When guerrillas fight you to a standstill; you lose.
Americans, whose founding history is deeply rooted in that reality, should understand. But neither the citizenry nor the Command grasps that debilitating piece of reality.
Perhaps it’s because, as Chalmers Johnson said in his “Nemesis” trilogy, “Americans know so little history, they cannot connect cause and effect.”
So far, on the 15th October anniversary of the Afghan war, the Taliban controls about one-third of the country while the puppet Afghan military ranks disintegrate.
In Libya (“we came, we saw, we killed him”), Iraq (“They’ll welcome us as liberators; we were right to invade”), Syria, and even Saudi Arabia, what has morphed out of US mass imprisonment, torture, and murder into ISIS, the black flagged Hydra, is undeterred, now operating in an estimated 32 countries. ISIS is a state, a guerrilla movement, and a cancerous ideology.
US leadership in the decaying empire, bloated with stagnated finance and industry, flails about, unable to settle conclusively friend and enemy–funding jihadists here, a dictator there, the Muslim Brotherhood–oops—not the Muslim Bros!–good mujahadeen, Saudi Wahhabi pals–the US is encircling Russia and China, whose militaries are motivated and rested, while spying on everyone, but able to sort out so little.
The counterfeit election, where Americans choose who will oppress them best out of the executive committee and armed weapon of the rich, is a nauseating spectacle of sleaze on all sides. The derangement descends through the sparkling capitalist media lens into the citizenry, leading the unhinged muckle of hysterics desperately witnessing the countdown to–what?
More war: guaranteed.
Will “They” risk WWIII? This looks so much like the run-up to WWI, with proxies and practice wars–covert and overt–all over the planet, that is reasonable to suggest that sides will, sooner or later, be chosen—unless…and that is below.
With that, the expansion of varying forms of fascism grows and consolidates world wide, frequently as a popular movement. Masses of people confuse Marxism with Russia, or China, or Cuba, while they also, for good reason, reject Western capital and imperialism. Hence: movements hailing the seventh century’s mystics, or Trump, or the Clintons who enjoy the enthusiastic support of the Communist Party USA as, once again, a lesser evil.
“There never has been a protracted war from which a country has benefitted (especially not a war at a great distance). Sun Tzu.
American elites cannot, and will not, come to grips with the wisdom of 2000 and more years: Sun Tzu’s The Art of War”
Given the US’ revolutionary heritage, leading to the more radical French Revolution, then the Paris Commune, then Russia, and China, the term “Cannot learn,” is especially significant.
This is a brief outline of why.
Sun Tzu’s guiding point is the necessity of attacking the enemies’ Grand Strategy.
What is that?
In the case of ISIS, it’s the caliphate: world-wide sharia law–grotesquely interpreted by ISIS nobles–educated barbarians.
Sun Tzu: “Abolish superstition.”
America has no answer to that, other than competing forms of mysticism.
Christian fanaticism of all sorts infest the public displays of the hypocritical political class (if not the usual vulgar cynics among financial elites), the military (where Saint Michael rules), and the vast majority of the populace. A special sector, centripetally situated in the absence of the industrial working class, where ideology is molded–school teachers are typically superstitious and patriotic.
No American potential candidate for anything can say: “People make gods. Gods don’t make people. You have evil fairies running amok in your head.”
Instead, George W. Bush believed he was an agent of god; declared a “Crusade.”
With no Grand Strategy, there is no strategy, as many Generals openly complain. There are only tactics, stamping out one brush fire after the next. Initiative belongs to the enemies.
The tactics, as we see from the above, aren’t working. Neither the example of the mass invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq nor the Special Operations actions, in Somalia or Syria, for example, pay off.
Sun Tzu says: Know your enemy; know yourself, know the terrain.
The US cannot define the enemy–not in Yemen, in Iraq, in Syria, in Afghanistan (where killing the wrong enemies created more and still more enemies), set aside Latin America and Southern Africa. Was Ms Clinton’s overthrow in Honduras or Libya (recently described by John Wight in Counterpunch) truly necessary? http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/10/21/hillary-clinton-and-the-brutal-murder-of-qaddafi/
Yes, Putin is a target–or is he? How about in Syria, in reality if not in the media?
Is China an imperial enemy when it is the US’ biggest creditor? Owe someone ten thousand dollars and he owns you. Own a trillion, and you own him. Or not?
The soft power, that is, buying power, of the Chinese world-wide, directly challenges and probes the hard power of the USA–about 1000 bases on the planet–and China hasn’t engaged in a war since their bad experience in Vietnam.
Sun Tzu says: All warfare is rooted in deception.
Of course, guerrillas have several advantages: knowledge of the terrain, likely the initiative–and it is easy to deceive invaders when the populace sides with the guerrillas.
Those who grasp the indirect approach draw on Mao, who adopted Sun Tzu: “The enemy advances, we retreat; the enemy camps, we harass; the enemy tires, we attack; the enemy retreats, we pursue.”
