Note.  This is more for me than anyone else.

But for anyone that is interested in reading / listening to the book Strategy A history by Lawrence Freedman, these are my notes that I took whilst listening to all 32 hours of that book.

I’ve tried to include links to the additional reading, suggested content etc. where I can.

I’ll be referring back to this at least to learn more about what was talked about in the book.

Some have chapter headings… some don’t.  I apologise about that.

Read my review on this book here. Strategy -A History review

Chapter 4 – Sun tzu and Machiavelli

All war is based on deception.

Sun Tzu to subdue the enemy without fighting.

Great strategist had to be a master of deception.

Baulk the enemy’s plans.

Look incapacitated when able. Look passive when active. Throw the enemy off.

Enemy should have a lowered guard.   Me. This is the exact strategy of Modern China)

Think you weaker than you are.

Divide and conquer. Divide allies from the enemy, then you can conquer them more easily.

Byzantine emperor.

Battle is a form of consensual violence.

Machiavelli survival must be the highest priority.

It is far better to be feared than loved, but you cannot be both.

“Everyone sees what you appear to be, few know what you truly are”

A capacity to mislead, and on a large scale is an essential attribute.

Me. Always be secretly better than what people assume you are.

The best power is that which has to be exercised the least.

Chapter 5 – Satan’s strategy.

Evaluating Satan’s strategy. Milton.

Free will.

If everything was preordained…It was not Adam or Eve’s fault.

Paradise lost by John Milton. (list of audible versions available)

Me. (in relation to the book) – Sometimes it feels like it’s just describing stuff for the sake of describing stuff, without much relation to strategy.

Pandemonium = meeting place of the devil’s.

Gods omnipotence is actually the reason why Satan could never succeed.

Not the lack of freewill.

Could only succeed if God changed his mind.

Explores the connotations of strategy, plot, scheming…Evening planning as something bad.

Those without a plan came across as good, yet those that schemed, planned and strategized, especially as it involved deception, was seen as something bad and even evil.

The words ‘Tactics’, and ‘diplomacy’ were around before the term ‘strategy’.

Tactics was = the science of military movements.

Strategy – the means by which a general may defend his lands and conquer others.

Latin translation = the art of the battle, the art of the general.

The art of the commander. (French translation)

Involving reason more that rules.

In order to formulate plans, strategy follows the relationships between the times, positions, means, and different interests and takes every factor into account. Ie. Reasoning, the highest faculty of the mind. German translation of the French translation.

Me. (about the book) – Also follows the addition and development of words, that add to the differentiation of words and what will be studied and what wouldn’t be.

Plus, the connotations for which is given more weighted importance.

Plus, together with the development of technology and how this helped with coming up with strategy and the importance of such and how it could be used.

For instance, map creation, cartography, understanding weather patterns and so on. Plus, invention of gun powder etc.

Frederick the Great- King of Prussia 1740 to 1786.

Who Napoleon learned from for the most part.

Napoleon – Never show an enemy that you made a mistake. Always show confidence.

Me. (about the book) – This would be very good in documentary format.
As a 20-part series of strategy through the ages or something.

Chapter 9

Clausewitz noted that nationalism could be a source of war.

Tolstoy Russian writer of War and Peace.

The strategy of annihilation.
The strategy of exhaustion.

Chapter 10 – The American civil war.

The north actually had around twice the numbers.

The Confederacy actually employed more ingenious, creative and bold tactics.

It was the weaker side, however it used better tactics on the whole.

Abraham Lincoln was actually against ‘strategy’. (The manoeuvring to maximise loss of life on the enemy side whilst minimizing your own)

Didn’t like General Mc Clellan’s idea of using strategy (literally the science of war)

Lincoln would prefer brute force applied relentlessly. And seemingly didn’t care so much about the minimisation of loss of human life.

Me. Doesn’t paint him how the standard history books tend to portray him as.

General Lee grant was on the Confederacy side.

Abraham Lincoln only released the slaves halfway through, or near enough near the end of the war.

The South’s army only counted 10% of numbers as slaves.

This was a war of exhaustion.   (Asking the question, was the Civil War about slavery)

Chapter 10

after a while they realised that the strategy of battle at sea HAS to take into account International Relations and politics rather than purely sea battle tactics.

