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Mar 5, 2006

The Art of War

Good advice often bears a terrific resemblance to common sense. Sun Tzu's ancient work on military science contains a great deal of both of those.

The book is organized into chapters containing simple, distilled precepts for conducting military operations. While this may not seem particularly useful for a determinedly peaceful person like myself, it's wise to remember that there's a war going on at this very moment. In a republic, it's important to have a populace that understands the nature of politics, both in peace and in war.

Some of the precepts include:

"All warfare is based on deception."

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

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

"We cannot enter into alliances until we are acquainted with the designs of our neighbors."

And finally: "In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns."

This war in the Middle East looks likely to drag on and on, and for what benefit? I think our leaders could benefit from some of Sun Tzu's advice. War is an ugly business that only gets uglier if you try to play nice.


EdMcGon said...

The War in Iraq is over. The problem there is the resitance.

I won't deny Sun Tzu's advice is useful in war, but what about guerilla rebellions?

Jennifer Snow said...

What, exactly, is the difference?

This is precisely the attitude that is impeding our army in Iraq. While our people are over there being shot at, it's a war.

EdMcGon said...

Armies are more organized and have better lines of communication.

Unless the Iraqi rebels/terrorists form an army, the Iraqi situation is more of a police action than a war.

Jennifer Snow said...

Perhaps we should donate some uniforms for them!

Police don't shoot people and kill them except in self-defense. Soldiers shoot and kill people in order to gain specific ends; in this case, the pacification of Iraq.

It's a war, and it will continue to be a war until the government is stable enough to be self-supporting. Considering the method that was chosen for creating said government, I don't have high hopes of that ever happening.

EdMcGon said...

How often are our soldiers in Iraq shooting and killing people in self-defense? Far too often to call it a war.

Explain to me the difference between our soldiers raiding a suspected terrorist hideout and an police raid on a drug dealer's hideout? While the goals may be different, the means are eerily similar.

If you think the situation in Iraq is still a war, then you must not believe World War II ended in 1945, since German resistance went on long after the end of formal combat operations.

Jennifer Snow said...

Haven't you heard of the "war" on drugs?

I think a great many injustices are a result of this almost-epic confusion over what is the proper function of police and what is the purpose of the army. And WWII didn't end in 1945, it morphed into a semi-permanent "cold" war as a result of our support of Soviet Russia. I was in Germany when the Berlin Wall went down, and I remember the constant threat of hostilities on the border.

EdMcGon said...

I've heard of the "war on poverty" too, but I don't recall it involving any police or military.

If we had followed Patton's advice at the end of WWII and let him march on Moscow, there wouldn't have been any morphing. The Cold War was just after WWII, and not really related to it.

Jennifer Snow said...

Not related to it? It was a direct result of it. The U.S. propped up Soviet Russia during the war, sending it a tremendous amount of financial and material aid, aid that was DIRECTLY responsible for its ability to make the land grab in Eastern Europe that resulted in the Communist Bloc.

The primary difference between a military action and a police action is this:

If the police break down your door and arrest you, they don't shoot UNLESS you demonstrate active hostility by pulling a gun or some such.

If the MILITARY does it, they WILL shoot you. End of discussion. In fact, they might just blow up your house instead of doing anything so risky as going room-by-room. If by some bizarre happenstance they don't do this, you should thank your lucky stars.

This is because the primary purpose of the police is to be the strong arm that facilitates justice. The military does not facilitate justice: they deal with people that don't fall under the provenance of the government they work for. Their purpose is to maintain the existence of the body that provides for justice.

Police don't exist for the purpose of eliminating a threat to the government; that's the job of the military.

EdMcGon said...

Can you honestly say the Soviet Union would not have done those things without our aid during WWII? Don't forget the Soviet Union took a LOT of damage during WWII.

If our military started running around Iraq doing what it pleased, how long do you think it would be before the Iraqi government asked them to leave?