View Full Version : Strategic Considerations
08-15-2002, 07:58 AM
This doesn't really have much to do with Aikido, save in the broader context of strategic conflict resolution, but Colleen and I got into a bit of a discussion concerning Carl von Clausewitz, and how his writings relate to Aikido. I'll use this thread to continue the discussion. :)
Combat, as a theoretical excercise, is a fascinating thing. The shift and weave of units, the balance of strength vs. weakness, the prosecution of opposing ideals and intentions is a hypnotic study. (NOTE - THEORETICAL!! Real-life combat is a terrifying, destructive thing - I mean combat as mental exercise, up to and including field excercises - what civvies call 'wargames'. I've had enough of the real stuff to last me, thank you.)
Clausewitz's book, 'On War' has to be one of the most mind-numbingly boring treatises on this fascinating subject, but remains one of the most important; due to its timeless relevance - he dealt with war as a human activity, not a matter of technology or politics. I would highly recommend it to anyone with a desire to learn about strategy and conflict. (Coffee and toothpicks to keep your eyelids propped open wouldn't hurt - just to warn you. ;) )
Wanted to mention a couple of other sources folks might want to check out if you're interested - reasons to follow afterward. :)
For folks like me who are fascinated by the strategy of conflict, there's a great movie out there called 'Heaven And Earth'. (Not the one with Rutger Hauer or whoever, this is a Japanese film.) Beyond being a superb film, it shows the battles between the Samurai Takeda and Kagetora in the 16th century; the maneuvering, the planning, the shifting alliances that went into their conflict - truly fascinating to watch, and informative: one can see first-hand how a prepared defender goads his enemy into an unprepared attack, how morale, training and loyalties are played off before and during a battle. (It's in Japanese with subtitles, but the narrator's english. Canadian, in fact. :) (Stuart Whitman.))
If anyone out there knows of other films that go into such detail of strategy, I'd love to know about it. :)
Other things I've studied in my interest of strategy are the North African campaign - one of the finest examples of strategic manoeuvering by two masters - Rommel and Montgomery. This was strategy on a scale that makes even veteran commanders shake their heads in awe.
Of books I've read, there's lots, but three stick out: Clausewitz's 'On War', of course, and Machiavelli's 'The Prince'. But for a pure examination of battlefield strategy and its employ, there's one that's truly amazing: 'First Clash', by retired British Royal Armoured Corps Major Kenneth Macksay. In the mid-'70's, he decided to write a strategic treatise using the fictional opening rounds of WW3 as a stage. After studying the armed forces of the world, he chose to center on Canada's 4 CMBG; due to their superb defensive ability. The result was 'First Clash'; virtually required reading for all Canadian soldiers. I can't recommend it enough; I've had my copy for over 15 years and still haven't mastered its strategic convolutions.
Anyway, why all this blabber about strategic sources?
This: Aikido is a martial art, and except for those who use it strictly for relaxation or spiritualism, it is a skill to be used for fighting. Fighting is only superficially a physical activity; it's largest component is mental - victory (or successful resolution; not necessarily the same thing) requires successful strategy, whether that includes intimidation, evasion, hitting the other guy first, whatever. For anyone who intends their Aikido to serve them as a fighting art, they would greatly benefit from a study of strategy and an understanding of how it relates to the situation. IMHO, of course. :)
08-15-2002, 08:56 AM
It's a different kind of strategy - more interpersonal and chess-related - but, I recommend the movie FRESH. It centers around a young kid who lives in a NYC ghetto. Don't read the box or anything, just watch it. You'll be surprised.
08-15-2002, 10:43 AM
I've always enjoyed "The Book of Five Rings" by Musashi. My favorite quote is from that book -
"In distinguishing the advantages of the tools of warriors, we find that whatever the weapon, there is a time and situation in which it is appropriate."
08-15-2002, 10:55 AM
Great recommendations, you have just increased by reading/viewing list. IMHO, war like Aikido cannot be grasped by reading and intellectual understanding, it must be experienced to knwo its reality. Unlike Aikido, once expereinced you never want to go through it again.
