Strategy (military)

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As a strategy (from ancient Greek στρατηγία stratēgía “general rule , general art ” to στρατηγός stratēgós “general”; this from στρατός stratós “army”) in security policy and in the strategic studies of the military the threat of the targeted use of violence or the targeted use of force is used designated. The strategy stands between the levels of politics and operational management : At the strategic level, decisions are made about the execution of an active ( tactical ) and passive course of action.

Strategy as well as strategic planning defines a basic and goal-oriented framework for the achievement of a goal, which is based on a long-term time frame and can also include military passivity. In this respect, the concept of strategy differs from that of the concept of tactics , which already emerges as a result of strategic considerations: Tactics already positively affects military activity. Strategy deals with the coordination of military forces and approaches in different theaters of war in order to achieve a common and more overarching goal. Historical examples of successful tactics and thereby endangered or even unsuccessful strategies are the Pyrrhic victories .

Strategy theory

As a sub-discipline of international relations , the strategic studies deal with the question of whether and to what extent strategic action is subject to historical, political, social, economic and technological regularities. The strategic studies also have roots in the war studies ( polemology , French polémology , English war studies ), military history and the history of diplomacy. They are also a result of efforts after the two world wars to prevent such wars from returning. For them, the motto of the British strategist Basil Liddell Hart and his French colleague Gaston Bouthoul , "if you want peace, understand the war," was particularly influential .


Sunzi (* around 500 BC in Wu) was a Chinese general, military strategist and philosopher. His book " The Art of War " is considered the earliest book on strategy and is still one of the most important works on this subject to this day.

Ming period (1368-1644)

During the Ming period , an unknown author wrote an essay that became known as 36 Stratagems (from 1988 in German-speaking countries). Harro von Senger published it under the title 36 Stratagems for Managers .

History in the west

Only since the 6th century, initially in Byzantine literature, has the use of the word "strategy", derived from ancient Greek, been documented as "the means by which the general can defend his own country and defeat that of his enemy" put the tactic . The word continued to be used in this sense in Byzantine literature, particularly in a work of around 900 written to the Emperor Leo VI. is attributed to the wise , and in which the word describes "the art of campaigns", but which for Leo VI. the knowledge of many other lower arts or auxiliary sciences - such as tactics, siege arts, regional studies, logistics, etc. - required. There was never a single Latin equivalent. It was not until 1777 that the term “strategy” was introduced into German in the translation of Leo VI's work. by Johannes von Bourscheidt. Around the same time it was adopted as a stratégie into French, also through a translation of the work of Leo VI. However, there was literature on this subject before the word was introduced; mostly one used here the words war art or war science .

Carl von Clausewitz

The book “Vom Kriege”, written by the Prussian officer Carl von Clausewitz (1780–1831; the work was published posthumously 1832–1834), is considered the cornerstone and standard work of strategy theory and strategic studies . Although Clausewitz used a rather narrow definition (“Strategy is the use of combat for the purpose of war” - Vom Kriege, Book III.1), his work is in the way in which Clausewitz “the relationship between war, peace and Politics understands ... the most comprehensive contribution to [...] military and strategic thinking ”. A possible general validity, however, prevented the unfinished state in which “Vom Kriege” was with Clausewitz's sudden death (presumably cholera).

Clausewitz saw it as necessary that the military should submit to the instructions of politics (so-called primacy of politics ) and understand them as an instrument of politics. Only the latter is able to define political goals against which the success of the use of military force can be measured.

