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Strategy 31: Destroy from Within (The 33 Strategies of War)

War can only be fought against an enemy who exposes himself. Infilitrate into your opponents’ ranks to accumulate valuable information – their weaknesses and schemes. Hide your hostile intentions, to take what you want, you cannot fight those who have it, but you must join them – either slowly make it your own or wait for an opportune coup d’etat. A structure that rots from within inevitably falls.

The North Vietnamese attacked the South Vietnamese and American armies in 1968. One of the targets was Hue, the ancient capital of Vietnam, and an important religious city. The Citadel was thick, had high walls, and was surrounded by water on all sides. But the North Vietnamese took over Hue easily. They held it for weeks, but then disappeared after a U.S counterattack. The objective was not to take over the Citadel but to send a symbolic message: American invincibility was a myth.

To accomplish this impressive feat, The North Vietnamese infiltrated men into the city. They dug tunnels inside the Citadel through disguised insiders, they left stockpiles of weapons at key points. They then understood the command structure from within, and used this valuable knowledge to spread mass confusion – the defense of the Citadel collapsed.

This strategy was called the “blooming lotus” by the North Vietnamese. It has deep roots in Asian military thought. Instead of focusing on the enemy’s strong front, and finding peripheral ways to enter, the Asian philosophy was to infiltrate the center of the enemy.

Instead of penetrating defenses, the idea was to infiltrate them, including the minds of the enemy soldiers and officers. Softening them up from within has a much more devastating effect, and just like a lotus flower, everything unfolds from the center.

To attack or to intervene. –We often make the mistake of actively opposing a tendency or party or age because we happen to have seen only its external side, its deliquescence or the “faults of its virtues” necessarily adhering to it–perhaps because we ourselves have participated in them to a marked degree. Then we turn our back on them and go off in an opposite direction; but it would be better if we sought out their good and strong side instead or evolved and developed it in ourself. It requires, to be sure, a more penetrating eye and a more favorable inclination to advance what is imperfect and evolving than to see through it in its imperfection and deny it.

HUMAN, ALL TOO HUMAN, FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE, 1878

Read The 33 Strategies of War

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

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