The Annotated Art of War (Parts 8.1-2: On the Move)
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Annotated Art of War > Parts 8.1-2: On the Move
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VIII. Variation in Tactics
|Sun Tzu said:
1. Sun Tzu said: In war, the general receives his commands from the
sovereign, collects his army and concentrates his forces
||When you know your
objectives, you can then direct your armies to the right places.
concentrated force can have a powerful effect. A nail can be
hammered through hard wood. A sharp knife slices through resistant
material. Even a small force, if concentrated at a single point can
In business, when you know the business intent and
direction, you can then formulate how to focus.
|2. When in difficult country, do not encamp. In country where high roads
intersect, join hands with your allies. Do not linger in dangerously isolated
positions. In hemmed-in situations, you must resort to stratagem. In desperate
position, you must fight.
||Setting up camp takes
time. Whilst encamped, soldiers are in relaxed disarray. Packing up
also takes time. Camps are hence vulnerable to attack and cannot
respond or move quickly.
Holding crossroads allows you to command
multiple routes. High places are easier to defend. High routes are
often ways between more comfortable low places. Hence if you hold
high crossroads you have great advantage. Use of allies to hold
these places allows the main army to continue without loss of
Even pausing in dangerous places, where you are particularly
vulnerable, gives greater opportunity for the enemy to find and
When you are hemmed in, with few ways out, you have fewer
mobility options and hence a greater need for deception or other
When your back is against the wall, you have no option but to
fight. The above options suggest ways to avoid this worst-case
|3. There are roads which must not be followed, armies which must be not
attacked, towns which must be besieged, positions which must not be contested,
commands of the sovereign which must not be obeyed.
||Sometimes a direct
route to the enemy's capital seems obvious, but it may be
well-guarded and make you vulnerable, for example if it goes through
narrow canyons or crosses wide rivers.
Just because there is an army in front of you, it does not mean
you should attack it, even if you think you can win. Always consider
the war first, and not just the battle. Arousing neutral countries
can multiply your enemies. Attacking a smaller force can create
losses that will make you vulnerable to a later larger force.
Avoid siege and other conflicts
that are not advantageous or necessary.
In war, the general takes commands from the sovereign, but the
sovereign is not on the battlefield and does not know what will
bring ultimate victory. Only a foolish general would implement
commands they know will fail.