I begin by stating the chief objective of this course: to learn how to attain your object as swiftly as possible while having your interests hurt as little as possible. We will chiefly consider Caesar, Richelieu, Talleyrand, Napoleon, and Bill Gates: all attained their objects in part through fighting, and all followed the same principles of fighting. They will not tell us what they did; we must ferret these things out on our own.
I then give an overview of the principles. Napoleon said: “The art of war is an art with principles, and these principles must never be violated.” It is not by chance that Caesar, Richelieu, Talleyrand, Napoleon, and Gates won victory after victory: they followed certain principles well.
The principles are immutable. Napoleon said: “In the art of war, nothing is lost, nothing created.”
The principles are usually applied simultaneously, or at least in rapid succession; they reinforce one another, each done well fortifying the others.
While the principles themselves are overarching and unchanging, the way in which one applies them is not. Each situation is unique; each calls for a unique application of the principles. How you strike, when you strike, where you strike -- all these may change. Napoleon would work out the best possible method of attack and then modify it according to circumstances: “One engages,” he said, “then one sees.”
Size and strength matter little, where the principles are applied well. With 50,000 small Italians, Caesar conquered Gaul; he then defeated Romans who controlled the whole of the Roman Empire except Gaul. In most of his battles Napoleon had fewer soldiers than did his opponent. In its early years, Microsoft bested far stronger rivals such as IBM, WordPerfect, and Borland International.