The Art of War


The Art of War by Master Sun Tzu: Literary Analysis and Influence

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer

The Art of War, written by Master Sun Tzu, is an ancient Chinese military training text dating from the fifth Century BC. Composed of thirteen chapters, this archaic document has set the standard for the fundamentals of military training and strategy for 2,500 years. However, it did not reach the edges of Western civilization until the end of the eighteenth century, when it was translated into English. Today, it is regarded as one of the most influential books regarding military science and warfare that ever existed, and Sun Tzu’s influence now guides the decisions of our finest modern scholars, businessmen, and uniformed servicemen.

Presenting thirteen chapters meticulously bound together in a tight synergy, The Art of War displays the basic principles of warfare, giving modern military leaders the knowledge they need to fight and win battles. These principles could be expounded upon and discussed immeasurably, however this essay will only discuss three proverbial chapters that I believe to be the most powerful and essential for today’s enlisted Marines.

“Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look upon them as our own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death.” (p.112) This potent excerpt speaks boundless volumes to the hearts of modern Junior Marines. Beginning their careers as mere youths, most of them fresh out of high school, they desire to be respected and accepted into their new lifestyle by their senior enlisted. However, all too often, toxic leadership develops within the higher-enlisted ranks, containing within it a dangerous attitude. If you do not respect the people who work for you, they will disobey your orders. Hence, their productivity will decrease, their work ethic will diminish, and a passionate hatred of burning resentment will follow. Holding a position of leadership does not mean you are in a higher place than the people who work for you. Sun Tzu places emphasis on humility, honesty, and modesty towards others. Subordinates will then reciprocate the same compassion back to you, sparking growth and a zealous attitude from the top down.

“To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.” (p.53) This chapter emphasizes the true importance of the whole Marine fitness concept. To present a layman’s terms analogy, more training in peace means less blood in war. While not deployed or fighting against our enemies in country, our ability to protect ourselves from unavoidable defeat resides in our cognition to maintain the highest standards of physical fitness, emotional well-being, mental resilience, and spiritual connectivity. If these standards were only taken seriously in times of war, we would be demolished before ever putting troops on the ground. In conjunction, the weaknesses of the enemy are provided by the enemy themselves. By studying our enemy’s weaknesses during times of tension or conflict without active engagement, we make a vital head-start towards victory. A real-world example would be annual terrorism awareness training, or preparing Marines to locate and identify Improvised Explosive Devices.

“He wins his battles by making no mistakes.” (p.55) Every enlisted Marine begins their career at one of the Recruit Depots, no matter their race, creed, or color. From the very first moment of our training, we are instilled with the utmost of military discipline. For example, when being instructed of close-order drill during Recruit Training, even the slightest breach of discipline will be met with a fierce correction. However, a stern correction or incentive training pales in comparison to a mistake in combat. On the battlefield, one wrong move could mean stepping on a landmine, or alerting an enemy force to your position. Both of these scenarios would spell disaster, ultimately causing the loss of American lives. Instilling strict discipline in a military force is absolutely necessary, as complacency and carelessness are vital weaknesses easily exploited by an external threat. Today’s Marines should heed Sun Tzu’s advice and maintain the discipline first instilled by their Drill Instructors.

In conclusion, Sun Tzu’s scientific approach to warfare and tactics, if adhered to by every individual Marine, would make us an unstoppable force at America’s discretion. These values should be as important to a Marine as their service rifle. Without these values, we would crumble in the wake of our enemies’ attacks, making our defeat truly inevitable. Allow Sun Tzu’s influence to guide your lifestyle of decision-making throughout your career, and your prosperous success will follow.

Read more


Sun Tzu’s Strategy to Triumph in Warfare and Personal Success as Indicated in His Work, The Art of War

December 10, 2020 by Essay Writer

The Art of War

The Art of War by Sun Tzu, is an ancient text which holds the key to victory in war and life. The methods of war that are described in this book seem to be philosophies rather than methods; for they can be used outside the regiment of war and into everyday life situations and struggles. The philosophies in the book were used in Ancient China by Sun Tzu himself to defeat an army of three hundred thousands with an army of barely thirty thousand. He acted as a commander but also as a master of philosophy. The instructions that in the text are found were written for the eyes of emperors and their war commanders only, but when the secret finally broke out, his tactics were being used all around the world. The war history of the United States seems to be foretold by this text. The text foretells the reason behind the Nazi’s ultimate doom in WWII and why the United States would be defeated in Vietnam.

