(2) The Methods of the Ssu-ma (also known as Sima Rangju Art of War)
In the East Han dynasty, The Methods of the Sima was classified as a work describing rites and propriety (禮), largely because it discusses methods of organization, administration, and discipline much more deeply than strategy or battlefield tactics. The Methods of the Sima rarely discusses direct issues related to battlefield command, instead concerning itself with how to initiate, administer, and manage military campaigns. The limited discussions of strategy and tactics which do appear in the work are broad, general, and common to the other Seven Military Classics.
The Justification of War
The Methods of the Sima promotes the view that warfare is necessary to the existence of the state, that it provides the principle means for punishing evil and rescuing the oppressed, and that its conscientious exploitation is the foundation for political power (personal note: People debating that "War Doesn't Solve Anything" might want read that last sentence...and pick up this book).
It states that a balance between war and peace must be maintained for the prosperity of the state: that those states which neglect their armies will perish just as quickly as those states which resort to warfare too frequently. The book promotes the view that war is an unfortunate necessary for peace. [personal note: it's like being in a relationship, if you don't stand up for yourself now and then she (or he) will walk all over you]
The contributors to the Methods of the Sima stress that appropriate civil and military roles must be distinguished because of their contradictory values. Civilian culture is judged to be severe, remote, and languid, placing value in courtesy and benevolence, while military culture is judged to be severe, stern, and active, placing value in order and discipline. The writers of the Methods stress that the Virtue (德) of the people will decline both when civilians act in ways that are appropriate for soldiers, and when soldiers act in ways that are appropriate for civilians.
The King must conduct himself differently in these two spheres and expect different things from his citizens. In civil life, he must cultivate the people through education and the promotion of regional culture.
The Methods of the Sima stresses that the only justification for warfare is the assistance of the common people. Because warfare must benefit the people of all states involved in a conflict in order to be legitimate, nations must avoid engagements that injure the people of enemy states, and actions which might antagonize a subject populace are severely prohibited. Because it identifies the only justification for warfare as eradicating a government evil, the Methods encourages commanders to engage in ceremonial, accusatory formalities before beginning a campaign, and makes it a vital necessity that the army's soldiers understand the virtuous nature of their mission. These policies promote the utilitarian goals of strengthening morale and weakening enemy resistance.
The Importance of Discipline
The text states that an army which is perfectly unified has the greatest chance of success. This requires the Emperor and his representatives to enforce strict discipline. Laws must be clear and consistent and enforced with total impartiality. There must also be active concern for disruption and sedition. Commanders must be aware of rumors and doubts and address them promptly. They must also be capable of leading by example. Weapons and tactics must be studied with extreme thoroughness. Enemy weapons may be copied if they are superior (e.g. AK-47)
The book's contributors significantly elaborate on the nature of military discipline. Rewards and punishments are necessary in shaping the actions of the military. Because a worthy person could become self-important and disrupt the integrity of the military if reward is excessive or unpredictable, rewards must be appropriate and consistent in order to be most effective. Punishment must also be carefully considered. When the military experiences failure, the commander must encourage everyone to accept responsibility, including himself. If he singles out an officer, the troops could infer that the officer alone was responsible and avoid improvement.
365 day challenge - day 147