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The Art of War

Decipher the greatest work of strategy ever written and learn how its lessons can be applied in war, politics, business, and beyond.
The Art of War is rated 4.1 out of 5 by 71.
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Rated 3 out of 5 by from Disappointing, but fixable I bought this course with great anticipation to learn more about one of my favorite books. I believe Dr Wilson has a great grasp of, and an even greater passion for the subject matter. The source of my disappointment is the failure to include a guidebook for this course. I am not a student of the Chinese language, or its comprehensive history. Dr Wilson dives in right from the start, but at such a rapid pace, it is hard for me to appreciate and retain some of the nuances of his lectures. The simple inclusion of a guidebook would be so very valuable to a simple student like me. I have purchased a fair number of courses, and the only ones that disappoint me (despite the consistent excellence of the instructors) are those courses lacking a guidebook. This is so fixable, and so disappointing.
Date published: 2024-05-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great companion to Art of War I hadn't read The Art of War before this course, and I'm glad. The course provides both historical context to why it was written and what the axioms actually meant at the time and examples of application in today's world.
Date published: 2022-11-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Art of War I Wish there was a study guide or a transcript to accompany this course.
Date published: 2022-06-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great synopsis, it put the classic into context Knowing the historical context for a book like this is critical to the appreciation of the overall significance of the work. The course lectures walk you thru the period it was written and the "state of the Art of War" at that time. This sets the stage for understanding why the book has maintained its relevance over the centuries. The lectures map the the key principles to examples in modern times, and why the book is required reading in so many advanced training programs across many disciplines - well beyond military strategy. A great listen on a long road trip!
Date published: 2022-04-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Stuff I thought of this course as 'good to know' information, had first heard about it briefly in the Marine Corp, where I had the privilege of serving in the infantry, then later in another brief discussion in a course in educational leadership. Of course, The Art of War course is more detailed and turned out to be excellent as it became more evident how its principles can be applied to different areas of life, including business, education, and I just learned, mental health, as well as the current drug use epidemic. I can see why these courses are called the 'great courses!'
Date published: 2022-03-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Why You Need This Course: A Case Study To understand why "The Art of War" is important, one could consider the brilliance of General Schwartzkof's handling of the Gulf War. But the August 2021 Afghan collapse is fresh in our minds. This Case Study emphasizes "The Art of War" but requires brief input from two other excellent TGC courses. FAILURE UNEXPECTED? (The Art of War_Wilson, Lecture 3): "Surprise" at the rapidity of the Afghan collapse ignores L3's basic military terrain concepts of "scattering and light ground" that Afghans were up against. The Art of War relates that, counter-intuitively, when a belligerent is either near or just within your territory, there is a huge probability that your Army will bolt & scatter...just as the Afghan's did. As a former Army officer, I doubt the Pentagon was surprised. FAULT? (The Art of War_Wilson, L2): When done correctly, the Commander leads an army "as he easily leads a single man by the hand". The head of the organization "is responsible for creating an overall purpose and unity." For example, perhaps clearing soldiers, civilians and equipment without loss from Afghanistan would be the primary unifying purpose (but see TIMING below). The next step is that the top military commander "...translates that moral unit into preparedness and with any steps the general is constantly in search of relative (purpose) or tactics". These considerations allow failure to be ONLY accepted by the immediate head of the organization, just as President Kennedy honorably accepted responsibility for the Bay of Pigs. ESPIONAGE & TIMING (The Art of War_Wilson, L4): Kabul, in addition to suffering "scattering and light ground", is spy ridden and these spies are religious (see below). The timing occurred while the US military was beginning potentially divisive CRT training in all its branches. As L4 states, attack "when the enemy is distracted" and "crash into weakness" (ie: the "drawn-down" without adequate on-site reinforcements). The Taliban timing was perfect. BURDENING THE MILITARY WITH POLITICAL WISHLISTS (The Art of War_Wilson, L2): In L2, Sun Tzu offers his talents to the emperor, saying that he could turn the emperor's harem into soldiers. When they were not instantly attentive, the Commander ordered the emperor's two favorites to be beheaded. With prior permission to command he did not stand down and was able to over-rule the emperor's political arguments for his sexual wishes. Absent two members, the harem instantly became good soldiers, focused ONLY on the military mission. FAILURE IN KABUL IS NOT NEW (TGC History's Great Military Blunders_Aldrete): L13 provides an excellent summary of political interference resulting in disaster. The political secretary (William Aukland) of the Governor General of India managed to depose a British-friendly shah for his own favorite, disliked by Afghans. The secretary joined a senile but pliant Major General Elphinstone at an indefensible camp just outside Kabul. Aldrete fills in the horrendous details of the bureaucratic messes including the revenge of a relative of the old shah, Major General Elphinstone's indecision, the death of the power hungry Aukland, and the terror of the 1842 British retreat through the Khyber (Khotal) Pass. UNDERLYING PROBLEMS (TGC Wisdom of History_Fears): Democracy is not universally valued (L6). Religion ("The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan") is a serious competitor to superpowers (L20). "Islam is not a religion of freedom; it is a religion of (political & religious) submission." (L18) The Preface to G.A. Henty's 19th century "For Name & Fame" (recounting the British successful counterattack on Afghanistan) states: "(Afghan) history shows that defeat has little effect on them. Crushed one day, they will rise the next; scattered, it would seem hopelessly, they are ready to reassemble and renew the conflict at the first summons of their chiefs." LEADERSHIP (TGC Wisdom of History_Fears): (1.) The difference between a politician and a statesman (L28): "Washington had a bedrock of principles & a moral compass...vision and the ability to build a consensus to achieve that vision." (2.) A weak leader doesn't have enough credibility, in the mind of his enemy, to end war early on his nation's terms. A prior administration had faced down the Taliban and constructed US-friendly negotiations, a remarkably difficult process for a democracy (L11). The unconditional surrender of one side (negating prior talks) "...is the hallmark of a democratic war". SUMMARY: Take this course and the two mentioned above to better understand your world.
Date published: 2021-08-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Bringing greater depth to a classic While the number of lectures is small, the topics covered are concise to this classic of strategic thought. As the lecturer says, it's one thing to just pull platitudes from The Art of War as ancient Chinese wisdom. It's quite another to fully understand the application and continuing relevance of this work on our world today. The lecturer does a fantastic job in showcasing why this guide to warfare has endured through centuries.
Date published: 2020-11-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great place to start "The Art of War" exploration With numerous editions of "The Art of War", this course is a great place to start exploring the classic book. The professor is very knowledgeable and presents the information clearly. He explains the principles in the book while also illustrating how the principles can be used in present day life. After completing this course, I explored other editions of this book.
Date published: 2020-04-20
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Overview

