June 1, 2009  

The art of war

With regard to “New principles for new wars,” by Phillip S. Meilinger [January], I’m not convinced that Mr. Meilinger made his case, particularly when he implies that our failures of late are a result of clinging to antiquated principles of war.

War is an art, and in the art of war, it is the “principles” that drive analysis of the situation (full spectrum) and application of force in specific sequences and at specific times that determine outcome. Be it a skirmish, battle or war; be it in the Crusades, Vietnam or Desert Storm — the tools of war have changed and played their significant role on the outcome, but it is the principles of war, the time-proven foundation of analysis and art of application, that determine outcome regardless of technology.

The 4,000-plus casualties America has suffered since the lauded “shock and awe” is proof that we missed Carl von Clausewitz’s first principle: objective, as well as (at least) security and cooperation. We even gave up the element of surprise as we wasted many months and put our hopes in the U.N. for support and consensus. We assumed that after the techno-display of precision strike, the Iraqi people would flood the streets kissing American soldiers and Marines in gratitude. Oops, we forgot to secure the streets or the borders, and we did not get much cooperation from a population who had no electricity or water and could not resume daily life for many months.

Clausewitz and Sun-Tzu understood the art of war. We need more leaders who understand them and their principles.

Brig. Gen. Stan Osserman

Assistant Adjutant General for Air

Hawaii Air National Guard

Fort Ruger, Hawaii

Command and Staff College satellite campus, Fort Gordon, Ga.