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Military strategy: Theory and concepts

Randall G Bowdish, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Military strategy was long described as atheoretical—an art that could only be fully comprehended by military genius. This contention is no longer held, as military staffs, comprised of experts and specialists, are able to formulate strategy aided by mini-theories of strategy and a process that takes advantage of collective wisdom rather than singular genius. But the mini-theories of strategy remain underdeveloped and an overarching theory of military strategy does not yet exist. In this dissertation I build a grand theory of military strategy, consisting of a simple two-pole, physical and psychologically oriented framework, mini-theories of military strategy, and additionally, concepts of employment that describe conceptual actions that can be employed by military means to achieve military objectives. Mini-theories of military strategy, consisting of the five basic military strategies of extermination, exhaustion, annihilation, intimidation and subversion, are woven together into a coherent military strategy theoretical framework. Additionally, I expose the principles of war as a myth, instead proffering concepts of employment as the actionable elements of strategy, which are used in the conceptual direction of military means to achieve military objectives in support and amplification of the five basic military strategies. The strategies offered are the result of a comprehensive meta-data analysis, hermeneutical analysis, and comparative meta-analysis of the works of past strategy theorists, rather than the case study methodology employed in most military strategy scholarship. This dissertation provides a baseline theory from which further military strategy hypotheses can be generated and tested in order to advance our understanding of military strategy.

Subject Area

International Relations|Military studies

Recommended Citation

Bowdish, Randall G, "Military strategy: Theory and concepts" (2013). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3567952.