Modern Strategy

Modern Strategy

Modern Strategy

Modern Strategy


Modern Strategy explains the permanent nature, but ever changing character, of strategy in light of the whole strategic experience of the twentieth century. The book is a major contribution to the general theory of strategy; it makes sense of the strategic history of the twentieth century, and provides understanding of what that strategic history implies for the century to come. The book offers a uniquely comprehensive analysis of the different facets of modern strategy. The classic writings of Carl von Clausewitz are reconsidered for their continuing relevance, while possible successors are appraised. In addition to arguing that Clausewitz figured out what strategy was, and how it worked, the book probes deeply into strategy's political, ethical, and cultural dimension. The book explains how strategic behaviour in the twentieth century has expanded from the two-dimensional world of the land and the surface of the sea, to include the ocean depths, the air, space, and most recently the 'cyberspace' environments. It also offers details analyses both of nuclear matters and of the realm of irregular violence. This is the first comprehensive account of all aspects of modern strategy since the Cold War ended and will be essential reading for all students of modern strategy and security studies.


It is immodest and self-indulgent to use the personal pronoun in a work with pretensions to scholarship. That said, Modern Strategy is well sown with personal pronouns. This book is not an intellectual autobiography, but for me it is a landmark work that represents my best effort to share understanding of my chosen field of scholarly interest at the thirty-year point in my career. Modern Strategy does not purport to present modern strategy historically, but it does suggest ways to approach the subject.

My approach to strategy is captured in the questions and themes of the book. The master theme is the claim that there is a unity to all strategic experience: nothing essential changes in the nature and function (or purpose) --in sharp contrast to the character -- of strategy and war. The significance of this theme to the understanding of modern strategy is reflected in the title assigned to the concluding chapter, 'Strategy Eternal'. The more widely I have visited the training-grounds and killing-fields of strategy, the more impressed I have been with the essentially unitary nature of the subject. The master theme here of the unity of strategy and strategic experience is employed and developed to counter a widespread error. That error is the tendency to confuse tactics with strategy and, as a consequence, to mistake changes in the character of events with changes in their nature.

Definition of key terms is critically important. Readers are advised, therefore, that the deliberately few definitions that this book offers are presented neither as a matter of pro forma scholarly duty, nor are they a demonstration of scholarly rigour. Above all others, my preferred definition of strategy, which is strictly Clausewitzian, is vital to understanding of the subject. I do not claim that Clausewitz's definition of strategy is correct; indeed, a definition cannot be so described. But I do claim that Clausewitz's definition provides the path for superior strategic understanding to those wise enough to adopt it.

This book is not presented over-ambitiously as a definitive guide to modern strategy, as a point of view on the course and ever-dynamic outcome of that strategy, still less as a 'cookbook' so that reader-chefs might 'do' strategy better. My purpose is simply to help readers better to understand modern strategy. The basis for this text is my rather unusual, not to say eccentric, career as a strategic thinker. I might say 'defence intellectual', but a British pen cannot quite cope with that concept.

Depending upon one's point of view, the course of my career is either a net asset or a liability for the central purpose of this book. Bracketed by stints as a university teacher in Britain and Canada (1968-73, and from 1993 to the present), I was for nearly twenty years a strategic theorist, defence analyst, and policy adviser in the United States. Those twenty years included five as a part-time member of . . .

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