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MILITARY STRATEGY: A GENERAL THEORY OF POWER CONTROL (JC WYLIE)

Thesis: Wylie sees the need for greater emphasis on strategy and thinking about strategy. He seeks to demonstrate that it is possible to study warfare and be both fundamental and practical about it. He proposes a general theory of strategy that is not limited to a war situation or military application, but across disciplines.



J.C. Wylie is a career sea officer who develops his theories and propositions through years of experience and personal observation. He was influenced by his appreciation of cultural differences, his combat experience in WWII, and his time at the Naval War College. He was also awarded the Silver Star.

Strategy: A plan of action designed in order to achieve some end; a purpose together with a system of measures for its accomplishment.

He sees strategy as a disorganized, undisciplined intellectual activity.


Strategy has no moral quality of its own. It is inherently neither good nor evil; it is always normative or concerned with values.



He states that strategy cannot be a science in the sense of physical sciences however, strategy can be an intellectual discipline of the highest order.

Principles of War: Wylie does not subscribe to principles. Considers them a substitution of slogan for thought; intellectual formlessness Sequential strategies—series of visible, discrete steps, each dependent on the one that preceded it.

Cumulative strategies—the less perceptible minute accumulation of little items piling one on top of another until

at some unknown point the mass of the accumulated actions may be large enough to be critical.

Theory—an idea designed to account for actuality or to account for what the theorist thinks will come to pass as actuality.

Types of theories—Maritime, Air, Continental, Mao; each has limits and is therefore not a general theory.

Four basic assumptions for strategy development: 1) despite effort to prevent war, may happen anyway 2) aim of war is some measure of control over enemy 3) we cannot predict with certainty the pattern of the war for which we prepare ourselves 4) the ultimate determinant in war is the man on the scene with the gun.785 Wylie identifies the seven great military theorists as Machiavelli, Clausewitz, Mahan, Corbett, Douhet, Liddell Hart, and Mao. Control is a common factor to all power struggles. Center of gravity supplies force and direction toward concept of control. Control is the purpose, and manipulations of the center of gravity are the measures.

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