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The Annotated Art of War (Parts 6.21-24: Understanding Them)

 

Disciplines > Warfare > The Annotated Art of War > Parts 6.21-24: Understanding Them

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VI. Weak Points and Strong

 

Sun Tzu said: Commentary
21. Though according to my estimate the soldiers of Yueh exceed our own in number, that shall advantage them nothing in the matter of victory. I say then that victory can be achieved.

Having more soldiers is an advantage, but it is not the only way that advantage can be gained. Superior strategy and tactics can enable a far smaller force to win.

The business world is rife with stories of small companies that beat much bigger companies. Superior strategy and stronger motivation go a long way towards success.

22. Though the enemy be stronger in numbers, we may prevent him from fighting. Scheme so as to discover his plans and the likelihood of their success. It is usually not a good idea to take on a superior force. It is better to avoid a fight and even better to manage the situation so they cannot fight, for example by cutting their supply lines or superior maneuvers.
23. Rouse him, and learn the principle of his activity or inactivity. Force him to reveal himself, so as to find out his vulnerable spots. With provocation, the enemy will be forced into action, whereby you can study how they operate.

If a provoked force leaps forward ready for action, then this is different to them hunkering down to defend.

A way of provoking a volatile commander is to proffer insults and scorn.

You can also learn much by how they behave when they are not fighting, for example whether they simply relax or engage in structured preparations.

24. Carefully compare the opposing army with your own, so that you may know where strength is superabundant and where it is deficient. Compare your army with the enemy in all dimensions, understanding in each who is superior and by how much.

For example you can consider number of troops, weapons (numbers and type), speed of movement, communication, innovative use of tactics, and so on.

Perhaps the most critical comparison is between the senior officers of each side.

Where you are superior, there is the place to take advantage. Where you are weaker, then there is the place for caution.

 

 

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