Sun Tzu said:
“Know thyself and know thy enemy. If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the results of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle. ”
This basic principle when properly applied is at its core the essence for any country willing to go to war, to be able to determine if they should to go to war and how to shape their strategic and tactical planning.
Sun Tzu understood that success, ruin and, survival heavily depended on the relationship between war and state issues (Tzu, 1963, p. 63). A better understanding of this would come from Clausewitz’s statement that “The political object is the goal, war is the means of reaching it, and means can never be considered in isolation from their purpose” (Clausewitz, 1976, p. 87). The political goal for the British during the Revolutionary war was to stop the rebellion and restore order and loyalty to the British Empire. Washington as the military leader understood that his hopes would not lie mainly in a military victory, but in a political objective to create opposition in Great Britain that would force the British Ministry to abandon its conflict. (Weigley, 1973, p. 5).
Washington clearly understood his political goal, and this would allow him to shape his military strategy accordingly. During the first conflicts, Washington saw many victories against the British especially during the battle for Bunker Hill. It was the first time that the Americans saw that they could actually defeat the once thought indestructible British in conventional warfare. It wasn’t until the conflict in New York on August 22nd where Washington would lose a quarter of his command, about 970 men killed or injured, and 1079 taken captive that would cause Washington to rethink how he would strategically conduct warfare from this point on. George Washington knew that conventional warfare would be suicide against the sheer size, manpower, and capabilities of the British military. Washington knew that if he were to have any chance at achieving a free and independent America, he would need to keep his army alive, and therefore keep the Revolutionary cause alive (Weigley, 1973, pp. 5-13). Washington would set about on a new course to victory in a Sun Tzu approach to the Art of War.
The recently formed Congress would need to select an individual to lead the Continental Army, what traits would be required of such a leader to successfully win the war? Sun Tzu describes five traits a commander needed: wisdom, sincerity, humanity, courage, and strictness. (Tzu, 1963, p. 65) Commander Washington’s would fit those five traits and would exemplify the five traits as described by Sun Tzu during his time as the commander of the continental Army. Washington understood, as did Sun Tzu in order to achieve military victory he would need to be able to appeal and receive public and political support. He would demonstrate this by caring for his troops and families with his own money. He was respected not just by the men he was charged to command, but also by the people in all parts of the colonies. Even with an attempt by members of congress later during the war to replace Washington with Gates failed, as he held too much support from many in Congress and the Army. George Washington would continue to prove his Character in his career and would demonstrate he would be the perfect commander that would be needed through what would be a protracted war. (The American Revolution, 2011, pp. 1-51)