September 29, 2006


The relevance of Sun Tzu: a review of The Art of War translated by John Minford (Dmitry Shlapentokh, 9/30/06, Asia Times)

The army is an integral part of society as a whole, and this is one of the basic premises of Sun Tzu's holistic approach to society as a whole. A profound change in the spirit of the armed forces would require the same profound changes in US society.

An army of well-paid and well-cared-for troops whose attachment to the cause transcends the limits of a mercenary paycheck cannot be created by flag-waving statements that "united we stand" and propaganda shows where selected brave servicemen and -women announce to TV viewers that they are thankful for the honor given to them: to fight and, if need be, die for the defense of liberty. The creation of armies whose soldiers are ready for a war that could last for generations requires a dramatic increase in benefits and remuneration for those who fight and for their immediate families.

This would require a massive redistribution of wealth. It would mean the end of the perks of various societal bodies irrespective of whether they are supported by the left or the right, and, of course, massive intervention by the state in all aspects of life. This society, if it were to emerge, would come to resemble Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia or China - or at least the Oriental monarchies such as the one in which Sun Tzu lived.

Of course no arguments or even problems most Americans would see as manageable would be able to push the United States away from the operational model by which it has lived throughout most of its history. Change at the very core of society would need not just tolerable discomfort but massive and acute pain, which would demonstrate the futility of all the old medicine.

In the 1970s you used to read this kind of nonsense, about how a democracy necessarily had a disadvantage in wartime because it couldn't be as cohesive and efficient as a totalitarian state. Maybe Mr. Shlapentokh has been in a coma for thirty years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 29, 2006 12:54 PM

I never understood the fascination with Sun Tzu and Asian military thinking in general. The Asians are great at a lot of things (to paraphrase the late great Reggie White) but warfare isn't one of them. Everytime they've faced a Western military, they've been slaughtered. And losing 20 to get one of ours isn't a strategy or a victory I particularly want or respect. I'd rather be on the losing end of a war like that.

Well, I guess the Japanese did defeat the Russian Navy that one time. But that's more the exception that proves the rule.

Posted by: Pepys at September 29, 2006 1:20 PM

"Throngs of homeless ex-soldiers. . .."

What is this Shlapentokh clown saying? He teaches in an American college, so he a bare-faced liar and not just the uninformed resentful foreigne one ususlly finds over at Asia Times.

As to the headline, we beat the Nazis by being ourselves, practical, pragmatic, realistic--business-like. The Nazis were a gang of juvenile ideologues. They thought they could run a country and an army on their bizarre fantasies.

Posted by: Lou Gots at September 29, 2006 1:36 PM


Asian military thinking and tactics were often quite good (consider Korea, Vietnam); but they rarely can muster the technological or economic output to compete on an even footing.

Then again, maybe they are just particularly good at writing delphic military texts that can be interpreted to mean whatever you like....

Posted by: Mike Earl at September 29, 2006 1:38 PM

What was so great about the Asian strategies in Korea and Vietnam?

We butchered them.

The only reason we had to "bug out" was because they overwhelmed us with Chinese cannon fodder.

You last sentence is the truth. Delphic is perfect.

Posted by: Pepys at September 29, 2006 2:00 PM

Not often you read such a giant dose of nonsense at one place.

Posted by: Bob at September 29, 2006 2:12 PM

One thing we must remember though is that most of the battles between East Asian powers and the West came at a time when the technological capacity of the West was far above the East. I think Victor Davis Hanson (and others) have a strong point about the "Western way of war," but let's not pretend the West always came out ahead.

It would be wrong to fetishize Eastern thinking, but the idea that strong armies require a strong civilian base is in western theory as well. Read Machiavelli.

The problem in this is that America, more or less, already qualifies as such a land. The country provides for most people. If anything, the danger is that too much luxury has deadened the survival impulse of some elites, causing them to view domestic rivals as more dangerous than outsiders. This includes both those who ignore the threat, and those who who would utilize it for partisan advantage.

The key is for our leaders to call for common sacrifice and then demonstrate their own commitment. We also need to do a better job of praising our own martial heritage and respecting those who serve.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at September 29, 2006 7:33 PM

In which one didn't we come out ahead?

Posted by: oj at September 29, 2006 7:41 PM

There are numerous stories about Westerners going to the East and turning around the ramshackle militaries that Sun Tzu created. There are zero the other way around.

