A Simple Strategy for the Average American

Is Bush like Caesar? In one way, yes–Bush, like Casear, has decided to make the world his empire –, but in other ways it is not an apt comparison: Caesar had courage; Bush does not. Nor do Rumsfeld, Cheney, or the rest of the cabinet. Caesar went out and fought with is own hand. You will never see Bush or his ranks doing that. Bush sends others to die for him and hides, as he always has done, behind others as cowardly as he, others whose best defense is smoke and mirrors, and when those don’t serve, outright lies. Caesar’s laws provided important civil protections; Bush’s do not. Bush’s laws are some of the worst this country has ever known. I agree with Stan Goff when he writes in his book Full Spectrum Disorder:

“Military operations have become the new linchpin of U.S. policy, and . . . are now among the disparate winds swirling toward some synergistic combination to form a perfect storm of generalized social and political disorder.”[1]

Goff makes a strong case for the demise of U.S. global power. He sees revolution coming and he predicts it will not be pretty.

But Goff also suggests strategy. One of his suggestions is useful in providing food for thought for concerned Americans, although Goff did not suggest it for the reason I now use it. Writing about “[m]averick military theorist John Boyd, who developed the warfighting theory that drove nearly all systems of development for U.S. fighter aircraft for the last two decades, studied chaos theory, entropy and dialectics, and dabbled significantly in epistemology,”[2] Goff writes:

“The centerpiece of Boyd’s theory is that one’s adversary is always human. The counterposition of two set-piece strategies, especially in modern warfare, is a recipe for a bloodbath of attrition. To defeat the leadership (a perceiving human) is the goal, according to Boyd, and that is accomplished by maintaining the initiative through audacious, often uncoordinated, rapid actions until the adversary is overwhelmed by the “mismatches” between perception and reality. These mismatches are not the result of your “plan.” They are an outcome of your agility–your superior ability to accept chaos and adapt rapidly to changing patterns. Improvisation.”[3]

I can’t vouch for how Goff intended us to apply these interesting ideas. He discusses them in a chapter titled Strategy, Chaos, and Agility, towards the end of his book. At the close of the chapter immediately preceding it, Goff writes:

“My vision is that the American armed forces, when they are harshly taught as the current conjuncture will teach them, will unite with the people, and that sections of it will break away and become the defenders of their families, and thereby a liberatory force. As America’s political class becomes ever more lawless, ever more compelled to scrap bourgeois democracy and slouch toward fascism, we shall need them and they shall need us.”[4]

I don’t know whether Goff’s prediction will come to pass, but if it does, it means civil war. Revolution. It is not what I want, nor what I propose.
Still, Boyd’s theory may be useful to peace and justice activists, despite, according to Goff, “the left’s failure to grasp any but the most superficial aspects of military reality.”[5] And, notwithstanding Goff’s remarks that Boyd’s theories “have been distorted both by the military itself . . . and the corporate sector, which is constantly hawking Sun Tzu, Boyd, and other war theory as an analogue to economic theory,”[6] I mean to apply this theory to pro-democratic activism.

Mismatches between perception and reality are beginning to occur for the Bush Administration. Bush will surely fight hard to retain his perceptions, no matter how far removed from reality these may be. But the further those perceptions are from reality, the more likely is the ultimate demise of the policies and practices based on those perceptions. And all we need do is to keep stirring up and revealing the mismatches. We must be able to rapidly adapt to the various changing patterns and we must, as Goff further points out, “stay inside the adversary’s decision cycle.”[7] This means to establish “a tempo in decision making and execution that outpaces the ability of the foe to react effectively in time.”[8] We do not need to control events. We need only to keep exposing the mismatches and, within the Administration’s reaction cycle, as each lie and deception unravels, we need only expose the next one.

As for being audacious and uncoordinated, the peace and justice movement has an advantage. We have no leaders telling us what to do or how to do it. We have no central organization and we are not temperamentally inclined to adhere to one. We are just a loose collection of ordinary people, or what Browning’s unsympathetic man would have called “this rabble’s-brabble of dolts and fools,”[9] We are like Hawkeye, in the Last of the Mohicans, who says “I do not call myself subject to much at all.” We are like the “noisy crowd of electioneering Democrats” about whom Aaron Burr declared: “They,” — not the Founding Fathers — “are the expounders of the Constitution!”[10]

We are The People.

JENNIFER VAN BERGEN, J.D., is the author of The Twilight of Democracy: The Bush Plan for America, coming out September 1, 2004, Common Courage Press. She is one of the foremost experts on the USA PATRIOT Act and has taught anti-terrorism law at the New School University. This article is an excerpt from the book.

[1] Stan Goff, Full Spectrum Disorder: The Military in the New American Century (Soft Skull Press, 2004), 49.

[2] Id. at 175.

[3] Id. at 177.

[4] Id. at 172.

[5] Id.

[6] Id. at 175.

[7] Id. at 183.

[8] Id. at 177 (quoting Colin Gray, Modern Strategy (no cite)).

[9] Robert Browning, The Ring & the Book, Book IV, Tertium Quid, line 10 (Penguin Books, 1971).

[10] James Parton, The Life and Times of Aaron Burr (Johnson Reprint, 1967; original publication by Mason Brothers, 1858) 613.