Monday, September 25, 2006

Clausewitz, Sun Tzu and Generalissimo George

No one starts a war--or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so--without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it.

-- Carl von Clausewitz.

What a profound pity it is that the mightiest nation in the world has proven the wisdom of the masters of the art of war by ignoring them.

Five years into our Global War on Terror--or whatever we're calling it today--the latest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) tells us that our experiment in Iraq has energized Islamic fundamentalism and made the global terrorism situation worse, and that the Bush administration needs to come up with a new strategy. Five years is a heck of a long time to figure out that your strategy isn't working.

We’re not even sure what we want to achieve, much less how to achieve it.

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He who wishes to fight must first count the cost. When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men's weapons will grow dull and their ardor will be dampened

--Sun Tzu

David S. Cloud of the New York Times reports that the U.S. Army's Third Infantry Division is preparing for its third tour of duty in Iraq, and it will take some doing to bring the division up to combat speed.

Cloud writes: "Col. Tom James, who commands the division’s Second Brigade, acknowledged that his unit’s equipment levels had fallen so low that it now had no tanks or other armored vehicles to use in training and that his soldiers were rated as largely untrained in attack and defense." Cloud also says that the Second Brigade presently has "…only half of the roughly 3,500 soldiers it is supposed to have."

Army Chief of Staff General Pete Schoomaker, a long time crony of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, has finally told his boss that he needs an extra $28 billion in the 2008 budget to keep the caissons rolling along. That would bring the Army's total share of the defense budget to $138 billion.

In 2005, the United States spent an estimated $518 billion on defense. According to Jane's Defense Weekly, America now spends as much on defense as the rest of the world combined.

How big will American's defense budget get? And to what purpose?

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Tactics teaches the use of armed forces in the engagement; strategy, the use of engagements for the object of the war.

--Clausewitz

Through development of superior weapons, technology, and methods, the U.S. military has become all but unbeatable at tactical warfare--the level of war at which combat occurs. However, as we have seen in American wars since the Korean conflict, superior firepower and tactics do not guarantee accomplishment of strategic and political aims. Sadly, as the latest NIE illustrates, the brave and skilled efforts of our men and women in uniform have exacerbated the terrorism they were deployed to eliminate. What's worse, Iraq and Afghanistan teeter on the brink of becoming failed states, and China and Russia have positioned themselves to grab control of the global energy market through their client state Iran.

If that's "progress" in the war on terror, Fleer bubble gum is a cure for tooth decay.

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Join hands with your allies.

--Sun Tzu

The Bush administration set such outrageous preconditions for negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program that the EU3 and Russia have decided to join hands and hold talks with Iran without us.

Maybe we should learn to wipe the sneeze off our hands before we extend them to our "friends."

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No leader should put troops into the field merely to gratify his own spleen; no leader should fight a battle simply out of pique. But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being…

--Sun Tzu

When you start out your reign by calling your adversaries an "axis of evil," as young Mister Bush did, you can't be surprised when your adversaries give you back what you gave them. It shouldn't have shocked anyone when President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela called Mister Bush "the devil" at last week's UN summit.

There's little question that much of Mister Bush's rhetoric and his militaristic adventures are part of a manhood-measurment contest. That sort of thing is laughable when practiced by schoolboys, but it's to be condemned when engaged in by the head of state of the world's mightiest nation.

There's a good chance that the Bush demonizing by Chavez, Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other world leaders will goad Mister Bush into launching yet another asinine war, this time with Iran. If that happens, there's an even better chance that's what Chavez, Ahmadinejad, and the rest of them had in mind--double-dog-daring the adolescent Emperor into doing something incredibly stupid (again), something that will do another Humpty Dumpty number on his empire.

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Birth or training must provide us with a certain strength of body and soul.

-- Clausewitz

Commander in Chief George W. Bush, born to wealth, privilege and power and now 60 years old, has never been held accountable for his actions and never had to pass a test he couldn't cheat on. If you think there was ever any possibility that the son of George H.W. Bush could have washed out of Harvard, Yale, or Air Force flight school, think again.

No amount of weight lifting, bike riding or brush clearing can produce enough muscle to make up for an undeveloped spine.

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Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys.

--Sun Tzu

Two words: body armor.

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To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting._

--Sun Tzu

The battle in the Middle East is not about weapons of mass destruction or terrorism. It's about control of the balance of the world's energy supply, the real coin of power in the next world order. America, under control of the neoconservatives, has attempted to win that battle through military force, and is not winning. China, through a patient, deep strategy of forming alliances and allowing its adversary to spend itself into the sand with counterproductive military adventures, is on the cusp of winning the "energy war" without firing a single shot.

It looks like somebody is heeding Sun Tzu. Unfortunately for America, it's not the Bush administration.

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The general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand..

--Sun Tzu

Retiring Army Major General Mark E. Scheid recently told the Newport News Daily Press that during the run up to the Iraq invasion, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld threatened to "fire the next person" who talked about the need for a postwar plan.