Land key to success = control of territory.

Sea key to success = control of communications.

Halford Mackinder

Geopolitics… “Who rules east Europe controls the heartland, who rules the heartland commands the world island, who commands the world island rules the world.”

This was of thinking changed after aircraft was introduced.

1904, came this first report. Then a few weeks after the wright brothers had their maiden flight.

Mackinder never used the term geopolitics, however this is what he was getting at.

Chapter 11

Quiet people go out in the morning and see air fleets overhead dripping death, dripping death.

Hg. Wells. 1908

Me. Denial of food supplies. If the leader of a country’s job is to look after and protect its people; by denying them a chance to do that, or showing that you have better capability than them, the civilians in terms of collateral are fair game.
The point thus, is to attack the controlling political party and structure governing a country, by essentially showing that they are incapable of securing food supplies or protection of its people (prosperity and security) you have shown they are not fit for governance.

Therefore, in this way civilian attacks are fair game.

Gas warfare was introduced by Germany in World War 1   (not technically true, but they were one of the early adopters of it for modern warefare)

Germans were early adopters of long range bombardment and therefore air power.

Adopted zeppelins.

Bombers more airplane based.

It was initially presumed that consistent bombing would defeat an enemy in 2 weeks.

Panic could cause demotivation for its citizens and cause a nation to lose through wanting to not fight anymore.

Therefore, in this line of thinking, whoever struck first was more guaranteed victory.

Victory would come when you denied the enemy the ability to fly, whilst retaining that ability for yourself.

Gustav Lebon (French psychologist) studies before the war on <Crowd Psychology> how would crowds act together?

Stated that individuals lost their distinctive personalities in crowds, and that this collective  extremely susceptible.

Me. Mid-way through chapter 11 just states the title of <Armoured Warfare> Chapters could be split up way better.

Armoured warfare, tanks + armoured personnel carriers.

Fuller (  – stated that mechanical warfare was about to take over muscular warfare. Greater speeds, longer ranges, greater numbers

Petrol engine would revolutionise land warfare.

Envisioned 1000 tank groups.

Shoot the army through the head, rather than taking many shots at the body, therefore strike the brains/ strategic command, therefore confuse the enemy, leave them without strategy.

Wanted to apply crowd psychology to not just civilians but to armies to see how the enemy would buckle under pressure.

Didn’t like conventional religion, or democracy, dabbled in the occult and mysticism. Eventually turned fascist.

However, like many others he underplayed the logistical difficulties in such a strategy.

Fuller’s book <the Reformation of War>

explained 2 distinct classes  the ‘Super Men’ (leading class, superior, and thinking) and the ‘Super Monkeys’ (following class) more feminine, more emotional.

Chapter 12. Liddell Hart.

Similar but crisper style (friend of Fuller’s)

Sun Tzu , doing the unexpected, and pursuing the indirect approach. (Ie. Keep the enemy guessing, don’t make it easy to plan a counter attack).

China at that time had lots of black and white comparisons.

Rather than grey areas.

Difference between Liddell Hart & Fuller, Liddell wanted to avoid battle, however Fuller believed it to be the likely source of victory.

Liddell. Maintain alternatives. Find the line of least resistance, the line of least expectation.

Have a number of options to keep the enemy guessing. Have flexibility in the plan.

Weirdly he claimed similar thinking to Sun Tzu in 1927, however only read his collected works in 1940.

Winston Churchill. Strategy. “The manoeuvre which brings an ally into the field is as serviceable as that which wins a great battle. The manoeuvre which gains an important strategic point may be less valuable than that which placates or over awes a dangerous neutral.”

When Winston came into office he was still under-proven as a war leader.

Spent first days in office trying to figure out what would happen if France was defeated…if Italy was to join the war, what role it would play? etc.

Was not about holding out at any case, but about trying to figure out the best outcome for continued resistance.

If they (Great Britain) just went for a deal straight away then it would cause demoralisation across the world, plus if they were seen as a strong competitor to Germany then any deal that would be reached would be far better than if they just gave up at the start.

French soldiers continued to show resistance even though the official stance was a deal.

