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« Humility | Main | Friday I Ching Blogging: The Mideast War »

July 20, 2006


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I might be way off base here so I would like your thoughtful comments. Answer by email may be best.

Sun Tzu espouses the long-term approach and frequently favors going around and outsmarting one’s enemy rather than relying upon direct confrontation.

“A general that fights a hundred battles and wins a hundred battles in not a great general. The great general is one who finds a way to win without fighting a single battle,” Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War.

“What is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy's strategy; Next best is to disrupt his alliances; The next best is to attack his army. The worst policy is to attack cities. Attack cities only when there is no alternative.”

During July, Hezbollah seems to have deviated from the long term strategy. Or maybe they just provoked Israel into a confrontation they didn’t predict. Shooting rockets into cities is not going to destroy Israel and it can even cause the wedges built over years to show signs of deterioration as Hezbollah and Iran’s allies witness more innocent civilian deaths.

So now Hezbollah, facing an incursion into its territory by a superior conventional force, the army of Israel, must fall back, re-group and return to its long-term wedge tactic and its ultimate Sun Tzuian strategy in hopes it can ultimately isolate and destroy its enemy.

In any event, Hezbollah and Iran have shown, over the last few years, that they know how to keep to their Sun Tzu-like script of a long-term effort. They have become adept at getting wedges between allies, but it is unclear to me how they can possibly destroy Israel, especially given the long historic alliance between Israel and the US.

it is usually the weak who would choose the right strategy and the strong who would err.

a few reasons
1) the weak has lesson options, and hence less likely to err
2) the weak does not have the short term option and is forced to consider the long term plan
3) straightforward and simple solution is easy and convenient, but they are usually the short term choice
4) the strong is usually arrogant and tends to overlook a number of potentials potholes
5) as Sun Zi correctly advocate, prudence is gold in war, since the cost for error is enormous. the weak is forced to be exercise prudence because resource is limited

He would probably throw his hands up in disgust, go get a latte at starbucks, and then put finishing touches on his latest corporate raid plan.


times change but tactics are timeless...

To respond to John's points:
Hezbollah's strategy, it seems to me, is to provoke Israel. If it can do this by kidnapping soldiers or launching missiles against civilians, it will do so. In this way, Hezbollah is not attacking cities in the sense of laying seige to them. They are killing innocents, which could work against their strategy; but what they are really aiming for is to create pictures of Israeli bombing raids that result in the killing of many more innocent civilians. And I think they are getting what they want. None of this is to say that I think Hezbollah is justified or right to do what it does - I do not. Rather, just thinking strategically, they seem, in this instance, to be more adept at fourth generation warfare.

I don't know much about Sun Tzu, but I find this post fascinating. As an Israeli, I agree with your portrait of Sun Tzu's views on the matter and have much criticism on how Israel is acting on this issue.

One point to consider is that the US and Israel are usually more concerned about internal politics than foreign ones, as they find those irrelevant for various reasons.

How would the American/British/Chinese react to Dalas-Texas/Bristol/HongKong being bombed by small rockets launched by a neighboring country's Guerilla forces? there are no alliances to target, it's not really an army...

I wonder, did Sun Tzu face Guriella forces? I wonder what Sun Tzu would really have to say about this complicated issue.

Thanks for a very interesting read.

"I wonder, did Sun Tzu face Guerilla forces? I wonder what Sun Tzu would really have to say about this complicated issue."

Good question.

He did advocate heavily the gathering of human intelligence and the use of spies.

He does refer to using two force types to mutual support each other: the ordinary and the extraordinary.

in 3GW, I take the ordinary to be regular fighting forces, and the extraordinary to be special operations forces, which are used complimentary.

In 4GW, I take the ordinary to be the advanced/evolved guerilla fighters in the field, and the extraordinary to be the media/political/infiltrator forces. Think the IRA / Sinn Fein during the troubles or the several Islamofascist groups with political/social and military wings.

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