TAC associate publisher Jon Basil Utley has an interesting take applying the wisdom of Sun Tzu to America’s current foreign policy mess. Here’s a taste of his Antiwar.com essay:
America’s way of war is, actually, not so new under the sun. Centuries ago, China’s Sun Tzu would have recognized some of our ways and errors. Indeed he would be rolling over in his grave at seeing how his famous dictums for successful wars are ignored and violated by America: a trillion-dollar war in Iraq, losing our allies, creating more and more fanatical enemies willing to do suicide missions against us, borrowing from foreigners to finance our wars. In fairness, part of our failure is the simple determinant that democracies can’t run empires and most armies hate occupation duty. Our military still trains to re-fight World War II, not for unending wars of occupation and trans-national terrorism. So now we fear and isolate ourselves from most Muslims, nearly a quarter of the world’s population, and are nearly bankrupted. However, bin Laden’s campaign followed Sun Tzu’s teachings to a “T.” (See “How Bin Laden Bankrupted America.” For why we can’t win our wars, see Andrew Bacevich’s “When Was the Last Time We Won A War?“)
Following are some of Sun Tzu’s main maxims from The Art of War and how and why America breaks them:
“The best victory is to win without actually fighting. Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”
Americans instead want to start the fighting; there is little interest in winning without war. Witness Iraq, where recent British government hearings on the war repeatedly cite how Washington wanted to get the war started as quickly as possible. Former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was even reported as saying that Afghanistan, unlike Iraq, didn’t have enough targets that go “boom” for Washington’s intimidation strategy of “shock and awe.” There was little awareness of the warnings, such as stated by Israel’s murdered former president, Yitzhak Rabin, who opposed the first Iraq War in 1991, that no nation knows when it starts a war, where it will lead, nor what will be its final consequences. Above all, Sun Tzu warned, are the costs of wars, something almost irrelevant to the regimes in Washington.
There are several reasons for this. Many Washington interests benefit from wars (see below). It’s usually easy to sell the American public on going to war. War makes for exciting TV. Most Americans like to see video of fighter planes, missiles, tanks charging through the desert, and our brave fighting men (and women). War represents no fear of devastating consequences or costs to most Americans, or at least we used to think so.
Read the rest here.