2 Defining Strategy |
9. The term strategy has a very precise meaning and
origin. It derives from strategia, the function of a strategos,
the Greek for general. Strategia is the general's office
and by extension the skill of generalship and therefore of waging
war. Subsequently, with the separation of political and military
leadership in modern states there has been a distinction made
in the literature between two types of strategy:
- Grand Strategywhich
determines how the policy for war and peace will be accomplished;
- Military Strategywhich determines and
assigns the military forces to achieve the objectives of the Grand
10. Strategy therefore originates, and has been best
understood, in military terms. However, this term has been broadened
in recent years. The term strategy has been so widely applied,
to all sorts of activities, that it has become devoid of real
value. Before 1950, "Strategy" was a term used only
by the military or military-political circles. Since then the
word has been absorbed into the business lexicon and general usage.
The term has therefore lost its original, solely military, meaning
and has become a wider and more ill-defined term. This makes it
difficult to agree on a single, clear definition of strategy.
Professor Prins suggested that, "[...] it is a recognition
of unchanging geopolitical truths and their translation into shaping
principles and a hierarchy of priorities, which may change in
expression from time to time".
The then CDS saw it in terms of immutable principles, although
the way they are given effect might change.
Professor Cornish proposed that "strategy is what gives
policy its ways and means, and [...] action its ends"
although this definition may not be comprehensive enough.
Strategy as process
11. As the term 'strategy' has moved out of its narrow
military meaning and into general use, it has lost precision.
The idea of strategy as 'strategic thinking' (i.e. a process)
is confused with 'a strategy', which has come to mean more often
than not, a plan or merely a document. Although, inevitably it
might be necessary to document current strategy, the overwhelming
view from our witnesses was that strategy was a concept not a
plan or a list. For Professor Prins "Strategy is a culture
of thinking [...]".
According to Commodore Jermy "Strategy lives; it is organic.
It is a collection of ideas, judgments and decisions, and it lives.
So yes, it is absolutely ongoing; indeed, that is key".
For the former CDS "it is dynamic" and "...
should evolve in the face of reality".
Cat Tully, a former FCO official, saw strategy-making as
"[...] a process of alignmentnot a piece of paper".
is therefore about dealing with uncertainty, complexity and the
dynamic. It is not a plan or a paper. In modern politics it is
about ensuring that the whole of government identifies and acts
effectively upon the national interest.
Confusing strategy and policy
12. There has been a tendency to confuse 'strategy'
with 'policy'. The Foreign Secretary said that there "can"
be a difference between strategy and policy but was concerned
that too often strategy failed to inform policy. To avoid this
disconnect he believed they should be undertaken by the same people.
However, this is a failure to appreciate fully the distinction
between the two which we hope the Foreign Secretary will accept.
There has always been a symbiotic relationship between the two.
Professor Strachan noted that the "relationship between
policy and strategy is likely to be an iterative and a dynamic
to confuse the 'end' (policy) with the 'ways and means' (strategy)
is not conducive to clear thinking in government". Strategy
is not policy, but is the means of effecting it.
That this confusion is met with so often confirms the need for
establishing a clear understanding of these two distinct elements
in government. It also makes the case for returning to the formal
study and teaching of strategy. Otherwise there is a risk, as
Professor Hennessy observed that, "policy without strategy
is, to a high degree, flying blind, [...]".
We have no doubt the Foreign Secretary accepts this.
The value of the term 'Grand Strategy'
13. The title of our inquiry was originally, 'Who
does UK Grand Strategy?' We began by examining whether the concept
of 'Grand Strategy' was still of value and if there was a common
understanding of the term. It was quickly evident that the very
meaning of the word 'Strategy' has changed considerably in recent
years. In fact, the term 'Grand Strategy' met with mixed reactions.
14. In its written evidence to the Committee the
Cabinet Office explained that:
Grand Strategy is no longer a term that is in widespread
usage; but it is understood to mean the purposeful and coordinated
employment of all instruments of power available to the state,
to exploit the changing opportunities and to guard against the
changing threat it faces.
15. In the seminar discussions it was observed that,
historically, the idea of 'Grand Strategy' was linked to times
of warfare with all the economic, military and diplomatic resources
of the state focused on one goalvictory. Professor Strachan
also placed it in the context of the Second World War where government
was seeking to achieve total victory and to coordinate several
theatres of war.
The concept of victory clearly does not have the same relevance
when we are broadly at peace; nations aim to be successful, and
perhaps to compete successfully with other nations, but not to
16. The historical connotations
of 'Grand Strategy' could prove to be a hindrance because the
term is associated with Empire and in some quarters is seen as
hubristic. Nonetheless the term has proved to be a useful means
by which this inquiry has been able to explore the concept of
an overarching process; a concept intrinsic to good governance.
This process today can better be described as 'National Strategy'
and we have therefore adopted this term as the title for our report.
9 Ev 91 Back
Q 269 Back
Ev 84 Back
Ev 92 Back
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Q 246 Back
16 15 15 Ev 94 Back
1 17 6
17 Q 3 Back
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1 19 9
Ev 64 Back
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