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


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