Saturday, September 20, 2003

"Twin Towers Bombing," written Sept. 12, 2001

Another anniversary of September 11th has now come and gone. This is what I wrote on the day after the event, September 12, 2001.

Discussing security strategy, tactics and response misses the main point that yesterday showed: ultimately, there is no way of keeping an event such as this from happening except by making the people of the world love us more.

I know it sounds absurd. But in the end, there is no other prevention.

We think we are good and right almost always. Maybe that's so. But we are unable to understand the deeper motivations of the perpetrators.

We are people of the highest privilege; and yet it surprises us to find that others in the world are unimpressed by our statements that we are the world's beacon of freedom. That is not impressive to them? Why not?

Let me suggest that when we walk away from international treaties, when we hold nations captive to debt, and with a thousand other acts less noticed by us, we are causing resentments.

What comes foremost to my mind is that we need to be sweet and highly generous - to a fault. Not to these perpetrators, obviously, but generally to the world at large.

Prior to this event, I've joked that if you take a poverty-wracked enemy of the United States like, say North Korea or Cuba (now add Afghanistan), we'd be better off strategically and financially if we paid every citizen there a personal check for $5,000 from the US taxpayers, rather than spending our money on the perpetual war machine. We'd save so much effort, stress and cash if we just bought the friendship of the populace!

Obviously, I was being facetious. But think about it, ask yourself -- what did we spend yesterday? What will it cost us to remain so long aloof and oblivious to the wretched of the world outside? Trillions?


I have not released this writing before now because frankly it lacks sophistication in the matter of explaining the alchemy of how our conduct in relation to the Arab-Muslim world contributed to the atmosphere of fear and desperation that brought fundamentalist-extremist terrorists into being there. That is, I had felt that what I wrote then was too easily susceptible to the fearmongering charge that the author is justifying the terrorists’ actions or “blaming America first.” A fine rendering of this relationship was recently given by Karen Armstrong (“Our Role in the Terror”, Guardian/UK, September 18, 2003) and I feel that, backed by the reader’s understanding that I am entirely in agreement with the view she expresses, I no longer need to worry that my position is not well-represented.

What matters most to me now is the central point that mattered most to me then: not what our government did or didn’t do previously that might make us “responsible”, nor what the hell was/is going on in the minds of the terrorists. The thing that matters is the heart’s measure of what our nation is doing today and tomorrow. Are we serving love?

I’ve seen scant national progress by that measure from September 12, 2001 to today - the national policy is more about fear and dreams of domination. Coming from an unloved, unloving place. Yet if America would bring love, we would get love, and though I suppose it would be better if we were not so selfishly motivated for reciprocity, still that would be a great step forward from the quality of our actions over the past two years. Maybe money can’t buy us love, but love can; would that our only fault were to be that understandably and forgivably self-serving.

The only way to create a safer world is to ensure that it is more just." - Karen Armstrong

Friday, September 12, 2003

The Art of "Strategery"

I would like to share with you a timely bit of Sun Tsu's ancient classic The Art of War, so that we might more richly consider the recent chess moves of our leader, Geo. W. Bush (text excerpted/adapted from a wonderful translation, The Art of Strategy by R.L. Wing).

Leadership is intelligence, credibility, humanity, courage, and discipline.

Foretelling triumph: Much computation prior to a challenge brings triumph. Little computation brings defeat.

Knowing the costs: To raise a corps of a hundred thousand, a thousand pieces of gold will be spent each day.

Those who have supreme skill use strategy to bend others without coming to conflict. Attacking a fortified area is an art of last resort.

Swift strategies: If the force's operations in the field are prolonged, the support of the organization will be insufficient. Those who are not entirely aware of strategies that are advantageous cannot be entirely aware of strategies that are disadvantageous.

Skilled executors do not return again and again to levy taxes or transport provisions. They bring what is useful from the organization, and let their opponents show them the way to provisions. One container of the opponent's food is the same as twenty containers of their own.

Generally, those who occupy the place of conflict early can face their opponent in comfort. Those who occupy the place of conflict late must hasten into conflict troubled. Therefore, when opponents are satisfied, they should be starved; when calm, they should be moved.

Know the other and know yourself, one hundred challenges without danger; know not the other and know yourself, one triumph for one defeat; know not the other and know not yourself, every challenge is certain peril.

Those who destroy the opponent are enraged. Those who take hold of the opponent can take advantage of their resources. This is using a triumph over the opponent to enhance one’s own strength.

In a conflict, the straightforward will lead to engagement and the surprising will lead to triumph. Thus, those who are skilled at producing surprises are as infinitely varied as heaven and earth.

The ultimate positioned strategy is to be without apparent position. Without position even the deepest intelligence is unable to spy. The days may appear long or short; the moon may wax or wane.

Subtle! Intangible! Seemingly without shape. Mysterious! Miraculous! Seemingly without sound. Those who are skilled in conflict master the destiny of their opponents. If we want to challenge an opponent, challenge so the opponent cannot help but engage: attack a location the opponent is compelled to rescue. If we do not want a challenge, challenge so the opponent unable to engage: distort the opponent’s sense of location.

Leaders are those who protect an organization. A ruler brings adversity by calling for an advance when the force is not able; by calling for a retreat when the force is unable; and by not understanding the natural authority and work of the force, and aligning it politically or with officials which make the force doubtful.

Calculating fundamentals: Which view, which leader can affect Nature and the Situation? Which Art, which strategy, has numerous strengths? Retain leaders who heed these calculations.

Those who are skilled in conflict put themselves beyond defeat and await their opponent’s reach for triumph. To secure against defeat depends on oneself; the opportunity for triumph depends on one’s opponent.