Sun Tzu vs ISIS

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Sun Tzu vs ISIS
  Tweet [3] 510 LikeLike The National InterestPublished on The National Interest  ( Home > Sun Tzu vs. ISIS: The Art of War on Terror  Sun Tzu vs. ISIS: The Art of War on Terror  [1] Main ImageSun Tzu understood knowledge of the adversary’s disposition, position, intentions and capabilities were paramount in achieving victory.Sebastian J. Bae [2] Carl von Clausewitz [4] , the young Prussian strategist of the Napoleonic age, is agiant in the field of security studies. His seminal work, On War  [5] , is widely considered the definitive text in understanding the nature of war. His famous quote [5] , “War is the continuation of politics by other means,” is generally considered the cardinal rule for war—it isoften quoted and equally often ignored in practice. So, it is unsurprising that contemporary Western strategists and thinkers look towardsClausewitz for answers and insights, but is he the only choice?In “What Would Clausewitz Do?,” [6]  Mark Perry explored how the Prussian strategist would tackle the challenge of the Islamic State [7] (ISIS). Perry astutely emphasized the need for a clear, achievable political goal driving the war effort combined with a level-headedunderstanding of the war being fought Clausewitz would be proud. However, Perry’s singular focus on the bare-fisted, no holds barredtype of warfare is both mismatched to today’s socio-political climate and a woefully one-dimensional characterization of Clausewitz’stheory of war. Although frequently quoted Clausewitz's comprehensive theory of war is often misrepresented [8] . . . or at least poorlyunderstood in its entirety Clausewitz provides the abstraction of absolute war as an intellectual baseline to highlight the utility andconstraints of limited warfare in practice, as explained in Book One’s “Purpose and Means in War.” Contrary to popular representation,Clausewitz outlines a masterful theory of war where the grammar of warfare adapts [9]  and changes to the logic of politics—ranging fromconventional warfare to counterinsurgency involving non-state actors. Thus, to reduce Clausewitz’s theory of war to a simplisticsuggestion “to hit them, and relentlessly, before they hit us,” as Mark Perry suggests [6] , is both inaccurate and provides a false strategicdichotomy.That said, however, Perry’s characterization of;Clausewitz;highlights the need to incorporate both nuance and a wider range of voices inthe crafting of strategy. Thus, modern strategists should not be limited to the eighteenth century Prussian strategist for answers, but alsolook to the fifth century BCE strategist, Sun Tzu [10] . Although historical sources disagree on the details of Sun Tzu’s life or even his existence, his work, The Art of War  [11] , is considered amasterpiece in the philosophy of war and strategy. For hundreds of years, The Art of War   provided the foundations of military theory inChina and continues to have tremendous influence [12]  today. Although separated by nearly 2,000 years, Clausewitz and Sun Tzu bothstressed the importance of politics in warfare, the role of the commander, and the dynamic nature of war. Yet these strategistssignificantly differed in their approach to warfare Clausewitz emphasized a deductive approach to the study of warfare by focusing on atheory that incorporated empirical experience. In contrast, Sun Tzu, reflective of his time, preferred a more inductive approach andunderstanding of warfare. But most importantly, while Clausewitz demonstrated skepticism regarding the value of intelligence in warfare [13] , Sun Tzu advocated victory through the systematic use of intelligence, deception, and manipulation. ShareShare15 Sun Tzu vs. ISIS: The Art of War on Terror de 34/20/2016 12:56 PM  Like Clausewitz, Sun Tzu understood knowledge of the adversary’s disposition, position, intentions and capabilities were paramount inachieving victory. However, unlike Clausewitz, Sun Tzu emphasized the use of various types of spies to gain what we would now callhuman intelligence. He adamantly advised [11] , “Be subtle! Be subtle! And use your spies for every kind of business.” Thus, Sun Tzu’scampaign against ISIS would begin with an intense and systemic intelligence operation. Tragically, the current intelligence operationagainst ISIS has been marred by dysfunction [14]  and lapses [15] . To many, the intelligence community has been unable to stay ahead of the curve, constantly reacting as we move from crisis to crisis, best characterized by the prevalence of ISIS attacks abroad [16] . Not tocompletely disparage the efforts of the intelligence community, they have gathered valuable information on ISIS supply routes, finances,and movements. However, as Sun Tzu warns [11] , “Knowledge of the enemy's dispositions can only be obtained from other men.” Although modern surveillance and imagery technology is invaluable, Sun Tzu, reminiscent of a classic spymaster, would argue there isno substitute for accurate human intelligence gathered by human agents on the ground. Aerial reconnaissance can provide useful targetlists, but it cannot determine the real utility of each target nor can it give understanding of a commander’s personality or a city’sdisposition. To Sun Tzu, meticulously preparing the battlefield through the diverse use of spies, including the recruiting double-agentsand embedding agents in the adversary’s force, is the first step to long-term success.Unlike his Prussian counterpart, Sun Tzu stresses deception, not military force, at the center of his war philosophy. The “Chinesecharacter li (force) occurs only nine times [17]  in The Art of War  , reflecting Sun Tzu’s belief that victory was achieved throughpsychological dominance and not by materially destroying the enemy. Sun Tzu famously argues, “All warfare is based on deception.”Consequently, he would be appalled at the transparent nature of the current campaign against ISIS. For instance, Flightradar24 (FR24) [18] , an open-source flight tracker, allows anyone to track flights in real time, which has occasionally revealed locations of militaryoperations. Robert Hopkins III, a former commander of intelligence-gathering aircraft, told Vice News that [19] , “Looking at FR24 on alaptop and seeing a slew of KC-135s with the call sign ‘Quid’ orbiting off Cyprus is a good