When it comes to Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, knowing his words will lead you to prevail, ignoring them will lead you to fight in darkness. Tzu’s core principles were used by the United States to win the war against the Nazi in WWII, and the ignorance of the same, caused the United States to lose the War in Vietnam. These principles can be summarized by three quotes from the text: “Know your enemy and know yourself and in 100 battles you will never be in peril,” “To win 100 battles is not the height of skill; to subdue the enemy without fighting is” and “Avoid what it’s strong, attack what is weak.” In a modern, yet similar scenario, the North Vietnamese leader, like Sun Tzu, faced a force ten times greater than his. The force so feared was the anticommunist United States, the superpower of democracy and capitalism. The United States never lost a fight against the minimal North Vietnamese army, however, it did lose the war. Through the loses suffered by the Northern Vietnamese, they came to know their enemy and themselves; they learned to avoid what was strong and to attack what was weak. The United States came to learn that “to win 100 battles is not the height of skill; to subdue the enemy without fighting is.” North Vietnam, won the war, not because they won the fighting war, but because they won the moral war. The images that were broadcasted of the “Tet Offensive,” resulted in the United States losing support at home and in consequence losing the war. Losing the Vietnam War, reminded the United States of the philosophy which they used to win the fight against the Nazi during WWII, that is, that most battles are won by using intellect, not brute force.

In WWII, the Nazi came to be an unstoppable force. With an ever growing army and knowledge of their surroundings, the Nazi’s were able to conquer massive amount of land in relative little time and minimal resistance. The United States seemed to be in a lose-lose situation, because they had to mobilized its army to France in order to take back control of this essential land. The problem faced by the United States was mobilizing its army in bright light would be sending them to faced death by the hands of awaiting enemy. When the United States, finally came into the war they followed Sun Tzu’s instructions to “let [their] plans be dark as night and then attack like thunderbolt.” Like the North Vietnamese leader would do a decade from then, the United States used deception to move the Nazis from their point of advantage and into a false battle; the United States then attacked and took over Normandy which was let underprotected by the deceived Germans. With Normandy secured, the United States pathed their way down to victory.

When it comes to everyday, Sun Tzu’s teachings are as effective as they are to victory in war. For instance, in an election, whether it be a national or as simple as a school election, knowing your enemy and yourself is essential to winning the popular vote. Everyday life is like chess, when the opponent lets his weakness visible, one must attack that weakness and avoid the opponent’s strengths. And finally, in the game of life, winning can only be effectively won by using intellect, not brute force. Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, prove to be the essential instructions to victory both in war and life.

Read more


“The Art of War” by Sun Tzu

December 10, 2020 by Essay Writer

Sun Tzu created a lyrical masterpiece when he wrote the book, The Art of War. It is a short text describing military tactics and strategies used in war to obtain victory over the enemy. Written before the official recording of China’s history, it remains a classic piece of literature studied and examined across generations. It displays the culture, intelligence, and progression of China during a time of limited technology and resources. Sun Tzu provides provides war tactics by using philosophical concepts. Applying deep thought and understanding of war “Sun Tzu provides the basis for strategic improvement in many areas”. This includes leadership, business, and human behavior. There are many arguments relating to this text ranging from its morality to its usefulness, and even its authorship. By examining its historical context, craft, and expression, one can generate a better understanding of Sun Tzu and this great literary classic.

The Art of War is a piece of literature that has withstood the tests of time. Written before the recording of Chinese history, information regarding Sun Tzu and this classic text is limited. The time in which Sun Tzu lived is argued amongst scholars. While one researcher suggests the book was written after 500 BC, another claims Sun Tzu lived sometime around 770 to 475 BC. Regardless of the era, war was an important topic due to the political and social climax of the era. It was “the age of a multistate, unstable world that saw frequent conflicts over control of the land and people”.

Though the social environment was unstable at times, other areas of ancient China thrived and cultivated. Sunzi lived near the era of the Han Dynasty which is also the time in which Chinese history was gathered and recorded by historian and philosopher Sima Qian. Sima Qian lived some “four hundred years after the era of Sunzi” and contains the only documented account of Sunzi in Chinese history. The account describes Sunzi’s popularity for The Art of War and his skill in military strategy. In this story, King Helu of Wu put Sunzi’s skills to the test, asking him to train women for military battle. When the women refused to listen and disobeyed his orders to march, he killed 2 of the female commanders. After this, the women obeyed him achieving what Sunzi called “Shock and Awe”; “Shock and awe and hence compliance or capitulation through very selective, utterly brutal and ruthless, and rapid application of force to intimidate”.

