Thursday, December 14, 2006

If China and Russia agree to sanctions, are they on our side?

There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare. Sun-Tzu The Art of War

In the martial arts, Judo (Gentle Way) and Jujutsu (Gentle Art) the main principle is to use your opponent's strength against him. Let him charge at you while you give way and then trip him up or flip him over.

Russian President, Vladimir Putin, is an avid student of Judo, and has been since 14 years of age. His administration, as evidenced most recently by the turnabout on Royal Shell over Sakhalin-2 seems quite judo-esque in its behavior.

They wait, allowing the enemy to charge in and get off balance and then, flip him; in that specific case, using environmental concerns sure to make life tough for Shell, arguing in the contrary, back in the US.

I wonder if the recent ground giving on Iranian sanctions in the UN might be more of the same.

Had the US been able to move into Iran quickly following the rapid dismantling of Saddam's regime, they would have done so with rested troops and reasonable strong domestic support. Whether this would have mattered in the long run, I don't know, but conditions were best for US success in such a venture in 2004.

At this point, however, the troops are tired and domestic support for further military adventures is waning. As the opening quote reminds, prolonged warfare saps a country's strength, something Russia's leaders learned in Afghanistan. For a student of Judo, now is the time to get your opponent to rush in- he's tired, he's flailing and he needs a quick victory.

Interestingly, the Iranian President is doing his best to rile people up with the Holocaust Conference. It is as if he is daring the US and/or Israel to attack. Whether this is just coincidence or more, I don't know. Sometimes even stupidity can work out.

I, for one, hope the temptation is resisted. I'm not a fan of War but if you are going to do it, stick with the wisdom of the Powell Doctrine; make sure you can act with overwhelming force and have the people back home on your side. If you don't have that, it is best to wait until you do. Better to not fight at all than to fight and lose.

The problem, of course, is hubris- a hubris, mind you, that, according to this article, leads people to "cook the books" on military games, a hubris that won't allow one to even contemplate whether the enemy might be goading you on.

The Chinese military and political establishments are well versed in the wisdom of Sun-Tzu and the Russian President is a Judo expert. Why, under those conditions, are we acting like a bull at a bull fight, happy every time our opponents give us a red flag to charge at, unaware that it might hide swords. John Bolton might be happy China and Russia get on our side with sanctions that can act as a cover for an attack, but who is really zooming whom.

In Laying PLans in The Art of War, Sun Tzu writes: If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.

I'm, of course, just speculating here, the end result of an active imagination and lots of time spent reading history from a non-triumphal standpoint.

I just can't shake, having read quite a few Greek Tragedies, how the end result of hubris is almost always a self-inflicted blow, an easily avoidable mistake.