Sir Basil Henry Liddell-Hart (31 October 1895–29 January 1970) was a prominent British strategist, historian, and military theorist. The prolific author B. H. Liddell-Hart wrote extensively on military strategy and tactics.
“Strategy” by Liddell-Hart is regarded as one of the most influential works on military strategy of the 20th century. This book investigates the art of warfare and provides a thorough analysis of the strategies and tactics employed by great military commanders throughout history. The manuscript then defines the various components of strategy, such as the selection of objectives, assigning resources, and the planning and implementation of Strategy and operations.
Liddell-Hart argues that the key to a successful war Strategy is the ability to maneuver and outflank the adversary, as opposed to engaging in direct conflict. In his indirect approach, he emphasizes the significance of deception, surprise, and exploiting the enemy’s vulnerabilities. His conception of Strategy pertains not only to military endeavors but also to strategic endeavors in other industries.
In his eight famous maxims of Strategy, Liddell-Hart provides guidelines for the correct implementation of a modern, indirect approach to confrontation:
- Adjust your ends to your means.
- Always keep your object in mind while adapting your plan to circumstances.
- Choose the line (or course) of least expectation.
- Exploit the line of least resistance, so long as it can lead you to any objective that would contribute to your underlying object.
- Take a line of operation that offers alternative objectives.
- Ensure that both plans and dispositions are flexible and adaptable to circumstances.
- Do not throw your weight into a stroke while your opponent is on guard or he is well placed to parry or evade it.
- Do not renew an attack along the same line (or in the same form) once it has failed.
Let’s examine some of these maxims of Strategy in greater detail.
Maxim 1. Adjust your ends to your means.
The first maxim of Liddell-Hart emphasizes the significance of setting objectives with realism, understanding our limitations, maintaining a positive attitude, and being cognizant of the challenges. Liddell-Hart argues that in order for a military strategy to be effective, the political goals must be compatible with the entire military means available to attain them.
If conflicts are fought to attain political objectives, those objectives should not exceed the resources available to accomplish them. If objectives exceed resources, there is a high likelihood of engaging in a conflict with negligible chances of producing positive outcomes.
Maxim 2. Always keep your object in mind, while adapting your plan to circumstances.
This adage emphasizes the significance of harmonizing a distinct objective with adaptability and flexibility in the face of altering circumstances. Before making a decision, it is essential to evaluate and consider each alternative based on its relevance and contribution to the larger objective.
Liddell-Hart believed that an effective military Strategy must be adaptable to changing conditions on the ground. In practical terms, this maxim suggests that a commander should have a clear overall objective but also be willing to reevaluate their Strategy — in light of new information, changing conditions, or unexpected obstacles — and shift their focus to different objectives in order to respond more effectively to unforeseen events.
Maxim 3. Choose the line (or course) of least expectation.
By this maxim, Liddell-Hart argues that a successful military Strategy should focus on exploiting the enemy’s defects and vulnerabilities rather than relying solely on brute force to achieve victory.
By selecting an unanticipated line of attack, a commander can gain a tactical advantage and place the adversary on the defensive. Military strategists may employ deception and diversion to confuse and confound the adversary. This requires contemplating the opponent’s thought process and motivations in order to anticipate their movements and plan accordingly in order to gain a strategic advantage in a given circumstance.
Interested in learning more about the other maxims of Strategy? You can download an editable PowerPoint presentation on Liddle Hart’s 8 Maxim’s of Strategy here on the Flevy documents marketplace.
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