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Jul 26, 2010

The Art of War is a Chinese military treatise written during the 6th century BC by Sun Tzu. Composed of 13 chapters, each of which is devoted to one aspect of warfare, it has long been praised as the definitive work on military strategy.

You may wonder, what does The Art of War have to do with Zen, enlightenment and peace of mind. It is ironic, that in order to achieve peace, we must understand war. In order to realize happiness, we must experience agony, to feel love we must perceive hate and to aquire riches we must grasp poverty.

War, by definition, is a conflict carried on by force of arms, as between nations or between parties within a nation; warfare, as by land, sea, or air (, 2007). Sun Tzu’s theory(s) are very interestingly approached in his book, “Art of War.” One could especially find this analysis interesting if Tzu’s contents are compared to current world events, wars, politics, etc. One could argue that war is based on man power, numbers, military warfare, chemical warfare & other military means.  Sun Tzu shows that war is not only about weaponry and ammunition, but rather, non-military means such as diplomatic, political and economic forces of power.  Tzu’s theories also correlate well with the current war on terror in that peace & war are difficult to distinguish from each other.  Also, they are part of the same ongoing conflict.  From a broad perspective, Tzu shows how wars can be won in the psychological, economic and diplomatic means which can be used to break through enemy lines in other ways then through blood and carnage.  The mind is a powerful tool, and to manipulate the mind of the enemy could yield a victory in ways that war is not defined.  This paper will analyze the concepts of psychological warfare, economics and the influence of diplomacy.

Psychological Warfare

All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near. (Giles, 1910 pg. 2)

When approaching the art of war, Tzu has numerous statements that have to do with the psychological aspect of getting into the enemy’s head. As shown above, war has everything to do with counteracting against “What might be” in unison with “What really is”.  In Griffins translation, Tzu’s states, The enemy must not know where I intend to give battle. For if he does not know where I intend to give battle he must prepare in a great many places. And when he prepares in a great many places, those I have to fight in any one place will be few (Griffith, 1971 pg. 98).  As these theories are applied to the current day, terrorism can easily come to mind.  If terrorists do not know where US troops are, they will not know when to expect a battle.  This strategy, along with present day technology, has been a great help to the US Military in the current war on terror.

Another psychological portion of the current war that correlates with Tzu’s theories is how war and motives are perceived. In the Middle East there is a depression of economic growth.  The Middle East has been this way for many years.  When these struggling countries see the economic growth of Western Civilization, they resent the progression and gain the perception that we are going to make our way a standard among them.  A.S. Hashim states that because of this perception, these Middle Eastern nations have failed to modernize, attain political legitimacy and economically develop (Hashim, 2001 pg. 16) As such, it is easy to see the work that is cut out for the American Government and Military.  A change of mind, a change of heart, a change of thought, a change of perception must happen for trust to be garnered and for economic growth to really begin.  Another great example of psychological warfare is Saddam and the Iraqi people.  Saddam  played into the role of anti Semitism and controlling the content and information given from the enemy.  According to Tzu, this is one of the most powerful tools in war.

To keep with the “non military” theory of Tzu, economics comes into play as a stratagem to divide and conquer. In Chapter 11 of Giles translation it states:

When you leave your own country behind, and take your army across neighborhood territory, you find yourself on critical ground.  When there are means of communication on all four sides, the ground is one of intersecting highways.
We are not fit to lead an army on the march unless we are familiar with the face of the country

The U.S. provides assistance funding to global coalitions against terrorism. The fact is that U.S. military and government is funding counter-terrorism research and development, & Homeland Security.  The US is also disrupting the funding of terrorist groups which is slowing the progression of terrorism in a widespread manner. In every time of war, the economy of a warring nation plays a great role in the deployment and development of war strategy.  When ones means of communication can help to alter economic growth and/or economic power, that entity is beginning to penetrate deeper into the heart of the war more than a bullet or bomb could do.


Tzu shows how using political and diplomatic methods can increase a nations power to win any war.  There has to be a balance between military and diplomatic efforts.  When diplomatic steps are taken to ally a country with another, they both ensure a greater strength and protection for each other in time of great need.  In Griffins translation, Tzu States: “Look into the matter of his alliances and cause them to be severed and dissolved. If an enemy has alliances, the problem is grave and the enemy’s position strong; if he has no alliances, the problem is minor and the enemy’s position weak.” (Sun Tzu, The Art of War, p. 78)

Through diplomatic relationships gained by whatever means necessary, a nation increases its chances of winning future wars.  Many friends (nations) make for many numbers, and there will always be strength in numbers.  As such, diplomatic relationships play great roles in the progression/digression of winning or losing a war.

Through this analysis of Tzu’s “Art of War”, one will be able to see how political, economical and Diplomatic stratagem may be taken to divide and conquer.  Tzu’s writings are vague in detail and rich in theory, and there are many approaches to life that can be taken from his words.


Written By:
Thomas A. Retterbush

Imported from external blog

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Posted: Monday July 26, 2010, 9:41 pm
Tags: zen enlightenment [add/edit tags]

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Thomas Retterbush
male, age 53, single
Balcones Heights, TX, USA
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