I am continuing with my interpretation of the book. Everything in italic is a direct quote from the book.
2. Having collected an army and concentrated his forces, he must blend and harmonise the different elements thereof before pitching his camp. 3. After that, comes tactical manoeuvring, than which there is nothing more difficult. The difficulty of tactical manoeuvring consists in turning the devious into the direct, and misfortune into gain. 4. Thus, to take a long and circuitous route, after enticing the enemy out of the way, and though starting after him, to contrive to reach the goal before him, shows knowledge of the artifice of deviation. 5. Manoeuvring with an army is advantageous; with an undisciplined multitude, most dangerous.
Once the strategist sets his eyes on a challenge, he must gather together the available resources and inspect them. After that, he needs to start to blend and weight different elements before deciding what to make a starting point of the campaign. After that comes designs of tactical maneuvering, which is the most challenging part of the planning. The difficulty of the tactical maneuvers is to turn your disadvantages to your strengths, the indirect into direct, to entice the opponents out of their way into your chosen battlefield, and, if starting being the last, to come being the first to capture the goal. Maneuvering with a well-organized team is to your benefit; maneuvering with a poorly organized team is to your detriment.
6. If you set a fully equipped army in march in order to snatch an advantage, the chances are that you will be too late. On the other hand, to detach a flying column for the purpose involves the sacrifice of its baggage and stores.
Do not move your entire organization or team in order to obtain some advantage. They will be too slow and arrive too late to take advantage of the situation. Instead, send a small mobile unit first, and they will more likely to make good use of the opportunity.
12. We cannot enter into alliances until we are acquainted with the designs of our neighbours. 13. We are not fit to lead an army on the march unless we are familiar with the face of the country — its mountains and forests, its pitfalls and precipices, its marshes and swamps. 14. We shall be unable to turn natural advantage to account unless we make use of local guides.
We should not attempt to try to gain an ally until we know very well the ally’s secret plans and desires for the future. We are also not ready to start our campaign until we are very familiar with the lay of the land, the easy and the dangerous areas, and all the players who might affect the game. To be able to turn all the elements of the environment to our advantage, we will need some help from the inside, a trusted guide into the unknown territory.
15. In war, practice dissimulation, and you will succeed. Move only if there is a real advantage to be gained. 16. Whether to concentrate or to divide your troops, must be decided by circumstances. 17. Let your rapidity be that of the wind, your compactness that of the forest. 18. In raiding and plundering be like fire, in immovability like a mountain. 19. Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt. 22. He will conquer who has learnt the artifice of deviation. Such is the art of manoeuvring.
In your campaign, practice deceit in all appearances, and you will be successful. Make your open moves only if there is a serious advantage that can be obtained. Do not make plans that are written in stone, but let circumstances guide your decisions on when to scatter and when to show up in force. Whenever you do, be fast like the wind, yet solid like a tree, lay wreck to your opponent’s positions faster like a moving fire, and then make yourself impossible to move from the position you obtained. Be like a thunder coming from dark clouds – invisible until the very second that it appears, its plans and next direction are impossible to know. That is the art of maneuvering.
25. The host thus forming a single united body, it is impossible either for the brave to advance alone, or for the cowardly to retreat alone. This is the art of handling large masses of men.
When handling large masses of man, move them in such way as it would be impossible for the brave to be left too far advanced without a backup or for the cowardly to fall back behind the lines.
22. Though the enemy be stronger in numbers, we may prevent him from fighting. Scheme so as to discover his plans and the likelihood of their success. 23. Rouse him, and learn the principle of his activity or inactivity. Force him to reveal himself, so as to find out his vulnerable spots. 24. Carefully compare the opposing army with your own, so that you may know where strength is superabundant and where it is deficient.
When the opponent is too strong, find a way to prevent him from attacking. Do all you can, subtly, to discover his plans and strategies, and calculate the chances of their success. To study him, lure him out or provoke him to make him move, so you could discover where he is strong and weak, where he has resources and where he is short on resources.
25. In making tactical dispositions, the highest pitch you can attain is to conceal them; conceal your dispositions, and you will be safe from the prying of the subtlest spies, from the machinations of the wisest brains. 26. How victory may be produced for them out of the enemy’s own tactics — that is what the multitude cannot comprehend. 27. All men can see the tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved. 28. Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances. 29. Military tactics are like unto water; for water in its natural course runs away from high places and hastens downwards. 30. So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak. 31. Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing.
When making strategic arrangements, the best way to make them is to conceal them for as long as possible. This way, you won’t be discovered by the opponent’s spies or by smart observers. Seek to produce a victory for yourself out of your opponent’s own strategy and tactics. When you achieve victory, let everyone see your tactics, but no one should be able to comprehend your strategy. Do not use the same tactic twice. Instead, allow your tactics to be dictated by your circumstances, thus creating infinite variety. Let your tactics imitate the movement of the water. In nature, water does not flow uphill, but downhill. So in a confrontation, do not attack what is strong, but attack what is weak. The water always traces the shape of the ground upon which is it running, so your maneuvers should be dictated by the opponent’s own movements.
