War is armed conflict among men, in which a political unit attempts to achieve objectives by means of organized force against other men.
While the study of military theory is obviously useful to understanding both warfighting itself and also, to a small extent, history, some of its principles are more broadly applicable provided that important differences in context are recognized. For example, organized but unarmed conflict among political units, as often happens in politics, is one application.
Business is not war. Business differs from war in that capitalism is reliant on mutual respect for rights and businesses are fundamentally productive; war results from the absence of rights and is fundamentally destructive. Yet, business shares with warfighting the necessity to organize men to achieve objectives, sometimes in competition with or against the opposition of other men. Capitalism is not primarily about competition; it is about productivity and rights. Causing one's opponent to fail has little place in capitalism; rather, one should concentrate on producing the most valuable products possible. Out-competing one's peers may result (as might going into a different line of business). Business strategy is properly aimed at producing the most differentiated value most efficiently. Contrast this to war, which is aimed at causing one's enemy to fail.
Even more distantly, any endeavor to achieve goals despite obstacles, including inanimate ones, shares some characteristics with warfighting.
In each of these cases, the study of war is useful because of its stripping away of non-essentials.
- Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World by . In Creasy's own words, "there are some battles...which claim our attention...on account of the enduring influence on our social and political condition, which we can trace up to the results of those engagements. They have for us an abiding and actual interest, both while we investigate the chain of causes and effects, by which they have helped to make us what we are; and also while we speculate on what we probably should have been, if anyone of those battles had come to a different termination."
- Warfighting by , U.S. Department of the Navy, FMFM 1. This book, the authoritative Marine Corps doctrine, in 88 pages identifies the principles and values underlying effective warfighting.
- Winning in FastTime. Causing a system to change requires grasping that it is a system, a set of interrelated and mutually-supporting parts. A system is more than the sum of the parts and also the parts are dependent on the system. To change a system, one must impact multiple parts simultaneously and rapidly, targeting for effect, not effort. Certain parts and relationships are more consequential than the rest.
- Strategy by . This is the crowning achievement of the great military theorist. He analyzes the history of human warfare, analyzing every significant battle and from these identifies the principles determining success or failure in war.
- The Landmark Thucydides by . A classic translation of Thucydides's account of the Peloponnesian war, supplemented with excellent footnotes and numerous topical maps.
- John Boyd – John Boyd developed a theory of effective action in dynamic situations: Repeatedly Observe reality, Orient conceptually, Decide volitionally, Act.