11.52

Chapter: The Nine Situations 11.52
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Translation:

We cannot enter into alliance with neighboring princes until we are acquainted with their designs. We are not fit to lead an army on the march unless we are familiar with the face of the country–its mountains and forests, its pitfalls and precipices, its marshes and swamps. We shall be unable to turn natural advantages to account unless we make use of local guides.

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Commentary

Alliances in warfare can be essential. They both provide assistance in your campaigns and also ensure the ally will not join the other side.

Like business, however, a problem is that those who would be your friend often have an agenda of their own, which does not necessarily agree with yours.

They may want large rewards for helping you, sharing in the spoils of a conquered land. They may want you to defend them from the others side. They may also have deceitful tricks up their sleeves, perhaps to invade your lands when you are gone or suddenly change sides when you are vulnerable.

If you need to cross their lands, then they may help you, providing guides. Support from local people, even without a formal alliance, can be very useful.