Sun Tzu’s Art of War #1 Estimates – Revisited


“War is a matter of vital importance to the state; a matter otf life or death, the road is either to survival or to ruin. Hence, it is imperative that it be studied thoroughly.” Sun Tzu’s Art of War starts with the first chapter, or lesson, named “Estimates”. In order to properly calculate the outcome of a war a general should compare five fundamental factors. Those are: Politics; Weather; Terrain; Commanders; and Doctrine He describes these factors briefly. Politics refers to the relationship and confidence of the population unto its leader. Weather covers Night, Day, the Climate, and the change in Seasons. Terrain is about distances of entities, of movement, and other influences. The commanders is about the General’s quality – namely: wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage, and strictness. And finally, Doctrine is about the organization of the Army, and its Officers and Logistics. With these factors he proposed to ask the following questions when preparing a plan: 1. Which ruler is wise and more able? 2. Which commander is more talented? 3. Which army obtains the advantages of nature and the terrain? 4. In which Army are regulations and instructions better carried out? 5. Which troops are stronger? 6. Which army has the better trained officers and men? 7. Which army administers rewards and punishment in a more enlightened and correct way? Based on the answers to these questions a general should take actions to exploit any advantages further. One important measure about this is deception. All warfare is based on deception. For instance: feigning incapacity when one is able to strike; Feign immobility while one is mobile. Irritating a choleric enemy commander to cloud his judgment, etc. In general, strike while you are strong, while the enemy is weak. You evade the enemy when you are weak while he is strong. And to do so one must know about the enemy’s capabilities in advance of. Hence, without proper estimates, reports and calculations, one is rather limited in making effective decisions. Now, let’s revisit those five factors and bring them into a modern set up. The first one politics is still quite fitting. Although, I would call it “Willingness to Fight”, or “Morale”. Furthermore, I would define it a bit wider, to accommodate for larger societies in modern political structures. Thus, it is the combination of political and popular support to continue to fight the war. Points Weather and Terrain I would combine into one category, calling it “Geographical Conditions”. Which includes the geographical and meteorological factors. Now one factor that is clearly missing from modern war is industry. Which also includes technology and resources. Which one could call Intellectual and Material Resources of the Industry. Many mentioned in the: “Simple Model of War” video that Technology was missing. That technology is an integral part of industry, because researching, prototyping and manufacturing are an incremental process. A blueprint about proper production capabilities is just a piece of paper. This becomes more apparent one looks at the various shortcomings of pre-production types. And even gets way more influential when a new piece of equipment gets mass-produced. The next factor was the commander. I would reform it into a bigger and more generic institution, and call it the “High Command”. Which is both the Military and Political Leadership. And, also includes the Military Intelligence Operators. The final factor, Doctrine I would rename it into “The Armed Forces”. Although some factors will be basically the same: Organizations, Officers and Logistics. Now let’s look at a modern example where wrong estimates played a wider role. So far the most interesting I have encountered and covered was the Battle of Britain. Why? Because both sides made grave errors in assessing the enemy’s capabilities. In order to compare the strength of the forces one must formulate two questions. “What is the initial balance of Force.” And, “What is the projected balance of Force?” Now to properly answer these questions we need three numbers. 1. The initial strength. 2. The number of replacements. 3. And, the number of losses For the Battle of Britain, the British got the first, second, and third number wrong. Whilst the German’s got the second and third number wrong. At first you might think: “Well the German’s were less wrong, so should have made a better assumption.” Well this wasn’t the case, because they were wrong in the wrong way. They underestimated replacement output of the British. Whilst the British overestimated the replacement output of the German’s. As a result, the German’s grossly underestimated the projected balance of force. Meanwhile, the British took actions to conserve forces in order to sustain against the much larger perceived enemy. But they both got the numbers wrong. Both based their estimates of the enemy’s output on their own output Remember with more careful calculations one can win, with less one cannot. As always all sources are in the description. As well as other links to Facebook and Twitter. If you liked this video, you might want to take a look at the video on “Why Intelligence failures happen”. Or my Battle of Britain series. Thank you for watching. And see you next time [Outro music plays] [Outro music fades]

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