The Concentrated Essence of Strategy and Tactics

In-depth tactical discussion on how to lose the least

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The Concentrated Essence of Strategy and Tactics

Postby Why? » Tue Jun 23, 2009 5:27 am

I read a great book on military strategy last year and would like to share a short summary chapter, with the same name as this thread.
The book is called "Strategy" by B.H. Liddell Hart

"Probably the most important book, by one of the outstanding military authorities of our time." -Library Journal

Liddell Hart is pretty much the father of modern warfare strategy. After the trench stand-off, that was WW1, the Germans and Americans applied his teachings in WW2. Guderian, Patton and Rommel are all quoted as being his disciples. The funny thing is, he was a British Army captain and they ignored his ideas.

Anyways, here it is. It's not necessarily a guide to Defcon, but it all rings true. The principles can be applied to all forms of strategy... Business, relationships, games, etc. It's a short read and I highly recommend it. I haven't applied it to Defcon very well, but I'm sure it's helped my game and will help others. :)


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This brief chapter is a attempt to epitomize, from the history of war, a few truths of experience which seem so universal , and so fundamental, as to be termed axioms.

They are practical guides, not abstract principles. Napoleon realized that only the practical is useful when he gave us his maxims. But the modern tendency has been to search for principles which can each be expressed in a single word–and then need several thousand words to explain them. Even so, these ‘principles’ are so abstract that they mean different things to different men, and, for any value, depend on the individual’s own understanding of war. The longer one continues the search for such omnipotent abstractions, the more do they appear a mirage, neither attainable nor useful–except as an intellectual exercise.

The principles of war, not merely one principle, can be condensed into a single word–’concentration’. But for truth this needs to be amplified as the ‘concentration of strength against weakness’. And for any real value it needs to be explained that the concentration of strength against weakness depends on the dispersion of your opponent’s strength, which in turn is produced by a distribution of your own that gives the appearance, and partial effect of dispersion. Your dispersion, his dispersion, your concentration–such is the sequence, and each is a sequel. True concentration is the fruit of calculated dispersion.

Here we have a fundamental principle whose understanding may prevent a fundamental error (and the most common)–that of giving your opponent freedom and time to concentrate to meet your concentration. But to state the principle is not of much practical aid for execution.

The above-mentioned axioms (here expressed as maxims) cannot be condensed into a single word; but they can be put into the fewest words necessary to be practical. eight in all, so far - six are positive and two negative. They apply to tactics as well as strategy, unless otherwise indicated.

* Positive*

1.Adjust your end to your means. In determining your object, clear site and cool calculation should prevail. It is folly ‘to bite off more than you can chew’, and the beginning of military wisdom is a sense of what is possible. So learn to face facts while still preserving faith: there will be ample need for faith - the faith that can achieve the apparently impossible - when action begins. Confidence is like the current in a battery: avoid exhausting it in vain effort - and remember that your own continued confidence will be of no avail if the cells of your battery, the men upon whom you depend, have been run down.

2. Keep your object always in mind, while adapting your plan to circumstances. Realize that there are more ways than one of gaining an object, but take heed that every objective should bear on the object. And in considering the possible objectives weigh their possibility of attainment with their service to the object if attained - to wander down a side-track is bad, but to reach a dead end is worse.

3. Choose the line (or course) of least expectation. Try to put yourself in the enemy’s shoes, and think what course is least probable he will foresee or forestall.

4. Exploit the line of least resistance - so long as it can lead you to any objective that would contribute to your underlying object. (In tactics this maxim applies to the use of reserves; and in strategy, to the exploitation of any tactical success.)

5. Take the line of operation which offers alternate objectives. For you will thus put your opponent on the horns of a dilemma, which goes far to assure the chance of gaining one objective at least - whichever he guards the least - and may enable you to gain one after the other.Alternate objectives allow you to keep the opportunity of gaining an objective; whereas a single objective, unless the enemy is helplessly inferior, means the certainty that you will not gain it - once the enemy is no longer uncertain as to your aim. There is no more common mistake than to confuse a single line of operation , which is usually wise, with a single objective, which is usually futile. (If this maxim applies mainly to strategy, it should be applied where possible to tactics, and does, in effect form the basis for infiltration tactics.)

6. Ensure that both plan and dispositions are flexible - adoptable to circumstances. Your plan should foresee and provide for the next step in case of success or failure, or partial success - which is the most common case in war. Your dispositions (or formation) should be such as to allow this exploitation or adaption in the shortest possible time.


* Negative*

1. Do not shove your weight into a stroke whilst your opponent is on guard - whilst he is well placed to parry or evade it. The experience of history shows that, save against a much inferior opponent, no effective stroke is possible until his power of resistance or evasion is paralysed. Hence no commander should launch a real attack upon an enemy in position until satisfied that such a paralysis has developed. It is produced by disorganization, and its moral equivalent, demoralization, of the enemy.

2. Do not renew an attack along the same line (or in the same form) after it has once failed. A mere reinforcement of weight is not sufficient change, for it is probable that the enemy also will have strengthened himself in the interval. It is even more probable that his success in repulsing you will have strengthened him morally.

The Essential truth underlying these maxims is that, for success, two major problems must be solved - dislocation and exploitation. One precedes and one follows the actual blow - which in comparisons a simple act. You cannot hit the enemy with effect unless you have first created the opportunity; you cannot make the effect decisive unless you exploit the second opportunity that comes before he can recover.

The importance of these two problems has never been adequately recognized - a fact which goes far to explain the common indecisiveness of warfare. The training of armies is primarily devoted to developing efficiency in the detailed execution of the attack. The concentration on tactical technique tends to obscure the psychological element. It fosters a cult of soundness, rather than of surprise. It breeds commanders who are intent not to do anything wrong, according to ‘the book’, that they forget the necessity of making the enemy do something wrong. The result is that their plans have no result. For in war, it is by compelling mistakes that the scales are most often turned.

