"He does not understand [his army's] military affairs but [directs
them] in the same way as his [civil] administration."
Sun-tzu and Bush's Iraqi War ALL THE WRONG MOVES
Posted June 29, 2004 thepeoplesvoice.org
By: Ted Lang
"Warfare is the greatest affair of state, the basis of life and death, the
Way (Tao) to survival and extinction. It must be thoroughly pondered and
analyzed." This is a quote purportedly from the great Chinese military
strategist, Sun-tzu, and the first of his basic pronouncements relative to
his list of tactical and strategical philosophies relating to combat and
war. It is from Sun-tsu - The Art of War, published by Barnes & Noble Books
in New York, translated and commented upon by Ralph D. Sawyer, who
established the copyright in 1994.
I offer the term "purportedly" because there is no real hard evidence that
Sun-tzu even existed. There is no question that the pronouncements exist -
they have been found in archaeological explorations and finds. But the
character of Sun-tzu himself has been difficult to verify. Someone made the
pronouncements, but there are two schools of intellectual and archaeological
thought on this: one accepts the existence of the warrior, and another
offers his existence as a myth and offering that someone else wrote the
treatises with which he is credited.
Interestingly, along with my apologies, I cannot help but project my
thoughts to the works of yet another author, one A. A. Milne, the author of
the "Winnie-the-Pooh" series of children's books. As Pooh fans know, Milne
tried to capture the make-believe world of what eventually was learned to be
his son's, under the name, "Christopher Robin," and the "adventures" of his
stuffed toy bear, Winnie-the-Pooh. I realize I am seriously digressing
here, but I just can't get over Sun-tsu's admonition involving the term
It brings back an image of Pooh, created by the book's illustrator, Ernest
Shepard, wherein Pooh is sketched contemplatively in a position similar to
that of Rodin's famous sculpture, "The Thinker." I can see a befuddled
Pooh, stuffed head leaning on his stuffed paw, "a bear of very small brain"
as Milne used to write, except now, with the face of G. Bush, a president
of . Nah, let's not go there!
Does anyone really believe that the neoconservative Project for the New
American Century, or PNAC, most of whose members transitioned as Bush
advisors, really designed a well thought-out military "strategy" for
easy-to-pick-on-Iraq, or did they merely offer the invasion of Iraq as an
"opportunity" justified by America's fear and rage over 9-11? Did the
neoconservative, neo-Nazi PNACers attack Iraq because Iraq "had better
targets," as offered by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld? Did anyone
carefully dope out the expected "cakewalk" as offered by Bush advisors Ken
Adelman and Richard Perle? Let's see how the predictions of these defense
geniuses and presidential advisors stack up to the advice of a real or
fictional Sun-tsu, from a warrior's treatise compiled circa 500 B.C.:
"There are three ways by which the army is put into difficulty by the ruler:
He does not know that [his army] should not advance but instructs them to
advance, or does not know [his army] should not withdraw and orders a
retreat. This is termed 'entangling the army.'
He does not understand [his army's] military affairs but [directs them] in
the same way as his [civil] administration. Then the officers will become
He does not understand [his army's] tactical balance of power (ch'?an) but
undertakes responsibility for command. Then the officers will be doubtful.
When the [army is] already confused and doubtful, the danger of the [enemy
taking advantage of the situation] arises. This is referred to as 'a
disordered army drawing another on to victory.'"
Another way of describing the preceding is to offer: snatching defeat out of
the jaws of victory. President Bush and his advisors amply qualify for the
term "ruler." And the Bush administration's failure to heed the advice of
their senior battle-tested advisors and generals, General Anthony Zinni,
General Eric K. Shinseki, and Secretary of State and former General, Colin
Powell, just to name a few, provides testimony and support to the example
offered by Sun-tzu whereby a ruler overrides the military advice of his
Commenting on his translations of Sun-tzu's treatises, Ralph Sawyer offers:
"The commander's qualifications and responsibilities also changed during the
period, with strategy becoming so complex that the replacement of a general
could, and frequently did, result in an army's defeat and the endangerment
of the entire nation. Although rulers continued to meddle in army matters -
with catastrophic results - often at the instigation of jealous ministers or
corrupt officials acting on behalf of foreign powers [think Israel], in
general, professional officers who specialized solely in military affairs
appeared. [Comment inserted.]
With regard to our protracted war in Iraq, Sun-tzu offers this: "When
employing [the army] in battle, a victory that is long in coming will blunt
their weapons and dampen their ardor. If you attack cities, [the army's]
strength will be exhausted. If you expose the army to a prolonged campaign,
the state's resources will be inadequate. [Think of the growing deficit and
war spending, and then of the rebuilding effort.]
When the weapons have grown dull and spirits depressed, when our strength
has been expended and resources consumed, then the [enemy] will take
advantage of our exhaustion to arise. Even though you have wise generals,
they will not be able to achieve a good result.
Thus in military campaigns I have heard of awkward speed but have never seen
any skill in lengthy campaigns. No country has ever profited from
protracted warfare. Those who do not comprehend the dangers inherent in
employing the army are incapable of truly knowing the potential advantage of
Now for more startling wisdom and how the Bush administration and the
Pentagon has fouled up our military: "One who excels in employing the
military does not conscript the people twice or transport provisions a third
time." And, "The state is impoverished by the army when it transports
provisions far off. When provisions are transported far off, the hundred
surnames [taxpayers] are impoverished."
And then there is this truly enlightening and apropos statement: "Thus what
[motivates men] to slay the enemy is anger; what [stimulates them] to seize
profits from the enemy is material goods. Thus in chariot encounters, when
ten or more chariots are captured, reward the first to get one. Change
their flags and pennants to ours; intermix and employ them with our own
chariots." I am highlighting this in bold especially to draw attention to
the current Bush methods as regards POWs. "Treat the captured soldiers well
in order to nurture them [for our use]. This is referred to as 'conquering
the enemy and growing stronger.'"
As regards the Coalition Provisional Authority and our colonial Viceroy, L.
Paul Bremmer, Sun-tzu offers this: "In general, the method for employing the
military is this: Preserving the [enemy's] state capital is best,
destroying their state capital second-best. Preserving their army is best,
destroying their army second-best."
Then there is this, which speaks to the Bush administration's violation of
the Constitution and abolishing our two-hundred plus years of a military
self-defense posture: "Unlike the incident retold earlier in which the king
of Ch'u committed troops over a [requested gift of a] few mulberry trees, or
politics advanced by the Legalists in which military measures are simply
another instrument for increasing the wealth and prosperity of the state,
Sun-tzu stressed that warfare should not be undertaken unless the state is
threatened. Haste, fear of being labeled a coward, and personal emotions
such as anger and hatred should never be permitted to adversely influence
state and command decision-making. The army must not be rashly thrown into
an engagement, thrust into a war, or unnecessarily mobilized."
Considering that these reflections date back to about 500 years before the
birth of Christ, it would seem that documented wisdom knows no age and never
becomes obsolete. The same thing can therefore be said of our
Constitution - it is not obsolete, but only so to plotters, schemers and the
assorted array of political parasites that prey upon a nation's fears, anger
and weaknesses in order to enrich themselves or to advance the agenda of
others. A defeated military made so by the treason of its own politicians
in serving another state was offered by Sun-tzu 2,500 years ago, and now we'
re killing people in Iraq, a nation that never threatened US nor posed a
threat, in order to serve the Zionist lobby in Washington and Israel's Likud
Party and prime minister.
© THEODORE E. LANG 6/29/04 All rights reserved.
Ted Lang is a political analyst and a freelance writer.