In war, there are many different things to take in consideration in preparing for it, waging it, and winning it. You have to have the equipment, which means good logistics, you need to have good engineering skills, you need to have political power, and you need to have a good strategy and a lot of tactical knowledge. The problem with the latter two is that many people don't understand the difference
between the two in and out of media.
Strategy comes from a Greek word that means "general" and involves setting and achieving a goal while tactics refers to a plan, procedure, or expedient for achieving some end. Basically strategy is the goal you want to achieve in the long-term in peace and war time while tactics is the military science to help achieve short term goals that are supposed
to help achieve the overall strategy's goal. In business, strategy is a company's long term goal to building their brand in the long-term while tactics include things like advertising to help achieve that end. Most people forget about the long-term and go straight for the short term.
Everyone who focuses only on the short-term usually end up screwed in the long term except in media where it is often ignored. However, there are some media that makes the distinction between tactics and strategy and make it a major part of the story. For more detail, close tactics are how to fight a squad, grand tactics are how to fight an army, operations are how to run a campaign, strategy is how to run a theater of operations, and grand strategy is how to fight a war, which is just below policy which is how to decide for a whole nation. Logistics is of course how to carry stuff around which is often considered the most important part of planning a war as even soldiers have to eat.
Often, this comes in the form of An Aesop
along the lines of "he won the battle but lost the war" (or the other way around). Related to Won the War, Lost the Peace
. Also, compare Hollywood Tactics
which shows unrealistic battle plans that, logically, should fail but don't. Strategy itself is often dealt with by The Strategist
who may or may not also be proficient in tactical thinking. See also We Win Because You Didn't
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Anime and Manga
- In Dragon Ball Z, Goku is a master fighter and one of the best. He succeeds by overcoming his limits and learning about his enemies on the fly during combat. However, several times he needs help from people like Kami, King Kai, and Vegeta when it comes to figuring out about bring back the dead, defeating enemies that are stronger than him, and returning things to normal after everything is all set and done. In fact, at one point, Goku's goal was to have Gohan go SSJ 2 and defeat Cell, but he didn't take in consideration Gohan's mental limits or the effect it would have on his son. Picolo calls him out on it. This action almost doomed the planet and got Goku killed when Gohan berserked and started toying with Cell which is also an example of Gohan's lack of strategic thinking. They got better as time went on... well, besides in GT where Goku got worse.
- Code Geass has the tactician versus strategist conflict at its very core. The Magnificent Bastard Lelouch is plotting the downfall of Britannia, but is frequently foiled at individual engagements by the ace pilot, Suzaku. Lelouch mentions the conflict by name during his first internal meltdown, expressing anger that the ace pilot made him lose the battle and thus made him delay the next steps of his larger strategy.
- As the author of Ravages Of Time said himself, the manhua is all about strategy vs. strategy. Plans are often years, if not decades, in the making, with the levels I Know You Know I Know going into the dozens because each faction has genius-level strategists.
- Nightwing is a masterful tactician, but not much for long term planning or politics. In the DC Universe, he's considered THE Leader archetype, when it comes to uniting any heroic army (no matter how large). This is often contrasted with Superman, who is very politically savvy and diplomatic, but is more comfortable inspiring than commanding. In the end, Nightwing really looks up to Superman—following his example more than Batman's—and Superman often steps aside to let Nightwing take command when needed.
- Robb Stark in A Song of Ice and Fire is a brilliant tactician who is able to score sound victories against overwhelming Lannister forces. However, he strategic decisions are not as good, and several characters comment that it is probably due to his youth. Meanwhile his nemesis Tywin Lannister loses battles, but is constantly strengthening his family's position by creating alliances and thus placing him in a better position to win the entire war.
- At Mindouas in the first volume of Belisarius Series, the title character is rebuked for putting tactics before strategy in fighting a successful but seemingly needless battle with the Persians. In reality the reason was that he needed to gain an armistice as quickly as possible because a new enemy was looming on the horizon.
