Thucydides on Strategy is a book of introduction to strategy

March 17, 2019

Recently reading up the history of Greece and stumbled upon this book in the library. This book is surprisingly one of the more easy to read and well structured book and I enjoyed it quite a bit.Thucydides is a historian in Ancient Greece. He witnessed the Peloponnessian War from 431-401 BC between Athen and Sparta. He is the first person who take a meticulous record of the war.

This book is essential a TL;DR; of Thucydides’s classic History of the Peloponnesian War. It talks about the essence of strategy and grand strategy. So here is a TL;DR; of a TL;DR;:

Grand strategy is a term to summarize all means a nation used to maintain it survival. Grand strategy not only consist of miltary strategy, but also diplomatic strategy, economic strength and political manuveur.

A grand strategy first start with conserving or challenging the status quo. An whether you go threat of force or really use threat of force to achieve that.

  Challenger Retainer
Use of Force Offensive Defensive
Threat of Force Compellent Deterrent

An whether we choose any of this category depends on a few criteria:

  1. Domestic and International Legitamacy
  2. Assessment of international environment on constraints, opportunities, threats…etc.
  3. Setting policy objective
  4. Allocation of resources to meet the Objectives

Failing to do so will result in different failure situations, potentially lethal:

Capabilities \ Objectives Few Many
Few Passive Overextension
Many Reduction of Objectives Strategic Sufficiency

And than we practice the grand strategy analysis on the 2 adversaries in Peloponnesian War. And there are 2 types of grand strategy against a foe:

  1. Win by exhaustion
  2. Win by annihilation

which is very similar to how predators hunt in the nature.

As any plan applied on reality, reality is dynamic and changing every day. Today you may be gaining ground and winning the next day your plan may go south. You may or may not alter the strategy based on the situation presented to you. A wrong grip of reality may result in failure and you may find yourself in a difficult situation, or worse, dead.

So my conclusion is that any strategy is based on intelligence gathering, both domestic and internationally. Any strategy that is not based on intelligence is basically bullshit to me.

Time to gather more information!

Thucydides on Strategy is a book of introduction to strategy - March 17, 2019 - Gilbert Wat (屈振鵬)