reply to post by RyanLA123
The strategies of Sun Tsu are far from being obsolete. Consider this excerpt from the very beginning of that seminal text:
Sun Tzu said: The art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is
a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.
The art of war, then, is governed by five constant factors, to be taken into account in one's deliberations, when seeking to determine the conditions
obtaining in the field.
These are: (1) The Moral Law; (2) Heaven; (3) Earth; (4) The Commander; (5) Method and discipline.
The Moral Law causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by any
Heaven signifies night and day, cold and heat, times and seasons.
Earth comprises distances, great and small; danger and security; open round and narrow passes; the chances of life and death.
The Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerely, benevolence, courage and strictness.
By method and discipline are to be understood the marshaling of the army in its proper subdivisions, the graduations of rank among the officers, the
maintenance of roads by which supplies may reach the army, and the
control of military expenditure.
These five heads should be familiar to every general: he who knows them will be victorious; he who knows them not will fail.
Therefore, in your deliberations, when seeking to determine the military conditions, let them be made the basis of a comparison, in this wise:--
(1) Which of the two sovereigns is imbued with the Moral law?
(2) Which of the two generals has most ability?
(3) With whom lie the advantages derived from Heaven and Earth?
(4) On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced?
(5) Which army is stronger?
(6) On which side are officers and men more highly trained?
(7) In which army is there the greater constancy both in reward and punishment?
By means of these seven considerations I can forecast victory or defeat.
(Translation by Lionel Giles 1910)
This bold assertion made by Sun Tsu that the forecast of victory or defeat can be determined by following the above strategy can be used to consider
the current problems the U.S. are facing in Afghanistan. First, it is worth noting that this conflict in Afghanistan is termed a "war on terror"
and is being fought not just militarily but by political and non military tactics as well. Since "terrorism" can be concluded to be a tactic used
in either war or peacetime, it gives credence to Sun Tsu's assertion that:
"peace and war are difficult to distinguish from each other and are part of the same ongoing conflict."
Furthermore, there has been a dangerous reliance upon so called "counterinsurgency" experts for this war who reveal a tragic ignorance to Sun Tsu's
strategies and worse still an ignorance to the moral fiber, will and geographical advantage the insurgency enjoys. Historically, conflicts in the
nation of Afghanistan forged by foreign nations have been a loosing proposition and this historical context should have been considered greatly when
the U.S. was forming their own strategy before invading Afghanistan.
It was perhaps a foolish and naive strategy to assume that the U.S. could place such emphasis on the imperative to protect the indigenous population
while separating them from the insurgency, believing they could or can "win their hearts and minds" through nation building. Such a belief seems to
ignore Sun Tsu's own imperative that states:
"Strategy without tactics is the slow road to victory... tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat."
Part of strategy is understanding the inherent problems that come with invading another country. There was much evidence prior to invading
Afghanistan that suggested that this nation was rife with internal problems such as tribal conflict, bitter regional disputes, corruption, and
dysfunctional national boundaries. Given these obvious problems what intelligence was used to suggest that the U.S. could affect nation building at
the point of a gun? The insistence on holding this strategy only seems to guarantee a long and protracted war fighting the insurgents. What does Sun
Tsu say about fighting protracted wars?
"What is essential in war is victory, not prolonged operations."
Sun Tsu also said:
"The best victory is when the opponent surrenders of its own accord before there are any actual hostilities... It is best to win without
The rush to invade Afghanistan was made by politicians intent on showing their own public that something was being done in the matter of the "war on
terror" at the expense of the military and any sound strategy. The comparisons to Vietnam, while mired in many historical and geographical
inconsistencies, is fair enough when it comes to the realization that the conflict in Afghanistan has become a long and protracted battle with no
seeming end in sight. More reliance on the wisdom of Sun Tzu rather than embracing the hubris that his wisdom does not apply in modern warfare might
have been prudent and beneficial in the U.S. decision to invade Afghanistan.