Until again (here, not there),
08-15-2002, 12:02 PM
I'd have to agree that The Book of Five Rings is great. I found it mostly useful for mindsets and spiritual things, though. The translation that I have, at least, whenever it starts to talk about "the spark hit", or "the crimson foliage hit" or whatever, it ends up saying that "this matter cannot be transmitted other than orally", etc... and I don't feel like taking up Niten Ichi Ryu just to find out what they are like.
Yagyu Munenori's (sp?) treatise on the family traditions of war (or something like that) has a very insightful part on what he calls "sicknesses", for example, getting obsessed with offense, or defense, or with using techniques, or with winning, or with getting rid of these weaknesses itself.
08-15-2002, 01:25 PM
I'm also a fan of Yamamoto Tsunetomo's "Hagakure". Not really a book on strategy, but it does provide some insightful stories on the life of a samurai.
08-15-2002, 01:50 PM
...Clausewitz's book, 'On War' has to be one of the most mind-numbingly boring treatises on this fascinating subject, but remains one of the most important; due to its timeless relevance - he dealt with war as a human activity, not a matter of technology or politics...
I'm surprised no one has mentioned Sun Tzu's The Art of War. Much more readable and much more relevant than Clausewitz.
08-15-2002, 02:32 PM
I was getting to that . . .
You can't beat Sun Tzu. All the guys who came after the Chinese master refer to him in one way or another, or repackage the basic ideas.
The challenge with any of the oriental authors, IMHO, is that they seem to make a lot of cultural allusions which fall flat with a non-oriental, non-military reader. You almost have to be at least one of the two to make a whole lot of practical sense of it. A fighter with a good mind and some practical experience will do to satisfy the military angle.
In any case, the original English translation of Sun Tzu on the Art of War, done by Lionel Giles, is in the public domain and available on the internet via google search. It includes his copious notes which reference to other contemporary and slightly later Chinese works which are all very illuminating.
08-15-2002, 04:12 PM
Yup, IKNEW someone was gonna mention Sun Tsu, I forgot to. :) The great thing about 'Art of War' is, I think, its simplicity. The general lays out his points clearly, logically and in an easy-to-read format.
08-15-2002, 09:19 PM
Read Art of War II By Sun Bin a direct descendant of Master Sun, by Thomas Cleary Version & comentaries. I think that those who studies war strategy and get into it by asimilation reaches the High Levels of Human Comprehension and whatever martial art he/she practices will Succeed with ease, Ah, and dont forget to train :]
08-15-2002, 10:35 PM
OK, I'm weird, but I found Clausewitz to be an entertaining read...but will admit, more than one person I know shares your opinion ;)
As for Sun Tzu, some interesting advice that ties into comments about US policy in another thread:
"when I wish to avoid battle I may defend myself simply by drawing a line on the ground; the enemy will be unable to attack me because I divert him from going where he wishes" interpreted to mean taking a stong stand may prevent an attack. The placement of Korea outside our definition of the US defensive perimenter probably led North Korea and the USSR to believe we would not defend South Korea, encouraging the outbreak of war, just as miscommunication over our interest in Kuwait to Iraq by our ambassador may have led Saddam Hussein to believe we would not defend Kuwait.
I see in "Do not press an enemy at bay...wild beasts, when at bay, fight desparately. How much more is this true of men! If they know there is no alternative they will fight to the death" potential warning for our current threats of action. Similarly, many historians have written that the US/Allies insistence on an unconditional surrender from Germany, though it made the general population happy, probably prolonged the war several years over what would have occured had Germany had the chance for an honorable surrender. Of course, an attempt at entice others within the Iraqi army to overthrow Hussein to gain better peace terms hasn't really worked yet, but still popular theory holds the Germans may have overthrown Hitler if they saw it as a possible way out.
I've mentioned them before, but two books I also liked are Men Against Fire, the Problem of Battlefield Commandby S.L.A. Marshall and On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Societyby Dave Grossman.
08-16-2002, 07:27 AM
Interesting points, Colleen, and I'll certainly check out those books.
I haven't really looked at the political situation of Korea; my studies never took me in that direction, but I'd like to comment on the Hitler/Hussein thing, if I might.
Lots of people have compared Hussein to Hitler; I disagree with that, they're nothing alike, save that A) they're evil and B) they're dictators. Hitler's rise to power was the result of superb political strategy. He was brilliant, no question about it. By using and exploting Germany's humiliation with the Treaty of Versaille, the devastation of the Great Depression, and his own twisted blend of anti-Semitism/Marxism to win Germany, he won the hearts and minds of the German people. Remember; Hitler did not usurp power; he (or rather, the German Workers' Party) was elected by the German populace. By the time the population realized what they'd done, it was far too late.
