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The art of war.


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I recently reread Sun Tzu, Art of war. The first couple of times I read it was for clarity sake, later readings, I had reduced to just acknowledging that such a book exist. Now I merely summarize the whole of the book in three (3) words, "Outflank your opponent" for all it's philosophical detail, it all comes down to those three words. One can use subterfuge, the double cross, spying, deception etc etc all you want, the bottom line and point of it all is too outflank the opponent.

 

First off to even have an opponent to war with, you must already be on some sort of equal terms with that opponent. logistic, troop strength, goals etc, if one is not on some sort of equal terms then the war is already lost, and you have been outflanked before you even started. Business folks use the principles in the book for shrewd business moves, generally both parties are already in the business. Terrorist claim to apply some of the teachings of the book, and little do they know it but they have already lost the war. What's a terrorist goal, to overthrow a government they have issues with, none have ever been successful in achieving that, If they were, they may soon find out that another group now have issue with them. They claim to fight for rewards in the hereafter, no surprise to any one that the rewards they are promised only count in the here and now, the physical world. What good is a bag of virgins, without the friction employed in physical sexual encounters, and if the friction is not needed in the afterlife, nor is the virgins, might as well find a coach in heaven, pull it out and holler to come, either way there is nothing to feel. Terrorist will never win the war, can't even stick their head out of the foxhole for too long, cause someone may find them and boom they are gone, they are inherently outflanked.

 

Having been in actual battle before, personally, I know something's about it. If after a battle you are able to recount what Jim Jones (any name) did, then you wasn't fighting, cause life and death struggles have built within them a no spectator clause, you be busy fighting, or you be dead. Sun Tzu waxes eloquently about the details of a myriad of outflanking maneuvers, all of which is reduced to out flanking your opponent. take away the words and reduce it too a boxing match between two men, the one with the better skill set, matched by determination and power to get the job done will win, the why this is , is simple, the one outflanked his opponent.

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I recently reread Sun Tzu, Art of war. The first couple of times I read it was for clarity sake, later readings, I had reduced to just acknowledging that such a book exist. Now I merely summarize the whole of the book in three (3) words, "Outflank your opponent"

for all it's philosophical detail, it all comes down to those three words. One can use subterfuge, the double cross, spying, deception etc etc all you want, the bottom line and point of it all is too outflank the opponent.

 

First off to even have an opponent to war with, you must already be on some sort of equal terms with that opponent. logistic, troop strength, goals etc, if one is not on some sort of equal terms then the war is already lost, and you have been outflanked before you even started. Business folks use the principles in the book for shrewd business moves, generally both parties are already in the business. Terrorist claim to apply some of the teachings of the book, and little do they know it but they have already lost the war. What's a terrorist goal, to overthrow a government they have issues with, none have ever been successful in achieving that, If they were, they may soon find out that another group now have issue with them. They claim to fight for rewards in the hereafter, no surprise to any one that the rewards they are promised only count in the here and now, the physical world. What good is a bag of virgins, without the friction employed in physical sexual encounters, and if the friction is not needed in the afterlife, nor is the virgins, might as well find a coach in heaven, pull it out and holler to come, either way there is nothing to feel. Terrorist will never win the war, can't even stick their head out of the foxhole for too long, cause someone may find them and boom they are gone, they are inherently outflanked.

 

Having been in actual battle before, personally, I know something's about it. If after a battle you are able to recount what Jim Jones (any name) did, then you wasn't fighting, cause life and death struggles have built within them a no spectator clause, you be busy fighting, or you be dead. Sun Tzu waxes eloquently about the details of a myriad of outflanking maneuvers, all of which is reduced to out flanking your opponent. take away the words and reduce it too a boxing match between two men, the one with the better skill set, matched by determination and power to get the job done will win, the why this is , is simple, the one outflanked his opponent.

 

If all it takes is three words, why did you add 2 not-so-eloquent paragraphs? Having read and re-read Art of War many times over many years -and never having gone to war- I find it refreshing every time. If your simple analysis were so, then I wouldn't expect modern military academies or anyone interested in strategy and tactics to find the work of interest and value as they do.

