Quote from Sun Tzu

Jan 12, 2015 by

“The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for and opportunity of defeating the enemy.”  -Sun Tzu The Art of War

 

Now, this quote was written with an eye towards military strategy.  Often times we hear that the best defense is a good offense.  However, this is not the case according to Sun Tzu.  First and foremost, a general should be concerned with defense, then worry about destroying the enemy.  To push the attack without a position to attack from is to offer a weakness.  Two good examples of this in history is the Second Punic War and the Texas War for Independence.  In the Second Punic War (Rome vs. Carthage), we see Hannibal attacking the Italian Peninsula with great success.  While other factors played into it, the main reason Hannibal would be forced to retreat from Italy, from his good offense, was that Scipio Africanus, general of a Roman army, was attacking Carthage directly.  Although Carthage had posed a good offense against Rome, they failed to offer a sufficient defense, leaving them extremely vulnerable.  The second example is the Texas War for Independence (Texas vs Mexico).  In this war we see two generals: Santa Anna commanding the Mexican forces and Sam Houston commanding the Texas forces.  In this war, we see the Mexican forces far outnumbering the Texas forces.  The Mexican offensive was strong indeed.  However, Sam Houston kept retreating, forcing the Mexican forces to search for their opponents.  In their search, they decided to divide into three forces.  This choice would prove disastrous.  For, while it is a good offensive strategy in terms of finding and destroying the enemy (Even 1/3 of your army loses the battle, the other 2/3′s can find the opposing army and crush it still).  However, Sam Houston attacked Santa Anna’s main force.  This, among other reasons, would lead to Santa Anna’s defeat.  This put the two armies on more equal footing in terms of numbers.  And, since Santa Anna was among this part of the army, Houston was able to capture Santa Anna and force a surrender.  You see, like building a skyscraper, without a solid foundation (defense), no matter how powerful and well built the tower (offensive), the tower will collapse.

However, to only look at Sun Tzu as applying only to military strategy would, in my opinion, not be to bring this quote to its full extent.  Now, imagine this in terms of knowledge and beliefs.  Many times, when we talk about politics, ethics, religion, or whatever else it may be that we talk, discuss, and disagree about, we tend to take  an offensive position.  Rather than learning and studying good arguments for why our belief is a good one, we learn about why our opposition is wrong.  A democrat can tell you everything wrong with every position a republican has, but not be able to give a single good argument for why they are right, and vice versa.  We tend to focus on our offense, seeing the splinter in the eye of our opposition without seeing the beam in our own eye if you will.  In the end, what happens is we have proven nothing.  No one walks away the victor  when they cannot prove their own arguments.  This would be similar to if the contestants on Jeopardy repeatedly got wrong answers for negative scores.  While there may be a technical winner, no one walks away with any victory.  No one walks away having proven their belief’s strength, only that they can poke more holes in their opponent’s arguments, when we do not think about why it is that we believe what we do.

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