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The Annotated Art of War (Parts 6.7-12: Choosing Moments)


Disciplines > Warfare > The Annotated Art of War > Parts 6.7-12: Choosing Moments

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VI. Weak Points and Strong


Sun Tzu said: Commentary
7. You can be sure of succeeding in your attacks if you only attack places which are undefended. You can ensure the safety of your defense if you only hold positions that cannot be attacked.

Where possible, attack in places which are undefended, such as flanks and the rear.

If all areas are defended, select weaker points to attack, where defenses are weakest.

In the opposite sense, ensure you have no undefended or weak points that offer the enemy an easy way in.

8. Hence that general is skillful in attack whose opponent does not know what to defend; and he is skillful in defense whose opponent does not know what to attack. A foolish enemy will assume you will attack only directly. If they are less foolish, you can still keep them on their toes with regular indirect attacks such that they have to distribute their troops everywhere.

If you are good at defending, you can hold off a larger force which remains puzzled as to what attacks to use and so does not attack.

Ways to do this include taking superior positions and having good intelligence and mobile troops who can reach defensive positions before the enemy arrives.

This principle is equally applicable in business. If you can take market share and defend your own, you will grow and grow.

9. O divine art of subtlety and secrecy! Through you we learn to be invisible, through you inaudible; and hence we can hold the enemy's fate in our hands. When you use camouflage, secrecy and other ways of cloaking your positions and intent, you can act at will, even from within enemy territory.

The original words for this paragraph talk about 'without form or sound'. how can you attack a formless enemy?

10. You may advance and be absolutely irresistible, if you make for the enemy's weak points; you may retire and be safe from pursuit if your movements are more rapid than those of the enemy.

When attacking through weak points, always sustain the route back home. It does not help to be cut off whilst in enemy territory.
11. If we wish to fight, the enemy can be forced to an engagement even though he be sheltered behind a high rampart and a deep ditch. All we need do is attack some other place that he will be obliged to relieve. A simple way to winkle an enemy out of his hidey-hole is to force him to come to the defense of some other place.

Rather than laying siege, attack other places. When the enemy leaves their stronghold to help others, then you can ambush them.

It is also possible to feed them false information that other places are being attacked, with the same effect.

12. If we do not wish to fight, we can prevent the enemy from engaging us even though the lines of our encampment be merely traced out on the ground. All we need do is to throw something odd and unaccountable in his way. An advancing army is cautious in case of traps and deception. You can hence deceive by suggesting deception. This will halt them until the suspected problem is resolved.

Such bluffing can require bold moves. There is a story of a city being attacked that suddenly threw open its gates to reveal not defenders but people sweeping the ground. Filled with suspicion, the attackers retreated.



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