History/war strategies

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The Art of War

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To teach others battle strategies

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Key points
Sun Tzu and The Art of War

Sun Tzu and The Art of War

Sun Wu, later known as Sun Tzu after receiving the tittle of master (Tzu), was widely

known for being the single greatest influence on military strategies and tactics.
After many years helping the Chines military he retired and wrote a thirteen chapter book "The Art of War". Though some of it may have been add to. Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" has been studied throughout history, and is still studied today.

The "Art of War" describes how to wage war, how to position an army, how to read your enemy's movements, how the use spies, what does and doesn't make a good General, and more.

Sun Tzu's book contains thirteen critical chapters.

1. Estimates
2. Waging War
3. Offensive Strategy
4. Disposition
5. Energy
6. Weakness and Strengths
7. Manoeuvre
8. The Nine Variables
9. Marches
10. Terrain
11. The Nine Varieties of Ground
12. Attack by Fire
13. Employment of Secret Agents

This is the art of war:

Chapter 1

War is a matter of importance to the state, the province of life or death, the road to survival or ruin. It must be thoroughly studied.
Therefore, take notice of the
five fundamental factors:

Moral Influence
which causes the people to be in harmony with their leaders, so they will accompany them in life and unto death without fear of morel peril. When one treats people with benevolence, justice, righteousness and confidence in them, the army will be happy to serve their leaders.

the interaction of natural forces. The effect of winter's cold and summer's heat. The conduct of military operations should be in accordance with the season.

distances, weather the ground is traversed with ease or difficulty, weather it is open or constricted and the chances of life or death. When employing troops it is essential to know before hand the conditions of the terrain. Knowing this you can make direct or indirect plans, know what units will be the most effective, weather to concentrate or divide your forces.

The Art of War-Tangut script.jpg

the generals qualities of wisdom, sincerity, humanity,courage and strictness. If wise, a general is able to recognise changing circumstances and act expediently. If sincere, his men will have no doubt of the certainty of rewards and punishments. If humane, he loves mankind, sympathises with others and appreciates their industry and toil. If courageous, he gains victory without hesitation. If strict, his troops are disciplined because they awe him and are afraid on punishment.

organisation, control, assignment of appropriate ranks to officers, regulation of supply routes and the provision of principl items used by the army.

There is no general who has not heard of these five factors, those who master them win, those who do not are defeated.

Therefore in laying plans compare the following elements, appraising them with the utmost care.

All warfare is based on deception, therefore, when capable act incapable, when active- inactive, when near make it appear you are far away, when far away- that you are near.

Offer the enemy a bait to lure him in, act disordered and strike.
Lay a bait for the enemy, when they come to attack get the mass of your army behind them, and launch a three pronged attack.

When he concentrates his force, prepare against him, where he is strong avoid him. Anger him and confuse him. If the enemy is obstinate and prone to anger, insult him and enrage him, so that he will be irritated and confused, without a plan he will attack recklessly.
Pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance, an arrogant general will underestimate you. Keep him under strain and wear him down. When he is united divide him. Attack when he is unprepared.


Chapter 2
Waging War

Victory is the main objective in war. If it is long and delayed, weapons are blunted and morels are depressed. When troops attack cities their strength will be exhausted.
When your weapons are dulled and ardour damped, your strength exhausted and treasure spent, neighbouring countries will take advantage of your distress to act.

Even if you have wise counsellors, none of them will be able to lay good plans for the future. We have heard of blundering swiftness in war but we have never seen a cleaver operation that was prolonged.

Their has never been a country that has benefited from war.

When provisions are sent for, the people suffer. With strength depleted and wealth consumed the household will be improvised. 

Hence a wise general sees to it that his troops feed of the enemy.
The reason troops slay is because they are enraged
The reason they loot is because they desire wealth

Chapter 3
Offensive Strategy

Generally in war, the best policy is to take a city intact; to ruin it is inferior to do this. Do not put a premium on killing. To capture the enemy’s army is better than to destroy it. For to win 100 victories in 100 battles is not skill, to subdue the enemy without fighting is. Thus, what is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy’s strategy. Next best is to disrupt his alliances, do not allow your enemies to get together. The worst policy is to attack cities, only attack cities if you have to.

