Strategy


Strategy
   The use made of military force or the threat of force to achieve political goals. Carl von Clausewitz initially defined strategy narrowly as “the employment of the battle to gain the end of the War” but immediately conceded that strategy is inherently theoretical, because the application of force is always based on conjectures “some of which turn out incorrect.” Because Clausewitz defined war itself as “a mere continuation of policy by other means,” policy dictated the goals of strategy and required that strategy incorporate instruments other than the purely military into the pursuit of such goals. He was, moreover, explicit in distinguishing strategy from tactics, the latter involving the thought behind the deployment of armed forces in an engagement, the latter representing the overarching logic behind not only the use of military forces but all the capabilities of a nation - economic, technological, diplomatic - to achieve the foreign policy objectives of the nation in war and peace.
   During and after the Napoleonic Wars, the major European powers either established or reconstituted academies for the education of staff officers. Meanwhile, the most ambitious military literature of the time was, like Clausewitz, concerned with analyzing the fundamental strategic principles revealed by the Napoleonic Wars, as well as with their application to future conflict. Because Napoleon Bonaparte had demonstrated the effectiveness of waging war with the full force of national energy, strategy in the nineteenth century concentrated evermore attention to the matter of how best to bring national energy to bear against the most probable adversary or coalition of adversaries. The American Civil War, for example, demonstrated the advantages of superior railway transport to the Union cause. The Prussian general staff of the 1860s, contemplating future conflict with traditional foes, France in the West and Russia in the East, came to view the construction of a dense domestic railway network as indispensable in bringing its military forces to bear quickly and in large numbers on whatever front they might be needed.
   By 1900, European staff colleges were accustomed to abstract war planning, and general staffs were developing elaborate war plans, Germany’s Schlieffen Plan and France’s Plan 17 being the most noteworthy. Each was notable for its inflexibility, high secrecy, and remarkable lack of attention to the political, economic, diplomatic, and moral dimensions Clausewitz deemed crucial to the comprehensive and coherent vision of war that in the twentieth century was referred to as grand strategy.
   See also <>; <>; <>.
   FURTHER READING:
    Gray, Colin. Modern Strategy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999;
    Howard, Michael. War in European History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976;
    Keegan, John. The First World War. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998;
    Kennedy, Paul, ed. Grand Strategies in War and Peace. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1991;
    Luttwak, Edward. Strategy. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1990.
   CARL CAVANAGH HODGE

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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