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Sun Tzu: The Chinese Way of War
Transcript of Sun Tzu: The Chinese Way of War
Sun-tzu vs. Clausewitz
Victory and Methods
“The true aim of war is the mind of the hostile rulers, not the bodies of their troops; that the balance of victory and defeat turns on mental impressions and only indirectly on physical blows… True victory lay in compelling one’s opponent to abandon his purpose, with the least possible loss to oneself. If such result was obtained, there was no real advantage to be gained by winning a battle… while the attempt would incur a needless risk of defeat …” (Liddell Hart, Strategy, 1991, p.204)
Open and Decisive Warfare?
"The vanquished enemy fights first, and then seeks victory." (Sun-tzu)
The Eastern War of War
“[T]he highest realisation of warfare is to attack the enemy’s plans; next is to attack their alliances; next to attack their army; and the lowest is to attack their fortified cities.” (Sun-tzu)
The Aims of War/Historical Context
"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." (Sun-tzu)
Taoism and Interpretation
“A victory that is long in coming will blunt [the army’s] weapons and dampen their ardour. If you attack cities, their strength will be exhausted. If you expose the army to a prolonged campaign, the state’s resources will be an inadequate.” Not intended as a warning, but as a very method of making war.” (Sun-tzu)
"Of old the expert in battle would first make himself invincible and then wait for the enemy to expose his vulnerability. Invincibility depends on oneself; vulnerability lies with the enemy. . . Being invincible lies with defense; the vulnerability of the enemy comes with the attack." (Sun-tzu)
Solving the Complexities of War
“Even though an opponent may deviate from rational conduct in a war, it remains a matter of rationality and irrationality internal to one human mind or a relatively small number of minds; it is largely predictable. However, when it involves the collective level (the army, the people), the irrational forces will become external to the human mind and begin developing a character more similar to chance and probability, and this is much less decipherable than the irrational force on the individual level.” (Yuen, p.188)
What does this say about Sun-tzu's understanding of predicting the outcomes of battle?
How does this justify less direct methods of warfare?
“He whom the ancients called an expert in battle gained victory where victory was easily gained. Thus the battle of the expert is never an exceptional victory, nor does it win him reputation for wisdom or credit for courage. His victories in battle are unerring. Unerring means that he acts where victory is certain, and conquers an enemy that has already lost.”
What does this quote demonstrate as to Sun-tzu's beliefs on the importance of small scale battles against large scale wars?
Are there instances when battles should not be engaged in?
Why this list of four?
Why are they forwarded in this order?
Are they all military methods?
“There are none [methods of attack] that are not orthodox, none that are unorthodox, so they cause the enemy to never be able to fathom them. Thus with the orthodox they are victorious, with the unorthodox they are also victorious.” (Sun-tzu)
What does this statement indicate as to methods of war that are acceptable?
What is "All-Under-Heaven"?
How does this fit with Annihilation Warfare?
Is this a simple truism or instruction on how to make war?
“One who knows the enemy and knows himself will not be endangered in a hundred engagements.”
Often mistakenly believed to be referencing how information is key.
While bearing in mind the Taoist system of understanding both facets of any ideal and Sun-tzu's attempts to influence the enemy what could this statement actually mean?
Two Ideals of Victory: "Conquering the enemy and growing stronger," and "subjugating the enemy's army without fighting is the true pinnacle of excellence."
Bearing in mind Sun-tzu's aims regarding All-Under-Heaven, how do these ideals of victory relate?
“One who knows the enemy and knows himself will not be endangered in a hundred engagements.” (Sun-tzu)
“What Sun-tzu meant by “first make yourself unconquerable” is “know yourself” [preserving our ch’i]. “Waiting until the enemy can be conquered” is “knowing them” [attacking their minds].” (Tai-tsung, Questions and Replies, in Sawyer (trans.), The Seven Military Classics, p. 353)
Remember Clausewitz and trinity of facets in war; rationality (human reason), irrationality (emotion), and nonrationality (chance).
How is Sun-tzu proposing to make warfare predictable and limit the exposure to irrationality and nonrationality?
Taoism/Mind Games: How does Sun-tzu utilise this in battle?
Aim to manage complexities of war.
Open and Decisive
Theory of War rather than cookbook.
Grand Strategy more important than battles.
Complexities of War managed with the input of military genius.
Ambush and Surprise, non-military means to defeat the enemy before the battle.
Advantageous conditions should be maximised, weaknesses exploited and battle avoided if potentially costly.
Minimalising friction for oneself and maximising it for the enemy.
War can be made predictable
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