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September 19, 2005


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What you have as 'much rather retreat a foot than advance an inch' doesn't make military sense as such. An army that always prefers to retreat rather than advance, regardless of circumstances, can never win. I think the saying is a rule of thumb for the battlefield: 'If you dare not advance an inch, then retreat a foot.' If advance is too dangerous, then staying where you are poses a hidden danger, since advance by the other side by just a small amount will make you completely vulnerable, and it is this I think the saying addresses. Drawing back a foot is the only sensible option when you dare not advance an inch.

That last line you felt people may not agree with, well isn't it that the army that wins is the one that grieves for what it does, that is reluctant and is pained by the loss of life, that isn't, in other words, gung-ho. 'Tender-hearted' doesn't seem to convey the sense so well as 'grieve' or 'sorrowful'.

Yes, alternate translations are always worth considering when talking about classical Chinese. I looked at Henricks's work (the Te Tao Ching!) and he has something very similar for the inch/foot line; his rendering: "I don't advance an inch, but rather retreat a foot." The general idea, I think, is that yielding to circumstance may well be the best thing. In this case, it could suggest that the US should yield to circumstance and give NK what they want. This could give the US a victory (i.e. denuked Korean pennisula) without battle. On the other point, he agrees with your choice; here's his translation: "Therefore, when weapons are raised and the opponents are fairly well matched, Then it's the one who feels grief that will win."

This is a great quote. It applies to the Taiwan situation as well.

If Taiwan does nothing, after a few decades, its threat may disappears and the problem resolved (as mianland China changes)

For the mainland, if it does nothing and let go of its persistence about one china. maybe the popular vote will not turn out to be independence. and even if it will, perhaps after another century taiwan would return into the confederate.

This is what Sun Zi said, "the supreme excellency is winning without waging a war"

p.s. maybe there is application to Cuba as well? I know US is not under any threat from Cuba, but isn't it nicer to make one more friend than a foe? maybe took Castro's offer of medical team? then lift the embargo and flood them with capitalist consumer goods?

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