It’s about reaching the decision, not victory: strategic theory and the difficulty of taking action

Not all military successes result in victory parades. The 19th century is over. We need to start thinking in terms of savety, not triumph.



As students of the Defence Studies Department grapple with strategic theory this winter, a useful way to begin is to consider the purpose of strategic theory and the work of ‘that dead Prussian’. One perspective on this issue is that we are engaging with why reaching decisions in war is difficult – not merely why certain decisions in particular wars were the right ones. Answering such questions requires intellect as well as experience. The conduct of war is as much an intellectual activity as it is a physical one. Planning and conducting organised violence for political purposes, from the smallest tactical engagement to the grand strategic level, demand powers of comprehension, multilateral thought, organisation, and decision that can test even the most agile and sharpest of minds. The thoughts and concepts developed by the likes of Carl von Clausewitz, Henry Lloyd, Sun Tzu, Antoine Henri Jomini…

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