It was rendered into English and published as Tao and War in 1977 by Charles LeRoy Scamahorn. That modern book included renderings of The Tao Teh Ching by Lao Tzu, and The Art of War by Sun Tzu. The Art of War is here revisited by Charles LeRoy Scamahorn 2013 to make it more web ready.
The Moral Law
The way to make men fight uses nine types of ground:
1 – Disbanding ground,
2 – Easy ground,
3 – Contentious ground,
4 – Free ground,
5 – Joining ground,
6 – Worrying ground,
7 – Perplexing ground,
8 – Confining ground and
9 – Desperate ground.
1 – When a general camps his army near his men’s homes it’s on disbanding ground.
2 – When the army has moved a moderate distance into foreign territory, it’s on easy ground.
3 – An army on a place greatly desired by the other army is on contentious ground.
4 – Ground that allows both armies to move easily is free ground.
5 – Ground that lies at the juncture of three neighboring states, such that he who controls it controls them all, is joining ground.
6 – When the army has moved deep into hostile territory leaving enemy fortifications to its rear, it’s on worrying ground.
7 – Mountains, forests, precipitously gorged plains, marshes and all country through which it is confusing to travel, is perplexing ground.
8 – Ground which was reached by confusing routes and from which your men can flee only at great personal risks, where small bands of the enemy would suffice to kill large numbers of your fleeing men, is confining ground.
9 – Ground on which the only way your men can save their lives is by fighting without hesitation is desperate ground.
1 – Don’t fight on disbanding ground.
2 – Don’t tarry on easy ground.
3 – Don’t attack from contentious ground.
4 – Don’t try to block the enemy’s movements on free ground.
5 – On joining ground meet with your allies.
6 – On worrying ground plunder the enemy.
7 – Move quickly through difficult ground.
8 – On confining ground complete your desperate plan.
9 – On desperate ground, fight!
The ancient masters of war were able to drive a wedge between the enemy general and his officers, prevent cooperation between his main body and his elite units, hinder the reserve divisions from rescuing the exhausted ones and prevent the officers from rallying their men. If the enemy’s units were scattered, the skillful general prevented them from concentrating, and even when their divisions were together he contrived to keep them from desperate union. When it was to the skillful general’s advantage the enemy made a forward move; when it was to his advantage the enemy came to a stop. When asked, ‘How could he stop a larger army of the enemy in orderly array and poised to launch an attack,’ he would say, ‘Begin by controlling the thing which gives their soldiers the desire to fight, then their decision will be controlled by your will.’ Rapid execution is the essence of war. Take advantage of your enemy’s unpreparedness and thus make your routes become unexpected and the places you attack unguarded. The following principles may be observed. The further your army penetrates into a foreign country, the more solid your troops become and the less the defenders will struggle against you. Make raids into fertile country and keep your army well supplied with food. Carefully maintain the health of your men and don’t over-exert them. Develop their strength for the strike and hoard their reserve energy. Keep your army filled with action, yet keep the specific objective absolutely unknowable. Men hurled into positions from which they can’t escape will prefer death to flight. When men are willing to die their fear leaves them and there is nothing they will not do for the good of their group. Both officers and soldiers will make their absolute effort. The deeper a group of men penetrates into a hostile situation the more tenacious and cooperative they become. Without being told the soldiers will do their jobs; without being asked, they will do your will; without regulations they will be dutiful; even when unsupervised they will be trustworthy. In a desperate situation the men will forget omens and superstitious doubts; once death is accepted, further calamities will not be feared; in this state of mind they will fight until they are stone dead.
