Sun Tzu's concept of conflict in the art of war

The Art of War is a timeless piece of writing that offers a unique concept of conflict or war. In this masterpiece, Sun Tzu offers later generations an overview of what war is, and how an army could win a battle. Overall, we may say that he views conflict as an art, thus war is an activity that requires craftsmanship.

For Sun Tzu, conflict or war should be treated with vital importance. It is a matter of life and death, where winning is equal to life, and losing is similar to death. The state ought to give particular importance to matters of conflict, for this could lead either to its safety or ruin. At present, we see how countries spend millions to win a battle. For instance, in 2006, the US spent nearly USD 2B a week in the Iraq war alone (Bender 2006).

The government provides its army with supplies, from basic and medical needs, latest and most powerful ammunitions, and benefits for the army’s family. This is one of the reasons why the US is so powerful, and it has won many battles, including the Vietnam War, World War II, among others.

Ways of dealing with conflict should be carefully planned out and calculated. In this consideration, the commander general should possess wisdom for in this officer’s hands lay the future of the nation. The commander should know when to fight and when not to fight. “When it [is] to their advantage, they made a forward move; when otherwise, they stopped still.”(c.9 l.17) The commander should be calm, knowledgeable of tactics and maneuvers, and full of wisdom. He should know how to combine his men’s energy, and use it for their advantage.

One of the unique ideas of Sun Tzu is that war is better won without fighting.

 He emphasizes that “to fight and conquer in …battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.” (c.3 l.2) By this, he means that real success lies in making one’s army strong, thus making the enemy feel defenseless in its presence. This is probably the reason behind the Japanese loss to the Americans during the World War II. The former was always after destruction and shedding of blood, while the latter was after redeeming nation.

Moreover, Tzu emphasizes that the purpose of war is for “victory, not lengthy campaigns.” (c.2 l.19) If written in our times, this would be a direct attack to the US. Based on history, we know that the US sends assistance to other countries during war and later on stays in the country to provide reforms, and in a way promote the American culture. On the one hand, it benefits the US by way of exportation of goods, while on the other hand it suffers from giving too much assistance over time. Particularly, there were times when the assistance extended to providing lifelong shelter, as the case of Cambodian immigrants.

When carefully pondered upon, the concepts of Sun Tzu about conflict are the best guidelines to win not only wars with other nations, but also conflicts in everyday life. For instance, at work, the ruler or CEO should be the one who “lays his plans well ahead; the good general [who] cultivates his resources.”(c12 l.16)

Works Cited

Bankston, Carl III. Cambodian Americans. Retrieved 8 September 2008 <http://www.everyculture.com/multi/Bu-Dr/Cambodian-Americans.html>.

Bender, Bryan. “Cost of Iraq War Nearly $2B a Week.” 2006. Retrieved 8 September 2008 <http://www.boston.com/news/world/middleeast/articles/2006/09/28/cost_of_iraq_war_nearly_2b_a_week/>.

Tzu, Sun. “The Art of War.” Retrieved 8 September 2008 <http://suntzusaid.com/book/1>.