When I was commissioned as an Army officer in 1982, one of the books listed on our mandatory reading was Sun Tzu’s “Art of War.” I willed my original copy to a young subordinate officer years ago. However, I still maintain a copy in my office at the NCPA.
One of the memorable quotes from that seminal strategic work is, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” It is that quote which is most applicable considering the most recent inane statement emanating from our Commander-in-Chief, President Barack Obama, at last week’s US Coast Guard Academy graduation.
At that event, which is the christening of young future leaders, they were told that if they denied climate change they were negligent and derelict of their duty. That, ladies and gents, is a rather harsh and hypocritical statement coming from someone who abandoned Americans to die in Benghazi, Libya and promulgated a false narrative to cover the negligent action.
It is an ironic perspective coming from someone who is negotiating with an enemy, Iran, who chants “death to America” while they are holding four Americans hostage – Robert Levinson, Jason Reznaian, Saeed Abedini, and Amir Hekmati.
What is most disconcerting is the stretch to align climate change as a cause for Islamic terrorism, at least one specific group. President Obama claimed that we need to, “Understand climate change did not cause the conflicts we see around the world. Yet, what we also know is that severe drought helped to create the instability in Nigeria that was exploited by the terrorist group Boko Haram."
This is where Sun Tzu’s quote is applicable, as President Obama knows not the nature of the enemy. A simple search and you will find that, “Boko Haram is a branch of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. It has been active in Nigeria since 2009. The name of the group means ‘Western’ or ‘non-Islamic’ education is a sin. The group is active in the north of Nigeria, and wants to impose Islamic law as the only law in Nigeria.” So Boko Haram did not appear as a result of drought conditions; their name is a dead giveaway as to what their objectives and intentions are.
Last August President Obama presented his “strategy” to defeat ISIS, a group he had previously termed as the “jayvee” team. The president emphatically stressed that ISIS was not “Islamic,” albeit the first word in the group’s name is “Islamic” – they are certainly not Southern Baptist. The Taliban derives its name from the root word, “Talib” which translates to religious student – the religion is Islam.
When murders are being conducted in the name of a religious belief – sorry, I am not talking about Crusades – we must accept the reality of the enemy. The problem is that eventually their reality will become your own. And that is what Sun Tzu was attempting to explain all those thousands of years ago. It is critical to understand and know your enemy’s intent, goals, and objectives.
Instead, as evidenced just last week, the current Obama administration prefers to dismiss the enemy and create the illusion of a completely insidious threat that aligns with their religion – global warming/climate change. On Monday this week we remembered Memorial Day, set aside for those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our nation, to honor them. While some saw this past weekend as a time for BBQ and swimming pools, there were those who lost their lives in Fallujah and Ramadi who were not with their loved ones.
Sadly, their loved ones had to endure the news, watching the non-islamic Islamic State overrun Ramadi, a place that was cleared -- an enemy that had been defeated. We heard terms such as “setback” and that the administration’s strategy was working – darn well do not want to see failure.
If the venerable Chinese war strategist Sun Tzu were alive, his counsel to President Obama would be simple: you know neither yourself nor the enemy, hence why you are not victorious. And mind you, Sun Tzu would not consider a drone strike as a means to acclaim victory, and certainly not the killing of one leader – regardless of how symbolic he may have seemed.
Strategy is about getting inside the head of your enemy and knowing his thoughts. It is not about trying to conform the enemy to your desired understanding. Strategy is about knowing your own capacity and capability – and especially your own Warriors. That is if you see them as Warriors and not pawns in your own game of thrones and political agenda – in my assessment after last week’s Coast Guard Academy address, that is how President Obama views our military.
My first piece here for Townhall.com was on how one should never base national security strategy on campaign agendas. As well, one should never be so intransigent as to deny the truth of the enemy. That simply results in conceding to the enemy the initiative and their ability to outmaneuver you strategically – which if you have not paid attention is exactly what Iran is doing.
This week, five senior members of the Taliban will be free to return to Afghanistan from Qatar, which is the home of the leader of Hamas. The delusional belief by the progressive socialist left and the Obama administration is that the existence of Guantanamo Bay is a recruiting tool for the enemy – perhaps the climate at GITMO is also not to their liking.
The most important title of the president is Commander-in-Chief. Perhaps it is time they had Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” on their mandatory reading list. And maybe they should have to do a report, just as we did back then as young lieutenants.
We know not ourselves nor the enemy. This era of delusion in regard to our national security strategy must end.