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Shut The Door to Catch the Thief

 

Disciplines > Warfare > The 36 Stratagems > Shut The Door to Catch the Thief

Stratagem | History | Discussion | See also

This stratagem number: 22

This group: Stratagems for Confused Situations
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Stratagem

Action

Let them ensnare themselves.

Tempt them into situations where their own actions will only cause them further trouble. Make retreat harder than advance and make advance a deadly option.

Let them move a long way forward and then cut off their supply line. Lure them into an ambush. Encourage them to attack you while you are surrounding them. Also cut off any means of their allies rescuing them.

When they are all in the trap, close the door so there is no possibility of escape. For the bolt on the door, look for something that the enemy fears the most so they will quickly be demoralized.

Number

This is the twenty-second stratagem of thirty-six.

Group name

Stratagems for Confused Situations

Alternative names

Bolt the Door to Catch the Thief

Lock the Gate to Catch the Bandits

Or even:

Give Them Enough Rope (and They Will Hang Themselves)

Entrap and Destroy 

History

When Bai Qi was fighting Zhao Kuo, he first let Zhao win a battle and then challenged him to a 'decisive' match in a position further toward Qi. Bai Qi let his enemy win again while quietly cutting off their supply lines. Starving, Zhao's forces began killing one another for food. In a desperate attempt to break the blockage, Zhao was killed and his army surrendered.

Legal traps are common these days, where the other side is tempted into actions that allow them to be sued or they are just tied up in legal knots that drain their time and resources.

Lies can get you into trouble particularly if, like Pinocchio or a number of prominent politicians, they lead you into further and more difficult lies.

Another method that is used is to quietly gather a set of critical resources or knowledge so you can use blackmail to achieve your ends.

Discussion

This Stratagem is not always possible are there are a number of requirements for it to succeed.

First, you must have a trap with a door that can be closed. Physically this can be something like a long canyon where you can seal the end. There can also be psychological closure, for example where the enemy realize they are trapped.

The mental state of the enemy is important as they must first be open to being lured. An arrogant general is ideal for this. They also must be susceptible to other psychological effects, such as despair and demoralization.

Timing can be important. If you close the door when there are key troops outside, then these may be able to free their compatriots. The trap must also be complete in other ways, so there is no possibility of escape.

Some trap stratagems need additional forces or other resources, which of course you must have.

Because of the anger that traps create, this stratagem should always be used with caution. Even if it succeeds, the fury of survivors or kin can lead to later recriminations.

See also

Demoralization in war, Encirclement, Flanking

 

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