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The Annotated Art of War (Parts 8.1-2: On the Move)


Disciplines > Warfare > The Annotated Art of War > Parts 8.1-2: On the Move

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VIII. Variation in Tactics


Sun Tzu said: Commentary
1. Sun Tzu said: In war, the general receives his commands from the sovereign, collects his army and concentrates his forces

When you know your objectives, you can then direct your armies to the right places.

A concentrated force can have a powerful effect. A nail can be hammered through hard wood. A sharp knife slices through resistant material. Even a small force, if concentrated at a single point can punch through.

In business, when you know the business intent and direction, you can then formulate how to focus.

2. When in difficult country, do not encamp. In country where high roads intersect, join hands with your allies. Do not linger in dangerously isolated positions. In hemmed-in situations, you must resort to stratagem. In desperate position, you must fight. Setting up camp takes time. Whilst encamped, soldiers are in relaxed disarray. Packing up also takes time. Camps are hence vulnerable to attack and cannot respond or move quickly.

Holding crossroads allows you to command multiple routes. High places are easier to defend. High routes are often ways between more comfortable low places. Hence if you hold high crossroads you have great advantage. Use of allies to hold these places allows the main army to continue without loss of resource.

Even pausing in dangerous places, where you are particularly vulnerable, gives greater opportunity for the enemy to find and attack you.

When you are hemmed in, with few ways out, you have fewer mobility options and hence a greater need for deception or other strategies.

When your back is against the wall, you have no option but to fight. The above options suggest ways to avoid this worst-case situation.

3. There are roads which must not be followed, armies which must be not attacked, towns which must be besieged, positions which must not be contested, commands of the sovereign which must not be obeyed. Sometimes a direct route to the enemy's capital seems obvious, but it may be well-guarded and make you vulnerable, for example if it goes through narrow canyons or crosses wide rivers.

Just because there is an army in front of you, it does not mean you should attack it, even if you think you can win. Always consider the war first, and not just the battle. Arousing neutral countries can multiply your enemies. Attacking a smaller force can create losses that will make you vulnerable to a later larger force.

Avoid siege and other conflicts that are not advantageous or necessary.

In war, the general takes commands from the sovereign, but the sovereign is not on the battlefield and does not know what will bring ultimate victory. Only a foolish general would implement commands they know will fail.



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