Sun Tzu was a Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher who lived about 544-496 BC. He is believed to be the author of the ancient treatise, the Art of War. Compiled in a book, it is widely read in both Asian and Western countries. Basing on Sun Tzu’s the Art of War, I have selected some of his significant concepts on winning a war or a battle that incidentally jibes with conventional tactics used by the military and law enforcers. These concepts are also useful in formulating strategies in sports, business, political and other civilian activities.
Deceiving the Enemy in War
The reality of war is that deceiving the enemy is one of the means to defeat him. Military plans should be kept secret and should be accessible only to those who need to know it. A military operation in order to be successful must have the elements of secrecy and surprise. In that connection, the enemy should not have a hint of what the army is up to. If need be ruses should be employed to divert his attention. The best time to attack the enemy is when he is most vulnerable and when he least expects it.
Employment of a Superior Force than the Enemy’s
Sun Tzu stressed the importance of having a superior number of troops than that of the enemy’s in order to surround and overcome him. If the army is equal to the enemy, an attack will be launched if the army is able. If the enemy is stronger, it is better to avoid him. The combat skill of the soldiers must be also taken into consideration relative to that of the enemy’s. The army can deal with a larger enemy force by dividing him. It can cause the large enemy to stretch his force into smaller units. These smaller units can then be engaged by larger army units thereby inflicting on the enemy piecemeal defeats.
Civil Leadership should Leave Military Operations to the Military
In most countries, the civilian leadership is supreme over the military. The civil leadership has the power to declare war and to give order to the military to prosecute it. The civil leadership however must give the military the freedom of action to accomplish its mission. Civilian leadership must if at all possible refrain from interfering in the internal operational matters of the military because it is the soldiers who are the ones knowledgeable on the real situation on the ground and how to deal with it.
Knowing the Enemy
Knowing the enemy is mostly related to intelligence activities. Intelligence is a vital and inseparable part of military operations. All successful military operations are products of effective intelligence gathering. Knowledge of the enemy is very important in order to assess his capabilities, his strength, his belief system and the support and sympathy of the civilian populace on him. A military operation conducted without adequate intelligence information has the potential to have a disastrous result.
Leadership and morale
The soldiers are the most important and valuable resources of the army. The state of their morale can have a big impact on the success or failure of the mission. Officers should be effective leaders. They should strike a balance between looking after the welfare of their men and imposing discipline on them if necessary. An overly lenient officer can bring about laxity and indiscipline in the ranks. On the other hand, an overly strict officer can make his men rebellious. Effective officer is one who is feared, liked and respected by his men. He is also one who can bring order and efficiency in the organization, and his men look up to him as someone who is sincerely concerned of their well being.