“Strategy” by B.H. Liddel Hart is an ambitious and incredibly detailed book about war, grand strategy, the history of various campaigns and battles, famous military figures, and, most importantly, what Hart calls the “indirect approach”.
He begins by laying out his discovery of the indirect approach via his study of the history of warfare and one by one he shows how refusing to attack where an enemy is strong, tricking the enemy into fighting where one is well prepared, placing them on the ‘horns of dilemma’, taking the circuitous route, appearing where one is not expected, etc. have been the means of victory and the causes of defeat with few exceptions.
He works through the Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Medieval, Seventeenth Century (Gustavus, Cromwell, Turenne), Eighteenth Century (Marlborough and Fredrick), French Revolution and Napoleon, The American Civil War, and the Russo-Japanese War. I had studied a fair bit on most of these historical periods previously, but the detail he goes into left me feeling a bit overwhelmed and in the cases of wars of which I had no, or very little, knowledge I quickly became lost and had to settle for completing those chapters with only a slight understanding. The War of the Spanish Succession (1701-13) was something I’d never even heard of before this reading.
Chapters X Conclusions, XI Constructions, and XII The Concentrated Essence of Strategy are the best of the entire book and if you wanted to get the core knowledge contained in this volume without investing the effort and time into reading the whole thing these three chapters should suffice.
The second part of the book is devoted to the analysis of World War I and World War II. His analysis of the former is lengthy (World War 1 has never been of great interest to me due to its static lines, blundering statesmanship, and meat grinder tactics) and the former is spent considering Hitler’s personality, leadership style, and his theory of war. The second part was written as WW2 was in progress and foretells a great deal about what was to come in the wars and conflicts that followed it (i.e. hybrid warfare, information operations, special forces, insurgencies, etc.)
I found the book instructive and thought-provoking. He’s got a way of getting you to consider things in a different light. His maxims and axioms are grounded in reality and painstakingly supported by historical evidence.