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The moral elements…are among the most important in war.

--Clausewitz

Cooking intelligence…. Torture… Extraordinary rendition… Abrogation of international treaties… Usurpation of the United States Constitution… Halliburton…

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It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on.

--Sun Tzu

Bush. Cheney. Rumsfeld. Wolfowitz. Perle. Feith. Libby. Kristol. Bauer. Bolton. Gary Schmidt. Eliot Abrams. Midge Decter. Steve Forbes. Paula Dobriansky. Francis Fukuyama. Fred C. Ikle. Dan Quayle. Zalmay Khalilzad. Donald Kagan. Robert Kagan. Fred Kagan. Eliot Cohen. James Woolsey. Bill Bennett. Jeb (Little Brother) Bush. Charles Krauthammer. Jeane Kirkpatrick. Eliot Jacobs. Frank Gaffney. Ellen Bork. Dan Goure. And more. Many, many more members of the Project for a New American Century who pushed America into a failed war and who don't have a decade's worth of military service or a nanosecond of combat experience among them.

When I was a kid, these were the kinds of punks who stirred up trouble by saying "Let's you and him fight."

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The victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.

--Sun Tzu

Subsequent to success in battle in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Bush administration and its echo chamberlains speak of "staying the course" to achieve "total victory," but they cannot define what victory might consist of.

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If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

--Sun Tzu

I'll do Sun Tzu one better on this score. In the contemporary American conflict, I think it's equally if not more important to know whom the "enemy" really is, and to vote it out of power.

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Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Related articles:

The PNAC Paper Trail

Wars and Empires

15 comments:

  1. Oh yes. Post of the month.

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  2. "No amount of weight lifting, bike riding or brush clearing can produce enough muscle to make up for an undeveloped spine."

    Hear, hear. Well said, sir!

    Your post ranks with Olbermann's commentary this evening. You have explained the essence of the Coward who would be king.

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  3. Ffrankly, this post closes the door. Nothing more needs to be said.

    Fucking brilliant.

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  4. Anonymous9:47 AM

    Yeah, truly outstanding Jeff.

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  5. I second Bob's comparison of this essay to Olbermann's recent excellent-beyond-belief commentaries. This piece was stunningly good, even in comparison to your others. I sure hope you're planning to compile these essays into a book sometime soon, say well before 2008 election cycle (since it's too late for 2006's). It is so important to have knowledable and well-reasoned voices out there!

    I know you're also on ePluribus Media, Jeff, but for anyone here who's unfamiliar with it, a must-read is clammyc's "Even Declassified 1960s CIA Docs Called it Torture" just to put the whole torture argument into perspective. The entire 81-page CIA doc should be waved like a battle flag on the floors of Congress.

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  6. Thanks again, gang.

    Kathleen,

    Yes, I've seen that piece by Clammy, and agree wholeheartedly.

    My take on the issue is that Bush wants torture legalized because he's already done it. Call it an "ex post facto" law.

    And I think Bush--and/or his lawyers--are trying to cover themselves for what comes after he/they leave office.

    Whenever that may be.

    Jeff

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  7. Anonymous12:32 PM

    Great piece Jeff. I too enjoyed the Olbermann commentary. I applauded after it was finished. I am sick of this administration and desperately want to do something about it.

    John

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  8. Jeff, this is truly masterful. Cannot imagine that the Alumnus of the Texas Gentlemen's Flying Club has ever heard of Sun Tzu or Clausewitz, but for those of us who have - and appreciate the wisdom therein - I can only say thanks to you.

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  9. An airline pilot budd of mine knows quite a few guys from Dubya's TANG unit. When they have reunions now, they all wearDuya masks so they can say they actually saw the guy once.

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  10. Do you think our tactical superiority has lead to strategic mistakes, and may continue to do so? I'm thinking that it might have. Strategic mistakes are, of course, also caused by juvenile Emperors.

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  11. Excellent, Commander. More people should read Sun Tzu. His philosophies have helped me in the military as well as in life.

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  12. Copy editor:

    Part of our problem is that a lot of our commanders don't understand anything but the tactical level of war. And yes, that's because we're so tactically superior. Of course, tactics are not easy or simple, but they're not the end game.

    Fixer,

    I not one who thinks everything Clausewitz or Sun Tzu said is still pertinent, but their stuff that still is is DARN pertinent.

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  13. Excelent! We need to build a strong case about the civilian incompetence handling the war. Surely, the Sun Tzu never sets on Rumi!

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  14. No. It never rises on him either. ;-)

    Early on, studying ST, I laughed at his admonition that went something like "attack downhill, not uphill." How obvious, I thought. Why bother to include it in a warfighting treatise?

    And yet it's been ignored over and over again throughout history. Think about Fredricksburg and Gettysburg in the U.S. Civil War.

    And now we find ourselves in an uphill struggle under Rummy.

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