Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Supreme Art of War

When I was in the Marines we often quoted Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese military general who authored The Art of War. Even though it was written more than 2,500 years ago, the military tactics and strategies laid out in this treatise are still valid.

All war is based on deception.

Speed is the essence of war. Take advantage of the enemy's unpreparedness; travel by unexpected routes and strike him where he has taken no precautions.

Sun Tzu quotes make great sound bites.

In the movie, Wall Street, Charlie Sheen's character, Bud Fox, paraphrases Sun Tzu:
If your enemy is superior, evade him. If angry, irritate him. If equally matched, fight, and if not split and reevaluate.

Foggy Bottom
What isn't obvious is that it's the State Department, not the Defense Department, that practices the penultimate art of war.

The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.

Remember that Sun Tzu quote – it's key. Simply put, the art of war is to win without ever fighting a single battle. To get your way without shedding a drop of blood. That's the true art.

But, in order to attain this kind of supremacy requires such overwhelming force that it's rarely achieved. And, since war is so common, most of The Art of War discusses how to employ troops to take advantage of your enemy's weakness through maneuver, terrain, etc.

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