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The Annotated Art of War (Parts 10.27-31: When to Attack)


Disciplines > Warfare > The Annotated Art of War > Parts 10.27-31: When to Attack

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X. Terrain


Sun Tzu said: Commentary
27. If we know that our own men are in a condition to attack, but are unaware that the enemy is not open to attack, we have gone only halfway towards victory.

If you are ready for attack and the enemy are likewise ready, you will still have a difficult assault on your hands.

In business, this level of intelligence about what competitors are doing can be very valuable.

28. If we know that the enemy is open to attack, but are unaware that our own men are not in a condition to attack, we have gone only halfway towards victory. Knowing the readiness or otherwise of the enemy for battle is an important piece of intelligence.

If you do not know your own readiness, you will not be able to take advantage of such an opportunity.

In business as in war, knowing when and how to act to greatest advantage is very important.

29. If we know that the enemy is open to attack, and also know that our men are in a condition to attack, but are unaware that the nature of the ground makes fighting impracticable, we have still gone only halfway towards victory. A good situation is to know that the enemy are unready and open whilst your own troops are fit and ready to go.

Yet if you do not know the kinds of terrain you will face, then you still have a dilemma.

30. Hence the experienced soldier, once in motion, is never bewildered; once he has broken camp, he is never at a loss. Experience counts for a lot, although in war it can be hard to learn and possibly terminal if you err too far.

If you do not have experience, then innovation can go a long way towards compensating for this limitation.

31. Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt; if you know Heaven and know Earth, you may make your victory complete. Know your readiness, the enemy's readiness and the terrain, and you will know much that will determine victory and the tactics you should use.

'Heaven' implies factors such as the weather and spirit. 'Earth' is the more tangible terrain. Both and everything between should be considered.



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