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Eight Maxims of

Strategy
From Sir Basil H. Liddell-Hart
Fred Nickols

2016
LIDDELL-HART’S EIGHT MAXIMS OF STRATEGY
These eight maxims of strategy are drawn from Chapter XX (pp. 348-
349) of Sir Basil H. Liddell-Hart's book, Strategy (2nd Edition Revised).
Frederick A. Praeger, Publisher: New York (1968).

1. A D J U S T Y O U R E N D T O Y O U R M E A N S
Clear sight and cool calculation should prevail. Do not bite off more
than you can chew. Keep a clear sense of what is possible. Face facts
while preserving faith. Confidence will be of no avail if the troops
are run down.

2. K E E P Y O U R O B J E C T A L W A Y S I N M I N D , W H I L E A D A P TI N G Y O U R
P L A N TO C I R C U M S TA N C E S
Recognize that alternatives exist but make sure they all bear on the
object. Weigh the feasibility of attaining an objective against its con-
tribution to the attainment of the end in mind.

3. C HO O S E T HE L I N E ( O R C O U R S E ) O F L E A S T E X P E C T A TI O N
Put yourself in your opposition’s shoes and try to see what course of
action he will see as least probable and thus not try to forestall.

4. E X P L O I T T HE L I N E O F L E A S T R E S I S TA N C E – S O L O N G A S I T
C A N L E A D Y O U T O A N Y O B J E C TI V E T HA T W O U L D C O N TR I B U T E
TO Y O U R U N D E R L Y I N G O B J E C T
Seize on opportunity – but not any opportunity. Tactically, this re-
fers to following up on success; strategically, it refers to the man-
agement and deployment of your reserves.

5. T A K E A L I N E O F O P E R A T I O N W HI C H O F F E R S A L T E R N A T I V E O B -
JECTIVES
Choose a single course of action that could have several objectives;
do not let your actions reveal your objectives. This puts your oppo-
nent on the horns of a dilemma. It introduces uncertainty regarding
that which is to be guarded against.

6. E N S U R E T HA T B O TH P L A N S A N D D I S P O S I T I O N S A R E F L E X I B L E
– A D A P TA B L E TO C I R C U M S TA N C E S
Include contingencies or next steps – for success as well as failure.
Organize and deploy your resources in ways that facilitate adapta-
tion to either.

7. D O N O T T HR O W Y O U R W E I G HT I N TO A S TR O K E W H I L S T Y O U R
O P P O N E N T I S O N G U A R D – W HI L S T H E I S W E L L P L A C E D TO
PARRY OR EVADE IT
Unless your opponent is much inferior, do not attack until he has
been disorganized and demoralized. Psychological warfare pre-

© Fred Nickols 2016 Page 1


LIDDELL-HART’S EIGHT MAXIMS OF STRATEGY
cedes physical warfare. Similarly, physical warfare can be psycho-
logical in nature.

8. D O N O T R E N E W A N A T TA C K A L O N G T HE S A M E L I N E ( O R I N
T HE S A M E F O R M ) A F T E R I T HA S O N C E F A I L E D
If at first you don’t succeed, give up. Your reinforcements will likely
be matched by the enemy. Moreover, successfully repulsing you the
first time will morally strengthen him for the second time.

C ONTACT F RED N ICKOLS


Fred Nickols can be reached at this e-mail. Other articles about strate-
gy, strategic planning, strategic thinking and strategic decision-making
can be found in that section of his web site.

© Fred Nickols 2016 Page 2