Sir Basil Henry Liddell-Hart (31 October 1895 – 29 January 1970) was an influential British strategist, historian, and military theorist.  The prolific author B. H. Liddell-Hart authored numerous works on military strategy and tactics.

Liddell-Hart's "Strategy" is considered one of the most influential works on military strategy published in the 20th century.  This book examines the art of warfare and provides a comprehensive analysis of the strategies and tactics used by great military commanders throughout history.  The manuscript then defines the various components of strategy, including the selection of objectives, the allocation of resources, and the planning and execution of Strategy and operations.

Liddell-Hart argues that the key to a successful war strategy is the ability to maneuver and outflank the enemy rather than engaging in direct conflict.  In his indirect approach, he emphasizes the significance of deception, surprise, and exploiting the enemy's vulnerabilities.  His understanding of strategy applies not only to military endeavors, but also to strategic endeavors in other industries.

In his 8 famous maxims of strategy, Liddell-Hart outlines the proper application of a modern indirect approach to confrontation:

  1. Adjust your ends to your means.

  2. Always keep your object in mind while adapting your plan to circumstances.

  3. Choose the line (or course) of least expectation.

  4. Exploit the line of least resistance, so long as it can lead you to any objective that would contribute to your underlying object.

  5. Take a line of operation that offers alternative objectives.

  6. Ensure that both plans and dispositions are flexible and adaptable to circumstances.

  7. Do not throw your weight into a stroke while your opponent is on guard or he is well placed to parry or evade it.

  8. Do not renew an attack along the same line (or in the same form) once it has failed.


Let's investigate some of these Strategy maxims in greater depth.

Maxim 1. Adjust your ends to your means.

The first maxim of Liddell-Hart emphasizes the importance of setting goals with a realistic perspective, understanding our limitations, maintaining a positive attitude, and being aware of the obstacles.  Liddell-Hart argues that for a military strategy to be effective, the political objectives must be compatible with all available military means for achieving them.

If conflicts are waged to achieve political goals, those goals should not be greater than the resources available to achieve them.  If objectives exceed resources, there is a high probability of conflict with negligible possibilities of producing positive results.

Maxim 2. Always keep your object in mind, while adapting your plan to circumstances.

The next maxim underscores the significance of balancing a specific goal with adaptability and flexibility in the face of changing circumstances.  Prior to making a decision, it is necessary to evaluate and weigh each alternative based on its applicability and contribution to the larger objective.

According to Liddell-Hart, an effective military strategy must be adaptable to shifting conditions on the ground.  This axiom 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 unexpected events.

Maxim 3. Choose the line (or course) of least expectation.

By this maxim, Liddell-Hart contends that a successful military strategy should concentrate on exploiting the enemy's weaknesses and flaws rather than relying solely on brute force to achieve victory.

A commander can gain a tactical advantage and put the enemy on the defensive by selecting an unanticipated line of attack.  To obfuscate and confound the enemy, military strategists may employ deception and diversion.  This requires considering the opponent's thought process and motivations to anticipate their movements and plan accordingly in order to achieve a strategic advantage in a given situation.

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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