The Art of Defense
By Kung Ji
Translated with commentary by Benionin, the Archivist
Chapter 1--The Nature of War
War, above all, is a battle of attrition. War demands and consumes vast amounts of resources: money, materiel, and manpower are devoured irrevocably. Territories are ravaged and reduced to waste; progress is ground to a halt; societies are reduced to the sole focus of warfare. These demands can only be met for so long before a belligerent is reduced to such a state as they cannot wage war any longer; bereft of resources, or of manpower, or of support, such a belligerent power would be forced to sue for peace.
Given the ravages of war, therefore, the goal of any power should be to lose as little as possible; to waste the fewest resources, to suffer the fewest casualties, and to force the enemy to make greater and greater sacrifices for lesser and lesser gains; to trade resources efficiently with the enemy until they are unable or unwilling to continue. Endurance and efficiency, therefore, are the keys to victory.
Because of the great sacrifices necessary during a time of war, it is imperative that war only be engaged when all other methods have failed. As it is written, "violence is the last refuge of the incompetent." It does not behoove a nation to be the aggressor in a war. If war can be avoided, it should be; if it cannot, it should be prosecuted in a way to waste as few resources as possible.
So much for the nature of war.
Commentary on Chapter 1
Kung Ji's remarks are inherently based upon a defensive war, predicated on war's evil and the avoidance thereof. He lists a few of the negative results of war and centers his philosophy on how to minimize war's negative impact. He also assumes, perhaps falsely, that others share his view of war as vile and worth avoiding. Scholars of the Flame Dawn, for instance, have developed a complex ethical system lauding war and its outcomes.
Kung Ji's emphasis on endurance and efficiency only reinforce his theory of minimizing war's impact. Given war's terrible nature and many demands, he assumes that it can only be carried out for a limited length of time--an "infinite" war is impossible in his model. Eventually, he supposes, resources will run out or popular support will demand an end to the war. Therefore, by favorably trading resources with the opponent one can more quickly exhaust their ability to fight and force them to sue for peace. This is once again an inherently defensive and reactive strategy--compare with Bromich's theories on "minimizing war's impact by ensuring its quick conclusion." Kung Ji's philosophy of war seeks to make a quick conclusion impossible, and by impressing the horrors of war upon his opponents (and his readers), to avoid war in the first place. Although Kung Ji quotes that "violence is the last refuge of the incompetent," he regrettably does not build upon this foundation of how war may be avoided.
Chapter 2--On the Nature and Advantages of Defense
The essence of defense is the prevention of the opponent's success. This is done by countering or even preventing their offenses, by reacting to their strategies, and by denying them any gains or resources.
The simplest form of defense is when an opponent launches an attack and soldiers meet them to fight them off, but defense also takes place in the destruction of resources an opponent might use, in the frustration of an opponent's scouts, and by forcing an opponent to follow a different path than they wished.
Defense has many advantages. You may fortify your position in preparation for the attack, making it difficult for the enemy to succeed. Familiarity with the terrain; established lines of supply; the morale that comes from defending ones' homeland and families; these are but a few advantages to defending. By reacting and countering each of your enemy's moves, you can negate and frustrate their aims. This is made easier when defending.
Defensible terrain--mountains, canyons, rivers, etc--forces the opponent to approach at a disadvantage. Walls, towers, and fortresses exacerbate this. When attacking, a force must forage for supplies. When attacking, a force must always be on its guard in unfamiliar territory. When attacking, a force needs to achieve a victory to continue.
When defending, a force has established supply magazines and lines. When defending, a force knows the territory and where any attack will come from. When defending, a force needs only frustrate or delay an enemy for it to be considered a victory.
So much for the nature and advantages of defense.
Commentary on Chapter 2
Kung Ji is once again assuming that a quick end to the war is out of the question. With that in mind, he has returned to the topics of endurance and efficiency--though not by name. Properly fortified position allows for efficient trading of resources with an opponent, thereby netting the defender an advantage.
