Research paper - Military Texts

Research paper - Military Texts - Simon Wong Research Paper...

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Simon Wong 11/23/05 Research Paper McNeal What information does an ancient Chinese military text hold? Obviously that is a trick question. On the superficial level, one might casually answer, “ancient tactics and stratagems in which to defeat one’s opponent.” War, however, is not only about moving chess pieces around. In war, the chess pieces have a heart, a mind, a soul, and a conscience, these chess pieces are humans. Thus, a problem arises. Efficiency equates with victory, but, humans are inefficient. How do I achieve efficiency? The ancient Chinese military theorists have pondered these thoughts and the answer is given to us by Wu-Tzu, “in antiquity those who planned government affairs would invariably first instruct the hundred surnames and gain the affection of the common people” (Sawyer, pg. 207). To gain affection is to gain commitment and to gain commitment is to gain efficiency. To Wu-Tzu, “commitment means entering combat without any concern for life” (Sawyer, pg. 217). Even before these ancient Chinese military theorists could begin on tactics and stratagems, they must inevitably dwell in politics as well. As Eberhard describes, “[a] despot exercised his power by a military force which was dependent upon him” (pg. 61). The despot must ask and answer this one question, how does one go about persuading a human to die for you? Humans are very impressionable beings and with the right push, are capable of almost anything. Politicians know this today, but the ancient Chinese military theorists knew it thousand of years ago. According to these theorists, there are four areas in which a ruler must manipulate; 1) Religion and Cultural Beliefs 2) Virtue 3) Rewards and Punishments and 4) Precedents. Religion and Cultural Beliefs One cannot completely ignore the people’s religion. If the entirety of the people believes in ancestral worship, as a ruler, can you decree that it is false? No, by going against religious or
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cultural beliefs, a ruler would create doubt. Religion is a human’s attempt in explaining the unexplainable, to give them comfort and ease of mind. More importantly though, an observant military theorist will realize that religion is malleable, it can rarely be forged, but it can be reshaped to a tool that suits you. Thus, as the adage goes, if you cannot fight it, join it. With this in mind, in what ways was religion used as a tool to control the people? As stated above, as a ruler, one cannot turn his back to religion or the cultural beliefs of the people. Lucien Pye best summarizes this by describing that “nearly all of the Asian cultures treated power as some form of ritual; that is, they developed early the idea that the correct performance of ritual produced the highest type of power” (pg. 39). The concept of rituals is a remnant of the Zhou system of governing in which they were used as a way of instilling order amongst subordinates as well as ranking them at the same time. Although these rituals remained
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