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The Art of War
Sun Tzu

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Planning Attacks


CHAPTER SUMMARY (3.01-3.24): Preparing for Swift Victory
Winning without fighting is ideal, but if fighting is unavoidable, swift victory is the goal. The aim is not only to win but also to do as little damage as possible. As commander, put aside your own emotions. Strive to resolve the conflict peacefully at first, to preserve both sides; resort only secondarily to battle and destruction. Try first to disrupt and foil your adversary's plans against you. If forced to attack and faced with an overwhelming problem, break it down into its separate parts and solve them one by one. Assess the numerical strength of your and your enemy's forces and act accordingly (see 3.11). Make protecting your ruler and people pre-eminent, above your own self-interest. Know that a meddlesome, uninformed ruler can jeopardize the nation by interfering in army affairs. Think for yourself. Don't blindly follow orders. Stand up for your plan over others if you deem it to be the best. Know the attributes that allow you to predict the winner. Its troops are led by a general who 1) knows when and when not to act, 2) knows how and when to deploy a large or small force, 3) creates army unity between the upper and lower ranks by stressing their common cause, 4) prepares to conduct attacks and be attacked, 5) leads ably and confidently, without letting the ruler interfere. For repeated victory, know your enemy and know yourself.


[3.01] Generally in warfare, keeping a nation intact is best, destroying a nation second best; keeping an army intact is best, destroying an army second best; keeping a battalion intact is best, destroying a battalion second best; keeping a company intact is best, destroying a company second best; keeping a squad intact is best, destroying a squad second best.

[3.02] Therefore, to achieve a hundred victories in a hundred battles is not the highest excellence; to subjugate the enemy's army without doing battle is the highest of excellence.

[3.03] Therefore, the best warfare strategy is to attack the enemy's plans, next is to attack alliances, next is to attack the army, and the worst is to attack a walled city.

[3.04] Laying siege to a city is only done when other options are not available.

[3.05] To build protective shields, armored wagons, and make ready other arms and equipment will require at least three months.

[3.06] To build earthen mounds against the walls* will require another three months.

[3.07] If the general cannot control his temper and sends troops to swarm the walls, one third of them will be killed, and the city will still not be taken. This is the kind of calamity when laying siege to a walled city.

[3.08] Therefore, one who is skilled in warfare principles subdues the enemy without doing battle, takes the enemy's walled city without attacking, and overthrows the enemy quickly, without protracted warfare.

[3.09] His aim must be to take All-Under-Heaven intact.*

[3.10] Therefore, weapons will not be blunted, and gains will be intact. These are the principles of planning attacks.

[3.11] Generally in warfare: If ten times the enemy's strength, [one should] surround them; if five times, attack them; if double, divide them; if equal, be able to fight them; if fewer, be able to evade them; if weaker, be able to avoid them.



3.06 To build earthen mounds against the walls. To build a way for your warriors to scale the walls.
3.09 His aim must be to take All-Under-Heaven intact. In other words, he must aim to minimize the destruction of land and people. 

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