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Strategy 1: Declare War on Your Enemies (The 33 Strategies of War)

The Polarity Strategy

It is difficult to know who your enemies are – people are evasive and subtle. But to win in life, you must become great at spotting your enemies, by looking out for signs that show their hostility towards you. Do not be naïve and assume that you can compromise with some enemies. Use this enmity to your advantage, allow it to push you forward more decisively.

Xenophon was a thirty-year-old Greek man who was wealthy and bored. He had a coddled life up to this point, he used to talk philosophy with Socrates, and raised dogs and horses. He was not a warrior, yet one day, an opportunity for adventure had appeared. Cyrus, the Persian commander, was recruiting Greek mercenaries to help him quell the rebellions of cities within the Persian empire. The Greeks would fight alongside his own army. Xenophon had the opportunity to join this fight, not as a warrior, but as a philosopher and historian.

Around 10,000 Greek soldiers were recruited, and they came from all over Greece. They enjoyed the first few months of the punitive expedition, but then after being led deeper into Persia, Cyrus revealed his true purpose for recruiting them. He wanted to start a civil war and unseat his brother; he wanted to become king. The Greeks were not happy with being deceived but they were silenced with more money.

The battle that took place saw Cyrus killed. This put a hasty end to the war and now the Greeks, who were on the wrong side of the civil war, were far from home and surrounded by hostile Persians. But Ataxerxes informed them that he no quarrel with them, and only wanted to see them quickly leave Persia. He even sent an envoy to help speed up this process. But after a few days, the Greeks realized that they had insufficient supplies and were embarking on a problematic route. They grew suspicious of the Persians and started to argue with each other.

Clearchus, the Greek commanded expressed these concerns to the Persians but the next day, he was beheaded, along with his soldiers. One man managed to escape and warned the Greeks of what the Persians had done. That night, the Greeks argued more ferociously with each other and their position was more precarious than it had ever been, with their leaders dead.

Xenophon, who had remained a passive participant thus far, had a dream: a lightning bolt from Zeus set fire to his father’s house. He woke up, trembling and horrified. He realized that he was doomed, along with his Greek comrades. The constant arguing and confusion would be their downfall. Since they were fighting for money rather than a cause, they found it difficult to distinguish friend from foe. Xenophon was not a military man, but he understood how men think. He wanted to bring clarity to the men, and wake them up, the way the lightning bolt woke him up during his sleep.

He called a meeting of all the surviving officers and told them about his plan. He made it clear that there was one way out, to declare war on the Persians and to not succumb to any of their tricks. There would be no more time wasted on debate. He convinced the men that the return to Greece would be the only priority and that this mission would require focus, discipline, and direction. The officers agreed. When a Persian officer entered to see them the next day, he was rudely dismissed.

The Greeks managed to escape the Persians, by beating them to key positions. While the return home took years, the men finally arrived, most of them still alive.

Political thought and political instinct prove themselves theoretically and practically in the ability to distinguish friend and enemy. The high points of politics are simultaneously the moments in which the enemy is, in concrete clarity, recognized as the enemy.

CARL SCHMITT, 1888-1985

Life contains many destructive relationships and dangerous adventures. What stands in your way is not others, but yourself. It is your feeling of confusion that will deter your efforts, it is your inability to distinguish between friend and foe.

Do not listen to those who try to muddle your view of friend and enemy. They merely want to avoid conflict and display a false warmth.

Read The 33 Strategies of War

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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