The guerrilla indirect approach, modeled by the American General Sherman, Mao, the Huks, T.E. Lawrence, and urged by the British student of modern warfare, B.H. Liddel Hart (who wrote the introduction to the only good edition of Art of War), relies on deception. But the U.S. leadership is incapable of grasping it.
Deception, however, plays two ways. Anyone in any nation declaring war should assume that the homeland’s top warriors are lying to their own populace. They must, in order to keep battle plans secret, and–the greater lie–it’s kids of the poor who will fight, die, get wounded and denied care in the beloved homeland.
The eradication of history and geography in schools, coupled with spectacles and fear of a fully militarized police force makes a great deal of homeland deception unnecessary. But a society which begins to depend on force alone teeters on the brink of social upheaval.
In the case of empires, where cheap labor, raw materials, markets, and regional control are in fact the Grand Strategy, who wants to tell the people who must supply the blood and treasury those
Surely, the US mobilizes “special operators,” quasi-guerrillas. But as we have seen in the past, with Operation Phoenix in Vietnam, and with the Joint Security Operations Command under General William McRaven in Afghanistan and Iraq, they’ve operated as mass assassination units–infuriating locals; hardly the way to hearts and minds.
“Shoot all, kill all,” was a mantra in Vietnam today, and it remains today when neither the troops nor their officers can tell friend from foe within a civilian population where insurgents have a base.
These kinds of military operations, mass and special ops, are counterproductive. The “Intercept” (2015) published an FBI report from 2012: “The survey responses reinforced the FBI’s conclusion that such individuals ‘frequently believe the U.S. military is committing atrocities in Muslim countries, thereby justifying their violent aspirations.’”
The imperial lies stretch into heroizing those who are not heroes, as Seymour Hersh revealed in his recent, Killing of Osama bin Laden; the whole administration story was bogus.
Note another fabrication: supporting the troops necessitates supporting the wars–reasonably successful so far.
Sun Tzu urges: Take the state intact. Do not destroy the state, nor the Army. The Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan experiences demonstrate the results of inverting the old philosopher of war.
“…A general (who) regards his men as infants, they will march him into the deepest valleys. He treats them as his own beloved sons and they will die with him….the general must be first in the toils and fatigues of the army. ..in dangerous places he must dismount and walk…he waits until the army’s wells are dug before he drinks.” (Sun Tzu).
Today’s top officers lounge in five star hotels, concern themselves with golf scores, helicopter into Green Zones, perhaps go outside the wire for a few moments to collect combat pay, then flee back to mostly unknown comforts on bases–as Max Hasting’s The Operators revealed as did Chalmers Johnson in Nemesis.
Many in the officer corps are utterly corrupt, mimicking finance and industry: the Navy’s Fat Leonard scandals.
New York Times reporter, James Risen, in his Pay Any Price demonstrates that “war corrupts, endless war corrupts absolutely.” He argues, for example, $20 Billion vanished in Iraq, with no accountability.
The US military and intelligence agencies spent $500 Million to train less than 100 Syrian fighters, tasked to war with ISIS. Probably 2/3 went over to the enemy, or defected. The rest were sent to battle, with no back-up what-so-ever, and died.
The California National Guard, in order to keep more cannon fodder in Iraq and Afghanistan, paid soldiers and low level officers $15,000 and more for re-enlistment.
A decade later, after most of the bonus recipents hard done tours at war, the Guard and the Defense Department demanded that the bonuses be repaid as some were fraudulently issued and others were issued in error.
Toni Jaffe, a Master Sgt., took a guilty plea for “filing false claims of $15.2 Million. She issued bonuses to ineligible troops and paid off officers loans.
Millions have been recovered from the soldiers who received bonuses, and later lost their homes and spouses, because of the drive for warriors. Lawsuits are pending; a few vets have won appeals. Others lost homes. While the Obama administration, through Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, claims the claw-back project has ended: it hasn’t.
Now, in the fully militarized US, the Generals retire to rotate in and out of the corporate/mercenary/spy world (General Petraeus, famous for his paramour’s access to top secret –documents, un-prosecuted), or they become the head of the University of Texas system: General William McRaven.
Marine General John Allen was a minor player in the Petraeus/Jill Kelly sex scandal, although Allen’s emails to her were full of what came to be seen as the equivalent of wild phone sex. Allen resigned his commission where, beforehand, he had become Commander of the International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan.
Allen easily moved to the Brookings Institute, funded heavily by Qatar, a promoter of the war on Assad’s Syria.
Stanley McChrystal, the General exposed in Rolling Stone Magazine for his high life-style and his denunciations of Obama administration officials, is now a Yale professor with his own side-line consulting firm where he promises to “bring lessons from the battlefield to the boardroom.”
If you doubt the distances between the troops and the officers, visit a Veterans’ Administration hospital—or simply observe the waiting lines at any VA office. Then look at the top officers’ homes on Coronado Island, adjacent to San Diego.
Know your enemy?