28. Now a soldier’s spirit is keenest in the morning; by noonday it has begun to flag; and in the evening, his mind is bent only on returning to camp. 29. A clever general, therefore, avoids an army when its spirit is keen, but attacks it when it is sluggish and inclined to return. This is the art of studying moods.
your opponents’ daily routines and change of energy. If he is most active in
the morning, slows down after lunch, and in the evening is in a hurry to get
home, then never make your move when his energy is high. Instead, wait for the
time when all his thoughts are on being back home. This is the art of studying
30. Disciplined and calm, to await the appearance of disorder and hubbub amongst the enemy: — this is the art of retaining self-possession. 31. To be near the goal while the enemy is still far from it, to wait at ease while the enemy is toiling and struggling, to be well-fed while the enemy is famished: — this is the art of husbanding one’s strength. 32. To refrain from intercepting an enemy whose banners are in perfect order, to refrain from attacking an army drawn up in calm and confident array: — this is the art of studying circumstances. 33. It is a military axiom not to advance uphill against the enemy, nor to oppose him when he comes downhill. 34. Do not pursue an enemy who simulates flight; do not attack soldiers whose temper is keen. 35. Do not swallow bait offered by the enemy. Do not interfere with an army that is returning home. 36. When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard. 37. Such is the art of warfare
The art of self-control is to remain collected and calm among the turmoil and clamor of the confrontation. The art of managing of power is to maintain your supplies while your opponent’s resources are exhausted, to reach the goal first and secretly wait there, preparing for your opponent to arrive. The art of reading the situation is to avoid attacking a calm and confident opponent whose operations are in perfect visible order. The military axion tells us not to charge uphill, and not to try to stop those running downhill. Never pursue an opponent whose flight you believe to be simulated. Never try to snatch the bait offered by the opponent. Do not try to mess with the opponent who is returning home. If you manage to make him feel desperate and pressed against the wall, always give him one safe way to retreat. Never make your opponent fight without a safe out that you prepared for him.
11. If we wish to fight, the enemy can be forced to an engagement even though he be sheltered behind a high rampart and a deep ditch. All we need do is to attack some other place that he will be obliged to relieve. 12. If we do not wish to fight, we can prevent the enemy from engaging us even though the lines of our encampment be merely traced out on the ground. All we need do is to throw something odd and unaccountable in his way. 13. By discovering the enemy’s dispositions and remaining invisible ourselves, we can keep our forces concentrated, while the enemy’s must be divided. 14. We can form a single united body, while the enemy must split up into fractions. Hence there will be a whole pitted against separate parts of a whole, which means that we shall be many to the enemy’s few. 15. And if we are able thus to attack an inferior force with a superior one, our opponents will be in dire straits
If we want to make a strike, but the opponent is well-sheltered from an attack, get him to leave his shelter by attacking some other spot which he will feel a need to rush to protect. If he wants to make a strike against us, but we are not in a position to prevail, prevent him from going forward with his plan by throwing something odd and hard to explain in his way, and he will stop, puzzled. Think of how to throw small challenges at him, while remaining out of reach and invisible to him, so that he is forced to split his strength or his team. As we continue to do that, at one point, we will be a one strong whole that is facing an opponent pulled in many directions. If we can then attack his scattered weakness with our unified strength, he will be in danger of losing the confrontation.
16. The spot where we intend to fight must not be made known; for then the enemy will have to prepare against a possible attack at several different points; and his forces being thus distributed in many directions, the numbers we shall have to face at any given point will be proportionately few. 17. For should the enemy strengthen his van, he will weaken his rear; should he strengthen his rear, he will weaken his van; should he strengthen his left, he will weaken his right; should he strengthen his right, he will weaken his left. If he sends reinforcements everywhere, he will everywhere be weak. 18. Numerical weakness comes from having to prepare against possible attacks; numerical strength, from compelling our adversary to make these preparations against us. 19. Knowing the place and the time of the coming battle, we may concentrate from the greatest distances in order to fight. 20. But if neither time nor place be known, then the left wing will be impotent to succour the right, the right equally
We should never reveal where we plan to strike. His it remains unknown, our opponent would have to prepare for every possible angle of attack, splitting his resources. As a result, no matter where we strike, his resources at that point will be fairly scant. Any time the opponent feels like he has to strengthen one line of defense, he will have to weaken another. If he tries to prepare everywhere, he will be weak everywhere. His weakness will come from having too many lines of defenses, our strength will come from having to force him to prepare everywhere against us. And as we know the point where we will strike, we can concentrate great strength at that specific point.
32. Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions. 33. He who can modify his tactics in relation to his opponent and thereby succeed in winning, may be called a heaven-born captain. 34. The five elements are not always equally predominant; the four seasons make way for each other in turn. There are short days and long; the moon has its periods of waning and waxing.
water never maintains any specific shape consistently, so is warfare – the
situation is never the same from one hour to another. The leader who can always
change his maneuvers to respond to the opponent’s movements will succeed in
winning the confrontation, and is a natural-born strategist. But remember what
the five elements are not always equally distributed. The seasons change. There
will be long days and short days, successes and failures, the nights when the
moon is shining strong and the nights of complete darkness.