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On Strategy

BH Liddel Hart's - StrategyI’ve recently been caught up in BH Liddel Hart’s classic book on military strateg, Strategy, that he wrote back in 1954. It’s kind of odd to find myself writing a mid-book review, but I feel compelled to do it non-the-less. I’ve written on strategy vs tactical in the past, and find the concept and implementation of a well thought out and planned strategy extremely interesting.

“This high proportion of history’s decisive campaigns, the significance of which is enhanced by the comparative rarity of the direct approach, enforces the conclusion that the indirect is by far the most hopeful and economic form of strategy.”

As far as I can tell so far, the above quote is the premise and foundation of the book – indirect vs direct. Since I’ve not been an avid reader of military history in the past, the somewhat generalized overview of histories earliest recorded wars amongst the Greeks and Romans is about the right level for me, though it might be too much of a gloss-over for real military experts.

What I really find fascinating though, beyond the military implications, is that the theories and ideas he expounds upon are not only for the battlefield. Those of us in civilian life would do well to heed his advice. Don’t we all have adversaries, or at least challenges that force us to confrontation? Though we don’t enter into physical combat with them normally, we can still utilize the indirect approach to out manoeuvre them and gain the advantage we need to succeed.

2 Comments

  1. Always interesting to hear the marine in you speaking. I’ll search your archives to see if you’ve written about life as a marine but you must be better able to contextualize what it’s like on the ground in Iraq than us regular “Joe” types.

    From a business school standpoint we learned of three roles of “management” – strategic, tactical, and operational. The strategic/tactical you’ve written about sound similar but the operational role is one of the supervisorial position – overseeing the tasks designed by tactician to accomplish the strategists goals. Perhaps there is a military equivalent but I don’t really know the terminology – I’m thinking this would probably be the lower level commander on the ground.

    At heart I’d like to think of myself as a more strategic thinker but I don’t know; sometimes my ability to conceptualize the overall picture of something is forfeit.

    As far as direct and indirect strategic maneuvres, I like that: the idea that subtlety and details will get you farther than a ram-rod / bull-rush / straight and inflexible approach.

  2. I’d guess if you wanted to break it down between military and business it would look something like this:

    Strategic = Commanding Officer = VP
    Tactical = Unit Officer/Staff NCO = Director/Manager
    Operational = Enlisted Grunt = Non Management Employee

    Overall though, I’d say my thrust on this topic lies in my simplification of it. I really only think there are 2 types of people; strategists and tacticians. Operational people are generally just tactical people.

    I would even go so far as to say that a lot of times the VP/Commanding Officer roles are NOT filled by strategists, but by tacticians. They were put in that role without having the true qualifications.

    In all of this, I do have to keep saying that a tactical thinker is just as important as the strategic one. A brilliant strategy poorly executed is just as bad as an idiotic strategy performed brilliantly. One without the other is still going to fail.

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