“Monday Musings” are designed to get quick, insightful thoughts based around three questions from those interested in strategy, from the most experienced and lauded, to our newest thinkers/writers.
1 — Who had the greatest impact on you intellectually (through writing, mentorship, etc.)?
The two most important influences on my strategic thought have been J.C. Wylie and Colin Gray, the former through his little book Military Strategy and the latter through the sheer number of hours I’ve spent listening to him talk about strategy (besides everything he’s written). Clausewitz is necessarily the foundation, but by the time I actually read On War as an undergraduate, most of what he wrote seemed obvious to me and so didn’t really influence me much.
2 — What book (fiction, history, or academic) do you think best explains strategy?
Strategy is a concept with two defining aspects — remove either of them and it is strategy no longer. These aspects are: 1) the focus on adversarial military force; 2) the focus on non-linear political instrumentality. Moreover, although strategy is, in large part, an art, it can still be thought of in a systematic manner. On War is strong on the first defining focus of the concept and practice of strategy; Colin Gray’s The Strategy Bridge is reasonably strong on the second defining focus. J.C. Wylie’s Military Strategy is strong as an example of how to think and convey strategy in a clear and systematic manner.
3 — What do you want your legacy to be?
As a budding academic, it is hardly the right career moment to discuss legacies! I’d prefer not to reveal all my ambition so early. Thus I’ll merely state that I’d like to reintroduce conceptual clarity to strategic studies, which is all too frequently dominated by faddish and/or poorly thought out ideas. Such detritus litter strategic studies, some still influence both academic and governmental debate today, yet most are probably relatively unhelpful. Too many extraneous ideas tend to obscure the most important concepts — the fundamental upon which everything should be based.
Lukas Milevski is a Research Fellow at the “Changing Character of War Programme” at the University of Oxford, having completed his PhD under Colin S. Gray at the University of Reading. His first book, The Evolution of Modern Grand Strategic Thought, is under contract at Oxford University Press.
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