The Art Of War Book Summary
A state fights for its survival when it goes to war. Therefore, the art of war is to be studied meticulously. When war comes, this knowledge must be executed perfectly.
A general who makes detailed plans before a war will definitely trump a general who does not. Hence, it is necessary to make plans and discuss before battles. Comparing two armies with seven factors can spell out defeat or victory.
1. Which of two leaders of warring states has complete command and obedience from his people that even in death they will follow him?
2. Which ruler is more competent?
3. Which faction has the advantage of heaven and earth. This pertains to things like weather, distance, and terrain.
4. Who disciplines their men more?
5. Whose army is stronger?
6. Who has more trained men and officers?
7. Who is more consistent in giving rewards and punishments for discipline?
You must compare the army of your enemy well to your army so you will know his strengths and weaknesses. Plan according to circumstances at hand. Knowing your opponent and knowing yourself will guarantee you victory.
Victory is achieved through planning, computing, and comparing armies.
Never Be Defeated By Waiting For The Opportunity For Victory
People who win only go to battles they are sure they will win. Unsuccessful people act and do not think of how they will win.
A skilled warrior steers clear of battles he could lose, this secures his being never defeated. However, even the smartest general can’t tell exactly when he will win. He must always wait for his nemesis to make a mistake that will guarantee his victory.
There are five rules every successful general knows to attain victory.
1. You need to know when to enter a battle or not.
2. You need to know how to handle armies above and below your ranking.
3. Your army should have a strong and uniform discipline and spirit in all ranks.
4. You must be prepared when fighting, at the same time, your enemy must be unprepared.
5. You must have the authority and freedom to order your troops with complete control and free from sovereign interferences.
Be vigilant. Only attack when you have the upper hand. Do not face your enemy when he is strong, attack him when he is weak.
Do not go to war only because you are angry. There should always be a prize. Your hatred will cease eventually, but once a kingdom is desecrated, it cannot be restored.
Stay clear from enemy traps that try to draw you in. Do not command your army to places where supplies are scarce or when the battleground is unfamiliar.
Success In War Can Only Be Achieved When Generals Don’t Break Their Own To Defeat Themselves
A general commands an army, but it is the sovereign that commands a general. Thus, a sovereign’s commands can deter a general’s victory. The worst scenario is when he commands an army to retreat or advance when it is impossible to do so. Governing an army in a lax way or putting officers in wrong roles are hindrances to victory.
Such mistakes affect an army’s confidence and may lead to defeat.
A general can also show disastrous weaknesses like being reckless and leading his army to a sure defeat. He can also show cowardice and become captured by the enemy. He can also be very proud and toxic that insults and enemy slander provoke him easily. He can also be too entrenched in the comfort of his soldiers and let such concerns disrupt military strategies.
A general is responsible for these six disasters that affects armies:
1. Letting his army go against an army whose ten times its number making his warriors run away.
2. If his officers are weaker than his soldiers which causes insubordination.
3. If soldiers are easily worn down by officers because they are weak.
4. If officers are hateful and lack discipline which causes independent attacks that destroy the army.
5. If the leader is indecisive and weak causing a disorganized army.
6. If the leader cannot estimate the strength of the enemy and throws a force that is inferior to it leading to absolute defeat.
Take Care Of Your Resources Through Strategy, Foraging, And Spying
To maintain an army costs a lot. A group of 100,000 can cost you 1,000 ounces of silver per day for things like weapons, food, chariots, armor, and animals.
A war that goes on for a long time can deplete a state of its resources making it vulnerable and weak. Always go for fast and sure victories and not stretched out wars.
Stay clear of conquering walled cities. This could take months of preparing causing impatient officers to command their army to attack pointlessly.
The ideal method of conserving resources in war is to conquer the enemy’s army, city, or country at large than destroy it through an expensive battle. Doing this requires a force bigger than your enemy’s.
A skilled leader defeats his enemies without drawing a sword. This ensures ultimate victory. This is called winning by strategy. The best fighters are not only skilled in winning but also winning easily.
Another approach to save state resources is to steal them from your enemy by local foraging and extending your strength by seizing your enemy’s men, weapons, and armor. This solves the problem of supplying your own army with your own resources and saves your peasants from carrying your army.
There are times in war that a single battle can end a war. This is done through spies. They give your enemy false secrets and give you enemy information to make quick decisions.
Stay close to your spies and give them bountiful rewards. The price is small compared to a long war that can be avoided.
Building a strategy that revolves on a spy that told you a secret requires you to kill him along with the people who he told the secret to so the plan holds power.
Now that you know what The Art Of War book is all about, let’s take a deep dive into the biggest key insights and how you can apply them to get the results you truly want in your life.