Monday, July 16, 2007

Clash Of Civilizations: 2 - Defend and attack

Hence that general is skillful in attack whose opponent does not know what to defend; and he is skillful in defense whose opponent does not know what to attack.

Another Sun Tzu quotation that expertly reveals just how much we in the west need to relearn about fighting a war - and it is a war that we are fighting today. The war against Islamic imperialism.

Let's just take a look at that quote from our point of view first of all. Do we know what to defend? Not really. We have a general idea of course, but we have no specific knowledge of where the next attack will strike. We do not know which country it will be in, what it will target or how it will be carried out.

Because of this we are always at a disadvantage. We can make as much effort as possible, but it is impossible to defend everything - and the enemy knows this. As people frequently remark - we have to be lucky every time, the enemy only has to be lucky once. Relying on luck for your defence is a one way ticket to defeat.

Does our enemy know what to defend?

Of course he does! We tell him!

Since the war began in earnest we have launched two attacks - in Afghanistan and Iraq - and gave prior notice in advance through our 24 hour news channels. We told them we were coming, where we were coming from, when we were coming and how we were going to do it. The newspapers and TV channels frequently reveal our plans and intentions - whether it is an offensive in Helmand province or a push on Fallujah. We let our enemies know in advance.

Is that the way to win a war? Sun Tzu wouldn't have thought so, but then again he didn't have to deal with the voracious modern media - a media whose insistence on the umbrella of "impartiality" - frequently provide comfort and aid to our enemies. They might like to think they are being balanced and impartial, but in war there is no such thing. You are either on our side or you are with the enemy - and in this war there are no "neutral" states.

The second part of the Sun Tzu quote ponders attack. Does our enemy know what to attack?

Before answering this, it is important to understand that this is not simply a military war - it is a war of ideas - a clash of civilizations. Not every attack is military. In fact, very few of them are. The attacks are many fold and mostly constitute assaults on our values and principles rather than our people. Do they know what to attack?

Clearly they do - and they understand how to use the media as an ally and our law as a tool.

They attack our values and principles, erode them and then seek to replace them with their own. They attack our national unity, our will to fight, our resolve to resist and our determination to protect the principles we seek to defend. Each time there is a "We are all Hezbollah!" or "Not in my name!" demonstration is another little victory for our enemies. They seek to cause division and argument among us - and they succeed. Every day. It is easier to drive a wedge into a fractured society than it is to smash through a solid united front.

As it happens, they are less adept at choosing their targets militarily than they are through covert action. Although they scored a significant success in Madrid and altered the outcome of an election - they got it badly wrong on 9/11.

Do we know what to attack? Curiously enough, yes we do - at least militarily. We know what our enemy strongholds are and, no doubt, should there come a time when we decide to attack we will let our enemies know well in advance.

We're less sure when it comes to understanding the battle of ideas. Where do we attack? How do we attack? What should we attack with?

Our enemies are once again showing a good deal of understanding of the principles of warfare - particularly in the battle of ideas and it is this battle where the war will be won or lost.

No comments: