Military Strategy and Military Studies. An Overview

Essay, 2017

25 Pages, Grade: A




I. A Brief Overview of Military Strategy

II. The Elements of National Power
Natural determinants of power
Social Determinants of Power

III. The Five Basic Military Strategies
The Strategy of Extermination
The Strategy of Exhaustion
The Strategy of Annihilation
The Strategy of Intimidation
The Strategy of Decapitation




“War cannot be divorced from political life; whenever this occurs in our thinking about war, the many links that connect the two elements are destroyed and we are left with something pointless and devoid of sense”.

Clausewitz. Taken from the book Theory of War and Strategy (page 233).

Military strategy is a discipline that we have chosen to develop lastly in our coursework; the discipline has drawn our attention in our major because we want to understand the importance of designing a strategy on the part of the military before going to war. It is amazing because we will see that from the very beginning of the world, nations or people had always wanted to ensure their dominion or hegemony, as it was the case with the Roman Empire, Napoléon, the Babylonian and the Acadian people. We will grasp the significance of strategy, and as well we shall see that military strategy is an art.

Before we continue, it would be accurate to give a definition to military strategy, although a universal definition does not exist. In this perspective, we will consider the definition of Goodman (1993), who holds that military strategy and tactics are vital to the waging of armed conflict. The author provides his definition of strategy, which is the coordination, the planning and the general management of military operations to achieve total military and political objectives. We will as well examine the definition Colonel Lykke, Jr. (1989) provided. The author by referring to ancient Greece, states that military strategy was the “art of the general”. He points out that the definition of military strategy does not find a universal consensus. Consequently, Colonel Lykke, Jr. (1989) borrowed the definition of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff’s Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms of 1987, that is: “The art and science of employing the armed forces of a nation to secure the objectives of national policy by the application of force, or the threat of force.”

The author quotes General Maxwell D. Taylor who gave a characterization of strategy during a visit to the American War College in 1981. According to General Taylor, strategy consists of objectives, ways and means.

Colonel Lykke, Jr. (1989) gave the following table to explain General Taylor’s characterization:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

From this table, the author provided another definition of military strategy taken from the 1985’s edition of the Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, which is: “The art and science of developing and using the political, economic, and psychological powers of a nation, together with its armed forces, during peace and war, to secure national objectives.” Military strategy is part of national strategy and must be in accordance with national policy – an overall course of action that the government adopts at the domestic level in pursuit of national objectives – (Colonel Lykke, Jr., 1989). Then the author postulated that understanding strategy in this regard brings us to consider that strategy = Ends + Ways + Means and we can therefore design a methodology to military strategy. “Ends” can be regarded as military objectives, and “Ways” are about the many approaches of implementing military power. And finally, “Means” are concerned with the military resources – money, logistics, manpower, material etc. – needed to undertake the mission. Then Colonel Lykke, Jr. (1989) comes to the conclusion that:

Military Strategy = Military Objectives + Military Strategic Concepts + Military Resources. As for the author, this theoretical understanding of military strategy is relevant to all three levels of war, that are operational, strategic and tactic. He argued that military strategic concepts of a military strategy and military objectives pose the problem of resources’ demand, which obviously shows that strategy is deeply influenced by the availability of resources.

The author went on to say that if we fail to take into consideration military resources as integrant element of military strategy, then we might witness the situation that is known as strategy-capabilities bad fit – mismatch –. We must now question what we comprehend by military objective.

Colonel Lykke, Jr. (1989) defined it as a particular mission or job to which military endeavors and resources are applied. Among a military objective, we have the deterrence of aggression, the protection of lines of communication; defend the homeland, the restoration of a lost territory and defeating of an enemy. In the author’s definition of military strategy, we notice that the basic objectives are concerned with those of national policy as seen above. He showed that national policy is also about the ultimate elements of national power, that is to say, politics, economy, society, psychology and the military. Now, let us try to define the “Means” – we want to refer to the military resources that fix capabilities of the above military equation –. The means are strategic and tactical nuclear forces, defensive and offensive forces, conventional general-purpose forces, war material, active and reserve forces, manpower as well as weapons systems (Colonel Lykke, Jr., 1989). In the case of the United States, the writer points out the importance of the potential support of friends and allies. In the development of force strategy, the strategic concepts regulate the category of forces that ought to exist and the way they are utilized (Colonel Lykke, Jr., 1989).

This first part of our introduction was meant to provide a definition to military strategy. And it seems that obviously, the author did help us advance in the comprehension of what strategy is. We have seen that it is impossible to talk about strategy if we do not take into consideration military objectives, military strategic concepts and military resources. The author has explained that we cannot have a successful military strategy if we do not consider these fundamental elements. In effect, we can design a strategy, and might not be able to carry out the strategy because we might be in lack of the means necessary to achieve ends.

This has been a first attempt to the understanding of military strategy. However, in this introduction we would like to go deeper into understanding strategy. Bartholomees, Jr. (2010) argues that defining strategy is difficult because the word is being used in different domains of societal levels. It is true according to the author that some words may be unique to the conceptual context although the word has other usages. And the author exemplifies it with the word passion which has a specific meaning in Christianity that differs from that of the secular world. Strategy likewise has a specific meaning in the military.

