Afterword on Strategy – Richard Hart Sinnreich

Synopsis:

In the afterword of his authoritative book on successful military strategies throughout history, Richard Hart Sinnreich synthesizes the most enduring lessons learned. He concludes the successful application of strategy to be most dependent on the identification of individual strategic genius, as well as what may be described as learning institutions – which are adaptive, and anticipatory of novel strategic thinking.

Excerpts:

“Not all strategic failures reflect overextension. They are equally likely – perhaps more likely – to reflect mistaken theories of success.

“Above all, strategic success is hostage to the willingness of political and military leaders to read and heed the evidence of the battlefield even at the price of jettisoning cherished assumptions.

“To be successful, long-term strategy requires both an accurate prompting diagnosis and the discipline to conform action to intention over time. Its greatest risk is target fixation – the failure to honor the evidence of the evolving environment when it begins to refute assumptions on which the strategy rested.

“Weak states, like weak armies, may prevail for a time over stronger but less clever adversaries. But unless cleverness can be translated into effective military power, a stronger contestant sooner or later will prevail absent a failure of political will.

“In the end, sustaining the nation’s determination to prevail is the crucial hallmark of any successful military strategy.

*All excerpts have been taken from Successful Strategies: Triumphing in War and Peace from Antiquity to the Present, Cambridge University Press.

The Case for General Theory – Colin S. Gray

Synopsis:

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.

Excerpts:

“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.