Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Concentrated Essence of Strategy and Tactics and the Object of War

_Strategy_ by BH Liddell Hart
NY:  Frederick Praeger, 1968
from pages 347-351

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.

The Concentrated Essence of Strategy and Tactics
1.  Adjust your end to your means….
2.  Keep your object always in mind, while adapting your plan to circumstances….
3.  Choose the line (or course) of least expectation….
4.  Exploit the line of least resistance….
5.  Take a line of operation which offers alternative objectives.

...There is no more common mistake than to confuse a single line of operation, which is usually wise, with a single objective, which is usualy futile.  (If this maxim applies mainly to strategy, it should be applied where possible to tactics, and does, in effect, form the basis of infiltraton tactics.)

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

7.  Do not throw your weight into a stroke whilst your opponent is on guard - whilst he is well placed to parry or evade it….
8.  Do not renew an attack along the same line (or in the same form) after it has once failed….

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 comparison is a simple act.  You cannot hit the enemy with effec unless you have first created the opportunity;  you cannot make that 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 explaining the common indecisiveness of warfare.  The training of armies is primarily devoted to developing efficiency in the detailed execution of the _attack_.  This 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 so 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.

… the unexpected cannot guarantee success.  But it guarantees the best chance of success.

… The military objective is only a means to a political end. Hence the the military objective should be governed by the political objective, subject to the basic condition that policy does not demand what is millitarily - that is, practically - impossible.

…The object of war is a better state of peace - even if only from your point of view.  Hence it is essential to conduct war with constant regard to the peace you desire.  This applies both to aggressor nations who seek expansion and to peaceful nations who only fight for self-preservation - although their views of what is meant by a better state of peace are very different.

… History shows that gaining military victory is not in itself equivalent to gaining the object of policy.  But as most of the thinking about war has been done by men of the military professon there has been a very natural tendency to lose sight of the basic national object, and identify it with the military aim.  In consequence, whenever was has broken out, policy has too often been governed by the military aim - and this has been regarded as an end in itself instead of as merely a means to the end.

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