Notes politics Psychology

Strategy 9: Turn the Tables (The 33 Strategies of War)

The Counterattack Strategy

The counterattack is a classic approach to warfare. Most people either spend their time attacking, leaving themselves vulnerable or they are extremely defensive and miss out on valuable opportunities.

The third option is the counterattack. Do not commit to either attack or defense, instead, learn the art of timing. People are generally impatient, and they don’t think enough before executing their plan. Take advantage of this by catching them by surprise. Project weakness and defensiveness, and when your enemy is over-committed, switch to offense.

The notion of “catching” (utsuraseru) applies to many things: yawning and sleepiness, for example. Time can also be “catching.” In a large-scale battle, when the enemy is restless and trying to bring a quick conclusion to the battle, pay no attention. Instead, try to pretend that you are calm and quiet with no urgent need to end the battle. The enemy will then be affected by your calm and easy attitude and become less alert. When this “catching” occurs, quickly execute a strong attack to defeat the enemy…. There is also a concept called “making one drunk,” which is similar to the notion of “catching.” You can make your opponent feel bored, carefree, or feeble spirited. You should study these matters well.


Napoleon Bonaparte understood this well.

In the battle of Austerlitz, his greatest military achievement, Napoleon was surrounded by the allied forces: the Prussians, Russians, and Austrians. Indeed, when the French were encircled, panic spread across the leadership, but Napoleon patiently studied the best strategy to pursue. He found a way to take advantage of the aggressiveness of his opponents. He drew the allied troops out of the Pretzen Heights by feigning weakness. The allied armies attacked Napoleon’s small numbers, but by doing so, they fell for Napoleon’s trap. They had lost their dominion over the city, leaving too few numbers behind.

The French general waited for this moment and made his move towards the center and capture the weakly defended city of Pretzen. The news shocked the allied command, who before this point were almost guaranteed victory. After Napoleon made this move, he positioned other troops near the city to ensure control. The allied commanders were forced to reconcile a deal with Napoleon, when previously they were aggressive and unwilling to negotiate fairly.

The whole art of war consists in a well-reasoned and extremely circumspect defensive, followed by a rapid and audacious attack.

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821)

The counterattack strategy cannot always be applied. Sometimes, it is better to initiate the attack, and gain control over your enemy. To ensure victory, you must carefully study the psychology of your opponent. If the enemy is too clever to lose patience, and you cannot afford to wait very long, then you must go on the offensive.

You must have multiple strategies you can use to make yourself unpredictable. If your enemies think you will always counterattack, you will be able to surprise them by moving first. As long as you know how your opponents will move, and they are confused by your strategy, you will always have the advantage.

Read The 33 Strategies of War

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

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