Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Weak Points and Strong


Sun Tzu said: Whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy, will be fresh for the fight; whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle will arrive exhausted. 


Therefore the clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy's will to be imposed on him. #
One mark of a great soldier is that he fight on his own terms or fights not at all.[1=See Col. Henderson's biography of Stonewall Jackson, 1902 ed., vol. II, p. 490.]


By holding out advantages to him, he can cause the enemy to approach of his own accord; or, by inflicting damage, he can make it impossible for the enemy to draw near. 
In the first case, he will entice him with a bait; in the second, he will strike at some important point which the enemy will have to defend.


If the enemy is taking his ease, he can harass him; 
This passage may be cited as evidence against Mei Yao-Ch`en's interpretation of I. ss. 23.
if well supplied with food, he can starve him out; if quietly encamped, he can force him to move. 


Appear at points which the enemy must hasten to defend; march swiftly to places where you are not expected. 


An army may march great distances without distress, if it marches through country where the enemy is not.
Ts`ao Kung sums up very well: "Emerge from the void [q.d. like "a bolt from the blue"], strike at vulnerable points, shun places that are defended, attack in unexpected quarters."


You can be sure of succeeding in your attacks if you only attack places which are undefended. 
Wang Hsi explains "undefended places" as "weak points; that is to say, where the general is lacking in capacity, or the soldiers in spirit; where the walls are not strong enough, or the precautions not strict enough; where relief comes too late, or provisions are too scanty, or the defenders are variance amongst themselves."
You can ensure the safety of your defense if you only hold positions that cannot be attacked. 
I.e., where there are none of the weak points mentioned above. There is rather a nice point involved in the interpretation of this later clause. Tu Mu, Ch`en Hao, and Mei Yao-ch`en assume the meaning to be: "In order to make your defense quite safe, you must defend EVEN those places that are not likely to be attacked;" and Tu Mu adds: "How much more, then, those that will be attacked." Taken thus, however, the clause balances less well with the preceding—always a consideration in the highly antithetical style which is natural to the Chinese. Chang Yu, therefore, seems to come nearer the mark in saying: "He who is skilled in attack flashes forth from the topmost heights of heaven [see IV. ss. 7], making it impossible for the enemy to guard against him. This being so, the places that I shall attack are precisely those that the enemy cannot defend.... He who is skilled in defense hides in the most secret recesses of the earth, making it impossible for the enemy to estimate his whereabouts. This being so, the places that I shall hold are precisely those that the enemy cannot attack."


Hence that general is skillful in attack whose opponent does not know what to defend; and he is skillful in defense whose opponent does not know what to attack. 
An aphorism which puts the whole art of war in a nutshell.


O divine art of subtlety and secrecy! Through you we learn to be invisible, through you inaudible; 
Literally, "without form or sound," but it is said of course with reference to the enemy.
and hence we can hold the enemy's fate in our hands.


You may advance and be absolutely irresistible, if you make for the enemy's weak points; you may retire and be safe from pursuit if your movements are more rapid than those of the enemy. 


If we wish to fight, the enemy can be forced to an engagement even though he be sheltered behind a high rampart and a deep ditch. All we need do is attack some other place that he will be obliged to relieve. 
Tu Mu says: "If the enemy is the invading party, we can cut his line of communications and occupy the roads by which he will have to return; if we are the invaders, we may direct our attack against the sovereign himself." It is clear that Sun Tzu, unlike certain generals in the late Boer war, was no believer in frontal attacks.


If we do not wish to fight, we can prevent the enemy from engaging us even though the lines of our encampment be merely traced out on the ground. All we need do is to throw something odd and unaccountable in his way. 
This extremely concise expression is intelligibly paraphrased by Chia Lin: "even though we have constructed neither wall nor ditch." Li Ch`uan says: "we puzzle him by strange and unusual dispositions;" and Tu Mu finally clinches the meaning by three illustrative anecdotes—one of Chu-ko Liang, who when occupying Yang-p`ing and about to be attacked by Ssu-ma I, suddenly struck his colors, stopped the beating of the drums, and flung open the city gates, showing only a few men engaged in sweeping and sprinkling the ground. This unexpected proceeding had the intended effect; for Ssu-ma I, suspecting an ambush, actually drew off his army and retreated. What Sun Tzu is advocating here, therefore, is nothing more nor less than the timely use of "bluff."


By discovering the enemy's dispositions and remaining invisible ourselves, we can keep our forces concentrated, while the enemy's must be divided. 
The conclusion is perhaps not very obvious, but Chang Yu (after Mei Yao-ch`en) rightly explains it thus: "If the enemy's dispositions are visible, we can make for him in one body; whereas, our own dispositions being kept secret, the enemy will be obliged to divide his forces in order to guard against attack from every quarter."


