What is the Art of War?

The Art of war is an ancient Chinese tradition which outlines the best practices for any general to guarantee victory in war. The author Sun Tzu, is the supposed author of this masterpiece. His thirteen principles have been appropriated to analyse everything from the Vietnam war in the sixties, to business boardroom practices today.

where am I going with this?

Despite the fact that Africa has some of the oldest and most complex military history, I have never seen anyone apply the principles of Sun Tzu to African history (there’s a first time for everything, fi true) I will be applying two of Sun Tzu most popular principles to two different African figures and wars!

First Principle

#1 Sun Tzu says “On desperate ground, soldiers will fight hard” 

In the middle of the 10th century a Moorish general, Tariq Al Ziyab, set across the sea parting Morocco and Spain, to conquer the Visigoths of Hisponola, ultimately initiating centuries of Moorish rule over Europe. As the story is told by the great Arab historian, Al Idrissi, Tariq burned the ships which took him and his troops across the Spanish traits, he is then reported to have said to his militias “Oh my warriors, whither would you flee? Behind you is the sea, before you [is] the enemy…Put far from you the disgrace from which you flee…and attack this monarch… Here is a splendid opportunity to defeat him, if you will consent to expose yourselves freely to death.” after giving this speech Tariq led his army into battle; the troops only having the option of victory or death; they fought in an alien land with no option of retreat and they managed to defeat their European enemies.

How you can succeed despite the odds?

Like Tariq you must give yourself no option but victory and you will succeed,  take advantage of the bravado of your rivals as Tariq did when he challenge the Visigoth king who abandon his fortress.

What more can we learn? 

#2 Sun Tzu says: “It’s more important to out-think your enemy than it is to out-fight him”

Ethiopia is forever crystallised in world history for being the only African state that evaded European colonialism. The emperor Menelik  faced the threat of his christian state of being destroyed by his muslim jihadist neighbours(Mahdist states being the most notable) and the imperial clutches of Britain, France and Italy. Menelik knowing this, cleverly formed alliances, treaties and trading deals with his prospective threats – playing all of them against each other.







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