Haditha and Chinese statecraft


1) Evolving reports about Haditha, suffice it to say the scandal (whatever the final finding is) hurts not only the US reputation and the already weakened domestic support, but also the situation in Iraq. Such events are going to drive more Iraqis into the arms of bin Laden and his allies, and lead to vicious cycles of anti-US resistance and more brutality from already distressed US soldiers.
2) Thomas Barnett believes the mistakes in Haditha is a result of US not getting more systematic and serious on nation-building in Iraq. I have no doubt Bush sincerely wants to get on nation-building in Iraq, although I could agree with Barnett that Bush is not serious enough, in that various interest groups and distraction has kept him from focusing on the right direction. I also agree with him that economic is a crucial element in the formula, which has largely been overlooked. Ahh, I mean Iraqi economics, not Halliburton economics. So the disagreement between Barnett and Bush's clan (Or Cheney?) is on implementation and tactic, not on strategy.
  • Barnett also seems to be very defensive on and sympathetic with the US military, which is fine, as every suspect is presumed innocent. Although I believe no one is perfect and it is not surprising if there are bad eggs in a big basket, especially if the weather condition is hot and hostile.
Chinese statecraft

I believe there is more fundamental issue about Haditha. It would be easier to comprehend if we draw on the works by ancient Chinese statecraft, which the pentagon (and Philsbury) are aware of but seem to have focused on the less important aspects.

Why does the alleged crime in Haditha have anything to do with Chinese statecraft? One needs to note that Chinese statecraft has a much longer and wider view of war, to the extent that there is no clear boundary between war, politics and diplomacy. i.e., The objective is to solve a problem with minimum cost and maximum impact, whether it is done by militaristic, political, economic or diplomatic means. Enlarged your options would surely lower your cost.

Long before Haditha, there was this short essay in PLA's newspaper, the "China Defense/PLA Daily" (中国国防报) (original in Chinese cached below). The essay analyze how the pentagon and Bush 'regime' misread Sun Zi and other Chiense statecraft, even though most strategists in US have spent considerable time on learning Sun Zi. A important point in the discuss is the idea of "Great Scrupulousness on War" (慎战) [square brackets are my additions to the original essay]
  • Sun Zi (Ch 2), "[After wins, weapons get dulled, and soldiers get tired, your ability to attack is weakened. Prolonged expedition leads to exhaustion of domestic resources..... So I will do anything to win the war quicker even if that would mean I adopt very clumsy and stupid tactics. There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.] If one is not thoroughly acqainted with all the downsides of going to war, then one is not able to understand [and apply] all the upsides of war"
  • 《孙子》说:“[其用战也,胜久则钝兵挫锐,攻城则力屈,久暴师则国用不足。夫钝兵挫锐,屈力殚货,则诸侯乘其弊而起,虽有智者,不能善其后矣。故兵闻拙速,未睹巧之久也。夫兵久而国利者,未之有也。] 故不尽知用兵之害者,则不能尽知用兵之利也。”
  • Wu Qi, "It is easy to win a war, but difficult to maintain and guard after the win. Therefore, in all the wars in this world, it is a disaster if one wins 5 wars, a tired nation if one wins 4 wars, a hegemone if wins 3 wars, a king if wins 2, an emperor if it only takes one war to reach there.
  • Xun Zi offered an explanation to Wu Qi, "People will be tired and used after several wars. The leaders will become arrogant after a few wins. Leading tired people with arrogant leader, I have not heard a single case that the nation is not annihilated."
  • 《吴子·图国》进而提出一个振聋发聩的独特思想:“然战胜易,守胜难。故曰,天下战国,五胜者祸,四胜者疲,三胜者霸,二胜者王,一胜者帝。是以数胜得天下者稀,以亡者众。”为什么胜仗打多了反而是坏事?对此,《荀子·议兵》解释说:“数战则民疲,数胜则主骄,以骄主驭疲民,未有不亡者也。”
  • Hundred War Strategy concluded, "Armed force is a dangerous tool. Going to a war itself is an immoral thing. You go to war only if there is no other choice. You cannot go to war because you are strong, your nationa is big, you have a large population [not the right reason mean there are pitfalls you have not considered and there is no guaranteed win - SB]......war is like fire, if you are not careful you are going to burn yourself sooner or later..."
  • 《百战奇略·好战》总结历史上穷兵黩武之害,说得非常好:“夫兵者,凶器也;战者,逆德也。实不获已(万不得已)而用之,不可以国之大、民之众,尽锐征伐,征讨不止,终至败亡,悔无所追。然兵犹火也,弗戢将有自焚之患。黩武穷兵,祸不旋踵。”
  • [I will add this] Sun Tzu said: 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 is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected. ( 孙子曰: 兵者,国之大事,死生之地,存亡之道,不可不察也。)
The essay continue to say there are many bright strategists among hawks in US. They must have known and understood all the theories above. Sun Zi was highly regarded by US Army since a few decades ago. The war in Iraq itself was even boasted as a modern era example of executing various Sun Zi doctrines. In reality, US hawks have only taken the pragmatic (tactical) aspects of Sun Zi. They did not get the essence of the oriental statecraft in which Sun Zi showed the most representative illustrations. They taught the tactics but not the grand strategy. (BTW, Is this why China want US leaders, not the DoD, to read Sun Zi?)

