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Where War Can Lead

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John E. Carey
January 2, 2007

On April 12 and 13, 1861, at Charleston, S.C., forces in a state of rebellion against the United States bombarded the U.S. Army garrison at Fort Sumter.

On April 15, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln declared a state of insurrection and called for 75,000 volunteers to enlist for three months of service.

At Christmas, 1861, The Charleston Mercury noted that "there is anything else than 'peace on earth and good will to men,' yet the present situation and the prospect before us afford ample cause for gratitude. We are not perhaps so well off as we might have been, but are intact as a nation, and after many months of war with a people much superior to ourselves in numbers and resources, have proved our ability to maintain our independence."

In both the North and the South in 1861, wise solons thought the American Civil War would be quickly concluded without much loss of life.

The hell of the American Civil War had not yet dawned on the consciousness of Americans.

On June 28, 1914, a gunman assassinated Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria and Prince of Hungary and Bohemia.

A war started, but many thought it could not last long.

By Christmas of 1914, armies were engaged along a 500 mile front.

Still, there was a sense that the fighting forces were all gentlemen. The Christmas Truce of 1914 provided a brief respite from the carnage of World War I. Soldiers of both sides laid down their arms, climbed out of their trenches and celebrated together along the Western Front.

Few had, as yet, envisioned massed air forces dropping bombs, mustard gas attacks and casualties (military and civilian) numbering over 37 million.

When, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt told the U.S. Congress and the world that December 7, 1941 was "a date which will live in infamy," did he fully understand the duration of the impending conflict, the numbers of casualties the world would have to endure and the impact of nuclear weapons on the future of the planet?

Probably not.

While speaking about Iraq, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told listeners of Infinity Radio in November 2002, "The idea that it's going to be a long, long, long battle of some kind I think is belied by the fact of what happened in 1990."

On February 3, 2006, the Washington Post writers Josh White and Ann Scott Tyson started their article "Rumsfeld Offers Strategies for Current War" this way: "The United States is engaged in what could be a generational conflict akin to the Cold War, the kind of struggle that might last decades as allies work to root out terrorists across the globe and battle extremists who want to rule the world, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday."

Mr. Rumsfeld was responding to a years long Pentagon study which resulted in the Quadrennial Defense Review or QDR. The QDR stated bluntly that "The United States is a nation engaged in what will be a long war."

In about 500 B.C., Sun-tzu, wrote in "The Art of War," "In all history, there is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare. Only one who knows the disastrous effects of a long war can realize the supreme importance of rapidity in bringing it to a close. It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war who can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on."

Sun-tzu was a Chinese military man who lived in the state of Wu in the 6th Century, B.C. His book, "The Art of War" is still required reading at military war colleges around the world.

Sun-tzu's many observations are still relevant today. He wrote, "those skilled in warfare move the enemy, and are not moved by the enemy."

Sun-tzu also believed that, "Water's formation adapts to the ground when flowing. So then an army's formation adapts to the enemy to achieve victory."

Without overstating this case, there are two observations that may be made about war. First, what men envision at the beginning is seldom found to be true at the end. And, Second, adapting to the changing situation and forcing the enemy into bad situations for him is often a key part in achieving success.

The United States is believed to be at a turning point in the war in Iraq. A large segment of the American community wants to get the troops home quickly.

Yet troops returning from Iraq would do so with the knowledge that they had not "moved the enemy" the way Sun-tzu demanded. And what would our troops and their leaders say about America's ability to, like water, "adapt to the enemy to achieve victory"?
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John E. Carey is the former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc.
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