Sun Tzu’s The Art of War: Chapter 10 Terrain

Terrain begins with a great enumerated list of the types of terrain and then goes in to the application of past chapters in creating victory.

Best Quote(s)

“When the general is weak and without authority; when his orders are not clear and distinct; when there are no fixed duties assigned to officers and men, and the ranks are formed in a slovenly haphazard manner, the result is utter disorganization.”

Page by Page

34

“1 Sun Tzu said: We may distinguish six kinds of terrain, to wit: (1) Accessible ground; (2) entangling ground; (3) temporising ground; (4) narrow passes; (5) precipitous heights; (6) positions at a great distance from the enemy.”

Anytime we can enumerate the variables and list all the options about what can happen, we are in a better position than if we have a completely unbounded decision.

“2 Ground which can be freely traversed by both sides is called accessible.”

If we’re thinking of ‘ground’ as decision space, or common ways of thinking – then accessible ground is wherever we can find mutual agreement with the other party.

“4 Ground which can be abandoned but is hard to re-occupy is called entangling.”

Entangling ground is a great concept.  In financial theory behavior economics talks about loss aversion – people behave differently trying to avoid losing something than they do when they are trying to win.  Entangling ground in Sun Tzu’s definition has this asymmetric characteristic.

“6 When the position is such that neither side will gain by making the first move, it is called temporising ground.”

Temporising ground punishes both sides.  How many countries are locked in long term conflict because of the ground, rather than their adversary?

35

“16 When the common soldiers are too strong and their officers too weak, the result is insubordination. When the officers are too strong and the common soldiers too weak, the result is collapse.”

There must be balance between the common soldier and their officers.  There must be a matched culture.

36

“When the general is weak and without authority; when his orders are not clear and distinct; when there are no fixed duties assigned to officers and men, and the ranks are formed in a slovenly haphazard manner, the result is utter disorganization.”

Coordination – just as was discussed in Energy – is crucial to the success of the army.

37

“24 The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom.”

Generals that act in the best interest of the army are valuable.  As is said in the 2nd chapter Waging War – the goal of the war is to win the war.  Nothing more, nothing less.

“27 If we know that our own men are in a condition to attack, but are unaware that the enemy is not open to attack, we have gone only halfway towards victory.”

As in Attack by Strategy – the first step is to know the capability of your own forces, then to know the capability of the opposite.  Only then can you guarantee victory.

“30 Hence the experienced soldier, once in motion, is never bewildered; once he has broken camp, he is never at a loss.”

“31 Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt; if you know Heaven and know Earth, you may make your victory complete.”

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2 Responses to Sun Tzu’s The Art of War: Chapter 10 Terrain

  1. Pingback: Sun Tzu’s The Art of War: Page by Page, Chapter by Chapter Review | Fred Lybrand

  2. Pingback: Sun Tzu: Enumeration and Concepts | Fred Lybrand

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