Posted by: Pepys at September 29, 2006 7:56 PM

Have none of you people except Mr. Burnet heard of Ghengis Khan? I am particularly surprised that OJ missed that one.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at September 30, 2006 12:09 AM

Outside of science fiction, he didn't best America.

Posted by: oj at September 30, 2006 12:24 AM

oj, even for you, that's a massive non sequitur.

Lou said: "As to the headline, we beat the Nazis by being ourselves, practical, pragmatic, realistic--business-like. The Nazis were a gang of juvenile ideologues. They thought they could run a country and an army on their bizarre fantasies."

AMERICANS beat the Nazis? Why was it then that the Soviets did the vast majority of the killing?

Posted by: Mörkö at September 30, 2006 5:42 AM

Because we supplied them. It was a proxy war and we should have kept out. Not only was Nazism not the system we needed to adopt to beat them, it was so flawed they couldn't even beat the feeble Soviets, which is, of course, the point of the post.

Posted by: oj at September 30, 2006 8:43 AM


Are you Finnish? Has your reflexive anti-Americanism become so ingrained that the Soviets are now your heros of WW11?

Granted a tendency to understate the contribution of others is part of the charm of our American buddies (just as they don't like to be reminded that Canada is actually a bigger country), but let us not pretend the Soviets would have won without American equipment or the Brits without American troops. Nor should we forget that they adopted a "Germany first" policy in response to European begging even though it was Japan that actually attacked them. I guess that you modern Euros now see that as just the first step in America's nefarious globalization policy.

Posted by: Peter B at September 30, 2006 8:57 AM

Don't even get me started. The Soviets "won" the war!?!!!

FDR was in the thrall of the noble experiment and declared war on Hitler after he invaded the Soviet Union knowing full well that the Germans would have won without us and that would have left the world communism movement in the dustbin of history where it belonged, instead we've been dealing with the aftermath of FDR's machinations for the best part of the 20th century.

All of Europe, including Finland and Russia would be speaking German and that would have been far better than how the second world war actually played out. Many fewer lives would have been lost.

Nazi's were nasty, but didn't have a worldwide movement of fanatical supporters like the Soviets had, so the third Reich would have been short lived. The Germans ran out of everything by the end of the war and losing so many of their able bodied men left them bereft of a viable middle class while killing all the Jews left Germany without its professional and financial base.

Mörkö, rewriting history only works if you wait until all those who actually lived through it are dead.

Posted by: erp at September 30, 2006 10:03 AM

Actually the beauty of it was the Nazis could't win.

Posted by: oj at September 30, 2006 10:15 AM

Neither the Soviets nor the Americans could have beaten the Nazis on their own -- that's why they were allied. The Soviets ended up doing most of the work.

Nazism as an ideology would probably have been much more long-lived than communism, because its basic tenets enjoyed wide acceptance in the West, not least in America, plus the Nazi system was enonomically viable.


Yes, I'm Finnish, but I have no problem recognizing that the Soviets won the war -- they pummeled the Nazis, conquered half of the Continent, and their ideology gained enormous prestige in the process. I'm not anti-American -- in fact, compared with the blind hatred of all things European as expressed by many people in this blog and by American conservatives in general, I'm a bona fide Americophile.

Posted by: Mörkö at September 30, 2006 1:09 PM

Hey Morko, who won the third world war?

By the way, who was an ally of the Germans in WW2? And had its foreign policy dictated by the Soviets during the Cold War?

Posted by: Bob at September 30, 2006 2:30 PM

The Nazis had already lost. They couldn't get to Spain or England, could only take half of France, had bogged down in the USSR, the intelligence services were helping the Allies and folks were trying to assassinate Hitler. Nazism doesn't work.

Posted by: oj at September 30, 2006 3:03 PM

Mörkö, we defeated the Germans and would have liberated all of Eastern Europe had FDR not ordered Eisenhower to await the arrival of our "allies," the Soviets, before entering Berlin in order to perpetuate the myth that they were our co-equals. The Soviets were a farce then and continued to be a farce right up to the moment Reagan forced the iron curtain to be withdrawn and the "wizard" behind it to be exposed for the charlatan he was.

The Soviets conquered all of Europe. I do declare that is the silliest statement I've read in many a year.

It must be difficult as a Finn to come to terms with the fact that you were brow-beaten by a tin horn phony all these many years. Pacifism and appeasement aren't a very nice legacy to leave for your children. It might be a good idea to rise up now that the danger is past and declare yourselves free men and women.

