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Home » Thinkers » J. C. Wylie » Military Strategy: A general theory of power control by J. C. Wylie » Excerpt from J. C. Wylie’s Military Strategy: Universal strategy I

Excerpt from J. C. Wylie’s Military Strategy: Universal strategy I


RADM J.C. Wylie

Rear Admiral J.C. Wylie

From Rear Admiral J.C. Wylie’s Military Strategy: A general theory of power control:

It would appear that a fairly careful scrutiny of the opponent’s thought patterns and their underlying assumptions should be an early component of our own planning process. If we could deliberately make his theory invalid we have gone a long way toward making his actions ineffective. An examination of this type might uncover something crucial in reaching toward establishment of control…

The aim of the soldier is to establish control over the enemy by overcoming his army and thus destroying his will to fight. The aim of the sailor is to establish and exploit control of the sea and extend, by a variety of pressures, control from the sea onto the land, where the opponent is.

Destruction of each of these two cases is only one component of control, and not the whole of it. The soldier exercises his ultimate control by his unchallenged presence on the scene. The sailor contributes to control in part by destruction, but as much by other components. Like the soldier, in some cases, by his presence. Or, as often as not , by making possible various political or economic pressures toward control. The Sixth Fleet, for instance, is a political force of the first magnitude int the Mediterranean, and its day-to-day sailings are determined as much by diplomatic as by military factors.

How does one figure the cost effectiveness of the presence of a battalion in Berlin, or of a destroyer in the Persian Gulf?  Control of this type, in its more sophisticated sense, is probably better described as “influence”, but it is nonetheless a degree of control, and as such it is a legitimate and useful “purpose” in assessing the worth of these instruments of strategic policy.

The point to be made here is that the more sophisticated the strategic concept—and this need have no relation to the sophistication of the technology involved—the more elusive are the statistical measures of worth. Destruction is measurable and can be mathematically forecast to a great degree; control is a matter of living people, and thus must, probably for a long time to come. remain a matter of human judgement. It is very difficult to put a statistical column in one column and a human judgement in the other and compare them. We do not yet have the techniques for that except in another human judgement. It is the nature of the strategic theories that limits the application of the mathematical analysis in the management of the tools of war.


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