This event not only gave him notoriety but also created a legend. The expression and meaning of the text varies from state to state and person to person. However, the meaning produced from reading the Art of War also varies according to time and culture. During the time it was written, the Han Dynasty witnessed the rise of Confucian tradition that stimulated Chinese culture and ideology. This ideology is “centered on considerations of benevolent and wise rule achieved by ordered society that is attentive to correct understanding, relationships, definitions, and rituals”. By taking words and terms into its original context only, Confucians interpret the writings of Sun Tzu much differently from its intent. Confucians took the piece to be literal and did not apply deep thought and understanding. For instance, when Sun Tzu states, “all warfare is based on deception”, many misconstrued this line and its meaning. Confucians thought this encouraged individuals to be deceptive in life and when interacting with others. However, people of other cultures and times observed this differently. When Taoism entered Chinese ideology centuries later they understood the text with additional depth and meaning. This is because “Taoism rejects harsh definitions, certainty, and shallow understanding and has thus always been a philosophical counterpoise to the surface ordered Confucian world”. It proves to be important to understand the dynamics of the text and how it is used and applied. Applying philosophical concepts given in the Art of War indirectly links the book to a deeper understanding of human nature, behavior, and military tactics. As a result, majority of readers and scholars apply additional thought regarding the piece. “Contemporary Chinese interpreters… characterize Sunzi’s stance on war as shenzhen (i.e exercise great caution and self-restraint in war matters)”. The author argues that Sunzi encouraged strategies that were smart, using as little force and violence as possible to subdue the enemy.

While this is stressed throughout the Art of War, it ironically goes against many of the military tactics used today. As a result, the Art of War provides strategies that can be used and applied to maintain justice and morality in combat. “The Art of War is a manual for military success, it does not glorify war, nor does it advocate an aggressive use of military force”.Walking this thin line, Sun Tzu created a text useful genres and fields. This is due to the insight and depth that he brings to war and strategy, relating it to a skilled art. Consequently, Sun Tzu utilized various elements to create this piece. He uses theories that, on the surface, do not appear to be related to war, battle, and control. In the first chapter, Sun Tzu states that war is defined by “five constant factors, to be taken into account in one’s deliberations when seeking to determine the conditions obtaining in the field. These are The Moral Law Heaven Earth, The Commander, and Method and discipline”. Applying to these themes to the art of war, individuals are able to observe the additional meaning of this text and relate it to real life. Not only do these items dictate the art of war, they also dictate that actions and leadership of others. The components refer to how distance, leadership, and discipline are applied to different walks of life. Therefore, by substituting war with other words such as sportsmanship or business, many can use these same strategies to other areas. For instance, when Sun Tzu states, “hold out baits to entice the enemy” the theory can be applied to different fields. A manager can “hold out baits to entice” employees which can be used to improve employee satisfaction. Thus, with the use of these elements, Sun Tzu was able to create a book that can have multiple uses and devices to improve individuals and society.

Sun Tzu states, “warfare is the greatest affair of the state, the basis of life and death, the way to survive or extinction. It must be thoroughly pondered and analyzed”. Sun Tzu does this throughout the text changing how war is understood and conducted. Much of the “Eastern way of war is rooted in the philosophies of Sun Tzu”. These philosophies are not only observed in Chinese culture but other cultures throughout the East including Russia and India. While Sun Tzu stresses the use of deception to obtain victory over the enemy, intelligence must also be applied. With this, military forces can defeat the enemy with as little force as possible. This addresses the importance of the human life and minimizing destruction. With these philosophies the military can maintain the property, value, and economy of a defeated territory. These are behaviors that are displayed

Read more


Analysis of the Effect of Personal Hostility as the Cause of Strife Inferring From, The Art Of War By Sun Tzu

December 10, 2020 by Essay Writer

Social Analysis: The Art of War

Could war be in your own life? Could it possibly be in modern society? Does it have to have killing? Well, war can certainly be in your own life, in modern society, and it can have no death or killing at all. War is essentially conflict. In the book, The Art of War, written by Sun Tzu, it shows that almost anything can be perceived as a war and by understanding your enemy, you can even approach victory without much battle. Many other strategies throughout the book can also be applied to many things in our current life.

