Sun Tzu Speaks to James Baker

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 10 months ago

Honorable Secretary Baker, I wish you had consulted with me before you and your colleagues wrote your report about Iraq.  I lived long ago, but thought I would return and visit just this once, since it seems that my counsel is so badly needed.

It is with dismay that I read your heart in the report.  I have always found that it is best to hide your intentions.  If I am able to determine the enemy’s dispositions while at the same time I conceal my own, then I can concentrate and he must divide.  And if I concentrate while he divides, I can use my entire strength to attack a fraction of his (VI.13).  War is based on deception (VII.12), and I am afraid that you have told the enemy your dispositions.

It seems that you have set great burden upon this idea of training other armies to do your work for you.  Be careful!  One who sets an entire army in motion to chase an advantage will not attain it (VII.5).  Your approach to victory should be like a jewel – with many facets.  The good and experienced general makes no mistakes in war (X.25).

Remember this adage to assure that your army will have what it needs.  Use normal force to engage; use the extraordinary to win (V.5).  And whatever you do, hasten to push forward with your forces, because speed is the essence of war (XI.29).

You have enemy both in the middle of combat with your armies, and yet also off to the side, watching, aiding, and providing succor to the enemy you are fighting.  I note with dismay that you wish to talk with them and ask for their assistance in attaining victory.  Oh, please be careful here.

I am a proponent of winning wars without fighting, but to do this requires being in a position that you have not attained and apparently to which you do not aspire.  When your ardour is dampened, neighbors will take advantage of you (II.5).  You must not miss any opportunity to master your enemy (IV.13).  Requesting their help will only empower them, tell them the thoughts of your heart, and convince them that you are weak.

You must always assume that the enemy will come to fight you, and be prepared for him (VIII.16).  Do not ever assume that your enemy will provide you with help, for it is at that time that he will take the advantage and master you.

If you wish to engage the enemy in talk, then you must do so by first positioning yourself as the master.  He who intimidates his neighbors does so by inflicting injury upon them (VIII.14).  Your enemies must be intimidated by you in order for talk of peace to have the affect you desire.

You will know when you have attained this position.  Your enemy will come to you and ask for talk, rather that you going to him.


You are currently reading "Sun Tzu Speaks to James Baker", entry #418 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Iraq,The Art of War and was published December 11th, 2006 by Herschel Smith.

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