- Belisarius' strategy was was a complex one of encouraging insurgency in his enemies home empire and using the navy of his Axumite allies to strike on his enemies flanks. His favorite tactics were to get to a key position before his enemy and bait him into attacking while he had a counterattack waiting on the flank. This worked many times either because the enemy commander absolutely had to attack, or because the enemy commander was Too Dumb to Live.
- In Professional Wrestling, the tag team of Pretty Boy Doug Somers and "Playboy" Buddy Rose are versed in different fields. In more than one promo, Rose claimed that they were unbeatable in part because he was a master of strategy and Somers was a master tactician.
- This concept has a special meaning in the context of wargaming. It means "how big of a scenario does your game represent" and has a number of aspects including the number of forces a counter represents(usually bigger in a strategic game) and the details accounted for(usually there is more detail in a tactical game).
- In Dead Space, specifically, Dead Space 2, Nolan Stross comes up with a good long-term goal and got Isaac back on track by telling him necessary details. However, he only ever talks about destroying the Marker and fails tactical thinking when he fails to get it together and fight back due to the Marker driving him slowly insane and letting his guilt consume him. If it wasn't for Isaac's and Ellie's tactical thinking, the plan would have failed miserably.
- Pick an RTS game, any RTS game. You have general goals (objectives and missions) which you have solid tactics to win.
- In Dragon Age: Origins, Teyrn Loghain Mac Tir and Arl Eamon Guerrin are the tactician and the strategist, respectively. Loghain is an excellent general in the field, but his abrasive personality and heavy-handed, tyrannical leadership leave him with few allies where it matters most, and the country is fragmented in the face of the Blight. Eamon, in contrast, is well-spoken, courteous, and diplomatic, but nothing is spoken of his skill as a general. The Warden's quests for him in Denerim before the Landsmeet are focused on acquiring political support for Alistair's campaign for the throne, and Eamon is mainly concerned with ending the civil war as quickly as possible to deal with the Blight, which demonstrates his ability to see the big picture.
- Colonel Mael Radec in Killzone is regarded as a gifted tactical genius, yet a "merely competent" strategist.
- In Erfworld, Stanley the Tool is a genius when it comes to battle. He is an expert fighting and rose from the rank of piker to Overlord of his side. However, he is not a strategist and, though he had success in the short-term, he failed to have a grand strategy and he was very close to being killed by his enemies. That is until Parson was summoned.
- In the Punic Wars, Hannibal was an amazing tactician who defeated Rome armies with ease and slaughtered their forces. The Romans were unable to compete with his brilliance, but they didn't give up. You see, Hannibal had sacrificed his siege equipment to avoid a large battle. Without them, Hannibal was unable to breach the thick walls of major Roman cities. The Romans simply began a war of attrition and cut off Carthage's supply lines to Hannibal using sea vessels that Hannibal could not counter (the last Punic war ended with an agreement that said Carthage had to give up its fleet). Hannibal rushed to his country's aid, but was defeated at the Battle of Zama. He is now one of the best examples when discussing the importance of strategic thinking used in conjunction with tactical thinking.
- In The American Revolution the British could usually win engagements by their greater tactical skill. However the Americans figured out that they could win strategically just by continueing to exist until the British got tired of it.
- The idea of Thermopylae was to delay the Persian army's advance into Greece for as long as possible, until the city states could raise their own levies, but because the battle only lasted 3 days, it was a strategic defeat for the Greeks who had intended to hold out for longer. However, an unintended consequence of the early loss was that the Greek fleet retreated from the simultaneous sea battle of Artemisium instead of fighting to the death (because their strategy depended on holding both points). This led to the Persian fleet growing overconfident, overextending themselves, and suffering a devastating defeat against the surviving Greek fleet at the Battle of Salamis weeks later. This ultimately cost the Persians the war by forcing their fleet to withdraw to Persia and destroying their army's supply lines, effectively showing just how well long-term planning and war go together (i.e. not at all).
