The 36 Stratagems, in Detail
Rather than being a work authored by a single person, the 36 Stratagems is a collection of warfare wisdom that was derived over many centuries of inter-state conflict within China.
Many of the stratagems involve deception of some kind and may be used in changing minds, though of course the values of modern society act to moderate effective action. Having said this, where the alternative is harmful conflict, deception may be the best alternative.
This is only an approximate grouping and stratagems from any group can be used as appropriate. The greatest ability of all is probably flexibility in being able to adapt and innovate at will.
Group 1: Stratagems When Commanding Superiority
Fool the Sky to Cross the Sea
Besiege Wei to Rescue Zhao
Kill With a Borrowed Knife
Relax While the Enemy Exhausts Himself
Loot a Burning House
Make a Feint to the East While Attacking in the West
Create Something Out Of Nothing
Pretend to Take One Path While Sneaking Down Another
Watch the Fires Burning Across the River
Hide a Knife in a Smile
Sacrifice a Plum Tree to Save a Peach Tree
Take the Opportunity to Pilfer a Goat
Beat the Grass to Startle the Snake
Raise a Corpse From the Dead
Lure the Tiger Out of the Mountains
Snag the Enemy by Letting Him Off the Hook
Cast a Brick to Attract Jade
Capture the Ringleader to Catch the Bandits
Remove the Firewood from Under the Cauldron
Fish in Troubled Waters
Slough Off the Cicada’s Shell
Shut The Door to Catch the Thief
Befriend a Distant State While Attacking a Neighbor
Obtain Safe Passage to Conquer the Kingdom of Guo
Group 5: Stratagems for Gaining Ground
Replace the Beams and Pillars with Rotten Timber
Point at the Mulberry and Curse the Locust
Play Dumb While Remaining Smart
Pull Down the Ladder After the Ascent
Deck the Tree with Bogus Blossoms
Make the Host and the Guest Exchange Places
Group 6: Stratagems for Desperate Straits
Use a Woman to Ensnare a Man
Fling Open the Gates to the Empty City
Let the Enemy’s Own Spies Sow Discord in the Enemy Camp
Inflict Injury on Oneself in Order to Win the Enemy’s Trust
Chain Together the Enemy’s Warships
Further details of each strategem on the website.
The Annotated Art of War, The Six Secret Teachings
Some of these tropes can be found in SunTzu’s book Art of War. One of my favorite quotes is “There in no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare”. This quote could apply to several conflicts from Vietnam to Iraq.
The French and, now, we see, the Iraqis, really seem to like # 36 as a go to strategy.
#36He that fights and runs away, May turn and fight another day; But he that is in battle slain, Will never rise to fight again. Tacitus
Hey, it can be a great strategy, just not exclusively, though.#36He that fights and runs away, May turn and fight another day; But he that is in battle slain, Will never rise to fight again. Tacitus