Hussein, on the other hand, is an assassin. He essentially killed his way to power, kills to remain in power. His message is straight, un-varnished anti-U.S. hatred wrapped in a shell of warped religon. This brings 2 difficulties with the populace ousting him: 1) They don't want to; the majority of Iraq (as far as I've seen, I'm no expert) see him as a saviour; a champion protecting them against the evils of the West. 2) Even if they did want him gone, remember how he got to power; removing a dictator like Hitler would be hard enough, but asassinating a master asassin? I doubt it'd be possible, at least in the current political climate.
08-16-2002, 08:23 AM
Nobodies going to mention The Prince by Machiavelli. If you want to understand the Eurocentric mentality when it comes to war, politics or business you need go no futher.
I recommend reading it along with Sun Tzu's Art of War there are some very intersting differences as well as corollaries.
08-16-2002, 09:04 AM
Wow, what a ripe discussion. I have a couple of comments, one or two for Colleen and one or two for Dave O:
Colleen is correct about the proximate cause of the Korean war. I think it was the Sec State, Dulles, who gave a speech somewhere in the Pacific and actually drew the arc of a circle on a map to delineate the boundaries of "American Interests" in the Pacific, a line that left Korea on the wrong side. Historians that I've been taught (including in residence at the USAF War College) broadly agree this was what led to the Russian/Korean decision. Bad line.
On the concept of drawing a line, though, I have a different interpretation than Colleen, although both can be correct (the beauty of Master Sun). Elswehere, he admonishes the general to "prevent the enemy's useful actions and allow his useless ones." The "line" then, is a path that appears vulnerable, and easy, obviously offered to one's opponent, as a lure. If he takes the bait, the easy kill he thinks he sees, he is then "unable to attack me because I prevent him from going where he wishes." I've found the ruse, the feigned opening, (when you are strong, feign weakness, when weak, feign strength)useful beyond measure in both air to air combat and in fencing. They serve to attract a "committed, overextending attack" as the enemy seeks to exploit the weakness and deliver the coup de gras, only to be cut down by the AMRAAM or my foil .. . the point being that committed, overextending attack should sound vaguely familiar to all on this forum.
I also agree on enemies at bay, a warning which blends nicely with the Master's admonition that the greatest virtue is to win without fighting. If he's at bay, there are other methods to employ. "containment" or even "seige" comes to mind.
: 1) They don't want to; the majority of Iraq (as far as I've seen, I'm no expert) see him as a saviour; a champion protecting them against the evils of the West.
There is a large body of research from within Iraq that predates the last 10 months of war rhetoric that says the Iraqi people would be glad to see Saddam go, even assist him onward. However, in the climate of threat of imminent invasion and potential colonization (which is a very emotional idea in all former colonies of the region), they become patriotic because they're essentially an "animal at bay". Very few in Iraq actually like Saddam or want him around; as you say, the difficulty is organizing anything that can make him go away. There've been numerous attempts in the last 10 years, all failures, but they keep trying.
His message is straight, un-varnished anti-U.S. hatred wrapped in a shell of warped religon.
Defectors who were close to Saddam unanimously agree he is definitely NOT a devout muslim, quite the contrary in fact. Nor did Saddam use any anti-US rhetoric whatsoever prior to his invasion of Kuwait and subsequent defeat. Saddam would, I think, lapse quietly into domestic barbarity if we would let him alone and not likely molest US citizens anywhere. His speeches in Iraq are mostly yawned at as twattle, especially when he tries to invoke Islam or talks about defeating the US in the mother of all battles. The people know better. I don't think Saddam hates the US as a matter of principle as I think you implied; rather, if he hates us, it's because we've pounded him with impunity for 11 years. He does not, as some press in the US would have you believe, hate us because of our freedoms and our way of life. He hates us because we won't leave him alone to his own barbarity. There's a difference: it ain't about a clash of civilizations.
A last, favorite line from Sun Tzu:
"The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom."
08-16-2002, 03:07 PM
There is a familiarity of reading well written books, and drawing upon the mistakes of real world battles that actually give precedence to the words on paper.