Posted by: erp at September 30, 2006 3:05 PM

Being supplied by the Allies enabled the Russians to pur all their resources into armamants. Their army and air force was the best in the world by the end of WW2. Any Allied force standing up to them at the close would have been outnumbered, outgunned and outgeneralled. The Russian habit of shooting underperforming generals was a quite effective motivator.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at September 30, 2006 3:21 PM

We'd have trounced them pretty easily even without nukes.

Posted by: oj at September 30, 2006 3:27 PM

I'll just copy and paste someting our mutual friend kindly sent me.

"Let us consider the situation in May 1945 from the logistical, strategic, political and social standpoints.

Of these, the logistical is the most uncertain. Both the Allies and the Red Army were at the ends of very long, inadequate supply lines. In concept, at least, the Russian difficulty was greater. Most of its munitions came from east of the Urals over a few rail lines, which might have been interdicted.

The Allies were barely able to keep their much smaller armies in the field because of the incompetent Montgomerey’s failure to capture Antwerp. Walchern was not finally cleared until spring.

This is crucial, because on brothersjudd, it has repeatedly been said that U.S. P51s would have made short work of the Russian armor. They’d have been better employed hunting Russian locomotives, but in fact Allied tactical air forces were in a weak position to attack the Red Army.

It is true that the P51s ranged as far as Czechoslovakia (rarely, even farther), but they came from England. The supply bottleneck prevented placing the tactical air forces forward.

It would not have been possible to interdict the Russian columns with P51s operating 12-hour missions. All the pilots would have been worn out. Besides, although the narrow Russian columns were very vulnerable to attack, the area to be hunted over was huge and, as some of us learned in Vietnam, it is not so easy to interdict supply lines, even with more capable weapons than the Allies had in the 1940s.

The strategic air forces were a negligible factor, and besides once Germany surrendered, they were being rushed to the Pacific as fast as possible.
This difficulty could have been dealt with given time, but no time was available.

Had fighting commenced, the Russians could have struck south and by a short march cut off large American forces that were penetrating Czechoslovakia and Austria. Surrender would have been inevitable.

Meantime, the Russians could either have stood on the defensive along the main front or attacked. With their superior armor and willingness to accept casualties, they would have steamrollered the weaker Allies. The big advantage of the Americans was proximity fuzed artillery, deadly to infantry in close formations.

The Russians had only to get to Antwerp over easy, open country to cause the Allied supply situation to collapse again.

Had the Americans wanted to attack on the main front, they really had no objective whose loss would have seriously damaged the Red Army. It had a thousand miles of room to trade for its enemy’s exhaustion.

Besides, the only possible course for the Americans would have been to try to cut through to its isolated army in Austria. The Red Army was expert, since Stalingrad, in thickening cordons and would have easily built up the barrier on the east, no matter how much progress the Americans were making in the west.

And it could have been only Americans. I cannot say whether the Free French (one-fifth of the effectives in the Allied armies) would have been willing to fight the Russians, their traditional ally. Probably not.

Certainly, the British Army of working class privates would not have fought against the Red Army, even setting aside the fact of a Labour government.

The Americans would have been outnumbered something like 5 or 6 to one, or more. The Red Army had three army groups (Zhukov, Konev, Rossokovsky), each one about equal to the entire Allied armies in western Europe.

The pipe dream that the Red Army would have collapsed is nonsense. By 1945, a great proportion of the front line troops were Siberians (the Great Russians having been mostly wiped out by then), and they cared nothing for Christianity or democracy. The idea that, having sacrificed so much to drive the Germans out, the various peoples of the USSR would have let them back in in the name of antibolshevism of insane.

Nor is it likely that the Germans, having been thoroughly beaten down, would have wanted to or been able to continue fighting.

Whatever happened, it had to happen within about 8 to 10 weeks. The Pacific commanders were clamoring for troops for Olympic, an invasion that would have been bigger than Normandy; and the Allies were having a difficult time finding shipping to move everything.

The soldiers had never signed on to conquer Russia and were all ready to go home. They were willing, though unenthusiastic, about sticking to the end against Japan, but neither home public opinion nor sentiment in the uniformed forces would have stood for turning on an ally they had come to value over the past three years.

Atomic bombs, therefore, do not enter the picture. None was available until August, by which time the Red Army would have possibly been on the English Channel. Even if two had been dropped on Moscow, Moscow was a very big place compared with Nagasaki, and not much damage would have been done.

Orrin’s concept depends on the same miscalculation made by the Germans (and, at the time, agreed to by almost every outside observer): That bolshevism was rotten and would fall with just a push.
That turned out not to be true in 1941 and was even further from reality in 1945.