The US administration won’t even name the enemy, insisting it’s “ISIL,” long after everyone else concluded it’s “ISIS.” Only Qatar-based Al Jazeera shares the ISIL moniker.
When George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Afghanistan, I wrote: “imagine a billiards table the size of Alaska, with innumerable balls on it. Take one huge cue-ball, and slam it into the rest. Then imagine those balls will never stop hitting each other.”
Such is the case.
Sun Tzu insists: disrupt the enemies’ alliances.
Instead, the US’ alliances are shattering.
Turkey bombs the newly likeable (recently labeled “terrorists”) Kurd fighters who are among the few who do battle ISIS.
Then, after bringing down a Russian plan, the Turkish leaders sidle up to Putin.
The Saudis, weaponized by the US, decided the Iranian Shiites (who, along with Hezbollah, Russia, and Assad, do fight ISIS), are their primary enemy. Along with 20 other Sunni nations, Saudi Arabia conducted massive military exercises—proudly demonstrating their US-supplied arsenals–thumbing their noses at the American supply chain.
While the US begged the Saudis to tone down their Wahhabi proclamations, the Saudis rejected that counter-message, insisting that they run their own campaign, which, in some cases, means death to anyone who is not a Wahhabi.
The Philippine leadership, having announced that President Obama is the “son of a whore,” cozy up to China. The sea lanes the US must control are in jeopardy.
With a reported 4 million people fleeing Iraq and Syria, pouring into Europe, key NATO allies are pulling apart; fascist, nativist, xenophobic movements rising. Add: Brexit. The Clinton and Trump campaigns, both, inspire fascists of all kinds, all over the world.
Sun Tzu: the high moral ground, that is, morale, is key in warfare.
Given the US’ media electoral obsession with the lowest moral grounds imaginable, the outside world must think the US can no longer even define morale.
Nevertheless, the US’ dependence on mercenaries (who knows how many?) means that morale-equals-money, an equation that harkens back to warnings of the Roman Praetorian Guard.
Sun Tzu: Feed on the enemy. Obviously, the enemy feeds on the US.
Example: The sudden gift of millions of dollars worth of military arms and supplies when the puppet Iraqi Army ran away in the face of a committed ISIS at Mosul in 2014.
The high moral ground is predicated on a population that understands and consciously, wittingly, backs a nation’s, or a movement’s, wars.
Less than 1.5% of the US population has been involved directly in the last 15 years of wars. The remainder are stupefied by the usual bread and circuses that any empire would be expected to employ.
The US command admits it has “no plan B.” No plan for what will happen, for example, to Mosul if it should in fact fall to the “allied forces,” of the US, Shiite militias, Hezbollah, Kurds, and others, all invading a population that has, in good part, supported ISIS because the Iraqi puppet leadership was so corrupt and brutal to them.
To invert a perversion of morale: War means work. Thousands of people are employed by the defense industries. My liberal California senators, both women, are war hawks of the first degree. Assuredly, they both benefit from the war industry personally, but so do many, many of their constituents, as in my adopted hometown, San Diego where spy/mercenary agencies like SAIC, Titan, and others employ thousands of people—as does the Navy, Marine Corps, etc. The latter’s enlistees frequently sign up for three squares and a bunk.
Why then, can the empire not engage with Sun Tzu?
Because that’s what it is, an empire doing what it must do.
It’s more than hubris, though it is hubris.
Per Rosa Luxemburg:
In detail, capital in its struggle against societies with a natural economy pursues the following ends:
- To gain immediate possession of important sources of productive forces such as land, game in primeval forests, minerals, precious stones and ores, products of exotic flora such as rubber, etc.
- To `liberate’ labour power and to coerce it into service.
- To introduce a commodity economy.
- To separate trade and agriculture.
Or, from my own simplified mind: the empire must engage in a relentless search for cheap labor (auto, for example), raw materials (oil), markets (Opium wars a shining example), and regional control (Monroe Doctrine to the South China Sea).
When foreign nationals experience the reality, over 100 and more years, that the empire is there to rob them, as it is, some may be bought off—the puppet class noted above—but most will be abused by the empire and eventually turn on it.
Chalmers Johnson predicted the end of the empire in Nemesis stating that the US would collapse under national fascism, imperial overreach, and financial collapse.
William Appleman Williams had a darker view: “Empire as a way of life will lead to nuclear death.”
The core issue of our time is the reality of the promise of perpetual war and booming color-coded, deadly, inequality, met by the potential of a mass, integrated, internationalist class-conscious movement to transform the system of capital and empire into a community where, reason, equality, and creativity made possible by sensible caring and sharing are valued above all. Or, do unto others…
Ideas can defeat men with guns. It’s not enough to rely on the inevitable divisions with a capitalist/jihadist/barbarian movement to cause it to collapse.
Human equality is the most dangerous idea in the world. It’s time to make a fight for it–again.
Otherwise, Johnson and Williams are dead right.
Rich Gibson, firstname.lastname@example.org, is a professor emeritus at San Diego State University