I saw this on my political discussion group: e-
thepeople, posted by serena1313.
To me, this offers some evidence that Clauswitzian war may just be what we have here! The author even mentions Clauswitz.
Just wanted to offer some balance.
Bush and the Art of War
Commentary / Commentary
Date: Aug 05, 2004 - 09:51 PM
"Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda have made effective use of Sun Tzu's thought, while the Bush Administration appears determined to ignore Sun Tzu's lessons.
By Scott D. O'Reilly
"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
"Written some 2,500 years ago, Sun Tzu's The Art of War is one of the most penetrating and relevant works on the subjects of leadership and waging war. Its most timeless lesson, perhaps, is that "in all history, there is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare." Presently, the United States is engaged in two protracted wars--in Iraq and Afghanistan--and an ongoing conflict with a shadowy army of Islamic extremists who threaten American interests across the globe. So how does Sun Tzu's advice bear on America's predicament, and more particularly on the strategic vision of our leaders and that of our enemies? Unfortunately, bin Laden and al-Qaeda seem to have absorbed the lessons of Sun Tzu to a far greater extent than has the Bush administration.
"Sun Tzu's Lesson #1--Empathize with the Enemy
"Empathizing with the enemy is an essential factor in defeating him. Not in the sense sympathizing with his aims or feeling his pain, but in understanding why he fights and how his worldview influences the tactics and strategies he will employ. In battling al-Qaeda and bin Ladenism the Bush administration has displayed a woeful ignorance of the most dangerous enemy America has faced since defeating Hitler's fascism.
"America has won a series of tactical battles aimed at defeating Islamic extremism--most notably in Afghanistan and Iraq--but it is losing the war against terrorism according to numerous counter-terrorism experts. This has helped lead to an extraordinary rift between the Bush administration and the intelligence services, with many current and former analysts contending that the Bush administration's tactics are directly playing into al-Qaeda's extremely well thought-out strategy for defeating the United States. If their arguments are sound, America is potentially facing a catastrophic defeat with George W. Bush leading a charge that will make General Custer's last stand at the Battle of Little Bighorn seem like a sensible military exercise in comparison.
Much of the problem is that the Bush administration has neither explained to the American public the true nature of the threat it faces from a growing Islamic insurgency, nor does it fully understand this threat itself. Contrary to administration assertions, bin Laden is not an irrational nihilist who hates America because of her freedoms and representative form of government. Rather, bin Laden is a highly patient, experienced, cunning, and immensely capable adversary who is waging jihad against the United States to achieve logical and attainable aims--to remove the United States as the dominant power in the Middle East and to ensure that the Arab people benefit from their region's oil revenue by receiving a fairer price per barrel.
Bin Laden has been able to tap into the widespread resentment many Arabs feel because of U.S. support of oppressive regimes that betray the Arab people by allowing the West to siphon off the region's oil wealth that in turn fuels America's great military power which is used to subjugate and attack Muslims. Bin Laden is seen in much of the Muslim world as a figure akin to Robin Hood, a pious defender of the Islamic faith against a hi-tech but heartless American military that continually sheds Arab blood to steal Arab oil. Among a large portion of the Muslim world, bin Laden inspires reverence by the example of his piety and by gaining a reputation as a man of his word. Unlike his counterpart George Bush, bin Laden is a bona fide warrior whose predictions and pronouncements have proven more accurate than his adversary's. Sun Tzu said that a successful commander "knits [his soldiers] together by good faith." By hyping the threat that Iraq posed and repeatedly breaking promises to U.S. troops regarding the duration of their tours of duty, the Bush administration has flouted Sun Tzu's sage advice that "if faith decays," defeat follows.
Sun Tzu's Lesson # 2--Accommodate Yourself to the Enemy
The invasion of Iraq has bolstered bin Laden's standing in the Arab world because he predicted that the United States would invade an oil rich Arab country to gain control of its petroleum, while simultaneously handing him a strategic victory by having America's forces spread thin, close at hand, and easy to target. Like Mao Zedong, who traded territory for time, bin Laden recognizes that time favors an insurgency over a foreign occupying force, and his goal is to slowly bleed the United States to death, one soldier at a time, until America loses its resolve. The fatal predicament facing U.S. soldiers in Iraq is that they rarely know when or where the enemy will attack, or even how to distinguish foes from friends. Bin Laden, an expert in offense and defense, is obviously familiar with the thought Sun Tzu wrote:
Hence that general is skilful in attack whose opponent does not know what to defend; and he is skilful in defense whose opponent does not know what to attack.
