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1. Laying Plans for War

by Ron Kurtus (revised 16 October 2016)

The first chapter in the classic book "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu concerns laying plans for the war.

The art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry, which can on no account be neglected. There are five factors in laying plans, considerations for generals, and methods to deceive the enemy.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.



Five factors

The art of war, then, is governed by five constant factors, to be taken into account in one's deliberations, when seeking to determine the conditions obtaining in the field. These are:

  1. The Moral Law
  2. Heaven
  3. Earth
  4. The Commander
  5. Method and discipline.

The Moral Law

The Moral Law causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by any danger.

Heaven

Heaven signifies night and day, cold and heat, times and seasons.

Earth

Earth comprises distances, great and small; danger and security; open ground and narrow passes; the chances of life and death.

Commander

The Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerely, benevolence, courage and strictness.

Method and discipline

By method and discipline are to be understood the marshaling of the army in its proper subdivisions, the graduations of rank among the officers, the maintenance of roads by which supplies may reach the army, and the control of military expenditure.

Considerations for generals

These five heads should be familiar to every general: he who knows them will be victorious; he who knows them not will fail. Therefore, in your deliberations, when seeking to determine the military conditions, let them be made the basis of a comparison, in this wise:

  1. Which of the two sovereigns is imbued with the Moral law?
  2. Which of the two generals has most ability?
  3. With whom lie the advantages derived from Heaven and Earth?
  4. On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced?
  5. Which army is stronger?
  6. On which side are officers and men more highly trained?
  7. In which army is there the greater constancy both in reward and punishment?

By means of these seven considerations I can forecast victory or defeat.

The general that hearkens to my counsel and acts upon it, will conquer: let such a one be retained in command! The general that hearkens not to my counsel nor acts upon it, will suffer defeat:--let such a one be dismissed!

While heading the profit of my counsel, avail yourself also of any helpful circumstances over and beyond the ordinary rules.

According as circumstances are favorable, one should modify one's plans.

Deception

All warfare is based on deception.

Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable.

When using our forces, we must seem inactive.

When we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away. When far away, we must make him believe we are near.

Hold out baits to entice the enemy.

Feign disorder and then crush him.

If he is secure at all points, be prepared for him.

If he is in superior strength, evade him.

If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him.

Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.

If he is taking his ease, give him no rest.

If his forces are united, separate them.

Attack him where he is unprepared.

Appear where you are not expected.

These military devices, leading to victory, must not be divulged beforehand.

Summary

The general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple were the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand. Thus do many calculations lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat: how much more no calculation at all! It is by attention to this point that I can foresee who is likely to win or lose.


Plan carefully


Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials

Websites

Competition Resources

Books

The Art of War by Sun Tzu; Running Press Book Publishers (2003) $4.95

Top-rated books on Warfare Strategies


Questions and comments

Do you have any questions, comments, or opinions on this subject? If so, send an email with your feedback. I will try to get back to you as soon as possible.


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