In Defense of Liddell Hart's 'Strategy'

The Long March
U.S. Marines with Marine Rotational Force-Europe 19.1 (MRF-E) fire a round from a M777 towed 155 mm howitzer during Exercise Northern Screen at Setermoen, Norway, Oct. 31, 2018
U.S. Marine Corps/ Cpl. Ashley McLaughlin

B.H. Liddell Hart is considered by some to be the Clausewitz of the 20th century, and his most important book, Strategy: The Indirect Approach, is recognized as a seminal work of military history and theory. It is widely studied in elite military institutions the world over for an understanding of the higher direction of war. Liddell Hart in this book stressed movement, flexibility, and surprise as cardinal elements of victory, which even now remain relevant to the conduct of war.


Through a systematic review of every major conflict and a detailed analysis of both world wars, he attempts in it to prove that all major victories are achieved through the use of the “indirect approach.” He believed that the indirect approach has a much wider application, that it is a law of life in all spheres, indeed a truth of philosophy. He saw that in most military campaigns dislocation of the enemy’s psychological and physical balance is a prelude to victory. This dislocation, in his assessment, results from a strategic indirect approach which is cost effective and result oriented.

The essence of Strategy is to strike by fire alone at the greatest number of points in the shortest time over the widest area and without even making contact in the present tactical sense. The meaning of this indirect approach has been stretched to accommodate such a wide range that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy—that is, almost anything except a frontal assault can be labeled “indirect.”

Despite the passage of many decades since the publication of this book, it has remained relevant to most military situations and to an extent to all situations. It's precepts that effective results can be achieved through indirectness to undermine the military effectiveness of the adversary give a vision of the most cost-effective strategy. The indirectness has usually been physical and always psychological. Liddell Hart concepts when delved for a wider applicability are relevant to business, to relationships, to conveying ideas, and much more.

Indeed, I would argue that contemporary concepts of warfare, such as “ Hybrid Warfare” and “Fifth Generation War,” are nothing but new manifestations of the strategy of indirect approach causing implosion of fault lines of a Nation, using all relevant elements like media, economics, psychological, fifth columnists, and so on. The main ingredients in these modes of warfare--surprise, psychological dislocation and striking on a wide front in quick succession--can be traced back to the concepts covered in Liddell Hart’s Strategy.

Lt. Gen. Shafaat U. Shah( Ret) was commissioned in Pakistan Army in 1971. Over 39 years of service he held a variety of command , staff and instructional assignments, including Military Secretary to the President of Pakistan and Commander Lahore Corps. More recently he was Pakistan’s ambassador to the Kingdom of Jordan . He is an Honour Graduate of Staff College Camberley, UK and Pakistan War College. He holds master’s degrees in Political Science and War Strategy. 

If the Army's Next Generation Squad Weapon program is supposed to produce the iPhone of lethality, then the service is looking for as many killer apps as possible.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Robert C. O'Brien arrives to the district court, during the second day of ASAP Rocky's trial, in Stockholm, Sweden August 1, 2019. (Reuters/TT News Agency/Fredrik Persson)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump on Wednesday named U.S. hostage negotiator Robert O'Brien as his choice to replace John Bolton as his national security adviser, making him the fourth person to hold the post in the Trump administration.

Read More Show Less

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

QUANTICO MARINE CORPS BASE, Virginia -- Textron Systems is working with the Navy to turn a mine-sweeping unmanned surface vessel designed to work with Littoral Combat Ships into a mine-hunting craft armed with Hellfire missiles and a .50-caliber machine gun.

Textron displayed the proof-of-concept, surface-warfare mission package designed for the Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle (CUSV) at Modern Day Marine 2019.

"It's a huge capability," Wayne Prender, senior vice president for Applied Technologies and Advanced Programs at Textron Systems, told Military.com on Tuesday.

Read More Show Less
Joel Marrable (Laquna Ross via CNN)

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs put on leave an Atlanta-based administrator and reassigned the region's chief medical officer and seven other staff members while it investigates the treatment of a veteran under its care.

Joel Marrable's daughter discovered more than 100 ant bites on her father when she visited him in early September.

The daughter, Laquna Ross, told Channel 2 Action News: "His room had ants, the ceiling, the walls, the beds. They were everywhere. The staff member says to me, 'When we walked in here, we thought Mr. Marrable was dead. We thought he wasn't even alive, because the ants were all over him.'"

Read More Show Less
he amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) returns to homeport at Naval Base San Diego on February 25, 2015. (U.S. Navy/ Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Corwin Colbert)

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — A former U.S. Navy sailor was sentenced to 20 years in prison Monday for having sexual contact with a 14-year-old Oceanside girl in 2017, federal prosecutors in San Diego said in a statement.

Read More Show Less