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New Art Of War: Trickery Can Put You on the Top

New Art Of War: Trickery Can Put You on the Top

PARK Jae-Hee

Sept. 9, 2008


Hello, I am Jae-Hee Park on The New Art of War.

One verse in the Art of War needs careful interpretation. “All warfare is based on deception.” This verse, from the first chapter of the book, “Laying Plans” means that deception is an inescapable part of military strategy.

This phrase may seem to run counter to notions of common decency. When the fate of a nation hangs in the balance, however, this observation makes sense. Sometimes generals need to resort to deception to devise strategies that will save their forces. To maintain an edge, the best leaders will always find ways to defy and startle their enemies.

Sun Tzu noted the following 12 methods that would help in confusing your enemies.

First of all, “when you are able to attack, you must seem unable.” In other words, don’t let your enemy know your exact capabilities.

Second, “when using your forces, you must seem inactive.” When your organization is planning to push into a new area, make sure you do not let it be known beforehand. Likewise in the opposite situation, throw your enemies into confusion by pretending to step into fields not in your plans.

Third, “when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away.”

Fourth, “when far away, we must make him believe we are near.” Obscure your targets to leave your enemies in ignorance.

Fifth, “hold out bait to entice your enemy.” In other words, lure in your enemies to place them where they are most vulnerable.

Sixth, “induce disorder among your enemy and then crush them.” This may indeed be a practical tactic on the way to a merger and acquisition.

Seventh, “if they are substantial prepare for them.”

Eighth, “if they are superior in strength, evade them.” If they do possess the upper hand, avoid them or go on the defense. Retreat, just like attack, is an integral part in war.

Ninth, “if your enemy is angry irritate them more.”

Tenth, “if they look down on you, make them haughtier.” Do not be infuriated or agitated by them. Further stoke up their fury or arrogance to mislead them into a trap.

Eleventh, “if at ease, toil to give them no rest.”

Twelfth, “if united, separate them.” Do not allow them to rest but continue to provoke them. If they unite their powers, get them to mistrust each other.

How are these twelve methods deceptive? Are they not effective? In Records of the Grand Historian, or Shiji, Sima Qian refers to Laozi’s words on the effectiveness of deception. “A good merchant hides his most valuable items and pretends he does not have them. A junzi, an ideal noble person, may possess de or virtue but still pretends to be a fool.

This is the point where two Chinese philosophies, Laozi’s Taoism and Sun Tzu’s School of Strategy, intertwine to accentuate the way to one’s advantage.

Candidness and genuineness are traits that everyone needs in life. Nevertheless for survival, sometimes you must mask your true intentions. Just as Sun Tzu emphasized “All warfare is based on deception,” he went on with these words: “Attack where they are unprepared, appear where you are not expected. These military devices, leading to victory, must not be divulged beforehand.”

This has been a lecture on The New Art of War by Jae-Hee Park.

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