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Thus , it can be fired from hidden pos itions . When fired from behind a ridge, the barrage s eem s to com e out of
nowhere, taking the enem y by s urpris e. The tradition of this kind of fighting is captured in the clas s ical s trategic
writings of the Eas t. The 2,000 years ' worth of Chines e writings on war cons titutes the m os t s ubtle writings on
the s ubject in any language. Not until Claus ewitz, did the Wes t produce a s trategic theoris t to m atch the
s ophis tication of Sun-tzu, whos e Art of War was written 2,300 years earlier.
In Sun-tzu and other Chines e writings , the highes t achievem ent of arm s is to defeat an advers ary without
fighting. He wrote: "To win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acm e of s kill. To s ubdue the
enem y without fighting is the s uprem e excellence." Actual com bat is jus t one am ong m any m eans towards the
goal of s ubduing an advers ary. War contains too m any s urpris es to be a firs t res ort. It can lead to ruinous
los s es , as has been s een tim e and again. It can have the unwanted effect of ins piring heroic efforts in an
enem y, as the United States learned in Vietnam , and as the Japanes e found out after Pearl Harbor.
Aware of the uncertainties of a m ilitary cam paign, Sun-tzu advocated war only after the m os t thorough
preparations . Even then it s hould be quick and clean. Ideally, the arm y is jus t an ins trum ent to deal the final
blow to an enem y already weakened by is olation, poor m orale, and dis unity. Ever s ince Sun-tzu, the Chines e
have been s een as m as ters of -s ubtlety who take m eas ured actions to m anipulate an advers ary without his
knowledge. The dividing line between war and peace can be obs cure. Low level violence often is the backdrop
to a larger s trategic cam paign. The unwitting victim , focus ed on the day-to-day events , never realizes what's
happening to him until it's too late. His tory holds m any exam ples . The Viet Cong lured French and U.S. infantry
deep into the jungle, weakening their m orale over s everal years . The m obile arm y of the United States was
des igned to fight on the plains of Europe, where it could quickly m ove unhindered from one s pot to the next. The
jungle did m ore than m ake quick m ovem ent im pos s ible; broken down into s m aller units and s cattered in
is olated bas es , US forces were deprived of the feeling of s upport and protection that ordinarily com es from
being part of a big arm y.
The is olation of U.S. troops in Vietnam was not jus t a logis tical 'detail, s om ething that could be overcom e by, for
ins tance, bringing in reinforcem ents by helicopter. In a big arm y reinforcem ents are readily available. It was
Napoleon who realized the extraordinary effects on m orale that com e from being part of a larger form ation. Jus t
the knowledge of it lowers the s oldier's fear and increas es his aggres s ivenes s . In the jungle and on is olated
bas es , this feeling was rem oved. The thick vegetation s lowed down the re...
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This document was uploaded on 03/23/2014.
- Summer '14