If the general is unable to control his impatience and orders his troops to swarm up the walls like ants, one third of them will be killed without taking the city.
Those skilled in war subdue the enemy’s army without battle. They capture his cities without assaulting them. Your aim must be to take all-under-heaven intact. Thus your troops are not worn out and your gains will be complete. This is the art of offensive strategy.
When five times his strength attack him, if he doubles his strength divide him, if equally matched engage him and if in all respects unequal, be capable of eluding him.

There are three ways in which a ruler can bring misfortune upon his army:
1. When ignorant that the enemy should not advance, to order an advance or ignorant that it should not retire. This is described as ‘hobbling the army’
2. When ignorant f military affairs, to participate in their administration. This causes the officers to be perplexed.
3. When ignorant of command problems to share in the exercise of responsibilities. This endangers doubts in the minds of officers.
If the army is confused and suspicious, neighbouring rulers will cause trouble. This is what is meant by the saying ‘A confused army leads to another victory’.

There are five circumstances in which victory may be predicted:
1. He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious
2. He who understands how to use both large and small forces will be victorious.
3. He whose ranks are united in purpose will be victorious.
4. He who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not will be victorious.
5. He whose generals are able and not interfered with by sovereign will be victorious.
Know the enemy and know yourself, in a hundred battles you will never be in peril.

Chapter 4

Anciently the skilful warriors made themselves invincible and awaited the enemy’s moment of vulnerability.
Invincibility depends on one’s self, the enemy’s vulnerability on him. It follows that skilled in war can make themselves invincible but cannot cause the enemy to be vulnerable.

Therefore it is said that one may know how to win but cannot necessarily do so.
Invincibility lies in the defence, the possibility in attack. To force a victory on normal man can foresee is not skill.
Anciently those called skilled in war conquered an enemy easily conquered, and therefore the victories won by a master of war gain him neither reputation for wisdom nor merit for valour, for he wins his victories because he never plans a useless move, so he conquers an enemy already defeated.
The skilful commander takes up a position in which he cannot be defeated and misses no opportunity to master his enemy.

The elements of the art of war are:
1. Measurement of space
2. Estimation of quantities
3. Calculations
4. Comparisons
5. Chance of victory

Chapter 5

Generally management of many is the same as management of few. It’s a matter of organization and to control many is the same as to control few. This is a matter of formations and signals.
That the army is certain to sustain the enemy’s attack without suffering defeat is due to operations of the extraordinary and the normal forces.

Generally, in battle use a normal force to engage, use an extraordinary force to win. The resources of those skilled in the extraordinary forces are as infinite as the heavens and earth, as inexhaustible as the flow of great rivers.

In battle there are only normal and extraordinary forces, but their combinations are limitless, none can comprehend them all. For these two forces are mutually reproductive, their interaction is as endless as two interlocked rings-no one can determine where one ends and the other begins.
When torrential water tosses boulders, it is because of momentum. When the strike of a hawk breaks the body of its prey it is because of timing.
Thus the momentum of one skilled in war is overwhelming and his attack precisely regulated. His potential is that of a fully drawn crossbow, his timing, the release of the trigger.

In the tumult and uproar the battle seems chaotic, but there is no disorder, the troops appear to be milling about in circles but cannot be defeated.
Apparent confusion is a product of good order.
Apparent cowardice-of courage
apparent weakness-of strength
Order or disorder depends on organisation, courage or cowardice, on circumstances, strength or weakness, on dispositions.
Those skilled in making the enemy move do so by creating a situation to which he must conform, they entice him with something he is certain to take, and with lures of ostensible profit, they await him in strength.

Chapter 6
Weaknesses and strengths

He who occupies the field of battle first and awaits his enemy is at ease; he who comes later to the scene and rushes into the fight is weary. Therefore those skilled in the art of war bring the enemy to the field of battle and are not brought by the enemy.
When the enemy is at ease, be able to weary him, when well fed, to starve him, when at rest, to make him move.

Appear at places to which he must hasten, move swiftly where he does not expect it.
Go into emptiness, strike voids, bypass what he defends, and hit him where he does not expect you.
Make the enemy see strength as weaknesses, and weaknesses as strengths.
He whose advantage is irresistible plunges into his enemy’s weak position’s, he who in withdrawal cannot be pursued moves so swiftly that he cannot be overtaken.

