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Some Geo-Political Rules on Combat

adapted from "Mideast Rules To Live By" by Thomas L. Friedman (20 Dec 2006)

  • 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 they do!

  • 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 allegation.

  • 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 empower themselves.

  • 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 commentary.

  • 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!