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The Thirty-Six Stratagems by Peter Taylor

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19. Remove the firewood from under the pot

If something must be destroyed, destroy the source.

In the fourth year of Han emperor Sian’s Jian An Period the biggest threat to Cao Cao was Yuan Shao who was entrenched in the north, and in time the two armies formally engaged in battle at Yang Wu. The strength of Cao Cao’s forces was far less than Yuan Shao’s mighty army, added to which Cao Cao’s food supply was running low and soldiers were exhausted.

Surprisingly at this time Syu You, the advisor to Yuan Shao, unexpectedly chose to defect to the side of Cao Cao. Naturally, wanting to gain information from his ex-opponent, Cao Cao asked him for ideas on how to fight Yuan Shao. Syu You advised that a frontal attack against Yuan Shao’s larger force ...

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