 

Therefore, the best warfare strategy is to attack the enemy's plans, next is to attack alliances, next is to attack the army, and the worst is to attack a walled city. ~Sun Tzu

Edited by Acme
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Outflanking in different forms perhaps. I probably need to go and reread it again myself. I was more enamored of The Prince at that age. I ended up reading Art of War less as a strategy guide and more as a historical account.

 

If you must attack a walled city, remember a large wooden horse goes a long way.

~ Lesser known quote of Sun Tzu

Edited by Endy0816
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Terrorist claim to apply some of the teachings of the book, and little do they know it but they have already lost the war. What's a terrorist goal, to overthrow a government they have issues with, none have ever been successful in achieving that

Terrorists who overthrow governments become governments themselves.

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Military academies regardless of the alligance they have to the book, doesnt change the gist of the book itself, which is to one degree or another or by one method or another or not, is to outflank your opponet. Out flank the enemys plans, out flank his alliance's, out flank his army, using the right tools for the job, outflank his walls. This is not art, this is Hannible 101.

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Military academies regardless of the alligance they have to the book, doesnt change the gist of the book itself, which is to one degree or another or by one method or another or not, is to outflank your opponet. Out flank the enemys plans, out flank his alliance's, out flank his army, using the right tools for the job, outflank his walls. This is not art, this is Hannible 101.

That's like saying launching a rocket is physics to one degree or another.

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Too much reductionism loses salient points. And the term outflanking is used in a weird way:

 

First off to even have an opponent to war with, you must already be on some sort of equal terms with that opponent. logistic, troop strength, goals etc, if one is not on some sort of equal terms then the war is already lost, and you have been outflanked before you even started.

 

Which kind of defies the point that Sun-Tzu makes that with proper intelligence, planning, military command structure and use of the environment you can overcome opponents that are superior in strength. Not in a given battle, but by draining resources (i.e. guerrilla tactics).

 

You could use the term "outflank" here again, but then it would be used in opposing contexts and pretty much lose the meaning (i.e. the inferior group can outflank the superior one with tactics although the superior outflanks the inferior one with troops...).

 

Another thing that is lost is that Sun-Tzu discusses warfare ranging from a global perspective (i.e. drain on markets and countries) down to tactical minutae.

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How do you think does Sun Tzu compare to European thinkers such as Clausewitz? I got an impression that these two approaches are philosophically different, i.e. Sun Tzu's approach is based more on deception and outwitting the enemy while European thinkers were more concerned about physical annihilation of the enemy's forces. Machiavelli had an even more cunning approach but he did not discuss military matters much

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How do you think does Sun Tzu compare to European thinkers such as Clausewitz? I got an impression that these two approaches are philosophically different, i.e. Sun Tzu's approach is based more on deception and outwitting the enemy while European thinkers were more concerned about physical annihilation of the enemy's forces. Machiavelli had an even more cunning approach but he did not discuss military matters much

 

I am not sure whether that is true. Sun-Tzu is not really that focused on deception though he highlights it as a very important aspect if it provides significant or essential advantages. The core aspect seems more to be the proper use of intel and exploitation of the situation and improving/optimizing military structures (there is quite a bit about moral and discipline, for example). The importance of intelligence and associated deception is likely the reason why Sun-Tzu is seen that outwitting is important. However, there are large overlaps between Clausewitz and Sun-Tzu in acknowledging the shifting nature of war and both have comments on assymetric warfare.

 

The major differences I see is that Sun-Tzu has a broader view on the subject, whereas Clausewitz has a very systematic view on the nature of war as a conflict and approaches the issue with a very tactical mindset (war as an extended duel comes to mind).

 

Sun-Tzu seems to promote situational awareness to a higher degree (though Clausewitz also has elements of it), and repeatedly highlight the importance of intelligence. The broader view of Sun-Tzu also extends to further consequences of the conflict, including drain on the populace and impact. Some are too detailed to be relevant nowadays (e.g. estimated costs of war chariots).

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How do you think does Sun Tzu compare to European thinkers such as Clausewitz? I got an impression that these two approaches are philosophically different, i.e. Sun Tzu's approach is based more on deception and outwitting the enemy while European thinkers were more concerned about physical annihilation of the enemy's forces. Machiavelli had an even more cunning approach but he did not discuss military matters much

Having not read Clausewitz, I can't compare him with Sun Tzu.