To begin with, my grades can be considered as some type of war. The enemy would be the bad grades and the assignments and tests would be like the battles. In The Art of War, Master Sun says, “Therefore a victorious army first wins and then seeks battle; a defeated army first battles and then seeks victory”(91). This connects with grades because when you have good grades, or a victorious army, then you have won and seek to continue to keep it like that. When you have bad grades, or a defeated army, and you first try and don’t give up, then you expect to get good grades. This quote can be interpreted as when you fail, but persevere, you will eventually get success.

In my life, I run every week at my school. Running can also be considered as a type of war. The enemy could be considered as fatigue. The battle is the course of the run. Since fatigue entraps you eventually and I cannot run backwards, I am on “dying ground”(151), which is what The Art of War portrays it as. According to The Art of War, it says that “dying ground” is “When you will survive if you fight quickly and perish if you do not”(151). This means that I won’t make it if I don’t move quickly. Li Quan says in the book, “As the classic Spring and Autumn Annals says, “War is like a fire – if you do not put it out, it will burn itself out”(57). This can apply to running because stopping is essentially “burning itself out.” When I “put myself out”, this means I am done with the run. Altogether, fatigue will get to me if I do not finish the course of the run fast, but at the same time I will eventually get tired. If I stop, then my enemy, fatigue, has gotten me, so I would simply jog and then continue running to succeed.

War can also be within our social interactions. Talking with friends is just like talking with allies. The people that one does not like are one’s enemies. Master Sun states that, “When there are murmurings, lapses in duties, and extended conversations, the loyalty of the group has been lost.” This means if there is any gossip among an army, then they are no longer loyal. When one’s friends gossip about one, then they are no longer loyal friends. However, one should not retaliate and gossip back. Master Sun says, “A government should not mobilize an army out of anger, military leaders should not provoke war out of wrath. Act when it is beneficial, desist if it is not. Anger can revert to joy, wrath can revert to delight, but a nation destroyed cannot be restored to life…”(166). This means that a government should not go to war because they are angry and that a destroyed nation does not come back to the way it was before. So instead of retaliating and gossiping back, it would be better to stay calm and act like it is not a big issue, so one can still have trust among one’s peers. The people who gossip will most likely lose trust among their peers. Overall, The Art of War describes our social interactions kind of accurately.

Every person in the world wants to be recognized and have a good reputation. Master Sun states that, “Ordinarily, an army likes high places and dislikes low ground, values light and despises darkness”(132). This means that an army likes to be on the top of mountains and hills and does not like to be in valleys and plains. They will do better on the high places because it is easier to see what is around them. Being recognized and having a good reputation is the high places. Being ignored and having a bad reputation is the low ground. People like being well accomplished and recognized by their peers because it makes them joyful. When they are ignored by their peers, they feel depressed. Social interactions can bring people to good or bad places and high or low places. When they are insulted, they will feel ignored and feel like they are in the low places. When they are encouraged, they will feel recognized and feel as though they are in the high places.

So, war can be in our personal lives, but it can also be in other places too, like the economy. Businesses and Companies are a part of the economy and practically have war with each other every day. An example would be the smartphone market. Companies like Apple and Samsung have a lot of the market. Their enemies are other competitors, so Samsung would be the enemy of Apple. Their allies could be who they partner with. The battlefield would be the market, for instance, the smartphone market. Releasing new products and updates would be their battles. The companies release products that are better than the other, yet they have almost the same function. According to IDC, in Q4, the smartphone market was dominated by Samsung at 20% of the market and Apple at 19% of the market. If they both understand each other, they will be able to release products that are better than the other. As they release new products that consumers will purchase, they invade deeper into the market, which would be the “heavy ground” in The Art of War. Heavy ground in The Art of War is when you “ enter deeply into other’s land, past many cities and towns”(149). When these companies release new products, but consumers don’t really buy it a lot, then they are in “light ground.(148)” Light ground is when you “enter other’s land, but not deeply”(148). As the market is filled with a lot of competitors, companies will most likely try to invade into a new market, such as the smartwatch market that Apple and Samsung also compete in. Overall, companies and businesses are also able to have a war on each other. They can retaliate other’s attacks by releasing new products and enter new markets to try to dominate and expand.

