Desperate Situations Strategies

"From the 36 Strategies of China"

31. The honey trap

Send your enemy beautiful women to cause discord within his camp.

This strategy can work on three levels.

First, the ruler becomes so enamoured with the beauty that he neglects his duties and allows his vigilance to wane.

Second, other males at court will begin to display aggressive behaviour that inflames minor differences hindering co-operation and destroying morale.

Third, other females at court, motivated by jealousy and envy, begin to plot intrigues further exasperating the situation. Even though this has been done many times, perhaps the most famous historical example is Xi Shi who was sent to the State of Wu during the Spring and Autumn Period.

32. The empty fort strategy

When the enemy is superior in numbers and your situation is such that you expect to be overrun at any moment, then drop all pretence of military preparedness and act casually.

Unless the enemy has an accurate description of your situation this unusual behaviour will arouse suspicions.

With luck he will be dissuaded from attacking.

From Desperate Situations Strategies.

33. Let the enemy's own spy sow discord in the enemy camp

Undermine your enemy's ability to fight by secretly causing discord between him and his friends, allies, advisors, family, commanders, soldiers, and population. While he is preoccupied settling internal disputes his ability to attack or defend, is compromised.

34. Inflict injury on one's self to win the enemy's trust

Pretending to be injured has two possible applications. In the first, the enemy is lulled into relaxing his guard since he no longer considers you to be an immediate threat. The second is a way of ingratiating yourself to your enemy by pretending the injury was caused by a mutual enemy.

This strategy was perhaps best demonstrated during the Spring and Autumn Period.

After his defeat by King Fu Chai of Wu, King Gou Jian of Yue pretended to go to Wu to become a servant of Fu Chai.

After gaining Fu Chai's trust, Guo Jian was allow back to Yue. There he strengthen his military and in 482 BC while Fu Chai was trying to gain hegemony, he attacked and conquered the capital. Some years later in 478 BC, he annexed Wu and forced Fu Chai to commit suicide.

35. The strategy of combining tactics

In important matters one should use several strategies applied simultaneously. Keep different plans operating in an overall scheme; in this manner if any one strategy fails you would still have several others to fall back on.

36. If all else fails, retreat

If it becomes obvious that your current course of action will lead to defeat then retreat and regroup. When your side is losing there are only three choices remaining: surrender, compromise, or escape. Surrender is complete defeat, compromise is half defeat, but escape is not defeat.

As long as you are not defeated, you still have a chance.

This is the most famous one of the 36th strategy, immortalized in the form of a Chinese idiom: "Of the Thirty-Six Strategies, fleeing is best."

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