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in: Manly Knowledge, Military History, Podcast

• Last updated: January 5, 2021

Podcast #664: The Masters of the Art of War

Looked at from the heat of combat, war can seem disorganized and chaotic. But overarching the conflict is typically some kind of thoughtful, well-ordered, even scientific strategy that is influencing when, where, how, and why dueling forces have met.

My guest today will introduce us to a few of the military philosophers and tacticians who made the most significant contributions to the art of strategy over the last couple millenia. His name is Andrew Wilson, and he’s a professor at the Naval War College, as well as the lecturer of the Great Courses course, Masters of War: History’s Greatest Strategic Thinkers. We begin our conversation with a brief overview of what martial strategy is, why civilians should study it, and how the contrast between generals Eisenhower and Patton delineate the difference between strategy and operations. We then survey several of history’s most influential war strategists, and the contexts in which their theories and doctrines were born. This tour includes a discussion of how Sun Tzu used The Art of War to argue that a new type of war in a new type of society required a new type of general who could process conflicts like a supercomputer, and a dive into how Carl von Clausewitz emphasized the importance of understanding how complexity, irrational passions, and creative genius underlay contemporary warfare. We end our conversation with how military strategy has or hasn’t changed in the 21st century.

Disclaimer: The views offered in this podcast are Andrew’s own and do not reflect the official policy or positions of the Department of the Navy, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.   

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Show Highlights

  • Why is it useful for civilians to have an understanding of military strategy?
  • What is strategy? How is it different from operations?
  • Thucydides, the Peloponnesian War, and what that essential text can teach us today
  • The lasting value of The Art of War
  • Who was Carl von Clausewitz and why is he still important?
  • What’s the state of strategy here in the 21st century?

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