Mar 27, 2008

The Art of War and Iraq

The Art of War is a classic and everybody's read it (except Bush aparently), etc. etc. That much we know. I thought it would be fun to look at the Iraq War and predict who is going to win based on verse 17 of chapter 3 of the Giles translation, which I do realize is outdated, but the Griffin translation is not available free online and neither is Cleary's.
"Thus we may know that there are five essentials for victory:
(1) He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
(2) He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.
(3) He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks.
(4) He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.
(5) He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.


(1) Before the war many people predicted disastrous results that warned of getting stuck in a quagmire of fighting a counter-insurgency. BushCo. insisted that victory would be complete and that the Iraqi people would welcome us as liberators not rebuff us as occupiers.

(2)The U.S. military is currently over extended due to its involvement in the global "war on terror." Despite not having enough troops, equipment, strategy, advisors etc. for fighting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and supporting military operations in Pakistan, Columbia, the Philippines, North Africa, BushCo. still claims that we could beat down North Korea and Iran should the need arise.

(3) The troops want to protect their country and fight for democracy, but they also want to have shorter tours of duty and fewer of them. BushCo. and high-ranking members of the armed forces want to keep the troops in combat more and for longer periods of time. They also want to continue the kind of imperialist foreign policy that got us into the mess we are in now.

(4) The Army was not prepared to fight the wars that we are involved in now. They did not have the right training nor the proper doctrine to do the job that they were sent to do. They are scrambling to catch up and develop a new method of fighting a new kind of war. The Iraqi insurgency was ready to do for the moment that they heard "yellow cake uranium". They knew that we were coming and that the war would become a cause célèbre for would-be Islamic/Arab militants and guerrillas in the region. The insurgency is also ready to fight "the great Satan"(and maybe even Lord Satan).

(5) Even if you think that we had/have the military to win these wars, you cannot deny interference from the civilian leadership of the army. These wars are very political and are directed, in large part by politicians, not military men. When Bush delays planned military operations because he needs to get reelected or when troop levels are temporarily increased in an attempt to silence critics and/or gain political support for the GOP, the U.S. effort in Iraq suffers.

It seems to me that, according to The Art of War, the U.S. will not achieve victory in Iraq. I would love to hear others' opinions on the matter.

2 comments:

Münzenberg said...

Red Son,

I responded to your other comment on my blog. I know very little in relation to Iraq. I probably won't be much help here. But I'll take a shot anyway from an informal logic perspective.

Ok so the conclusion is victory.

Each essential condition is a kind of premise. I'll label each P1 through to P5.

You could say Sun Tzu is laying out a larger modus ponens argument:

If P then Q
P
Therefore Q.

Where Q is victory and all P's are the conditions for victory.

In standard argument form:

1: If a person knows when to fight or not fight (P1) then he will be victorious (Q).
2: If a person knows how to handle both Superior and inferior forces (P2) then he will be victorious (Q).
3: If a person's Army is animated by same spirit throughout all the ranks (P3) then he will be victorious (Q).
4: If a person has prepared himself and waits to take enemy unprepared (P4) then he will be victorious (Q).
5: If a person has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign (P5) then he will be victorious (Q).
P1 Person knows when to fight or not.
P2 Person knows how to handle superior and inferior forces.
P3 Person's Army is animated by same spirit throughout all ranks.
P4 Person has prepared himself and waits to take enemy unprepared.
P5 Person has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.
----------------------
.
. . Victory (Q)


The essentials to victory seem to be a valid argument. So from here, I can either attack the truth of Sun Tzu's premises (which might make interesting fodder for a blog post sometime down the track) or I take a shot at the truth of your premises based on the data you have inputed into the argument. Or alternately, the structure of your argument to see if it matches up with Sun Tzu's structure.

Let's have a look at your info ...

1. I guess you could say with your first assertion that it doesn't really follow the outline of Tzu's argument. We are assuming Bush is the person in the argument who "knows". Which is arguable, considering it is military men like generals etc. that decide the time and place to fight, Tzu's text is written for generals in battle, not so much for what Tzu called sovereigns, or the political leadership, which he mentions in premise five. Let us assume that Bush is the person who "knows". Exactly which people posited the consequences of an insurgency way back in 2003 when the war was decided upon? Argmentatively speaking, P1 in the argument would have been a person who knows when or when not to fight in land warfare operations, because that is what they expected at the time, not an insurgency. Saying "many people" is a little ambiguous and doesn't really fit into the argument considering the argument is those "that know", so the who becomes important to clarify. Secondly, I don't think Bush insisting victory has much to do on knowing when to fight or not fight. If someone insists on victory, they are asserting a claim of victory which is the Q part of the argument. They aren't putting forth any knowledge on when to fight or not in that claim of Q, the knowledge is the P part of the argument, which you haven't asserted (welcoming us as liberators is a consequence and therefore part of Q).

2. Again, I dunno if this works. One thing you have to remember for all these premises is that Tzu was always making comparisons between his own force and the opposing force, therefore it is the superior and inferior forces of both one's own military and the opposing force. That means how the opposing force commander knows how to handle their superior and inferior forces and how they'd handle ours. So you haven't covered how all the other opposing forces might factor into this premise. So it doesn't give an accurate account of victory. There is also the problem of the who again. You state it is "BushCo". Are "BushCo" in charge of micromanaging every superior and inferior force under their charge? Exactly what standards are you using to make an evaluative claim about their capability to handle superior or inferior forces? Remembering that it is a comparison between the U.S. and other friendly forces against estimates of opposing forces. Even if the standards of the U.S. are low by your metrics, doesn't mean the U.S. won't be victorious, your assertion hasn't factored in comparisons of opposing forces. If the opposing forces own capabilities in handling superior and inferior troops is lower than the U.S. then there is room for U.S. victory according to that and other estimates.

My brain is a little fried at the moment. I might come back to this in the next few days if I have time. Anyway, I have to go to sleep now cause it is after 1am.

The Red Son said...

Bah! Semantics! No thank you for that very thorough deconstruction of my argument. Your points are well taken, especially about using the text for purposes for which it was not meant be used. I would argue that the Bush Administration (by which I mean Bush, i.e. the commander and chief of the armed forces, his advisors, his cabinet, all members of the federal government appointed or nominate by Bush, and the Joint Chiefs of staff, who strive to function as a single entity) does have a large amount of strategic, not tactical control over the war effort. I am glad to have fried your brain, as mine is always well done.