Note that Kung Ji's strategy is, at this point, entirely reactive (though he describes how to prosecute a proactive war later in the text). The initiative is not to be given up lightly, but Kung Ji is predicating his work on the idea that the war cannot be won quickly. Because every war is a war of attrition in his eyes, initiative is not as important in the early stages. Instead, the way to ensure victory is to avoid defeat, to avoid making mistakes.
Consider the advantages that he lists for defense--Kung Ji argues that there are many, but the ones that he names showcase his attrition-based mindset. A defending force need only deny victories, he argues. This will discourage the enemy and encourage the people to force their leaders to give up the war. Likewise, supplies and knowledge of the territory are key. Supplies are necessary for the continued prosecution of the war, Kung Ji's central focus, and knowledge of the terrain and other circumstances (such as the strength of the enemy force and their dispositions, including the character of the enemy general) will prevent the opponent from seizing an advantage by surprise. Once again, because of the focus on efficiently trading with the opponent, preventing them from seizing an advantage and upsetting the "equation of war" that Kung Ji is constructing is key. Kung Ji has a mindset of inevitability--of holding on long enough until the opponent makes a mistake or is forced to concede the war. This is, once again, completely at odds with the philosophy of the Flame Dawn, which seeks to end a battle as quickly as possible before moving on to conquer another territory.
Chapter 3--On the Value of Information and Use of Agents
As it is written, "knowledge is power." By knowing the resources available to your opponent, you may predict their moves. By knowing the disposition of their troops and of their commander, you may predict their actions and reactions. By knowing the plans of an enemy, you may properly and efficiently counter them. By knowing the terrain, you may predict and manipulate maneuvers. By knowing the weather, you may use it to your advantage. The advantage conferred by accurate and timely information concerning the enemy is universally agreed upon.
Concerning agents, there are the following types: agents sent among the enemy before the war, agents sent among the enemy during the war, enemy agents turned to your own side, and various others. Concerning the activities of agents: there is the assassination of prominent targets, the gathering of intelligence, the sabotage of infrastructure, including supply lines, the sabotage of an army in the field, and various other activities.
Concerning agents sent among the enemy before the war: these agents can provide information on war preparations, and can be planted within enemy units or industries well before the war to avoid suspicion and act only when the time is right. Because these agents predate the war, it is much easier for them to avoid suspicion.
Concerning agents sent among the enemy during the war: because the aforementioned agents can avoid detection so easily, it is imperative that they only be used to maximum effect or with minimum risk of exposure. Agents sent among the enemy during the war, however, can perform more basic and common tasks with less lost by their capture or failure. Thus, scouting the enemy position and sabotaging the enemy may be done by these agents. Note that these agents, because they are strangers during a time of war and are subject to added scrutiny, should be used for tasks of lesser difficulty--the most difficult tasks should be left to the agents placed before the war.
Concerning agents of the enemy turned to your own side: because of the importance of information, it is imperative for both sides to employ agents to gather and pass along information. Given that, it should be assumed that your enemy will have sent agents among your people both before and during the war. The utmost should be done to identify these agents and either eliminate them or, preferably, bring them into your own employ. By doing so you may feed your opponent false information or send them back to the enemy to gather information for yourself and to perform various other acts on your behalf. Because information from these agents is often deemed reliable, it is imperative to convert as many enemy agents as possible in order to deprive the enemy of information, both by feeding false information and by gathering information yourself.
Concerning the assassination of prominent targets: if an enemy general is clever, he should be assassinated. If he is foolish, he should be kept in his place. If an enemy politician advocates peace, he should be spared; if he advocates war, he should be slain.
Concerning the sabotage of infrastructure: destroying the enemy's capacity to produce weapons and foodstuffs, to pay their soldiers, or perform other basic industrial activities grievously wounds their morale and ability to continue the prosecution of the war. Eliminating supply lines in particular should be a high priority; if you are successful, the forces at the front will be desperate and can be manipulated into taking unwise risks. Moreover, additional forces and resources may be siphoned away from the front to further protect the supply lines.
