US needs Sun Tzu strategy to deal with IS
The great Chinese master strategist Sun Tzu needs to be the United States’ guide in dealing — or not dealing, when it is appropriate — with the Islamic State group, al-Qaida and other jihadi movements around the Middle East, not German strategist Carl von Clausewitz, the advocate of a direct knock-out approach to war.
British historian Andrew Roberts’ magnificent work on President Franklin Roosevelt, US General GeorgeMarshall, British PrimeMinister Winston Churchill and British General Sir Alan Brooke duringWorldWar II, Masters and Commanders, is extremely relevant here. Marshall and the American military, who had read Clausewitz, were clearly proponents of his straightforward “hit them on the head” style. But the British were Sun Tzu type stay-onthe periphery strategists. Indeed, until the great FieldMarshal BernardMontgomery came along in the fall of 1942 and gave them, integrated artillery and air power punch, the British Army only punched like a butterfly.
As Roberts makes clear, the US straightforward hit them with overwhelming power in the central axis of advance was exactly the right thing to do from 1944 onwards, when, as Churchill himself acknowledged, the Soviet Red Army had already knocked the stuffing out of theWehrmacht. In 1942 and 1943, the US and Britain simply did not have remotely enough men and materials, and no command of the air, to invade France.
The true believers in a 1943 landing — Marshal, influential US staff war planner then-Lieutenant Colonel (later four star General) AlbertWedemeyer and others, (General Dwight D, Eisenhower was originally in agreement with them, but he learned from experience to change his original opinion) — would have presided over a catastrophe.
Why dwell on this in dealing with IS group?
Because dealing with the IS group requires Americans to think like Sun Tzu, not like Clausewitz: To focus on the broader, non-military aspects of war and the strategic framework far more than the tactical nuts and bolts that Americans have always been so good at. The US also has to abandon former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell’s famous slogan, “We broke it, so we must fix it.”
That can apply in some cases but not all.
And it is clear, the more we try to fix our messes in theMiddle East, the more we make them worse. Wherever we destroy existing state structures in theMiddle East in the name of “supporting; human rights and democracy”, we simply open the way for extremists to take over. This has happened in Gaza, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria. Wherever we forced previously effective Arab governments to “democratize”, American-style, it was never secular moderate, middle-class democrats who took over. It’s been IS, al-Qaida, or theMuslim Brotherhood every time.
The US doesn’t need another cycle of hyper-activity and direct military action in theMiddle East (the punch-‘em-on-the-nose Clausewitzian solution). It needs to learn from Sun Tzu and the legendary hero of the Roman Republic FabiusMaximus Cunctator (Fabius the Delayer). It needs to end the witless policy GeorgeW. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and their neoconservatives injected into the region. The author is chief global analyst for the Globalist and a senior fellow of the American University in Moscow.