Strategy and Warfare Course
The Strategy and War Course examines how the overall strategic environment shapes operational choices and outcomes. In turn, the course also examines the strategic effects of operations, exploring how battlefield outcomes can change the strategic environment.
This course adopts an interdisciplinary approach to strategy, drawing on the disciplines of history, political science, international relations, and economics. It integrates with those academic perspectives critical military factors from the profession of arms—such as doctrine, weaponry, training, technology, and logistics. The result is a coherent frame of reference to analyze complex strategic problems and formulate strategies to address them.
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Operational success in war, for example, might open up new strategic opportunities. Operational failures might close off promising strategic courses of action. The interaction between the operational use of military force and strategic outcomes can lead to unanticipated results. The history of warfare provides many examples of disproportionate military victories that were largely unforeseen by planners. Alternatively, the commitment of large numbers of forces and huge resources does not ensure strategic success. Students examine how unanticipated second- and third-order effects frustrate planners who seek to dominate the battlefield and the course of operations.
Curriculum, Outcome and More
The curriculum consists of two core components: an examination of leading strategic theorists on war and analysis of major case studies. The works of major strategic thinkers—such as Carl von Clausewitz, Sun Tzu, Mao Tse-tung, Alfred Thayer Mahan, and Sir Julian Corbett—provide a foundation on which the course builds an analytical framework that students can use to understand the interrelationship of the realms of policy, strategy, and operations.
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The case studies provide an opportunity to evaluate and discuss the ways in which political leaders and strategic planners in the real world have successfully (or unsuccessfully) grappled with the challenges associated with the use of force to attain national objectives. This course, then, is concerned with strategic leadership that can effectively deal not only with current problems in policy and strategy but also those that might emerge in the future.
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All students are required to write two papers that critically examine critical questions arising from the case studies. These papers present an opportunity to demonstrate critical analysis and prepare a paper that requires independent thought and graduate-level writing. Papers should serve to stimulate innovative thinking and to provide, provoke, and inform discussion within the seminar.
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Student OutcomeClick to Open
The Naval War College Intermediate-level Professional Military Education Outcomes applicable to this course are listed below. These outcomes, developed in synchronization with Joint Professional Military Education (JPME) Objectives, represent the Naval War College’s expectations for those who successfully complete the Strategy and Policy Course.
Proficient in Strategic Decision-Making Involving Maritime, Joint, Interagency, and Multinational Warfighting
- Aware of maritime, joint, interagency, and multinational operations along with their strategic effects
- Skilled in applying sea power to achieve strategic effects across a wide range of conflicts
- Capable of integrating naval/military capabilities with other instruments of national Power
- Understand challenges in accomplishing interagency and multinational coordination
- Enhanced awareness of American grand strategy from the founding of the Republic to the present day
Prepared for Positions of Strategic Leadership Able to think strategically about all types of wars and strategic actors
- Skilled in evaluating alternative strategic courses of action
- Enhanced cultural awareness of key regions to include an understanding of the dynamics of the international strategic environment and geostrategic relationships
- Skilled in persuasive leadership by practicing the craft of writing clearly and speaking articulately about the relationship between operations, grand strategy, and policy
- Understand the importance of strategic communication and reaching multiple audiences
Capable of Critical Thought
- Empowered with analytical frameworks to support policy and strategy decision-making
- Master the meaning of a wide range of classical and contemporary strategic concepts
- Aware of critical thinking and decision-making by real-world, strategic leaders
- Competent in strategic-level problem solving, creative thinking, and risk management
Effective Maritime Spokespersons
- Understand classic works on sea power and maritime strategy
- Steeped in the maritime dimensions of warfare
- Understand warfare at sea—past, present, and future
- Conversant in a full range of naval capabilities
- Skilled in applying naval perspective through use of analytical frameworks
- Aware of naval operations and their strategic effects