COLIN S. GRAY (born 1943) is a British-American strategic thinker and professor of International Relations and Strategic Studies at the University of Reading, where he is the director of the Centre for Strategic Studies. Dr. Gray has written 29 books, including: The Sheriff: America’s Defense of the New World Order (University Press of Kentucky, 2004); Another Bloody Century: Future Warfare (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2005); Strategy and History: Essays on Theory and Practice (Routledge, 2006); Fighting Talk: Forty Maxims on War, Peace and Strategy (Potomac Books, 2009) and so on. In addition to his books, he has innumerable journal articles over security and strategy issues.
In the book called “Strategy and Politics” (2016), Dr. Gray examines the relation between ‘strategy’ and ‘politics’. In essence, the book gives a framework for understanding how these two concepts are correlated with each other. More specifically, the book argues that strategy is the key necessary tool in order to achieve political aims. The book is very technical, and focuses on how to make a strategy and achieve a political aim, and offers advice on what works and what does not work in advancing strategy. In this vein, the book begins with defining general strategy structure and put emphasis on ends and means basically. From the mind of Dr. Gray, each category is essential for constructing a strategy and, therefore, he states that “An army can fight well, however, it will achieve little if it is politically hopeless”.
The main purpose of the author, however, is to make a complementary work in the security – strategy literature. Despite the fact that strategy is always the product of political process, the relationship between two concepts and their ancillary activities has scarcely been touched by scholars hence the author aims to complete a missing part in the literature. Accordingly, Dr. Gray claims that neither strategy nor politics can make sense if considered alone; strategy requires direction that can only be provided by political process whilst politics cannot be implemented without strategy.
“Strategy and Politics” is a book of total eleven chapters and each chapter based on how and why strategy and politics interact each other and how this interaction has had significant consequences historically. In fact, the author tries to reply these main questions through the book;
- what strategy is (and is not)
- why strategy is essential
- what strategy does and how it does it
- how strategy is made and executed
The book defines the strategy structure with ends, means, ways and assumptions.In other words, strategy(mean)is a must for a political aim(end)and the rest the of the book consists from the ways to use during strategy construction. There are also other considerable points made by the book such as; “strategy always and everywhere has a political meaning” or “politics and strategy are driven by ‘passion’ not necessarily by a rational calculation”.Accordingly, strategists can make irrational decisions under different circumstances and if policy is the product of politics and it is liable to change, so does the strategy. So, the book argues, assuming states make long term strategies is elusive.
Dr Gray also examines the importance of strategy in the political context and warfare. To him, war is a political instrument and it has a political meaning and claims that all strategic history should be examined in political context. In this sense, ignoring the political side of the history is strategically lethal. Apart from main concept of strategy, there is a hierarchy between different concepts such as security, military, grand strategy and politics. One important issue emphasised by the author here is that, strategy first made at home and then can able to serve the external policies successfully.
Towards the middle of the book, in chapter five, for example, the book presents the dynamics of making strategy process and highlights the prudence and adaptabilityin strategy making. As the strategy has a changeable character, it is a “work in progress” and it is not avoidable in the long term. Beside such discourses and definitions, in some chapters, the book touches upon the role of history, geography, culture and circumstances. Although the chapters are intriguing both in strategy making and behaviour, none of them appears as vital factors in adapting the strategy issue.
One of the major themes of the book is about theory and practice. Dr Gray argues that strategy is for the practice of theory. The hardest point for strategy is that, there is no formulation or set of rules for a successful strategy to taught in class, rather it should be practiced in all circumstances. For understanding the strategy, the motto ‘strategy never sleeps’ is helpful. As strategy and theory are quite dissimilar, strategy is mostly engaged as for an action, not for a study. As following, the book benefits from S. Huntington’s “The Soldier and the State” (1957) book. Huntington argues that statesman set their authority to the highest level, however, military try to maintain the security hence the dispute between two sides appears.
The fascinating detail about the book is that the author well-experienced about the strategy topic and shares the all possible approaches into the subject. He intends to give the key points of the strategy making and it is a guide book for security, conflict, strategy students. It clearly corrects some serious deficiency and explains the high relevance of political factors for matter of general defence. It is important to note that, there is not one way on making a strategy and it is definitely a guess-work. In other words, with the lack of certainty, strategists try to fulfil the “mission impossible”.
Written by a leading scholar and former practitioner, this book “Strategy and Politics” is an essential reading for all students of military strategy, strategic studies, security studies and war and conflict studies. While it can be argued that too much emphasis is placed on strategy in detail, the book unfortunately cannot avoid from the repetition. There is an over-endorsed relation with politics in every case, and this leads readers to get lost in descriptive explanations within an unconvincing context.