Defining Military Strategy

By Arthur F Lykke, Jr. | Military Review, January/February 1997 | Go to article overview

Defining Military Strategy

Arthur F Lykke, Jr., Military Review

Colonel Arthur F. Lykke Jr. 's pragmatic definition of military strategy is as current today as it was when his article led the May 1989 issue of Military Review. Lykke's model remains the basis for military strategy instruction at the US Army War College. Interestingly, our records show that Military Review rejected this same article in March 1981. According to Lykke, the editors felt an article on strategy would be inappropriate for students at the Army's senior tactical school

WHAT IS MILITARY STRATEGY? In ancient Greece, it was the "art of the general." In its glossary of military terms, the US Army War College lists eight definitions of military strategy. This highlights the first of many problems in the study of this important but complex subject. There is no universal definition or even the approximation of a consensus. Today the term "strategy" is used altogether too loosely. Some call a line drawn on a map a strategy. Others believe a laundry list of national objectives represents a strategy. The problem is not just semantics; it is one of effectively and competently using one of the most essential tools of the military profession. In trying to decide between alternative strategies, we are often faced with a comparison of apples and oranges, because the choices do not address the same factors. Only with a mutual understanding of what comprises military strategy can we hope to improve our strategic dialogue. There needs to be general agreement on a conceptual approach to military strategy: a definition, a description of the basic elements that make up military strategy and an analysis of how they are related. For the purpose of this discussion, we will use the definition approved by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff: "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."1

During a visit to the US Army War College in 1981, General Maxwell D. Taylor characterized strategy as consisting of objectives, ways and means. We can express this concept as an equation: Strategy equals ends (objectives toward which one strives) plus ways (courses of action) plus means (instruments by which some end can be achieved). This general concept can be used as a basis for the formulation of any type strategy-military, political, economic and so forth, depending upon the element of national power employed.

We should not confuse military strategy with national (grand) strategy, which may be defined as: "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."2

Military strategy is [only] one part of this allencompassing national strategy. The military component of our national strategy is sometimes referred to as national military strategy-military strategy at its higher level and differentiated from operational strategies used as the basis for military planning and operations. Military strategy must support national strategy and comply with national policy, which is defined as "a broad course of action or statements of guidance adopted by the government at the national level in pursuit of national objectives."3 In turn, national policy is influenced by the capabilities and limitations of military strategy.

With our general concept of strategy as a guidestrategy equals ends plus ways plus means-we can develop an approach to military strategy. Ends can be expressed as military objectives. Ways are concerned with the various methods of applying military force. In essence, this becomes an examination of courses of action designed to achieve the military objective. These courses of action are termed "military strategic concepts." Means refers to the military resources (manpower, materiel, money, forces, logistics and so forth) required to accomplish the mission. This leads us to the conclusion that military strategy equals military objectives plus military strategic concepts plus military resources. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Defining Military Strategy


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.