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The Annotated Art of War (Parts 13.1-3: War is Expensive)


Disciplines > Warfare > The Annotated Art of War > Parts 13.1-3: War is Expensive

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XIII. The Use of Spies


Sun Tzu said: Commentary
1. Sun Tzu said: Raising a host of a hundred thousand men and marching them great distances entails heavy loss on the people and a drain on the resources of the State. The daily expenditure will amount to a thousand ounces of silver. There will be commotion at home and abroad, and men will drop down exhausted on the highways. As many as seven hundred thousand families will be impeded in their labor. War is very expensive. It costs in terms of lives, even when there is no fighting. It costs in the patience and support of the people at home. And it costs enormously in money.

That cost is paid for long after the war is ended, even if you are the victor. You should understand the cost before you go to war and as you continue each day of warfare.

Competing is also expensive in business. The cost of marketing, PR and sales can easily be far more than the cost of creating the product or delivering the service. When deciding what to offer, take all such expenses into account.

2. Hostile armies may face each other for years, striving for the victory which is decided in a single day. This being so, to remain in ignorance of the enemy's condition simply because one grudges the outlay of a hundred ounces of silver in honors and emoluments, is the height of inhumanity. War can be quite capricious, turning on a moment.

Perhaps the greatest cost in war that may extend it endlessly or bring your rapid demise is your ignorance, your not knowing where the enemy is, their morale, their likely action and so on.

The worst action of a commander is to imperiously take arrogant action for selfish reason, without consideration of the consequences for the troops or for the likelihood of winning or losing. 

3. One who acts thus is no leader of men, no present help to his sovereign, no master of victory. To lead is a serious business in which personal foibles have no place. Paradoxically, the leader has to put themselves last, seeking first to win at the minimum cost. Glory is a result, not a goal. Those who seek glory are likely to find only ignominy.

The same effect happens in business. Those who seek only profit at the expense of employee and customer satisfaction may succeed in the short term but will ultimately and massively fail.



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