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YMMV: The Art of War

  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: The book was originally written for Helu, the ruler of the Kingdom of Wu. About fifty or so years after Sun Tzu's death, Wu was completely destroyed and absorbed by the Kingdom of Yue.
    • Additional points when you consider that Helu's son and successor Fu Chai did many things that Sun Tzu (and The Art Of War) would have frowned upon.
  • Executive Meddling: Not literally, but Sun Tzu acknowledges the dangers that might come if a head of state without military experience or training thinks he's hot shot and decides to meddle with the generals' plans and make the strategic decisions himself. It's why it's important for the general to stand up to the head of state if he immediately sees the flaws in his plans.
  • Magnificent Bastard: This is a goal to which all generals should aspire. As the book notes:
    "To win a hundred battles is not of the supreme excellence. To subdue one's enemy without fighting is the acme of skill."
  • Older Than They Think: The Art of War is frequently thought of as a fairly modern book. It is not — general Sun lived in the VI century BC and was a contemporary of Darius I of Persia and Confucius.
  • Values Dissonance: Today, some of the tactics he advocates would be considered war crimes at worst and state-funded terrorism at best. See also Trying to Catch Me Fighting Dirty. Examples include pretending to set up truce talks to lure enemies into a trap and attacking the enemy without declaring war.
    • But then again, the whole point of the book is to be a Combat Pragmatist and more importantly, a successful strategist. Morals have nothing to do with it. Drop what is unefficient : keep what is efficient.
    • Morals, no, but ethics still have a place in warfare. The central assumption behind pretty much the entire work is that the reader will remain in a superior position because of his adherence to these tenets. In real life, almost no one can maintain military and political dominance one hundred percent of the time, and doing things like staging false peace talks and attacking the enemy without declaring war would mean that your enemies would settle for nothing less than your annihilation. What qualifies as "pragmatic" has changed over the years.

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