In Sun Tzu’s Art of War, he provides an interesting philosophical approach to how war should be handled. While this document was written ages ago, some of it is very relevant to now. Additionally, some of it is contradictory to the techniques and tactics we are taught at the Naval Academy. While Sun Tzu’s philosophy would have been effective for the empires of old, much of it also reigns true in today’s era, but some of it is outdated due to the nature of modern warfare.
To begin, Sun Tzu places a high priority on the art of deception, as he says, “The Way of War is A Way of Deception. When able, Feign inability; When deploying troops, Appear not to be. When near, Appear far; When far, Appear near.” This tactic is in fact effective in war, as deception allows an army to attack the enemy when they do not expect it. This tactic is taught at the Naval Academy, mainly through the art of submarine warfare. In the modern era, our submarine force’s ability to deceive and go undetected is one of our greatest strengths, as we are able to strike potential adversaries at a moments notice and are able to operate behind enemy lines undetected. This tactic is also taught in the aviation community through radar jamming in order to deceive the enemy and go undetected. All this being said, our military does not rely entirely on the art of deception. As the greatest fighting force in the world, one of our goals is to maintain that status by ensuring other countries are aware of our power through strategic deterrence. While we do use deception in certain circumstances, our ability to deter other nations from violence through flexing our power and making it known is the greatest peacekeeping strategy. While some of what we are taught about deception in war at the Naval Academy is similar to Sun Tzu’s philosophy, it also differs greatly through our enforcement of strategic deterrence.
Sun Tzu strongly believes in the “Five Essentials” for victory in order to be successful in war. One of these five essentials is “Be ready for the unexpected.” This idea is repeatedly enforced at the Naval Academy, as it was drilled into us starting with the very beginning of plebe summer. We have been told hundreds of times to “expect the unexpected.” This is key to victory in battle because in war, you never know when something may go wrong, and you have to be able to react. I believe Sun Tzu is incredibly wise in making this one of his essentials for victory in war, as it is so important to success.
Overall, Sun Tzu’s wisdom regarding warfare strategies is very impressive. He makes very good arguments that are still true in today’s era, such as his emphasis on the art of deception and his advice to always be ready for the unexpected. While we are forced to slightly stray from his advice through the art of strategic deterrence, by which we maintain peace in our world, Sun Tzu’s strategy is overall very effective, and we are taught many of these same tactics at the Naval Academy.
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Sun Tzu’s The Art of War