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The Art of War
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The Art of War: Critical Classics Collection (First Edition)
Gargantua and Pantagruel. Now the shuai-jan is a snake that is found in the Ch'ang mountains. Strike at its head, and you will be attacked by its tail; strike at its tail, and you will be attacked by its head; strike at its middle, and you will be attacked by head and tail both.
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We cannot enter into alliance with neighbouring princes until we are acquainted with their designs. We are not fit to lead an army on the march unless we are familiar with the face of the country — its mountains and forests, its pitfalls and precipices, its marshes and swamps.
We shall be unable to turn natural advantages to account unless we make use of local guides. Hence the saying: The enlightened ruler lays his plans well ahead; the good general cultivates his resources. No ruler should put troops into the field merely to gratify his own spleen; no general should fight a battle simply out of pique. What enables the wise sovereign and the good general to strike and conquer, and achieve things beyond the reach of ordinary men, is foreknowledge.
Now this foreknowledge cannot be elicited from spirits; it cannot be obtained inductively from experience, nor by any deductive calculation. When a general, unable to estimate the enemy's strength, allows an inferior force to engage a larger one, or hurls a weak detachment against a powerful one, and neglects to place picked soldiers in the front rank, the result must be rout. He who knows things, and in fighting puts his knowledge into practice, will win his battles.
He who knows them not, nor practices them, will surely be defeated. Carefully compare the opposing army with your own, so that you may know where strength is superabundant and where it is deficient.
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The clever combatant looks to the effect of combined energy, and does not require too much from individuals. Hence his ability to pick out the right men and use combined energy. When he uses combined energy, his fighting men become as it were like unto rolling logs or stones. For it is the nature of a log or stone to remain motionless on level ground, and to move when on a slope; if four-cornered, to come to a standstill, but if round-shaped to go rolling down. Now a soldier's spirit is keenest in the morning; by noonday it has begun to flag; and in the evening, his mind is only on returning to camp.
If those who are sent to draw water begin by drinking themselves, the army is suffering from thirst.
If there is disturbance in the camp, the general's authority is weak. If the banners and flags are shifted about, sedition is afoot. If the officers are angry, it means that the men are weary. Thus the skilful general conducts his army just as though he were leading a single man, willy-nilly, by the hand. It is the business of a general to be quiet and thus ensure secrecy; upright and just, and thus maintain order. He must be able to mystify his officers and men by false reports and appearances, and thus keep them in total ignorance.
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