We can form a single united body, while the enemy must split up into fractions. Hence there will be a whole pitted against separate parts of a whole, which means that we shall be many to the enemy's few. 


And if we are able thus to attack an inferior force with a superior one, our opponents will be in dire straits. 


The spot where we intend to fight must not be made known; for then the enemy will have to prepare against a possible attack at several different points;
Sheridan once explained the reason of General Grant's victories by saying that "while his opponents were kept fully employed wondering what he was going to do, HE was thinking most of what he was going to do himself."
and his forces being thus distributed in many directions, the numbers we shall have to face at any given point will be proportionately few. 


For should the enemy strengthen his van, he will weaken his rear; should he strengthen his rear, he will weaken his van; should he strengthen his left, he will weaken his right; should he strengthen his right, he will weaken his left. If he sends reinforcements everywhere, he will everywhere be weak. 
In Frederick the Great's INSTRUCTIONS TO HIS GENERALS we read: "A defensive war is apt to betray us into too frequent detachment. Those generals who have had but little experience attempt to protect every point, while those who are better acquainted with their profession, having only the capital object in view, guard against a decisive blow, and acquiesce in small misfortunes to avoid greater."


Numerical weakness comes from having to prepare against possible attacks; numerical strength, from compelling our adversary to make these preparations against us. 
The highest generalship, in Col. Henderson's words, is "to compel the enemy to disperse his army, and then to concentrate superior force against each fraction in turn."


Knowing the place and the time of the coming battle, we may concentrate from the greatest distances in order to fight. 
What Sun Tzu evidently has in mind is that nice calculation of distances and that masterly employment of strategy which enable a general to divide his army for the purpose of a long and rapid march, and afterwards to effect a junction at precisely the right spot and the right hour in order to confront the enemy in overwhelming strength. Among many such successful junctions which military history records, one of the most dramatic and decisive was the appearance of Blucher just at the critical moment on the field of Waterloo.


But if neither time nor place be known, then the left wing will be impotent to succor the right, the right equally impotent to succor the left, the van unable to relieve the rear, or the rear to support the van. How much more so if the furthest portions of the army are anything under a hundred LI apart, and even the nearest are separated by several LI! 
The Chinese of this last sentence is a little lacking in precision, but the mental picture we are required to draw is probably that of an army advancing towards a given rendezvous in separate columns, each of which has orders to be there on a fixed date. If the general allows the various detachments to proceed at haphazard, without precise instructions as to the time and place of meeting, the enemy will be able to annihilate the army in detail. Chang Yu's note may be worth quoting here: "If we do not know the place where our opponents mean to concentrate or the day on which they will join battle, our unity will be forfeited through our preparations for defense, and the positions we hold will be insecure. Suddenly happening upon a powerful foe, we shall be brought to battle in a flurried condition, and no mutual support will be possible between wings, vanguard or rear, especially if there is any great distance between the foremost and hindmost divisions of the army."


Though according to my estimate the soldiers of Yueh exceed our own in number, that shall advantage them nothing in the matter of victory. I say then that victory can be achieved. 
Alas for these brave words! The long feud between the two states ended in 473 B.C. with the total defeat of Wu by Kou Chien and its incorporation in Yueh. This was doubtless long after Sun Tzu's death. With his present assertion compare IV. ss. 4. Chang Yu is the only one to point out the seeming discrepancy, which he thus goes on to explain: "In the chapter on Tactical Dispositions it is said, 'One may KNOW how to conquer without being able to DO it,' whereas here we have the statement that 'victory' can be achieved.' The explanation is, that in the former chapter, where the offensive and defensive are under discussion, it is said that if the enemy is fully prepared, one cannot make certain of beating him. But the present passage refers particularly to the soldiers of Yueh who, according to Sun Tzu's calculations, will be kept in ignorance of the time and place of the impending struggle. That is why he says here that victory can be achieved."


Though the enemy be stronger in numbers, we may prevent him from fighting. Scheme so as to discover his plans and the likelihood of their success. 
An alternative reading offered by Chia Lin is: "Know beforehand all plans conducive to our success and to the enemy's failure."


Rouse him, and learn the principle of his activity or inactivity. 
Chang Yu tells us that by noting the joy or anger shown by the enemy on being thus disturbed, we shall be able to conclude whether his policy is to lie low or the reverse. He instances the action of Cho-ku Liang, who sent the scornful present of a woman's head-dress to Ssu-ma I, in order to goad him out of his Fabian tactics.
Force him to reveal himself, so as to find out his vulnerable spots. 


Carefully compare the opposing army with your own, so that you may know where strength is superabundant and where it is deficient. 
Cf. IV. ss. 6.


