Master Sun-Tzu, President Hu and Bush


At the very least China’s President Hu displayed a sense of humor in presenting a book, of all things, to George W. Bush on his recent visit to the United States. And the choice of Sun-Tzu’s fifth century B.C. classic, “The Art of War” was tantalizing. Since Dubya certainly will not penetrate too far into it, I decided to have a look, so that at least one American would honor the Chinese gift by actually reading it. This provided me a rare patriotic surge, much like the rush when I put my tax return in the mailbox.

Sun-Tzu did not disappoint. At almost the very beginning of the second chapter I found a near perfect description of Dubya’s ill-fated war on Iraq. To quote:

“Master Sun said: The art of warfare is this:

“In joining battle, seek the quick victory. If battle is protracted, your weapons will be blunted and your troops demoralized. If you lay siege to a walled city, you exhaust your strength. If your armies are kept in the field for a long time, your national reserves will not suffice. Where you have blunted your weapons, demoralized your troops, exhausted your strength and depleted all available resources, the neighboring rulers will take advantage of your adversity to strike. And even with the wisest of counsel, you will not be able to turn the ensuing consequences to the good. There never has been a state that has benefited from an extended war.”

What a simple and concise description of the quagmire in Iraq! Here Sun-Tzu is providing counsel for an invading army. For the invaded, or in our era for the colonized or occupied, protracted struggle and the inevitable atrocities committed by the invader are both keys to victory. It is certain that the military and the neocon architects of the war know these classical principles of warfare even if Dubya is clueless. One is led to suspect that the neocons knew that a quagmire would ensue in Iraq, and in fact there is evidence for this, but they did not care. They had other goals. (Think Mearscheimer and Walt.*)

In the third chapter, Sun-Tzu makes some further pertinent observations.

“Master Sun said: The art of warfare is this:

“It is best to keep one’s own state intact; to crush the enemy’s state is only a second best. The highest excellence is to attack strategies; the next to attack alliances; the next to attack soldiers; and the worst to attack walled cities. . Therefore the expert in using the military subdues the enemies forces without going to battle.”

In other words going to battle is a sign of weakness, a sign that other means were not available. The very fact that the U.S. wages war on Iraq is a sign either of weakness or lack of wisdom, the latter a failure to perceive one’s own interests. (Think Mearscheimer and Walt again.*)

In Chapter 13,

“Master Sun said:

“Intelligence is of the essence in warfare ­ it is what the armies depend upon in their every move.”

And this has a dual application. In Iraq the Americans are surrounded by the Resistance; it seeps into their every pore like water even though they inhabit the desert. And so the Americans have no intelligence, and all the Abu Ghraib’s in the world will not extort the information they want. One does not readily betray one’s family and friends.

Finally, in the very first words of Chapter 1, Sun-Tzu offers perhaps his most important observation which we have left for last:

“Master Sun said:

“War is a vital matter of state. It is the field on which life or death is determined and the road which leads to either survival or ruin, and must be examined with greatest care.

“Therefore to gauge the outcome of war we must appraise the situation on the basis of the following five criteria, and compare the two sides by assessing their relative strengths. The first of the five criteria is the way (tao). The way (tao) is what brings the thinking of the people in line with their superiors.”

(Think the polls that show the overwhelming majority of Americans feel that the war in Iraq is a mistake and not worth fighting, certainly not worth dying for. This amounts to bad tao for Bush and his accomplices in both War Parties.)

JOHN WALSH can be reached at john.endwar@gmail.com or late on Friday afternoons in Boston picketing against AIPAC or the Dem establishment, the “left” wing of the bird of prey.



More articles by:

John V. Walsh can be reached at John.Endwar@gmail.com. He is a founding member of “ComeHomeAmerica.US”.

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