GAMSAT Essay Quote Interpretation – War

GAMSAT Essay War

GAMSAT Theme: War (Task A)

GAMSAT Quote: “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” (Sun Tzu)

The biggest mistake I see GAMSAT students make in relation to this quote is to ignore the phrase “subdue the enemy” and jump straight into writing a generic essay on the merits of war in order to eventually achieve peace, or conversely, discussing the horrors of war with a stance that war should be avoided at all costs.  Both of these arguments miss the entire point of the quote. The word “subdue” means to pacify or control. So what Sun Tzu is saying here is that rather than actually engaging in a bloody war, it is more masterful to somehow bring the enemy to their knees before any fighting begins. The essence of this quote is reflected in the Chinese Proverb: “The greatest conqueror is he who overcomes the enemy without a blow.”

So in coming up with ideas on what to write about in a GAMSAT essay addressing this quote, you should be mentally examining events/situations in the world/society for examples (evidence) that potentially support Tzu’s claim. What might this include? How does a nation subdue their enemy before full-scale war breaks out? By engaging in negotiations? Placing trade sanctions on their enemy? Crippling them financially in some other way? Stealth attacks designed to subdue the enemy by taking out their leader or their weapons supply? Other ways?

What are some specific, real-world examples of when and where in recent history we have seen such actions play out effectively?

Come up with a few examples and there you will have your content to write a strong GAMSAT essay arguing in support of Tzu’s claim.

Perhaps you have a different interpretation of this quote that still focuses on subduing the enemy without fighting? If so, please share it in the comments section below.

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  1. To be honest, I had a hard time finding real-world examples that support this statement. Initially, I’ve thought about the Cold War – how the USSR and the USA did not go to war because they wanted to avoid catastrophic consequences to their respective sides. But did not going to war achieve their goals? And what were their goals? I thought that they didn’t want to invade each other, but did not want the other side to dominate globally. After reading up on the Cold War in more detail, my theory seems wrong. Can you offer some insight in this? Thanks

    1. Focus on the word “subdue” – how does one control their enemy without having to fight them at all?

      Let’s take it outside of armed combat and consider a legal battle (war) between persons or businesses – how do you subdue your enemy before a very public (possibly reputation damaging) war commences in court?
      $$$ settlement (bribery).

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