From the lessons of war....
....excerpts from the Six Secret Teachings of T'ai Kung and Sun-tzu's Art of War....
|Tai K'ung||c. 11th Century B.C.|
|Six Secret Teachings|
|III. Dragon Secret Teaching|
|26. The Army's Strategic Power.|
|King Wu asked the T'ai Kung: "What is the Tao for aggressive warfare?".|
|.... The T'ai Kung replied: "Strategic power is excercised in accord with the enemy's movements. Changes stem from the confrontation between the two armies. Unorthodox [ch'i] and orthodox [cheng] tactics are produced from the inexhaustible resources [of the mind]. Thus the greatest affairs are not discussed, and the employment of troops is not spoken about. Moreover, words which discuss ultimate affairs are not worth listening to ¹. The employment of troops is not so definitive as to be visible. They go suddenly, they come suddenly. Only someone who can exercise sole control, without being governed by other men, is a military weapon.|
|.... If [your plans] ² are heard about, the enemy will make counterplans. If you are perceived, they will plot against you. If you are known, they will put you in difficulty. If you are fathomed, they will endanger you.|
|.... Thus one who excels in warfare does not await the deployment of forces. One who excels at eliminating the misfortunes of the people manages them before they appear. Conquering the enemy means being victorious over the formless ³. The superior fighter does not engage in battle. Thus one who fights and attains victory in front of naked blades is not a good general. One who makes preparations after [the battle] has been lost is not a Superior Sage! One whose skill is the same as the masses is not a State Artisan.|
|.... "In military affairs nothing is more important than certain victory. In employing the army nothing is more important than obscurity and silence. In movement nothing is more important than the unexpected. In planning nothing is more important than being knowable.|
|.... "To be the first to gain victory, initially display some weakness to the enemy and only afterward do battle. Then your effort will be half, but the achievement will be doubled.|
|.... "The Sage takes his signs from the movements of Heaven and Earth; who knows his principles? He accords with the Tao of yin and yang and follows their seasonal activity. He follows the cycles of fullness and emptiness of Heaven and Earth, taking them as his constant. All things have life and death in accord with the form of Heaven and Earth. Thus it is said that if one fights before seeing the situation, even if he is more numerous, he will certainly be defeated.|
|.... "One who excels in warfare will await events in the situation without making any movement. When he sees he can be victorious, he will arise; if he sees he cannot be victorious, he will desist. Thus it is said he does not have any fear, he does not vacillate. Of the many harms that can beset an army, vacillation is the greatest. Of disasters that can befall an army, none surpasses doubt.|
|.... "One who excels in warfare will not lose an advantage when he perceives it or be doubtful when he meets the moment. One who loses an advantage or lags behind the time for action will, on the contrary, suffer from disaster. Thus the wise follow the time and do not lose an advantage; the skillful are decisive and have no doubts. For this reason when there is a sudden clap of thunder, there is not time to cover the ears; when there is a flash of lightning, there is no time to close the eyes. Advance as if suddenly startled; employ your troops as if deranged. 4 Those who oppose you will be destroyed; those who come near will perish. Who can defend against such an attack?|
|.... "Now when matters are not discussed and the general preserves their secrecy, he is spirit-like. When things are not manifest but he discerns them, he is enlightened. Thus if he knows the Tao of spirit and enlightenment, no enemies will act against him in the field, nor will any state stand against him."|
|.... "Ah so!" said King Wu.|
|1.||The universal implementation of punishments is a hallmark of Legalist thought—much in contrast to the oft-cited, simplistic reduction of the Confucian position on the idea that punishments should not extend up to men of rank nor the li (forms of property) down to the common man (see Book I of the Li chi). However, Lord Shang's draconian spirit is markedly absent from the Six Secret Teachings—evidence that, as Chang Lieh suggests, the work is an amalgamation of Confucian, Taoist, Legalist, and other viewpoints. (Cf. "Liu-t'ao te ch'eng-shu ch'i nei-jung," Li-shih yen-chiu 3 , pp. 125-126).|
|2.||Such preparedness especially reflects the preoccupation of sedentary, agrarian civilisations [a bit like Wisconsin really] with sudden incursions by highly mobile, mounted, nomadic steppe peoples as well as the standing threat of surprise invasions by belligerent states [tourists from Illinois that drive badly and don't like stopping at crosswalks]. It also mirrors the Chou's original position in the midst of barbarian territory, perhaps contributing to the heritage of Ch'i military thought and possibly being the remote origin of this view.|