Concerning the sabotage of an army in the field: poisoning or destroying foodstuffs and sources of water, tampering with siege equipment or modes of transportation, spreading disease or malcontent among the soldiers, decreasing the morale of the enemy in other ways, and tampering with weapons are all activities that can vastly reduce the ability of an army to fight. As such, they should be carried out with due diligence and vigor.
So much for information, agents, and their activities.
Commentary on Chapter 3
In this detailed chapter Kung Ji systematically goes over spies and their activities, with a brief forward noting the universal acceptance of the importance of information. He places particular emphasis on sleeper agents and double agents as being uniquely effective, along with his usual emphasis on draining the opponent's resources to wage war--in this case by sabotaging supply lines or assassinating clever commanders.
What is interesting to note is how Kung Ji mentions other agents and "various other activities." In spite of the detail lavished upon this chapter, he does not pretend to be writing a comprehensive treatise, instead only covering those topics he deems most important. Likewise with his earlier list of the benefits of defense.
Chapter 4--On the Hinge of War
If you have done as I have written and have defended astutely, favorably and efficiently trading resources with your enemy and exercising endurance in all things while sabotaging the enemy's plans, there will come a time when they cannot aggress any more. There will come a time when your enemy is vulnerable and on their back foot, when they are weak.
It is at this time that you are to turn the hinges of war and begin waging proactive warfare. As a door swings from closed to open, you must change from an unyielding barrier to a floodgate of force.
The Hinge of War applies both to individual battles and the war as a whole. Concerning individual battles, you will recognize it as the moment when your opponent loses all force behind their attack and before they recollect themselves. It is at this time that a well-directed charge can rout the enemy and even slay key figures such as commanding officers. However, it is to be noted that you must be careful that you are not falling into a trap when you engage in proactive defense. The enemy's exhaustion must be real and not feigned, or the consequences will be dire.
The same applies to the war as a whole: if the opponent has ceased assaulting you, if their supply lines are imperiled or destroyed, if their morale is weak, then the time is ripe to strike. But beware the animal which feigns a wound to lure in its prey. Likewise beware cornering your foe and leaving them no option but to fight or die; you must give your enemy an escape route or the appearance thereof so their soldiers will see their chance to flee and take it--then you may destroy them utterly.
In the same manner, when confronted by a formidable foe, burn your bridges and corner your army so their only salvation lies in strength of arms. Fueled by desperation, they will be driven to greater acts of valor...
...As it is written...
If you have properly conserved your resources while exhausting your enemy's, if there is unrest in your enemy's house, then a single strike may end the war. Turn the hinges and strike...
So much for the hinge of war.
Commentary on Chapter 4
This chapter on seizing the initiative and attacking once your defense has held for long enough--given the curiously poetic title imperfectly translated as "On the Hinge of War"--is unfortunately damaged. Much of the original meaning appears to survive, but the manuscript seems to be missing several longer and more detailed descriptions of what Kung Ji intends when he advocates "turning the hinges of war."
Although Kung Ji has advocated a reactive and defensive strategy throughout the work, it is in this chapter that he shows the end-game. Assuming that a quick conclusion to the war is impossible and that you have by means of proper defense efficiently traded with your opponent, Kung Ji exhorts the reader to strike decisively and end the war in a single crushing blow--much in the same way as the Flame Dawn attempts to start its wars. The difference here is that Kung Ji's strategy has granted inevitability to the defending side: fewer resources have been spent on the war and the enemy's morale has been crushed by constant frustration at the hands of the defenders. Agents have been hard at work gathering information and sabotaging the enemy. With a single blow, it's all over.
Kung Ji errs on the side of caution, repeatedly warning against being lured into a trap by an opponent who is only feigning weakness. He also warns against cornering your foe and forcing them into desperation, while curiously suggesting that you do so to your own troops, although the damage to the manuscript prevents definite conclusions from being drawn as to Kung Ji's intent and meaning.
There are various references in the rest of the literature to further chapters within Kung Ji's treatise, but the extent of the damage to the rest of the manuscript has rendered them incomprehensible at this time. Hopefully future discoveries will illuminate the missing chapters of the Glorious Strategist's pivotal work on the prosecution of war amongst the Descendants of the Dragon.