Sun Tzu Rears his head again! What is he saying?


Walter Russell Mead wrote this back in 2011. I read it last year. It popped up again tonight (June 9th) in a Sun Tzu community I belong to. Time to re read!


What interested me this time however was not thoughts of Chinese battles or Japanese Feudalism or modern theory on ST’s thoughts as the first text on the road of strategic studies.

No.

What interested me was the application of the precepts to the process of modern asymmetrical conflict. Todays Western Armies appear on the outside to be highly restricted due to moral considerations. As the article in part shares no moral axioms are left unturned for Sun Tzu. His advice is as far as war is concerned, to be total in nature, with no quarter given.  That is assuming you have to fight in the first place.

Modern Armed forces face very different strictures. Rules of engagement, nation building missions, policing actions, advisory roles, strategic strikes, tactical insertions all bind the hands and missions of the State.

So much so that recent studies have shown that if “rebels”, “terrorists” or anarchists can keep up a certain level of conflict long enough the ‘State’ power is usually successfully overwhelmed.

What the hell I hear you say? Indeed. What has this got to do with wargames?

Would a study of this not be a fascinating fundamental layer for a game?

As I read the War of the Suns rules and its asymmetrical elements and conflicts between factions I cannot but help be excited about the possibilites that this system may

Vision of a new order… Map of China and Japan in 1932, one year after the Japanese occupation of Manchuria. Photograph: Buyenlarge/Getty Images

have inadvertently include, thought of, or applied some of these principals. How exciting. Somehow we will find time for this in 2013. Oh…it also fits nicely into the WWII Chronological play thru effort also!

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3 thoughts on “Sun Tzu Rears his head again! What is he saying?

  1. “So much so that recent studies have shown that if “rebels”, “terrorists” or anarchists can keep up a certain level of conflict long enough the ‘State’ power is usually successfully overwhelmed.”
    It’s an interesting claim, though I can’t think of any western / First World democracies that have been overwhelmed this way since WW2. Vietnam and possibly Afghanistan may show that first world armies can be deprived of victory vs an assymetrical opponent over time as the political support for the conflict at home fades, but those conflicts are more kinetic, somewhere between a conflict between terrorists on the one hand and a parity foe on the other. Interestingly, following Afghanistan, western armies seem to be interested in relearning conventional skills vs a parity opponent.
    I do agree with you that assymetrical conflicts could make for a great game design. It may be a few years before the definitive Afghan War (2002-2015) shows up, because history still needs to deliver a verdict on that one.

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