According to the Annals of King Seonjo in 1569, the Joseon king read the Chinese epic novel "Romance of the Three Kingdoms." The novel must have gained popularity even in Joseon, whose 200 editions of the novel have been excavated so far.
The Romance of the Three Kingdoms is full of brilliant schemes and mentions disposition of troops but it is not a tactical explanation. It makes your heart beat by capturing a particular scene like a movie. That leaves one to wonder if there are any descriptions on real battles or tactics in the epic novel. Once you become a fan of the novel, you get interested in the historical facts about famous figures and battles in the novel. But the Records of the Three Kingdoms fail to satisfy the readers’ curiosity.
One of the battles that arouse my curiosity is the Battle of Xiaoting, which led to the death of Liu Bei. Liu Bei decided to go to war with Wu to avenge the death of Guan Yu and reclaim Jing Province. Shu-Han dynasty expected to break the balance of the three kingdoms and outdo the other two kingdoms through the battle.
But Liu Bei’s army was annihilated by Lu Xun, a genius officer of Wu. The causes of defeat were lack of cooperation between the army and the naval forces that led to problems in procurement and complex arrangement of military camps. After hearing about the arrangement, Cao Pi, the emperor of Wei, predicted the defeat of Liu Bei by saying he does not know anything about military strategies.
There are not much historical records about the battle, but Liu Bei was not ignorant of military tactics. I guess the defeat was attributable to the complex composition of Shu-Han army and its internal affairs. Liu Bei’s army put too much energy keeping Huang Quan in check, who served under Liu Zhang before joining Wei. Lie Bei had reasons to draw up such tactics. But this is the very reason why armies lose in a battle. Enemies do not understand these reasons. They use them against your army.
When it comes to making strategies for national security, diplomacy and management, you should be able to review them from the perspective of your opponents rather than rationalizing our choices for certain reasons. These reasons are the logic behind politics. Great generals have lost in a battle not because of their tactics but because of the logic behind politics. For some reasons, these mistakes repeat in history.