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91. A Word on Military Strategy and its Connection to Legal Strategy

 

In the 1990s and continuing for much of the next decade, two rather arcane sources became popular in America and were used in countless discussions on business strategy. These sources had their origin as military strategy textbooks. The first, by the Eastern Zhou general and strategist Sun Tzu (The Art of War, probably sixth century BCE) spent a lot of time on reading the opponent, assessing one’s strengths, planning the attacks and knowing when to retreat.  For our purposes, his most important statement is in 1.6:

 

            实而备之,强而避之,怒而挠之,卑而骄之,佚而劳之,亲而离之。攻其无备,

            出其不意

 

We see the attractive and rhythmic four-character sequences in his work that were characteristic of much of classical Chinese writing. In many of the clauses we have two strong verbs, interrupted by the conjunctions 而/之。A serviceable translation is: 

 

            ”If your enemy seems solid (实), one needs to be prepared (备)for him. If he is strong (强),                 then evade (避) him. If he is angry (怒) then disturb (挠) him. Put on a face of abjectness (卑)                 so he might become arrogant (骄). If he seems to be     indulging in pleasures (佚), keep                     working hard (劳).  If his forces are united (亲) seek to separate them (离).  Attack him (攻)                   where he is unprepared (无备), and appear (出) where you are not expected (不意)."   

 

Most of this advice might not seem immediately relevant to Job’s “case” before God.  Yet, there is no doubt that Job believes his enemy is “solid” and that he needs to launch the most meticulous preparations for an approach to God. Perhaps we can understand Job’s comments on the divine anger (e.g., 9:13) as a way for Job actually to “tweak” or “disturb” God a bit. Job has to keep working hard. One of the real challenges for him will be how to “evade” God’s wrath but, at the same time, approach God.  

 

The other source for many discussions on business strategy in the last few decades was Prussian General Carl von Clausewitz’ 1832 work Vom Kriege (On War).  One of the crucial terms for von Clausewitz in laying out military strategy was the German word Schwerpunkt, variously translated in English as “decisive point” or “center of gravity.”  One passage has it:

 

            “The talent of the strategist is to identify the decisive point (Schwerpunkt)  and 

            to concentrate everything on it, removing forces from secondary fronts and 

            ignoring lesser objectives.”

 

Much ink has been spilled trying to define the contours of this term that appears more than 40X in von Clausewitz's work.  Suffice it to say that Schwerpunkt doesn’t appear to be too different from the litigator’s emphasis on assessing your strength and your opponent’s vulnerabilities.  

 

Before Job actually assembles his case in later chapters, he has to face more inner turmoil and really come to the end of his emotional rope. That is, after singing the glories of God in creation (9:5-12), Job will quickly disintegrate emotionally so that putting together a case against God seems hopeless (9:14-16).  Everything seems to be so worthless for Job at this point; it will take him a few more chapters to get his strength together to make his case.