by J. R. Nyquist, Global Analyst. April 30, 2010
The famous strategic thinker B.H. Liddell Hart explained that grand strategy was a complicated and enormous subject in itself. He wrote that a volume on grand strategy "would require not only a much larger volume, but a separate volume [than a book on military strategy] -- for while grand strategy should control [military] strategy, its principles often run counter to those which prevail in the field of [military] strategy."
War is a self-contradictory enterprise. As the ancient Romans said, "If you want peace, prepare for war." Some readers will be vexed by this statement. If you want peace, then why prepare for war at all? Well, to speak on behalf of those who have started wars in the past, there is often something obnoxious about peace; for example, when the ascendency of a particular country inspires envy, resentment, or presents a juicy target of opportunity (for plunder or subjection). Many powers in history have wanted greater influence, a more secure position, a more dominant position, or would prefer the elimination of a rival power.
The desire for power is not hard to understand. In the fifth century B.C. the Corinthians were exasperated by Athenian supremacy, and therefore argued that the Spartans should make war on Athens (which they did). The Romans first made war against Carthage over a town in Sicily; and finding Carthage a dangerous rival, the Romans found the existence of Carthage intolerable. They reduced the Carthaginians in two wars, finally exterminating them in a third. Next, the Romans found the entire ancient world vulnerable to domination, exploitation and colonization; so they took one province after another. The Germanic and other barbarians of the fifth century found the provinces of the Roman Empire to be rich and under-defended; an ideal situation for those interested in rape and pillage. The history of mankind is full of wars, and this will not change, because men either seek to preserve their ascendency or weaken the ascendency of others, or because they want to take what others have, or remove a threat. Therefore, peace is often unacceptable to those who find it so; and war is therefore a means to change an unacceptable peace for a more acceptable one.
There is something further, as well, which Liddell Hart points up. Peace between nations would require unification, leading to a unity of ideas, which would end in stifling uniformity and stagnation. "Vitality springs from diversity," wrote Liddell Hart. "For this reason, the kind of peace that makes progress possible is best assured by the mutual checks created by a balance of forces -- alike in the sphere of internal politics and of international relations." Here is why Europe was more vigorous, more healthy, when nationalism was in vogue; whereas today, Europe stagnates under the internationalism of the European Union. Are the young men of Europe willing to lay down their lives for the European Union? One hundred years ago Europe's youth were ready to lay down their lives for their respective nations. We cannot miss wherein lies the vital impulse, and wherein lies the whiff of decay. The Great War was tragic and terrible, but Europe was not destroyed. The destruction of Europe occurs today, under the banner of union and peace, under a regime which emphasizes a unity of ideas (i.e., political correctness). The diversity celebrated in this latter formation is no diversity at all, and merely guarantees the peaceful Muslim conquest of Europe.
Liddell Hart believed that war was a means for deciding issues "when discussion fails to produce an agreed solution...." The main problem with war, said Liddell Hart, is that force "is a vicious circle -- or rather, a spiral -- unless its application is controlled by the most carefully reasoned calculation." Wars must be of short duration, otherwise they cost more than the results are worth. Of course, we are talking about war between civilized states. Against those who wage predatory wars, or wage war on the basis of fanatical religious sentiments, Liddell Hart explained: "In such wars any negotiated peace tends to have in itself less than the normal value." He further emphasized, "It is folly to imagine that the aggressive types, whether individuals or nations, can be bought off -- since the payment of danegeld stimulates a demand for more danegeld." The predator can only be curbed by the threat of a formidable opposing force. The fanatic, however, cannot be checked at all (because he is not entirely rational).
Liddell Hart's words ring true when he describes our present danger: "Peaceful nations are apt ... to court unnecessary danger, because when once aroused they are more inclined to extremes than predatory nations." America's response to 9/11 is a case in point. The provocation itself, carefully calculated to draw the United States into conflict with the Muslim world, met with success. The United States invaded Iraq and Afghanistan. Further, the enemy strategists would like to see the U.S. at war with Iran. This would be the basis for further success, in larger strategic terms, because a war between Iran and the United States would bring the U.S. financial system to final ruin. Already the Iranians have sent special troops to the Western Hemisphere (to Venezuela), threatening to attack American cities. Already the Iranians have promised to close the Strait of Hormuz, shutting off a large percentage of the world's oil supply. As the Iranians develop their capacity to manufacture nuclear weapons, the futility of sanctions will be undeniable. The Israelis and the Americans will find themselves in an impossible position: damned if they do, and damned if they don't. The provocation, as engineered, stands to benefit one party above all others.
Strategic concepts are powerful, and potentially more powerful than atomic bombs. It is possible to achieve great things without using military force at all. In the end, when your enemy has become exhausted by external struggles and internal dissentions, you can use your little finger (militarily speaking) to knock him down. "All warfare is based on deception," said the ancient Chinese strategist Sun Tzu. "Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe that we are way; when far away, we must make him believe we are near. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him."
© 2010 J. R. Nyquist