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The Art of War 2021

Written over 2500 years ago, The Art of War by Chinese general and philosopher Sun Tzu, remains even today the consummate training manual for soldiers and strategists in all fields.  Most are familiar with his admonition to know the weakness, strengths, capabilities, moral authority, goals, and motivation of the enemy, and the book is filled with specific strategies that lead to victory.  In addition to warfare tactics, Sun Tzu teaches us the philosophical basis for success.

  • The principle on which to manage an army is to set up one standard of courage which all must reach.
  • If they will face death, there is nothing they will not achieve.
  • Victorious warriors win first then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first then seek to win.
  • There is no instance in which a country benefits from prolonged warfare.
  • He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.

Our refusal to accept Tzu’s philosophy in the foolish pursuit of “civilized” behavior in battle has been responsible for America’s most tragic and devastating defeats.  War is not a humane venture regardless of whether a nation is the aggressor or the defender.  Moreover, history teaches us that defeat in war has profound and lasting effects on a nation’s entire population for years.   

Our founders were distrustful of a permanent standing military, so our Constitution provides for civilian control of the military. 

The President shall be the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and the Militia of the several States when called into the actual Service of the United States.

Article II, Section 2 of the US Constitution (Role of the Executive)

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water; To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years; To provide and maintain a Navy.

Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution (Enumerated Powers of Congress)
Battle of Yorktown
American Continental troops capture British guns at the Battle of Yorktown 28th September to 19th October 1781 in the American Revolutionary War

When these rules were written, warfare consisted of cannons, muskets, arrows, and swords wielded by large groups of combatants in close proximity to each other.  Today, warfare has been redefined by two critical factors – the means of conducting war and the moral foundation of nations and their leaders. 

Complex weapons systems with the computerized ability for long-distance control require a degree of skill and knowledge beyond that of non-professional civilians.  Soldiers with these skill sets acquire a status of superiority, and they are also insulated by distance from the reality of the death and destruction they cause.  Since the concepts of “battle lines” and “enemy territory” are of less tactical significance, planning and strategy now involve geopolitical considerations in addition to the concepts of military strength and retaliatory capability of the enemy.

Warfare in the so-called “civilized” nations of the “old world” (Europe and Great Britain) was guided by the concept called Chivalry, rules of conduct outlining the required treatment of the enemy before, during, and after conflict.  It was a system of “fair play” by which they tried to make war more like a sporting event with lethal consequences.  This only works, of course, when both sides participate in the charade, which is rarely the case. 

The planned and malicious involvement of civilians, especially women, children, and elders, has expanded dramatically as has the use of weapons designed to inflict mass casualties on entire populations.  For centuries, civilians on the losing side suffered most after the battles were over during the “rape and pillage” portion of an army’s victory celebration.  Now they are often used as part of military strategy either as hostages or as protection for weapon depots and troop locations.  As a result, war has become a lethal military contest with an overriding moral dilemma.  It is difficult to defeat combatants who will do anything to win without concern for public appearance and morality.    

During World War II, Winston Churchill recognized that he was dealing with immoral Nazi thugs.  In spite of the demands for a chivalrous approach to the enemy by the British military hierarchy and the Parliament, Churchill established a secret “Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare” that instituted a successful guerilla war of sabotage behind German lines.  Without Churchill’s initiative, the Nazi regime might have been victorious. 

Fall of Saigon
CIA officer helps evacuees up a ladder onto an Air America helicopter at 22 Gia Long Street on 29 April 1975.

Since World War II, American military actions have been largely unsuccessful because of corrupt politicians and the intervention of a biased unpatriotic media.  Many of us watched the chaotic evacuation of our Vietnamese allies by helicopter from the roof of the American Embassy in Saigon.  The current situation in Kabul, Afghanistan, is identical.  In both conflicts, the military leadership was prevented from prosecuting warfare effectively because of the political agendas of elected officials in Washington, D.C.  As a result, thousands of soldiers and civilians were wounded and killed, and American prestige was destroyed.  One can never trust a nation that abandons its allies.      

The lesson is clear and simple.  Our founders understood the risk of maintaining a standing army and established congressional and presidential controls over declaring war and funding military actions.  Once the battle begins, however, it is up to competent military leaders to debate and decide among themselves how to achieve victory.  The only sane reason to declare war is to win.  

A world without war is the deceptive fantasy of those ignorant of human nature.  Unilateral disarmament, as an example, would be an act of national suicide, and our Constitution is not a suicide pact.  Pacifism is only possible in the complete absence of evil. 

Our founders fully expected us to vigorously defend our nation whenever it becomes necessary to maintain our independence and the freedom of its citizens. We cannot continue to allow the politicians who declare war to obstruct military leaders and our soldiers by instituting rules of engagement that criminalize the normal and reasonable actions of our soldiers required to achieve victory.              

Resist Tyranny and Trust in Freedom!   

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One Comment

  1. Truly one of the greatest books I’ve ever read; it holds a prominent place among “Il Principe,” “12 Lives” (Plutarch), “Atlas Shrugged,” “Mans Search for Meaning,” and a few others.

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