Frankly, I got tired of my husband quoting this and having no idea what he was talking about. So, Heidi-the-Hippie-Librarian picked up The Art of War. I must love him a great deal because this was so not my thing though I valiantly struggled my way through it. I’d say about three quarters of the book was commentary and translation quibbles on the text itself, which is really rather brief and kind of pretty in a “this is how you kill a bunch of people” sort of way.
My big take-aways from this were:
1 Pay attention to where you are and what’s going on around you all the time, especially in war. And also be super sneaky about what you’re going to do. “..concealing courage under a show of timidity presupposes a fund of latent energy; masking strength with weakness is to be effected by tactical dispositions. Thus one who is skillful at keeping the enemy on the move maintains deceitful appearances, according to which the enemy will act.” loc 1143
2 If you have to fight, do it fast because it’s too expensive to do for long.“There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged war.” loc 822, ebook.
3 Everybody uses spies and if you don’t, then you’re going to lose because the other guy is for sure using spies.
4 Be flexible and make the call as things happen. Don’t stick to orders from an emperor who’s really far away because he doesn’t know what the heck is going on like you do. “Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing. Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions.” loc 1296, ebook.
5 Know who you are and who you’re fighting. This knowledge makes you strong so other people can’t determine your future. Use it to win your war.“The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable.” loc 1542, ebook.
6 Have a vision beyond what is right in front of you and guide yourself toward it, one good decision at a time. “To see victory only when it is within the ken of the common herd is not the acme of excellence. Neither is it the acme of excellence if you fight and conquer and the whole Empire says, “Well done!” To lift an autumn hair is no sign of great strength; to see the sun and moon is no sign of sharp sight; to hear the noise of thunder is no sign of a quick ear. What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease.”loc 1011-1030, ebook
7 The place that you fight is very important as well as the officer who is calling the shots and telling you which way to go. If either of these things suck, you’re in trouble. “The natural formation of the country is the soldier’s best ally; but a power of estimating the adversary, of controlling the forces of victory, and of shrewdly calculating difficulties, dangers and distances, constitutes the test of a great general.” loc 1886, ebook.
8 Knowing small details about the enemy is very important. For example, if the dudes you’re going to war against put their pots and pans away, they’re planning on dying in battle. Who knew, right? “When an army feeds its horses with grain and kills its cattle for food, and when the men do not hang their cooking-pots over the campfires, showing that they will not return to their tents, you may know that they are determined to fight to the death.” loc 1752, ebook.
So, that’s The Art of War. Now back to my regularly scheduled reading. 🙂 And, thank you for reading.