Sun Tzu: Critique Of Flaws In Chapter 3 ‘Attack By Stratagem’

Sun Tzu rightly maintains three ways a ruler can bring misfortune upon his army.  I would like to examine some distinct limitations to #2 of 3.  Number 2 states “By attempting to govern an army in the same way as he administers a kingdom” a leader may bring great misfortune upon himself.

Sun Tzu can learn from two other political masters who dominated fields analogous to him, namely Machiavelli and B.H. Liddell Heart, most especially his text titled  ‘Strategy:  The Indirect Approach’.  Both men understood that cruelty cannot be used to enforce commands.

Hannibal’s success in enforcing discipline among the ranks of his soldiers was public display of cruelty.  This tactic was also used among most ancient, Marxist and Revolutionary Leaders throughout history.  Western approach to war reveals the distinct limitations to such approaches.  Sun Tzu carried nothing for such powerful sentiments, if public displays of cruelty were required, they were lovingly displayed as fruits of the ‘Mandate Of Heaven’.

Chapter 3 of ‘The Art Of War’ is titled ‘Attack By Stratagem’, it is a formidable piece within Sun Tzu’s entire tract on war, but it has huge limitations.


About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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2 Responses to Sun Tzu: Critique Of Flaws In Chapter 3 ‘Attack By Stratagem’

  1. In Stalin’s Russia, terror was used to drive the army to fight and in WWII the Nazi invasion was pushed back to Germany. What about the use of political blackmail to fight- the political commissars in the Red Army and Trotsky’s Special Train going to the fronts…

  2. Yes, you’re correct to speak of such ‘intellectual weaponry’ as you accurately describe. Still, both commands failed in their endeavors. Their is a very large weakness to the totalitarian approach that permits of no autonomy; or rather eliminates autonomy for this is the heart of the failure of Islam and all ancient civilizations.

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