I missed this last week but let me comment on it now.
Malcolm Gladwell's piece in The New Yorker, "How David Beats Goliath," has a Sun Tzu tone to it. He basically argues that creativity and effort can overcome material disadvantages in a wide range of strategic situations, from girl's basketball to war-gaming. One of his examples is Lawrence of Arabia:
Consider the way T. E. Lawrence (or, as he is better known, Lawrence of Arabia) led the revolt against the Ottoman Army occupying Arabia near the end of the First World War. The British were helping the Arabs in their uprising, and the initial focus was Medina, the city at the end of a long railroad that the Turks had built, running south from Damascus and down through the Hejaz desert. The Turks had amassed a large force in Medina, and the British leadership wanted Lawrence to gather the Arabs and destroy the Turkish garrison there, before the Turks could threaten the entire region.
But when Lawrence looked
at his ragtag band of Bedouin fighters he realized that a direct attack
on Medina would never succeed. And why did taking the city matter,
anyway? The Turks sat in Medina “on the defensive, immobile.” There
were so many of them, consuming so much food and fuel and water, that
they could hardly make a major move across the desert. Instead of
attacking the Turks at their point of strength, Lawrence reasoned, he
ought to attack them where they were weak—along the vast, largely
unguarded length of railway line that was their connection to Damascus.
Instead of focussing his attention on Medina, he should wage war over the broadest territory possible.
Gladwell goes on to describe the battle of Aqaba, where Lawrence's men surprise and defeat the Turks by coming at them from the desert, where they were least expected. This is, of course, straight out of Sun Tzu, which Lawrence may have known but which Gladwell does not cite. Here are some relevant passages:
Generally, he who occupies the field of battle first and awaits his enemy is at ease; he who comes later to the scene and rushes into the fight is weary.
And therefore those skilled in war bring the enemy to he field of battle and are not brought there by him.
One able to make the enemy come of his own accord does so by offering him some advantage. And one able to prevent him from coming does so by hurting him.
When the enemy is at ease, be able to weary him; when well fed, to starve him; when at rest; to make him move.
Appear at places to which he must hasten; move swiftly where he does not expect you.
That you may march a thousand li without wearying yourself is because you travel where there is no enemy.
To be certain to take what you attack, is to attack a place the enemy does not protect. To be certain to hold what you defend is to defend a place the enemy does not attack.
Therefore, against those skilled in attack, an enemy does not know where to defend; against the experts in defense, the enemy does not know where to attack.
Subtle and insubstantial, the expert leaves no trace; divinely mysterious, he is inaudible. Thus he is the master of the enemy's fate. (6.1-9)
Fight on the ground of you choosing, set the terms of the battle, control the pace of the interaction, and you will prevail...even in girl's basketball.