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"Siege Mentality: A Tale of Two Wus" Topic

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316 hits since 10 Nov 2020
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP10 Nov 2020 8:53 p.m. PST

"In China, 527 BCE, Zhonghang Wu, a general in the state of Jin, was tasked with conquering the city of Gu. While leading his army toward its objective, a resident of Gu approached, offering to betray the city and surreptitiously allow Jin forces to bypass its fortifications unimpeded. Zhonghang Wu not only rejected the man's offer, but forcibly returned him to the city so its leaders could execute him as a traitor. Mystified, Zhonghang Wu's advisors beseeched their commander: "The city could be taken without any exertion on the part of our troops. Why not do it?"[3] Zhonghang Wu, however, was thinking beyond the immediate gratification of a quick and deceptive military victory. Since his mission was to permanently annex the city, if his first act was to reward a traitor for his disloyalty, this would set a new standard of acceptable conduct. One day soon, the citizens of Gu would have no reservations about betraying their new rulers. "We should not associate ourselves with evildoing out of a desire to take the city," he cautioned. "What we would lose by such an action would be greater by far than what we would gain."[4]

Zhonghang Wu and his army settled in for a long siege. After three months, the leaders of Gu offered to surrender. Zhonghang Wu, however, declined the capitulation, noting: "You still have the appearance of people who are eating well. For now, repair your walls."[5] His staff again protested, exclaiming, "You have won the city, but you do not take it. You are exhausting your people and blunting your weapons. How is this a service to the ruler?"[6] Zhonghang Wu replied, "With this we do serve the ruler. If in winning one city we teach the people laziness, then it would be far better to maintain the status quo. No good can come from purchasing laziness, and there is nothing auspicious about throwing away the status quo."[7] After the city's food supplies were drained and its populace exhausted, Zhonghang Wu finally completed his mission. "Overcoming Gu and returning," the ancient texts tell us, "he did not put to death a single person."…"
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