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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Mao on the object of war 

We were discussing the rise of Communism in China over dinner -- it is the subject of the Son's history homework tonight -- and I was moved to hunt through the attic bookshelves for my copy of the Little Red Book, the Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung. I bought the book in 1977, new, for a dollar, cheap for a book even then. The low price makes sense, of course: commies can't be seen to be turning a profit on the sayings of Chairman Mao.

Now, Mao is one of the biggest dirtbags in history. But that doesn't mean that he didn't have a smart thing or two to say about people's war, of which he is the modern architect. This passage on the object of war stands up well, I think:
The object of war is specifically "to preserve oneself and destroy the enemy" (to destroy the enemy means to disarm him or "deprive him of th epower to resist", and does not mean to destroy every member of his forces physically). In ancient warfare, the spear and the shield were used, the spear to attack and destroy the enemy, and the shield to defend and preserve onself. To the present day, all weapons are still an extension of the spear and the shield. The bomber, the machine-gun, the long range gun and poison gas are developments of the spear, while the air-raid shelter, the steel helmet, the concrete fortification and the gas mask are developments of the shield. The rank is a new weapon combining the functions of both spear and shield. Attack is the chief means of destroying the enemy, but defence cannot be dispensed with. In attack the immediate object is to destroy the enemy, but at the same time it is self-preservation, because if the enmy is not destroyed, you will be destroyed. In defence the immediate object is to preserve yourself, but at the same time defence is a means of supplementing attack or preparing to go over to the attack. Retreat is in the category of defence and is a continuation of defence, while pursuit is a continuation of attack. It should be pointed out that destruction of the enemy is the primary object of war and self-preservation the secondary, because only by destroying the enemy in large numbers can one effectively preserve oneself. Therefore attack, the chief means of destroying the enemy, is primary, while defence, a supplementary means of desroying the enemy and a means of self-preservation, is secondary. In actual warfare the chief role is played by defence much of the time and by attack for the rest of the time, but if war is taken as a whole, attack remains primary.

"On Protracted War" (May 1938), Selected Works, Vol. II, p. 156.

3 Comments:

By Anonymous rofish, at Wed Mar 29, 10:56:00 AM:

I also believe it was Alexander the Great who said" Attack,Attack,always Attack  

By Blogger Mark Zimmerman, at Wed Mar 29, 03:32:00 PM:

I have long figured Republicans have an affinity for Communist thought. This clinches it.

It makes no sense to attack for the sake of attacking.

We blew it when we didn't attack at Tora Bora. Al Qaeda will never again be concentrated on the ground like they were then.

Sun Tsu:

"Generally the one who first occupies the battlefield awaiting the enemy is at ease; the one who comes later and rushes into battle is fatigued. Therefore those skilled in warfare move the enemy, and are not moved by the enemy. Getting the enemy to approach on his own accord is a matter of showing him advantage; stopping him from approaching is a matter of showing him harm. "  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Wed Mar 29, 07:04:00 PM:

"I have long figured Republicans have an affinity for Communist thought. This clinches it."

Stupid.

"Generally the one who first occupies the battlefield awaiting the enemy is at ease; the one who comes later and rushes into battle is fatigued."

Jomini and Clausewitz made similar observations, which make perfect sense... if one marches to battle.

We don't, however. We ride to battle. HMMWVs, Blackhawks, Chinooks, et cetera. Modern warfare is not only mechanized (a la blitzkrieg style), it is now airborne too. Static defense (i.e. awaiting the enemy at ease) is a fantastic way to lose a war, or at least a defensive battle.  

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