Art of War Quote:
"Everyone attacks with fire."
Sun Tzu's The Art of War 13:2:1
"There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community." M. Scott Peck
This article introduces the ninth and final section of The Play Book. It covers vulnerability to environmental crises that Sun Tzu called "fire attacks." Established positions have a degree of natural security from opponents, but positions are always vulnerable to conditions in the environment. When conditions are right, opponents can use the environment as a weapon against us. In Sun Tzu's The Art of War, fire attacks were a loophole in the rule that damaging opponents is too costly to long-term success. These environmental attacks damage opponents without the risks or costs of direct conflict. In our modern world, rivals use the government, the media, or special interest groups to create these fire storms. Law suits, government investigations, and bad publicity are today's form of fire attacks or environmental attacks. Though the examples we see on the news are those directed at large organizations, most environmental attacks are directed at individuals and small organizations.
Once we understand the rules of environmental vulnerability, we can use these principles not only to defend our own position, but to undermine opposing positions. All environmental attacks are attacks by proxy. The conditions and forces in the environment do the work. An opponent's role is limited only to sparking that attack, usually in a hidden way working behind the scenes. Our first concern is with defending our position against these vulnerabilities (5.6.1 Defense Priority). This knowledge also has its offensive use. The general rule here is that we must do so only to advance our own position, not simply destroy the position of another.
To use the environment against an opponent, the conditions must be right.
- The conditions for these environmental attacks depend on changes in climate to create needed fuel. This fuel in the environment is consumed to power these attacks. If we are not using environmental forces for destructive attacks, we are in a war of attrition, which means we are using our own resources and not those in the environment. This is costly and must be avoided. We cannot create these environment conditions only trigger and use them when they exist Attacks-by-proxy are not always possible. Positions must be susceptible to them. This is largely a matter of climate. Popular figures are impossible to attack. Unpopular figures are easily attacked. These attacks some times work best as attacks against individuals, other times, against faceless organizations, and still at other times, against new projects (9.1 Climate Vulnerability).
- There are five points at which a position is vulnerable to environmental attacks. If we recognize these five targets, we can see when they are vulnerable. This recognition can be used to either defend our own position or attack our opponents (9.2 Points of Vulnerability).
- Environmental attacks are primarily a test of leadership skills. Defense against these attacks are the single greatest test of leadership. One constant rule for defense is that we cannot panic. Overreaction usually causes more damage than the attack itself. Our decisions and reactions in these situations determine whether we maintain support for our position or create openings for our opponents (9.3 Crisis Leadership).
- We must know how to defend against five types of environmental attacks. Their nature determines how we must defend against them. These details will be the topics of future articles. Different types of environmental attacks follow different courses of events, but these attacks can all be defended. Some of these attacks can even be turned against opponents that instigate them (9.4 Crisis Defense).
- We can use environmental attacks against others only if we understand the techniques and their dangers. We must not use these opportunities to damage the positions of others simply because we can. The goal of strategy is always to improve our own position. Simply hurting others is a waste of resources. Environmental attacks can be a dangerous two-edge sword. They can be turned against us. Most importantly, today's rivals can be tomorrow's allies (9.5 Crisis Exploitation ).
- Defending a position requires constantly monitoring our environment for vulnerabilities. Though the world is constantly changing, we are often blind to change. Both opportunities and vulnerabilities can be difficult to see. The direction of our position is much easier to see if we continually compare it to the past using the right yardsticks (9.6 Constant Vigilance).
These attacks are growing more common in today's world. Politicians, lawyers, media people, and grievance hustlers of all types have promoted this form of competitive attack. Though these groups and people are working to advance their own positions, their self-interest must be hidden. For the modern attack-by-proxy to work, the attack must be positioned for the good of society and the public. Let us look at how these attacks are used against businesses by their competitors.
- The conditions for these environmental attacks depend on changes in climate to create the needed fuel. There is only so much public outrage. The public eventually gets bored with an issue such as global warming and moves on to some fresh outrage. Once the public moves on, the politicians, lawyers, and the rest do was well. In an anti-business climate, businesses become susceptible. In an anti-military climate, the military becomes susceptible. In a anti-politician climate, politicians are susceptible. The first rule of defense against attacks-by-proxy is keeping in touch with the social climate.
- There are five points at which a position is vulnerable to environmental attacks. Sometimes, these attacks work against individuals, other times, against large organizations, and still at other times, against new projects whose forms of change can be made to seem threatening.
- Environmental attacks are primarily a test of leadership skills. In the modern era, the phrase, "it wasn't the crime but the cover-up," is a common form of over-reaction.
- We must know how to defend against five types of environmental attacks. A direct attack on core values, such as an attack on the profit incentive for large corporations, must defended differently than an attack that demonizes an individual.
- We can use environmental attacks against others only if we understand the dangers. Sun Microsystems instigated a series of antitrust actions against Microsoft via California politicians, but they forced Microsoft to get more involved in politics and, in the end, it was Sun that was acquired by a software company, Oracle systems.
- Defending a position requires constantly monitoring our environment for vulnerabilities. In business, we must constantly be aware of how the motivations of others in the environment are changing. Politicians, lawyers, and the media constantly need fresh meat for their grinders. We must constantly shift our position to avoid becoming their targets.