04 April 2022

What can we learn from the Present Russian Ukraine War? (Art of War in Action - Part 4) The Better Way

Continued from What can we learn from the Present Russian Ukraine War? (Art of War in Action - Part 3)

In this unfair world of who has the power sets the rule, we need to just accept it and develop the wisdom to live successfully in it. Power or influence comes in many forms, such as military might, wealth, resources(e.g. oil, gas, food, metals, etc), information, technology, alliances, etc. 

The simple and straightforward way is to become the one with the most power. We learn from the Art of War so that we can win most of the time if not all the time. We want to learn how to play the I-Win-You-Lose game. But what if we are a small country, and not like the big power of the US, Russia, or China. In the midst of such giants, how do we play the I-Win-You-Lose game? We could at times and for a short time. Is there a long-term way of living well among the giants? The answer is there and is obvious when it is pointed out. But our nature, our animal instinct, and the dino's brain cause us to choose to fight, flee or freeze. A better game requires us to use our slow-thinking system, with deliberate facts finding and strategizing to get win-win solutions for us and our giant neighbors. The wisdom comes not from Sun ZI's Art of War but from Gui Gu Zi's Art of Strategic Alliance & Persuasion. In more obvious terms, it is about diplomacy. The right play of diplomacy is not about taking sides but appears always to stay in the fair-play principled centered right choice, not going against or siding any major forces. 

This is the sad lesson of Ukraine. By taking the side of the apparent winner giant - the US after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it becomes the pawn in the chess game played by the major powers of the US, EU, NATO, and Russia. One should understand that no one is the super-power all the time, in every area, in every geography, etc.  Even the mighty Russia nor US can rule Afghanistan for long. Afghanistan is known as the graveyard of empires.

Many believed that Ukraine should not have believed the US, Russia, and the UK to disarm the nuclear arms. With Nuclear Arms, perhaps Russia would not dare attack Ukraine. We point out at the start that the one with the power makes the rule, so an implication would be never to trust any treaty will last. Extra care must be taken to ensure one stays relevant and useful for the giants of letting us stay alive and in peace. Counting on having Nuclear arms is no guarantee as warfare comes in multiple faces. We can be economically sanctioned to poverty and death. 

So, living well in the midst of giants, need wisdom from Gui Gu Zi's Strategic Alliances. It is about understanding the needs and desires of the stakeholders and then seeking win-win solutions for all. Any negotiations, peace talks, and facilitation, must all begin with the frank discovery of all stakeholders' desires, and work toward a win-win for all based on fairness. Start with identifying the common interests, get an agreement, and then build on top to address the disagreement. The early understanding and agreement will build the trust to work out the differences and then seek win-win solutions.

So, don't think of just how to I-Win or You-Win, but the third way of Win-Win together.

The answers could be found in Gui Gu Zi's Art of Strategic Alliances.

To know more, See: Gui Gu Zi - Art of Strategic Alliances & Persuasions

To know more about Sun Zi, see Sun Zi and The Art of War

Lim Liat (c) 4 Apr 2022

03 April 2022

What can we learn from the Present Russian Ukraine War? (Art of War in Action - Part 3)

#9 知彼知己, 胜乃不殆, 知天知地,胜乃可全 (Art of War Chapter 10)
Know others and know yourself, winning is not at risk.
Know heaven/sky (weather, external trends) and the terrain(ground characteristics, paths), then winning can be ensured.

Principle #8 Know Others and Self is from Chapter 3. Chapter 10 completes the whole principle. The first part is similar to #8, it relates to comparative strengths. The second refers to the external environment, the battleground and the routes, and the strategic values of the locations. The relative strengths can be enhanced or reduced by the external environment of seasonal trends and terrain characteristics. A good illustration is the race between the hare and the tortoise. If the tortoise wants to win against the hare in a rematch, the tortoise can still do so by choosing the right race route --- choose the route where you need to cross a river. By using the ground, the tortoise can negate the running speed advantage of the hare. 

Russia chose a good time to attack, spring instead of winter. Attack from the sky, sea, and land. Amassing the soldiers on the border. Made use of friendly the neighbor to provide support and closer route to the North of Ukraine etc. Ukraine was forced to defend itself from the land. But exploited the city's characteristics and Russia's objective of minimizing damage to civilians. 

The external seasonal and ground factors are amplifiers of the relative strengths and weaknesses. The principle is to choose or to change the rules of the games, of the market/battleground/career where your abilities become the needed strengths and your enemy's abilities become irrelevant or weaknesses. In such a case, you are sure to win.

