Sunday, January 16, 2011

Caveat Lectores on the Art of War 2


In January 2010, the Lector posted a Rant about The Art of War, a Chinese military treatise written by Sun Tzu in the 6th century BC. It is one of the oldest and most revered books on military strategy. It has had an influence on Eastern and Western military thinking and business tactics.

I suggested it should be part of labor union leadership, as well. Sun Tzu suggested the importance of positioning in strategy and that position is affected both by objective conditions in the physical environment and the subjective opinions of competitive actors in that environment.

Recently, I watched a TV program of the Military History Channel dedicated to Sun Tzu and The Art of War. This program is available in various venues and should not be missed. You owe it to your members to know how to fight a war unless you are willing to lose because of lack of knowledge. It is available in 10 minute segments on You Tube. As a labor leader, you owe it to your members to learn about The Art of War.

As a political animal who preaches endlessly on the virtue and necessity of political action, my admonitions for civil and diplomatic effort seem to contradict the teachings of Sun Tzu, a warrior. In reality, this is not the case. Sun Tzu recognized that war is merely a means to an end. The political battle ground is where the real war is won or lost. Sun Tzu taught the combatants should weigh the cost versus the gain before committing to the battle.

Here are a few choice quotes from Sun Tzu:

Whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy, will be fresh for the fight; whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle will arrive exhausted.

He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight. He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces. He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks. He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared. He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy. To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself. Thus the good fighter is able to secure himself against defeat, but cannot make certain of defeating the enemy.

Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated.

The victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.

There are many lessons for the labor leadership who struggle today in the war to protect the middle class workers from those who seek to destroy them.

You can bet that your enemies study Sun Tzu and The Art of War.

It is not cheating to be prepared.

And oh yes, have a nice Day?
Caveat Lectores by Jeff Carnes
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