnity, while supplying large quantities of grain to provision the Roman armies – offers which either for reasons of hurt pride, or from a desire not to end symbols of Punic subservience, were disdainfully declined. No more than the fulfillment of her treaty obligations was expected of Carthage. But how far Carthage was prepared to go in order to placate the Romans and show her loyalty as an ally is indicated by the presence of Carthaginian contingents fighting alongside them in their wars against Philip, Antiochus and Perseus.
“Following the Second Punic War, Scipio Africanus endeavored to ensure that Rome’s attitude to Carthage was one of moderation. But he did not survive the political infighting, and with his departure came a reversion, under the leadership of Cato, to the earlier policy of vigorous confrontation with Carthage. After being threatened and having disarmed to demonstrate their willingness to placate Rome under almost any circumstances, the Carthaginians were obliterated. The lesson here is writ large and clear. It is the longterm predisposition of states which should govern our relationships with them, not the ephemeral appearances of some charismatic leader.
*All excerpts have been taken from The Punic Wars: Rome, Carthage and the Struggle for the Mediterranean, Nigel Bagnall, Pimlico.
Written in the 1930s near the end of Oswald Spengler’s life, Man and Technics was his endeavor to demystify the struggles between humanity, nature, and technology. His thesis chronicles the application of technology by humanity in an attempt to control nature. Spengler believed that human control over nature will never be fully realized, but the technology that humanity has invented in such a pursuit will more and more control humanity via dependency.
“The free-moving life of the animal is struggle, and nothing but struggle, and it is the tactics of its living, its superiority or inferiority in face of ‘the other’ (whether that ‘other’ be animate or inanimate Nature), which decides the history of this life, which settles whether its fate is to suffer the history of others or to be itself their history. Technics is the tactics of all life. It is the inner form of the process utilised in that struggle which is identical with life itself.
“Technics is not to be understood in terms of tools. What matters is not how one fashions things, but the process of using them; not the weapon, but the battle. Modern warfare, in which the decisive element is tactics – that is, the technique of running the war, the techniques of inventing, producing, and handling the weapons being only items in the process as a whole – points to a general truth. There are innumerable techniques in which no tools are used at all: that of a lion outwitting a gazelle, for instance, or that of diplomacy.
“Every machine serves some one process and owes its existence to thought about this process. All our means of transport have developed out of the ideas of driving and rowing, sailing and flying, and not out of any concept such as that of a wagon or of a boat. Methods themselves are weapons. And consequently technics is in no wise a ‘part’ of economics, any more than economics (or, for that matter, war or politics) can claim to be a self-contained ‘part’ of life. They are all just sides of one active, fighting, and charged life.
“No one does anything without thinking of the moment when he shall have attained that which he willed. No one starts a war, or goes to sea, or even takes a walk without thinking of its duration and its ending. Every truly creative human being knows and fears the emptiness that follows upon the fulfilment of a work.
“Technics in man’s life is conscious, arbitrary, alterable, personal, inventive. It is learned and improved. Man has become the creator of his tactics of living – that is his grandeur and his doom. And the inner form of this creativeness we call culture – to be cultured, to cultivate, to suffer from culture. A man’s creations are the expression of this being in personal form.
*All excerpts have been taken from Man and Technics: A Contribution to a Philosophy of Life, Arktos Media Ltd.
Empires of Trust was published in 2008 during the low-point of the United States war in Iraq, and perhaps because of that war it sought to examine the evolution of American power in comparison with the Roman Empire. Ancient and medieval historian Thomas F. Madden goes into considerable detail propounding the complexities of Roman culture, and explaining how that empire emerged. Although Madden identifies many similarities between American and Roman civilizations he unexpectedly unmasks many more differences.
“The U.S. military is larger than the militaries of all other NATO allies combined. American military bases are planted in many NATO countries, while no allied bases are in the United States at all. Yet, Americans will still insist that NATO is an alliance of equals, not a structure of an empire.
“Doubt among allies regarding the trustworthiness of the Empire of Trust is toxic. Americans cannot allow it and neither could the Romans. Hannibal understood that very well. As a result of the failure to defend Saguntum, Rome’s word already meant nothing in Spain – something that Roman envoys learned when they arrived to seek allies in the war against Hannibal.
“We believe that the normal human condition is peace, periodically disrupted by war. That illusion is the product of a large and historically rare superstructure built to keep lasting peace in existence. Without the perfect functioning of that superstructure, peace disappears.
“If it was truly the UN that was responsible for the growing peace, then the continued warfare in Africa makes little sense. UN missions to Africa are numerous. In truth, it is American apathy for the region that allows it to continue to remain violent, provided that the warfare does not affect American assets or security. Just as the Romans had only a passing interest in Germans or Celts outside of their empire, so Americans tend to ignore a sub-Saharan Africa that, while frequently in a state of crisis, poses no security threat to the United States or its allies.
“For some years the military strategy of the United States has included the ability to project significant power anywhere in the world. For the most part it has achieved that goal. These facts, in and of themselves, represent an extraordinary disparity in power. That is not to say that the United States has the power to fight the world and win. It does not. Nor does it need it. An Empire of trust only requires sufficient power to defend its allies and deter or punish aggression. In short, it must have ‘military strengths beyond challenge.’
*All excerpts have been taken from Empires of Trust: How Rome Built – and America is Building – a New World, Plume.
Written during the era of the Spanish-American War the essay “War” was William Graham Sumner’s endeavor to examine the normative human dispositions which fuse into conflict. As a pioneering intellectual in the field of sociology, Sumner used group social dynamics and frictions as the keystone of his assumptions.
“If we assume a standpoint in one group we may call that one the ‘we-group’ or the ‘in-group’; then every other group is to us an ‘others-group’ or an ‘out-group.’ The sentiment which prevails inside the ‘we-group,’ between its members, is that of peace and cooperation; the sentiment which prevails inside of a group towards all outsiders is that of hostility and war.
“War arises from the competition of life, not from the struggle for existence. In the struggle for existence a man is wrestling with nature to extort from her the means of subsistence. It is when two men are striving side by side in the struggle for existence, to extort from nature the supplies they need, that they come into rivalry and a collision of interest with each other takes place. This collision may be light and unimportant, if the supplies are large and the number of men small, or it may be harsh and violent, if there are many men striving for a small supply. This collision we call the competition of life.
“We can now see why the sentiments of peace and cooperation inside are complementary to sentiments of hostility outside. It is because any group, in order to be strong against an outside enemy, must be well disciplined, harmonious, and peaceful inside; in other words, because discord inside would cause defeat in battle with another group. Therefore the same conditions which made men warlike against outsiders made them yield to the control of chiefs, submit to discipline, obey law, cultivate peace, and create institutions inside.
“The sentiment of cohesion, internal comradeship, and devotion to the in-group, which carries with it a sense of superiority to any out-group and readiness to defend the interests of the in-group against the out-group, is technically known as ethnocentrism.
“The United States presents us a case quite by itself. We have here a confederated state which is a grand peace-group. It occupies the heart of a continent; therefore there can be no question of balance of power here and no need of war preparations such as now impoverish Europe. The United States is a new country with a sparse population and no strong neighbors. Such a state will be a democracy and a republic, and it will be ‘free’ in almost any sense that its people choose.
*All excerpts have been taken from War and Other Essays, Yale University Press.