“All war is based on deception.”
No less than the artist of war himself equated war with deception. If we think about it, at first, it may seem somewhat inconsistent with the idea that war is disruption. So, let’s try to understand and reconcile the two ideas.
Disruption is anything that prevents an action from completing. Deception is anything that prevents a specific process, the process of discovery, from completing. More generally, deception is the control of discovery. We may think of it as lies, but it is also telling the truth selectively. It is the strategy of deciding for one’s self or for others what is known, what is unknown, what is “good”, what is “true”, what is “imminent”, what is “important”, etc. It is ultimately just a strategy of controlling others without regard for their will or condition.
Well, in either case, whether we control an opponent during a fight or disrupt them, we are essentially doing the same thing. Blowing up a tank or just sending it in the wrong direction or having it fire at the wrong target or blinding it or immobilizing it or . . . it is all an attempt to nullify its combat effectiveness. Deception is just less risky and less costly in many instances than confrontation.
In declaring that all war is based on deception, Sun Tzu may have revealed a hidden precept of his psychology and perhaps a precept of a certain class of people (not necessarily Chinese people, mind you). War IS disruption. Controlling others is not war. So, by saying that war is based on deception, he may have revealed that in the mind of himself and people like him, disruption is actually a means of controlling. War can be waged by controlling, but so can control be exerted by disrupting. To Sun Tzu, control was not a means of disrupting. Disruption was a means of control. To Sun Tzu, enslavement is not a method of warfare. Warfare is a method of enslavement, of enacting and enforcing subordination. “Comply or die.”, as it were.