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The 33 Strategies of War (Joost Elffers Books) Paperback – December 14, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
As in his bestselling The 48 Laws of Power, Greene puts a modern spin on wisdom that has stood the test of history, only this time his role model is Sun Tzu rather than Machiavelli. The argument is fairly standard: despite our most noble intentions, "aggressive impulses that are impossible to ignore or repress" make military combat a fitting metaphor for getting ahead in life. Greene's advice covers everything from steeling one's mind for battle to specific defensive and offensive tactics—notably, the final section on "dirty" warfare is one of the book's longest. Historical lessons are outlined and interpreted, with amplifying quotations crammed into the margins. Not all of the examples are drawn from the battlefield; in one section, Greene skips nimbly from Lyndon Johnson's tenacity to Julius Caesar's decisiveness, from Joan Crawford's refusal to compromise to Ted Williams's competitive drive. Alfred Hitchcock, he says, embodies "the detached-Buddha tactic" of appearing uninvolved while remaining in total control. The diversity of subject matter compensates for occasional lapses into stilted warriorese ("arm yourself with prudence, and never completely lay down your arms, not even for friends"). For those willing to embrace its martial conceit, Greene's compendium offers inspiration and entertainment in equal measure. (Jan. 23)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Preloaded Digital Audio Player edition.
Greene and "producer" Joost Elffers are the Machiavellians who brought us The 48 Laws of Power (1998) and The Art of Seduction (2001), and their latest book similarly purports to distill the profundities of history for personal gain. Unapologetically premised on Hobbesian "all that is social is war" bromides, this account collects parables of strategic success and error from a diverse cast of military and nonmilitary historical figures. Its lessons are presented self-help-book style in chapters titled "Maneuver Them into Weakness" and "Seem to Work for the Interests of Others While Furthering Your Own" and flanked by a withering barrage of reiterative marginalia. Most books this cynical (and this repetitive) need a sense of humor to be readable, something this book apparently lacks. Its quasi-spiritual tone, though perhaps increasing its attractiveness to the impressionable, is also trying at times. But those readers who push through to the end (or flip ahead) will find a curiously contemporary section on modern terrorism cloaking a surprisingly specific commentary on al-Qaeda and antiterrorism strategy. Politics by other means? Brendan Driscoll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Preloaded Digital Audio Player edition.
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Top customer reviews
The reader should be mindful though, that this is more the work of a scholar than a business writer or self-help guru, and the author is more intent on providing deep understanding on the science of war than practical to-dos, which the reader is left to derive for him/herself based his own understanding of the principles and individual circumstances. Also, as the book's historical examples attest, the strategies of war are value neutral. There is no distinction between a just war and an unjust one, and the strategies work just as well for people I would consider heroes (i.e. Gandhi, George Marshall, FDR) as well as mass murderers and self-serving opportunists of any kind. Since this science of war is already "out there", and unscrupulous, conflictive individuals would have no qualms about using it, the strategies laid out here should help us guard against such people.
For the audio version of the book, it would have helped if the sections of each chapter (Keys to Warfare, Understand, Reversal, etc.) were explained beforehand, as their intent is not clear to the listener at first, and overrepetition of some phrases and expressions such as "the height of strategic wisdom", "the biggest ... in ... history" should be avoided so as not to wear out the listener's patience, but other than that the narrator's pitch and pace were excellent and the abridgement did not seem to leave any essential elements out.
From Alexander the Great, to Hannibal, to von Clausewitz, to McArthur the strategies that work are summarized in the context of some of their most pragmatic, dramatic and famous examples.
The book also provides an excellent introduction which traces the history and continuum of strategic warfare from "mano-y-mano," or face-to-face squirmishes (used mostly as demonstrations of individual bravery and heroism -- to full-scale war by indirection ("out thinking" the enemy and winning by superior maneuvering).
As the author notes, the best military victories are won not by exhausting blood and treasures, but without a shot or an arrow being fired: The ultimate objective of strategic war is to "get inside the head" of the opponent and "win over" his mind.
In the language of the modern military academies this is referred to as "finding the enemy's center-of-gravity," or "getting inside his decision-making cycle." Thus, the book explains the philosophies and the rationale for each of the 33 stratagems in succinct form, and in terms of how they seek to approach this idealized strategic goal.
The book is organized by type of war and the stratagems used within each war type. A valuable work that also has many non-military applications. It is even better than Greene's "48 Laws of Power." A must read for anyone engaged in any kind of combat.