Monday, October 4, 2021

Sun Tzu on Our Failure in Afghanistan

Photo by Jeff Kingma on Unsplash
This past week I have been re-reading Sun Tzu's The Art of War. The book is essentially a set of rules regarding the planning and conduct of war. In more recent times much of it has been applied to business, and I myself produced a marketing plan for introducing a new program by drawing from Sun Tzu's wisdom and insights.

In my current reading, very early on I was struck by two statements that leapt from the page for me:

--When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men's weapons will grow dull and their ardor will be damped.

--There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare. 

Well, there you have it. Written 2000 years ago or more, these maxims have been proven true again today. I don't doubt that every general in the U.S. has read these words, yet we blundered along in Afghanistan for two decades. 

In another place Sun Tzu asserts the importance of having a clear objective. These kinds of "forever war" escapades reveal leadership weakness, not strength. Vietnam ought to have taught us this lesson. 

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Here's one other rule that jumped out from this recent reading of Sun Tzu: 

--He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.

When General Schwarzkopf was tasked with planning the First Gulf War known as Operation Desert Storm, he would accept under one condition: that the planning and execution of the war be in his hands, and not clueless politicians back home. General Schwarzkopf learned this lesson the hard way in the Grenada operation. After successfully achieving victory without losing a single life, President Reagan got to meddling and requested a further action. Schwarzkopf obeyed the commander-in-chief and subsequently lost two helicopters and 24 men.

Desert Storm had a clearly defined objective, to liberate Kuwait. It was not going to be a forever war and General Schwarzkopf saw to it that the objective was firmly adhered to.

In Afghanistan, U.S. adventurism morphed from an effort to destroy Al-Qaida training camps to building schools and advancing women's rights, essentially aiming to remake this backward country in our own image, or at least inculcate our values. But what values were we demonstrating? When bribing with money didn't work, we began bribing with Viagra. That was a new low for America's best and brightest. 

Much more can be said, but the main point here had to do with this violation of an essential principle: if you can't win quickly, you will lose.

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Lessons from Desert Storm

1 comment:

LEWagner said...

"The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous. Hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance. This new version is the past and no different past can ever have existed. In principle the war effort is always planned to keep society on the brink of starvation." ~ George Orwell

Same thing with the "pandemic". There will not be only 2 injections and then you're done. There will be an endless series of them, and they will be debilitating.

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