When I wish to attack, my enemies, even though protected by high walls and deep moats cannot help but engage me, for I attack a position he must succour.
The enemy must not know where I intend to give battle. For he does not know where I intend to give battle he must prepare in many places, and those I have to fight in one place is few. For if he prepares the front the back will be weak and if he prepares the rear, the front will be fragile. If he prepares to the left, the right will be vulnerable, and if prepared on the right, there will be few to the left. When he prepares everywhere he will be weak everywhere.
Those skilled in battle must know where and when a battle will be fought. They measure the roads and fix the date.

Determine the enemy’s plans and you will know which strategy will be successful and which will not. Agitate him and ascertain the pattern of his movements. Determine his dispositions and so ascertain the fields of battle.
Probe him and learn where his strength is abundant and where deficient. The ultimate in disposing one’s troops is to be without ascertainable shape. Then the most penetrating spies cannot pry in, nor can the wise lay a plan against you.
It is according to the shapes that I lay the plans for victory, but the multitude does not comprehend this.
Therefore, when I have won a victory I do not repeat my tactics but respond to circumstances in an infinite variety of ways.

An army avoids strengths and strikes weaknesses; an army manages its victory by modifying his tactics in accordance with the enemy situation of the enemy. In war there are no constant conditions.
One is able to gain victory by modifying his tactics in accordance with the enemy situation may be said be divine.

Chapter 7

Nothing is more difficult than the art of manoeuvre. What is difficult is to make the devious route the most direct and to turn misfortune to advantage.
March by an indirect route and divert the enemy by enticing him with bait. So doing, you may set out after he does and arrive before him. One able to do this understands the strategy of the direct and the indirect.

One who sets the entire army in motion to chase an advantage will not attain it. If he abandons a camp to contend for advantage the supplies will be lost.
An army which lacks heavy equipment, fodder, food and supplies will be lost.
Those who do not know the conditions of mountains and forests hazards defiles, marshes and swamps cannot conduct a march of an army.
Those who do not use local guides are unable to obtain the advantages of the ground.

War is based on deception. Move when it is advantageous and create changes in the situation by dispersal and concentration of forces.
When you plunder the countryside, divide your forces when you conquer territory, divide the profits. Weigh the situation, and then move.
He who knows the art of the direct and the indirect approach will be victorious. Such is the art of manoeuvring.
During the morning spirits are keen, during the day they flag, and in the evening, thoughts turn towards home.
Therefore those skilled in war avoid the enemy when his spirits are high and attack him when it is sluggish and his soldiers are home-sick.

The art of employing troops is that when the enemy occupies high ground, do not confront him, when his back is resting on hills, do not oppose him. When he pretends to flee you must not pursue him.
Do not attack his elite troops
Do not gobble preferred baits
Do not thwart an enemy returning homewards
Do not press an enemy at bay

Chapter 8
The Nine Variables

You should not encamp in low lying ground. In communicating ground, unite with your allies. You should not linger in desolate ground. In enclosed ground, resourcefulness is required. In death ground fight.
There are some roads not to be followed, some troops not to strike, some cities not to be assaulted, and some ground which should not be contested.
It is doctrine of war not to assume the enemy will not come, but rather to rely on one’s readiness to meet him, not to presume that he will not attack, but rather to make one’s self invincible.

There are five qualities which are dangerous in the character of a general:
1. If reckless, he can be killed
2. If cowardly, captured
3. If quick-tempered you can make a fool of him
4. If he has too delicate a sense of humour, you can calumniate him
5. If he is of compassionate nature, you can harass him.

Chapter 9

Fight downhill. Do not ascend and try to take your enemy from below. Take positions in mountains for example. After crossing a river you must also move some distance away from it. On level ground however, move to a position that will aid your actions.
An army prefers high ground to low, and also sunlight rather than shade. Thus while nourishing its health, the army occupies a firm position. An army that does not suffer from countless diseases is said to be certain of victory.

Birds rising in flight are a sign that the enemy is lying in ambush, when the wild animals are startled and flee, he is trying to trying to take you unaware.
When without a precious understanding the enemy asks for a truce, he is plotting.

