Has Technology Made Strategy Obsolete? It has been said that, “improvements in technology for waging war have made strategy increasingly irrelevant.” This is not the case; strategy is actually becoming more important with the development of more sophisticated military technology. Firstly it must be clearly defined how strategy and technology relate to each other. There have been many different views on what, in effect, constitutes strategy. If one were to compare Sun Tzu’s concepts of strategy and compare them to that of Clausewitz, it would be clear that the two defined strategy much differently.
Sun Tzu viewed strategy as a much larger issue than did the Clausewitz. He believed that an overall strategy that utilized political alliances, misinformation, intelligence and strategic planning was the key to what he believed the pinnacle of military victory was; to win the war without ever having to fight. Clausewitz had a much narrower view of strategy, one that would more correctly be determined as tactics. Clausewitz believed in the supremacy of direct military conflict as the sole arena for states to resolve their differences and satisfy their ambitions. He focused then, on the best way to win the war, believing that war was inevitable. It is clear then, that wile both men wrote on the subject of war, their focus was on different levels of warfare, Sun Tzu’s focus was on strategy, or grand strategy, while Clausewitz’s focus was on the tactical level, or operational strategy.
Technology is of a different ilk altogether than the closely related topics of tactics and strategy. Technology is the tools with which the war is waged. It can consist of not only mechanical instruments, but of nuclear, chemical and biological tools as well. Technology is an ever changing, constantly improving, element of warfare that has throughout history continually improved the efficiency with which mankind can kill one and other.
Technology Strategy Tactics The key to understanding the issue is to understand how the three elements, technology, tactics and strategy are connected to each other and more specifically, how changes in one area of will drive changes in the other. Technology is the core to the whole process. A requirement is identified and a weapon, or weapons system is created in order to fill that requirement.
Once this has been done, the military leadership must then study the characteristics of the new weapon and determine the optimum way in which to use it. In short, they must adapt or develop a set of tactics within which to employ this new weapons system. This process of developing tactics to most efficiently utilize a weapons system is not restricted to new weapons. Napoleons identification and development of light mobile cannon is a case in point. He determined a need, the technology was created and then Napoleon devised a new set of tactics, massed canon fire, with which to best exploit the characteristics of the new weapon.
Once a new weapon is introduced and effective tactics are designed for its operational employment, there is an understandably urgent requirement for the opposing force to develop some form of defence against it. This is generally done in two ways. Firstly the opposing Army must adapt its tactics in order to minimize its vulnerability and secondly they must develop a countering technology that will neutralize the new threat. A case in point here is the First World War. As an example, the impact of the wide spread introduction of the machine gun on maneuver style warfare of the late 19th century cannot be overstated. Very simply put, the volume of fire that could be generated by several well placed machine guns along an army’s front guaranteed that any attacking force would loose and loose badly.
Any soldier in open ground was a target for the machine gunners and so the solution was to adapt the tactics of the day from maneuver warfare into trench warfare. These changes in tactics provided the Army with the ability to hold the ground already taken and yet remain out of danger of the withering direct fire generated by the opposing forces machine guns. Improvements in the technology of trench and bunker construction also, to some extent,