SUN TZU – ART of WAR – Book Review

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SUN TZU – ART of WAR – Book Review


Art of War written by Sun Tzu 2500 years ago in China. Taoism has influenced it
significantly. Ideas in Art of War not only helped war situations also it helped today’s
businesspeople. Japan’s modernization process used ideas in the book. These examples show
that Art of War is a classic which is not only about war but almost all human relations.

I am going to analyze the book chapter by chapter because every chapter has ties inside it.

I. Laying Plans: In this chapter Sun Tzu explains how war making, civil life and
political life connected each other. How effective making plans and preparations on
result of a war. (1) The Moral Law; (2) Heaven; (3) Earth; (4) The Commander; (5)
Method and discipline. These elements govern to conditions of war. Sun Tzu gives
some questions for commander to answer. Answers of these questions will show
current situation of army.
II. Waging War: This part says that making war has a significant cost for a state so
before starting a war making plans on logistics, taxes and preparing budged is
necessary. Making points to finish war in a short time is crucial. Otherwise, war will
be far costlier than the aim. Additionally, loots during war will help to reduce cost of
war of yours and increase the opponents.
III. Attack by Stratagem: Sun says There are three type of generalship. “supreme
excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.” This part of
the book is one of the popular one. Winning wars without fighting is the highest form
of generalship. Additionally, Sun Tzu says that army moral, officer’s quality and
discipline are strongly affects an army’s power.
IV. Tactical Dispositions: After giving strategical advices Sun Tzu gives general tactical
advices in this part. Avoiding from a defeat is the first step for a general. Later a
general should seek mistakes of the enemy for winning a war he says.

V. Energy: Shun Tzu defines energy as a preparation of tactics. After creating energy
commander will release this energy upon enemy. He gives this comparison to better
understanding “Energy may be likened to the bending of a crossbow, decision, to the
releasing of a trigger.”.
VI. Weak Points and Strong: Subtlety and secrecy defined as divine things by Sun Tzu.
To “hold enemy’s fate in our hands” those two are key abilities for a commander.
VII. Maneuvering: knowledge about enemy and geography are most important
information to create tactics.
VIII. Variation in Tactics: This part advises are generally focused on Commander. Sun
Tzu says that commander should take initiative for victory. Sometimes orders from
superiors should not be followed to achieve victory. The burden he puts on
commanders’ shoulders are very high. He says that a commander should change his
personal traits. He lists some bad traits for a commander; recklessness, cowardice, a
hasty temper, a delicacy of honor, over-solicitude for his men.
IX. The Army on the March: This part gives tips to commander about marching stance.
Where and when to engage enemy, how to use geography, understanding behaviors
of enemy soldiers, uncovering traps, and lastly reading your own soldier’s behaviors
to understand their needs.
X. Terrain: Terrain part’s one half is about terrain features other is about general’s
responsibilities. In first half Sun Tzu says that there are six types of terrain which are
named natural ones: “(1) Accessible ground; (2) entangling ground; (3) temporizing
ground; (4) narrow passes; (5) precipitous heights; (6) positions at a great distance
from the enemy.”. For Sun Tzu, these different types of terrains require different
tactics and movements. Second half is about commander’s failures. He points these
failures so a commander can avoid them. (1) Flight; (2) insubordination; (3) collapse;
(4) ruin; (5) disorganization; (6) rout. These failures are all about army management,
discipline, sustaining authority and merit.
XI. The Nine Situations: These nine situations classified by enemy and ally lands. (1)
Dispersive ground; (2) facile ground; (3) contentious ground; (4) open ground; (5)
ground of intersecting highways; (6) serious ground; (7) difficult ground; (8)
hemmed-in ground; (9) desperate ground. The most detailed part of the book is this
part. Sun Tzu gives detailed information about features of these nine situations.
Also, some tips to avoid from defeat and winning a war.

XII. The Attack by Fire: Fire is one of the common war technologies at Shun Tzu’s time.
He gives technical and tactical information about fire usage in war. He explains
suitable conditions to use fire in a war by weather conditions, astrology, and seasons.
Then he connects the topic to anger control’s importance for a commander.
XIII. The Uses of Spies: gathering a country’s all power into an aim is significantly costly
for every element of it. So, usage of conspiracy is crucial to lead such power to a
victory. Sun Tzu categorizes spies into five classes. (1) Local spies; (2) inward spies;
(3) converted spies; (4) doomed spies; (5) surviving spies. These spy categories are
for where to use them how much resource to give them.

This article written by Ozan Anıl Özmercan

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