Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Highlights from The Art of War

That general is skillful in attack whose opponent does not know what to defend; and he is skillful in defense whose opponent does not know what to attack.

He who exercises no forethought but makes light of his opponents is sure to be captured by them.

Soldiers must be treated in the first instance with humanity, but kept under control by means of iron discipline. This is a certain road to victory.

Rapidity is the essence of war.

To the soldier, overwhelming speed is of paramount importance, and he must never miss opportunities. Now is the time to strike, before Hsiao Hsien even knows that we have got an army together. If we seize the present moment when the river is in flood, we shall appear before his capital with startling suddenness, like the thunder which is heard before you have time to stop your ears against it. This is the great principle in war.

The following are the principles to be observed by an invading force: The further you penetrate into a country, the greater will be the solidarity of your troops, and thus the defenders will not prevail against you.

When Wang Chien heard that they were engaged in these athletic pursuits, he knew that their spirits had been strung up to the required pitch and that they were now ready for fighting.

Throw your soldiers into positions whence there is no escape, and they will prefer death to flight. If they will face death, there is nothing they may not achieve.

A desperado and a man who sets some value on his life do not meet on even terms.

Soldiers when in desperate straits lose the sense of fear. If there is no place of refuge, they will stand firm. If they are in hostile country, they will show a stubborn front. If there is no help for it, they will fight hard.

The principle on which to manage an army is to set up one standard of courage which all must reach.

On desperate ground, I would proclaim to my soldiers the hopelessness of saving their lives. Tu Yu says: "Burn your baggage and impedimenta, throw away your stores and provisions, choke up the wells, destroy your cooking-stoves, and make it plain to your men that they cannot survive, but must fight to the death." Mei Yao-ch`en says: "The only chance of life lies in giving up all hope of it."
Confront your soldiers with the deed itself; never let them know your design. When the outlook is bright, bring it before their eyes; but tell them nothing when the situation is gloomy.

For it is precisely when a force has fallen into harm's way that is capable of striking a blow for victory.

Success in warfare is gained by carefully accommodating ourselves to the enemy's purpose.

Be stern in the council-chamber, so that you may control the situation.

When you start a fire, be to windward of it. Do not attack from the leeward.

In every army, the five developments connected with fire must be known, the movements of the stars calculated, and a watch kept for the proper days.

Those who use fire as an aid to the attack show intelligence; those who use water as an aid to the attack gain an accession of strength.

Unhappy is the fate of one who tries to win his battles and succeed in his attacks without cultivating the spirit of enterprise; for the result is waste of time and general stagnation.

A kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life. (He didn’t know about Jesus.)

Hostile armies may face each other for years, striving for the victory which is decided in a single day.

What enables the wise sovereign and the good general to strike and conquer, and achieve things beyond the reach of ordinary men, is foreknowledge.

None in the whole army are more intimate relations to be maintained than with spies. None should be more liberally rewarded. In no other business should greater secrecy be preserved.

Be subtle! be subtle! and use your spies for every kind of business.

Whether the object be to crush an army, to storm a city, or to assassinate an individual, it is always necessary to begin by finding out the names of the attendants, the aides-de- camp, and door-keepers and sentries of the general in command. Our spies must be commissioned to ascertain these.

Spies are a most important element in water, because on them depends an army's ability to move.

Sunzi. The Art of War (p. 8). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

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