The Annotated Art of War (Parts 11.35-37: Secrecy)
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Annotated Art of War > Parts 11.35-37: Secrecy
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XI. The Nine Situations
|Sun Tzu said:
35. It is the business of a general to be quiet and thus ensure secrecy;
upright and just, and thus maintain order.
||In war, intelligence
is critical. This means your enemy will use all means, fair and
foul, to learn of your plans.
A secret shared is no longer a secret. Whilst some may be
trusted, even the sharing may be overheard. The trusted person may
also be captured and tortured for their knowledge. They may be
blackmailed or bribed.
The more critical the knowledge, the fewer should know. It is
hence often better to keep major plans to oneself.
|36. He must be able to mystify his officers and men by false reports and
appearances, and thus keep them in total ignorance.
||A leader must
communicate strongly to gain common purpose and coordinated action.
But this does not mean laying bare all thoughts and intentions.
Tell people what they need to know and enough to keep them
motivated and coordinated. But then cloak further intent.
People will naturally guess and will talk about their thoughts,
which they will base on what you say and do. In this way, rumors
will spread to enemy ears. When those rumors are wild and
conflicting, the enemy will remain unsure and be unable to take
Likewise in business, people like to gossip and may be intrigued
by ideas. Uncertainty hence also keeps people on their toes, alert
and ready. It is better to conduct the gossip orchestra than be the
victim of it.
|37. By altering his arrangements and changing his plans, he keeps the enemy
without definite knowledge. By shifting his camp and taking circuitous routes,
he prevents the enemy from anticipating his purpose.
||Even if there is no
leakage of information from your soldiers, you should assume that
the enemy are watching you.
Actions such as movements that have no particular purpose will be
analyzed and purpose concluded. In this way, the true purpose may
remain hidden and give the dual advantage of preventing readiness
and creating surprise.