- In their war with Sparta the Theban's showed a mastery of both strategy and tactics. At the Battle of Leuctra they overweighted one side of their phalanx to collapse the Spartan host. Their strategy however was to remain in Spartan territory long enough for the Helots to run away. With most city-states, the agricultural economy couldn't be destroyed by raiding simply because destroying crops is even harder then farming them. But the Spartan agriculture could be ruined simply by taking the workers away.
- In World War II the opening stages sometimes seem like a series of opportunistic attacks and desperate reactions called strategy after the fact, or not as the case may be. To some degree this is true; it is harder to develop strategy then it sounds, and the combatants were feeling each other out. As it developed the main German strategy seems to have been to concentrate an offensive eastward. Britain's strategy was to survive and annoy Germany. Russia's was to wear Germany out by attrition until it could start attacking and roll over her (once nicknamed "the steamroller"), allowing Germany the initiative until the middle of the war. When America entered the main strategy of the Allies was to concentrate on Germany (the "Europe First" grand strategy) as Germany and Japan were to far away to help each other, all the allies could get a chunk of Germany; and Germany had more resources which meant if they ended up only able to subjugate one they could afford to think about Japan later but not vice-versa.
- Because countries can seldom change their geographical position and usually don't want to change their culture at least not to much, this often means that both strategy and tactics will take on recognizable similarities through several wars. Especially strategy as tactics is affected more acutely by technology changes. However tactics is also effected by environment; for instance a mountain country will want more snipers whether they use old time Pushtun jezails(a local specialty type of musket with a long barrel) or modern sniper rifles and a flat desert country will want more cavalry-type for mobility, shock, and pursuit whether mounted on horses and camels, or driving tanks.
- Germany, which is a valley country with a well organized system of cities and cultivated land, concentrated from the nineteenth century onward on the strategy of winning enough victories to scare any enemy into making a favorable peace. This worked as long as they had an enemy like themselves who was willing to make peace, which in turn assumed German leadership willing to demand no more than a tolerable adjustment of political hegemony (I.E. someone like Otto von Bismarck or Wiliam I). It did not work with Adolf Hitler who in Eastern Europe wanted his foes to become a Slave Race and was often fighting in unfavorable terrain (the Soviets made peace offers in 1941 along the lines of the Treaty of Brest Litovsk, but Hitler rejected all of them because he wanted nothing but total annihilation for the USSR). In effect German strategy was the same as its tactics, or rather the same as its operations. However its tactics and operations were extremely well developed and when used by a leader with common sense against a state like Austria or France they could provide the successes they did in the Wars of Unification.
- British strategy from the days of Elizabeth I to World War II was truly imperial in concept depending on the navy for both defense and offense as well as using money as a weapon and habitually thinking of the whole world as a battlefield. They would often buy time in Europe and shore up allies there while using the navy to cut off their enemies (usually France and often Spain, later Germany, Italy, and to a lesser extent Vichy France) from their overseas empires which they seized as Plunder using them after the war to build their own empire, or to bargain with at the Peace Conference. Britain also had numerous contacts, allies, and vassals all over the world, which it used as a source of resources(sometimes including troops) and military officers, diplomats, spies, and bureaucrats trained in colonial politics who could translate their skills reasonably well(a classic example of this was Wellington himself). Once its enemy had reached a certain point a killing blow would be struck. British tactics were generally reasonable but not dazzling, often little more than a Rocky Balboa style "hit each other until somebody falls". As their personel were usually tough and well disciplined this was often sufficient, especially as they were often used for picking off outposts and only made the killing blow at the later stages. For this to work British troops had to be hardy, and able to adapt to a wide variety of environments, but did not need the large and highly specialized armies typical of Continental Europe nearly as much as they were able to intervene or refuse to intervene in Europe as they thought best(World War I was a partial exception; most of the British army was in Europe from the beginning but the British still played the game of overseas warfare as shown in the movie Lawrence of Arabia). In a way Britain is a curious example of an empire that habitually uses Hit And Run Strategy against other empires on a global scale, but is fairly straightforward tactically.
