Friday, July 29, 2011

Sun Tzu should be required reading for Conservatives.

Warning: This is mildly political.  If you get angry about anything of that sort - and angry enough to sling words at me about it, you should probably skip this post.  I'm not going to fight with you, not over the Internet, so if you're spoiling for someone to engage in fisticuffs with, I'm just going to disappoint.

Just listening to what's buzzing around politically lately makes my head spin.  It's no secret, I am conservative, federalist, and generally follow a political trajectory that thinks less government is a good thing and that individual responsibility is not only a moral necessity for a healthy society, but a functional requirement for a healthy civilization.  In our current situation, math demands change.  The sheer force of reality requires a dramatic shift from the business-as-usual accumulation of tremendous amounts of debt.  Those principles, generally speaking, put me in general agreement with the "Tea Party."  Not on everything, to be sure, but a lot.  But then we see an all-too-familiar character enter the scene: Human nature and shortsightedness.

So along comes the 2010 elections and the House is swept away. Fair enough.  It could very likely be positive for us long-term.  But maybe we should have issued Sun Tzu's Art of War along with that required recitation of the US Constitution.

Why?  Because it seems in the elation of one victory a good amount of strategy and perspective have been lost.  To Wit:

  • Opportunities multiply as they are seized.
  • If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril.
  • Thus, what is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy's strategy.
  • He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot, will be victorious.
  • In battle use a direct attack to engage and an indirect attack to win.
  • The expert in battle seeks his victory from strategic advantage and does not demand it from his men.
  • A skilled commander seeks victory from the situation and does not demand it of his subordinates.
  • Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.
Just a few, but one could go on and on.  My dear fellow conservatives, as well intentioned as you may be, you could do with a little perspective.  Threatening and vilifying those on your side of the issue because they don't agree with your timetable is self defeating and, frankly, stupid.  Charging your men into a gun line on principle with no design on how you actually secure a victory long term is short-sighted and naive.  Refusing an opportunity because it is not ideal is the surest way to deny yourself further opportunities for progress. 

Having sound principle does not excuse you from being intelligent and finding a way to progress.  But an odd assumption if often revealed in the mind of the average conservative: that principle is mutually exclusive from progress.  The same model of "progress" that has brought Western Civilization to its present state can be employed in effort to secure principles that are not only sound, but necessary for our survival as a civilization in a recognizable form.  You don't have to impale yourself on the spear of conviction in the vain hope that all will be won with that single act.  You can, movement by movement, secure victory.  It takes vigilance.  It takes patience. It takes being able to win "moral influence" with people (Sun Tzu, again). It also happens to be the only way, minus revolution, to effect long-term change. 

Pointing out your opponents' lack of that "moral influence" does not mean that you have it, either.  It does not give you leave to charge blindly into ready bayonets.  In your elation over one victory, remember yourself and the position you sit in.  You occupy one-half of one-branch of government.  You possess neither the power nor the numbers to win it all in one advance.  You will kill yourself (and take a good many of your allies with you) if you try.  If you are so obliged as to win one bright battle at the cost of losing the war, Sun Tzu would say you were never fit to rule.

Now, there might be some of you who are rather negatively predisposed to anything conservative leaning.  The mention of "tea party" in any context conjures in your mind a faceless mass of malcontents who are stupid, angry, and have a serving of blood with their people flakes for breakfast because they hate people.  Addressing you isn't my ultimate goal here, but perhaps you're reading this and you're feeling pretty special about yourself right now...  I'm sorry to disappoint you, but you have issues that far, far, exceed lack of strategic thinking in the flurry to secure principle. 

There I go, offending both sides.  If you're angry at me, I do apologize for having negatively influenced your day. It wasn't my purpose.  See my (not so) introductory post.

I'm just sayin'.

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