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