Archive for Iraq

The Source

Posted in Politics and Society with tags , , on February, 2011 by melendwyr

Political power grows from the barrel of a gun.
– Mao Zedong

A weapon is a device for making your enemy change his mind.
-Lois McMaster Bujold

If people are strongly motived by convenience, those who can determine whether conditions are inconvenient will often be able to direct and control them; few circumstances are more inconvenient than death. As we might expect, it is those groups dedicated to physical violence who ultimately determine the structure of a society: the military and the police.

The uprisings in Egypt have persisted, and are likely to cause the political environment of the country to change (one way or another) because the police and the military have chosen to tolerate them. Similar attempts at revolution have been crushed because the military chose to support the dictator; in other cases, governments have been overthrown in coups lead by their countries’ militaries. What power does a dictator have if the people with guns will not obey him? But when the military supports the dictator, as was the case in Iraq after the First Gulf War, rebellion is usually obliterated.

As in the Armenian folk tale, political leaders only appear to be powerful because they persuade some people to give them their power; as long as some are obedient, others can be motivated to cooperate through violence and the fear of violence.

I find it darkly amusing that there has been so much talk of “the power of the people” to change the world and control their destiny, when the ability to overthrow the system isn’t really in the hands of “the people” at all. The only real power they possess is that of choice, which is far less palatable, as its consequences are so often unpleasant…

Thoughts on the Iraq and Afganistan Wars

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on August, 2010 by melendwyr

What follows is a brief excerpt from The Art of War:

1. Sun Tzu said: In the operations of war, where there are in the field a thousand swift chariots, as many heavy chariots, and a hundred thousand mail-clad soldiers, with provisions enough to carry them a thousand LI, the expenditure at home and at the front, including entertainment of guests, small items such as glue and paint, and sums spent on chariots and armor, will reach the total of a thousand ounces of silver per day. Such is the cost of raising an army of 100,000 men.

2. When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men’s weapons will grow dull and their ardor will be damped. If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength.

3. Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources of the State will not be equal to the strain.

4. Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardor damped, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue.

5. Thus, though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays.

6. There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.

7. It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on.

8. The skillful soldier does not raise a second levy, neither are his supply-wagons loaded more than twice.

Compare this ancient advice to our war on two fronts, and see where we measure up. We’ve spent billions upon billions of dollars on these disastrous conflicts (and can’t even account for where tens of billions ended up). We’ve extended the tours of duty for our soldiers, and then we extended them again. We’ve gotten no support from the societies we’re supposedly trying to help, because we’re trying to generate a new societal structure from the ground up.

I understand that there still isn’t a functioning Iraqi government more than five months since elections were held, because no one got a majority and the various factions can’t agree on how to share power. That’s just fantastic.