Monday, January 30, 2012

Where are the hunters?

Somewhere in the hills of Afghanistan, around a small open fire, there sits an old veteran of the war against Russia. Near him sit young hunters, his grandsons, with oiled AK-47s on their laps; guns still warm from a recent hunting trip. Their prey today was American soldiers. The old man listens to their stories. He smiles and remembers his own.

The American military has become, over the past decade, despite the "shock-and-awe" overture of the Iraq War symphony, the hunted. The denouement to that war was an "adagio". America has (played is a disrespectful term to the wounded and fallen) exercised the tactics and strategy of defense to such a degree that they have forgotten the art and science of hunting. Despite sitting at the top of the technological food chain of military competence, they have become the prey of the hunters of the world.

When Seal Team Six killed Osama Bin Laden, you may have been impressed with our hunting skills. Think again. They tracked down an old very sick man. I was not impressed.

I’m concerned that our nation-building believing Army, our surge-capable forces, the makings of people like “Saint David” Patraeus, or the once hubrised retired Stan McChrystal, has become an extinction fraught elephant hunted for ivory trophies.

Hunting requires cunning and patience, a laundry list of skill sets we now lack. Hunting demands secrecy but our military leaders have facilitated transparency and access. They wish a closer relationship with their sponsors; the American people. The press presses for access, yet there are no contemporary Bernard Falls capable of writing a thoughtful book like Street Without Joy or Hell in a Very Small Place.

But the hunters we hire just may be the legions of private military contractors on your tax-supported payrolls. You don’t wish to know their names. Their operations do not include embedded journalists. You won’t catch them at press conferences.

You may be interested in the wisdom of hunters. Dip into the ancient Chinese 36 stratagems for reminders of the artform. For example:

Deceive the heavens to cross the ocean
...Prepare too much and you lose sight of the big picture; what you see often you do not doubt. Yin (the art of deception) is in Yang (acting in open). Too much Yang (transparency) hides Yin (true ruses).

You’ll not find this treasure trove of wisdom in the curriculum at the Army’s Command and General Staff College. When I taught there, I offered them to my students as additional reading. Contemplating the implications of some of this wisdom confronts the doctrine of our Army, yet it informs us about our enemies. Could we be so bold as to think and operate like this? Not today, not now…for we are the targets of the ruse, the prey of the hunters.

reference: The Book of Stratagems by Harro von Senger

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