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Sun Tzu And Carl Von Clausewitz

.. coming together of great forces from all sides has not only a physical effect, but a psychological effect on both the defeater and the defeated. The victor leaves the battlefield with an incredible spirit of confidence, while the beaten army, if still remaining, is left with hopelessness and a crushed spirit. Clausewitz believes that war is greatly influenced by the individuals fighting it, and by chance occurrences that may sway it. He believes most fundamentally that war, at its highest level, is policy; it is an instrument through which a nation achieves it political goals.

Sun Tzu also believes that war is a tool of the state, but he calls war more of an art form than anything else. Sun Tzu’s view of war is incredibly idealistic. He envisions war as an event that should occur with minimal fighting, most ideally as a series of strategic political, non-military attacks. He believes that war is a grave concern of the state, but one which can be well-prepared for and won. He describes requirements that, if met, will guarantee success. Sun Tzu feels that the commander is an extremely powerful and deciding force in the war, and also that deception must be an element fully exploited. Deception is a means which must be used at all times of war.

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An army must never let the enemy know the truth. If an army is near, the enemy commander must think it far. If an army is strong, it is better to appear to be weak and lure the enemy into ambush. An army should use spies to disrupt an enemy’s plans and create subversion within the ranks. Sun Tzu outlines the steps necessary to take when preparing for war with scientific rigor.

Attacking the enemy without actually fighting should be the aim of an army. Espionage should be employed to gather information about the enemy, to create havoc within the ranks of the enemy’s army, to break up the enemy’s alliances, and to generally isolate and demoralize the enemy. Sun Tzu believes that espionage is a powerful tool in war, and more so, that the overall practice of deception is incredibly influential in a war. These steps can yield a victory without a battle, if properly employed. If not, then an army should resort to force an achieve victory in the least possible time, with the least possible loss of lives on both side, and the least amount of effort. Sun Tzu favors efficient war over Clausewitz’s total war.

Sun Tzu states that the people of a nation are burdened by inflation, increased waste, difficulties of supply, and psychological stress when at war, so wartime expenditures should be limited. Casualties should be kept low, monetary contribution should be minimal, and strain on alliances should be as modest as possible by not requesting outside help. Sun Tzu stresses that a nation should fight a reserved war, not a total war. “Weapons are ominous tools to be used only when there is no alternative.” If the war cannot be won before the battlefield, then Sun Tzu makes further requirements for victory. First of all, a nation must have a capable commander. He declares a general must be able to understand a battle before he gets there.

A commander must know the terrain and use it to his advantage to draw the enemy towards him. He strikes only when he is assured of a victory, and falls back in an offensive manner, enticing the enemy to follow. The competent commander hates a static situation; he attacks a city only when there is no other alternative. A siege is the worst possible form of battle; it is expensive for both nations in terms of money, men, and supplies. Sun Tzu advises that a commander should “shape” his enemy to the form he wants, rather than be shaped by the enemy.

A general, once at war, is not bound by the orders coming from the ruler at home who is removed from the battle. Just as Clausewitz described four characteristics or war, Sun Tzu names five factors that control a battle. He believes “moral balance” between the troops and the commander is vital for victory, as well as the capacity of the general to command and lead. Terrain and weather are imperative for a leader to understand if he is to control both his army and the enemy’s. Lastly, there is a doctrine or method of war that must be learned from experience.

When an army possesses all of these qualities, Sun Tzu says it is assured of victory. Once these requirements are met, and the army is entrenched in battle, Sun Tzu offers guidelines for fighting. He says when an army outnumbers the enemy ten to one, they should surround the victims; when it is five to one, they should attack from all sides; when they are twice the enemy’s numbers, they should divide the enemy. When two armies meet in equal numbers, the victor will engage the enemy on his own terms. When the army is outnumbered, they should be able to withdraw and elude the enemy. Knowledge of one’s self is just as important as the sizes of two armies.

Sun Tzu says an army will be successful if it knows when it can and cannot fight, when it should use large or small forces, how to lie in wait for an approaching enemy. It must have united ranks and a strong and able general. Sun Tzu predicts the following situations: if an army knows itself and the enemy, it will be victorious; if it knows only itself, but not the enemy, then it has a fifty percent chance of winning; if it knows neither itself nor the enemy, it will most definitely lose. Sun Tzu has a very idealistic, rational outlook of war, where the victor can be predicted based on a set of met requirements. Clausewitz, on the other hand, sees war as an uncertain, foggy event. While they have different perspectives on war, do agree on some strategies. Both realize that a strong leader is necessary for victory.

They both agree that war is a short, concentrated effort, but in slightly different ways. Sun Tzu says that.


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