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The Annotated Art of War (Parts 11.60-68: More Tactics)


Disciplines > Warfare > The Annotated Art of War > Parts 11.60-68: More Tactics

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XI. The Nine Situations


Sun Tzu said: Commentary
60. Success in warfare is gained by carefully accommodating ourselves to the enemy's purpose.

In both war and business, making plans without taking into account the actions of your enemy or competitors is likely to lead to failure.

A good place to start with your own planning is your purpose. When analyzing the other side, purpose is also a good place to start. When you know what they seek to achieve you may better guess how they might seek to achieve it.

61. By persistently hanging on the enemy's flank, we shall succeed in the long run in killing the commander-in-chief. Senior officers seldom lead from the front and may often be found further back in the ranks. If you can determine their position and punch in from the side, you may be able to kill or capture them, hence 'beheading' the enemy and so creating fear and confusion.
62. This is called ability to accomplish a thing by sheer cunning. Cunning is doing things that are not expected. It takes creativity and ingenuity as well as openness to ideas.

Cunning in business is also a rare resource and some companies kill it with easy statements like 'that won't work'. Of course you must stay legal and must beware negative brand impact of sly tactics. Yet bold cunning can also make you look smart and successful.

63. On the day that you take up your command, block the frontier passes, destroy the official tallies, and stop the passage of all emissaries. A new commander needs to make themselves felt. An easy way to do this is to countermand previous orders.

The next step is to make positive commands that have an even better result.

64. Be stern in the council-chamber, so that you may control the situation. Senior officers are by nature bold and courageous and will bring this into meetings. To control such an abrasive group needs a strong and demanding commander.
65. If the enemy leaves a door open, you must rush in. Take advantages of opportunities that the enemy affords. Do so also before they realize they have left an opening.

Also beware that this is not done deliberately to lead you into a trap. Yet do not let constant fear of ambush prevent you from taking opportunities, many of which appear due to unforeseen circumstances or poor communications.

66. Forestall your opponent by seizing what he holds dear, and subtly contrive to time his arrival on the ground. If you hold what the enemy cares about, such as a key town that has cultural significance, then they will be cautious in case you harm it. You may hence be able to use it as a bargaining chip or to gain time.

If you can control when and where the battles will occur then you can ensure you are better prepared and that the enemy is exhausted and unready.

67. Walk in the path defined by rule, and accommodate yourself to the enemy until you can fight a decisive battle. Understand rules and why they are needed. Follow them when there is no reason not to do so.

Move to avoid battle until you know that you can win.

68. At first, then, exhibit the coyness of a maiden, until the enemy gives you an opening; afterwards emulate the rapidity of a running hare, and it will be too late for the enemy to oppose you. If you deliberately appear weak and unwilling to fight then the enemy may become bold and make unforced errors.

When you strike, do so with speed such that the surprise created does not give them time to regroup or counter your moves.



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