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1-Page Summary of The Art of War
Master Sun says that the general must understand five things: Way, heaven, earth, command and discipline. Only by understanding these can he win in battle. It’s not just about preparation; it also depends on his ability to respond to changing circumstances and make decisions quickly.
Sun Tzu believed that war should be avoided if at all possible. He said that fighting is costly and complicated, so it’s best to resolve conflicts as soon as they arise. Sun also said that the general must act with compassion and not overreach or push his men too far. Furthermore, there’s no point in killing when an enemy city can be taken whole without bloodshed; a battle is only fought if victory can be achieved quickly and easily.
A general must be responsible for his army as well as the country. He must know how to lead his troops and make decisions on his own. The general should know about both sides of the battle: their strengths, weaknesses, and strategies. Most importantly, a general should strategize well so that he can win battles with fewer forces than the enemy has.
Sun Tzu’s book, The Art of War, is about how to win a war. He says that the most important thing is to understand your enemy and know yourself. You should also be flexible in battle so you can react quickly to whatever happens. If you’re successful at understanding your opponent and staying flexible, then victory will come easily.
Sun Tzu emphasizes the importance of confusing and weakening an enemy. By keeping plans a secret, you can force the opposing army to split up its troops in defense against your attacks. This will weaken their forces and allow for concentrated attacks on them. However, it would be unwise to spread out your own forces without knowing where the attack will come from. If you don’t know what they are planning, then your own troops may also be weakened by splitting up their defenses. The best way is to conceal one’s intentions while understanding those of the enemy.
Sun Tzu states that there is no one formula for winning battles. You must be able to adapt to the situation and come up with different strategies in order to win. Sometimes, you may need to attack your enemy’s weakest point, while other times it would be better not to engage them at all. Sun also notes that a general needs to know the lay of the land before he attacks his enemies because each terrain requires different tactics in order for him or her to succeed. Furthermore, gongs, drums and flags are used so that everyone can stay organized during battle and remain on the same page as their commander. A wise general knows when is an appropriate time for him or her to strike; they know how much effort their men have put into fighting and whether they’re ready for another battle; they don’t fall into traps set by their enemies; they don’t act out of anger or arrogance; if something goes wrong in a battle, it was likely due to either cowardice or misplaced compassion from the leader(s).
The general must get a lay of the land and read it for signs of enemy movements. If the enemy is not moving, then he has found advantageous terrain. If the enemy is baiting him into disadvantageous terrain, then he should lead his army elsewhere. The general must also watch his own men to see if they are tired or thirsty or hungry or despondent; this will give him an idea about their loyalty and ability to fight in battle.
Sun Tzu notes that the general should keep his strategies secret from his army, as it will help them trust him. The general has to be courageous and make decisions on the battlefield when he is closer to it than anyone else. He must also know how to use speed effectively in war once a decision has been made, but can plunder supplies from the enemy if needed for resupply of troops. In addition, there are five things you should attack with fire: men, supplies, equipment and warehouses (all types), and lines of communication. You need to have all your materials ready before doing so at an opportune time when conditions are right; not too early or late in the season. It’s important not to be hasty because calamity cannot be undone easily.