CHAPTER SUMMARY (4.01-4.16): Positioning the Troops, Becoming Invincible
Strive to establish an invincible position, one your adversary cannot overcome. For repeated victories, resolve problems while they're small, before they flare into open conflict. When they do so, prepare thoroughly; wait patiently for your adversary to divulge a weakness; then strike. Guard against overconfidence. If your opponent is as strong or stronger than you, wait. If you are stronger, you can attack. Make one area strong enough to protect when your aim is defense. When it's offense, enlarge your force enough to divide it, so it can both attack and defend itself. Move speedily and with full strength. Sublimate your own desires for self-glory or reward. Know that luck is a factor, as well as your skill. Confront only an adversary that you determine your army can handle; if you deem it cannot, settle the conflict without fighting. Calculate which side will likely win: Consider "Ground," or your environment, its physical and socially valued attributes. What advantages does your side have? what disadvantages? Calculate the same for your adversary. Gauge which side is superior (has more advantages, or influence). Seek a position of overwhelming advantages so your adversary refrains from fighting you at all.
[4.01] In ancient times, those skilled in warfare made themselves invincible and then waited for the enemy to become vulnerable. Being invincible depends on oneself, but the enemy's vulnerability depends on himself.
[4.02] Those skilled in warfare can make themselves invincible, but cannot necessarily cause the enemy to be vulnerable. Therefore it is said one may know how to win but cannot necessarily do it.
[4.03] One takes on invincibility [in an adversary] by defending [oneself]; one takes on vulnerability [in an adversary] by attacking.
[4.04] One takes on sufficiency [in an adversary] by defending [onself], one takes on deficiency [in an adversary] by attacking.
[4.05] Those skilled in defense conceal themselves* in the lowest depths of the Earth. Those skilled in attack move in the highest reaches of the Heavens. Therefore, they are able to protect themselves* and achieve complete victory.
[4.06] Perceiving a victory when it is perceived by all is not the highest excellence.
[4.07] Winning battles such that the whole world cries "Excellent!" is not the highest excellence.
[4.08] For lifting an autumn down* is not considered great strength, seeing the sun and the moon is not considered a sign of sharp vision, hearing thunder is not considered a sign of sensitive hearing.
[4.09] In ancient times, those who are skilled in warfare gained victory where victory was easily gained. Therefore, the victories from those skilled in warfare are not considered of great wisdom or courage, because their victories have no complications.
4.05 conceal themselves. Until you must show yourself, hide the strength of your force from the enemy.
protect themselves. An attacker must be strong enough to defend itself and to assail the enemy.
4.08 autumn down. Autumn coat of hair. Rabbits shed their coat of hair and grow a new one in a seasonal cycle; in autumn, they begin to grow their thickest coat, which becomes full size in winter. The point is that it's not hard to lift a rabbit by its fur in autumn; the challenge is to do so before the fur flares into plain sight, just as a general must perceive subtleties in the army's surroundings and opponents that allow the general to squash problems or resolve conflicts before they escalate.