Churchill didn’t see war strategy as a science but more as an art.

He had a natural grasp of coalition warfare though.

Realised the United States had the ability to tip the scales.

Coalition was always going to be an important strategy for Great Britain.

The empire contributed massively to the war effort.

The United States ambassador had the unequivocal potential to tip the scales when a European confrontation reached a delicate stage.

Churchill, saw that the only way to a satisfactory conclusion to the war was to drag the United States in.

He maintained good and frequent correspondence with Roosevelt.

Hitler was wary of their European partners, Spain, Italy, especially Mussolini .
Hitler was furious as Mussolini chose to invade Greece despite Germany’s wishes not to.
Germany had to rescue Italy, in Greece and North Africa which led to a major diversion in attention. Hitler didn’t really want to be in Africa.

Hitler mostly wanted to invade the Soviet Union. The 2 biggest threats we’re the Jews and Communism.

A quick defeat of Russia would leave Britain isolated and better control for Europe.

Americans had high regard to Germany operational and strategic command.

–But when it came to victory, it came down to how coalitions were formed, maintained and destroyed.

Britain’s most vulnerable time was when France was lost, but then came back around again when Germany attacked Russia.

RAND Corp, was instrumental in changing the line of thought in and outside of the military, had the most recent tech and new analysis techniques.

Chapter 13- Game theory

Theory of games and economic behaviour. Analysing poker.
Also taking into account the bluffing of a person, understanding the psychological component as well.

Chance is also a factor.

Has probability too.

Are people betting out of strength or of weakness?
Determining what to do in unclear situations.

641 pages of dense mathematical computations.  Heralded in operations research community.

Minimax= the best worst option.

There is more than one decision maker.

Prisoners dilemma = continuation of game theory. The prisoner’s dilemma matrix = revolutionary way of showcasing a problem and the possible outcomes. Box format.

Chapter 14 – Deterrence.

^Deterrence by denial, denial of possible gains
^Reference by punishment

Clausewitz. Strategist.

Everyone knew of game theory but no one ever really applied it.

Me. The author seems to love Clausewitz. He’s mentioned all over the place.

Chapter 15

Guerrilla Warfare on Lawrence of Arabia. He had read Clausewitz.

Might be good to read the accidental guerrilla book.

Also about Mao’s guerrilla warfare.

Mao had read Clausewitz and Lawrence + Sun Tzu.

Mao –preserve oneself, and ambulate the enemy.

Guerrilla warfare was only applicable to the first of these tasks.

Local people and guerrilla fighters had to keep unity. Basically set a good example to the people. Make them want to become like you. Neat, tidy, polite, sincere, and fair.

Lawrence 7 pillars of wisdom.

<the ugly american> book

British Templar = hearts and minds.

Said the guns and fighting is only 25% of the actual battle, 75% is getting the people on your side.

Chapter 16 – Observation and Orientation

Logistical social and technological.

Need to reflect on these points.

Logistical that made everything all possible.

Social context. In which they were conducted.

And forms of technology that were exploited

The concept of “centre of gravity” to find an enemy’s weaknesses, attack them, to knock them off their centre of gravity to effectively topple them.

“The point where the enemy is most vulnerable, and the point of attack which would have the greatness chance of success.”

5 points:
-Organic essentials
-Field forces.
Airpower could apparently attack each if these.
Cause disorientation.

Attrition = wearing down the enemy.

Chapter 17- Iraq war


ONA= Office of National Assessments.

Precision warfare. Informational warfare.

Disinformation, misinformation & deception.

Information superiority = capability to collect, process and disseminate whilst exploiting or denting the ability if the enemy to do the same.

Network-centred warfare.

Mutual assured destruction removed nuclear war as a viable strategy.

What is an ouda loop?

By Patrick Edwin Moran – Own work, CC BY 3.0,

Asymmetric wars.

To circumvent or undermine America’s strengths and exploit its weaknesses using methods that differ significantly from the United States’ expected method of operations.

Two sides fighting two completely different kinds of war.

Irregular warfare. For other countries. USA still fighting regular wars.

America’s policy toward insurgents was mostly Reactive.

Most did not seek to create a secure environment to not breed insurgents in the first place, but reactionary against despite fostering a situation in which they would develop.

