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The (asymmetrical) Art of War.

I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor, dumb bastard die for his country.

-misattributed (in the movie) to General George S Patton but very much the sort of thing that hard chargin’ sonofabitch might have said judging by the other quotes on the page.

We love death more than you love life!

- this (and many variants) are the quote in trade of jihadis.

Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.

- Golda Meier (disputed).

What can men do against such reckless hate?

- King Theoden, The Lord of The Rings.

This war is not just asymmetrical because we have MQ-9 Reapers and the loonies in the boonies are concocting explosives in granny’s poss tub but in attitude, in principle. Aragorn of course could give Theoden an answer but what is the answer now?


  1. Red Admiral says:

    Quite right. Most sensible thing I’ve seen on Defence for years. In early 1933 Germany was a fairly nice, friendly, largely disarmed, democracy. By mid-1939 we were up to our necks in heavily-armed, rabid Nazis.

  2. John B says:

    Besides physical firepower.
    It is about top grade intelligence and intelligent, accurate, application of that information.
    This crosses over into the PR side.
    By the PR side I mean a lot more than smiling soldiers.
    Something that Israel (and the West) for instance could have done was to expose the al Dura hoax when it happened in 2000, instead of allowing it to breed a generation if jihadis and justification to slaughter westerners.)
    The West has been fighting to lose for an awful long time, and in fact when I see blatant, repeated, stupidities, I am forced to accept there must be some level of duplicity somewhere.
    Seriously, I could do a far better job of protecting western interests myself. So what are the experts playing at ?

  3. NickM says:

    I shall look up al Dura (I have a suspicion as to what that is) but you are right and the foundational point as to the intel is the realization that neither side in the GWOT is fighting each other directly. What we have is a Rugby team taking on a soccer team. Until we realise they aren’t playing by our rules (by which I mean towards the ends that civilized warfare has aimed at since Spartan fought Athenian) we shall make no progress. We desire wars of decision and the the Islamist style is not that at all. It is in fact a perverse attempt to take the principles of Gandhi to their reductio ad absurdam. There is more rejoicing in Islamist circles over one maimed Palestinian kid getting on the telly than the brave jihadis successfully ambushing an entire company of Marines.

    Unless we fundamentally grok that we can’t win. This is beyond the (wise) tactical decision of Saladin to avoid direct contact with the Crusaders and instead harass them and rely on their over-extended supply lines to fail. It’s way beyond this. It is intrinsic to their entire world view. They have nothing to lose in this world because they despise this world.

    I have no idea how one fights against such an utterly different concept of combat. I hope General Petraeus does but I doubt it.

  4. John B says:

    Professor Landes is one of the main people to expose the al Dura (and has been ignored and/or hindered by most concerned, including the Israeli Government!):

    In the more oriental (?) mind there is an understanding of power that I think often evades our more simple western approach.
    If I was to bring in the spiritual side, I would say that a world view based on the eternal is not the problem. Jesus definitely recommended such a view but He also rejected violence for gain.

  5. JuliaM says:

    Perhaps the answer could be sought in another quote?

    “I say we take off, and nuke them from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.”

  6. Kinuachdrach says:

    Changing the rules without changing our societies (much). One idea which has been knocking around is moving from MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) to SAD (Solitary Assured Destruction).

    After the UN has been closed down and replaced by the more exclusive United Democracies, the French, Brits and US might call a press conference to announce that the United Democracies are imposing SAD on Iran and Pakistan.

    If a major terrorist incident or mass casualty strike occurs anywhere in the member territories of the United Democracies, Teheran and Islamabad will automatically cease to exist in about the time it takes for an ICBM to fly. And if you think we are kidding, try to get through to your embassy in Pyongyang.

    If Iran or Pakistan want to get off the SAD list, all they have to do is prove publicly to the satisfaction of all the members of the United Democracies that they are doing everything humanly possible to prevent terrorism.

    And Saudi Arabia, Syria, and the Palestinians are invited next week to explain their plans to prevent terrorism, following which the United Democracies will discuss adding some more destinations to the SAD list.

  7. PaulH says:


    I thought this was a libertarian website. Here I see you advocating the nuclear destruction of millions of innocents for the actions of their governments. Like you (I’m guessing) I cheered from the sidelines while democrats in Tehran tried to win freedom from the oppression of their own rulers. The fight is not over and I’m waiting for their next move.

    But you want to nuke these people because their oppressors piss you off?

    Do you feel personally responsible, and liable, for the actions of your government?

  8. Kinuachdrach says:

    Paul — It is a hard world. For many years, Brits and others have been able to posture and preen, safe under the umbrella of those evil Yanks. Now Obumble has quit as the Global Policeman — Unilaterally! A new day has dawned.

    CC’s post was about asymmetric conflict. Can Europeans (the world’s premier colonialists) continue to go around being too morally pure to defend themselves? Too righteous to hit back? Or will Europeans have to start thinking about other forms of asymmetric conflict — ones that are more favorable to Europeans?

    The people who have the power to stop conflict are the terrorist sponsors in North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, Palestine. If they stop, the old colonialists of Europe will leave them alone. If they don’t stop, how many dead Brits will it take to satisfy your sense of moral superiority?

  9. NickM says:

    PaulH, Kinuachdrach,
    Yes, this is a libertarian website. My post posed a question. I didn’t suggest nuking the fuckers ’till the glowing rubble bounced though God help me the thought has occurred.

