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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 Sovereign’s Word

The general is appointed to command by the people’s sovereign; he takes the army and focuses its power on the enemy. But there are paths of action which the general must not pursue. There are armies which he must not attack, towns which he must not besiege, positions which he must not contest and commands from the sovereign which he must not obey.

The general in the field, who understands the advantages of the nine varieties of ground, will know best how to direct the army. The sovereign at home can’t be informed of the subtleties of the situation in the field. He may be well acquainted with the configuration of the country but from home he will be unable to turn that knowledge into field decisions. Even though the sovereign is experienced with the nine varieties of ground, and even though he is experienced with the five essentials of heaven, even so he will be unable to make the best use of the army.

The wise sovereign considers the advantages and disadvantages of his directive word and will balance them together. He must modify his directives to succeed in the essential part of his plan.

However, while our army is maneuvering he must have a reserve ready to hold what we have or lift us from disaster. Keep enemies at bay by inflicting damage on them, by creating trouble for them and by keeping them constantly distracted. Hold our baits and keep them rushing about. Be prepared! Never rely on the chance of the enemy’s not coming but on the fact of our ability to hold him. Never rely on the chance that he may not attack but on the fact that we have made ourselves undefeatable. Here are the five faults which may afflict the general and bring defeat.

1 – Recklessness, which brings destruction by ambush.

2 – Cowardice, which brings capture through dividing bluffs.

3 – A quick temper, that can be provoked by insults, which leads to fighting when at a disadvantage.

4 – A delicate sense of honor that is sensitive to shame, which leads to fighting when demoralized.

5 – Excess empathy for his men, which exposes the army to short marches, early retirements and disobedience.

Those five faults are latent in every general. The destruction of the army and the death of the general are the inevitable result of a flare-up of any one of those shortcomings. Those faults the sovereign must control in his general through the proper use of his directives and in this way assist the army to victory and protect it from defeat.