Sun Tzu: Know when to fight and when not to fight

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 3/12/2019 12:20:11 PM IST

 Sun Tzu was a famous army General and Taoist philosopher who lived around 500 BC in ancient China. He is well-known for his work The Art of War, an influential work on military strategy, which is still printed and widely read even after 2,500 years.

The book “The Art of War” has thirteen chapters that describe how to factor in all important variables when trying to win a conflict. Each chapter explores these in detail and teaches that the application of military force must be used with a multidisciplinary approach, such as geography, economics, politics, and psychology.

In Chapter One, Sun Tzu says that the art of war is governed by five factors which a General should take into account before going to war: (1) The Moral Law – to ensure soldiers to be in complete accord with their leader so that they will follow him regardless of dangers; (2) Heaven – having an expert knowledge of day and night, cold and heat, times and seasons so that one can adapt his strategies accordingly; (3) Earth – taking into consideration issues of distances, open grounds and narrow passes, and the chances of life and death; (4) The Commander – exhibiting virtues of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage, and strictness; and (5) Methods & Discipline – the marshalling of the army, proper subdivisions, the graduation of ranks among officers, the maintenance of roads by which supplies can reach the armies, and the control of expenditure. These five things should be familiar to every General. “He who knows these five things well will win any battle,” says Sun Tzu.

Without going into the details of the remaining twelve chapters, let’s pick a few pieces of Sun Tzu’s wisdom from here and there in the book and use them to evaluate if both Nagas and Indians have been attempting to resolve their political conflict in a way consistent with Sun Tzu’s teaching.  

In my opinion, India has been successfully applying Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” tactics (and Machiavelli’s politics) to deal with the Naga people. For example, recruiting the Naga youngsters into the Indian Army and getting many educated Nagas into the Indian civil service have dealt a near-death blow to the Naga freedom movement. Indeed, India has wisely confined the movement of the Naga armies to certain designated camps; her intelligence gathering network of spies is now well aware of the enemy’s every move. As for those Naga nationalists operating in Myanmar, India has used a divide-and-rule strategy to engineer the split amongst their cadres. Also, with her delay tactics of ceasefire, she has tired down even the most hardened Naga freedom fighters to the point of giving up their initial hope. Another one of India’s tactics is the use of the carrot-and-stick policy: take our generous offer of an economic package and rehabilitation or fight to die. In addition, India’s latest tactic is a promise of a so-called “shared-sovereignty” with a cultural flag and possibly an agreement-paper to be recognized as the Naga Constitution, which Sun Tzu would have applauded as a superb ploy because “All warfare is based on deception.” But what Nagas need to remember is this example:  The United States’ Congress allowed the Native Americans to function as a sovereign government (Indian Nation) several decades after 1776, but this experiment never really worked out, because over the last two centuries the Native Americans have become assimilated to the Caucasian American majority culture.

Now, what if some Naga national groups refuse to accept India’s offer of a settlement without sovereignty?  Would it be in India’s interest to resort to the use of brute force again?  Could India afford to shoot another Naga civilian in the like of Mr. Zasibituo Nagi, whose martyr fueled the Naga resistance movement in the 1950s?  What could happen if 100 women get killed for a peaceful protest against the Army’s brutality?  What if another 100 children lose their lives in crossfire? What if some Naga Human Rights activists get tortured for free speech? If Sun Tzu were alive today, perhaps he would ask India to consider whether any such action could truly advance India’s cause in today’s world. Perhaps he would ask: “Are the reasons for which you are fighting worth the cost of further war – not just in terms of money but also in terms of human suffering?  Can you truly win if you lose in today’s information war?  For India’s sake, avoid prolonging the conflict anymore. And yes, it’s high time to leave the Nagas alone … on moral ground.”

As for the Nagas, Sun Tzu could possibly say that they are also doing all the wrong things in their fight against India. He may say to the Nagas: “You have lost your opportunity to wage a guerrilla war against India because of accepting her offer of statehood. You can no longer adopt a “formless strategy which adversaries cannot attack because it exists everywhere and nowhere.” (In the 1960s, General Vo Nguyen Giap, a North Vietnamese military genius who adopted Sun Tzu’s war tactics, waged a guerrilla war and defeated the Americans despite their overwhelming military power.)  Now, you Nagas must change your strategy and adapt according to the times. By the way, let go of all your bitterness against India. Stop allowing your emotions to cloud your judgment. Remember, you can never win until you start fighting with your head.” After all, Sun Tzu said: “It is more important to outthink your enemy than to outfight them.” “Know your enemy and know yourself and in a hundred battles you will never be in peril.”  “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

Lastly, I'd like to think that Sun Tzu would give to the Nagas this final piece of advice: “Be courageous to assert your right to be an independent nation, but do so without any violence. And to make things easier for yourself, earn India’s trust and gain her confidence because in her prosperity lies your prosperity as well.” 

Mazie Nakhro

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

Desk:+91-3862-248 489, e-mail: Fax: +91-3862-248 500
Advt.:+91-3862-248 267,



Join us on

© Nagaland Post 2018. All Rights are Reserved
Designed by : 4C Plus