Sun Tzu: The Art of War

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A good general will control the following five aspects of war.

Moral Law

Heaven–binaries, night and day, etc.

Earth–represents distance

Commander = virtue of wisdom

Method and discipline = subdivision of armies

In good Puritan, Ramist fashion (I realize Sun wasn’t a Puritan.  It’s a joke. Chill), Sun Tzu gives list after list of how to achieve victory in battle.  Within each list are more divisions. Yet he never loses control of the argument and occasionally speaks in wise, concrete terms.  It’s quite refreshing at times.

Warfare is successful by using speed and deception.  Hold out baits. Feign disorder, and then crush the enemy.

He gives practical advice for setting up camps, using terrain to your advantage, and avoiding costly campaigns against fortified cities.

Controlling the Energy of War

He writes, “The control of a large force is the same principle as the control of a few men: it is merely a question of dividing up their numbers.”  Energy is like the bending of a crossbow. Decision is the trigger.

It’s fascinating to reflect that the greatest generals mirrored some of Sun’s advice without being aware of it.  Nathan Bedford Forrest, for example, could barely read and write, yet he positioned his artillery and troops in such a way at Brice’s Crossing that it was called “the perfect battle.”  Stonewall Jackson would often hide his movements and plans from his own men, just as Sun suggested.



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