The Art of War has some improvements and recommendations that others and companies can utilize to become better. In the book, Cao Cao says, “Do not use arms because of your emotions”(166). This would mean that you should not fight or shoot someone just because you are angry at them. Many people get angry over something and sometimes they fight each other. Therefore, The Art of War would recommend that one should not fight over simple things, but instead calm themselves down. One’s reputation could be at risk of getting destroyed, and it may not return to how it was before. For example, when a person is trading something with another person, but the trader hears that the person has fought with another trader, that trader will most likely not accept and run away.

The Art of War states that, “In battle, confrontation is done directly, victory is gained by surprise.” This means that you should not confront an army, but surprise them. Companies and businesses should do the same. When companies just say what they will do next, the consumers can easily predict what will happen next, and they will know if what those companies say will succeed or fail. Instead, they should disclose what they say, until the day comes that they completely tell what they have done. By doing this, consumers and other companies will be surprised. Some companies, like Apple, have used this strategy and it would be a great improvement if other companies were to also utilize this too.

There are also a few limitations that The Art of War has on society. One of them would be that someone cannot have a war with themselves. There would be no enemy in that situation. You cannot perceive war on everything either. Some strategies in the book cannot be used in many situations. For instance, Master Sun says, “If half their force advances, and half retreats, they are trying to lure you”(136). This cannot really apply to any situation because there is no other situation besides actual armed conflict, where you see half of your enemies advancing and half of their forces retreating. One cannot expect that every strategy in the book is possible to use in society and in other situations that are not armed conflict.

The Art of War has a lot of strategies that can be applied to anyone’s lives. It describes our society and social interactions kind of accurately too. It shows that war can be perceived in almost any situation. Understanding your enemy can also help, so that not many battles will need to be fought. The Art of War emphasizes that you should use tactics instead of confrontation and fighting. If you do fight, you should strategies to win. The Art of War can also improve one’s life. It can also help many businesses to become better. Although the book and its strategies do have limitations, most of the strategies or tactics are able to be used in one’s life.

The Charming Whack Job of Wall Street

When a person reads a good book, sees a great movie, or watches a spectacular performance, what do they take away from it? Some aspect will remain with them, forever associated with that experience for the rest of their lives. It can be anything from a funny line, to a dramatic scene, to a character with an irrepressible personality. Whenever I read a book, there is always some aspect or particular character that stays in my mind. Something about them makes them linger in my mind, setting them apart from others. After reading The Big Short, the thing that will remain with me the most is the radically unique characters. When it comes to unique characteristics that set you apart, many characters in the Big Short fit the bill. However, there is only one whose boss declares that he loves them and, “I have nothing bad to say about him except that he’s a fucking whack job,” (64, Lewis). Such a description is certainly memorable. However, it is not even close to being nearly as memorable as the man himself. Greg Lippermann had a persona that exudes craziness and strangely captivating rudeness that warranted the attention and memory of those who met him in the real and literary worlds.

The persona that Greg Lippmann exudes throughout the novel came to the reader in a unique package. If the only thing people knew about Greg Lippmann was a physical description, most people would not automatically assume he was a brilliant Wall Street stock broker. The common image of a stock broker on Wall Street dose not usual come from a man who sports hair “in the fashion of an 1820’s Romantic Composer or a 1970’s porn star,” (63, Lewis). It sounds as if he was attempting to pull off a suave, debonair, classy look that failed disastrously. That would be more common of a comic relief character rather than a serious, intelligent business man. Yet Lippmann’s success contradicts that theory in no short time. Even the wardrobe choices of “loud ties,” (63, Lewis) rather than the more subtly neutral colors commonly found on Wall Street, gave the impression of a big, brash persona rather than the more clam and intelligent one that clients seemed to expect when trusting someone with their money. Then again, Wall Street was described in the book to have been so mismanaged at this point, that no one seemed to care who they gave their money to. Taking that in to consideration, it is no longer surprising that this was a man whom seemingly intelligent people trusted with their money, even considering how is meeting with the Eisman group went. Setting appearance aside, there is no doubt that Greg Lippermann was a financial force to be reckoned with. However his personality was another area where he was memorable to the reader, because as a said earlier, it was best described as, “a fucking whack job,” (63, Lewis).

