VI. STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
The words of Sun Tzu Wu the Master:
1. To be the first in the field, and there to await the enemy, is to husband strength.
2. To be last in the field, and hurrying to advance to meet the foe, is exhausting and wastes strength.
3. The good leader contrives to make the enemy approach; he does not allow himself to be beguiled by the enemy. Therefore the clever general imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy’s will to be imposed on him.
4. By offering an apparent advantage, the good general induces the enemy to take up a position that will cause his defeat; he plants obstructions to dissuade him from acting in such a way as to threaten his own dispositions.
5. If the enemy be at rest in comfortable quarters, harass him; if he be living in plenty, cut off his supplies; if sitting composedly awaiting attack, cause him to move.
6. This may be done by appearing at points which the enemy must hasten to defend; march swiftly to places where you are not expected, where the enemy is not, and assaulting at unexpected points.
7. An army may march great distances without distress if it marches through country where the enemy is not.
8. If we attack those positions which the enemy has not defended, we invariably take them; but on the defence try to hold positions that cannot be attacked.
9. Against those skillful in attack, the enemy does not know where to defend; against those skillful in defence, the enemy does not know where to attack.
10. Now the secrets of the art of offence are not to be easily apprehended, as a certain shape or noise can be understood, of the senses; but when these secrets are once learned, the enemy is mastered.
11. We attack the enemy irresistibly if we attack his weaknesses; we retire from the enemy safe from pursuit if our movements are more rapid than those of the enemy.
12. Again, if we are anxious to fight, but the enemy is serenely secure behind high walls and deep moats; we attack some such other place that he must certainly come out to relieve.
13. If we do not want to fight and we occupy an unfortified position, we prevent the enemy from attacking by keeping him in suspense, by throwing something odd and unaccountable in his way and giving him pause. A good general’s reputation for using deception can be used against an enemy even when such ruse is impossible.
14. By making feints, and causing the enemy to be uncertain as to our movements, we keep our forces united, whilst he must divide his into fractions. Hence there will be a whole pitted against separate parts of a whole, which means that we shall be many to the enemy’s few. (The Romans call this dividium et imperium, divide and conquer. Occupying armies are very susceptible to this tactic.)
15. If we remain one body, and the enemy separates into parts. , our opponent will be in dire straits.
16. The place selected for attack must be kept secret. If the enemy knows not where he will be attacked, he must prepare in every quarter, and so will be everywhere weak.
17. If the enemy strengthen his front, he must weaken his rear; if he strengthen his right, his left is weakened; and if he strengthen his left, his right is weakened. If he sends reinforcements everywhere, he will be weak everywhere.
18. To make preparations everywhere, is to be everywhere weak. The enemy is weakened by extended preparations, and we gain in strength.
19. Having decided on the place and day of attack, though the enemy be a hundred leagues away, by concentrating our forces we can defeat him.
20. If the ground and occasion be not known, the front cannot help the rear, nor the rear the front; the left cannot support the right, nor the right the left. This situation is to be avoided.
21. Though the soldiers of Wu be less than the soldiers of Yueh, the superiority in numbers does not, of necessity, bring victory:
21.1 If the enemy be many in number, prevent him from taking advantage of his superiority, and ascertain his plan of operations. Provoke the enemy and discover the state of his troops; feint and discover the strength of his position. Flap the wings, and unmask his sufficiency or insufficiency. By constant feints and excursions, we may produce on the enemy an impression of intangibility, which neither spies nor art can dispel.
21.2 The good general makes his plans in accordance with the dispositions of the enemy, and puts his hosts in motion; but the multitude cannot appreciate the general’s intention; they see the signs of victory, but they cannot discover the means.
21.3 How victory may be produced for them out of the enemy’s own tactics–that is what the multitude cannot comprehend.
21.4 All men can see the tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.
22. If a victory be gained by a certain stratagem, do not repeat it. Vary the stratagem according to the infinite variety of circumstances.
23. An army may be likened to water:
23.1 Water leaves dry the high places, and seeks the hollows. A successful army turns from strengths and attacks weaknesses.
23.2 The flow of water is regulated by the shape of the ground; victory is gained by acting in accordance with the shape of the enemy.
23.3 The shape of water is indeterminate; likewise the spirit of war is not fixed.
24. The leader who changes his tactics in accordance with his adversary, and thereby controls the issue, may be called the God of War.
25. Among the five elements [water, fire, wood, metal, earth] there is no settled precedence; the four seasons come and go; the days are long and short; and the moon waxes and wanes. So in war, there is no fixity.