85871 - What is the difference between tactics and strategy?

N. Lygeros
Translated from the Greek by Athina Kehagias.

Due to the crisis in the Middle East we very often hear expressions such as “this is a tactic”, “this is a strategy” and in fact there is no obvious differentiation which is specific.
Therefore this podcast has that aim. To clarify what the difference is and what is the meaning of tactics and what of strategy in a more general context, even Clausewitz’s theory of war. What is the idea initially? We ought to imagine tactic to be a small aim, which is local and which is implemented at a local level with relatively local means. If we put it across in this manner, it might be a little abstract, but that means that all the things which will function will be within a hostile context, since there will be a confrontation, but they are all local, and even more importantly, in order for the context to be clear, everything is obvious. In other words, we see a tactic move and there is no need to make many predictions. What would be good, of course, is to think about it prior.
If we want to make an analogy in relation to chess, you ought to imagine that when you checkmate in two moves, three moves, or more, you are already within that context, that is, only the tactical one. The chessboard is set up, all the pieces are placed upon it, and you don’t have to develop a strategy. You ought to just find a local idea, which would be implemented locally without great difficulty.
When we move on to studies, the context is a little different and more skillful. Therefore, before the differentiation between tactics and strategy, which was the classic example in the past, now there is of course the operation concept. This operation concept is an invention of the Soviet Union, therefore it is an intermediate. It is something more general than a tactic and more specific than a strategy. When now we move clearly on to the issue of strategy, strategy is a bit more abstract in the sense that firstly it is not visible, it has a time depth that is much greater, it has to be played in a multiple manner, and it functions on a whole action field and not on a local one, it utilizes resources which may be at a great distance in order to implement a goal, those resources may be away, not only from the target, but from each other as well, and it in fact functions in a hidden network, which will only reveal the result. The only exception of course to the strategy which is visible, is the concept of doctrine. Therefore, in order to remember it and make it a little more apparent, tactics are completely visible and strategy is within the invisible. If we now want to make the analogy, we ought to remember that chess is 95% tactics, 5% strategy, whereas Go is the reverse, which is more than 90% strategy and a 10% which is tactics. Therefore, the schemes are different, and it is good to be aware of both strategic games when we hear of something theoretical, and of course it is even better to view some works which are very important in this field, not only “about War”, but we ought to have in our mind, Liddell Hart’s “Strategy”, as they are foundational works regarding the field and they allow us to observe situations a little differently even now, because otherwise we don’t have the foundations to analyze them. In this field it is wise to also keep in mind the work of Luttwak.