Sun Tzu: Theme Of War

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Sun Tzu: Theme of War

Thesis Statement

"To Win Without Fighting Is Best."


The Art of War spans about 13 chapters? taking up less than a hundred pages in its English translation. Sun-Tzu is a book of principles and maxims. When comparing the relative strengths of the offense and defensive positions? (Tzu? p. 13-40) Sun-Tzu maintains that the defensive is the stronger position: "It is easier to hold ground than take it. It follows that the defense is easier than the attack? assuming both sides have equal means." (Tzu? p. 75-100) Sun-Tzu also maintains this in his principles of what to attack: "worst of all is to besiege their city fortifications" (Tzu? p. 45-60) and "For undefeatability? defend." It's understood that the defender has a greater incentive to fight then an army far from its own borders. It also states that the actual war itself must be left in the hands of the military leaders rather then the political leaders. As Sun-Tzu comments: "So a lord may harm the armies in three ways... By not knowing the armies' affairs yet interfering with the armies policies; the armies' warriors will be leery." (Tzu? p. 75-100) Policy? of course? will not extend its influence to operational details. Political considerations would not settle on the relocation of guards or the employment of patrols. However they are extra influential in the preparation of war? (Tzu? p. 13-40) of the campaign? and often of the battle.


Unlike other texts in war literature? the thematic of war in The Art of War are not buried in hidden meanings? handled indirectly? or presented with subtlety. Rather? the text speaks directly about military strategy? mass killing? invasions? and logistics. It uses several literary techniques to advance its goals? (Tzu? p. 45-60) but only to serve the military theory. However? the thematics of peace are quite the opposite.

All the way through this text concerning war is an implied peace. Peace? one could argue? is the shadow? or yin? of Sun-Tzu's war. As such? it is the subtext of this famous war treatise? serving? in its way? to dampen the effect of Sun-Tzu's descriptions of military strategy.

The main idea that pervades the work of Sun-Tzu on the political realm is the concept of deception and the dislike of actual war. This is clearly influenced by one of China's greatest philosophers? and a contemporary of Sun-Tzu's? Confucius. "Then achieving victory in every battle is not absolute perfection: neutralizing an adversary's forces without battle is absolute perfection." (Tzu? p. 75-100) This is Sun-Tzu's basic concept of war. In the backdrop of the Warring States period of the Zhou period? this made sense. He maintained the maxim of knowing yourself and your enemy. He used a variety of tricks to keep the enemy off balance. These included everything from the diplomatic to the psychological. However? the greatest weapon in Sun-Tzu's arsenal was that of deception. Throughout his work? it seems that everything revolved around deception. He even goes on to devote an entire chapter to the use of ...
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