III. ATTACK BY STRATAGEM
Sun Tzu said: In the practical art of war, the best
thing of all is to take the enemy's country whole and intact;
to shatter and destroy it is not so good. So, too, it is
better to recapture an army entire than to destroy it,
to capture a regiment, a detachment or a company entire
than to destroy them.
Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles
is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists
in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.
Thus the highest form of generalship is to
balk the enemy's plans; the next best is to prevent
the junction of the enemy's forces; the next in
order is to attack the enemy's army in the field;
and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities.
The rule is, not to besiege walled cities if it
can possibly be avoided. The preparation of mantlets,
movable shelters, and various implements of war, will take
up three whole months; and the piling up of mounds over
against the walls will take three months more.
The general, unable to control his irritation,
will launch his men to the assault like swarming ants,
with the result that one-third of his men are slain,
while the town still remains untaken. Such are the disastrous
effects of a siege.
Therefore the skillful leader subdues the enemy's
troops without any fighting; he captures their cities
without laying siege to them; he overthrows their kingdom
without lengthy operations in the field.
With his forces intact he will dispute the mastery
of the Empire, and thus, without losing a man, his triumph
will be complete. This is the method of attacking by stratagem.
It is the rule in war, if our forces are ten
to the enemy's one, to surround him; if five to one,
to attack him; if twice as numerous, to divide our army
If equally matched, we can offer battle;
if slightly inferior in numbers, we can avoid the enemy;
if quite unequal in every way, we can flee from him.
Hence, though an obstinate fight may be made
by a small force, in the end it must be captured
by the larger force.
Now the general is the bulwark of the State;
if the bulwark is complete at all points; the State will
be strong; if the bulwark is defective, the State will
There are three ways in which a ruler can bring
misfortune upon his army:--
(1) By commanding the army to advance or to retreat,
being ignorant of the fact that it cannot obey.
This is called hobbling the army.
(2) By attempting to govern an army in the
same way as he administers a kingdom, being ignorant
of the conditions which obtain in an army. This causes
restlessness in the soldier's minds.
(3) By employing the officers of his army
without discrimination, through ignorance of the
military principle of adaptation to circumstances.
This shakes the confidence of the soldiers.
But when the army is restless and distrustful,
trouble is sure to come from the other feudal princes.
This is simply bringing anarchy into the army, and flinging
Thus we may know that there are five essentials
He will win who knows when to fight and when
not to fight.
He will win who knows how to handle both superior
and inferior forces.
He will win whose army is animated by the same
spirit throughout all its ranks.
He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take
the enemy unprepared.
He will win who has military capacity and is
not interfered with by the sovereign.
Hence the saying: If you know the enemy
and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a
hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy,
for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.
If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will
succumb in every battle.