Here and there, a commander has eschewed the obvious, and has found the unexpected to be the key to a decision - unless fortune has proved foul. For luck can never be divorced from war, since war is a part of life. Hence the unexpected cannot guarantee success. But it guarantees the best chance of success.
Last edited by Why? on Tue Jun 23, 2009 7:07 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Postby Why? » Tue Jun 23, 2009 5:39 am

Don't say I didn't teach you anything. :P Once you've learned all the tactics, the keys to success are all in there.
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Postby (MOR) » Tue Jun 23, 2009 10:52 am

Hehe, nice try.. Just found a french version on Amazon(FR)
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Postby Ace Rimmer » Tue Jun 23, 2009 3:10 pm

Why? wrote:Don't say I didn't teach you anything. :P Once you've learned all the tactics, the keys to success are all in there.

I've been trying to say all this for two years. :P

Seriously though, that does seem like a great book and I've put it on my reading list. Thanks. :D
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Postby Why? » Tue Jun 23, 2009 5:37 pm

^ Hehe, yeah I've seen you talk about dispersion on here =) I gave up on trying to write a guide. I figured this guy already said it better.

The first 300 pages goes over the major battles of history, and closes with an extensive section on WW2. Then he explains his theories on strategy, that are all proven by the history. "Concentration against weakness" and "indirect approach" always seem to prevail.
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Postby iRadiated » Tue Jun 23, 2009 6:48 pm

A lot of this sounds like common sense to my untrained eye.

Does it follow that most battles are lost because the losing side doesn't exercise common sense ?
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Postby Why? » Tue Jun 23, 2009 11:55 pm

It's not rocket science, but I wouldn't call it common sense. It takes extensive experience to learn these things on your own.

I'd say that most battles are lost because one side doesn't adhere to these principles as well as the other.
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Re: The Concentrated Essence of Strategy and Tactics

Postby - Tobias - » Wed Jun 24, 2009 3:46 am

Why? wrote: ... the necessity of making the enemy do something wrong ...


The feeling of exhilaration one gets at the very moment when the opponent error is discovered, that singular "aha" moment, is, to my mind, the alluring tonic of warfare. Deploy to create a weakness, find the weakness, then pound the shit out of it.

Thank you for sharing.
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Postby Ace Rimmer » Wed Jun 24, 2009 7:09 pm

That post is great. :D

Edit: I'd just like to add that the tonic doesn't mature it's "allure" unless/until the enemy recognizes the error and compensates appropriately for it (adding challenge). :P

Edit2: I'd also like to point out the the Star of India™ is the above in action. The most obvious example of the principles above executed on the battlefield of Defcon.

* Positive*

1.Adjust your end to your means. If your end = win, then the means = Star of India™. If your end = score really well, then the means <> Star of India™. (I aim to win, not score well)

2. Keep your object always in mind, while adapting your plan to circumstances. Realize that there are more ways than one of gaining an object, but take heed that every objective should bear on the object. And in considering the possible objectives weigh their possibility of attainment with their service to the object if attained - to wander down a side-track is bad, but to reach a dead end is worse. Star of India™ = best odds of winning, fact. Using it incorrectly is what I'd call wandering down a side-track and/or reaching a dead end. Similar to failing at S. America vs N. America.

3. Choose the line (or course) of least expectation. Against the uninitiated, the Star of India™ is the least likely course of action as it put's the greater part of Asia at risk.

4. Exploit the line of least resistance - The Star of India™ exploits all of the lines of least resistance against Russia (population position, available territorial waters, Russia's available offensive/defensive positions, the victory timer, etc)

5. Take the line of operation which offers alternate objectives. The Star of India™ is surprisingly flexible. Part of the reason why is the quick use of subs, carriers, and airbases freeing them up for naval engagements after the use of nuclear payloads without sacrificing defense.

6. Ensure that both plan and dispositions are flexible - adoptable to circumstances. Used correctly, each separate entity can be rotated as needed to obtain maximum kills. (1. subs, 2. Carriers, 3. Airbases, 4. Silos). Battleships may be used any number of ways to prevent/stall penetration into certain hot spots necessary to defeat the Star.


* Negative*

1. Do not shove your weight into a stroke whilst your opponent is on guard - whilst he is well placed to parry or evade it. The Star of India™ clearly avoids this. It places the most weight into a series of strokes when the opponent is at his weakest and where he is weakest.

2. Do not renew an attack along the same line (or in the same form) after it has once failed. When used correctly, the Star of India™ does not fail.

:P
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Postby trickser » Wed Jun 24, 2009 10:04 pm

lets face it the Star of India is braindead.
(TM - you can have it, good thing is you have to keep Defcon alive to conserve your fame, while my fame was more temporary but also had alot more sex appeal :P )

But i love, how people (Why? in this case) generalize ideas they got by playing defcon or the other way around. I makes Defcon a metaphor, raising it above its actual beeing of a computer game. Giving it even some kind of meaning and sense, thanks Why? for your continues attemts.
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Postby Ace Rimmer » Thu Jun 25, 2009 12:35 am

Hehe, I knew you'd say something. :P

I'm not conserving my fame, rather I enjoy Defcon enough to keep it going. :wink:
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Postby Why? » Thu Jun 25, 2009 7:40 am

This is my last attempt at justifying this massive waste of time.
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Postby Pwnbroker » Thu Jun 25, 2009 11:01 pm

Great post and discussion with the exception of the peanut gallery from the Senate.

I ordered a copy from Amazon. Many thanks, Why? for the recommendation and the summary.

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