Some Geo-Political Rules on Combat
adapted from "Mideast Rules To Live By" by Thomas L. Friedman (20
If only one of every ten troops is a fighter, and only one of
every twenty is a really good fighter, then there are alot of
people in the military with motives other than combat
... and many of them are wearing lots of stripes and stars.
Anyone who thinks that the shortest distance between two
points is a straight line should be prohibited from ever
being assigned to a combat zone ... any combat zone, in any
capacity, at anytime.
Anyone who believes that the ends justify the means, or
that the means justify the ends should be prohibited
from ever being assigned to a combat zone ... any combat zone, in
any capacity, at anytime.
Don't let your hopes for a particular outcome triumph over the
lessons learned on the battlefield ... practical experience
outweighs morality and philosophy every time.
In time of war, all political philosophy is extreme, dogmatic or
doctrinaire ... all moderation has been radicalized,
exterminated, or expelled.
War is always about power. It's sometimes promoted as a
practical necessity, and often camouflaged by pretty
ideas, but it is always about raw ruthless power.
A diplomatic alliance may be a marriage of convenience
(with provisions for divorce), but a military alliance is only a
date ... and too often a blind date, with the
constant expectation of being jilted.
Whenever you come to the aid of a beleaguered country, no matter
how noble your sentiments nor altruistic your motives, you cannot
possibly want to resolve their problems more than
What your allies tell you in private about the crisis is
irrelevant ... the only thing that matters is what they will
defend in public, in their own language, to their own people.
All politicians lie, either in private or in public, or both.
Some military leaders are politicians, and some are strategists,
but you won't know the difference until you compare what they say
with what they actually do.
A diplomat is an official who is supposed to explain the
political reality in a way that benefits his cause while
persuading you that the benefit is mutual and the alliance is
reciprocal ... if you didn't need him, then you wouldn't accept
his terms, and you both know it.
Negotiation is an artform because there is rarely a happy medium
... when one side is weak, it will declare its inability to
compromise because it is weak; and when one side
is strong, it will declare its unwillingness to compromise
because it is strong.
Never accept an attributed concession, or any compromise made on
behalf of someone not present, since every future difficulty will
be found to be a misinterpretation or confusion of that
If you can't explain things with a conspiracy theory to
your own people, then don't even try to explain it to your allies
... they won't believe it, and they may not be polite enough not
to laugh in your face!
Whenever the enemy complains about your tactics, then you know
that you're being effective; and whenever your allies complain
about your tactics, then you know that you're being too effective
... sometimes they would rather keep their old problems than
accept the new problems borne of victory.
Every complaint is a disguised excuse.
When your allies object to your violations of their cultural
norms, then you know that you're being too effective ...
sometimes they would rather keep their old problems than accept
the new problems borne of victory.
When your allies blame you almost as much as your enemy for the
results of your efforts, then it's time to either change tactics,
change objectives, shift authority, shift responsibility, secure
victory, or withdraw.
Every cease-fire is an opportunity to maneuver, reinforce, or
resupply militarily while politicians negotiate.
Despite political hypotheses, wars cannot end where they began
... even if the maps don't change, the effected people are
forever changed, which often leads to another war in the future.
All wars end. Wars usually end in one of three ways: with one
side vanquishing the other, with a hard partition dividing the
parties, or with a soft partition dividing the parties that's
enforced by other parties with superior force. Whenever the least
of these resolutions is abrogated or abandoned, the next war
effecting those same parties in that same region will escalate so
as to conclude with one of the remaining options.
The result of any war is uncertain; but if the opponents have
fought before, the result will be worse than before.
Great nations should not be involved in the disputes of small
nations; but because they are great, they believe that they know
what's best for others, and imagine themselves invulnerable to
the minor attacks of little states.
The greatest precipitate of war is egoism, and its greatest
catalyst is pride ... a humiliated people will fight endlessly to
A dispute over race or ethnicity or national origin, which is an
accident of birth, but an essential characteristic of everyone's
persona, is actually about power ... tangibles and intangibles
are the same.
In time of war, any difference between peoples or persons is a
sufficient difference ... from which an adequate rationalization
will follow, sooner or later.
Justice is an abstraction that means different things to
different people, and like other social or civil rights, it is an
extension of state-controlled violence ... that is, the
expression of power by and for the people ... which, when writ
large, is called war.
When one side is fighting for freedom and the other side
is fighting for justice, then intervention is
problematic, since each characterizes the other as its opposite.
Democracy is not a legitimate military objective ... but
among its political alternatives, it is the only goal that a
civilized society will tolerate. How long that same society will
tolerate the misuse of its military forces is a political
decision that will affect the outcome of that war.
The side that will win will win ... everything else is just
Any commentary on the war will be informative for some, telling
for a few, and amusing for others ... but in the end, utterly
meaningless to any real war.
The winners always write the history, while the losers always try
to right the history ... if, by no other way, by
making another war.
Peace is not a legitimate military objective ... and it
is rarely a political goal. For the fighting to stop, somebody
must lose ... and that's probably how the war
got started in the first place!