Summary of Strategy

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Rating

9

Qualities

  • Analytical
  • Comprehensive
  • Concrete Examples

Recommendation

One of the world’s leading authorities on war and strategic analysis, Sir Lawrence Freedman presents a history of strategy (“the art of creating power”) of astonishing range and erudition. Freedman starts by establishing the universality of strategic thinking (even chimpanzees strategize) and proceeds to lead readers on an expedition through the history of the Western world, tracing the development of strategic thought in warfare, politics and business. One of his major themes is that even the best strategy can do no more than attempt to subdue a complex and recalcitrant world. Like most strategy, though, this thorough compendium seems doomed, in a conceptual way, to fail: It cannot cover every important facet of the subject, and its depth is uneven. As Sir Lawrence himself has said, “Strategy is about power and how to create it, but it is also about the ability to understand the limitations of power.” In the end, his history, while a tremendous achievement, is a lesson in the limits of human ambition and control – and the world’s intractable unpredictability.

About the Author

Sir Lawrence Freedman, emeritus professor of war studies at King’s College London, also wrote Kennedy’s Wars: Berlin, Cuba, Laos and Vietnam and A Choice of Enemies: America Confronts the Middle East.

 

Summary

Strategy

People want to change the future course of events, to redistribute power and to gain control over their environment. These desires are not simple to fulfill. Various parties’ conflicting interests and other unpredictable factors come into play. For instance, those who want to move events may lack sufficient strength or power. This is the realm of strategy.

Strategy is not merely planning. Humans use strategy when they recognize that even the best-laid plans can go awry, and they fight back against the forces that foil their plans, including other people, circumstances and fortune. Often, those forces respond, and people must respond in turn. This interplay – a fluid situation requiring flexibility and constant modification – is essential to strategy.

Chimpanzees use strategy during conflicts over power and territory, suggesting that the elements of strategy transcend human experience. The Bible gives early examples of strategy in action – famous among them are the battle of David and Goliath and the story of Exodus. In Bible stories, success often depends on faith or obedience to God.

This notion underpinned the...


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