Clausewitz and the Involvement of the Military in Politics

I’m republishing this piece for the readers of this blog.

In Presidential Sweepstakes McCain Sees Stars

By William M. Arkin

Washington Post December 19, 2007

A response by Con George-Kotzabasis

If Clausewitz’s dictum is correct that ‘war is the continuation of politics by other means’, then Arkin’s “dictum” that ‘the military…stays out of politics,’ is a caricature of reality.

I am using Clausewitz’s dictum to illustrate that one cannot separate war from politics if the military arm which is engaged in hostilities is going to be successful in defeating an enemy. Politicians to make the right decisions about a war must rely for their concrete data on those engaged directly in war, i.e., the military, even if these data could be influenced by the beliefs and values of the latter. Therefore the “rule” that decrees that the military should not be involved in politics, as Arkin argues, is an oxymoron.

It’s a farcical rule and goes against the grain of all experience. A perfect admittance of this reality was the questioning of General Petraeus by Congress, of the former’s military report on Iraq, when its democrat representatives, and indeed, many from the media and the anti-War movement, like MoveOn org, accused Petraeus of being involved in politics, since they all considered his report of being politically biased as it purportedly supported the policy of the Bush administration on Iraq.

Ironically, the critics of Petraeus while upholding the fiction that the military should not be involved in politics were admitting at the same time that the general’s military report was influencing politics. As indeed it should have done. Where else politicians would get their information so they could make their judgment about the policies that are needed for the conduct of war?

It’s absurd! One cannot put the political beliefs and values of the military in general, and of its commanders in particular, that inevitably flow into the political process, in the straitjacket of an unrealistic rule that ordains that the military stays out of politics.


Australian Academic Accuses US and Aussie Forces of Committing War Crimes in Fallujah

By Con George-Kotzabasis

The Australian academic Chris Doran in his article on Online Opinion on August 3, 2008, accuses and condemns the Coalition forces in their attack on Fallujah on November 2004 of breaching the Geneva Conventions and of committing war crimes. But in his passionate condemnation he disregards the fact that wars are not fought by holding the sword in one hand and the Ten Commandments in the other.

An ineradicable law of war is that its prolongation increases its brutality in ‘geometrical’ proportions and hence its casualties in civilians and the military. The action in Fallujah had the strategic goal to shorten the war. Fallujah was a hornet’s nest of foreign and local jihadists who were not only manufacturing the lethal car bombs but also sending their suicidal fanatic warriors in other cities of Iraq. The collateral civilian casualties, not in the huge overblown  fictional figures presented by the writer of the article, were inevitable in a war that the enemy uses civilians, and, indeed, members of his own family and relatives as a shield. And the question arises who is the real moral culprit and war criminal in such a case. It’s obvious however, that Doran in the heat of his pacifist hate of all wars, whether justified or not, has no propensity to even deal with this question, least of all answer it.

Over to you

Will Obama Pull Out Magnificent Soldiers from Campaign of Victory?

By Con George-Kotzabasis

In the annals of history and war no statesman or military leader ever pulled out his troops from a crucial military engagement at the threshold of its military victory. But in a reversal of these annals it will be written that in the twenty-first century the Commander-in- Chief of a great nation pledged to his people to do just that. Barack Obama will go down in history as the uniquely foolish and shameful commander who pulled out his troops from a stupendously critical operation against global terror while his magnificent soldiers were winning this war. Thus not only depriving his soldiers from returning from Iraq with the laurels of triumph on their heads, but, also, depriving America of the crown of victory. Moreover, this Christian convert inadvertently by this inexcusable political lapse and gargantuan error of judgment, will be passing this victory to his father’s religion, to Islam, to the extremists of Iraq and Iran and al Qaeda. This retreat of defeatism from Iraq will surpass the defeat of America in Vietnam in geometrical proportions whose enormous size can only be measured by a series of reflective mirrors. Such a defeat will strike a Jupiterian bolt to the reputation of America and its ability as the dominant power to continue playing a major and vital role in the geopolitics of the world and steering the latter, whenever it’s possible, to the calm waters of the harbor of peace.

