The Annotated Art of War (Parts 9.3-6: Rivers)

 

Disciplines > Warfare > The Annotated Art of War > Parts 9.3-6: Rivers

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IX. The Army on the March

 

Sun Tzu said: Commentary
3. After crossing a river, you should get far away from it.

Rivers form boundaries that are difficult to cross easily. It is hence easy to become trapped against a river.

Likewise, any boundary can result in you being hemmed in. Boundaries can also be defensive, particularly when enemies cannot cross them.

4. When an invading force crosses a river in its onward march, do not advance to meet it in mid-stream. It will be best to let half the army get across, and then deliver your attack. If you try to meet the enemy as they start crossing the river, they may retreat or fire at you from the other bank.

If you let as much of the opposing force cross that you can easily defeat, then you can complete this task whilst the remaining force struggles to cross the river.

By dividing their army in this way, you can defeat a superior force. This is just one variant on the 'divide and conquer' principle.

5. If you are anxious to fight, you should not go to meet the invader near a river which he has to cross. If the enemy sees you coming and are able to cross the river before you arrive, then they can use the previous tactic, defeating you when a smaller force has crossed the river.
6. Moor your craft higher up than the enemy, and facing the sun. Do not move up-stream to meet the enemy. So much for river warfare. Upriver is like uphill. When your boats are upriver, you can use the current to sweep down on them. You can also drift quietly down at night to them.

Always use the natural advantages that terrain may offer you.

 

 

bullet"’Once upon a time,’ she began, all the birds were invited to a feast in the sky,’"
as Achebe renders the traditional Igbo folktale opening into English.
bulletThe story explains a cause, origin, or reason for something--gives an "etiological
explanation...at the end" (
Obiechina)--i.e. for why the tortoise shell is "'not smooth.'"
bulletThe story dramatizes a moral: greedy Tortoise, '"full of cunning,'" manages to trick
the birds out of all the food at the feast,but for his selfishness he is punished.
Tortoise falls from the sky and "’His shell broke into pieces.’"
bulletIn folktale worlds, such "naughty," but not "irredeemably" wicked characters, as
Achebe describes Tortoise
(qtd. in Baker and Draper 22), are often restored and/or
reintegrated back into society: i.e. "'a great medicine-man in the neighbourhood'"
patches Tortoise’s shell together again.
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