Through Gray’s definition of strategy, the timeless application of Thucydidean motives, and an understanding of the immutable influences of geography and politics, any prospective student of strategy is well equipped to enter any debate on the future direction of the national interest.
Friedman intentionally authored a quick read, believing the work should fit in a leader’s cargo pocket, and he strikes the perfect balance between brevity and gravity. Beyond the main effort of introducing an outline of tactical tenets and concepts, Friedman’s work also introduces strategic titans to the new tactician. This foreshadowing is an invaluable secondary benefit, as it creates scaffolding for later exploration in leaders yet unexposed to these thinkers. One could be excused for thinking Friedman’s work might lose coherence through the frequent calling forth of these tactical and strategic visionaries, but he altogether avoids the trap of confusing the narrative and masterfully weaves a tapestry of their individual thoughts that surgically and powerfully complement his work.
Military theory is a way of distilling the raw materials of history into a concentrated, potent form that educates the strategist and commander. In this way, theory can serve as a starting point for strategy. While sound military theory is a good starting point for strategy, however, context and execution matter. The positive impacts of theory upon strategy are often limited by the context in which theoretical principles are applied, and by the commander’s judgment and skill in applying them.
Scholars of Clausewitz have gone to great pains to distinguish and connect the primary trinity of passion, chance, and reason with the secondary trinity of people, military, and government. In repudiating the Powell Doctrine’s focus on only the secondary trinity, Hew Strachan points out the the triad of people, military, and government are the “application” of the trinity—they are elements of the “state, not of war.” But for Antulio Echevarria, an equally erroneous position would be to ignore the secondary trinity, as he argues Clausewitz was clear in drawing the connection between the intrinsic and the institutional. In taking a position diametrically opposed to van Creveld, Echevarria suggests we risk divorcing Clausewitz from the “practical concerns of the debates of his day.”
Strategy is a form of communication; a message that you have the intentions and capabilities to impose your will, and the enemy cannot impose theirs. As war can be likened to two combatants trying to impose their will on the other, they must communicate their will and their intention not to abide by the will of the opponent. Since war is a human endeavor, this communication occurs in the same manner as other forms of communications.