Whether you met him in real life or through the medium of literature, the personality Greg Lippermann exuded was only part of the persona cannot be easily dismiss from one’s mind. Lippermann was a man with a personality that very few people were likely to forget. This is made abundantly clear when the reader first interacts with him in the novel. When he is introduced as being the result of an experiment, “if a team of experts had set out to create a human being to maximize the likelihood that he would terrify a Wall Street customer,”(62, Lewis) a certain image begins to form. The picture the reader sees is of a man who does not meet the usual criteria of the successful Wall Street stock broker. If he is a near perfect example of someone who was designed to alienate customers it would be the logical assumption that his career would suffer as a result. However the reader, as well as those who knew him in real life, comes to find he is brilliant at his chosen trade. He tells us himself that, “whatever he’d been paid by his employer was not anything like what he’d been worth,” (63, Lewis). Lippermann made his clients and more importantly himself a fortune by playing the stock market game. He had a bit of a big head, but despite this was not a terrible human being. Those who knew him and interacted with him in the professional world all agreed that, “he simply evoked extreme feelings in others,” (64, Lewis), because of the strong differences in that existed in both his character and appearance that differed from what society deems normal. The reactions Lippermann’s personality produced were certainly strong; however this may have been part of his persona that seemed to break all the unspoken rules of Wall Street.

Yet another facet of the unforgettable personality that encompassed Greg Lippermann is that fact that despite his success in the industry, he broke nearly every unwritten rule of Wall Street in the process of earning it. Even the professionals he worked with were amazed at some of the things he would do. On more than one occasion he publicly announced to anyone who would listen that he had no allegiance to the company he worked for, he just happened to be working for them (64, Lewis). While this was a very common feeling amongst the workers of Wall Street, this was not something a sensible and successful person was supposed to admit, let alone announce repeatedly. To do so should have been career suicide, and yet he survived. Not only that but He continually hinted to anyone who would listen just how much this company he had no loyalty for was paying him and giving him in bonuses. He seemed to bring it up in the middle of a conversation, despite people continually saying, “but I didn’t ask,” (63, Lewis). Successful Wall Street brokers were supposed to be extremely tightlipped about such details, but the essence that made up Greg Lippermann did not seem to be able to tolerate any type of conforming to normality. Also, it shows us that he had a need inside of him that demanded he show how much he was worth to the world, perhaps because he was so dramatically different from the rest of the world. The more a person came to experience the persona projected by Lippermann, whether in real life or in the text, the more confused and befuddled they seemed to be that a man who completely disregarded the few rules in place in the stock market could be such a success. I know that I was certainly confused by him despite analyzing his character in preparation for writing this paper. Despite all of this, the controversy of his persona paid off in the end.

In the course of a lifetime, a person will meet hundreds of ordinary people and quickly forget them. However, they will also meet a handful of incredibly memorable people it is impossible for them to forget. Greg Lippmann was many things, but all of them were memorable. Whether the person he interacted with knew him in real life or in the pages of a book, his unique style remained implanted in their minds. Nothing about him was in any way a nod to conformity, whether it was in his appearance, the way he acted or the way he conducted business. He looked like a 70’s adult film star, had a personality that should have scared customers away, and broke nearly every rule he came across. Yet at the same time managed to be likable and great at his job. The more the reader learned about him, the more controversial and hard to pin down they realized he truly was. Lippmann may not have been the easiest person to interact with, but the reader will never quite forget the charming whack job of Wall Street.

Read more


Evaluation of the Art of War vs. Modern Day Air Warfare

December 10, 2020 by Essay Writer


History witnesses that, science is a process of continuous improvement and technology erodes and becomes obsolete with the passage of time, but a work of genius is always universal. The power of mind is such that a man, who was living in caves a few hundred years ago, is now planning to build colonies on moon and beyond. So one thinks that, is there any parity between the mental capabilities of Stone Age generation and the space generation. Same question arises when we compare the ancient military strategists and modern military strategists. To argue on this question I shall take up the fabulous work of Sun Tzu, the first strategist known in history with written military strategies in the shape of “The Art of War”, and see its applicability in the modern day Air warfare.

The aim of this paper is to highlight salient features of Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War’ and validate his ideas and strategies in comparison to modern day air warfare.


Briefly touching upon the biography of Sun Tzu, he was a Chinese general who gave his military strategies around two and a half thousand years ago. He was also known as ‘Sun Wu’ and ‘Sun Zi’. In Chinese language “Sun Tzu” means “Master Sun”. Born in fifth century BC, he was a native of the northern state of Ch’i of ancient China. His date of death is not known, however, it is estimated that he died before the year 473 BC. In fact very little is known about his personal life. He belonged to a family with a rich military background; his father and grandfather were also generals. This gave his mind an impetus and he thoroughly studied and researched different aspects of war. His vision and intellect made his name immortal in the field of military, as he is remembered in the history for his magnificent inscriptions on ‘The Art of war’, which has been accepted as the bible of warfare since centuries. Presently his book is used as a text or reference book in a number of military academies, research institutes, and business enterprises around the world.

