The Annotated Art of War (Parts 11.29-31: Mutual Support and the Shuai-jan Snake)
Warfare > The
Annotated Art of War > Parts 11.29-31: Mutual Support and the Shuai-jan Snake
chapter << Chapter: 11 >> Next chapter
Previous part |
XI. The Nine Situations
|Sun Tzu said:
29. The skillful tactician may be likened to the shuai-jan. Now the shuai-jan
is a snake that is found in the Chung mountains. Strike at its head, and you
will be attacked by its tail; strike at its tail, and you will be attacked by
its head; strike at its middle, and you will be attacked by head and tail both.
||When a force is
connected, all parts know what is happening with all other parts and
can come to the rescue as needed. Or maybe one part can deliberately
occupy the enemy whilst the other attacks the flanks.
coordination and connection depends either on careful timing or,
better, on excellent communications.
Businesses can become so split up and with each unit so
self-focused that competitors can win by picking off the units one
by one. It is better to see the big picture and compete with
coordinated action. A single attack can then be warded off by
diverting resources from other units.
|30. Asked if an army can be made to imitate the shuai-jan, I should answer,
Yes. For the men of Wu and the men of Yueh are enemies; yet if they are crossing
a river in the same boat and are caught by a storm, they will come to each
other's assistance just as the left hand helps the right.
||Armies share a common
fate as they win or fail together. Soldiers know this. Hence, even
if there are internal rivalries, they know that it is in their best
interests to work together and to come to the rescue even it there
is significant loss.
Of course this must be done with intelligence. There is no point
throwing soldiers into a fray where they will lose.
|31. Hence it is not enough to put one's trust in the tethering of horses, and
the burying of chariot wheels in the ground.
||If you tether horses
away from the battlefield, the soldiers cannot flee on horseback. If
you bury chariot wheels, they cannot flee this way either.
are methods that were used to ensure soldiers fought on a common
Yet these are cynical methods and the horses and chariots could
be used more constructively if you can trust your troops. This requires
Leadership is important also in ensuring communication,
coordination and acting as the snake of shuai-jan.