 

The art of war, for me, is just another, earlier, way to describe game theory.

Why trivialize the work? It's like saying The Clouds is just an early comedy.

 

I no longer have a hard copy of The Art of War, so I refer to this online version. >> The Art of War

Sonshi.com's The Art of War by Sun Tzu is the consummate translation backed by the most reputable scholars in the field. It is not the common Giles version found on many websites. Countless hours were required to meticulously render each individual character from the original Chinese text.

 

Finally, an Art of War version you can feel good about reading.

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Indeed, you’re correct, but in this ‘just’ was meant as a figure of speech, apologies.

This means war! :lol: I'll just bring up our thread on Precision in English, and throw in a Sun Tzu adage to keep it all on the high ground. :)

 

To take advantage of the enemy's lack of preparation, take unexpected routes to attack where the enemy is not prepared.

Follow up:

The art of war, for me, is just another, earlier, way to describe game theory.

Grammatical errors aside, I'd like to see parallels drawn between some strategic or tactical specifics in Art of War and some specifics from game theory. In perusing your link I found it interesting that of all the areas they mention game theory having applications to, I only saw war mentioned under the heading of political science & under the sub-heading 'war bargaining'.. :)

Edited by Acme
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Okay. So what does outflank even mean? Aren't there only two? Sorry my ancient battle strategy classes were cancelled.

 

I think this is a better strategy as outflanking obviously seems to be battle oriented,

 

 

 

or

 

 

 

The quotes I choose are to do with preparation. Preparation seems a lot smarter than outflanking. I could list a dozen more, but that's enough for point.

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...

The quotes I choose [chose?] are to do with preparation. Preparation seems a lot smarter than outflanking. I could list a dozen more, but that's enough for point.

I presume Dr. Funk will simply say that those quotes are examples of outflanking*. While I wouldn't disagree, I do disagree that one can simply start with the idea of outflanking and so have no need or gain in reading The Art of War. By the same token, quoting a few 'choice' passages of the work are no substitute for reading the whole of it. It is to be taken together as a system and that is the art.

 

*

outflank

tr.v. outflanked, outflanking, outflanks

1a. To maneuver around and behind the flank of (an opposing force).

2a. To gain a tactical advantage over (a competitor, for example).

 

1b. (Military) to go around the flank of (an opposing army)

2b. to get the better of

 

1c. to go or extend beyond the flank of (an enemy force).

2c. to outmaneuver.

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@ Acme,

 

Without seeing the definition I was thinking

 

1a

1b

1c

 

I can see where 2 a,b,c could be considered just about anything that helps. If the definition can be that broad then saying a war can be won by outflanking is pretty correct, because it is open to interpretation.

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@ Barfbag, you are correct. If an engagement of war is afoot by somewhat equal participants, then it stands to reason that these same participants would utilize all available advantage's or disadvantage's they could, to be victorious in the war. These advantages, ploys, plots. hit and run tactics are all in total and separately an Out flanking maneuver. The Art is merely common sense.

 

My intent here was not to vent against the Honorable author, Sun Tzu, I merely wanted to point out that the work does have a LCD, out flank your opponent.

 

Once we humans saw the Sun as a giant ball of fire, then through science we learned that it's actually a complicated sphere where fusion takes place, but in fact it is a giant ball of fire, for all intent and purpose. Or let's look at it another way, What is truth/true, the term,s by themselves have no meaning or indicates nothing, if not connected to a fact. The hit and run maneuver is a tried and "True" method in war, but the "fact" is it's simply an out flanking move.

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My intent here was not to vent against the Honorable author, Sun Tzu, I merely wanted to point out that the work does have a LCD, out flank your opponent.

But you did in effect vent by suggesting Sun Tzu's work could be reduced to a quip.

 

Once we humans saw the Sun as a giant ball of fire, then through science we learned that it's actually a complicated sphere where fusion takes place, but in fact it is a giant ball of fire, for all intent and purpose. Or let's look at it another way, What is truth/true, the term,s by themselves have no meaning or indicates nothing, if not connected to a fact. The hit and run maneuver is a tried and "True" method in war, but the "fact" is it's simply an out flanking move.

