Sun Tzu & The American Election

What Role is the 2500 BC General Sun Tzu Playing in the American Election Today?

By Osama El-Kadi - October 2008


It was said at the time, that the first Gulf war was fought by the book of Sun Tzu the Art of War; the analysis of the strategic position, the advance, the directing of the forces and the “owe and Thunder” of the final push.



President Barack Obama

During the first Gulf War, these strategies were performed under an overwhelming mission, unity and focus and was supported by all the world nations and by the masses.

Look at Obama’s Campaign now and you will find the handy work of a top notch military strategist who undoubtedly had a hand in the first Gulf War and certainly unlike any civilian who ever run a presidential election in America’s history.

There is no doubt that a Master Military Strategist is at work from the outset of this election and none other than Colin Powell could be the one.

Axelrod and David Plouffe are certainly master strategists in their own right but they were well chosen by someone else who knows much more when it comes to applying war strategies in winning political campaigns.

general Colin Powell





In his famous Art of War treaty written 2500 years ago, Sun Tzu described a winning campaign: get the mission that unit the leader with the nation right, focus on the message and keep a cool head throughout, know when to move and when to stop, know when to use an overwhelming force to finish the campaign to your favour and to seal the deal.

Let us listen to some poetic verses from Master Sun in his famous treaty the Art of Strategy:

Sun Tzu and the American Election





“Tell me which view possesses a great mission,
Which leader possesses competence,
which can affect timing and the situation,
which leader inspires a following,
which strategy has numerous strength,
which groups are highly trained,
which has enlightened reward and penalties,
It is through these that I know triumph or defeat.”

“Those who triumph, compute at their headquarters a great many factors prior to the challenge”
Those who are defeated, compute a small number of factors prior to the challenge,
How much more so with no computation at all.”

“They attack when the opponent is unprepared and appear where they least expected.
This is the strategist way of triumph,
it must not be discussed beforehand.”

“Thus, those who win one hundred triumphs in one hundred conflicts,
do not have supreme skills.
Those who have supreme skill,
use strategy to bend others without coming to conflict.”

“Know the other and know yourself,
one hundred challenges without danger,
Know not the other and yet know yourself,
one triumph for one defeat,
Know not the others and know not yourself,
every challenge is certain peril”

“Winning Strategies are certain of triumph Before seeking a challenge.
Losing Strategies are certain to challenge Before seeking a triumph.”

“Skillfulness in moving the opponent about comes through positioning the opponent is compelled to follow and gifts the opponent is compelled to take”

“Through the promise of gain, the opponent is moved about while the team lies in wait”

“Those who are certain to capture what is attacked,
attack locations that are not defended.
Those who are certain to secure what is defended,
defend locations that cannot be attacked.

Thus an opponent does not know what location to defend against those skilled in attack, Nor does he know what location to attack against those skilled in defence.

Thus, when the opponent is positioned, we must appear without position.
As a result, we may focus while the opponent must divide.
Focused we may act as one, while the opponent must divide by ten.”

"To execute an artful strategy,
When the hill is high, never face up;
When the hill slopes behind, never back down;
When the flight is feigned, never pursue;
When the other team is sharp, never attack;
When the Strategy is bait, never bite;
When the opposition withdraws, never interfere;
When surrounding the opposition, leave an opening;
When the opponent is desperate, never press.
Such is the execution of an artful Strategy.”

On leadership, let’s read what Sun Tzu Said and you will judge for yourself to which way the election is going:

“Leaders may have Five Weaknesses;
The overly reckless can be destroyed.
The overly cautious can be can be captured.
The deeply attached can be harassed.
The quickly angered can be ridiculed.
The very fastidious can be humiliated.
Generally, the five weaknesses are a mistake in a leader They are catastrophic in the execution of a strategy.”

“A superior Leader who takes the people with him,
evaluate the opponent’s formula for triumph and calculates the distance or proximity of danger and obstructions.
Those who employ this knowledge can challenge with certainty of triumph.
Those who do not, can challenge with certainty of Defeat.
Therefore, to advance without seeking fame or to retreat without avoiding blame,
will bring security to the people and advantage to the mission. This is a treasure for the nation”

Finally, the ultimate restraint:

“Do not move unless it is advantageous.
Do not execute unless it is effective.
Do not challenge unless it is critical.
An intense view is not a reason to launch an opposition.
An angry leader is not a reason to initiate a challenge.
If engagement brings advantage, move,If not, stop.
Intensity can cycle back to fondness.
Anger can cycle back to satisfaction.
But an extinct campaign cannot cycle back to survival.
And those who are destroyed cannot cycle back to life.
Thus a brilliant ruler is prudent; A good leader is on guard.
Such is the way of a stable nation and a complete force."

Those quotes need no explanation and they are a small taste of the strategies employed in the American Election campaign leading Obama to a major and historic victory.

People sometimes doubt Obama’s experience to be a president of the USA. Well...

let me tell this people that regardless of all the experiences that Obama has and certainly qualify him to be president, one skill stands out above all very clearly for all to see and one that is vital for any leader let alone the leader of the free world; the powerful strategy skills shown by Obama so far in running his campaign is alone head and shoulders above anything else seen by any presidential candidate in America’s history and alone with no doubt qualify him to be the President.

The American people should be thrilled and proud that after eight years of lack of vision, be it strategic or even tactical by the current president, they now have a master strategist supported by other masters who is ready to serve and lead this great nation out of the darkness that prevailed for the last eight years.

The Americans have been gifted with a man who Colin Powell described as a man of substance and character, meaning a man of strategy and leadership.

The most laughable incident in this whole election so far for me was when McCain in one of his debates told Obama that he does not understand Tactics or Strategy. I laughed so much at the comment by McCain that I couldn't’t contain myself.

McCain's comment alone deserve much more attention than it was given in the press and alone must ensure McCain defeat. The McCain Campaign leaders are totally and utterly devoid of any strategy skills whatsoever, their tactics are all over the place with no strategy to govern these tactics, no mission, vision or direction and yet he ignorantly accused his opponent of lack of knowledge about strategy and tactics.

How blind could one get? It is simply scary to think that the likes of McCain were part in administering the USA economy and wealth for the last eight years; indeed, we all have felt the outcome of such an administration.

I could imagine that after this comment by McCain, Obama and his ad visors including Colin Powell were thrilled that their opponent thinks so and thus enabling them to bring about more devastating strategies to him unafraid that McCain could even understand them let alone counter them.

What a gift did McCain give Obama with this “erratic” comment, I no wonder the polls went crazy to Obama’s favour ever since while the Obama camp continue to deliver devastating strategies to McCain who still does not understand them let alone gets it.



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