indicator that a strike package is on its way toSyria, no matter how good the operational security (OPSEC) of the strike aircraft might be.” Similarly, in response to the prevalence of social media use by service members, the U.S. Air Force started a campaign in 2015, entitled “Loose tweets sink fleets,” [20]  over concerns of proper OPSEC. Likewise, a Pentagon briefer mistakenly revealed [21]  to the media a spring offensive planned for April/May2015 to retake Mosul from ISIS, an operation then indefinitely postponed. Perhaps, the U.S. military should take a page (or, moreaccurately, a bamboo strip) from Sun Tzu’s playbook and let their “plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, falllike a thunderbolt.” Although Sun Tzu emphasizes deception over force, he does not discount the utility or need for force in warfare. He simply argues [11] ,“To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistancewithout fighting.” Sun Tzu believed warfare was incredibly costly, both in terms of wealth and men. Therefore, he sought to leverage theminimum force to win key decisive engagements, striving to mitigate the heavy price of open warfare. Therefore, Sun Tzu would never approve of the U.S.’s plans to retake Mosul [22]  from ISIS in a bloody, direct offensive. When U.S.-Iraqi forces retook Ramadi in January2016, the city was completely devastated by the ensuing battle. The campaign involved house-to-house engagements and was boggeddown by bobby traps and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Although Ramadi was nominally liberated, the city was essentiallydecimated. Sabah Karhout, the head of the Anbar provincial council, told The New York Times [23]  that “Ramadi is a city of ghosts” andthe reconstruction would cost roughly $12 billion. Similarly, a direct offensive on Mosul would be another bloody rendition of a previousstrategic mistake. U.S.-Iraqi forces may win on the battlefield, but the wholesale destruction will only feed the narrative of grievance [24] advocated by ISIS. Therefore, Sun Tzu argued [11] , “In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy's country wholeand intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good.” He understood post-war reconstruction would only incur additional costs for thestate. One has only to look at the United States’ interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, which total roughly $1.5 trillion [25]  inreconstruction efforts, to see the wisdom in his words.Hence, instead of a direct offensive, Sun Tzu would advocate [11]  to “hold out bait to entice the enemy” and then “attack him where he isunprepared, appear where you are not expected.” At the moment, ISIS’s growth and appeal is rooted in the perception that the group iswinning the war—fueled by grotesque public displays of violence [26]  and a savvy use of social media [27] . Consequently, ISIS hasdictated the terms of the war in every aspect, whether in the realm of public opinion or on the battlefield. Therefore, like Clausewitz, SunTzu would advise the coalition to attack softer yet strategically important targets such as the ISIS-controlled Omar oil field, whichgenerates roughly $1.7 million to $5.1 million per month [28]  for ISIS. By recapturing ISIS-controlled assets, coalition forces would slowly,but steadily apply both political and military pressure on ISIS. Eventually, ISIS would be forced to seek new initiative in an offensivecampaign of its own, whether out of logistical desperation or an ill-fated effort to regain its prestige. At that moment, coalition forces candictate the terms of the engagement in terms of time, place, and manner. Therefore, instead of attacking headlong into a well-defendedcity, laden with traps and IEDs, the coalition can coax ISIS into a decisive engagement on its terms, best playing to its strengths insteadof those of ISIS.In the end, both Sun Tzu’s The Art of War   and Clausewitz’s On War   provide invaluable insight into the nature of warfare and strategyand rightfully belong on the bookshelf of any policymaker or strategist. Nevertheless, one must understand the two seminal works differ significantly in medium, context, methodology, and intended audience. The Art of War  , written on thin bamboo strips, is designed as amanual of sorts for the battlefield commander, comprising only thirteen short chapters. Produced in ancient China, The Art of War  valued deception and manipulation in an era that lacked industrialized military forces. In contrast, On War   is a rigorous dialecticexamination of absolute war in an effort to determine the nature of limited warfare in reality, which was heavily influenced byClausewitz’s own experiences in the Napoleonic wars. Each has its place in the greater security literature. However, in an era wherenuclear deterrence exists and large scale industrial warfare is vilified, it may be time for policymakers and strategists to dust off their copy of The Art of War   and add new tools to the policy toolkit. Therefore, policymakers should seek to widen their perspectives—seeking to incorporate more voices in how to craft and execute strategy in modern times. Ultimately, the fact remains [11] :“The art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it isa subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.” Sebastian J. Bae is a contributor to Best Defense at Foreign Policy  and served six years in the Marine Corps infantry, leaving as aSergeant. He deployed to Iraq in 2009. He earned a Masters in Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program, specializing inviolent non-state actors, counterinsurgency, and humanitarian interventions. You can follow him on Twitter: @SebastianBae [29] . Thisarticle first appeared in the Bridge [30] .Image [31] : Wikimedia Commons/VOA. Tags Sun Tzu vs. ISIS: The Art of War on Terror de 34/20/2016 12:56 PM  Tweet [3] 510 LikeLike Security [32] ISIS [33] Sun Tzu [34] defense [35] Politics [36] Terrorism [37] TopicsSecurity [38] RegionsMiddle East [39] Source URL (retrieved on  April 20, 2016 ): Links: [1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13] [14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25] [26][27][28][29][30][31][32][33][34][35][36][37][38][39] ShareShare15 Sun Tzu vs. ISIS: The Art of War on Terror de 34/20/2016 12:56 PM
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