Archive for May, 2011

“Superpower” —According to Sun Tzu

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

America is currently considered a “superpower.” Does America today fit the image of “superpower” as understood by Sun Tzu in his classic treatise, The Art of War?

Sun Tzu said that if a country is to function as a superpower, it must have an impeccable reputation for unity of purpose and a strong economy. 

To review Sun Tzu’s concepts:

The members of government and the people must be united behind the leadership.

The government must always choose diplomacy before resorting to warfare.

The primary intention of the military must always be to create a situation where the enemy is willing to surrender without resorting to actual physical warfare.

The military must not be interfered with by government leaders.

The military must not engage in warfare that is far distant from the home country.

The military must not engage in protracted military operations.

The military must have superb and totally secret intelligence-gathering.

The military must never reveal its operational plans to anyone beyond the leader of the country.

The military / government leaders must thorougly understand the culture and psyche of those foreigners they are dealing with.

If a superpower has taken control of another country, the primary intention must be to improve the lives of those they have taken over, so those citizens will more readily become  willing participants in the superpower’s domain.

The economy of the superpower must be stable.  Inflation and scarcity lead to civil unrest.

The citizens must not feel that they are being drained of resources to support unnecessary military actions or overpaid government officials .

I will leave it to the reader to determine if post-World War II  U.S. has been meeting the above-listed criteria.

Clearly, when a country’s image is shaken by continual political conflict within the seat of government, when its economic leaders are repeatedly being exposed for various types of unethical and exploitative activities, the solidarity of the purpose and identity of the populace is weakened.  And it is more than obvious that the leadership potential of such a country on the world stage is certainly eroded.

This is the position that America finds itself in today.   

This is not a time to waver in our expectation that our leaders and our economic institutions will perform their positions with integrity and higher purpose.  This is not done by pointing the finger at “wrongdoers” without thought to the ethics and standards of our own lives. This is not a time for self-righteousness.  But it IS definitely time to hold a  commitment to a cultural integrity that flows from the bottom to the top and back again.

“Vision” is not just for political campaigns.  It is the task of everyone, not just a political campaign platform, to create a vision. Vision is crucial if you want to see clearly into the future and have a part in what is created there.

Y.K. Wong

May 18, 2011

To learn much more about Sun Tzu and to get the most current translation of The Art of War, and how you can use the principles for your own economic strategy, get the book or the ebook of The Art of War Applied to Wall Street by Y.K. Wong, with Pat Kuzela.

A Shift in America’s Image

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

“Image is everything.”  (Sun Tzu, Art of War, 2500  years ago).  The image of the potential power of a military force is the linchpin of Sun Tzu’s concept of the right use of military force (excerpted from The Art of War Applied to Wall Street, pg. 85).  The elimination of Osama bin Laden this week has stimulated a change, temporary as it may be, in the image of the United States.

In the years following World War II the image and reputation of the U.S. was sky high.  However, American involvement in Korea in the 1950’s and inVietnam in the 1960’s, plus the misguided intervention in Iran, and events following, all caused a serious erosion in the perception of the United States.

It wasn’t until the presidency of Ronald Reagan and his success in dealing with the Russians at the end of the Cold War, as well as with the posturing of Gaddafi, that the image of the United States was somewhat restored.

After Reagan, the U.S. has struggled to maintain its posture of strength and moral integrity in foreign relations.  Even the so-called “War on Terror” has been a paper tiger—until this week’s raid on Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan.  The stealth and success of the operation have had an dramatic effect on worldwide perception that ”America means business.”

Would Sun Tzu himself have thoroughly approved of it.?

An analysis of the information released so far about the strike on bin Laden’s lair reveals that its success can be attributed to many principles advocated by Sun Tzu. Those principles are:  the importance of planning (Chapter 1 of The Art of War), the importance of thorough preparation (Chapter 2 of  The Art of War), strategy and attack (Chapter 3 of A of  W), understanding the terrain ( Chapter 10 of A of  W), and most of all, the prime importance of military intelligence (Chapter 13 of A of W). 

And most important, there was zero collateral damage.  The community and the citizens nearby were not harmed in any way—in total accordance with the principles of The Art of War.

The success of this raid on bin Laden highlights that it is not necessarily firepower that creates respect and “image.”  It is wisdom in the choice of tactics that only can come from “Knowing yourself” and knowing the enemy” that creates Image. Our leaders and citizens would be well-advised to understand this.

And for this reason, one is not so sure that Sun Tzu himself would have approved of the raid.  Why? Because part of “knowing the enemy” is understanding that part of the piece called “reducing collateral damage” consisted of refraining from doing anything that would cause a desire for retaliation to fester in the heart of the vanquished. The one piece of this operation that will come back to bite America’s image was the use of torture to gain the information needed to locate Osama bin Laden. 

Although Sun Tzu emphasized the vital role of “military intelligence,” nowhere in The Art of War is there any suggestion that torture was the way to obtain it.  So it is that the dialog that is going on now regarding this may be the last piece needed to move America along in its quest to live up the image of strength and honor it has always sought. 

To learn much more about the principles of The Art of War, get the book The Art of War Applied to Wall Street.

by Y.K. Wong

May, 2011