Helmuth Karl Bernhard Freiherr von Moltke

Helmuth von Moltke was appointed Chief of Staff of the Prussian Army in 1858 and, after initial successes, was also responsible for planning and executing the campaigns in the Franco-German War (1870/1871), as he had the right to join the field army in the name of the king directly and without intermediation to issue orders from the Minister of War so that he could directly direct military operations himself. Moltke was considered a student of Clausewitz, who “made his teachings his own most purely”. Von Moltke “did not write down any teaching of his strategy [...] He explained the strategy as' a system of temporary workers. It is more than science, it is the transfer of knowledge to practical life, the further development of the originally guiding thought in accordance with the constantly changing circumstances, it is the art of acting under the pressure of the most difficult conditions. '"

20th century

The twentieth century saw great advances in considerations of strategy; these led to important redefinitions of the term:

  • Basil Liddell Hart defined strategy as "the art of using military means to achieve politics"
  • The French general André Beaufre defined strategy in 1963 as "the art of the dialectic of forces, or more precisely, the art of the dialectic of the wills that use power to resolve their conflicts"
  • The American Michael Handel (d. 2001): “The strategy is the art and the science of developing and using political, economic, psychological and military forces in peace and war, to guarantee politics a maximum of support in order to ensure probability of victory and its good consequences and to reduce the possibility of defeat "
  • A bridge to economic strategy is provided by Sir Lawrence Freedman's definition : “Strategy deals with the relationship between (political) ends and (military, economic, political, etc.) means. It is the art of creating power. "
  • According to Edward Luttwak, the greatest paradox of war is the possibility that the military winners can become the real losers in the long run. Seen in this way, strategy is the knowledge of the complex game with paradoxes and their targeted use to pursue one's own goals and purposes in order to avoid the paradox of acting contrary to one's own intentions.


The American political scientist Robert J. Art identified in his 1980 article To What Ends Military Power? four basic functions served by the threat of political violence or the exercise of violence. The defense (defense) serve

  • first, to repel an attack, and
  • secondly, to limit the resulting damage as much as possible. This defensive nature they share the deterrence (deterrence) to prevent or dissuade which also would serve a political actor of something. He emphasizes that both strategies can be used independently of one another.
  • In contrast to this is the strategy of compulsion (compellence) , which is intended to induce a political counterpart to take a certain action.
  • The fourth category, he identified the " pomposity " (swaggering) . He called it "diffuse". Above all, it serves the purpose of prestige and is therefore primarily of an indirect nature.

See also


Individual evidence

  1. ^ Colin Gray: War, Peace and International Relations - An Introduction to Strategic History. Routledge, Oxon 2007, p. 284.
  2. ^ BH Liddell Hart, Strategy (1967). This motto is probably based on the Latin proverb si vis pacem para bellum - if you want peace, prepare for war '
  4. E.g. Piper Taschenbuch, 5th edition 2006, ISBN 978-3492246491 (published in numerous translations)
  5. Beatrice Heuser: Thinking about war: The development of strategy since ancient times . Paderborn: Schöningh, 2010, chap. 1.
  6. Johann W.von Bourscheid, Emperor Leo the philosopher strategy and tactics in 5 volumes (Vienna: 1777-1781).
  7. For a comprehensive bibliography, see Heuser: Development of Strategy , pp. 469–515.
  8. here online
  9. ^ " In the way that Clausewitz understands the relationship between war, peace, and politics, his work remains the most comprehensive and, in some instances, modern contribution to political, military, and strategic thought as it stands ". In: Jordan Lindell: Clausewitz: War, Peace and Politics. November 26, 2009. Last accessed on December 9, 2009.
  10. Jordan Lindell: Clausewitz: War, Peace and Politics. November 26, 2009. Last accessed on December 9, 2009.
  11. Max Horst (Ed.): Moltke. Life and work in self-testimonies. Letters · Writings · Reden , In the Dietrich'schen Verlagsbuchhandlung in Leipzig 1931, Introduction by Max Horst, pp. XIII and XV.
  12. ^ Basil Liddell Hart, Thoughts on War (London: 1944), p. 229.
  13. Heuser: Thinking about the war. P. 38.
  14. Heuser: Thinking about the war. P. 37.
  15. Heuser: Thinking about the war. P. 48.
  16. Herfried Münkler: The Great War , Berlin 2013, p. 785
  17. Robert J. Art (1980), p. 5.