Sun Tzu:  Win Without Fighting

[May 5, 2021]  A recent article in War Room, a U.S. Army War College’s professional publication, addresses an important strategic issue.1,2  With global proclivity to deter all war, senior political leaders must come to grips with a new age of economic, informational, and political competition.

“The majority of military theories that underpin modern U.S. strategy and doctrine are drawn from Napoleonic Era theorists who focused heavily on decisive battlefield conflict. In today’s post-information age, however, armed conflict represents the least likely manifestation of competition.”

Using military force is limited by increasing economic interdependence among nations, robust deterrence strategies, and a changing global view that kinetic war is an unacceptable way to settle disputes.  This paradigm shift is massive and unprecedented.  It means that we must address the changing strategic importance of other forms of conflict.

“To fight and conquer in all our battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” – Sun Tzu

In “The Art of War,” Sun Tzu analyzes options to mass, protracted warfare and proposes strategies based on deception, surprise, alliances, and information dominance to ensure success in a conflict.  A close reading of his works allows us to develop competitive strategies beyond our current binary view of war (war versus non-war).

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” – Sun Tzu

The first thing that we must acknowledge is that there exists a space between war and peace.  That “space” can be addressed with the right approach.  And, this area is neglected by current, large nation-states like the U.S. and most of Europe.  Other adversaries emphasize irregular approaches in their competitive starts to negate Western advantages to exploit our disadvantages.

“Russia and China, the two principal revisionist actors, codified in the 2017 NSS, have both developed an array of unconventional strategies that focus on expanding their international influence to achieve national security objectives.  Russia’s Gerasimov Doctrine and China’s Three Warfares strategy both seek to expand global power and influence through the synchronization and execution of below established threshold activities.”

Sun Tzu tells us that the ultimate goal of warfare is to win without fighting.  Sun Tzu reveals why so many nations struggle in competition in the gap below kinetic warfare.  The West’s binary view of war is inadequate.  To be a global competitor, the West must radically improve its information, political, and economic dominance.


  2. Much of this article summarizes James P. Micciche’s article published in War Room on March 18, 2021. I highly recommend the article, which is linked to in footnote #1 above.
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I provide one article every day. My writings are influenced by great thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Jung, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Jean Piaget, Erich Neumann, and Jordan Peterson, whose insight and brilliance have gotten millions worldwide to think about improving ourselves. Thank you for reading my blog.

23 thoughts on “Sun Tzu:  Win Without Fighting

  1. James Micciche


    Thank you for highlighting my writing in your article above. I am glad it has generated dialog and discussion on the topic.

    MAJ Micciche

  2. Wendy Holmes

    Read Sun Tzu, anything you can find and you will not be disappointed. Very condensed info. His writings are one of those that must be reread many times and even then you must study and think about it. Many deeps multiple meanings.

  3. Max Foster

    ” Sun Tzu reveals why so many nations struggle in competition in the gap below kinetic warfare. The West’s binary view of war is inadequate. ” Here is Gen. Satterfield’s key point at the end of the article. Let’s not forget that sometimes our view of our competition may not be all that it is made up to be. There are ways of winning that often is not so obvious. Sometimes you can win the war by losing a battle. Not all common sensical but possible, nonetheless.

    1. Silly Man

      Point well taken, Max. Your thoughts, as usual, are spot on. I would like to learn more about leadership and since I’m new to this website, I have still found it very useful for me and my friends. They don’t want to comment, so I put some of their words here.

  4. ARay Pittman

    Sun Tzu — I read his treatise on war many decades ago. Recently I re-read it and found more tidbits to help me as a leader.

    1. Tom Bushmaster

      I’ve read the Art of War many times. It’s not very long. And, I have a book (lost it in my last move) that gave explanations on each of the key paragraphs in Sun Tzu’s book. Those commenting were mostly senior Chinese Generals from the past.

      1. KenFBrown

        If you can remember the name of the book, let us know.

      2. Eric Coda

        Yes, let us know, Tom. It would be valuable to us all. I think that Gen. Satterfield could also write a few articles on Sun Tzu’s important texts and do some form of analysis. Come on, Gen. S.,let’s get going to it. All kidding aside, I would love to hear from you about Sun Tzu. I know you quote him a lot. An analysis by you would be great.

    2. Army Captain

      I’ve done the same ARay. I study war so that my children can study science and art.

  5. Bryan Lee

    Hi Gen. Satterfield, while I’m not new here at your website on leadership, I just wanted to let you know that I passed along your site to several senior bosses where I work. I got some very positive feedback. One really like your site and said that he would suggest it to others at the leadership level.

  6. Dead Pool Guy

    Excellent article. I went to your War College site. This is an an exceptional place to read about “war” or should I just say “conflicts (because rarely is it full war)”. I recommend others do the same.

  7. Dale Paul Fox

    Hi Frank, you beat me to the first post of the day. I was thinking along these same lines. Well done! But there will be times that someone fights regardless of knowing that they will lose. Sun Tzu recognizes this and thus his book The Art of War. There is an excellent website that has his writings:

    1. Valkerie

      When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men’s weapons will grow dull and their ardor will be damped. If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength. … Sun Tzu, smart man. I appreciate the article this morning, General Satterfield.

      1. Linux Man

        Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardor damped, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue. …. another great quote from Sun Tzu. This one is my favorite because it shows us that there is a point that great leadership cannot help you if you expend all your resources unwisely.

      2. Willie Shrumburger

        The truth in his book is really something to read about. Keep these articles flowing, Gen. Satterfield.

    2. British Citizen

      Thanks Dale for the reference. There are many sites like this. I am looking for one that gives narrative/explanation/comment to the different passages of Sun Tzu’s book. Any one know of such a site?

      1. Harold M. Smith II

        BC, I don’t but if you find one, please let us know about it. 😊

        1. José Luis Rodriguez

          Thanks folks. I agree with one of our regular commenters, Eric Coda, who asks Gen. Satterfield for his ideas of Sun Tzu. That is something I would hope might occur. It would have my interest and I know several folks who would love it as well.

  8. Frank Graham

    I never gave winning a war without fighting to be even possible. But obviously, even ancient generals understood this to be true. I guess that if you are in a no-win situation that it makes to sense to fight because you will lose and the pain inflicted will be worse.

    1. Yusaf from Texas

      Yeah, me too. This is why I read this website. It gives me info that I never thought about at all, nor would I have thought of it. I’m a long time reader and commenter on Gen. Satterfield’s website on Senior leadership. He has evolved in his thinking and that is good for all of us.


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