The audience of this essay is for the PLA officers and soldiers, not for foreigners. So the author's intention is not propaganda against US or the infamous war on WMD. He wanted all PLA officer to understand the essence of grand strategy, and the scrupulous approach to war.


While I do not have much doubt that US military is very well disciplined in general and these (Haditha, etc) are isolated events, I also believe human being are not perfect. However well trained the marines are, there will be some bad eggs. Even good eggs could turn bad occasionally under extreme environment. The question is, one in how many for the bad eggs? This then leads to a conclusion that it is a matter of sooner or later that such tragedy will happen. Better training will delay such happening, but there is no way to guarantee it not happening forever, especially when place under unfriendly environment such as, local distrust and hostility to a foreign occupying force. The source of the problem is the problematic war itself. If one is aware of such downside, one would have planned for it, or would have stop the prolonged war soon after Saddam was capture (assuming the war cannot be avoided given how evil Saddam was).

IMO it is not about nation-building. Nation-building is easier said than done, espeically if mistakes has already been made. It is, as Sun Zi said, one of the many side effects of a prolonged war, and it is about the ability to fully anticipate the downside of such a war. This is not spoken with hindsight. Should we anticipate more disasters like such? Very likely, unless the Iraqi's view on the occupation can be turned into one that is not for its oil or for setting up a puppet government.

Simple solution

Given such consideration, it is not difficult to identify the source of the problem and hence locate the solutions:
  • Leave Iraq to Iraqis, get out asap
  • (A transition model would be to leave it to UN and nations not involved with the invasion, hoping the local would be less hostile. But US itself, which is already distrusted by many in Iraq, needs to get out asasp)
Pundits may ask
  • What about nation-building?
  • What if a "Hamas" (the mullahs and their proteges) is elected?
My answers would be
  • Leave the nation-building to the Iraqi. For the pessimists: the worse case scenario? A Saudi Arabia or a Shah Pavhlevi? Let's trust the Iraqi, most of whom had rejected and hated Saddam. Let's trust democracy.
  • The chance a "Hamas" would be elected is much more likely if US occupation force stay. If a "Hamas" is elected, are you going to sabotage it? or invade it again? Does that mean democracy is wrong for Iraq? Do you trust the people? As Thomas Barnett correctly pointed out, "it is the economic, stupid!" If Iraq are well-off and happy. Iraq will be a good world citizen. This is what we should focus on, making them happy. With all the oil underground, this is not difficult as not if they are left to their own.
  • The problem for this government is that it is widely viewed as American puppet. Even though there was a democratic election, many people did not participate. Leave it to their own, they have no choice but forming their own government
US already missed the opportunity where it could have left as a saviour, and be remembered and thanked by Iraq. Now it is still possible to do the right thing.

Update: see the source of 4GW.

p.s. see useless tree as well, which I very much agree with. He also elaborated on what US military did right in the beginning of the war (re: Sun Zi) and offered a better translation of Sun Zi's line "故兵闻拙速,未睹巧之久也。夫兵久而国利者,未之有也。".

Related: 3 months ago the brilliant journalist Francesco Sisci compared "political black holes" and "rouge states", which leads to questioning the implication of TWII (the war in Iraq) implies for GWOT.

2004-04-27 13:06

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1 comment:

28481k said...

I was going to reply in a long post, but instead I should submit my snippet of thought until I have plenty of time.

What I think of this aptly named "Long War"? :P Well, it's Vietnam War all over again, only this time we don't even have a tangible enemy. Who is the enemy? Terrorists can be everyone! That's the thinking of most servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan anyway. Under this sort of mentality, Fallujah and Haditha are just inevitable disasters waiting to happen. Last year at the same time, when most Iraqis have lost faith in the coalition after Fallujah, I still think that they could stay on to finish off the job. I never believe in any so-called Weapon of Mass Destruction, I saw it as an INEVITABLE policy by GWB to achieve his father's legacy: to fully control Iraq and topple Saddam. Unfortunately, they have never thought of a proper plan from DAY TWO of occupation, hence the massive mistakes made in Iraq. Nevertheless, despite my dislike and disapproval of such invasion, I then thought they must stay on to complete the job, but then Iraq's situations deteriorated alarmingly. It's not just foreign terrorists anymore, it's also sectarian and partisan warfare, and the coalition force barely able to assert their power, let alone contain the situation. Haditha loses not the faith of Iraqis, but Americans. I think it is only best now if they can pull out to let Iraqis (with UN support) to sort themselves out. They may not like the sectarian warfare, but they think foreign invaders are worse, especially the ones which are conducted in an arrogant hegemonic manner.