- The Byzantine Empire habitually refused battle, knowing they had only so many soldiers, and instead raided their enemies foraging parties, used their castles(including Constantinople) to take shelter in, and bought off the clients of invading princes with their large supply of money and fabled skill at conspiracy. Byzantine tactics were fairly sophisticated for the era depending on a part-professional, part-feudal army that still retained Roman traditions. It involved heavy use of technology and a scientific study of war, both of which were uncommon at the time though less rare then many think. On land they were famous for their cataphract, heavy Horse Archer / lancer cavalry. At sea they were famous for their "Greek Fire" Naphtha grenades and flame throwers.
- A classic example is Russia, a nation which spans half the globe. Due to its enormous landmass, invaders need to be incredibly well-stocked as they push deeper and deeper into Russian territory. Meanwhile, Russians simply withdraw ahead of advancing invaders, destroying any infrastructure that will be useful to the oncoming armies, waiting for them to become weak and vulnerable to counterattack, especially during the brutal winters. While it worked flawlessly against Napoleon, this strategy only half-worked against the Wehrmacht. Unable to simply surrender the Ukraine, the Baltic states, or Leningrad due to their new industrial and supply importance, millions of Russian troops were killed or forced to surrender. Though Operation Barbarossa failed to decisively defeat the Russians in a single campaign, the Germans remained in control of much of Western Russia for the next two years. During the Cold War, Russian strategy shifted to having satellite states in Eastern Europe that were well-armed and would take the blows any invader from the West would send. Russian tactics could be very mixed. They are often stereotyped as We Have Reserves, but while Russia has seldom been shy about using this, they have tended to be more sophisticated then all that. They have often had armies of extremely mixed quality, some being quite crude tactically and led by incompetent officers, and others as good as the best any other country can field. However though they had weaknesses they had strengths including a large supply of manpower that grew up in harsh conditions. The flip side is that, despite the enormous landmass, the majority of the population is concentrated in the western, or European, area of the country, and they are not as easy to move as armies. In both the Napoleonic Wars and World War II Russia was forced to resort to guerilla warfare on a large scale while building up it's forces, and the enemies long supply lines made them very vulnerable to partisans. Russia also had a large supply of cavalry dating from the steepe warfare traditions, and while it was very weak at sea it's navy has a strong heritage of riverine and coastwise combined operations with the Army which was noticeable in the Turkish wars and in World War II. The tactics of the Red Army in World War II could be odd by Western European standards, but they were often very ingenious making clever use of nature and elaborate deception operations. By the last stages of the war they had enough tanks to engage in blitzkriegs in the German style and while these weren't usually carried out with the German smoothness they had their own touches like support from aforesaid guerillas and fresh-water vessels and a large supply of horse cavalry which they maintained long after the other allies had phased it out.
- When not in periods of isolationism, the United States has been protected by the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, making strikes on the mainland logistically difficult. When fighting overseas, America puts a particular emphasis of its strategy and tactics on science and industry. Without the ability to directly attack America, enemies find themselves being outproduced in everything, from boots to assault rifles to ships (even in relative peacetime). Being a vast and diverse nation, the United States is able to pool its intellectual resources, giving it an immense technological edge. However, since the latter half of the 20th Century, America has found itself engaged against guerrilla fighters, so this resource has been all but useless.
- Much like Britain, Japan is an island nation that is dependent on foreign trade. Unlike Britain, it did not even have enough resources to help kickstart its economy when it moved to industrialization. One of the main reasons for its empire building in the early half of the 20th Century was to help make Japan less dependent on foreign trade. Tactically, Japan was one of the first nations to fully demonstrate the capability of aircraft carriers. Even then, Japan still failed to appreciate their importance since they pretty much threw strategic planning out of the window. Admiral Yamamoto used his carriers as support ships for his battleships rather than as the lead offensive weapon, as the Americans were forced to do after Pearl Harbor. He and the Imperial Staff envisioned that the final decisive battle would employ the mighty Yamato. Then came Midway, and the Japanese offensive was crushed.