[July 9, 2019] I fell for the ruse. As a new Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, I made a classic mistake on the “simulated” battlefield. I had ordered my Infantry Platoon to attack an enemy position that was fake and learned, the hard way that things are not always as they appear.
“Hence that general is skillful in attack whose opponent does not know what to defend; and he is skillful in defense whose opponent does not know what to attack.” – Sun Tzu, ancient Chinese general, strategist, and philosopher
Deception is an important part of success on the battlefield. It is also crucial to survival in the wild. The thumbnail to today’s article is a photograph of an Owl Butterfly wing. You can see in the picture that the wing looks like an eye; larger animals that prey upon the butterfly will pass it by and look elsewhere for a meal.
My maternal grandmother, Bigmama, gave me some common advice like so many grandmothers have done for their grandchildren. She said not to judge a book by its cover. The meaning is, of course, the same. What we see with our eyes or judge with our intellect may not represent reality. It is up to each of us to learn from experience and our own errors that great care is needed to avoid serious lifetime mistakes.
Senior U.S. military leaders have a well-honed philosophy of putting their personnel through a variety of combat simulations. One ingredient is to force those in training to see past any façade or deception so those good decisions can be made. For example, a classic attack will employ a deceptive maneuver to draw the enemy away from the main effort.
I was able to learn that any worthy enemy understands that deception is helpful. It was up to me to figure out where that deception lies and place my Infantrymen in the right place at the right time. To do so is the acme of success on the battlefield, the business boardroom, on the field of games, or in seeking a mate.1