Lately I have been immersed in a book called Sun Tsu on the “Art of War,” an ancient Chinese military manual which has become a classic in the 21stcentury. It is more than two millennia old and has been the source of inspiration for generations of Chinese generals, but contains
strategies and tactics applicable to the world of space exploration and atomic energy. But the question arises: just how well have the book’s rules panned out since Sun Tsu wrote them down?
For instance, Sun Tsu cautions a general against wasting his men and material in besieging cities and fortified points. “Go around them,” he advised. The Chinese strategist pointed out that an army could capture six or more cities in the time it took to overrun one stronghold.
The German Wehrmacht made this Sun Tsu precept a guide in developing their blitzkrieg warfare at the start of World War II. At the heart of Nazi strategy was avoidance of strongly held points in favor of weaker areas and keeping the attack going until the enemy surrendered. It paid off handsomely, winning them all of Europe plus land all the way to the Volga River in Russia. There they tossed the Chinese sage’s rule overboard, and laid a monumentally expensive siege to the city of Stalingrad, a move opposed by practically every German general.
The Nazis wielded a powerful mechanized force which could move swiftly over open terrain, yet they tied their tanks down in street fighting amid the rubble of Stalingrad. In the process they forfeited one of the bloodiest battles of attrition fought during the war. Casualties were heavy on both sides, but especially on the German; they lost their Sixth Army, and the armies of two allies—Italian and Romanian.
Sun Tsu also advised against running a war from the ruler’s palace instead of the general’s tent, which applied strikingly on the German side during Stalingrad. Here both strategy and tactics were dictated by the ruler, German dictator Adolf Hitler. He wanted to capture the city for Continue reading