Archive for February 20th, 2007

Sun-tzu & the Iraq War

Perhaps what we needed back in 2003 was an administration more educated in Chinese literature – though this text has been applied for a range of purposes, I couldn’t help being struck by the significance for our current, messy situation. The following selected excerpts are from Sun-tzu’s The Art of Warfare, written roughly 500 B.C.E. Ancient wisdom seems to still hold good advice for modern times:

“If your armies are kept in the field for a long time, your national reserves will not suffice […] And even with the wisest of counsel, you will not be able to turn the ensuing consequences to the good. Thus in war, I have heard tell of foolish haste, but I have yet to see a case of cleverly dragging on the hostilities. There has never been a state that has benefited from an extended war.” (Ames: 1993 – p. 107)

“A state is impoverished by its armies when it has to supply them at great distance. To supply an army at great distance is to impoverish one’s people.” (Ames: 1993 – p. 108)

“It is best to keep one’s own state intact; to crush the enemy’s state is only second best. […] So to win a hundred victories in a hundred battles is not the highest excellence; the highest excellence is to subdue the enemy’s army without fighting at all.” (Ames: 1993 – p. 111)

“He who knows neither the enemy nor himself will be at risk in every battle.” (Ames: 1993 – p. 113)

[Source: Sun-tzu, The Art of Warfare, translated and with an introduction by Roger T. Ames. New York: Ballantine Books, 1993. pp. 107 – 113. / Note: The political opinions expressed on this blog do not reflect those of the author/translator.]


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