In antiquity those who were referred to as excelling in the employment of the army were able to keep the enemy's forward and rear forces from connecting; the many and few from relying on each other; the noble and lowly from coming to each other's rescue; the upper and lower ranks from trusting each other; the troops to be separated, unable to reassemble, or when assembled, not to be well-ordered. They moved when it was advantageous, halted when it was not advantageous.
If I dare ask, if the enemy is numerous, disciplined, and about to advance, how should we respond to them? I would say, first seize something that they love for then they will listen to you.
It is the nature of the army to stress speed; to take advantage of the enemy's absence; to travel unanticipated roads; and to attack when they are not alert.
In general, the Tao of an invader is that when one has penetrated deeply into enemy territory, the army will be unified, and the defenders will not be able to conquer you. If you carefully nurture them and do not over-labour them, their ch'i will be united and their strength will be at maximum.
When you mobilise the army and form strategic plans, you must be unfathomable.
Where if one fights with intensity he will survive, but if he does not fight with intensity he will perish, it is "fatal terrain". Cast them into positions from which there is nowhere to go and they will die without retreating. If there is no escape from death, the officers and soldiers will fully exhaust their strength.
When the soldiers and officers have penetrated deeply into enemy territory, they will cling together. When there is no alternative, they will fight. It is the nature of the army to defend when encircled; to fight fervently when unavoidable; and to follow orders when compelled by circumstances.
For this reason even though the soldiers are not instructed, they are prepared; without seeking it, their cooperation is obtained; without covenants they are close together; without issuing orders they are reliable. Prohibit omens, eliminate doubt so that they will die without other thoughts.
If our soldiers do not live long lives, it is not because they abhor longevity. On the day that the orders are issued the tears of the soldiers who are sitting will soak their sleeves, while the tears of those lying down will not roll down their cheeks. However, if you throw them into a hopeless situation, they will have the courage of the great assassins.
Unify the soldiers' courage through the Tao of control. Realise the appropriate employment of the hard and soft through the patterns of terrain.
Thus one who excels at employing the army leads them by the hand as if they were only one man, so they cannot avoid it.
It is essential for a general to be tranquil and obscure, upright and self-disciplined, and able to stupefy the eyes and ears of the officers and troops, keeping them ignorant. He alters his management of affairs and changes his strategies to keep other people from recognising them. He shifts his position and traverses indirect routes to keep other people from being to anticipate him.
At the moment the general has designated with them, it will be as if they ascended a height and abandoned their ladders. The general advances with them deep into the territory of the feudal lords and then releases the trigger. He commands them as if racing a herd of sheep - they are driven away, driven back, but no one knows where they are going.
Assembling the masses of the Three Armies, casting them into danger, is the responsibility of the general.
The nine transformations of terrain - the advantages deriving from contraction and expansion, the patterns of human emotions - must be investigated.
One who does not know the plans of the feudal lords cannot forge preparatory alliances. One who does not know the topography of mountains and forests, ravines and defiles, wetlands and marshes cannot manoeuvre the army. One who does not employ local guides will not secure advantages of terrain. One who does not know one of these four or five cannot command the army of hegemon or a true king.
Now when the army of a hegemon or true king attacks a great state, their masses are unable to assemble. When it applies its awesomeness to the enemy, their alliances cannot be sustained. For this reason it does not contend with any alliances under Heaven. It does not nurture the authority of others under Heaven. Have faith in yourself, apply your awesomeness to the enemy. Then their cities can be taken, their state can be subjugated.
Bestow rewards not required by law, impose exceptional governmental orders. Direct the masses of the Three Armies as though commanding one man. Press affairs upon them, do not explain the purpose to them. Compel them with prospects for profit, but do not inform them about the potential harm.
Cast them into hopeless situations and they will be preserved; have them penetrate fatal terrain and they will live. Only after the masses have penetrated dangerous terrain will they be able to craft victory out of defeat.
The prosecution of military affairs lies in according with and learning in detail the enemy's intentions. If one then focuses his strength toward the enemy, strikes a thousand kilometres away, and kills their general, it is termed being skilful and capable in completing military affairs.
For this reason on the day the government mobilises the army close the passes, destroy all tallies, and do not allow their emissaries to pass through. Hold their intense strategic discussions in the upper hall of the temple in order to bring about the execution of affairs.
If the enemy opens the door, you must race in.
Attack what they love first. Do not fix any time for battle, assess and react to the enemy in order to determine the strategy for battle.
For this reason at first be like a virgin at home; later, when the enemy opens the door, be like a fleeing rabbit. The enemy will be unable to withstand you.