Military Strategy Matrix
Since I’ve promised it a couple of times already in various comments, here is the matrix I made several years ago to illustrate to my students the variety of methods which military forces might use to achieve their strategic objectives. My first exposure to the idea of different “types” of war came in my first Ohio State course with Joe Guilmartin, where he talked about wars of annihilation, attrition, economic attrition, and guerrilla warfare (I think those were the categories he mentioned). I found this intriguing, and have since kept track of various military strategies I’ve encountered over the years. Since I insist on making everything much more complicated than it probably should be, here is the more detailed chart I created.
I don’t know of standard terms for these concepts, so the column headings aren’t particularly descriptive. I also didn’t really know how else to categorize the Annihilation-Attrition divide, so I’m not particularly satisfied with that division (in part because I’m not sure most belligerents would intentionally choose an attritional strategy in the first place).
I tried to organize each column by starting at the top with the most clearly military target and then gradually shade into civilian targets as you go down the column. I also tried to start with the most tangible target at the top and then shade into less tangible aspects such as morale, food, etc. There’s a fair amount of repetition in some cells in the last two columns, which might indicate that there’s a more efficient way to organize the matrix.
Of course any belligerent is free to choose one or more of these strategies, and they might vary across the course of a war as well.
Feel free to comment on the chart – any questions, mistakes, etc. I’m working on variations on this chart, including a more straightforward listing of the different military strategies. In the Comments section of other posts we’ve been discussing how this relates to the means vs. goals, the reality of a war vs. what the belligerents might want, etc.
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