When his troops lean in their weapons, they are famished. When the enemy sees an advantage but does not take it, he is tired. When birds gather above his campsites they are empty. If the officers are short tempered they are exhausted. When the troops continually gather in small groups and whisper, they have lost confidence in their general.
In war numbers don’t matter. It is always wise to be observant.

Chapter 10

Ground can be classified as:
1. Accessible – Ground which both you and the enemy can travel to with equal ease.
2. Entrapping – Ground easy to get out of but difficult to get back into.
3. Indecisive – Ground that is disadvantageous to both you and the enemy
4. Constricted – Ground where all entrances should be blocked off
5. Precipitous – Ground where you or they wait to attack
6. Distant – Ground where it is not profitable to attack from the position
These are the six different types of ground, it is the responsibility of the general to inquire about them with the upmost care.

Chapter 11
The Nine Varieties of Ground

Ground may be classified as:
1. Dispersive-When you fight in your own territory
2. Frontier-When you are just in enemy territory
3. Key-Ground advantages for enemy and you
4. Communicating-Ground accessible to all
5. Focal-When the state is enclosed by three other states
6. Serious-When deep in hostile territory
7. Difficult-Any place where the going is hard (e.g. Mountains)
8. Encircled-Area that is constricted
9. Death-Where the army may survive only in fights

Do not fight in dispersive ground. Do not stop on the frontier border. Do not attack the enemy if he occupies key ground. Do not allow your formations to separate in communicating ground. In focal ground ally with the neighbouring states. In difficult ground you must press on. In encircled ground devise strategies. In death ground, fight.

In dispersive ground, unit the determination of the army. In frontier ground keep your forces closely linked. In key ground get there first. In communicating ground pay attention to defence. In focal ground strengthen alliances. In serious ground ensure the flow of provisions. In difficult ground press on over the roads. In encircled ground block the points of access. In death ground make it evident that there is no chance of survival, soldiers must fight to the death when there is no alternative.

Chapter 12
Attack by Fire

There are five ways to attack by fire:
Burn personnel
Burn stores/supplies
Burn equipment
Burn arsenal
Use missiles

To use fire depends on the weather, equipment for setting fires must be ready at hand. There are suitable times when to raise fire. When the weather is scorching hot. If fire attacks you, you must always be prepared to change tactics.

Chapter 13
Employment of Secret Agents

The reason the enlightened prince and wise general conquer the army whenever they move, and their achievements that pass ordinary men are foreknowledge.
Foreknowledge cannot be elicited from spirits, or from gods, by analogy with past events or from calculations. It must be obtained from the men who knew the enemy’s situation.
There are five sorts of secret agents:

  1. Native-Those of the enemy’s country people
  2. Inside-The enemy’s officials
  3. Doubled-Are the enemy’s spies we employ
  4. Expendable-Your own spies who are deliberately given fabricated information.
  5. Living-Those who return with information

When these five types of agents are all working simultaneously and none knows their method of operation, they are called ‘The Divine Skein’
Of those entire close to the commander, none is more important than the secret agent, of all the rewards none are more liberal than those given to a secret agent.
He who isn’t sage, wise, humane and just, cannot keep a secret agent. However, he who isn’t delicate and subtle cannot get the truth out of them.
There is no place where espionage is not used.

If plans relating to secret agents are prematurely divulged the agent and all of those to whom he spoke to shall die.
Generally in the case of armies you plan to strike, cities you wish to attack, and people you wish to assassinate, you must know the names of the garrison commander, the staff officers, ushers, gate-keepers and the body guards. You must instruct you secret agent to inquire into these matters.
It is essential to seek out enemy agents who have come to conduct espionage against you and bribe them to save you. Give them instructions and care for them. Thus double agents are formed.

It is by this means of double agents that native and inside agents can be recruited and employed.
It is also by this means that the expandable agent armed with false identification can be sent to convey it to the enemy. It is by this means also that living agents can be used at appropriate times.



That was The Art of War

Sun Tzu's strategies have been used throughout history.

It helped determined some of the greatest battles throughout the ages.
From the
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battles in early BC, to the time of kings, to the civil war, to Vietnam and modern day.