The feigned retreat is an ancient battle tactic. Sun Tzu mentions it in his Art of War. The Spartans used it at the battle of Thermopylae. William the Conqueror used it, not once but twice, at Hastings. The tactic relies on appearing to surrender a position and pretending to retreat in order to lure the enemy into what seems like a position of dominance, but is in reality a position of vulnerability. The tactic is extremely difficult to implement and requires an immense amount of skill and discipline. However, if executed effectively, the feigned retreat can inflict devastating damage on opponents.
The genius behind the feigned retreat lies in a fundamental understanding of human nature. When an army senses it is getting the upper hand in a battle and is effectively trouncing its opposition, it sees any opening the enemy offers as a chance to inflict the kill shot and end the battle.
Spurred on by the adrenaline rush of apparent victory in plain sight, the attacking army allows emotions to get the better of it. Fueled on by the jubilation of winning, the attacking army becomes undisciplined and careless. It may break formation, reveal its weak spots, and cease listening to its commanders as it enthusiastically pursues what it perceives to be an enemy in flight. Unaware of the trap that has been set, the attacking army is both emotionally and physically overwhelmed when, instead of sealing a sure victory, they encounter what an expected, formidable, and often fatal counter strike.
Feigned retreats exist in spiritual warfare as well, so we must remember to keep our wits and emotions in check whenever we see our enemy retreat before us. We must ask ourselves the following question - Have we truly defeated them in battle or are they merely attempting to lure us into a position of vulnerability?
One factor to take into consideration is time. Physical battles tend to have certain time constraints. Spiritual battles know no such boundaries. A feigned retreat in a physical battle is immediate and instantaneous, lasting minutes or hours. A feigned retreat in a spiritual battle can last weeks, months, years, decades, perhaps even centuries. In light of this, we must remember never to be smug, proud, or complacent when presented with apparent victory. Even if we retake conquered territory and hold it successfully for years, we must remain vigilant and leave open the possibility that our victory might be nothing more than a feigned retreat and we have occupied what amounts to little more than a well-laid trap. Though we may seem secure in victory, our enemy may actually be biding their time, taking notes, and finalizing plans for their eventual counter strike.
This is by no means meant to inspire paranoia or instill a defeatist attitude. In the end, light will conquer darkness, but until then there will be many casualties. One way to avoid becoming a casualty is to remain aware of the feigned retreat tactic and to recognize it whenever it is implemented against you.
As an example of the feigned retreat tactic, I have taken a scene from my novel in which Viktor Vilinovich, Budapest’s reigning crime boss, decides to implement the tactic in an effort to discover the true identities of the forces conspiring against him. If you feel so inclined, I invite you to read the excerpt below, which presents both the physical and spiritual dimension of the feigned retreat tactic.
He had worked hard to get to where he was – he was unwilling to lose any of it to anyone at any price. He knew that if he gave up even the smallest portion of the empire he had worked so hard to create, it would render those early, ugly, cold years meaningless. It was unthinkable. Yet, as he stood before the window watching the snow fall, Vilinovich considered the unthinkable and began making plans for a small retreat.
Forces were conspiring against him in Budapest. Small, disorganized armies assembled along the edges of his empire. The first round of cannon fire had already shaken the walls of his fortress. Vilinovich’s first impulse had been to fight them, but his life under communism had taught him about the foolishness of such rash actions. The best thing to do was fall back, feign a retreat without so much as a counter strike.
After he withdrew, the hostile forces would fool themselves into thinking they had defeated him and would step out into the open to celebrate their victory. He would watch them pillage and divvy up the small portion of his empire he had relinquished. As they enjoyed the spoils of his hard-earned empire, they would grow smug and careless. This would give Vilinovich a chance to see and determine just who his enemies really were. Once he had taken down the names, he would wait until the enemy became complacent. Then, when enough time had passed, he would surprise them all by striking back.
He would be ruthless. Merciless. He would reconquer his lost territory, and exterminate every person who had dared to challenge his authority. But in order for it all to come about, he had to give up a small piece of his empire first. The idea of it was unbearable. He had worked too hard. Come too far. But as he stood staring out at the ugly snowfall, Viktor Vilinovich knew there could be no other way.