Whether or not Sun Tzu was the greatest military mind of all time in and of himself is debatable. But he did do something very important. He took up all the lessons from those that came before him concerning how to win a war and brought them under one tent, codified them and followed them.
“If the instructions are not clear, if the orders are not obeyed, it is the fault of the general. But if the instructions are clear and the soldiers still do not obey, it is the fault of their officers.” – Sun Tzu
Whether or not Sun Tzu was the greatest military mind of all time in and of himself is debatable. But he did do something very important. He took up all the lessons from those that came before him concerning how to win a war and brought them under one tent, codified them and followed them. To the casual observer and those more concerned with the feelings of their enemy or breaking a nail, Sun Tzu seems like a very cruel man. He killed a lot of people with the troops he commanded. To those that understand the deeper lessons of his work however, there is a great deal to be learned about how to reach any objective by studying what he taught.
One of the best, and I believe most fundamental, lessons of Sun Tzu is the story of the King’s concubines.
King Ho-lú wanted a demonstration of Sun Tzu’s theories in action to see their effectiveness. So the King’s concubines, some 300 women, were summoned and divided into two companies. He placed one of the King’s two favorite concubines in charge of each and gave the women armor and weapons while explaining a set of drills he wished them to perform.
After he had shown them what he wished to be done he then ordered the King’s favorite concubines to lead their companies in performing the maneuvers. This almost predictably led to laughs from the concubines who did not believe him to be serious. They were, after all, not warriors. Sun Tzu then repeated his orders but again the concubines laughed and failed to heed.
This is when he uttered the quote at the beginning of this article, summoned the executioner and had the King’s favorite concubines beheaded. Perhaps Sun Tzu would have lost his own head as well due to an angry King Ho-lú except for the predictable result that ensued. Sun Tzu brought forth two more concubines, placed one in charge of each company and then he again ordered the drill completed. This time the remaining concubines performed the exercise flawlessly.
Sun Tzu’s orders were clear. The fault was with those that were entrusted to carry out those commands. When that fault was remedied everything worked like it was supposed to.
There is a modern day parallel that can be drawn from all this as well and it has nothing to do with commanding a military. That is the beauty of Sun Tzu. The “Art of War” that he codified is able to be adapted to any situation with a goal.
Right now in America we have the Republican Party as it sadly exists; a chattering mass of concubines who have come to believe that they are favorites of some higher authority and they will have no harm ever come to them. The problem is that we, the people, who are the real authority behind the Party are not at all amused. We have given them power. We have given them arms. We have even given them orders. But still they sit there and giggle at us as though those orders are not at all important.
We tell them to lower taxes and they giggle. We tell them to reduce the size of government and they giggle some more. We tell them to stand up for innocent human life no matter the age and they laugh out loud. We tell them to return to within the boundaries set up for them by the Constitution and they flip us the bird while mocking us openly. So the answer is obvious to anyone that has ever read Sun Tzu. The axe needs to be sharpened. The heads of the lead concubines must be lowered onto the chopping block. And these fools need to be released from their duties and obligations. It is time to behead those giddy concubines who are in charge and who are not willing to carry out the clear orders given to them.
You would be surprised to see how quickly the rest of the concubines wise up and start to follow orders once this is done.