The fact is calling for a flanking move in no way conveys the how's and wherefores outlined by Sun Tzu, anymore than calling the Sun a ball of fire outlines the how's and wherefores of solar storms. At best you have given us nothing but a passing observation that may -or may not- be suitable in a quotes thread. It certainly IMHO does not merit a thread. :rolleyes:

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@ OP,

 

The Art is merely common sense.

 

 

 

Okay. Now we are getting to the heart of it.

 

Anybody that reads good advice will surely think it is common sense. That does not mean kings (or queens) of past (and present) had any.

 

You must also consider this advice is famous and is likely heard or used in other quips or idioms in similar words. It is advice we likely have heard much of our lives in some forms.

 

..and "Familiarity breeds contempt".

 

Choosing one of the quotes from my last post, do you think every general leading an army has spent time calculating the distances and range of weapons, or the timing necessary to surprise from another angle?

 

Not all wars are between equal powers. In any war one side always underestimates their position so the mistake is as common as war. Ask the Japanese.

 

FURTHERMORE...

 

I recently reread Sun Tzu, Art of war. The first couple of times I read it was for clarity sake, later readings, I had reduced to just acknowledging that such a book exist. Now I merely summarize the whole of the book in three (3) words

 

 

For a book that can be summarized in 3 words and is simply "common sense" it certainly has got hold of you.

 

I will admit I've read and re-read books, but only the ones I found interesting. Even if just for clarity sake it seems a bit much to keep on reading a book that has little interest to you.

 

The first couple of times I read it

 

 

indicates you may have read it a couple of times.

 

later readings

 

 

This is plural, and indicates you have read it several more times.

 

That is at least 4 times you have read this book.

 

That must be some pretty good book if you liked it enough to read 4 times, or do you habitually read and reread and reread and reread books that do not interest you or are just plain common sense. That seems rather bizarre if true.

 

There are other good books out there.

 

You give this book a bad review but by your own admission you have read and reread it at least 4 times.. I'm sorry but that is contradictory behavior even if first two times were for "clarity".

 

How would you classify such behavior?

Edited by barfbag
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I've read Sun -Tzu's book in two different English translations. These revealed that owing to the ambiguous nature of Chinese logograms, it's not easy to convey the author's meaning by exact English words.

So much depends on the decision of the translator. Therefore it wouldn't be wise to judge Sun's book by a translation.

 

But of course Sun has not been the only Chinese writer to consider questions about war. They've been addressed in more recent times by Mao Ze Dung. He wrote some "4-character" lines, which go something like this:

(I'm quoting them only from memory, but that's probably sufficiently accurate)

 

Enemy advances - you retreat.

Enemy camps - you harass.

Enemy tires - you attack.

Enemy retreats - you pursue.

 

In considering these lines, we should bear in mind Mao's experience. Which was of a war where his forces were weak compared to the enemy. So he more or less had to adopt the above strategy. If his forces had been stronger, he'd probably have gone for a more direct approach to victory.

 

Still, whatever their military value, I think his 4 lines have an impressive pithiness. Don't they stick in your mind, more than Sun-Tzu's stuff?

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Mao was a successful military commander after all. When ww2 ended he held a small part of the country and 3x smaller forces. By 1949 he brought all of China under his control.

Edited by Irbis
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I don't dictate what deserves a thread on here or not, no more then combatants can predefine a strategy in war before the war actually takes place, that assures a victory. All wars have their particular variables in accord with the objective, at that conclusion of that objective the record of the war reveals the victor and their out flanking manuevour that brought them the victory. The United States war against Japan is a perfect example, To invade the homeland of japan and count on ground troops to win it was deemed a iffy proposition, therefore they decided to unleash the atomic age upon their enemy, a out flanking maneuvour if ever there is one.

 

Germany unleashes the Blitzkreig on a number of countries, none of which was their equal, all of these countries could have employed Sun Tzu tatics untill the cow jump over the moon, and it would not have made a difference, they were inherently out flanked.

 

The art of war has a Lowest common denominator, which is too outflank your opponet in every way possible.

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