Contrary to administration assertions that al-Qaeda knows that if it loses in Iraq it loses worldwide, and that it is therefore putting up a desperate last ditch effort, al-Qaeda recognizes that the American occupation provides them numerous advantages beyond serving as a recruitment device. As Ayman al-Zawahari recognizes: "The Americans are facing a delicate situation [in Iraq].... If they withdraw they will lose everything and if they stay they will continue to bleed to death."
Sun Tzu's Lesson #3--Defeat the Enemy Before the Battle Begins
In short, bin Laden didn't even need to lure the United States into Iraq, but such a thought was certainly part of his strategic thinking. And no wonder: Iraq was virtually a no-win situation for the United States from the start. Quixotic attempts to install and prop up a representative government not only run against the tide of culture and history in the region, but also will continue to exact a huge cost in blood and treasure. For the foreseeable future, the best the United States can hope for is the avoidance of a full-scale civil war and the emergence of Iraq as a failed state that serves as a terrorist haven. To a large extent, the U.S. invasion of Iraq has already succeeded in fulfilling these aims on behalf of bin Laden, with the added windfall of alienating America from its allies and disheartening an American public that was promised a clear, clean, and decisive victory. America's "Shock and Awe" campaign was designed to instill fear and respect in the hearts of her enemies, but instead the invasion's lack of legitimacy has sown discord and dismay while sapping morale among the troops, the public, and allies alike. Bin Laden seems to recognize more than Bush, as Sun Tzu writes:
Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.
Bin Laden also understands, as Clausewitz preached, that to defeat an enemy one must attack his "center of gravity." For bin Laden, America's "center of gravity"--its economy--is also its weakest link. Bin Laden recognizes that the mere threat of attack causes America to divert enormous resources with elevated terror alerts, not to mention the heavy psychological toll constant vigilance exacts on a population, particularly those charged with protecting the public. Al-Qaeda, on the other hand, has no readily discernable "center of gravity"--no homeland, no economy, no traditional army or military bases--which makes is doubly difficult to attack, let alone defeat. But al-Qaeda's ability to be nowhere and everywhere should not be taken as a sign of weakness or cowardice, but as exemplifying sound military sense. Sun Tzu writes, for instance:
O divine art of subtlety and secrecy! Through you we learn to be invisible, through you inaudible and hence we can hold the enemy's fate in our hands.
Bin Laden's "center of gravity" is anti-Americanism. So long as the United States continues to inflame the Islamic world by supporting oppressive kleptocracies like Saudi Arabia in order to insure America's access to cheap oil at any cost, America will be feeding bin Ladenism. The war America is fighting is taking place not just on the battlefield, but also in the informational, ideological, and psychological spheres as well. It is a three-dimensional game of chess where tactical military victories on one level can undermine success on other levels. Reducing America's reliance on Middle Eastern oil through energy conservation, alternative fuels, and perhaps even developing America's Artic reserves would go a long way to defusing the dysfunctional status quo that has engendered the current conflict. This would be a reversal, of course, but in the words of Sun Tzu:
The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom.
Sun Tzu's most famous dictum is that "all war is deception." So far the Bush Administration has managed to deceive the American people about the nature of the threat the country faces and the reasons al-Qaeda has declared war on the United States. Al-Qaeda is not just a collection of nihilistic terrorists, but a growing anti-American, anti-Globalization insurgency that has increasingly widespread support among the world's nearly 1.4 billion Muslims. We are risking a "clash of civilizations" in no small part because of our energy policy vis-a-vis the Arab world. Unfortunately, thus far the Bush Administration has proven far more adept at fooling itself and the American public than it has in deceiving the enemy.
Sun Tzu wrote that the master tactician is like the shuai-jan, a snake found in the Ch'ang Mountains. "Strike at its head, and you will be attacked by its tail; strike at its tail and you will be attacked by its head; strike at its middle and you will be attacked by head and tail both." Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, alas, have obviously made effective use of Sun Tzu's thought, and their character as an adversary reflects that. The Bush administration, on the other hand, appears determined to ignore Sun Tzu's lessons. The failure to plan for the post-war phase in Iraq is just one example of the administration failing to recognize that "the enlightened leader lays his plan well ahead." This is tragic, for "the art of war is of vital importance to the state. It is a matter of life and death, a road to either safety or ruin. Hence under no circumstances can it be neglected."
Scott D. O'Reilly is an independent writer with degrees in philosophy and psychology. He is a contributor to the book The Great Thinkers A-Z search.barnesandnoble.com/book...
and is working on Deconstructing Demagogues, a book which examines how politicians use and misuse language.
You can email your comments to Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted Friday, August 6, 2004
This article comes from Intervention Magazinewww.interventionmag.com/cms/
The URL for this story is:www.interventionmag.com/cms/mo...
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