Being too powerful to win a war

Isn’t it judo where you use your enemy’s own power and momentum to destroy him? I know it’s one of the martial arts. I was thinking of that principle when I read Mark Steyn’s accurate diagnosis of the problems with the mighty American military:

We live in an age of inversely proportional deterrence: The more militarily powerful a civilized nation is, the less its enemies have to fear the full force of that power ever being unleashed. They know America and other Western powers fight under the most stringent self-imposed etiquette. Overwhelming force is one thing; overwhelming force behaving underwhelmingly as a matter of policy is quite another.

So even the most powerful military in the world is subject to broader cultural constraints. When Kathryn Lopez’s e-mailer sneers that “your contribution to this war is limited solely to your ability to exercise the skillset provided by your liberal arts education,” he’s accidentally put his finger on the great imponderable: whether the skill set provided by the typical American, British and European education these last 30 years is now one of the biggest obstacles to civilizational self-preservation. A nation that psychologically outsources war to a small career soldiery risks losing its ability even to grasp concepts like “the enemy”: The professionalization of war is also the ghettoization of war. As John Podhoretz wondered in the New York Post the other day: “What if liberal democracies have now evolved to a point where they can no longer wage war effectively because they have achieved a level of humanitarian concern for others that dwarfs any really cold-eyed pursuit of their own national interests?”

That’s a good question. If you watch the grisly U.S. network coverage of any global sporting event, you’ve no doubt who your team’s meant to be: If there are plucky Belgian hurdlers or Fijian shotputters in the Olympics, you never hear a word of them on ABC and NBC; it’s all heartwarming soft-focus profiles of athletes from Indiana and Nebraska. The American media have no problem being ferociously jingoistic when it comes to the two-man luge. Yet, when it’s a war, there is no “our” team, not on American TV. Like snotty French ice-dancing judges, the media watch the U.S. skate across the rink and then hand out a succession of snippy 4.3s — for lack of Miranda rights in Fallujah, insufficient menu options at Gitmo.

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  • Ymarsakar

    Any martial arts that uses grappling, throwing, and center of gravity holds use the fundamental physics of the human body to defeat stronger and heavier opponents.

    As I recall, jujitsu and judo are one of several martial arts that has a grappling component.

    You’ve heard that war is both an art, Sun Tzu, and a science, Patton and Von Clausewitz. Fighting via individuals is the same. There’s an instinctual component derived from intrinsic inspirations and then there is the scientific portion derived from analysis and study.

    Bruce Lee put it as, you don’t want to become a predictable robot by choosing a linear and inflexible scientific method. You also don’t want to become an undisciplined berzerker by relying upon instincts alone. The Islamic Jihad are bezerkers, full of people using stimulants, adrenaline, and other doping drugs to go into battle fury. America has focused too much on the scientific method of warfare, precision air strikes and defeating armies. When even Saddam could figure out that the best way to fight the US was to slip away in the darkness, never engage US forces 1 to 1, and use guerrila hit and run tactics, you can be pretty sure that America’s stratagems are pathetically transparent, predictable, and scientifically sound in its principles.

    The terroists know what to expect when captured, they expect scientifically calculated and produced halal meals with no pork in it. We know what to expect if we get captured by Islamic Jihad, torture, propaganda, and beheading.

    The terroists know, instinctually, how to take advantage of the predictability of the US and the West. America has so far not tapped into the beast and the tiger, in order to adapt to the predictability of terroists.

    When you look at the Marines and other front line combat troops, SF operators, and various other goings on around on the battlefield, you will see the tiger unleashed with discipline and control. The fusion of instinct and control, art and science, death and life. The higher up the command chain you go however, the lower such instincts become, and the more bureacratic the goings on decay into. When you get up to the President, you’re at an already low source of instinctual rage. When you go to Congress and the SC, there is like zero instinct to survive. When you go from the government to the people, where ultimate power is held, there is more instinct but it is not controlled. The US will lose in the end if you cannot fuse the fury of the public’s self-survival instincts with the scientific bureacratic weakness of the government, into a balanced and sane stratagem.

    Teddy Roosevelt was a very good example of a well balanced warmonger.

    By dividing the heart of America from the mind of America, the people of America from America’s bureacratic government, the terroists have achieved what is known as a “divide and conquer” strategy. OUr divide and conquer strategy is centered around geographic locations, hotspots where a beachhead can be taken and held. Our success rate is held up however, by the simple fact that terroists had already taken a wedge and held it in America, before we even started in Iraq. They had the initiative, and that made Iraq very hard against such resistance, internally in America and externally in the Arab world.

  • Ymarsakar

    Just to clarify on something that may not be clear, but I don’t think judo is the right way to think of the principle Mark is spelling out here. From my perspective, Mark is saying that the more powerful you are, the less you use that power because of phobias, limitations, self-imposed limitations, or “rules”.

    In Judo, throwing someone who is unwilling to charge at you, unwilling to use his power against you, could probably be hard. He has to move, before you use his momentum. He has to use his strength in his punch, before you can do anything about usng his strength against him. America is not using more than 20%, at our max, potential. We are not jumping around all over the place, in actual point of fact, our center of gravity is pretty low to the ground. If it goes any lower we might feel depressed.

    Using skill against strength is an example of guerrila warfare, what I think best describes Mark’s scenario is the dichotomy between scientific robot fighting by the rules with no sense of self-preservation and chaotic insane beserker style fighting based upon passions and beliefs.

    Much of what Mark describes, is true, but it is not relevant in terms of what we can do right now. Why? Because what the public in America thinks or believes has almost zero impact on what the President of the United States can authorize and get away with. The self-imposed limitations are just that, self-imposed by Bush upon Bush. The population follows the lead of the President. When the President refuses to use his power, America is unable to use hers. The Presidency is a focus for the powers of America. America cannot demand back the power that the President has, unless they kick him out and replace him with Cheney. If the President Will Not use his powers, America is held hostage to the length of his term. This was true of Lincoln, Clinton, Roosevelt, and so forth. America is held hostage to the length of term of the Presidency, regardless of who he is.

    The American military can’t be defeaten using guerrila warfare. They are not being bled, on the contrary, they are becoming hardened with battle experience. Some guerrila warfare can defeat and fatigue armies, but the American army is too good for that and the terroists too crazy.

    In this fight, American Marines have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that judo doesn’t work against them and their armor. I was once disheartened and worried about whether the military can fight an insurgency. I got over that the moment I understood how guerrila wars were won and lost, and when I saw some of the progress being made to train and fight with Iraqis. The problem I see now, is political in origin. The ball is in Bush’s hands. American public opinion cannot make Bush do anything. Negative or positive.

    So why is American public opinion important, as viewed by Mark? It is important because this President only has 2 years left in his term. The American public perspective will never go away. That is why it is important. Bush will not see the end of the conflict.