David Kilcullen is mentioned.

The accidental guerilla.

 The resentment of foreign interference.

What is a logic bomb? In terms of computer viruses.

The ability to persuade others of your worldview.

Chapter 18 – The Myth of the Master Strategist

Chapter 19 – Marx and Strategy for the Working Class

Philosophers have only interpreted the world, the point is to change it.

Socialism – the need to address the social question.

Louis alou guasta Blanc.  Blacism.  Pierre-Joseph Proudhon – First to promote anarchy. The absence of a master.

“What is property? Theft.”!

Karl Marx. Friedrich Engels was his collaborator.

Marx provided a theory of revolution. Kind of comparable to Clausewitz’s theory of war.

“The league of the just” original slogan all men are brothers.

Engels. Oergen duerling??

Marxism in an accessible form. SPD Karl Kowski , Bernstein. Evolutionary socialism. Revolution was unnecessary. Will slowly get there to socialism. Whilst revolution offers faster progress, the evolution model offers stability.

Kowskis great formula. Combining Dogmatic Marxism with cautious politics

Luxembourg (woman, theorist) was the one that theorised the strike would be the powerful move against capitalism.

Chapter 22 Pragmatism

James Duey. Means could only be justified by results.

Chapter 23

Pareto principle. 80% of the effects came from 20% of the inputs.

The social environment, people behave according to their situation, social groups. Stereotypes in this context are important.

Chapter 23 – Freud.   The Ego & the Id.

Bernaise the social, group mind. The concept of propaganda – simple the propagation of a particular doctrine.

Only in the Great War, was the connotations applied to mean the spreading of lies.

Chapter 24 – The Power of Non-Violence

Britain 1867 women’s suffrage.

Martin Luther King came after Gandhi.

Chapter 25 – Alinsky Political Manoeuvrings

Great rules 54.00

The rules of Alinsky (who aimed to get equal rights for blacks)

  1. Persuade your opponent that you are stronger than is really the case, if small hide till later.

2+ 3. stay close to the comfort zone of your own people and go outside that of your opponent to go after them.

In order to cause confusion, fear and retreat.

  1. To use the opponents own rule book against them.
  2. Use ridicule, man’s most potent weapon as it was difficult to counteract and infuriated the opposition.
  3. A good tactic was one that your people enjoyed.
  4. A bad tactic dragged on and became hard to sustain. Because…
  5. The essence of a good strategy was to keep the pressure on the opponent. Then the opposition will react to your advantage.
  6. Observation about how threats could be more terrifying than the reality.
  7. The need for a constructive alternative.
  8. Pick the target, freeze it, personalise it, polarize it. Don’t try to attack abstract corporations or bureaucracies, identify a responsible individual, ignore attempts to shift or spread the blame.

Rules of a campaigner. Doesn’t worry about how to relate.

Violence is a no-go. Not because of being against it but because it has never worked out properly to insight meaningful change.

Things that were organised to put pressure on the whites:

-Organise for many blacks to go shopping at a particular department store, but not actually buy anything.
-Occupy all of the toilets at a particular airport.
-Organise a “fart in ” whereby everyone would eat baked beans before attending a theatre event.
-Share proxies, get the right to speak at shareholder meetings to put them on the spot and get media attention on it.

Chapter 26

The 3rd world’ was a term coined by France.

3rd world meaning economically under developed and unpolitical aligned.

1st world = liberal capitalistic

2nd world = state socialist 2nd world.

Chez Guevara was originally trained as a doctor. Then served as a lieutenant.

Chez said-

Imperialism was the last stage of capitalism.

It was therefore necessary to create the 2nd and 3rd Vietnam’s of the world.

He has a manual in Guerrilla Warfare.

Expose the state to show its inner brutality, whilst also showing an alternative to what they offer.

Mao never claimed that guerrillas could take on an army by themselves, instead stressing political education.

The political context is of course very important. What stage are they through their development /struggle?

Chez had a more simplistic outlook for what was required for change and therefore paid a high price.

Chez never forged effective political allies

Or never fully appreciated having a local leader to be the public face/icon for a revolution.

Me. This is probably what Lei Feng communist good citizen guy was all about.

