Screens 148 – 191
Tzu has laid out the use of war in the first chapter, the necessity to focus on victory in the second chapter, and now lays out the fundamentals of strategy. Strategy is framed as knowing the capabilities of your forces and those of your opposition. Self knowledge is fundamental to strategy.
“19. Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” 191/840
Know yourself and the enemy and a general will know what battles to pursue. Overconfidence in yourself is a swift way to defeat.
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“2. Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”
“3. Thus the highest form of generalship is to baulk the enemy’s plans; the next best is to prevent the junction of the enemy’s forces; the next in order is to attack the enemy’s army in the field; and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities.”
Think of this passage in terms of persuasion. How do we stop a bad idea from taking hold?
“11. Now the general is the bulwark of the State; if the bulwark is complete at all points, the State will be strong; if the bulwark is defective, the State will be weak.”
“12. There are three ways in which a ruler can bring misfortune upon his army:—”
Tzu identifies three ways a general can ruin the army:
- Issuing commands that the army is incapable of being followed. This is the failure mechanism that is most common in business leadership. Asking a business to do something that it cannot do. Leaders must first assess the capability of the organization before they commit to a customer what can be delivered. Leadership is the act of repeatedly growing the organization’s capabilities in a profitable way.
- Ruling the army like it is a kingdom. Armies are not kingdoms. Armies are for war and victory.
- By being a bad leader, not adapting to circumstances and not showing a knowledge of command.
“13. (1) By commanding the army to advance or to retreat, being ignorant of the fact that it cannot obey. This is called hobbling the army.”
• He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
• He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.
• He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks.
• He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.
• He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.”
“19. Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.
If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.
If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
Grant’s siege of Vicksburg showed masterful tactics towards a strategic objective. Without Vicksburg the Union troops could not make use of the Mississippi and its forces could not unit. Grant was both taking an object of value from the enemy and also uniting his forces – activities that Sun Tzu would endorse.