The outcome then is whether Ukraine could sustain its advantages in city fighting. Russia seemed to be having great difficulty in capturing the cities despite the air and early advantages. Russia is changing its strategy to concentrate forces on the East of Ukraine. Russia may be too ambitious to attack too many fronts at the start. It violated Sun Zi's principle of concentration of forces. Maybe Russia was too confident and want to end the war quickly.

There are many more principles from the Art of War. Please see Sun Zi and The Art of War for more details.

I hope I have interested you in learning about Sun Zi's Art of War and developing the winners-mindset. All the very best for your success in life. May the Russia-Ukraine war ends quickly and peacefully.

Lim Liat (c) 3 Apr 2022


02 April 2022

What can we learn from the Present Russian Ukraine War? (Art of War in Action - Part 2)

 Continued from  What can we learn from the Present Russian Ukraine War? (Art of War in Action)

#7 Winners compute first and only choose to fight the war they can win. Losers start a war first and then try to figure out how to win it.

The secret of "hundred battles and hundred victories" is very simple 

 --- "Only fight the war you are sure to win".

Putin must have done extensive calculations, gone through many scenarios, made many preparations (such as the deployment of forces first, movements to deceive others that they are returning), made contingencies plans (such as signing long term contracts with China, etc), a good grasp of others responses (such as the US said they would not send troops to Ukraine. Ukraine said Russia will not attack) and finally boldly gave the order to attack after he was very sure that he could win. The US counter actions of sanctions including kicking them out of SWIFT were all taken into consideration. He even has the last resort plan of using Nuclear weapons if things don't go as planned.

The US also planned well to "force and lure" Russia to attack Ukraine. Sending out intelligence on Russia impending attacks. Even giving specific dates. Who will act on others' predicted dates? Recalled that #5 Warfare is deception". So each one is trying to fool the other. Unfortunately, Ukraine committed #6 Hoping that the enemy will not attack.

So, as the war is ongoing, it is not surprising that Russia is having the upper hand. Russia had the real physical oil, gas, foods, and rare earth that Europe needs. Europe and the US could only sanction things that Russia could find alternatives to. 

EU is most affected by the war and yet does not seems to have any strategy or influence on the outcome. Russia had what the EU needed. The Ukraine refugees are flocking into the EU. All they are doing is sending more arms and aid to Ukraine. They may have studied the Art of War but they do not seem to apply the principles to strategize well for the war. There is likely to be some miscalculation and misestimation of the forces at play to be caught in such a bad situation. But it is never too late to work out a better plan for their own interests. 

Russia is able to predict the US & EU actions and have countermeasures. But US & EU seems only to press further on sanctions and aid which Russia had countermeasures already. If the countermeasures are effective, then the outcome of the war seems certain. This brings us to the next principle of comparative analysis. How to tell we can win against the enemy?

#8 知彼知己,百战不殆 Know Others and Know Self, then a hundred battles are without danger.
This is the first half of a winning principle. The second half to complete the strategy is #9.

How strong are we does not depend on how big or strong we are. It depends on the enemy we choose to fight. Is the enemy bigger and stronger than us is the key criteria? 

Inside-Out thinking is the worst error one can make. This is likely to be the US error, thinking that they are the one and only superpower and no one dare or can even fight them. Trump thinks the US alone is powerful enough. Biden is more humble and clearer in thinking to want to use the strength of alliances. But the error is thinking and seeing from one's biased and prejudiced perspective. It will only cause us to see what we want to see and miss the very important thing that we should have seen. It explains the death or decline of once giants like Nokia(phones), RIM, Motorola, Kodak, etc.
(see The Sun Zi's Art of War that even the experts may not know #3).

Sun Zi teaches us to do "Outside-In" thinking. Know the enemy first and then compare him with yourself. We may have 10,000 men. If our enemy is 1000. Then we are stronger. But if our enemy has 100,000 men, then our 10,000 men are relatively weak. Our strengths or weaknesses are dependent on the enemy we are going to fight. 

#8a What to Know about Our Enemy and Us? Who will Win?
Sun Zi gives us The Five factors - 道天地将法

  1. 道 Dao - The philosophy, mission, vision, values, beliefs of a nation and the engagement,
  2. 天 - the seasonal trends and weathers factors.
  3. 地 - the terrain characteristics, the battleground, the routes, etc.
  4. 将 - the capabilities and characters of the commanders.
  5. 法 - the methods, organizations, logistics, weapons, communications, command, and control.