As a landmark achievement in the evolution of strategic thought, Sun Tzu’s The Art of War has had a powerful and lasting influence on military strategy around the globe. So universal and timeless are its tactics for pursuing a competitive advantage that some of the most notable people in government, sports, and the entertainment world have all quoted from its nearly 2500-year-old pages. Through a precise, historically grounded explanation of the original text and intriguing case studies, the six lectures of The Art of War prove how this classic’s wisdom remains highly relevant in the information age. You’ll examine how the seminal work’s model of leadership has been applied—and misapplied—throughout the realms of war, politics, business, and beyond.

About

Andrew R. Wilson

Who are our masters of war? Paradoxically some of the great works of theory come not from the victors, but from the vanquished. The lessons of failure are often far more powerful, more enduring.

INSTITUTION

U.S. Naval War College

Dr. Andrew R. Wilson is Professor of Strategy and Policy at the United States Naval War College in Newport, RI. He received a B.A. in East Asian Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and earned his Ph.D. in History and East Asian Languages from Harvard University. An award-winning professor and an expert in both military history and strategic theory, Professor Wilson has lectured on Asian military history, the classics of strategic theory, Chinese military modernization, and Sun Tzu's The Art of War, among other topics. Prior to joining the Naval War College, he taught Chinese history at Wellesley College and at Harvard University. Additionally, he has been invited to speak at numerous military colleges and universities in the United States. Professor Wilson is the author of numerous articles on Chinese military history, Chinese sea power, and Sun Tzu's The Art of War. His books include Ambition and Identity: Chinese Merchant-Elites in Colonial Manila, 1885-1916; The Chinese in the Caribbean; China's Future Nuclear Submarine Force; and War, Virtual War and Society. He has lectured on strategic theory and international security in nearly two dozen countries and six continents, and he has contributed to the curriculum of military colleges all over the world. The views expressed in this course are those of the professor and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.

By This Professor

Understanding Imperial China: Dynasties, Life, and Culture
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Masters of War: History's Greatest Strategic Thinkers
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The Art of War

Trailer

The Origins of a Revolutionary Classic

01: The Origins of a Revolutionary Classic

The Art of War has a timeless appeal, but it is the product of a unique time and place. Learn the historical context that gave rise to the book by investigating the centrality of war in ancient China and the dramatic societal shifts taking place. Gain insight into what scholars believe about the author’s identity.

27 min
Command and Method

02: Command and Method

The key to winning without fighting lies first in the quality of leadership and the reputation of an organization. Examine key elements of effective command and method, first as they are developed in The Art of War itself, and then as they were exemplified by the early success of the Ford Motor Company.

28 min
Weather and Terrain

03: Weather and Terrain

Great leaders know how and when to exploit geography and psychology. Learn the role climate and terrain played in Washington’s crossing the Delaware, Mao Zedong’s advance into Korea, and other military offensives. Investigate how leadership and organization converged with weather and terrain to allow the Greeks at Thermopylae to hold off a vastly larger Persian army.

28 min
Energy and Timing

04: Energy and Timing

Being in the right place at the right time shouldn’t be left to fate. In this lecture, you’ll probe the concept of shi, or focused potential energy, and how effective leaders combine this force with an exceptional sense of timing. See how Sun Tzu’s strategies for outmaneuvering competitors have been applied in war, business, and sports.

29 min
Espionage and Deception

05: Espionage and Deception

The Art of War’s greatest contribution to the world of competitive strategy may be its detailed treatment of information warfare and intelligence gathering. Differentiate between active and passive deception, learn the value of various types of spies, and investigate the historical use of espionage, including one of the worst intelligence disasters in American history.

28 min
An Enduring Guide for Interesting Times

06: An Enduring Guide for Interesting Times

Delve more deeply into how this classic relates to all intellectual contests of wills, from armies to competing corporations. Consider its potential relevance to the economic, political, and military rise of contemporary China, including the implications of legal warfare and the concept of shi as it relates to cyber security and warfare.

29 min