... When capable, feign incapacity, when active, inactivity. When near, make it appear that you are far away, when far away, that you are near. Offer the enemy a bait to lure him, feign disorder and strike him.
Pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance.
[Ho Yen-Hsi] I make the enemy see my strengths as weaknesses and my weaknesses as strengths. ...
[Chang Yu] Sometimes drive a wedge between a sovereign and his ministries. On other occasions separate his allies from him. Make them mutually suspicious so that they drift apart. Then you can plot against them.
[Tu Yu] Do not allow your enemies to get together. ... Look into the matters of their alliances and cause them to be severed and dissolved.
[Chia Lin] Plans and projects for harming the enemy are not confined to anyone method. Sometimes entice his wise virtuous men away so that he has no counsellors. Or send treacherous people to his country to wreck his administration. Sometimes use cunning deceptions to alienate his ministers from the sovereign. Or send skilled craftsmen to encourage his people to exhaust their wealth. Or present him with licentious musicians and dancers to change his customs. Or give him beautiful women to bewilder him.
[Ho Yen-Hsi] I make the enemy conceive my normal force to be the extraordinary and the extraordinary to be the normal. Moreover, the normal may become the extraordinary and viceversa.
[T'ai TsungJ: A chi manoeuvre may be cheng, if we make the enemy look upon it as cheng; then our real attack will be ch 'i and vice versa. The whole secret lies in confusing the enemy, so that he cannot fathom our real intent.
Troops thrown against the enemy as grindstone against eggs is an example of solid acting upon a void.
Generally in battle, use the normal forces to engage; use the extraordinary to win.
(6) Now the resources of those skilled in the use of extraordinary forces are infinite as the heavens and earth, as inexhaustible as the flow ofgreat rivers.
(7) For they end and recommence; cyclical, as are the movements of the sun and moon. They die away and are reborn; recurrent, as are the passing seasons.
(11) In battle, there are only the normal and extraordinary forces, but their combinations are limitless,. none can comprehend them all.
(12) For these two forces are mutually reproductive; their interaction as endless as that of interlocked rings. Who can determine where one ends and the other begins.
To prepare a sham action with sufficient thoroughness to impress an enemy requires a considerable expenditure of time and effort, and the costs increase with the scale of the deception. Normally they call for more than can be spared and consequently so-called strategic feints rarely have the desired effect. It is dangerous, in fact, to use substantial forces over any length of time merely to create an illusion, there is always the risk that nothing will be gained and that the troops deployed will not be available when they are needed.
Plans and orders issued for appearances only, fake reports designed to confuse the enemy, etc. - have as a rule so little strategic value that they are used only if a ready-made opportunity presents itself. They should not be considered as a significant independent field of action at the disposal of the commander .
The weaker the forces that are at the disposal of the supreme commander, the more appealing the use of cunning becomes. In a state of weakness and insignificance, when prudence, judgment and ability no longer suffice, cunning may well appear the only hope. The bleaker the situation, with everything concentrating on a single desperate attempt, the more readily cunning is joined to daring. Released from all future considerations, and liberated from thoughts of later retribution, boldness and cunning will be free to augment each other to the point of concentrating a faint glimmer of hope into a single beam of light which may yet kindle a flame.
However great may be the temptation to undertake such operations [i.e., diversions] as those enumerated, it must be constantly borne in mind, that they are always secondary in importance and that the essential thing is to be successful at the decisive points. A multiplication of detachments must, therefore, be avoided.
I understand by diversions to mean those secondary operations carried out at a distance from the principal zone of operations, at the extremities of a theater of war, upon the success of which it is sometimes foolishly supposed the whole campaign depends.