Strategy, that term beloved of war and business, is far more than a mere plan. So observes Freedman (War Studies/King’s Coll. London; A Choice of Enemies: America Confronts the Middle East, 2008, etc.) in this comprehensive, vigorous survey of strategy and its evolution.
Strategy is a byproduct of conflict, or at least of situations “where interests collide and forms of resolution are required.” Beyond that, the definitions are many: It seems to be about developing a series of plans that balance ends and means with the resources available to attain those ends. Schools of thought have developed around strategy, with the Periclean supposedly concerned with accomplishing decisive victories, while the Sun Tzu method is to avoid direct confrontation whenever possible. However, Freedman valuably notes that there are plenty of instances in which Chinese strategists have gone full frontal while Greek strategists have employed ruses and deceptions, which introduces the notion of situationality. That is to say, the best strategy, in business or at war, would seem to be the one that most closely responds to actual situations on the ground and one that, as one of the strategists whom he studies remarks, may not even be clearly formulated ahead of time. In closing a text that takes in various bits of wisdom and experience from the likes of Napoleon, Mao, Bayard Rustin and Michel Foucault, Freedman also observes that strategic efforts to win some goal are just part of the task at hand—for, having won, there’s now the necessity to govern or to bring goods to new markets or to retain battled-for rights, etc.
A lucid text that raises questions while answering others—of great value to planners, whether of an advertising campaign or a military one.