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Sound Retreat!

When your forces are overextended, retreat can be the right decision.

Credit: Michal-CZ

No element of the art of war is so misunderstood as the retreat. It is commonly thought to be synonymous with cowardice, failure, and defeat. Heroes are those who bravely shouted, “No surrender and no retreat!”

In fact, retreat is the means by which many armies have avoided surrender. George Washington spent much of the American Revolutionary War retreating; had he not done so, our present sovereign would be King Charles III. For centuries, the British Army’s standard tactic when things go wrong has been to retreat to the coast, knowing the Royal Navy would be there to take it home. To Lord Cornwallis’s misfortune, when he arrived in Yorktown he found the waiting fleet was not British but French. A blocked retreat cost Great Britain its American colonies.


Far more dangerous than retreat is overextension. Overextension is making too many commitments, more than your armed services can meet. That is the situation in which our country now finds itself. Through our excess of alliances we are committed to fight Russia in Europe, North Korea, China if it attacks Japan and perhaps if it invades Taiwan, Israel if it attacks someone and is losing, Saudi Arabia against Iran, probably Lichtenstein if Switzerland attacks, and maybe the Duchy of Grand Fenwick if it is invaded by Graustark.

The Blob and the Pentagon never met a commitment they did not embrace because that is what keeps the trough full. We are playing multiple bluffs and we need to reduce commitments before they get called. In Europe, we should withdraw all American forces and remind the Europeans that Article 5 of the NATO treaty does not require the U.S. or any other NATO member to go to war if a state in NATO is attacked; all that is mandated is that it “take the actions it deems necessary.”

Already, the prospect of President Trump returning to office has led the Europeans to think about how to create a nuclear deterrent of their own. That is not difficult, because both France and Britain have Strategic nuclear forces. Here as elsewhere, nuclear weapons make large-scale conventional war highly unlikely because of the danger of escalation.

Why shouldn’t the U.S. withdraw from NATO altogether? Because NATO provides a basis for a very different alliance, that of the northern hemisphere, pointed south. All along the globe’s circumference the southern hemisphere is invading the north. The invasion is driven by long-term factors including population pressures, state failure, economic collapse, and Islam’s expansionary nature. The invasion comes in the form of immigrants, not hostile armies, but that makes it all the more threatening. Enemy armies eventually go home, but immigrants who do not acculturate permanently change the landscape, in this case much for the worse.

To transform itself into an alliance facing the future, not the past, NATO must bring Russia in. Russia guards civilization’s vast flank that stretches from the Black Sea to Vladivostok. No defense of the northern hemisphere is possible without Russia. During President Putin’s early years, Russia asked to join NATO. The U.S. said no. That was the worst grand strategic blunder the Blob has made since the fall of the Soviet Union. Once the war in Ukraine ends, we should welcome Russia into NATO. Had we done so earlier, there would now be no war in Ukraine.


In the Middle East, we are caught up in a vast civil war within Islam,'a war between the Sunnis and the Shiites. We have no dog in that fight. On the contrary, it is to our advantage that Islam expend as much of its energy internally as possible. We need only hold their coats and urge all parties to fight fiercely. As to Israel, no American interests lead us to support Likud’s quest for Lebensraum.

The Pacific holds several ticking bombs which we need to deactivate before they explode. Korea is one. There, President Trump was well on his way to ending the Korean war and normalizing relations with North Korea until his second summit with Kim Jong Un was sabotaged by the neocon John Bolton. I doubt we will see Mr. Bolton resurface in a new Trump administration, so it should be possible to get that train back on track. With China, we should offer to withdraw from the first island chain but ask which China would prefer: the U.S. remaining an ally of Japan and South Korea and a “friend” of Taiwan or those places going nuclear? A wise China would choose the former, with a promise of no wars, rather than see nuclear-armed adversaries proliferate. Any one of those adversaries, if attacked, could knock China back a century.

The Blob will scream “isolationism” at such strategic retreats, but the word is a lie. The only time the U.S. pursued a policy of isolation was under President Thomas Jefferson, who embargoed all American trade with Europe during the Napoleonic Wars. Rather, through most of our history we related to the rest of the world primarily through private means, trade and serving as a moral example, rather than via the great power tools of diplomacy and war. That strategy was highly successful and can succeed again. 

But that should not be where America’s strategy ends. As noted, we should complement it with a northern hemisphere alliance, our contribution to which would be securing our own southern border. We should also seek an alliance of all states in defense of the state system itself, because state collapse is one of the factors driving the peoples of the southern hemisphere north. Here, too, our contribution would primarily be domestic, in restoring the legitimacy of our own political system, whose capture by a culturally Marxist oligarchy is alienating the American heartland.

Just as many armies throughout history have faced a choice between retreat or defeat, our vast overextension gives us that same choice now. I hear George Washington commanding, “Sound retreat!”