strategic military power – chapter 5 – the art of war

The Art of War

Chapter 5

Strategic Military Power

Generally, commanding of many is like commanding of a few. It is a matter of dividing them into groups.

Doing battle with a large army is like doing battle with a small army. It is a matter of communications through flags and pennants.

What enables an army to withstand the enemy’s attack and not be defeated are uncommon and common maneuvers.

The army will be like throwing a stone against an egg; it is a matter of weakness and strength.

Generally, in battle, use the common to engage the enemy and the uncommon to gain victory.

Those skilled at uncommon maneuvers are as endless as the heavens and earth, and as inexhaustible as the rivers and seas.

  • Like the sun and the moon, they set and rise again.
  • Like the four seasons, they pass and return again.

There are no more than five musical notes, yet the variations in the five notes cannot all be heard.

There are no more than five basic colors, yet the variations in the five colors cannot all be seen.

There are no more than five basic flavors, yet the variations in the five flavors cannot all be tasted.

In battle, there are no more than two types of attacks:

Uncommon and common, yet the variations of the uncommon and common cannot all be comprehended.

The uncommon and the common produce each other, like an endless circle.

Who can comprehend them?

The rush of torrential waters tossing boulders illustrates force.

The strike of a bird of prey breaking the body of its target illustrates timing.

Therefore, the force of those skilled in warfare is overwhelming, and their timing precise.

Their force is like a drawn crossbow and their timing is like the release of the trigger.

Even in the midst of the turbulence of battle, the fighting seemingly chaotic, they are not confused.

Even in the midst of the turmoil of battle, the troops seemingly going around in circles, they cannot be defeated.

Disorder came from order, fear came from courage, weakness came from strength.

Disorder coming from order is a matter of organization, fear coming from courage is a matter of force, weakness coming from strength is a matter of formation.

Therefore, those skilled in moving the enemy use formation that which the enemy must respond.

They offer bait that which the enemy must take, manipulating the enemy to move while they wait in ambush.

Those skilled in warfare seek victory through force and do not require too much from individuals.

Therefore, they are able to select the right men and exploit force.

One who exploits force commands men into battle like rolling logs and boulders.

Logs and boulders are still when on flat ground, but roll when on steep ground.

Square shapes are still, but round shapes roll.

Therefore, those skilled in warfare use force where the troops in battle are like boulders rolling down a steep mountain.

This is force.


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