CounterFact Magazine Guide to Strategy (in 733 words) By Ty Bomba

“Everything in strategy is very simple, but that does not mean everything [in strategy] is very easy.” – Carl von Clausewitz

Strategy Defined
A plan of action to achieve a major aim in the face of opposition. There are no certain formulas in strategy to fix the tensions inescapably imposed by uncertain intentions, faulty assumptions, unknown capabilities and poorly understood risks.

Principles of Strategy
1. Know your own capabilities.
2. Know your opponent’s capabilities.
3. Pit your strengths against your opponent’s weaknesses.
4. Prevent your opponent from pitting his strengths against your weaknesses.
5. Never pit your strengths against his strengths.
6. At the start of an plan have a reserve of five to 20 percent of your strength.
7. Keep in mind your desired end-state: only do things that move you closer to it.
8. Never repeat a failed strategy with the expectation of getting a better result.
9. The initial objective of your strategy should be to create surprise in your opponent. That will delay and make less efficient his countermoves.

Common Reasons for Strategic Failure
1. Overconfidence due to previous success.
2. Analyzing information only after sifting it through the filter of dogma.
3. Operating with insufficient reserves.
4. “Mirror imaging” – using one’s own rationales to judge the actions or intentions of your opponent – is the single most common fault among strategists.
5. Objectives are not well defined or explained to those below the highest level of command.
6. Objectives not adjusted according to new data coming in from the environment.
7. Unanticipated outside influences.
8. Thinking that what is unknown is the same as what is improbable.

Tactics Defined
An action intended to achieve a specific end that is conducted while in contact with the enemy.

Principles of Tactics
1. Always seek to control the local high ground or its aerial or outer space equivalent.
2. Move in short bounds from cover to cover so as not to be caught in the open by your opponent.
3. Maneuver so as to engage your opponent on his flank or from behind, and so as to prevent him from being able to do that to you.
4. Don’t confuse mere “concealment” with “cover.” The former only gets you out of sight; the latter also offers protection from enemy fire.

Relative Importance of Tactics vs. Strategy
Your superior strategy can make up for your poor tactics; however, your superior tactics will not make up for your poor strategy: “Good strategy without good tactics is the slowest route to victory; good tactics without good strategy is just so much noise before your final defeat” (Sun Tzu).

Value of Surprise in Strategy
Surprise is the consequence of confusion in your opponent induced by your deliberate introduction of the unexpected. Surprise is a force multiplier for the side that can cause it against the other. Surprise creates a temporary period of vulnerability in your opponent that can be exploited by you. Having multiple objectives lies at the heart of creating surprise in your opponent. The strongest form of surprise occurs when one side presents the other with two or more options against which to defend, and they pick the wrong one. Surprise is usually thought of as a tool only available to the side on the offensive; however, attackers can themselves suffer surprise if the situation into which they move turns out to be other than what they expected. (At the tactical level that’s called an ambush.)

Coping With Surprise
Surprise can never be fully avoided, but its effects can be mitigated by preparing for a range of possibilities while also organizing so as to allow for resilience, adaptability and flexibility. Wargaming can expand intellectual horizons, test concepts and identify particular approaches as promising or weak. Field exercises can accustom troops to being tactically surprised. Together they build the resilience needed to make people willing and able to fight through and overcome surprise.

Most Difficult Thing in Strategy
The most difficult thing is to know when to change strategies. If you do it too soon or too often, you’re not a strategist; you’re an opportunist. If you do it too late, or refuse to do it no matter what, again you’re not a strategist; you’re a fanatic. Both opportunists and fanatics are easily defeated by strategists.

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