Strategy and Security Studies

The Portals are multimedia collections covering a variety of issues relating to drones. For our full list of portals, click here.

Ever since the American Civil War, when Union and Confederate combatants took to the air in balloons to reconnoiter enemy positions, aircraft have added a new and constantly evolving dimension to war. During the 1920s and ‘30s, American General Billy Mitchell and Italian air power theorist Giulio Douhet argued that large-scale bombing campaigns would make wars shorter. Their theory was duly applied during the Second World War, to devastating effect. From the Vietnam War to today, air power has been at the center of an internal discussion at the Pentagon over whether technological advances in weaponry constitute a “revolution” in military affairs.

The U.S. bombing campaigns in the Middle East in recent years continue to divide opinion on the effectiveness of air power. Over the uncontested airspaces of Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and northwest Pakistan, drones have emerged a fixture of U.S. airpower in these campaigns. In this Portal, we have included lectures on some of the theory and history of military strategy, podcasts on recent conflicts, and panel discussions on the ways that technology disrupt strategy.

This Portal is curated by Dan Gettinger, @GettDan.

Part One: Concepts

What is strategy and who makes it? Lawrence Freedman addresses questions of strategic decision making and political leadership today. Mr. Freedman is one of the most prolific writers and speakers on the theory and history of military strategy. He has been Professor of War Studies at King’s College London since 1982. Event hosted by the Clements Center of the University of Texas at Austin and the King’s College London War Studies Department.

A panel discussion on the historical, theoretical, and practical elements of military strategy. Panelists: Dr. Hal Brands, Duke University; Dr. Aaron L. Friedberg, Princeton University; Dr. John Mauer, U.S. Naval War College”

Donald Stoker discusses his latest book Clausewitz: His Life and Work, a biography of the Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz. Donald Stoker is a military historian and a Professor of Strategy and Policy for the U.S. Naval War College’s program at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

Dr. Echevarria delves into Clausewitz’s On War and how it applies to modern day conflicts. Dr. Antulio J. Echevarria II is the Director of Research at the U.S. Army War College, a military historian, and a scholar of Clausewitz.

Credit: Canadian War Museum
Credit: Canadian War Museum

Part Two: Strategic Planning and Assessment

Colonel Adam Finlay delivers a strategic analysis of the Anglo-Afghan War of 1839 to 1842 and what lessons that war may hold for conflicts today. Col. Finlay was a visiting fellow at Oxford University’s Changing Character of War Seminar.

Commodore Steve Jermy (Royal Navy) gives a lecture for the Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict seminar series at Oxford University on the nature of strategy and the methods for framing strategic thinking and devising superior strategy.

“As we once again face the promise of a conflict with a limited mission and a strangely ill-defined Strategic and Operational design – what do we need to keep in mind not just from recent history, but the longer term record?” Chris Dougherty is a research fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA).

“CNAS and the NATO Allied Command Transformation hosted Robert Work, Deputy Secretary of Defense, who presented his view for how the new U.S. Offset Strategy will impact U.S. alliances and partnerships, including NATO. Following his remarks, there was a discussion moderated by Michèle Flournoy, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer at CNAS. She was joined by distinguished guest, General Jean-Paul Paloméros, the NATO Supreme Allied Commander Transformation. An audience Q&A session followed the panel.”

Recommended read: Airpower for Strategic Effect by Colin S. Gray, chapter “Strategic History V: Airpower after 9/11.”

Credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Andrew Lee
Credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Andrew Lee

Part Three: Drones and Strategy

Noah Shachtman, Patrick Mahaney Jr., and Ben Fitzgerald discuss how drones and other emerging weapons systems will change the way wars are fought.

“Micah Zenko, CFR’s Douglas Dillon fellow in the Center for Preventive Action, and Sarah E. Kreps, associate professor of government at Cornell University, discuss the increased tactical use of unmanned aerial systems and the ramifications for U.S. foreign policy, as part of CFR’s Academic Conference Call series.”

“As the ICRC marks 150 years since its founder, Henri Dunant, witnessed the carnage of a battlefield near Solferino, Italy, the ICRC confronts a new, modern battlefield. Vice President Christine Beerli will discuss the changing means and methods of warfare within the context of international humanitarian law, focusing on new armed actors and new technologies. Jim Lewis will offer comments and reflections on today’s technological advances and national security imperatives.”

The Honorable William J. Lynn III, former U.S. deputy secretary of defense and Admiral James Stavridis, USN (Ret.) discuss strategy, technology and the future of the defense industry. Ben FitzGerald, the director of the Technology and National Security Program at CNAS, moderated the panel.


Clausewitz, Carl Von, and Michael Howard. On War. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton UP, 1984. Print.

Gray, Colin S. Airpower for Strategic Effect. Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.: Air UP, Air Force Research Institute, 2012. Print.

Heuser, Beatrice. The Evolution of Strategy: Thinking War from Antiquity to the Present. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 2010. Print.

Mahan, A. T. The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783. New York: Dover Publications, 1987. Print.

Pape, Robert Anthony. Bombing to Win: Air Power and Coercion in War. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell UP, 1996. Print.

Paret, Peter. Makers of Modern Strategy: From Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton UP, 1986. Print.



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