Strategy and Tactics

October 28, 2015

‘Strategy’ and ‘tactics’ are two words that many people often use interchangeably, as if they were synonyms. But actually they mean very different things. If we don’t understand the difference between these two words, we’ll end up making some serious mistakes in life as well as in our struggle. In this video, we use the story of Mongol general Subutai to illustrate the difference between the words ‘strategy’ and ‘tactics.’

Watch Tendor explain and illustrate the difference between ‘Strategy’ and ‘Tactics’:



Simply put, ‘strategy’ is a plan used to achieve a goal (and there can be many different plans to achieve one goal) while ‘tactics’ are the actions that are taken to execute the plan. If you have a poor strategy, then even the best tactics cannot get you to your goal. It is with this understanding in mind that Sun Tsu, the Chinese military strategist, wrote, “Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

It appears that the word ‘strategy’ comes from the terminology of warfare. One of the greatest war strategists was the Mongol general Subutai, who played a key role in many of Genghis Khan’s conquests. Subutai’s strategies were so brilliant that with a small army he was able to defeat vast nations of huge armies in Eurasia.

In the Tibetan struggle, we sometimes see dedicated activists and organizers discussing tactics before strategy, which is unfortunately the wrong sequence, like putting the cart before the horse. For example, if our short-term goal/objective is to get China’s repression in Tibet into the public spotlight during the visit of a Chinese leader, then we must figure out the “best way” to get the media’s attention focused on Tibet. The “best way” is the strategy. In this case, we would need to think of tactics that would be “newsworthy.” We might decide to hang a “Free Tibet” banner from an iconic location in the city where the Chinese leader will visit, or organize a press conference, public event or protest that is well-timed to the visit, or perhaps with a local celebrity or political figure. We would probably not hold a prayer service at our local community center, or a dry academic conference, because these would be the wrong tactics for the strategy in question.

In order to maximize our impact and to put people’s energy and time to the best use, we must make sure to come up with good strategies before choosing our tactics. If we employ the right strategies for fighting oppression, our chances of success will be much higher.