It seems to me the opening page of Von Clausewitz book- War, Politics and Power, he states a maxim that has applications not only to war but to many other areas of politics. The quote is; “War is thus an act to compel our adversary to do our will… The use of force is theoretically without limits. Philanthropic souls may imagine that there is a way to disarm or overthrow our adversary without much bloodshed, and that this is what the art of war should seek to achieve. Agreeable as this may sound, this is a false idea which must be demolished. As the greatest use of force does not exclude the cooperation of intelligence, the ruthless user of force who shrinks from no amount of bloodshed must gain an advantage if his opponent does not do the same. Thus each drives the other to extremes which are limited only by the adversary’s strength of resistance.” The quote says more than it at first appears. But, since war seems to be coming, from many anti capitalist factions around the World, it is wise to examine some of them.
The more one side limits it’s scope of actions the more advantage it gives the adversary. The historical example is the Vietnam conflict. In Vietnam the US limited it’s scope of action in some cases not equipping the US forces with ammunition until they were fired upon. The generals making the judgment that violating some self imposed philanthropic regulation had greater import than the life of a human being, someone woke up in the middle of the night to breast feed, cleaned up his skinned knees and wiped up vomit from his first time drinking. No, that human life had less gravity, than a self imposed philanthropic regulation.
When engaged in an existential war, philanthropy should be given it’s due, but philanthropy, or civilization, is not a suicide pact. Lets take another historical example, that of WWII. If the allies had not used every weapon at hand, for philanthropic reasons, the World would have been plunged into a dark age of tyranny, warfare and socialism. The standard of living of the entire World would be much lower than it is today… with all the implications for famine and pestilence. If self imposed philanthropy results in the destruction of civilization and philanthropy’s elimination from the marketplace of ideas, then there will be no more philanthropy and no more civilization.
An adversary’s strength of resistance should be taken into account before the scope of action required can be logically contemplated. When attacked by an adversary, we must look at what level of discomfort he must be placed in, to get his capitulation. Once we have ascertained this, we can then consider the scope of action required to achieve the needed result. To begin action without taking these things into regard is largely why the US always needs to “escalate” some conflict or another. Escalating a conflict is what Stalin liked to do, feed the flames of the battle. The tinder for the flames of battle, are people, of course.
These maxims have their analogies in the political arena as well. When one political side limits it’s scope of rhetoric, but the other does not, the side that puts no limit has an advantage. Take political ad homonym attacks. We see the anti capitalists call the pro capitalists, terrorists, hostage takers, bombers of the economy, and every other vitriolic name imaginable to ensure the anti capitalists don’t have to engage in any real debate. The pro capitalists however call the anti capitalists, our friends on the other side of the aisle. Whenever the policies of the anti capitalist faction are called anti capitalist, (as they are in actuality), the speaker is vilified and such vitriol is heaped on him or her the term politics of personal destruction are made manifest.
Karl Von Clausewitz went on to reveal many more gems of wisdom in his book. It is a bit heavy the first read but it comes more clear as one ponders the text. We can learn a great deal from those that came many years before us. Their wisdom and knowledge of the nature of humanity and our foibles, I believe, were greater than our own. They lived closer to nature and in a world that produced the worst and best in humanity every day. It is best not to forget what they have set down for us lest we be forced to relearn the lessons…