In making tactical dispositions, the highest pitch you can attain is to conceal them; 
The piquancy of the paradox evaporates in translation. Concealment is perhaps not so much actual invisibility (see supra ss. 9) as "showing no sign" of what you mean to do, of the plans that are formed in your brain.
conceal your dispositions, and you will be safe from the prying of the subtlest spies, from the machinations of the wisest brains. 
Tu Mu explains: "Though the enemy may have clever and capable officers, they will not be able to lay any plans against us."


How victory may be produced for them out of the enemy's own tactics—that is what the multitude cannot comprehend. 


All men can see the tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved. 
I.e., everybody can see superficially how a battle is won; what they cannot see is the long series of plans and combinations which has preceded the battle.


Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances. 
As Wang Hsi sagely remarks: "There is but one root principle underlying victory, but the tactics which lead up to it are infinite in number." With this compare Col. Henderson: "The rules of strategy are few and simple. They may be learned in a week. They may be taught by familiar illustrations or a dozen diagrams. But such knowledge will no more teach a man to lead an army like Napoleon than a knowledge of grammar will teach him to write like Gibbon."


Military tactics are like unto water; for water in its natural course runs away from high places and hastens downwards. 


So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak. 
Like water, taking the line of least resistance.


Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing. 


Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions. 


He who can modify his tactics in relation to his opponent and thereby succeed in winning, may be called a heaven-born captain. 


The five elements (water, fire, wood, metal, earth) are not always equally predominant; 
That is, as Wang Hsi says: "they predominate alternately."
the four seasons make way for each other in turn. 
Literally, "have no invariable seat."
There are short days and long; the moon has its periods of waning and waxing. 
Cf. V. ss. 6. The purport of the passage is simply to illustrate the want of fixity in war by the changes constantly taking place in Nature. The comparison is not very happy, however, because the regularity of the phenomena which Sun Tzu mentions is by no means paralleled in war.

- Sun Tzu - Art of War - English translation by Lionel Giles - 1910

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Go back and observe the marvels of this world

"Take these," said the old man, holding out a white stone and a black
stone that had been embedded at the center of the breastplate. "They
are called Urim and Thummim. The black signifies 'yes,' and the white
'no.' When you are unable to read the omens, they will help you to do
so. Always ask an objective question.

"But, if you can, try to make your own decisions. The treasure is at the
Pyramids; that you already knew. But I had to insist on the payment
of six sheep because I helped you to make your decision."
The boy put the stones in his pouch. From then on, he would make his
own decisions.

"Don't forget that everything you deal with is only one thing and
nothing else. And don't forget the language of omens. And, above all,
don't forget to follow your Personal Legend through to its conclusion.
"But before I go, I want to tell you a little story.

"A certain shopkeeper sent his son to learn about the secret of
happiness from the wisest man in the world. The lad wandered
through the desert for forty days, and finally came upon a beautiful
castle, high atop a mountain. It was there that the wise man lived.
"Rather than finding a saintly man, though, our hero, on entering the
main room of the castle, saw a hive of activity: tradesmen came and
went, people were conversing in the corners, a small orchestra was
playing soft music, and there was a table covered with platters of the
most delicious food in that part of the world. The wise man conversed
with every one, and the boy had to wait for two hours before it was his
turn to be given the man's attention.

"The wise man listened attentively to the boy's explanation of why he
had come, but told him that he didn't have time just then to explain
the secret of happiness. He suggested that the boy look around the
palace and return in two hours.

"'Meanwhile, I want to ask you to do something,' said the wise man,
handing the boy a teaspoon that held two drops of oil. As you wander
around, carry this spoon with you without allowing the oil to spill.'
"The boy began climbing and descending the many stairways of the
palace, keeping his eyes fixed on the spoon. After two hours, he
returned to the room where the wise man was.

"'Well,' asked the wise man, 'did you see the Persian tapestries that
are hanging in my dining hall? Did you see the garden that it took the
master gardener ten years to create? Did you notice the beautiful
parchments in my library?'

"The boy was embarrassed, and confessed that he had observed
nothing. His only concern had been not to spill the oil that the wise
man had entrusted to him.

'"Then go back and observe the marvels of my world,' said the wise
man. 'You cannot trust a man if you don't know his house.'
"Relieved, the boy picked up the spoon and returned to his exploration
of the palace, this time observing all of the works of art on the ceilings
and the walls. He saw the gardens, the mountains all around him, the
beauty of the flowers, and the taste with which everything had been
selected. Upon returning to the wise man, he related in detail
everything he had seen.

"'But where are the drops of oil I entrusted to you?' asked the wise

"Looking down at the spoon he held, the boy saw that the oil was

'"Well, there is only one piece of advice I can give you,' said the wisest
of wise men. 'The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the
world, and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon.'"
The shepherd said nothing. He had understood the story the old king
had told him. A shepherd may like to travel, but he should never
forget about his sheep."

