Since the beginning of the 1990s, the advocates of the widening and deepening of the meaning of security have developed a forceful and successful criticism of strategic thought, succinctly understood as the leading ideas of military and civilian strategists about the threat and uses of force to fulfill the ends of policy. Specifically, the “broadeners” have charged that fundamental flaws regarding its scope and its epistemology render strategic thought less relevant to the study of international security and international relations more generally. In this article, I argue that strategic thought is far broader in scope and richer epistemologically than its critics and some of its defenders usually recognize. The security broadeners overlook the expanding of strategy during the Cold War, its longstanding focus on groups not just states, as well as its global roots and its capacity to travel across space and time. Moreover, their critique of the epistemology of strategic studies is misdirected. There is nothing inherent in strategic thought that makes it rationalist, materialist or a-critical. In short, my aim is to recover the significance of strategic thought for the study of international security and international relations through a critical assessment of the conception of strategy which lies at the heart of the “broader security” research tradition, its latest and most insightful challenger.
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