Applying the art of war to dating
The arrangement, moreover, is so awkward that I cannot help suspecting some corruption in the text.
It never seems to occur to Chinese commentators that an emendation may be necessary for the sense, and we get no help from them there.
It includes all the impedimenta of an army, apart from provisions.
Poverty of the State exchequer causes an army to be maintained by contributions from a distance.
On the other hand, the proximity of an army causes prices to go up; and high prices cause the people's substance to be drained away.
#Wang Hsi says high prices occur before the army has left its own territory.
In considering the point raised here by Sun Tzu, the classic example of Fabius Cunctator will inevitably occur to the mind.
That general deliberately measured the endurance of Rome against that of Hannibals's isolated army, because it seemed to him that the latter was more likely to suffer from a long campaign in a strange country.
#Because twenty cartloads will be consumed in the process of transporting one cartload to the front.
This may seem an audacious policy to recommend, but with all great strategists, from Julius Caesar to Napoleon Bonaparte, the value of time—that is, being a little ahead of your opponent—has counted for more than either numerical superiority or the nicest calculations with regard to commissariat.
Bring war material with you from home, but forage on the enemy. #The Chinese word translated here as "war material" literally means "things to be used", and is meant in the widest sense.
Ho Shih says: "Haste may be stupid, but at any rate it saves expenditure of energy and treasure; protracted operations may be very clever, but they bring calamity in their train." Wang Hsi evades the difficulty by remarking: "Lengthy operations mean an army growing old, wealth being expended, an empty exchequer and distress among the people; true cleverness insures against the occurrence of such calamities." Chang Yu says: "So long as victory can be attained, stupid haste is preferable to clever dilatoriness." Now Sun Tzu says nothing whatever, except possibly by implication, about ill-considered haste being better than ingenious but lengthy operations.
What he does say is something much more guarded, namely that, while speed may sometimes be injudicious, tardiness can never be anything but foolish—if only because it means impoverishment to the nation.