-The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Joys and Passions

My brother, when thou hast a virtue, and it is thine own virtue, thou hast it in common with no one.
To be sure, thou wouldst call it by name and caress it; thou wouldst pull its ears and amuse thyself with it.
And lo! Then hast thou its name in common with the people, and hast become one of the people and the herd with thy virtue!
Better for thee to say: "Ineffable is it, and nameless, that which is pain and sweetness to my soul, and also the hunger of my bowels."
Let thy virtue be too high for the familiarity of names, and if thou must speak of it, be not ashamed to stammer about it.
Thus speak and stammer: "That is MY good, that do I love, thus doth it please me entirely, thus only do I desire the good.
Not as the law of a God do I desire it, not as a human law or a human need do I desire it; it is not to be a guide-post for me to superearths and paradises.
An earthly virtue is it which I love: little prudence is therein, and the least everyday wisdom.
But that bird built its nest beside me: therefore, I love and cherish it—now sitteth it beside me on its golden eggs."
Thus shouldst thou stammer, and praise thy virtue.
Once hadst thou passions and calledst them evil. But now hast thou only thy virtues: they grew out of thy passions.
Thou implantedst thy highest aim into the heart of those passions: then became they thy virtues and joys.
And though thou wert of the race of the hot-tempered, or of the voluptuous, or of the fanatical, or the vindictive;
All thy passions in the end became virtues, and all thy devils angels.
Once hadst thou wild dogs in thy cellar: but they changed at last into birds and charming songstresses.
Out of thy poisons brewedst thou balsam for thyself; thy cow, affliction, milkedst thou—now drinketh thou the sweet milk of her udder.
And nothing evil groweth in thee any longer, unless it be the evil that groweth out of the conflict of thy virtues.
My brother, if thou be fortunate, then wilt thou have one virtue and no more: thus goest thou easier over the bridge.
Illustrious is it to have many virtues, but a hard lot; and many a one hath gone into the wilderness and killed himself, because he was weary of being the battle and battlefield of virtues.
My brother, are war and battle evil? Necessary, however, is the evil; necessary are the envy and the distrust and the back-biting among the virtues.
Lo! how each of thy virtues is covetous of the highest place; it wanteth thy whole spirit to be ITS herald, it wanteth thy whole power, in wrath, hatred, and love.
Jealous is every virtue of the others, and a dreadful thing is jealousy. Even virtues may succumb by jealousy.
He whom the flame of jealousy encompasseth, turneth at last, like the scorpion, the poisoned sting against himself.
Ah! my brother, hast thou never seen a virtue backbite and stab itself?
Man is something that hath to be surpassed: and therefore shalt thou love thy virtues,—for thou wilt succumb by them.—
Thus spake Zarathustra

-- An excerpt from 'Thus spake Zarathushtra' - Friedrich Neitzsche

தேடற்பதிவுகளின் பாயிரம்..

அர்ப்பணிக்கிற கணத்தில் மனிதன் ஞானியாகவோ கடவுளாகவோ மாறிவிடுகிறான். நான் மனிதனாகவே இருக்க விரும்புகிறேன்.

ம்.. இவை ஊடிழைகள்தாம். வாழ்வின் எழுதப்படாத பக்கங்களை மனிதன் புரிந்து கொள்ள முயன்றதில் அவனிடம் கிடைத்தது எல்லாம் எழுதி கசக்கி எறியப்பட்ட சில காகிதத் தாள்களும் மை புட்டிகளும். தொலைந்து போன மாய வார்த்தைக்காக இப்படியொரு தேடல். வாழ்வின் மாய இழைகளின் ஊடாய், யுகசந்திகளால் தொலைந்து போனது ஒரு வார்த்தை. வார்த்தையைத் தேடுகையில் தன் கதையையும் தன் கேளிர் கதையையும் இணைத்துப் புனைகையில் வார்த்தை நூல்களால் கோர்க்கப் படுகின்றன. ஒவ்வோர் புத்தகமும் இன்னணமாய ஒரு சுயபுனைதலில் உருவாவதே. எழுதியவரின் ஓர்மையின்றி கோர்க்கப்பட்ட இழைகளினூடே தானும் ஓர் இழையாய் ஒளிந்திருக்கிறது இந்த பிரபஞ்ச உயிர்ப்பிற்கான அவ்வார்த்தை. தன் இருப்பிற்கான ஒரு ஒளியை அது உணர்த்தினாலும் அவ்வார்த்தையைக் கண்டுகொள்வதிலேயே ஆரம்பித்தது இப்புத்தக வாசிப்பிற்க்கான பழக்கம்.. இப்படியே தொடர்ந்து கொண்டிருக்கிறது இந்த தேடலும். வாசிப்பின் போதை தெளிவதில் எனக்கு அவ்வளவாய் விருப்பமுமில்லை.