Monday, September 11, 2006
Bend Like A Willow In The Wind
The ancient war wisdom of Tao Te Ching says: "Those who excel in conquering the enemy do not do battle. Those who excel in employing men act deferentially to them."
Commenting on that passage, Chinese warfare scholar Ralph Sawyer writes: "The path of deference presumes a massive degree of power, (which we have), so that humility and yielding do not prove counterproductive or become construed as a virtual invitation to attack." This is "premised upon weakness and pliancy's invariably conquering the hard and stiff."
If a stronger bully comes after you in an unprovoked attack, appeasement invites further attacks. But if a lesser foe attacks you because you've been mistreating them in some way, it's perfectly rational to protect yourself, but only a fool resists the path of deference, which decreases the chances of future attacks.
Makes sense. As Fulbright wrote:
I do not question the power of our weapons and the efficiency of our logistics...Our handicap is well expressed in the pungent Chinese proverb: "In shallow waters dragons become the sport of shrimps."
If America has a service to perform in the world - and I believe it has - it is in large part the service of its own example. In our excessive involvement in the affairs of other countries, we are not only living off our assets and denying our own people the proper enjoyment of their resources; we are also denying the world the example of a free society enjoying its freedom to the fullest. This is regrettable indeed for a nation that aspires to teach democracy to other nations, because, as Burke said: "Example is the school of mankind, and they will learn at no other."
[W]e have the opportunity to serve as an example of democracy to the world by the way in which we run our own society; America, in the words of John Quincy Adams, should be "the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all" but "the champion and vindicator only of her own."
If we can bring ourselves so to act, we will have overcome the dangers of the arrogance of power. It will involve, no doubt, the loss of certain glories, but that seems a price worth paying for the probable rewards, which are the happiness of America and the peace of the world.
Certainly our present course isn't cause for happiness anywhere:
2,973 Total number of people killed (excluding the 19 hijackers) in the September 11, 2001 attacks
72,000 Estimated number of civilians killed worldwide since September 11, 2001 as a result of the war on terror
2,932 Total number of US servicemen and women killed in Afghanistan and Iraq since September 2001
Well, I guess this explains Bush's incredible popularity and the deep, abiding faith everybody throughout the world has in his so-called war on terror...
[Update: Lieutenant Colonel Nate Freier at the Strategic Studies Institute:
We are in an era of persistent, purposeful, and increasingly complex resistance to American primacy. Unfortunately, the strategic discourse necessary to guide us through our current predicament has yet to coalesce around an appropriate logic. Despite 5 years of irregular conflict, military purists in and out of uniform continue their search for clean boundaries between war and peace—boundaries that will again allow them to focus on the most traditional conceptions of “warfighting” at the expense of those concepts and capabilities necessary to our success against the likeliest and most strategically consequential future challenges.
Our perceived vulnerabilities, evidenced by the September 11, 2001 (9/11) attacks and our difficulties in Iraq and Afghanistan, suggest to even our traditional competitors the value of persistent irregular and potentially catastrophic resistance. Therefore, will serial “small wars” of necessity be the future norm? And, thus, will irregular and increasingly catastrophic resistance and their associated costs stake more of a claim to strategic significance than all possible traditional challenges? Most significantly, perhaps, will our continued fixation on the tools and concepts of traditional conflict result in fatal under-preparedness.
What if Baghdad and like environs are the future and not just part of it? An impertinent question, indeed. Absent truly transformational thinking, America will not be well served by a national security structure designed to defeat Goliath while most vulnerable to a sea of very capable Davids.
September 11, 2006 | Permalink
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Glad to see someone else remembers Fulbright.
Posted by: Linkmeister | Sep 11, 2006 4:30:36 PM
I think it's time I revisited my Bush death toll numbers. The sad thing is, every time I revise the damn thing, the numbers keep going up. I suppose it would be hard for the numbers to go down, but it would be equally hard for even the hardest-nosed Bush apologist to tot up a credible "Lives Saved" column to counterbalance it.
Posted by: Interrobang | Sep 13, 2006 1:04:02 AM