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33 Strategies of War Full List and Summary



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33 Strategies of War is not your typical self-help book. It’s a look at conflict strategies used throughout history. Author Robert Greene draws upon his expertise in human psychology and historical research. He gives readers a roadmap for strategic thinking and decision-making when it comes to conflict.

Greene challenges conventional thinking and invites readers to consider novel approaches to problem-solving. He analyzes the wisdom of ancient philosophers, military tacticians, and modern strategists. It culminates in 33 unique strategies that can be applied not only in times of war but also in many areas of life.

In the following sections, we’ll give a summary of the strategies. We’ll discuss implications, and explore the impact this book has had on readers. So, let’s set aside preconceived notions and discover what this book has to offer.

33 Strategies of War Summary

33 Strategies of War book cover

The book is an exploration of strategic thinking and decision-making. The author aims to provide advice on how to navigate complex situations and gain a sense of control. Without oversimplifying the complexities of real-life scenarios.

The book is divided into five parts, each focusing on different aspects of war:

  • self-directed warfare
  • organizational warfare
  • defensive warfare
  • offensive warfare
  • unconventional warfare

In self-directed warfare, strategies such as polarity (identifying enemies) and guerilla-war-of-the-mind (adapting to the present) show the importance of clarity and adaptability. Organizational warfare explores concepts like command-and-control (maintaining influence without constraint) and controlled-chaos (creating independent groups for speed and adaptability). Morale is emphasized as a means to turn a war into a crusade.

Defensive warfare strategies include perfect-economy (choosing battles carefully) and nonengagement (resisting the temptation to respond immediately). Offensive warfare focuses on grand strategy (looking beyond individual battles), intelligence (understanding the enemy’s mind), and blitzkrieg (overwhelming speed and suddenness).

The book also addresses unconventional warfare, highlighting strategies such as misperception (blending fact and fiction), the void (denying enemies targets), and passive-aggression (seeming submissive while dominating). Additionally, it explores communication (penetrating minds) and chain reaction (creating uncertainty and panic through acts of terror).

One key theme in the book is the concept of gaining control. Greene discusses how people get influence in various situations by using different strategies. It’s important to note that the book does not claim to offer a magical solution for achieving ultimate control in every aspect of life. Instead, it provides a nuanced perspective on the complexities of human interactions. And suggests strategies that may prove useful in certain circumstances.

Where to get the book: 33 Strategies of War

The 33 Strategies of War List


  • 1: Declare war on your enemies: Polarity Strategy
  • 2: Do not fight the last war: Guerilla-war-of-the-mind
  • 3: Amidst the turmoil of events, do not lose your presence of mind: Counterbalance Strategy
  • 4: Create a sense of urgency and desperation: Death-ground Strategy


  • 5: Avoid the snares of groupthink: Command-and-control Strategy
  • 6: Segment your forces: Controlled-chaos
  • 7: Transform your war into a crusade: Morale Strategies


  • 8: Pick your battles carefully: Perfect-economy Strategy
  • 9: Turn the tables: Counterattack Strategy
  • 10: Create a threatening presence: Deterrence Strategies
  • 11: Trade space for time: Nonengagement


  • 12: Lose battles, but win the war: Grand strategy
  • 13: Know your enemy: Intelligence Strategy
  • 14: Overwhelm resistance with speed and suddenness: Blitzkrieg
  • 15: Control the dynamic: Forcing
  • 16: Hit them where it hurts: Center-of-gravity
  • 17: Defeat them in detail: Divide and conquer
  • 18: Expose and attack your opponent’s soft flank: Turning Strategy
  • 19: Envelop the enemy: Annihilation
  • 20: Maneuver them into weakness: Ripening for the sickle
  • 21: Negotiate while advancing: Diplomatic war
  • 22: Know how to end things: Exit strategy


  • 23: Weave a seamless blend of fact and fiction: Misperception
  • 24: Take the line of least expectation: Ordinary-Extraordinary
  • 25: Occupy the moral high ground: Righteousness
  • 26: Deny them targets: The Void
  • 27: Seem to work for the interests of others while furthering your own: Alliance
  • 28: Give your rivals enough rope to hang themselves: One-upmanship
  • 29: Take small bites: Fait Accompli
  • 30: Penetrate their minds: Communication
  • 31: Destroy from within: The Inner Front
  • 32: Dominate while seeming to submit: Passive-Aggression
  • 33: Sow uncertainty and panic through acts of terror: Chain Reaction

Analysis of the Strategies

In this section, we’re going to take a closer look at the strategies discussed in “The 33 Strategies of War.”

When it comes to war, there are different ways to approach it. One strategy mentioned is maneuver warfare. It’s like playing a game of strategic movement, where you aim to outmaneuver your opponents. By being agile and clever with your actions, you can gain an upper hand and control the situation.

Gaining control is a key objective in war. One way to achieve this is by avoiding direct confrontation. Instead of rushing head-on into every fight, it’s smarter to step back and assess the situation. It’s similar to taking a pause and thinking before acting. By doing so, you can make more informed decisions and avoid unnecessary conflicts.

Sometimes, war brings about challenges like divided leadership. When leaders have different ideas and strategies, it can create confusion and make it difficult to gain control. To overcome this, it’s important to find ways to unite the leadership and work as a cohesive team. It’s like blending different ingredients together to create a tasty dish. When everyone is on the same page, it becomes easier to navigate through the challenges.

Direct confrontation, or facing your opponent head-on, is not always the best approach. It’s like when two boxers go toe-to-toe, exchanging blows. Instead, the book suggests being strategic and finding ways to gain an advantage without engaging directly. It’s like using your brainpower to outsmart your opponent instead of relying solely on physical strength.

Get the book here

Critique and Controversies

Like any book or topic, there are different opinions and debates surrounding the strategies discussed in this book. Some people think these strategies are quite effective and useful. While others have their reservations. Let’s take a look at some of the critiques and controversies surrounding them.

One common criticism is that these strategies might promote manipulation or unethical behavior. Some argue that using tactics like passive-aggressive behavior is deceitful or dishonest. Consider the ethical implications when using these strategies and apply them in a responsible way.

Another controversy is that these strategies might oversimplify complex situations. War is complex, and not all situations can be put into specific strategies. Critics argue that relying too heavily on these strategies might overlook important nuances and lead to flawed decision-making.

Some believe that these strategies focus on winning at all costs. Which could disregard the importance of empathy, compassion, and collaboration. They argue that a more balanced approach that considers the well-being of all parties involved should be done.

It’s worth noting that while these strategies might have their critics. They have also been widely studied and applied throughout history. Many military leaders, politicians, and business figures have found value in understanding and utilizing these principles to achieve their goals.

33 Strategies of War: Wrap Up

The 33 Strategies of War equips us with powerful tactics to handle conflicts and achieve our goals. By studying these strategies, we gain valuable insights into the art of war.

There are controversies surrounding the strategies discussed in The 33 Strategies of War. Some argue that they promote manipulation or oversimplify complex situations, while others find value in their application. It’s important to consider these perspectives. Use these strategies responsibly, adapting them to each specific situation.

If you want to learn more about Robert Greene and his work, check out our full review of 48 Laws of Power. We also have a selection of the best manipulation books that blend topics from psychology, strategy, and real-world applications.

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