Sun Tzu’s Doctrine

Sun Tzu’s work is universal in nature. He said, “Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting”. Sun Tzu also said, “The art of war is of vital importance to the state. It is a matter of life or death, a road to survival or to ruin. Hence it is mandatory that it be thoroughly studied”. This speaks volumes about his foresight and vision about the art of warfare. Unlike other ancient doctrines, his work does not focus on specific tactics, techniques or weapon systems; on the other hand it can be updated in all ages, with changing technology. Some of the basic tenants of the “The Art of War” are:-

  • To prepare adequate defenses to repel any attack,
  • To seek ways to defeat the enemy without engaging him in battle,
  • Follow the enemy situation in order to decide on battle.

Sun Tzu’s saying that ‘art of war is of vital importance to the state’ is true even today, as the nations still engage in war to resolve their issues which they are unable to solve through political means. So in order to maintain the sovereignty and safeguard the frontiers, a nation has to give vital importance to the art of war. Also, in today’s air warfare defense is of most vital importance, both active and passive. No country without adequate defense will be able to stand against any invader. Even the strongest air forces in the world with the most potent offensive capabilities give equal importance to their defense. Almost all the nations in the world keep track of their enemies (or potential enemies) and build up their forces accordingly. This is done to maintain the balance of power so that war stays as the last resort for resolving the political issues.


Stratagem is something unique to Sun Tzu. It is a concept which is not found in the western theory of war. To Sun Tzu violence in war was a means of the last resort. He says, “In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy’s country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy is not so profitable”. Sun Tzu also said, “The skilful leader subdues the enemy troops without fighting; he captures their cities without laying siege to them, he overthrows their kingdom without any lengthy operations in the field…..With his forces intact his triumph will be complete.” He says that this is the method of attacking by stratagem.

In the modern air forces, with the invention of precision weapons, long range aircraft and missiles, and satellite guidance, it has been made possible to pin point and attack only those targets which are relevant and militarily important. Thus the economic, industrial and residential sectors can be easily secluded from war. Hence the outcome of war, while capturing any country, stays profitable.

Sun Tzu’s Impact on Conduct of War

Sun Tzu’s ideas have a profound impact on the conduct of war – ancient or modern, and air warfare is no exception. He implemented his ideas himself in various battles and those are still applicable to the present era. His Ideas could be organized in seven categories.

Doctrine:- About doctrine, Sun Tzu said that every state must have a military doctrine of her own in order to defend itself from external aggression. Sun Tzu rightly says, “It is a doctrine of war not to assume that the enemy will not come, but rather to rely on readiness to meet him; not to presume that he will not attack, but rather to make one’s self invincible”.

In this era, every nation with a credible force, not only has their military doctrine but also have their respective army, air force and naval doctrines. Especially after the invention of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), no nation possessing these weapons is considered responsible without a comprehensive and elaborate doctrine.

Strategy:- Sun Tzu was a strong advocate of formulation and maintenance of strategy. He dictates that :-

  • “when the enemy concentrates, prepare against him, where he is strong avoid him”.
  • “Anger his general and confuse him. Pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance so that he may be misled”.
  • “Keep your enemy under strain and wear him down”.
  • “When he is united, divide him by spreading suspicion”.
  • “Attack him where he is unprepared, go forth when he does not expect you”.

In modern day, to fight all wars a nation has to devise a strategy so as to be prepared for war all the time. A force with unique characteristics, like air force can not prepare and engage in war, without a well defined and well rehearsed strategies. These strategies have to be prepared and defined for all levels of warfare.

Operations:- According to Sun Tzu, “Victory is the main object in war. If it is delayed, weapons are blunted and morale depressed, when troops attack cities, their strength will be exhausted”. Thus the emphasis on the fact that operations should have specific aims. Speaking on waging war Sun Tzu talks about :-

  • Operational preparedness,
  • Swiftness of operations,
  • Speed, and
  • emphasizes that operations should have specific aims.

The points given above can be easily characterized as essentials of a modern day air force. All air forces in the world rely on their peace time preparedness, so that their operations can be conducted in a harmonious manner in order to achieve their aims at the earliest.