If our soldiers aren’t rich it isn’t because they dislike money, and if their lives are to be short it isn’t because they dislike living. On the day of the battle, the soldiers will weep so copiously as to wet their shirts and wash their faces. But once these weeping men are trapped together their tears vanish and they become fiercely courageous. This is the method whereby the skillful tactician makes every member of his army cooperate like the Chinese Shuai-Jan snake, which if you strike at its head you will be attacked by its tail, or if you strike at its tail you will be attacked by its head and if you strike at its middle you will be attacked by both its head and tail. When asked, ‘Can an army of individual and timorous men be made to behave like the Shuai-Jan snake?’ one should answer, ‘Yes, for men may hate one another, yet if they are boating across a river and are struck by a storm each will come to the aid of the other as quickly as the left hand comes to the aid of an injured right.’ In the face of a battle a general would be foolish to hobble the war horses or fasten the fighting equipment to the ground, for that will neither prevent the flight of his soldiers, nor will it make them fight. The unifying principle is to set up one standard of fear which all must face together or die alone. To make the best of both honorable and timorous men, entrap them together through proper use of the grounds. The skillful general may then conduct his fear-filled army as easily as if he were leading a single blind man through the valley of death. This is the business of the general alone and he must be silent about this plot, to secure absolute secrecy. He must remain courageous and just and in this way maintain order. He must perplex his higher officers as well as his men by false reports and artificial appearances and thus he may keep everyone in total ignorance. He must insist on obedience and never give reasons for any order. By altering his plans and dispositions he keeps his own men and spies without specific knowledge. And by moving his camp and taking crooked routes, he prevents the enemy from calculating his real goal. At the decisive moment the general appears as if he has guided the army to a great height and kicked away the ladder behind them. He drives his men to the very depths of a hostile territory before he shows them the desperate situation. He has burned his boats, broken his cooking pots and like a boy herding a flock of sheep he has driven his men to and fro so that no one but he knows where he is going. When to enrage his army and hurl it into desperate ground is the supreme moment of the general’s profession. The distinctive methods fitting each of the nine grounds, the necessities of hidden versus obvious actions and the fundamental laws of human nature must be perfectly understood. The general principle is that penetrating deeply into hostile territory brings cohesion but penetration a short distance brings dispersion. Therefore:
1 – On disbanding ground one should inspire his men with unifying idealism and move on.
2 – On easy ground one should pull his units together and move on.
3 – On contentious ground one should pull in the army’s rear.
4 – On free ground one should keep his defenses in good order.
5 – On joining ground one should consolidate his alliances.
6 – On worrying ground one should gather in plenty of supplies.
7 – On perplexing ground one should push his way through quickly.
8 – On confining ground one should block every remaining possibility for flight of separate men or units.
9 – On desperate ground one should proclaim to his soldiers that their lives are over. For it is the nature of men to become filled with obstinate resistance when trapped, to kill when they have no alternative and promptly obey when they have fallen into danger.
One can’t form alliances with other sovereigns until he is familiar with their intentions. One isn’t qualified to lead an army on marches unless he is experienced with mountains, forests, pitfalls, precipices, marshes and swamps. One shall be unable to make advantage of local terrain unless he is skilled in the use of local guides.
The inability of the leaders to use the following principles does injury to their nation. When a sovereign attacks a foreign state, his diplomacy is proven if he prevents the assembling of the enemy’s forces, also if he awes his opponent’s allies so that they are prevented from joining together against him. He doesn’t seek alliances with everyone and he doesn’t increase the power of foreign states. He completes his own designs in secret and keeps his antagonists entangled with each other. And then he takes their cities and acquires their people. As general you should give rank and awards to ability and accomplishments, never with regard to monetary wealth or civil title. When you give orders without regard to those civilian arrangements your army will become an efficient tool. Show your soldiers existing situations and never let them see your plot. When the view will make the soldiers cohesive bring those facts before their eyes. When the situation is dispersive tell them nothing. When your army finds itself in what appears to be deadly peril it will kill to regain safety. Therefore, hurl it into these seemingly desperate situations and it will survive. If the enemy opens a way for individuals to escape, you must contrive to close it, or your men will flee. It is the moment when a whole body of men perceive themselves as faced with imminent death that every man makes his personal resolve to strike a blow for victory. You may be successful in battle if you spy out the enemy’s intentions and simply fall in with the timing of his battle plan. Then when he has exposed himself, you complete your desperate battle plan and defeat him.
On the day you make this awful decision, destroy the official records and stop the passage of all external communications, so that you may control every bit of information. Be strict in the general staff meeting, so that you may control your fear-filled officers. When the enemy leaves your preplanned opening open, you must rush in and seize the exposed vital. Walk timidly in the path defined by obvious rules and appear simple, even stupid, until you can fight desperately and achieve a decisive victory. Be coy until the enemy leaves the vital carelessly exposed, then dash into desperate ground like a darting hare. You now have the victory. The enemy can’t oppose you because your men are desperate and he can’t temporize or withdraw because you hold his vital. (If the enemy general has compassion for his men’s lives and the sovereign has compassion for the lives of his people he will concede to you a bloodless victory and there will be peace.)