If great events in history could be reversed, like a movie reel, and Obama was cast in the leading role as a malignant fairy able to reverse great past events in such a film, then the great Athenian statesman Themistocles would have withdrawn the Greek fleet from the battle of Salamis that defeated the Persian invasion of Greece; Alexander the great would have withdrawn his soldiers from the battle of Issus that defeated the Persian Empire; Hannibal would have withdrawn his soldiers and elephants from the battle of Cannae that defeated the Republic of Rome; Charles Martel would have withdrawn his forces from the battle of Poitiers that defeated the Saracen Muslims in their invasion of Europe; President Lincoln would have ordered, after the battle of Gettysburg, general Ulysses Grant to stop his attrition of  Robert Lee’s Confederate army that ended the civil war. In such a script, the savant of Harvard sitting behind the desk of the Oval Office would be writing his ignominious magnum opus to the everlasting humiliating dishonor of America.

But the ascendancy of Obama to the presidency is not only a great moral issue for America but also an immense political issue as it strikes an arrow into the heart of the hegemonic status of America as the supreme paramount power in world affairs, especially at a time when Western civilization is facing an existential challenge from the rise of radical Islam and its fanatical irreconcilable implacable cohorts of al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. No challenge of such magnitude and prodigious danger was ever resolved by populist remedies and soaring rhetorical chicanery. The ‘wings’ of diplomacy that Obama chose to attach to his ‘body-politic’  and fly over the turbulent spots of the world with the aim of remedying them, are the wings of Icarus that by flying and coming close to these turbulent spots  of the sun will lead to his crash and drowning in his ‘oceanic diplomacy’. But the great tragedy is that this drowning is not merely personal but national, as it will ‘drown’ the power, reputation, and prestige of America as a great nation. Further, it will be a top of the bill gleeful spectacle for all the enemies, begrudgers, and critics of America to see the great eagle plunging and drowning in the waters of its own making.

It’s for all the above reasons that the November election will be a test match whether the hard ball of politics will be pitched by the weak hands of a florid flashy political amateur, by the populist spin-change of Obama, or by the firm hands of the principled experienced politician McCain who embodies Melville’s Captain Ahab’s spirit–which is the spirit of America–that would strike the sun if it insulted him, as McCaine did from his cell in Vietnam.

To be or not to be is the question for Americans who are proud of their nation as the beacon of liberty and the indefatigable resolute protector of the great achievements of Western civilization. Whether America will continue to be at the summit of its benign supremacy that is axial to world order or whether it will be pulled down from this summit by the rash vacuous rhetoric of a wannabe would be president to the peril of the United States and of the West at a time that the latter are threatened by the suicidal holy warriors of Islamofascism is the question.

I rest on my oars: Your turn now

A Response to an American Isolationist

By Con George-Kotzabasis

It’s in the nature of power politics from the Roman republican times of Scipio Africanus (Carthage must be destroyed), to our own that no superpower can metastasize itself into isolationism, as your “minding our own business” implies. A benign superpower such as America by its ineluctable engagement with the world is the axis of global order.

Also, one must not forget that bin Laden is a symbol of a fanatic mass movement with multiple heads whose goal is to destroy the West and its incarnation, “evil America”. You cannot defeat such an enemy by merely “catching” or killing its symbol, bin Laden. You can only defeat him in the field of battle. Islamist terrorism is a mundanely “anarchic” movement with no centre of command. For all its true believers the centre of command is heavenly, since all of them ineradicably believe that they are the instruments of, and take their orders from, Allah.

The only way to defeat decisively such foes is to make them fail in the field of their operations , as presently seems to be happening with al Qaeda in Iraq with the new strategy of the surge which is crippling its suicidal jihadists. It’s at this point that they might start having doubts about being instruments of God and abandon their cause. This is why the outcome of the war in Iraq is of paramount importance to the war against global terror and to the security of the West.