Realize ... most books, instructions, and thesis are written after battles, not before.
Much like learning a tactic, practicing a technique, or visualizing a new way to overcome an old adversary, putting you knowledge of tactics will take some imagination, practice, and experience.
If you want to find some of the causes of what was, such as the Korean War, then you not only have to examine what occured, but the reasons they occured because of the people in power making the decisions.
Funny how the human factor tends to screw up most peoples perception of the best tactics, or the best books about how to make things go your way.
So too, Aikido uses the huamn factor to tilt the odds into your favor ... even when the odds are incredibly against you.
08-16-2002, 03:24 PM
Did you do War College in Residence? If so, I think I'm insanely jealous...
I'm not sure if you are implying the line was smudged to bait Hussein into a trap in 90/91 :eek:, probably not what you meant to say, although an interesting concept, but if it were, it didn't work... I think the line we've drawn now is very sharp, and if meant as bait (more like a cattle prod)I hope the fish we catch are worth the cost of the bait. Like you, I think he would be happy to live out his life as King of all he surveys, and would leave us alone if we left him alone. I hope in 15 years we can say that about whomever--- possibly---replaces him in the next year.
For Dave-- Men Against Fire has both interesting info on why firing rates were so low in WWII, but also interesting history, especially of WWII: Dec 14, 1944, at the Bourcy road block north of Bastogne, 12 US infantrymen encountered what they thought was a German recon element. THey fired and fell back, thinking they'd hit 4 or so. The Germans were instaead the point of an infantry regiment leading the column of the 2nd Panzer Division. When they pulled back upon being fired on, word spread back through the column that they were facing superior numbers. As the word reached HQ, the 2nd Panzer Div was re-routed farther northward to avoid meeting the expected stiff resistence (rather than the actual 12 men, isolated by the rest of their group). This delayed their progress, prevented them from reaching Bastogne before the American forces massed, and possibly changing the entire course of the Ardennes campaign. I'd call that a definite 'irimi'.
The fact that I am not a fan of some policy decisions does not, however, mean I am not intensely proud of the American military. I think those who are currently deployed are doing their best to serve the direction of our leaders, and accomplish the mission they are given. To steal a quote from Frederick the Great "the is no finer and more useful art than the art of war when practiced by decent men."
08-16-2002, 04:17 PM
Yes, class of 2001, and what a great year. Class from 0830-1230 most days, most Wednesdays off, access to the top leadership, civilian and military, and a great trip overseas. Highly recommended!
I'm not sure if you are implying the line was smudged to bait Hussein into a trap in 90/91 , probably not what you meant to say, although an interesting concept, but if it were, it didn't work... I think the line we've drawn now is very sharp, and if meant as bait (more like a cattle prod)I hope the fish we catch are worth the cost of the bait. Like you, I think he would be happy to live out his life as King of all he surveys, and would leave us alone if we left him alone. I hope in 15 years we can say that about whomever--- possibly---replaces him in the next year
Definitely NOT! My reference to Sun Tzu was as general as I thought yours was relative to drawing a line to defend oneself. No intention of relating it to either the last Gulf War or the one that may soon be. I simply meant that given his subtlety generally, I think Sun Tzu means more than drawing a defensive line which would not by itself prevent battle in most cases. He's generally fond of ruse and deception. Hence, my preference is an interpretation of his "line" as a proffered point of weakness or a funnel to lead the enemy away from his own forces--allow him to do something useless, or miss the battle altogether.
Where's this forum where folks are discussing current policy? I'd like to read that, although folks like you and I must be careful what we contribute!
For folks like me who are fascinated by the strategy of conflict, there's a great movie out there called 'Heaven And Earth'. If anyone out there knows of other films that go into such detail of strategy, I'd love to know about it. :)
KAMI : There are many movies about strategy, even when apparently they are not. I'd cite RONIN, with Robert de Niro; GHOST DOG, with a black artist whose name I can quite remember now; FRIEND, a fantastic japanese movie; and quite a few others.
And, of course, we shouldn't forget the excellent text on THE CAT'S EERIE SKILL, artfully translated by Karl Friday and present in KEIKO SHOKON, the last and best book by DIANE SKOSS. Everyone should read it!
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