Friday, November 16, 2007

Sun Tzu: The Art of War

I picked up this wonderful cloth bound hardcover, Sun Tzu: The Art of War (New Illustrated Edition) at a bookstore in Changi airport in Singapore, two weeks ago. This is a 1963 translation by Samuel B. Griffith, originally published by Oxford University Press. This illustrated edition is published by Duncan Baird Publishers of London in 2005.

This makes it the 5th Sun Tzu: The Art of War that I possess. Each is a different translation with different binding, fonts, formatting and size but I value each one of them. The Art of War is still my favourite book on military tactics. Each new translation brings new insights and I never tire of reading it.

Chapter Eight: The Nine Variables

Sun Tzu said:

It is a doctrine of war not to assume the enemy will not come,
but to rely on one's readiness to meet him,
not to presume that he will not attack,
but rather to make one's self invincible

There are five qualities which are dangerous in the character of a general.

If reckless, he can be killed.

Tu Mu: A general who is stupid and courageous is a calamity. Wu Chi said:'When people discuss a general they always pay attention to his courage. As far as a general is concerned, courage is but one quality. Now a valiant general will be certain to enter an engagement recklessly and if he does so he will not appreciate what is advantageous.'

If cowardly, captured.
Ho Yen-hsi: The Ssu-ma Fa says:'One who esteems life above all will be overcome with hesitancy. Hesitancy in a general is a great calamity.'
If quick tempered you can make a fool of him;
Tu Yu: An impulsive man can be provoked to rage and brought to his death. One easily angered is irascible, obstinate and hasty. He does not consider difficulties.
Wang Hsi: What is essential in the temperament of a general is steadiness.
If he has too delicate a sense of honour you can calumniate him;
Mei Yao-ch'en: One anxious to defend his reputation pays no regard to anything else.
If he is of a compassionate nature you can harass him.
Tu Mu: He who is humanitarian and compassionate and fears only casualties cannot give up temporary advantage for a long-term gain and is unable to let go this in order to seize that.
Now these five traits of character are serious faults in a general and in military operations are calamitious.

The ruin of the army and the death of the general are inevitable results of these shortcomings. They must be deeply pondered.

I have pondered these characteristics of a leader. Surprising as it may seems, these qualities of a leader are much needed in our community, our workplace and even in our churches. Maybe especially in church because at times, it seems the church is as much a battlefield as a military campaign and we all need to read The Art of War together with the Bible!
May God have mercy.

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home