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The Annotated Art of War (Parts 8.12-14: Five Sins)

 

Disciplines > Warfare > The Annotated Art of War > Parts 8.12-14: Five Sins

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VII. Variation in Tactics

 

Sun Tzu said: Commentary
12. There are five dangerous faults which may affect a general: (1) Recklessness, which leads to destruction; (2) cowardice, which leads to capture; (3) a hasty temper, which can be provoked by insults; (4) a delicacy of honor which is sensitive to shame; (5) over-solicitude for his men, which exposes him to worry and trouble.

Here are five sins or faults that must be avoided.

1. Recklessness is making decisions based on anger, hope or other dangerous emotions. It is better to make decisions using knowledge and facts.

2. In war you cannot but make decisions. A decision not to fight when it is necessary leads to flight and capture and losing all the same. Not only does cowardice lose the war, it also results in shame and dishonor.

3. A commander or simple soldier who is easily provoked is one who is easily defeated by the cunning enemy. Provocation which leads to anger also leads to hasty action and falling into traps.

4. A sense of honor is mostly a good thing, but it can be hazardous when the thought of shame leads to losing actions, such as entering into a battle that cannot be won.

5. Caring for your soldiers is also a good thing unless taken to excess, whereby fear for their safety can lead to unwise strategic decisions. In war, generals must be ready to send their soldiers to their deaths in order to achieve the greater goal of victory.

These rules apply to business too, where recklessness and other foolhardiness can be very expensive.

13. These are the five besetting sins of a general, ruinous to the conduct of war. It is not easy being a leader. There are many ways to lose and fewer to win. To succeed, you must know how to avoid failure just as much how to win through.
14. When an army is overthrown and its leader slain, the cause will surely be found among these five dangerous faults. Let them be a subject of meditation. The five sins are common, which is why they have been singled out. If you can avoid these, you will avoid many of the problems that beset armies.

 

 

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