Leadership: China Admires the New American Way of War

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September 13, 2006: The Chinese recently published a confidential after-action report on the new American way of war. The Chinese believe that these new tactics were first manifested in Bosnia, and later in Kosovo, then during the ouster of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and currently in Iraq. Although folks back in the US tend to look at the Bosnia and Kosovo missions as "meals on wheels" operations unworthy of "real" armed forces, the Chinese think the Americans are on to something.They called these operations, "non-contact warfare."

In their view, in both Bosnia and Kosovo, the U.S. leveraged highly selective use of air power, economic sanctions, and information operations, to achieve its objectives with virtually no casualties on either side, and little permanent damage as well. They are even more interested in operations in Afghanistan. They see the 2001-2002 campaign there as a highly sophisticated operation that simultaneously blended the selective use of American air and ground forces with local resistance fighters, information operations, bribery, diplomatic maneuvering, humanitarian assistance, assassinations, and other actions, to oust the Taliban, while the opening phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom demonstrated how effective American troops were in conducting a highly sophisticated, mobile, and well-coordinated "conventional" campaign.

They also believe that operations in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2003 have not been successful, and that the outcomes there remain "uncertain." To better understand this Chinese perspective, you have to be familiar with the ancient Chinese military writer Sun Tzu. This sage was a big proponent of the indirect approach, and winning wars without fighting. The Chinese particularly admire the American ability to fight so often, but suffer such low casualties. Not all of Sun Tzu's advice is still applicable. For example, he would have handled the stubborn Sunni Arabs of Iraq, and Taliban of Afghanistan, by killing them all, or driving them into exile. This approach has been used throughout human history, and is still being applied today in some parts of the world. But alternative approaches to such disputes are, especially among Western cultures, considered preferable. Thus the extended dialog with the Sunni Arabs, while battling Sunni Arab terrorists. Sun Tzu would consider this too expensive, and too generous for the stubborn, and greedy, Sunni Arabs. But this ancient logic is no longer relevant, and the kinder and gentler modern approach has the advantage of a democratic form of government that can, eventually, integrate the Sunni Arabs into a democratic Iraq. Sun Tzu lived 2,500 years a go, in a world that did not recognize democracy as an practical form of government. Many in the Middle East still agree with this assessment, but that's another story.

 


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