The “Scorched Earth” Philosophy

USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station Archive, USDA Forest Service, SRS,
USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station Archive, USDA Forest Service, SRS,

Since I was young, I’ve been a student of strategy. I enjoy strategy games but I also enjoy employing thoughtful strategy in business and in life, especially if I am going up against strong and powerful competitors, adversaries, enemies, or other challenges in life.

In the movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Captain Kirk had to learn how to deal with a “no-win scenario”. The premise is that every leader, no matter how smart, capable, and talented they are, might encounter a situation where they will have to face a “no-win scenario”. In Captain Kirk’s case, when he was young, he changed the rules of the simulation so that he could win. In most traditional games, the rules are often fixed so you can’t easily change the rules of the game. But in real life where I live and coexist in a world of multiple rules and systems, there is much more room to maneuver and employ a “change the rules” strategy.

Lawyers are trained and specialized to navigate the legal system. And although powerful in many ways, I have discovered many weaknesses in their system and the people themselves to sometimes change the dynamics of resolving problems.  My website, (ELI), was launched for that very purpose, to be a game changer and a rules changer. I also happily teach and share with others those weaknesses as I learn them. Education is a powerful tool which earns me many friends and allies.

However, even the best of plans and the most creative of strategies and actions cannot guarantee a win. I am cognizant that in any given contest, conflict, or fight, I can lose. And when that happens, I have to face a “no-win scenario”. I have long subscribed that if I cannot win against an enemy, sometimes the next best thing is to not let my enemies win either.

And that is where the “scorched earth” strategy comes in.  “Scorched earth” is a military strategy that involves taking or claiming what few assets and benefits you can and basically destroy or poison anything of value your enemy might want as you retreat. Or if nothing else, you ruin and contaminate any spoils of any wins they might have.

Because I have enemies that just love to take screenshots of what I write and totally distort, stretch, and exaggerate what I write, I want to make it clear that in the free society we live in within the U.S., I am not referring to actual physical violence or committing any crimes. Having said that, I believe with enough creativity and determination, there is plenty one can do to legally and lawfully execute and “scorched earth” strategy against an enemy I cannot win.

“Scorched earth” policies are occasionally used in businesses. Investopedia defines “scorched earth” policy as:

A … prevention strategy in which the target company seeks to make itself less attractive to hostile bidders …. initiating … activities that may damage the company…. In extreme cases, a scorched earth policy might end up being a “suicide pill.”

Companies using a scorched earth policy are engaging in a last ditch effort. The policy is similar to how a retreating army may destroy crops and infrastructure to prevent their use by invaders.

Essentially, if I can’t win, I am going to make damned sure they don’t win either. Or at least “poison” their win to such a degree that it will feel like an empty win.

Sometimes, it is not a bad thing to let your enemies know that you believe and are willing to execute such a strategy if needed. No one particularly enjoys executing a “scorched earth” policy as it is a sign that one cannot won’t win. However, I happen to believe that, in some cases, if I can’t win, they shouldn’t either. Or they should be damaged by the process.


About Matthew Chan 100 Articles
Matthew is the Publisher and Editor of He is also the Founder, Editor, and Host for Matthew is the author of several business books & audio programs. He is an entrepreneur, real estate investor, and First Amendment advocate.

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