As a few of us know, I’m an obsessed fan of Robert Greene. So, forgive me for whatever form of bias I put up here, if any. Robert Greene is known for his intense topics and witty delivery. He has written on topics as seduction, power, war, and mastery. In it, he portrays age-old tactics of control, manipulation, passive-aggression, dictatorship, and so much more. 33 Strategies of war, is no exception. If you have read ‘The Art of War’ by Sun Tzu and you loved it, chances are that you’ll love this even more.
War as we know it, is brutal, calculated, and sometimes, unavoidable. While Sun Tzu’s piece had mind-boggling tips on strategizing so as to win actual battles on actual battlefields, 33 Strategies of War spreads out to accommodate the happenings that spell war in the everyday world that we dwell in. Also, while it actually takes so much from the Art of War, it is more relatable. I read the concise version, so I had to flip through only 197 tiny-lettered pages of wonders.
This book, as any other by the author, portrays timeless strategies and behind-the-scene laws that have guided big shots, diplomats, kings, dictators, billionaires, politicians, and other historical thought and world leaders. How they handled conflict, how they eliminated the opposition, and how they won; the strategies in this book are brutal, revealing, and fundamental to the one who wants to stand tall. Robert Greene grouped the strategies of war into five salient parts: Self-directed Warfare, Organizational (Team) Warfare, Defensive Warfare, Offensive Warfare, and Unconventional (Dirty) Warfare.
Here are five of the strategies that I particularly found interesting in each group, as well as their summaries as written by Greene himself.
1) Do Not Fight The Last War: The Guerrilla-War-Of-The-Mind Strategy
“What most often weighs you down and brings you misery is the past, in the form of unnecessary attachments, repetitions of tired formulas, and the memory of old victories and defeats. You must consciously wage war against the past and force yourself to react to the present moment. Be ruthless on yourself; do not repeat the same tired methods. Sometimes you must force yourself to strike out in new directions, even if they involve risk. What you may lose in comfort and security, you will gain in surprise, making it harder for your enemies to tell what you will do. Wage guerrilla war on your mind, allowing no static lines of defense, no exposed citadels—make everything fluid and mobile.”
2) Avoid The Snares Of Groupthink: The Command-And-Control Strategy
“The problem in leading any group is that people inevitably have their own agendas. If you are too authoritarian, they will resent you and rebel in silent ways. If you are too easygoing, they will revert to their natural selfishness and you will lose control. You have to create a chain of command in which people do not feel constrained by your influence yet follow your lead. Put the right people in place—people who will enact the spirit of your ideas without being automatons. Make your commands clear and inspiring, focusing attention on the team, not the leader. Create a sense of participation, but do not fall into Groupthink—the irrationality of collective decision making. Make yourself look like a paragon of fairness, but never relinquish unity of command.”
3) Create A Threatening Presence: Deterrence Strategies
“The best way to fight off aggressors is to keep them from attacking you in the first place. To accomplish this you must create the impression of being more powerful than you are. Build up a reputation: You’re a little crazy. Fighting you is not worth it. You take your enemies with you when you lose. Create this reputation and make it credible with a few impressive—impressively violent—acts. Uncertainty is sometimes better than overt threat: if your opponents are never sure what messing with you will cost, they will not want to find out. Play on people’s natural fears and anxieties to make them think twice.”
4) Hit Them Where It Hurts: The Center-Of-Gravity Strategy
“Everyone has a source of power on which he or she depends. When you look at your rivals, search below the surface for that source, the center of gravity that holds the entire structure together. That center can be their wealth, their popularity, a key position, a winning strategy. Hitting them there will inflict disproportionate pain. Find what the other side most cherishes and protects—that is where you must strike.”
5) Weave A Seamless Blend Of Fact And Fiction: Misperception Strategies
“Since no creature can survive without the ability to see or sense what is going on around it, you must make it hard for your enemies to know what is going on around them, including what you are doing. Disturb their focus and you weaken their emotions; they tend to interpret the world according to what they want to see. Feed their expectations, manufacture a reality to match their desires, and they will fool themselves. The best deceptions are based on ambiguity, mixing fact and fiction so that the one cannot be disentangled from the other. Control people’s perceptions of reality and you control them.”
A couple of these strategies were somewhat intertwined with laws already explained in the 48 laws of power. Creating illusions and appearing to work for the interest of others while furthering your own, are things that have been explained in the all-time power booklet. I suppose the one who wins the war is one who has power. To tackle political opposition, opposition in businesses, and all other things that seemingly require the brutality of war. If you are not all that interested in all the brutal manipulation stuff, however, then a few parts could get super boring and hard to take in. Still, this book is powerful and I recommend it for those who want to win wars and battles in the various spheres of their lives.
I rate it a 4.2 out of 5. You can give it your own rating below.
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