The writer considers that the term has a military legacy and is regarded as an essentially military activity of wartime, that is, the way military commanders use their troops to win conflicts. He goes on to sustain that strategy was military exercises to get to a battleground, and the tactics undertaken once the armed forces were engaged.

However, the word strategy has been used outside the military arena in the actuality; it includes subjects as diverse as business, medicine and even sports. With the mutation of the term, the army had to invent another term, in the case of the U.S. military the term has been turned to operations or operational art – to refer to the high-rank military art strategy was once in the past – (Bartholomees, Jr., 2010). In that perspective, strategy implies not only the military elements of power, but also other elements of power such as politics and economics.

As stated above, Bartholomees, Jr. (2010) also affirms that there is no unanimity on the definition of military strategy. The author quotes the definition of Clausewitz (1978):

“Strategy is the use of the engagement for the purpose of the war. The strate­gist must therefore define an aim for the entire operational side of the war that will be in accor­dance with its purpose. In other words, he will draft the plan of the war, and the aim will determine the series of actions intended to achieve it: he will, in fact, shape the individual campaigns and, within these, decide on the individual engagements.”

Clausewitz’s definition is acceptable as it displays the fact that when we go to war we compulsory need to determine our military objectives and even the political objective of the war. In fact, before engaging in a war we must define the military objectives, we have of course political objectives as well, these are achieved through military forces operating in the battlefield.

But Bartholomees, Jr. (2010) explains that because this definition is too classical, it is not satisfactory – it is only about the military element and is at the operative level instead of the strategic level –. Clausewitz’s definition is more about the enhancement of a campaign strategy. Then Bartholomees, Jr. (2010) goes on to assert that it is not because Clausewitz said something that it means that the thing is true, but it does make the thing worth to be taken into consideration. Accordingly, we can overlook Clausewitz’s definition. Then the author brings us to consider the definition of Scott (1968), that he finds actually remarkable: “the art of concerting a plan of campaign, combining a system of military operations determined by the end to be attained, the character of the enemy, the nature and resources of the country, and the means of attack and defense.”

According to Bartholomees, Jr. (2010), the definition includes some important elements that Scotts puts together; however, the definition is still narrowed to military operations. Then the author quotes the definition of military historian H. Liddell Hart that he considers more modern. According to Hart (1954) strategy is “the art of distributing and applying military means to fulfill the ends of policy.” And lastly the writer quotes the definition of strategy we have seen above, which is that of the U.S. Army War College in its 2001 edition, which defines strategy in two different manners: “Conceptually, we define strategy as the relationship among ends, ways, and means.” The second way is as follows: “Strategic art, broadly defined, is therefore: the skillful formulation, coordination, and application of ends (objectives), ways (cours­es of action), and means (supporting resources) to promote and defend the national interests.”

After considering all these definitions of military strategy, Bartholomees, Jr. (2010) provides his own definition of strategy. According to him, military strategy is basically a problem solving process. We have simply to ask the following questions at the moment of defining strategy, which are: what do I want to do? What do I have or what can I reasonably get that might help do what I want to do? And what is the best way to use what I have to do what I want to do? (Bartholomees, Jr., 2010). Then the writer definitely agrees with the American War College that military strategy is the combination of the association between ends, ways and means.

After we have defined what military strategy is, let us point out the different military strategies we will deal with in this paper. In effect, we will talk about the following military strategies: the strategy of extermination, exhaustion, annihilation, intimidation and decapitation.

Our main thesis’ statement is as follows: among the military strategies, the strategy of intimidation has been very successful with the possession of nuclear weapons by states, especially nuclear warheads. Another aspect is that the strategy is the favorite of terrorist organizations to coerce government to do something into achieving political ends.

In this essay, we will discuss three major points: (I) a brief overview of military strategy, (II) the elements of national power, and (III) the five basic military strategies.

I. A Brief Overview of Military Strategy

This part is about understanding historically how the military started and as well see the traditional tactics of warfighting. We would like to analyze strategic and tactical principles of warfare, strategic and tactical maneuvers, the emergence of modern warfare, and finally the two world wars. Goodman (1993) held that all along the past, military officials and warfighters have always designed what they regarded to be the most important tactical and strategic principles of war. In this sense, Napoléon I had for instance 115 principles. Most of the well-recognized traditional principles are the offensive, security, unity of command (cooperation), objective, maneuvers, economy of force and the mass. The peculiarity is that the majority of the cited principles are interrelated.

No matter the size of military forces, they ought to have a clear defined objective in spite of potential distractions. Offensive operations – seizing and taking advantage of the initiative – for example, would give the possibility of choosing objectives (Goodman, 1993). Equally important, offensive operations also highly augment the eventuality of surprise and security – protection against the possibility of being surprised or not having the ability of surprising the adversary– (Goodman, 1993). Unity of command is necessary to the achievement of objectives, the capacity to use all troops efficiently – economy of force – and the concentration of superior force at a critical point – mass –. Maneuver is concerned with the many ways military forces are deployed and moved to get offensive, surprise and mass (Goodman, 1993).


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Military Strategy and Military Studies. An Overview
( Atlantic International University )
Military Strategy and Military Studies
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military, strategy, studies, overview, Extermination, Exhaustion, Intimidation, Decapitation, régime change
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Jean Cédric Obame Emane (Author), 2017, Military Strategy and Military Studies. An Overview, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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