The New Strategist

The New Strategist, the journal of the Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre, aims to acquaint readers with excellent and innovative interdisciplinary articles in strategic studies that address the pressing concerns of leaders in the fields of defence and security. The journal does not present UK Ministry of Defence policy, opinions or beliefs; every article independently stands or falls on its intellectual merit.
The New Strategist is interested in strategic thinking and thinking about strategy, but it is not limited only to debates about theory and decision-making. Instead, it spans a wide field of view. In addition, it aims to combine cutting-edge theoretical advances in defence and security theory with recent findings in empirical and practitioner-focused research. The New Strategist encourages innovative analyses across disciplinary boundaries that challenge conventional approaches and promotes critical and creative thinking in matters that impact upon defence and security.
The New Strategist welcomes submissions from academics and policymakers across the arts, humanities, and social sciences and including such disciplines as international relations, political science, military history, strategic studies, political sociology, political economy, anthropology, organisational and management studies, and all fields related to defence.
The New Strategist aspires to be a forum for ‘disruptive’ thinking, critique, challenge, and innovation.

Editorial Comment: What is changing in the character of war?

The last two decades have given some strong indications about the general trends of war, as well as indicating the specific challenges of any stabilisation operations. Yet from a strategic perspective, there has been relatively less change. The United States continued to lead the world in security matters, and its pre-eminent position in global affairs, while challenged, remains more significant than any other state. Even violent non-state actors, although inflicting casualties on Western military personnel in operational theatres in Iraq and Afghanistan and on civilians through acts of terrorism, have not once diverted American foreign policy.

In 2015, there were changes in the strategic landscape in other parts of the globe. China continued its path of economic development without challenging the United States, and Russia, while evidently antagonised enough with the West to overturn international law through its invasion of Ukraine, first in the illegal annexation of Crimea and then through support for separatist elements in Donbass, found itself unable to dissuade Kiev from closer association with Europe. Indeed, its use of force almost certainly drove Ukraine closer to its Western neighbours rather than from it.
An even more significant development in strategic terms was the continued destabilisation of the Middle East and North Africa. Unrest of varying severity continues from northern Nigeria in an arc across to the head of the Gulf. At the epicentre of the violence are the civil war in Syria and its neighbouring conflict in Iraq. These conflicts, and that of Yemen to the south, have become strategic issues in that they no longer concern only government forces trying to suppress infuriated populations, but international terrorist movements, confrontations between major powers and proxy conflicts that stir sectarian sentiments across the Muslim world. 

There are also themes that straddle regions of the world and constitute important aspects of the strategic environment. The inexorable expansion of the internet, digitised data traffic and the ‘arms race’ between protective tools and new viruses have begun to affect the strategic ‘real world’ and will almost certainly make transformations that contemporary analysts have barely begun to conceive of. Moreover, the unceasing international competition for markets and resources is being transformed by the enabling power of electronic communications. This intensity offers both opportunities and penalties, perhaps even future rivalries and conflicts. 

This journal is called the New Strategist because there has been a widespread feeling amongst analysts that the Western powers have lost the clarity of purpose, creative thinking and breadth of interest to develop strategies that achieve results. Sir Hew Strachan, the former Chichele Professor in the History of War at Oxford, wondered if strategy had become a ‘lost art’, and lamented the indulgent ideological approach to international intervention that characterised the period 2001-14. Others have argued that strategic thinking is the best one can hope for, since making ‘a strategy’ is too nebulous and unreliable to guarantee success. Few can agree even on the definitions of the term, such as the degree of military involvement compared with the other so-called ‘levers of national power’. Many historians insist that strategy can only be understood in the context of its time, which prompts critics to elucidate on the need for entirely new thinking for the parameters of the ‘wired’ (electronically connected) twenty-first century. 

Over the coming years, as the New Strategist establishes itself, we hope that authors will assist in assessments of this global strategic context, illustrating how precise, original and empirically grounded research can make a significant difference to our thinking. We also hope it will provide a valuable check on the hasty and often ill-conceived journalistic or ‘op-ed’ approach favoured by busy policy-makers, for we believe there is no substitute for well-argued, reasoned and careful research.