Debree’s book ‘Revolution’ was apparently a large simplification on Chez’s own thinking.

Black panthers apparently had training centres in Cuba.  (Pretty impressive)

Mao- “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”

Beat poet. Allen Ginsberg. The exploration of modes of consciousness.

Hippie era.  Was actually a great leader. A sincere leader. Depended a lot on the power of language.

“Yippies ” were meant to be the political arm of the hippies.

Police had plain-clothes people, both had an interest for provocation toward violence.

To essentially show that the other side was prepared to go in that direction and was a menace, thus creating more support for their side.

Aim to alter consciousness

  1. me. I resonate with this

Me. Alan Watts seems in this kind frame as well.

(loads of philosophical ponderings online of Alan Watts)

Encouraged demonstrators to chant ‘ohm’ in the face of violence.

Getting the state to reveal its true nastiness, would set people against it. Without giving the context would rally people to its side on a normal basis.

Women got rights after the blacks in the 1970s.

Gays were, after blacks, the largest minority group in America. At this time, being gay was still seen as a psychiatric disorder that could maybe benefit from treatment.

Chapter 27 – Frames, Narratives, Paradigms, Discourses

Under what circumstances do you think what you feel is real?

The media shapes what people assume to be reality.

Paradigm, Thomas Kuhn – structures of power were dependant on embedded structures of thought.

The Copernican Revolution is an example of complete paradigm shift. (Earth revolves around the sun, not everything revolves around the earth)

For a paradigm shift to take place there has to be general consent in the community.

Starts with the accumulation of anomalies against the standard norm of science.

Continuing search for new discoveries, and the impatience with research designed to do no more than re-affirm what was already supposed.
Will lead to the desire to accept another paradigm.

Now we are on creationism, and that evolution is simply the more accepted paradigm.

Intelligent design’s own paradigm did not stand up to scientific scrutiny-as a design, the world is not always intelligent, with many obvious imperfections and curiosities.

Bible refers to “the 4 corners of the earth”. Some people would take this to mean that the world really was flat.

Creationism that the world was created in 6 days, and only 6-7 thousand years old etc.

There’s an idea that a biblical day is much longer than a normal day.

Chapter 28 – Race, Religion and Elections

Reagan concluded a speech in 1980

Pitch to the religious right.

He ended with “god bless America”

Religious politics was born from this.

Supported prayer in school. (This was just from Reagan)

Plus, to protect the unborn child amendment was also from Reagan.

Lee Atwater   working in the Republican South, had to win on character, make the other person look like a bad guy.

Michael Dukakis was the democratic opponent.

Chapter 28

Lee Atwater (Need to look into this guy) understood the needs of the media.

Had Clausewitz’s ‘On War’, and art of war Sun Tzu read 20 times.

Considered Lyndon Johnson to be a master of the political battle.

Insisted on thorough research of the opponent.

So as to advantage of weaknesses.

On the media. No more than 25 words at the headings (titles) so they could be read at a glance.

Noting that the media and journalists are lazy, as is everyone.


Chapter 29 – is on business strategy and managers.

Framing of an issue that managers made so that directors would approve a decision the manager wanted them to take.

Hawthorne experiments

Mayo Australian guy at Harvard that did actual studies in productivity at factories and office environments.

Great the workers better. = Better for the companies productivity (who would have guessed)

Chapter 30 – The Business of Business

On Ford and Chevrolet how GM took over the market.

General motors book <the modern corporation and private property.>

Chapter 31 – Management Strategy

Chapter 35

the 7 s model  Japanese company strategy

Guru= separator of light and darkness.

Me. (about the narrator for the book) He keeps saying solely but pronounced like sol le lee.

Someone described if everything had to be rational, then voting would not be done at all, as the gain from having voted and weight at which it had for the time it took to do, just wasn’t worth it.  But people DO do it

Electronic voting. Is this a coming thing?

What does zero sum terms zero sum actually mean?

From Wikipedia – is a mathematical representation of a situation in which each participant’s gain or loss of utility is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the utility of the other participants.

Chapter 39 – Stories and Scripts

Mr Smith goes to Washington. Must watch.

“All the good in the world comes from fools with faith”