God, as Napolean observed, is on the side of the big battalions, and the Red Army had them."

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at September 30, 2006 3:32 PM


What does it matter whether we nuked them in August instead of May? Or in '46 or '47 or '51 or whenever?

In point of fact the USSR depended on the push to keep it upright. We were the other side of its A frame. Had we just come home it would have fallen quicker.

The third option, merely pushing but leaving it in place, which is the one we took, was the worst of the three.

You have to remember that Harry is a Stalinist and thinks their system worked. Indeed, as a Marxist he thinks Hitler could have beat us but for Stalin, as he argued here.

Posted by: oj at September 30, 2006 5:00 PM

oj, you're really underestimating how much of a stranglehold the communists had on the country. They were in every village, town and city and couldn't have been dislodged by a few nukes here and there, which was the only military option available given that the West didn't have the conventional heft to destroy the Red Army. Any attack by a foreign force would have been seen as an invasion and brought forth a nationalist response.

It's tempting to think that all the misery of the Cold War could have been avoided if FDR hadn't been a sick, old man or if Patton had been given free rein, or if nuking had been allowed but it wouldn't have made any difference.

Since the commies inflicted about 80% of the Wehrmacht's casualties, WW2 would have definitely been far, far tougher for the Allies if they hadn't been on the same side.

As for Hitler, he didn't go into Spain for the same reason he didn't attack Switzerland or drive through Turkey on the way to the Arabian oilfields. He was a genocidal madman, but a madman who respected other countries' neutrality.

erp: Your assessment of the results of a Nazi victory is not one I can agree with. Hitler had like-minded allies of a similar political bent in Japan, Spain and Italy and would have doubtless found more if he'd won. He didn't need an international movement bolstering him since Nazism seemed popular enough with the Germans up until they lost.

For a summary of the horrors he planned on Europe in the event of victory, read the book I've linked to below. Basically unless you were a Nordic Aryan, you could look forward to a happy life of bare subsistence, illiteracy and slave labour while Germany sucked Eurasia's resources into its' maw. Slavs would have received the same treatment the Jews got.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at September 30, 2006 6:22 PM

edit - Oops, actually Hitler did invade Holland and Belgium after they'd declared themselves neutral, so I got that wrong.

He didn't invade Spain because it was already being run by a buddy of his.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at September 30, 2006 6:28 PM

Bob wrote: "Hey Morko, who won the third world war?"

There never was a Third World War. But if you mean the Cold War, it was won by the West, with America contributing the lion's share.

"By the way, who was an ally of the Germans in WW2? And had its foreign policy dictated by the Soviets during the Cold War?"

Many nations, including Finland. Why you ask?

Posted by: Mörkö at September 30, 2006 6:57 PM


"Mörkö, we defeated the Germans and would have liberated all of Eastern Europe [...]"

That's all interesting speculation, but none of that actually happened. The back of the Nazis was broken in the big battles of the Eastern Front in 1943. Had America, Britain et al opened a second front in Western Europe before that, they might have played a more decisive role in the war, but they didn't (couldn't).

"The Soviets conquered all of Europe. I do declare that is the silliest statement I've read in many a year."

I never claimed they conquered all of Europe. Learn to read, it's a very useful skill.

"It must be difficult as a Finn to come to terms with the fact that you were brow-beaten by a tin horn phony all these many years. Pacifism and appeasement aren't a very nice legacy to leave for your children. It might be a good idea to rise up now that the danger is past and declare yourselves free men and women."

Finns, vastly outnumbered and outgunned, fought the Soviets to a stalemate, while the Americans were busy supplying the commies with more weapons. Perhaps if Americans had had balls to confront the Soviet Union head-on militarily, instead of endless proxy wars, your speculations about Soviet military capabilities might be something more than hot air.

Posted by: Mörkö at September 30, 2006 7:28 PM


You (or you mentor) have bought into the myth of the invincible Russian soldier, much tougher than his Western counterpart. It is certainly a credible proposition that only a fool tries to invade Russia, but it also seems to be an equal verity that only a foolish Russian invades the West.

Posted by: Peter B at September 30, 2006 7:32 PM

It was over long before '43. In '41 they'd lost the Battle of Britain, begun losing in the East, and gotten america into the war.

Posted by: oj at September 30, 2006 8:38 PM


Hitler need to get to Gibraltar through Spain to seal the Med, but Franco denied him. That too was a fatal blow. Of course, Nazism was so weak the fatal blows are a dime a dozen.

