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April 11, 2014

The Lessons of the History of Warfare

Joe Charlebois

One of the history’s greatest military minds, Sun Tzu, has had a long history of influence over those who would carry out the plans of warfare for two-thousand years.


His writings compiled in The Art of War have withstood the test of time. They have even been used outside of arena of warfare in other strategic endeavors. Our military and civilian leaders should pay heed to his words.


In the second chapter entitled “Waging War,” Sun Tzu said: “When your weapons are dulled and ardour damped, your strength exhausted and treasure spent, neighbouring rulers will take advantage of your distress to act. And even though you have wise counsellors, none will be able to lay good plans for the future.”


In late February, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel – a highly decorated Vietnam veteran – announced that the Army would return to troop levels not seen in over 70 years. He stated that U.S. Forces would have to get used to smaller budgets. He made these statements while admitting that the military will face even greater challenges in a more volatile world; with even more threats to address.


In fiscal year 2011, one in every four dollars was spent on defense; by fiscal year 2016 that ratio will drop to one in every five. At that rate, our “weapons will be dulled” and our enemies “will take advantage of (our) distress to act.”


There is a realization that Americans are war-weary; however, our armed forces should never become political pawns in the games that some administrations play. As it stands, the gutting of the military under the guise of efficiency is seen by those around the world as weakness.


Should we maintain the same level of spending for the military? Probably not, but we may need to spend even more. We may need to up the level of spending to provide insurmountable advantages so as to not have to wage war.


Sun Tzu: “For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”


Since World War II, our nation has been at war or involved in a Cold War for nearly seven decades. In that same time – as one would expect – there have been extreme fluctuations in the level of funding which has directly impacted troop levels, fleet levels, and – most importantly – levels of readiness. When the funding was cut beyond readiness levels the effectiveness of our armed forces and the morale of the troops suffered terribly.


One must not forget that we cannot escape into thoughts of strict isolationism. We have treaties for common defense, not only with our neighbor Canada, but with European allies: Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom.


In Asia the United States has treaties with Japan and the Republic of Korea. In the Pacific our treaties are with Australia, New Zealand, The Philippines and Thailand. In South America, under the Rio Treaty, the United States would come to the aid of Argentina, the Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad Tobago, Uruguay and Venezuela.


These common defense arrangements established over the last 60-plus years require that we come to the aid of these 54 nations if they come under an armed attack. These treaties state that an attack on one is to be perceived as an attack on all.


The recent aggressive moves made by Russia, North Korea and, of course, China, make it a distinct possibility that one or more of our allies may be brought into an armed conflict. We need to remain prepared at levels that would allow for our defense.


Even though immediate expenditures may diminish based on the withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States faces even greater threats than it did just six years ago. In fact, with all of the treaties that the United States is party to, it could find itself in a situation that it would be ill-prepared to defend.


Sun Tzu: “One who has few must prepare against the enemy; one who has many makes the enemy prepare against him.”


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