Global Strategies Lecture: Adaptive Strategy

Hosted by LSE IDEAS

Wolfson Theatre


Professor David Ellery

Professor in Practice, Durham University

Dr Liane Saunders

Staff Counsellor, FCDO


Professor Christopher Coker

Director at LSE IDEAS

In this lecture, two practitioners with extensive experience in UK government will analyse what it takes to implement national security strategy in today’s complex, ambiguous, fast-moving environment. Linear models of strategy - based on a clear "win", and discernible causes and effects – are ineffective and can be counter-productive. Strategists must thread their way through multi-dimensional problems, looking for openings to be effective rather than sticking to rigid priorities, and seeking to shift the conditions around the problems that confront them. The contemporary national security strategist needs a prepared mind, a willingness to embrace complexity and ambiguity, and the ability and training to pivot quickly in response to opportunity and crises.

Professor Ellery’s and Dr Saunders’ comments will build on the analysis they published in their article ‘Strategy in the National Security Context: Time for an Adaptive Approach’ in ‘Military Strategy in the Twenty First Century - The Challenge for NATO’ Eds. Janne Haarland Matlary and Rob Johnson; Hurst (2021)

Meet the speakers and chair 

Professor David Ellery combines a number of roles as Professor, Honorary Fellow and Trustee at Durham University, Senior Director Staff Emeritus at the Royal College of Defence Studies, Visiting Professor at Ljubljana University, and Senior Research Associate at the Changing Character of War Centre at Pembroke College, Oxford University. He has had a long national security and international career in the UK government.

Dr Liane Saunders is a serving diplomat who held senior strategy and coordination roles in foreign policy and national security in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and the Cabinet Office. Her recent assignments include Staff Counsellor, and Strategy Director and Strategic Programmes Coordinator at the FCDO. Dr Saunders coordinated the UK National Security Advisor’s Lessons Learning process across Government following the publication of Sir John Chilcot’s Iraq inquiry

Christopher Coker is the Director of LSE IDEAS. His publications include Rebooting Clausewitz, Men at War: what fiction has to tell us about conflict from the Iliad to Catch 22 ; The Improbable War: China, the US and the logic of Great Power WarFuture War, and The Rise of the Civilizational State. His most recent book is Why War?

More information about the event 

This event is hosted by LSE IDEAS

Event hashtags: #LSEGlobalStrategies

LSE IDEAS (@lseideas) is LSE's foreign policy think tank. Through sustained engagement with policymakers and opinion-formers, IDEAS provides a forum that informs policy debate and connects academic research with the practice of diplomacy and strategy.


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