January 08, 2008


El Cabrero is musing this week about strategy and what people who want to make the world less violent and more just can learn from the history of strife and conflict. For an introduction, see yesterday's post.

Two of the more interesting books on this subject I ran across last year are Scott Ritter's Waging Peace: The Art of War for the Antiwar Movement and Robert Helvey's On Strategic Nonviolent Conflict: Thinking about the Fundamentals.

Both books are written by genuinely progressive people concerned about making the world more just and less violent. Both were written by people with extensive military experience. And both discuss military theory and history at some length in the context of the nonviolent effort to end war, promote democracy, and struggle against injustice.

I imagine that some people find this to be rank heresy, but, as I argued yesterday, refusing to learn about things one labels as "bad" is probably not the most practical approach to dealing with the world's problems.

Helvey's book on nonviolent action features a discussion of the importance of developing a "strategic estimate" of a situation, which he borrowed from his military experience. There are also chapters on operational planning and psychological operations. There's a chapter on strategic thinking that discusses Gandhi--but also Machiavelli, and military theorists Clausewitz, and Liddell Hart

Ritter argues that

The antiwar movement needs to study the philosophies of those who have mastered the art of conflict, form Caesar to Napoleon, from Sun Tzu to Clausewitz. It needs to study the "enemy," learning to understand the pro-war movement as well as it understands itself. It needs to comprehend the art of campaigning, of waging battles only when necessary, and having the ability to wage a struggle on several fronts simultaneously, synchronizing each struggle so that a synergy is created that maximizes whatever energy is being expended.

Ritter notes that the British military theorists Basil Liddell Hart was said to have disapproved of the old saying "If you wish for peace, prepare for war." Rather, he suggested "If you want peace, understand war."

I think this isn't bad advice whether war is understood literally or metaphorically.

Next time: fun with Sun Tzu.

THE ECONOMIC FEAR FACTOR is the subject of this op-ed by Paul Krugman.

SNAKE OIL. Along the same lines, this post from the AFLCIO blog makes the point that more tax cuts for the rich aren't the best medicine for dealing with the recession.

ANYONE FOR JUNG? Robert Rupp, WV Wesleyan political science professor and frequent op-ed writer, offers a Jungian approach to analysing presidential candidates. Now that's something you don't see every day.



Jay said...

Good stuff, as usual. I like Ritter. I heard him on cspan talking about how the Israelis had an intelligence officer study all of the information they had and pretend he was Saddam Hussein. After months of study, he reported back that Saddam was acting rationally in the winter of '02-'03.

Sidenote: Years ago I had a girlfriend who, at the time, was a software engineer for Lockheed-Sanders on a CIA contract in Reston, VA ask me "Who's Warren Peace?" Very telling, I think.

El Cabrero said...

He was in WV a while back but I had an acute domestic engineering crisis and couldn't make it.

Matching sidenote: I remember a labor lawyer whose special ladyfriend asked who the United Mind Workers were.


Buzzardbilly said...

That book sounds perfect for Curmy's reading list. It is the intersection of our interests (campaigns and history). Thanks for sharing.

Not to interrupt the name mistakes, I went to see my step-grandmother one time in the early-to-mid 70s. She was kind of sad and I asked her what was wrong. She said she thought Olivia Newton-John broke up because they were supposed to be on TV that day, but they only showed Olivia. -.-

El Cabrero said...

I think I need to listen to Taco Bell's Canon now...

paul m martin said...

Sounds better than the Christian doctrine (?) of preemptive strike.