Tactics:- Sun Tzu talks about the use of forces in different numbers through varied tactics. Dilating on this he says :-

  • When ten to enemy’s one surround him.
  • When five times his strength attack him.
  • If double his strength divide him.
  • If equally matched you may engage him.
  • But if weaker numerically, be capable of withdrawing.
  • And if unequal, be capable of eluding him.

In war, tactics and numbers matter a lot. Especially in air warfare special tactics may be employed to counter a numerically superior air force, similarly more number of aircraft may be employed to counter a technologically superior air force. Hence importance of tactics and numbers matter a lot in air warfare.

Deception:- Although deception may be regarded as tactics, but Sun Tzu attaches great importance to it and says that all warfare is based on deception therefore

Deception is the hallmark of politics and war even today. It is said that there are no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests. No nation or military will ever reveal their cards until it is mandatory to achieve their preset goals. In air warfare, fake strikes, false radio transmissions, electronic warfare and passive defense etc, is used to deceive the enemy. An air force which cannot effectively counter these, suffers a significant setback.

Limited War:- Sun Tzu is in favor of limited and short war and does not profess long protracted wars. He writes, “When the army engages in protracted campaigns, the resources of the state will not suffice”.

Air warfare is meant to shorten the duration of war because of its inherent characteristics – height, speed and reach. Due to this the ancient wars, which used to last for decades, has now been reduced in modern times to days. Air force besides being the most potent force is also the most expensive force of all. Hence any prolonged war will be a major drain on the economic resources of a country.

Victory:- Sun Tzu says, “War demands victory, not prolonged operations”, and therefore, “the general who understands war, is the master of the peoples fate and arbiter of the nation”. According to Sun Tzu, victory in war can be predicted by the following five circumstances:-

Sun Tzu’s guidelines to predict the outcome of war can be readily applied to air warfare as well. In order to win a war, an air force must posses situational awareness at all levels of war, identification of center of gravity, flexibility, concentration of forces, economy of force, coordination, unified command, maintenance of morale, discipline and good leadership. It can be accurately said that an air force possessing these attributes will be a winner against an adversary who does not have these qualities.

Contemporary Examples

I will now validate Sun Tzu’s ideas and doctrine to modern air warfare with contemporary examples. For this purpose I shall discuss some military encounters to highlight applicability of his philosophies to modern warfare.

Pearl Harbor: – Sun Tzu wrote, “When the enemy speaks in the humble tone, he continues his preparations and will advance”. On 7December 1941, at 1 pm Japanese diplomats were to arrive in USA for peace talks in the Pacific. At approximately the same hour the Japanese started bombing on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese had used Sun Tzu’s deception tactics but simultaneously violated his basic strategy i.e., “When you are ignorant of the enemy but you know yourself, the chances of winning or losing the battle are equal”. The Japanese overestimated themselves and knew far less about the American potential and response. Thus skies witnessed the most devastating war causalities in history, when USA equaled the score by attacking Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Vietnam:- Sun Tzu sees war as being the matter of deception and the attainment of psychological dominance. In Vietnam it was hot, dark and wet, the language was strange and the foe was not easily distinguishable from friend. During the Tet Offensive Vietnamese learnt that American public was unwilling to tolerate large number of body bags coming home, whereas Vietnamese themselves were ready to accept that in order to achieve independence. This was a psychological turning point and hence ensured the American evacuation from Vietnam. General Giap, the leader of North Vietnamese forces, together with Ho Chi Minh was main architect of victory over the Americans, as they used the deception tactics of Sun Tzu to achieve their goals against an enemy who had used all sort of force against them, including air force.

Soviet-Afghan War:- In the Soviet-Afghan war the Soviets were unfamiliar with the Afghan terrain and they under estimated the will of their opponent. The Afghans knew their country well and displayed guerilla warfare tactics much similar to Sun Tzu’s teaching against an enemy which was equipped with superior weapons but having poor knowledge about the terrain. The result was withdrawal of the soviet forces and ultimately collapse of the Soviet infrastructure.


Based on all the arguments stated earlier it can be easily said that Sun Tzu, the pioneer of the ageless principles, enjoys the reputation of being the oldest strategist. Though ages have passed but the theme and principles laid by the great strategist are practical, and hence applicable in the present day warfare especially air warfare. The strategies described by the Sun Tzu are as much relevant today as they were two thousand five hundred years ago and its applicability is not only limited to ground, air or sea warfare, rather it’s applicable in almost all aspects of human interaction with each other.

Read more