Of all those in the army close to the commander none is more intimate than the secret agent; of all rewards none more liberal than those given to secret agents; of all matters none is more confidential than those relating to secret operations.
It is only the enlightened ruler and the wise general who will use the highest intelligence of the army for the purposes of spying, and thereby they achieve great results.
There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.
All warfare is based on deception.
All war is based on deception.
Now the reason the enlightened prince and the wise general conquer the enemy whenever they move and their achievements surpass those of ordinary men is foreknowledge.
To fight and conquer in all our battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.
When envoys are sent with compliments in their mouths, it is a sign that the enemy wishes for a truce.
The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.
In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy’s country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good.
The skilful employer of men will employ the wise man, the brave man, the covetous man, and the stupid man.
All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.
If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril.
He who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious.
Confront them with annihilation, and they will then survive; plunge them into a deadly situation, and they will then live. When people fall into danger, they are then able to strive for victory.
For them to perceive the advantage of defeating the enemy, they must also have their rewards.
He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot, will be victorious.
All war is deception.
There has never been a protracted war from which a country has benefited.
Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.
Thus, what is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy’s strategy.
If you are far from the enemy, make him believe you are near.
Invincibility lies in the defence; the possibility of victory in the Attack.
Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can?
The opportunity to secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.
The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim.
It is essential to seek out enemy agents who have come to conduct espionage against you and to bribe them to serve you. Give them instructions and care for them. Thus doubled agents are recruited and used.
If our soldiers are not overburdened with money, it is not because they have a distaste for riches; if their lives are not unduly long, it is not because they are disinclined to longevity.
Secret operations are essential in war; upon them the army relies to make its every move.
Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.