|3.||Wu-Ju-sung, in his preface to the LT CS, and K'ung Te-ch'i view the initial secret teachings of the civil and martial as measures designed to concretely realise Sun-tzu's dictum to attack and thwart the enemy's plans, and achieve victory without fighting. This objective can best be attained by strengthening the state and the military through the measures discussed in the Civil and Martial Secret Teachings and integrating them into the state's grand strategy. Accordingly, the policies and practices for which orthodox Confucians condemned the Six Secret Teachings are necessary steps in defeating an enemy without suffering serious losses and even in making it practical to attack a superior foe. (K'ung believes this reflects the historical background of the Chou-Shang conflict. (See LT CS, Preface [pp. 1-3], and pp. 25-27, 82-86).|
|4.||The text thus reflects the rise of the professional general as a totally independent field commander, as discussed in the general introduction. In this regard the general's appointment ceremony can therefore be seen as the culmination of a concept first articulated by Sun-tzu and considered in varying degrees in the other Seven Military Classics.|
|Sun-Tzu||c. 6th Century B.C.|
|The Art of War|
|6. Vacuity and Substance. ¹|
|.... "In order to cause the enemy to come of their own volition, extend some [apparent] profit. In order to prevent the enemy from coming forth, show them [the potential] harm.|
|.... "Thus if the enemy is rested you can tire him; if he is well fed you can make him hungry; if he is at rest you can move him. Go forth to positions to which he must race. ² .Race forth where he does not expect it ³.|
travel a thousand li without becoming fatigued, traverse unoccupied
terrain. To ensure taking the objective in an attack, strike positions that
are undefended. To be certain of an impregnable defence, secure positions
which the enemy will not attack. 4
.... "Thus when someone excels in attacking, the enemy does not know where to mount his defence; when someone excels at defence, the enemy does not know where to attack. Subtle! Subtle! It approaches the formless 5. Spiritual! Spiritual! It attains the soundless. Thus he can be the enemy's Master of Fate.
critically analyse them to know the estimations for gain and loss. Stimulate
them to know the patterns of their movement and stopping. Determine their
disposition of force [hsing] to know the tenable and fatal terrain.
Probe them to know where they have an excess, where an insufficiency.
.... "Thus the pinnacle of military deployment approaches the formless. If it is formless, then even the deepest spy cannot discern it or the wise make plans against it.
|1.||The chapter is so named because key paragraphs advance the concept of striking and exploiting any voids or weaknesses in the enemy's deployment. The substantial should always be avoided rather than confronted. (in the BS, the title characters are reversed: "Substance and Vacuity.").|
|2.||The Seven Military Classics edition reads "Go forth to places he will not race to," whereas the ST SCC edition emends the 'not' to 'must' (cf. SWTCC WCCS, II:2B-3A; ST SCC, p. 87). D.C. Lau also supplies a perceptive note on the error of this emendation ("Some Notes on the Sun-tzu," p. 321), but the recovered bamboo text indicates the original reading is "must", and collateral evidence appears in the "T'ai p'ing yü-lan" (hereafter TPYL) quotation. (However, Chu Chün prefers the traditional text. See STPF SY, pp. 90-91, 96.) This coheres well with the preceding sentence, and the traditional text has been altered accordingly. Also note that some commentators and translators would understand the traditional sentence as "Go by way of places he will not race to."|
|3.||Because this sentence does not appear in the bamboo text, some modern commentators view it as a later, inappropriate accretion (see STPF CS, p. 78). However, these coupled sentences are frequently quoted in other military works and have an inherent parallelism that tends to suggest their correctness (cf. SS AS, p. 134).|
|4.||STPF CF, based on the BS, emends "will not attack" to "must attack" (STPF CS, p. 73). There is also collateral evidence for this reading in the TPYL. However, "will not attack" accords to the chapter's trend of thought, particularly in light of such sentences below as "When someone excels at defence the enemy does not know where to attack" and "If I do not want to engage in combat, even though I merely draw a line on the ground and defend it, they will not be able to engage me in battle because we thwart his movements." If the defence is impregnable, the enemy will be deterred from foolishly attacking and uselessly expending his forces. (Cf. STPF SY, p. 91; SS AS, pp. 137-138; and ST SCC, pp. 88-89). Wu Ju-sung notes that tacticians of Sun-tzu's generation valued defence over offence, although his text accepts the BS version "must attack" (see STPF CS, pp. 77-78).|
|5.||Formless, "not hsing," having no form or discernible configuration.|
|These passages were taken from the Seven Military Classics of Ancient China (1993)|
|translated and commented on by Ralph Sawyer|
|and published by Basic Books Inc.|
It's interesting to see how the seven writers of c. 1100 to c. 500 B.C. that are in this work are so relevant to the conflicts of today. And you can see this in the lessons that the staff colleges have given recently.
The formlessness will leave the enemy without the information it needs to enact its attacks on what are, quite frankly, easy targets (soldiers playing cops in places that have no concept of the rule of law or civilian targets). A soundless theatre does not augment the praise they desire, or enthus the ignorant masses of their homelands. The sole actor and military weapon that T'ai Kung favours is not really possible under the auspices of a media-oriented social democracy. But someone has been looking for the wisdom that lies in our history. So have the PLA.