“Progress just means bad things happen faster.”
Warfare and technology are deeply intertwined. For a long time technological innovation in war was very slow. During most of human history, armed conflict between groups involved opponents with technical parity. Thousands of years where sticks and pointy rocks were the pinnacle of military technology.
Times of technological change caused shifts, but those were few are far between. Horses, stirrups, metal, were all big changes. But after they were adopted they remained relatively static for long periods of time.
As an example, for hundreds of years chariots were critical elements os war. Then it turned out that standing on a fast moving platform pulled by vulnerable exposed horses was a bad idea in combat. Exit stage left, the chariot.
Tech superiority favours tactics
There are not many instances where technology superiority was enjoyed by one side indefinitely. Yet technical superiority has been a critical element of Western military strategic and tactical thought for decades.
The side with technology supremacy does not need to embrace strategic, particularly grand strategy, thinking. A fixation on battles and technical supremacy leads inevitably to tactical level focus. In conflict, it is primarily a matter of establishing a tactical position where the benefits of technology are disproportionately in one’s favor. Take full advantage of that supremacy.
Tech parity favours strategy
When belligerents have technical parity, then there is very little advantage to be gained at the purely tactical level. It becomes critical that advantage is achieved and maintained outside of combat.
…technological breakthroughs were relatively rare and belligerents in conflict shared broadly similar technology. …[I]n the absence of new weapons and tactics that would ensure victory in each and every battle, there were only a small number of tactical options available to strategists, and such that there were would hardly be able to secure an advantage in the period preceding a battle. Entering a battle under such conditions left far too much to chance, and the battle could also easily develop into an indecisive bloodbath that helped neither side. This is what Sun Tzu regarded as “the vanquished army fights first, and then seeks victory.” And this is why he recognized the real need to create advantageous conditions prior to battle or outside the battlefield. Although the army might still be employing ordinary tactical means in combat, the leader who had put the adversary under his “control” could expect an easy victory.
Why this matters
Strategy is best when it is fluid and able to adapt to the situation, seizing opportunities, adjusting to and deceiving the adversary, etc. insurgents have been waging small wars with fluid strategies for centuries, and have a rich and well documented corpus to retain hard won knowledge.
Small groups have for a long time always been on the wrong side of technology superiority. Those days are rapidly coming to an end. Small groups can iterate faster, as the Provisional IRA and ISIL demonstrated. Taliban Danger Groups own the night, formerly the exclusive domain of state level soldiers. ISIS own the airspace up to 2000m. Flying autonomous IEDs (garage cruise missiles) can be built anywhere, and deployed from a Toyota HiLux.
Create the right conditions and the inevitable consequence is victory. When technology no longer creates those conditions, then strategy must pick up the slack.