May 19, 2006

Sun Tzu vs Clausewitz

Bottom line: Sun says try to attack the plans first (asymmetrical warfare in today’s parlance), Carl says attack the forces and centers of gravity first (a more “symmetrical” or “conventional” way of waging war.)

Comes now Iran. The basic “beef” we’ve got with Iran is that they are supporting terrorism, rapidly developing nuclear weapons, contributing to the instability of the region through regime statements and support of insurgents in Iraq. All three of these issues are becoming more and more dangerous toward US interests in the region.

A General Clausewitz, if he could be resurrected form the grave and transported to the E-Ring of the Pentagon, would probably be looking at Iran’s deployment of military forces. He would consider the blue force commitment in Iraq, the enemy population centers, and devise courses of action for a military strike to solve the problem. In modern terms, Clausewitz might have looked approvingly on the initial invasion plan for Iraq, as a solution to removing Saddam from power.

A zombie General Tzu might consider the cultural, economic, and political spheres of influence in Iran –and the relation these pressures have on the ruling regime. He might next consider how to exploit gaps and apply pressure in order to accomplish the mission. If the mission was to convince Iran to abandon their nukes and stop supporting terrorism, disconnecting the regime that allows these activities from a population that might have other ideas about where their country should go –and replacing it with a more conciliatory one (or convincing the current one to see it our way) could be the choice he may recommend. Tzu might have nodded if he got to peruse the SOF plans for infiltrating into Afghanistan, teaming up with the Northern Alliance, and using US airpower to thwart the Taliban.

So how would America implement a “Tzu”-like strategy for dealing with the current Iran problem? How could we “balk his plans” best? Obviously, a full-on, Clausewitzian conventional, OIF-1-style attack would be a 100% solution for our three goals: terrorist support, nuke pursuit, and regime change, but it would be a HUGE drain on the nation, the military, and the economy. But we don’t always need a 100% solution to our problems –sometimes a 75% solution will work just fine. Using the three main problems I outlined, and –this is important- assuming regime irrationality, let’s take a look at how to sucker-punch the Iranian regime.


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