52. We cannot enter into alliance with neighboring princes until we are
acquainted with their designs. We are not fit to lead an army on the march
unless we are familiar with the face of the country--its mountains and forests,
its pitfalls and precipices, its marshes and swamps. We shall be unable to turn
natural advantages to account unless we make use of local guides.
||Alliances in warfare
can be essential. They both provide assistance in your campaigns and
also ensure the ally will not join the other side.
however, a problem is that those who would be your friend often have
an agenda of their own, which does not necessarily agree with yours.
They may want large rewards for helping you, sharing in the
spoils of a conquered land. They may want you to defend them from
the others side. They may also have deceitful tricks up their
sleeves, perhaps to invade your lands when you are gone or suddenly
change sides when you are vulnerable.
If you need to cross their lands, then they may help you,
providing guides. Support from local people, even without a formal
alliance, can be very useful.
|54. When a warlike prince attacks a powerful state, his generalship shows
itself in preventing the concentration of the enemy's forces. He overawes his
opponents, and their allies are prevented from joining against him.
||It is a dangerous
thing to attack a country which has many powerful allies. If they
can act in coordination, you may quickly become outnumbered. Hence
it is important not only to understand the depth of opposing
alliances but also their military situations.
|55. Hence he does not strive to ally himself with all and sundry, nor does he
foster the power of other states. He carries out his own secret designs, keeping
his antagonists in awe. Thus he is able to capture their cities and overthrow
||Creating easy alliances
makes one dependent on allies, who may themselves be quite
unpredictable in warfare.
Secrecy is much more difficult
when allies are involved. If you cannot be sure with your own
people, what hope that allies will keep secrets?
Finally, if a general can succeed without allies, then their
reputation will soar and their enemies will quake in fear.