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7 - “The Concentrated Essence of Wisdom on the Conduct of War”

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 November 2022

Peter Lorge
Affiliation:
Vanderbilt University, Tennessee
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Summary

Liddell Hart’s Foreword to Samuel Griffith’s 1963 translation of Sunzi is the locus classicus for the interpretation that Sunzi advocated an “indirect approach” to strategy. Liddell Hart asserted that Sunzi was the world’s greatest military thinker, with only Clausewitz comparable, if dated, and that much of the suffering caused by World War I and World War II would have been avoided if planners had absorbed some of Sunzi’s “realism and moderation” to balance Clausewitz’s theoretical emphasis on “‘total war’ beyond all bounds of sense.” Although Sunzi appeared in Europe with a French translation in the late eighteenth century, and appealed to the “rational trend of eighteenth-century thinking about war,” it was not influential because of “the emotional surge of the Revolution.” A new and complete translation was needed, particularly with the appearance of nuclear weapons, and with China becoming a great power under Mao Zedong.

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Sun Tzu in the West
The Anglo-American Art of War
, pp. 160 - 176
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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