The policy-strategy distinction is one of the most important issues in the neo-Clausewitzian canon.[i] “The political object is the goal,” Clausewitz notes, and “war is the means of reaching it.”[ii] Clausewitz further notes that strategy is the “the use of engagement for the purpose of the war.”[iii] This essay explains policy and strategy and argues for the importance of a sound understanding of their complex relationship in modern strategic thought and practice.
While this debate is primarily intellectual, it also has manifold policy implications. Tactics and strategy are frequently mistaken for policy, and policy mistaken for the strategies needed to execute them. Widespread ignorance of policy-strategy in, among others, America holds back a sound analysis of modern security threats and retards the development of intellectual tools needed to cope with them.