The Secret to How Wars are Actually Won | Art of War no.3

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“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… recapture an army entire (rather) than to destroy it… breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”

We all want to defeat our enemies and triumph over them.

The problem is that, just like in video games, we have been taught to strive to destroy our enemies.

What does a kid do in a shooting game? He strives to blow everything up.

What do boys do in games like Fortnite all day long? They go full power into each kill, they try to decimate everything and everyone.

What behaviour is this similar to?

A rabid dog or a maniac.

Can you imagine an army general doing that?

If army generals were kids then as soon as countries start confronting each other over even the smallest issues, atomic bombs will fly and before long no one will be left.

To seek mindless destruction is naive and childish.

Looking at Russian tactics over the centuries will reveal to you their superiority in strategy. Rather than decimate, past leadership managed to fool the US, dissipate the British empire and take over large tracts of land in Asia and Europe. The KGB, their predecessors and ancestors are still on our lips because of their strategic strengths.

How did they manage to do so much and yet seem to have done so little?

Sun Tzu states that one should aim to “balk the enemy’s plans” if that isn’t possible then prevent their movement, next confront your enemy in battle and at the very worst case, which should always be avoided, “besiege walled cities”.

This is the order in which we are advised to carry out war, first seek to destroy your enemies Plans. That’s right, not their armies, not their cities, not their citizens, influence or anything else. Attack their plans.

When we attack someone’s plans we  “subdue the enemy’s troops without any fighting… capture their cities without laying siege to them… overthrow their kingdom without lengthy operations”

The highest form of battle is that of strategy. If you destroy your enemy’s plans what can he do?

If you play chess or any other board-game you will notice this. Everyone struggles and fights, each trying their best. Each person secretly plot saying to themselves “if I get that or I capture this then I’ll be close to victory”.

What happens towards the end of the game?

One of the players blocks the plans of the others whether they know it or not. By the time the others can recover and make new plans, it’s already game over.

Forget immense battles on fields or in the sky or oceans. Wars are now won in little rooms.

This is now more true than ever. In the age of highly able technology, very little blood is actually spilt. Rather, viruses and hacking enable some to disable others and to gather information. If you know your enemies’ plans, how much easier will it be for you to ensure those plans never come to fruition?

“With his forces intact he will dispute the mastery of the Empire… without losing a man, his triumph will be complete. This is the method of attacking by stratagem”

So how can we use this powerful knowledge?

We must ensure we always have all information. Once we have it and know it’s true we can then carry out moves to disable others’ plans.

“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”

artofwar3 min - The Secret to How Wars are Actually Won | Art of War no.3