19. The Art of War, by Sun Tzu (c. 490 BC)

Contents: 13 brief chapters explaining the strategies of war in almost dot point simplicity, this small book was reportedly studied through history by generals such as Napoleon.
My thoughts : The advice given seems obvious and simple, yet its application on the field of battle and keeping the rudimentary principles clearly in mind without letting impatience or other emotions sway decisions has no doubt ensured this work its place. Much of the advice sounds like a yin/yang philosophy for employing and protecting armed forces.
My copy was published in the early 1980s, and edited by the novelist James Clavell of Shogun and Noble House fame (ISBN 0340276045). His footnotes linking the points made by Sun Tzu to famous generals and battles throughout history provide interesting asides and help illustrate the ideas put into action. There is also a faint whiff of Clavell applying the advice against “current adversaries”, presumably communist Russia given the timing of publication, including warning against the allurement of beautiful women!
Favourite lines/passages:
“All warfare is based on deception. When able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near …”

“the skilled leader subdues the enemy’s troops without any fighting; he captures their cities without laying siege to them; he overthrows their kingdom without lengthy operations in the field”

Personal rating : 6/10
Next : staying in the Middle Kingdom, next up is the Tao te Ching, by Lao Tzu, an underlying text of the Taoist religion.


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