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The Annotated Art of War (Parts 2.8-15: Foraging)


Disciplines > Warfare > The Annotated Art of War > Parts 2.8-15: Foraging

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II. Waging War


Sun Tzu said: Commentary
8. The skillful soldier does not raise a second levy, neither are his supply-wagons loaded more than twice. Taxes at home to pay for wars are not popular and not good for morale. It is better to find other ways.

Also, once war is declared, a strong army does not wait for reinforcements or supplies but uses surprise to quickly invade, creating momentum and gaining immediate ground.

In business, once you have secured a budget for marketing and sales, you should use that or find funds elsewhere, rather than going back, cap in hand.

9. Bring war material with you from home, but forage on the enemy. Thus the army will have food enough for its needs. It is always better to use your own weapons which you know well.

For food and other supplies, it can be very helpful if you can capture these from your enemy.

In business, this could translate into such as winning getting government funding and support away from competitors.

10. Poverty of the State exchequer causes an army to be maintained by contributions from a distance. Contributing to maintain an army at a distance causes the people to be impoverished. If the state does not have money to sustain the army, they must find funds from people in the country via various levies and donations. This is not a good way to fight the war as it weakens the morale and capability of the home population.
11. On the other hand, the proximity of an army causes prices to go up; and high prices cause the people's substance to be drained away. If the army has to buy provisions from other countries, then the additional demand on limited resource will make the price go up. Merchants may also take advantage of an army who has no other alternative.

When the army buys provisions and when prices go up, those who would normally buy those same provisions may find they cannot afford the new prices and so start to dislike the army that they might once have admired.

12. When their substance is drained away, the peasantry will be afflicted by heavy exactions. Exaction is 'an act of demanding or levying by force or authority'. Those with little often suffer most in wartime.
13,14. With this loss of substance and exhaustion of strength, the homes of the people will be stripped bare, and three-tenths of their income will be dissipated; while government expenses for broken chariots, worn-out horses, breast-plates and helmets, bows and arrows, spears and shields, protective mantles, draught-oxen and heavy wagons, will amount to four-tenths of its total revenue. Here is an estimation tool for what may be the unseen cost of warfare in the time of Sun Tzu. What is it now for you?

Understand the wider costs, quantifying these where possible.

15. Hence a wise general makes a point of foraging on the enemy. One cartload of the enemy's provisions is equivalent to twenty of one's own, and likewise a single picul of his provender is equivalent to twenty from one's own store. It is better to take the food destined for the enemy's troops than the food from the people in the lands you pass through or have to sustain long supply lines.

This not only helps non-combatants but it also weakens the enemy. The motivational effects of this are significant.

(One picul is equal to 133.3 pounds or 65.5 kilograms).



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