Interesting thing, war. Many things written in the past by students of war still resonate. For example, Carl von Clausewitz, 1780 – 1831. He wrote ‘On War’ (‘Vom Kriege’). A couple of useful quotes, ‘Many intelligence reports in war are contradictory; even more are false, and most are uncertain… In short, most intelligence is false.’
Fair enough. Doesn’t mean that you don’t take it into account, it means that you treat it with caution. Like all intelligence. You also don’t want to try and pressure those providing it to say what you want it to say. That’s called lying. Remember the Weapons of Mass Destruction, WMD, that existed in Iraq? That was based on politically driven ‘edited’ intelligence and we all know how that turned out.
Here’s another, ‘Politics is the womb in which war develops.’ Appropriate for the time and I would argue, still relevant. Politics back then were, in many cases, driven by personal aggrandisement, arrogance, aggression, and a sense of entitlement. Okay, yes you’re right, it’s also relevant today. You’ll have your own ideas as to whom this applies.
Some politicians see value in war. Seriously, they do. A war can be used to bring a population together in a ‘righteous war’ when you’re slumping in the polls or there’s civil unrest caused by your policies. Initially, the country is united as the (non-fighting) politicians send men and women away to fight. Then come the casualties. The broken. The coffins. The push-back. This because the plan is going pear shaped. Why? Well, let’s go back in history to a student of Clausewitz, Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, Chief of Staff of the Prussian Army before World War One. He wrote, ‘No plan of operations extends with certainty beyond the first encounter with the enemy’s main strength.’ Commonly summarised as, ‘No plan survives contact with the enemy.’ Yep.
Why am I writing about this? Why do I feel it relevant? Well, put quite simply, we have a world that is stuttering. Health, trade, international relationships, finance, national security, in fact, the ‘whole jing-bang’ as folk from the North East of Scotland might say. It’s stuttering; people and communities are uncertain; misinformed and malicious information is being spread; people are losing their jobs and are fearful of the future. It’s stuttering. It’s concerning.
When one adds those using Covid-19 to increase their political authority, that concern increases. Think Hungary, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, China, Philippines, and, oh, yes, North America. There are many that might come to mind, some more overt than others.
However, weaponising Covid-19 for political ends is a dangerous strategy, really dangerous. This virus is an enemy that has no ego, no plan, it exists just to infect. That’s it. Weaponise Covid-19 and your planning won’t last beyond first contact with the enemy, be it the virus, or the country you have suddenly decided is the cause of your country’s financial and social tensions and have attacked either militarily or economically.
The investment of billions in arms over the decades also needs to be reset. War has moved on, it’s more asymmetric although killing a fellow human being has become even more industrialised and effective. What value an aircraft carrier, or a multi-billion dollar jet when your enemy won’t come at you head on? What value highly trained men and women when they succumb to a virus? Weapons don’t and cannot fight pandemics. Definitely a reset.
‘Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its labourers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.’ (General Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953)
He knew about war.
So, back to where I started. On War? Reset.
J J Mitchell
‘No one left behind’