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What is strategy?

Strategy, strategize, strategist—are the most misunderstood and misused terms in our jargon.  To start our dialogue on strategy and strategic events we need to first understand what strategy is.

This is especially true in understanding the war on terrorism and other events of today.  Napoleon in his time had it about right – it’s the idea of getting men to a certain place at a certain time – synchronization of time and space.  That’s a challenge even today, especially with the modern equipment where you don’t have the fuel where the tanks are going to run, or the artillery is not positioned to support the attack.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff refer to strategy as the integration of the psychological, economic, political and military means to achieve a goal. To make it simpler– Strategy is the mix of:

  • Ends –what do we want to achieve? What’s the goal? What’s the objective?
  • Ways–How are we going about it?  Are we going to attack or are we going to defend? Are we going to preempt? Are we going to use diplomatic or economic resources only?
  • And the Means—the resources—for the military–sea power, air power, ground power.

For other sources of influence there are psychological, economic and political resources that can be applied to achieve the objectives.  Therefore to build a strategy you have to combine objectives, resources and ways (approaches and techniques). You have to have them in balance.

There are many who would argue that we have had periods in our history where the ends or the means have been out of balance with the ways.  When one reflects on that he could liken strategy to a three legged stool  – when  the stool seat is not level—i.e. one leg is shorter or longer than the others—the stool is hard to sit on.  Likewise a strategy that is out of balance is hard to execute and unlikely to be successful.

In coming articles we will examine examples of bad and good strategies.  Is there a strategy behind the sometimes dysfunctional activities that are reported?  What is the true story behind the story?  These are some of the issues that we will examine in the future.

The categories listed on this page give you an example of what we are going to examine in the future.


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