25 October 2016

Winning Strategies for War - Caution & Surprises DaoDeJing 69

Philosophy about living also covers strategies for war! It is not about not to fight but rather how to win. Here lies the principles taught by Sun Zi's Art of War as well. Be cautious and yet be innovative to give surprises said Lao Zi in DaoDeJing 69.
DaoDeJing Chapter 69 Text and Translation:

0 用兵有言曰:
The "Art of War" teaches:

1 吾不敢为主,而为客;
We dare not take the initiative [impulsively] nor be self-centered. 
Rather, we plan carefully and be as objective as possible.
[Reading the situations, the seasonal trends , terrains, and forces at play etc]

2 吾不敢进寸而退尺,
We dare not advance an inch [recklessly] but rather withdraw a foot [to lure them into our familiar territory]

3 是谓行无行,攘无臂,执无兵,扔无敌。
This is what is called moving without any fixed patterns, take without showing the hands, holding on to weapons that are not seen, and attacking when there is no defense by the enemy

4 祸莫大于轻敌,轻敌几丧吾宝;
The greatest danger is to underestimate the enemy.
Underestimating the enemy will cause us to lose our treasures. 

5 故抗兵相加/若,哀者胜矣!
Hence, when two sides of equal strength are at war,
the one that is united with love and compassion will win
[or the one that is so pressured and the only way out is to fight to live, will win].

Sun Zi's Art of War and Lao Zi
Because Sun Zi's Art of War has a number of phases that are similar in DaoDeJing, some believed that Sun Zi could be a disciple of Lao Zi or a student of Lao Zi's books at the very least. 以奇胜 is found in Art of War Chapter 5 and also in DaoDejing 57 以奇用兵.  The Art of War Chapter 1 says, 兵者,诡道也。故能而示之不能 ...Warfare is about giving surprises/deception, hence able but shows unable.... This is very similar to verse 3 of this chapter, which Sun Zi also uses 无形 "no shape" to describe the conquering army. In fact, the key teachings of Sun Zi are captured here. These are the principles for winning:

1. Be Objective 客观
Never look at things from one's own subjective viewpoint. We must be as objective and open minded as possible so that we can see clearly and have a factual understanding of the reality. "Garbage-in Garbage-out" shows us that any decision based on erroneous data will be wrong. We must always take the Outside-In approach of 审时度势 examine the timing and the forces at play at the various terrains that we want to move our forces. 

2. Be Cautious and Don't Act Recklessly 谨慎 - Take the One with Known Consequences
Advancing an inch into territory that we know not much riskier than we withdraw a foot in our known territory. Another way of saying it, doing something we have done before is much safer than trying something we don't know at all. Here is the threat first before opportunity teaching. 

3. Be Unseen - Act without Detection 无形  - Warfare is about Doing the Unexpected
Move without any detectable fixed patterns so that we are unpredictable by the enemy.
Take without even the enemy knowing about it because we did it hideously. We did not show our hand when we take it! We hide our weapons that the enemy sees not. We attack into where the enemy defense not. These are some examples of surprising the enemy.  See also Sun Zi Art of War-5: The Principles for Good StrategiesThe Patterns of Chinese 36-Strategies.

4. Never Underestimate the Enemy 不轻敌
Point 2 refers to the passive environmental factors, and this one emphasizes the intelligent and reactive enemy. Our strengths must not be self-claimed but must be measured against the enemy or competitors in the markets in the eyes of the buyers. If we underestimate the enemy we run the risks of losing our resources and treasures. In Chapter 67, Lao Zi tells us three types of treasures, namely love, frugality and not-be-first. In Chapter 68, Lao Zi tells us the virtues of not fighting to get our things. We should not let our greed causes us to underestimate the work that will bring us loses than gains.

5. The Power of Love and Power of Survival 哀
There are two views on this verse about the winning army because of the word 哀. It means extreme sadness, also meaning remembering the loved ones, especially deceased mother. We are sad because we lost our loved ones. If we don't want to lose our loved ones, then we might fight with all our might to preserve them. Hence, the army who are united in love and given no way out but fight will fight will all their might and win. Hence, in Art of War, we have the famous saying of, 陷之死地然后生(Chapter 11) Put them in the place of death that they may fight and live and 围师遗阙 Surrounding Army must live a gap for escape (then they will run away instead of staying to fight you still their death!)
So we have the five principles for winning,  be objective (outside-in view), be cautious (overcome the threat then exploit the opportunity), do the unexpected (be unseen to give maximum surprises), never underestimate, and use the power of survival and love.

Lim Liat (c) 25 Oct 2016


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