Top critical review
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Nice Compilation, Nothing More
on July 29, 2008
"The 33 Strategies of War" is an interesting and accessible collection of various strategies and ways of understanding conflict. Easy to read it has a wealth of well organized information - to include the Greene's explanations of strategies, historical anecdotes to support his convictions and ideas to approach various situations. These approaches are much more than simply how to maneuver an army - one of the book's strong points is it's ability to help you understand and embrace conflict. It does this by clarifying what conflict is and demanding you to see it all around you as a sort of generative opportunity.
Of course everyone will take something different from this work - and with the multitude of history stories and quotes it has a lot to offer. The almost overwhelming resources contained within this book are well organized (unless you have a Kindle version in which case the quotes are highly disruptive, breaking into the text in what one could only hope was a completely unintentional manner).
Organization and an over abundance of sources make this a nearly encyclopedic collection of strategies, and the writing style aggressively asserts the importance of conflict in day to day life. At the same time, the interpretations and suggested strategies are often times nothing but a restatement of previous thinkers' strategies, which have just been quoted. These interpretations seem to have no applicability: they are not for people in day to day situations (dealing with motivating the troops, coordinating attacks ect.), and they are far too general to be of any use to either a business manager or a soldier.
One of the most glaring examples of this work's sloppy construction and over simplification marketed as wisdom and power is the sections in which the author himself supports and states arguments against learning strategy from a book.
In conclusion this book is short, easy to read with a multitude of sources and information - ultimately providing an experience that is too general to prove particularly beneficial for any one person or group. However, it does have some strengths in it's collection of general tenets and approaches. The only real benefit you should be able to claim after reading this book (unless supplemented by personal knowledge and investigation) is a wider understanding of some of the elements and aspects of conflict and warfare.
As a soldier and academic I can't help but personally feel that this is an uppity self-help book with little to offer the professional soldier or business person who would be better reading a more detailed, better applied, and more reasonably and thoughtfully argued analysis of applicable methods of dealing with material, personnel, adversity, confrontation and outright conflict.
The average reader, with no particular needs or demands, may still find this an interesting, perhaps helpful book (I don't mean to disparage this audience) but the seeming simplicity of 33 turns into expansive sources and glossed over analyses of partial strategies leaving the reader with a mound of partially formed ideas of questionable relevance and applicability.