The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Monday, February 02, 2009

The 36 Strategies: #29 Make Flowers Bloom on a Tree

The 36 Strategies: #29 Make Flowers Bloom on a Tree

While Sun Tzu’s Art of War is probably the best known book on strategy to come from the East, second place surely belongs to The 36 Strategies. Where the Art of War gives an overview of the whole subject of strategy, the 36 Strategies tries to impart the habit of strategic thinking through it’s maxims. It’s just another approach.

#29 is Make Flowers Bloom on a Tree. You dazzle and deceive your opponents with a showy display. Another way to put it would be to “Deck the tree with bogus blossoms.”

Here’s a story.

A crafty fox caught by a hungry tiger protested, "You dare not eat me because I am superior to all other animals, and if you eat me you will anger the gods. If you don't believe me, just follow me and see what happens." The tiger followed the fox into the woods, and all the animals ran away at the first sight of them. The awed tiger, not realizing he was the cause of alarm, let the fox go - Chinese Fable

I believe “shock and awe” could fall into this category as well. That is, putting on such a brilliant display of capability that the opponent is disheartened, and is put on his heels before battle is joined.

Accounts of the Spartans going into battle using this strategy helps to explain how their relatively small numbers managed to prevail. Polished, heavy armor, identical red cloaks; professional soldiers moving silently and with precision. Their opponents were generally ordinary citizens who trained together a few weeks a year not unlike our National Guard units. It would be clear to the opposition that they were absolutely outclassed before the battle.

The Spartans would enhance t heir own reputation when helping out an ally. What they would do when an ally asked for help, was to send a single general (and his staff). The general would take over management of the ally’s military affairs and “coach them up” to a point where they would prevail. The message was that the Spartans didn’t even actually have to be there in numbers for their power to be felt.

The author Steven Pressfield (Legend of Bagger Vance) did a great job in researching the Spartan way of war for his books Gates of Fire and Tides of War. Although historical fiction, they are well worth reading.

1 comment:

Sensei Strange said...

thank you,

great blog