Posted by: oj at September 30, 2006 8:41 PM


To the contrary, the Party barely had a hold. Even when the enemy was Hitler, who was devoted to exterminating the Slav, Stalin had to send liquidation squads just to get the Army to fight. Had we gone in with the express purpose of liberating Russia from the Soviets and attrited the command structure in Moscow, via nuclear or conventional means, the people would have turned on the Party in sufficient number to make our victory even easier.

Posted by: oj at September 30, 2006 8:43 PM

It's flattering to pretend that we did all we could, and democracies always think they did the right or necessary thing, but it's a lie.

Posted by: oj at September 30, 2006 8:45 PM


I haven't said that anywhere. The Allies simply didn't have the manpower, logistics and armaments to successfully challenge them at the end of WW2. So far I haven't seen anything that would convince me otherwise.

I'm not getting any of that from Harry, although he knows enough about the subject to make his contributions useful. Read Russia's War by Richard Overy - author of Why The Allies Won - for a good picture of how the Russians developed their military.

[i]It was over long before '43. In '41 they'd lost the Battle of Britain, begun losing in the East, and gotten america into the war.[/i]

The Battle of Britain stopped them from advancing further, it wasn't something that contributed to their actual defeat. Same goes for when they got bogged down outside of Moscow. America entering the war was a decisive turning point, but saying that meant the war was over is like going up to an immense pile of dirty dishes and saying, "Allright, I intend to clean them all so ipso facto, they are clean."

As for Gibraltar, Hitler regarded operations in the Med and Africa to be a distraction from his real goal - the same one which Germany had in WW1 - invading Russia and turning the western half of it into settler land for German colonisation.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at October 1, 2006 8:03 AM

Overy is excellent on both the extermination measures that were required to get the Russians to fight the Nazis and Soviet dependence on the US for supplies.

Yes, so Nazi expansion to the West, East, and South was over by '41, and thus the Third Reich was over. The rest was just the inevitable fall.

Posted by: oj at October 1, 2006 9:02 AM

We can argue about the military stuff all day long (and whenever the thread turns to the Red Army and the Nazis, things sure get lively), but one thing is sure - had we decapitated Soviet Russia in 1945 or '46, a new super-Communist leader was not going to rise from the ashes to overrun Europe. Whether or not we COULD have done it is arguable (there may not have been enough servicable weapons, for example) - but absent Stalin, Lubyanka, and orders from Moscow, the whole rotten frame would have crumbled. Harry can't admit that, because it would shatter 60 years of admiration.

To believe otherwise is to shift the worship to Beria, or to former Nazis in the East, or to communist thugs (Tartars, Georgians, and others) who propped up the party below Stalin. OJ may be in left field with respect to parts of WWII, but not here. Russia was a Potemkin village just as much in 1946 as in 1938. And just as much as in 1989, as was proved. They are still paying the price, no?

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 1, 2006 9:49 AM

I don't believe it could have been done without killing a lot of Russians. And that would have turned the rest of them heavily against the liberators.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at October 1, 2006 10:55 AM

And AFAIK, Harry doesn't love the commies as much as he realises they were following the well-worn tradition of the czars treating their subjects like vermin.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at October 1, 2006 11:01 AM


No, he is a Communist. Literally.

Your position can't be that fewer people died ands suffered because we left Stalin in place--that's just nonsensical.

Posted by: oj at October 1, 2006 11:26 AM

Mörkö, it wasn't a lack of testosterone that kept us from finishing off the Soviets, it was a question of political hero worship.

Our government during the pre and post WW2 era was overrun by leftwing sycophants snugly in Stalin's corner and a media which kept us in the dark by extolling fictional Soviet accomplishments and demonizing those like McCarthy who questioned the CW.

Don't be fooled into thinking we hadn't the will or the weapons for the job then or that we don't have them now. We'll continue to do be at the ready so as long as we never allow in the White House another leftwing pacifist fool who puts our fate in the hands of the U.N.

Posted by: erp at October 1, 2006 11:46 AM

Wasn't the bulk of the damage that Stalin did done before WW2?

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at October 1, 2006 3:37 PM

and during, but that's only in the USSR. By propping up Communism during and after WWII we get credit for the whole Iron Curtain, Mao, Cambodia, vietnam, Africa, etc.

Posted by: oj at October 1, 2006 3:51 PM

oj, to our everlasting shame. You're right.

Posted by: erp at October 1, 2006 6:41 PM