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Sun Tzu on "A Victory That Is Long in Coming"

I picked up Ralph D. Sawyer’s translation of Sun Tzu’s Art of War (you got to love a translation that has 162 pages of introduction). Sun Tzu makes an argument that “generals” of every stripe and vocation should take to heart.

When employing them in battle, a victory that is long in coming will blunt their weapons and dampen their ardor. If you attack cities, their strength will be exhausted. If you expose the army to a prolonged campaign, the state’s resources will be inadequate.

When the weapons have grown dull and spirits have depressed, when our strength has been expended and resources consumed, then the feudal lords will take advantage of our exhaustion to arise. Even though you have wise generals, they will not be able to achieve a good result.

Thus in military campaigns I have heard of awkward speed but have never seen any skill in lengthy campaigns  No country has ever profited from protracted warfare. Those who do not thoroughly comprehend the dangers inherent in employing the army are incapable of truly knowing the potential advantages of a military actions.

Tzu, Sun. Art of War,. trans. Ralph D. Sawyer (Boulder CO: Westview Press Inc., 1994). 173