Coercive Military Strategy

By Stephen J. Cimbala | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION
Military Strategy and Coercion

The study of military strategy attempts to explain how armies and states ought to set out to win or prevent wars and why they succeed or fail. There is no universal "correct" strategy: all is dependent upon time, place, and circumstance. This variability of conditions under which fighting or prevention of war takes place is itself a constant, if an elusive one. Military strategy is inseparable from political, social, cultural, and historical context.

In this study, I develop the idea of coercive military strategy, explaining why mastery of the principles of military coercion is a necessary condition for success in war or diplomacy. In brief, an understanding of coercive military strategy is a necessary condition for policy makers, military leaders, and scholars who hope to understand and to manage favorably the forces at work in the post-Cold War world.1 Appreciation of the context for successful or failed military coercion is a necessary constituent for obtaining political or military objectives at an acceptable cost.

Theories about the coercive use of military power have suffered from disbelief on the part of military professionals and charges of American ethnocentrism laid down by scholars. There are good reasons for the skepticism: coercive military strategies have been wrongly presented, and mistakenly applied, more than once. Nevertheless, this introduction and the chapters that follow argue that coercive military strategy is not necessarily a culture-bound product of American political and social theory. More emphatically, this book rejects the argument that coercive strategy is of little importance to politicians and commanders. Coercive military strategy has the potential to contribute to the best, and the worst, results in war and policy; the skill of the swordsmith cannot be separated from the sharpness of the blade.

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