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The act of reading transcends mere engagement with text; it serves as an intricate tapestry woven from threads of personal enrichment and professional advancement. Within this fabric, individuals of diverse vocations, from physicians and engineers to legal practitioners and military strategists, find themselves intricately entwined.

Delving into specialised literature becomes not only a pursuit of knowledge but a vital lifeline for sustaining proficiency and efficacy in their respective domains.

Indeed, for soldiers, the significance of this practice reaches paramount heights, as it equips them with the intellectual armament necessary to navigate the complexities of modern warfare with precision and foresight. In light of the numerous military conflicts worldwide, the importance of reading cannot be overstated.

From the ongoing armed conflict in Ukraine to crises in Yemen, Sudan, and Gaza, these conflicts exact a toll both financially and in human lives, spanning across Europe and the Middle East. Amid such turmoil, reading becomes even more crucial, serving as a gateway to understanding the complexities of these conflicts and seeking potential solutions.

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Today, multiple armed conflicts and wars unfold worldwide. A quarter-century ago, the Middle East witnessed numerous wars, including the ongoing conflicts during Ramadan.

Given the unpredictable nature of warfare, I have turned to the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu, credited with authoring “The Art of War.”

While the authorship of the book may be debated, it is widely believed to have been written around 700 years before the birth of Christ. In an era where warfare was a common occurrence, this text served as essential reading for military leaders, imparting invaluable insights into strategy and tactics.

Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” emphasises several key principles regarding warfare. One of the primary warnings conveyed in the text is that war is a matter of utmost importance for the state or group involved.

Sun Tzu emphasises that victory in war is not solely determined by the size of an army, the quantity of weapons, or impulsive decisions made in the heat of anger.

Rather, he underscores the significance of moral and mental factors, or the so-called demonising enemies, asserting that these elements hold greater weight than mere material resources.

Read more by Mohammad Alrumaihi

An ill-advised endeavour

Moreover, Sun Tzu highlights the importance of psychological warfare, advocating for the strategic manipulation of the opponent’s mentality. He suggests that true victory lies not in sheer destruction or devastation but in the ability to subdue the opponent’s will and mindset before any physical confrontation takes place.

This aspect of warfare, characterised by psychological dominance and strategic manoeuvring, is regarded as a hallmark of skilful leadership and military prowess according to Sun Tzu’s teachings.

Sun Tzu underscores the vital role of logistics and supply lines in warfare, cautioning against entering conflicts without a firm grasp of funding sources and support networks.

He emphasises that initiating warfare without secure and reliable means to procure essential supplies, equipment, and provisions is tantamount to embarking on a perilous and ill-advised endeavour.

Furthermore, Sun Tzu stresses the detrimental effects of prolonged conflict. He notes that protracted warfare ultimately results in losses for both sides involved. According to Sun Tzu, the longer a war drags on, the greater the toll it takes on resources, morale, and manpower for all parties.

Crucial place in warfare

Ultimately, the side that can sustain itself on the battlefield for an extended period, through adequate material and moral support, is likely to emerge as the victor. This underscores the strategic importance of resource management and endurance in achieving success in warfare according to Sun Tzu’s teachings.

According to Sun Tzu, the key to delivering a decisive blow to the enemy lies in strategic preparation before the onset of battle. This involves the deployment of agents and allies behind enemy lines.

He also affirmed the importance of internal strife within the enemy’s ranks. By sowing discord and creating internal conflicts, the cohesion of the enemy’s front can be dismantled. A united and steadfast enemy front presents a formidable challenge, while a fragmented and divided front is more susceptible to defeat.

Morale holds a crucial place in warfare, a subject extensively explored in modern conflicts, drawing lessons from historical events like Napoleon’s military campaigns in early 19th-century. Napoleon’s well-equipped armies suffered a significant setback due to a lack of understanding of the peoples they encountered, contributing to France’s defeat.

Despite numerous wars that the Arabs fought with Israel, it wasn’t until 1967 that a think tank at Al Ahram newspaper tentatively began to focus on Israeli affairs. Ignoring or misrepresenting the enemy only leads to downfall, as it blinds leaders and endangers their people.

When I hear the Houthi military spokesperson’s bombastic declarations of “irrevocably defeating America,” I’m reminded of Iraq’s Minister of Information during Saddam Hussein’s regime. Their grandiose rhetoric echoes hollow promises, much like the empty words of “Al Uluj.”

Despite their boasts, the Houthis’ actions have resulted in detrimental consequences, such as sinking a civilian ship carrying ammonia, which poisoned the marine environment in Southern Yemen and deprived its people of a vital economic resource.

Entering battle without comprehensive knowledge of the opponent’s economic, social, and psychological conditions is akin to facing defeat. Regrettably, while Israel possesses numerous research centres specialising in Arab societies, our understanding of them remains deficient.

This cultural gap presents significant challenges for Arabs, as we lack crucial information about societies hostile to us. We must address this deficiency by acquiring knowledge of their language, culture, military, and scientific plans.

Mohammad Alrumaihi is an author and Professor of Political Sociology at Kuwait University