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The Annotated Art of War (Parts Parts 3.6-10: Fighting Strategy)


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III. Attack by Stratagem


Sun Tzu said: Commentary
6. Therefore the skillful leader subdues the enemy's troops without any fighting; he captures their cities without laying siege to them; he overthrows their kingdom without lengthy operations in the field.

The best way of fighting is to avoid fighting. The best way to win a war is with superior strategy that out-thinks, out-plans and out-maneuvers the enemy such that they are forced to concede or else suffer a humiliating defeat.
7. With his forces intact he will dispute the mastery of the Empire, and thus, without losing a man, his triumph will be complete. This is the method of attacking by stratagem. Fighting wars depletes forces which limits the number of wars a commander can wage. If, however, soldiers are not lost and few munitions are used, then the army may march and march to war, defeating all in its path with little incremental cost.
8. It is the rule in war, if our forces are ten to the enemy's one, to surround him; if five to one, to attack him; if twice as numerous, to divide our army into two. Here are some simple rules of thumb that worked for Sun Tzu. The underlying principles are:

1. Surrounding an army requires many men and is likely to spread forces thin unless you have a serious advantage in resources.

If an army is surrounded by an overwhelming force, there is no way of escape and the only alternative to overwhelming defeat is to surrender.

2. With sufficient numbers, you can still crush an opposing force, although to do so may lose many men and so should be done with care. A way here is to use flanking and other indirect tactics.

3. With a smaller advantage, you can still use distractions and phalanxes to divide and conquer a monolithic army.

A general rule is that if you have more troops than you need in a single situation, them you can gain advantage by employing the excess troops elsewhere.

9. If equally matched, we can offer battle; if slightly inferior in numbers, we can avoid the enemy; if quite unequal in every way, we can flee from him. If your men are better trained, better equipped and more motivated, then hand-to-hand combat should succeed.

If you are weaker, then it is better to flee and fight another day when you have built advantage in other ways.

10. Hence, though an obstinate fight may be made by a small force, in the end it must be captured by the larger force. Glorious suicide is simply madness.



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