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Finding True Might

Following up on my last blog post about the importance of moral force in conflict, we see today a clear and naïve ignorance of this law. While one may win conflict with physical force, sustaining the victory requires immense energy unless one also wins at the mental and physical levels. You must use both your heart and your mind, not just your hands.

Israel's aggression in Gaza, timed with political precision just before Israeli elections, is what Sun Tzu would consider the lowest form of generalship because it contemplates only physical victory.

My friends in the military generally agree that while Hamas will crush easily under Israel's might, its movement will grow stronger. Anger at Israel's attack is already stirring new support for Hamas throughout the region.

Most dangerous is the position in which this anger is putting Egyptian leadership. The protests in that country are testing the legitimacy of a critical western ally.

So the dynamics and history tell us that the likely outcome of Israel's action is yet further destabilization. Hamas may thin out of Gaza, leaving a leadership vacuum as the region will have no clear, dominant, leading party. And it will strengthen the moral resolve of Israel's enemies.

Two Chinese stratagems point to the dynamic at play here.

1. To Catch Something, Let it Go: even if you can destroy your enemy, you should consider letting him go, again and again until he realizes he cannot win and he comes on his own terms. A forced peace requires too much energy to sustain.

2. Watch the Fire on the Other Shore: sometimes an attack unifies your opposition. When this is the case, you are better off not engaging, at least not with force. By refusing to engage, the enemy's resolve will be weakened.

The key to understanding success on military and business fronts is to have a clear direction and a multipronged attack. We must understand that resources alone will not win the battle, and we, like Israel, need to confront our enemy on all levels.