Centre interdisciplinaire sur les enjeux stratégiques (CIENS)

Year 2023-2024 > Semester 2

Introduction to Strategy

Teachers: Corentin Brustlein and Guillaume Lasconjarias

Corentin Brustlein holds a doctorate in political science and is Delegate for Defense Policy and Forecasting at the DGRIS (French Ministry of the Armed Forces).

Guillaume Lasconjarias has a PhD in history and is Head of the IHEDN Studies and Research Department.

Contact & referent: Pierre-Louis Six pierre-louis.six@ens.psl.eu

Format: six two-hour sessions / 3 ECTS.

Dates and times: Mondays or Wednesdays, 6-8pm

Monday January 22 (Salle Simone WEIL); Monday January 29 (Salle Simone WEIL); Wednesday February 7 (Salle F); Wednesday February 28 (Salle F); Wednesday March 13 (Salle Lettres 1); Wednesday March 20 (Salle F)

Seminar presentation

The aim of this seminar is to provide students with a basis for understanding and analyzing strategy, defined by André Beaufre as “the art of the dialectic of wills using force to resolve their conflict”. Since strategy consists in bringing together political goals of varying nature and scope, and military and non-military means that evolve over time, this course will take into account the diversity of strategies, as well as what unites them – uncertainty, complexity, or the clash of wills.

Rather than tracing the history of strategic thinking or reflecting on the nature of war, the seminar will constantly move back and forth between the study of strategic theories and concepts, notably by focusing on the great names, and their implementation in history up to the contemporary era, through case studies.

How the seminar works

Before the seminar begins, students will be given a bibliography including both compulsory and optional readings. Each lecture will begin with a brief summary, highlighting the context of the work and its main teachings.

Assessment methods

Policy paper to be completed in groups and handed in at the end of the semester. A list of topics will be proposed at the beginning of the semester.

Session description

Strategy as a link between the political and the military
o War, politics and strategy
o Dialectics of ends and means
o International norms and frameworks

Strategy as a dialectic
o Uncertainty, fog, friction and surprise
o Tension between theory and practice
o Strategy and the search for decision

Conventional strategies (I)
o What is an army?
o Evolution of land warfare

Conventional strategies (II) : Environmental strategies (air, sea)
o Strike hard and strike far: force projection and power projection
o The question of Air Power
o Sea Power: Mahan, Corbett, Castex

Indirect strategies (I): Terrorism, insurgency and counter-insurgency
o Political radicalism and terrorist violence
o Theories of insurrection
o The aporias of counter-insurgency

Indirect strategies (II): Information warfare, hybridity, non-military coercion
o New areas of operation?
o Bypassing armed struggle

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