Russia thinks that its security is under threat supported by the 5 times expansion of NATO despite promises made. Ukraine is a key and next-door terrain. It is their last line of defense. (note: what we think is not the issue. It is what they think that determines their actions.) They think if NATO and US are sincere in not wanting to attack Russia, they should give their promises in writing. Since they took a long time without any action, Russia thinks their intention is clear. Russia believes they are fighting for their survival in the long term. If they don't do anything now, it would be too late to act in the future when missiles are located in Ukraine. Its mission is to ensure security for Russia now and in the future. Russia is fighting for survival.

Ukraine also wants security so they want to join NATO. They are fighting for their survival now.

To the US, the war is just an expansion of its influence and more sales of weapons and others, more demand for US currencies, etc. Extra good benefits for its economy and inflation at home. It is not a matter of life and death like the Russians and Ukrainians.

EU is concerned with the expansion of Russia? But they have NATO as a security pack against Russia.
It is best for the EU to have peace as before. Peace is good for EU nations.

The beliefs and values (the Dao) give us the motives and the morale to fight and even till death. The motivations of Russia and Ukraine are high. But not as high for the US. The EU should be higher than the US but does not seem to be so. If peace is so important to the EU, they should be encouraging peace more than just giving aid and inciting to fight the war.  This is puzzling.

We will cover factors 2 & 3 in the next principle #9.

We can compare the commanders' capabilities of Russia and Ukraine. Russia had fought many wars and from their actions, they seem very capable. Ukraine needs training from the US and others indicating they are weaker. But Ukraine is fighting on the home ground vs Russia on foreign land. So they have better ground knowledge.

The fifth factor is about Methods, Organization, Weapons etc.
You can decide who is more capable.

There is left Principle #9 for them to predict or for us to predict, who will win the war. We will cover this in the next post.

Lim Liat (c) 2 Apr 2022

Previous:What can we learn from the Present Russian Ukraine War? (Art of War in Action)

Next: What can we learn from the Present Russian Ukraine War? (Art of War in Action - Part 3)

What can we learn from the Present Russian Ukraine War? (Art of War in Action)

This is a more important question than which side you support; which is just too emotional and opinionated to learn anything useful.

It is a good illustration of Sun Zi's Art of War principles at work.

All the countries involved are experts in the Art of War, but winning depends on how aptly the situations are analyzed, the understanding of forces at play, the principles being applied, the creativity in generating the strategies, the effectiveness of the execution of the tactics, the learning, and adaptability to the changes, etc.
#1 Warfare is not just military alone.

It involves PESTEL+M Politics, Economics, Social, Technology, Environment, Laws, Media Influence. All can be used to compensate for the lack in the other areas. Military trained use DIME (Diplomatic, Information, Military, and Economic).
#2 Warfare is a matter of life and death and must be studied and applied seriously.
This is the key theme of the Art of War. National Defense should never to neglected but be taken seriously.
A polished up saying of Mao is "以斗争求和平则和平存,以妥协求和平则和平亡“ using struggles to seek for peace, then peace last; compromise to get peace will result in it being lost.
#3 Winning every battle is not the best. The best is to subdue the enemy without a war.
We will have the following lessons:

a. If we build our nation to be so strong that others dare not fight us, then we have lasting peace until the day we become weaker than others. This relates well with #2. Build TOTAL defense.
b. Warfare is about mutual destruction. Avoid it as much as possible.
c. A better long-term strategy is to make friends and convert enemies to friends.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
#4 The best is to win by strategies, next by alliances and negotiations, the third is to fight and the worst is to be forced to attack a castle/city.
The best is to settle by talking first. Warfare should be the last resort. Don't be trigger-happy. That also explains China's stand on peace talks.
Russia tried to talk and warn the US and NATO first, but Putin's warning wasn't taken seriously. While he got the first strike, he is now forced to attack the cities --- the worst strategy and that explained why the going is very hard especially if you want to minimize civilians' death and injuries.
#5 Warfare is deception; or in a positive form, warfare is about surprising the enemy; doing the unexpected.
So don't believe what they said or what you read. You could never tell who is trying to fool who. You need insider knowledge and need to collect intelligence. But we know about counter-intelligence too. So who and what to believe? That takes wisdom.
The US told the world that Russia is going to attack Ukraine. They missed a few predicted dates. So even Ukraine did not believe Russia will attack them. Until the surprise attack by Russia.
There is a Sun Zi's principle on this...

#6 You cannot count on the enemy not attacking you (that's is wishful thinking) but must count on you being ready for the enemy's attack anytime.

That's why we get vaccinated first so that we are not afraid of getting the Covid virus! Apparently, Ukraine missed this sentence in Sun Zi's Art of War.
So far, we have not talked about how to strategize yet!
Hope you learn something useful.