    Kinuachdrac, I like the cut of your jib. The UN is poisoned by twats. Libya chairing the “Human Rights” council and Iran on the “Women’s rights” board… I feel no post-colonial guilt. And I’ll tell ya what. No Indians I have met have a dog in that faux fight. They are much more interested in the future than the past (and trying to sell me car insurance over the phone). They have HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) and a space program. Bring India into the glorious Anglosphere and everyone else who doesn’t want to just play silly buggers and we win. This has nothing to do with da nukin’ or nuttin’ but just the glory. And I might just be being very C19th but I tend to think getting “out there” is a far more noble aim than mutilating your daughter’s genitals with the lid of a tin of pineapple chunks.

    We are so much better than they are. We look to the stars.

    And I don’t mean Jordan’s tits.

    And how can they see a C7th warlord and paedophile as above the LHC, natural rights for women and a pint of Stella? Therein lies the question.

    They are scared and they are scared because their world-view is withered and meaningless.

  10. John B says:

    Nick, “cut of jib” is indeed something lacking in the West, being, I think, moral courage. There is only ineffectual, whimpish, posturing. One hungers for some Churchillian, courageous vision, etc.
    But it does seem to me that this current Islamic/wetstern confrontation is perhaps not all that it seems. Perhaps the whole thing has been somewhat engineered or false flagged?
    In his book, My Story, written just before he conveniently died, the former Shah of Iran lays the blame for the riots and demonstrations that overthrew him at the door of the CIA.
    No, we are not looking at stupid twin tower conspiracies here, but a possible collusion of ruling elites is possible.
    The Shah maintained it was because he started trying to get a better price for Iranian oil and was doing deals with Italian-based companies.

  11. mehere says:

    It has been said that you are not really waging war if your B52s are sat on the runway instead of begin airborne and armed.

    But the problem we have in asymmetric war is that the enemies of the west (and therefore the enemies of civilisation and progress) are not only undefined by lacking an approachable ethos or being part of a government with identifiable structures, but essentially scattered amongst us.

    There are many muslims who want a peaceful life but the thrust of islam (I refuse to capitalise it in the same way I do not capitalise cancer) is to enforce what they believe in. We liberally interpret their insane outpourings in kind ways, arguing they do not really mean the death of the west. We strive to argue ourselves into corner, that their actions are irrational and the work only of those who ‘misunderstand’ their religion. Our problem is that there are significant numbers in their faith who find our approach to this risible.

    We will not even call it a war against us. We try to imagine it as a disaffection by temporarily misguided souls. Sadly, that’s not how they see it, and they have no scruples.

    In short, they are amused we are so weak, encouraged by us being so supine. They admire the strong horse while we ride around on horses so weak they have to be carried. We can also argue that out tactics in places like Afghanistan to do everything possible to allow the enemy to slip away among the population after some atrocity has not really won us any friends. They still hate us but hate us differently.

    We cannot assault their destructive ideology while we protect it so vehemently. We will not be honest, and they know this. The jihadists play on our weaknesses and toy with us by using terror to destroy our resolve still further. But equally until we abandon any scruples ourselves, we cannot engage them fully.

    Perhaps we cannot nuke Mecca or any other shrines. At least, we cannot do it unless we make a clear distinction of what is acceptable and what is not. If we define the rules of behaviour they can decide if further waging war on innocents is worth it. We may have to say to places like Pakistan that if they want to be part of a civilised world they must behave in a civilised way. India therefore may well benefit from being non-muslim but we have to accept them as an equal in the anglosphere.

    Of course, many muslims will lament not being at the top of the pile but we can reasonably say that until we can trust them to take their place in the civilised world then they cannot be in the pile at all.

    Being fair and open minded is fine when people respond to fairness, when they exhibit an equal open mind. Until then, their declarations of war and acts of barbarism need to be identified as such and responded to accordingly. They chose this path, so they cannot complain too much if we agree to resolve it our way.

  12. Kinuachdrach says:

    “Perhaps we cannot nuke Mecca or any other shrines.”

    The point, Mehere, is exactly that we (the West) can nuke Mecca or anyplace else in the Muslim world. We have the power. We choose not to use it.

    Which is admirable, up to a point.

    When we reach the point that we respond to Muslims blowing up London buses and tubes by shooting a token Brazilian in London (and then promoting the female police officer who ordered his shooting), it is no longer admirable. Making London unsafe for Brazilians is not an effective response to jihad.

    I’m all for pulling out of Afghanistan, and standing back while Africans kill each other in Darfur. We can’t save people from themselves, though we should certainly consider giving material assistance to people in those conflicts whose aims are consistent with Western interests.

    But we also need to draw a very Bright Line — cause damage on our territory, Mr. Jihadist, and your home base will learn the real meaning of asymmetric warfare.

    Those Muslim countries that do everything possible to fight jihadists should of course be exempted from Western asymmetric war. But we can’t let Muslim dictators use their own populations as human shields from behind which they can kill Londoners with impunity. If those Muslim populations don’t like being at risk, let them do whatever they need to do to replace their Ruling Class with other ones who will observe the Bright Line of no aggression against the West.

  13. mehere says:

    The point, Kinuachdrach, is that we are not able to do whatever is needed or even clearly justified because we will find a million ways of not facing reality. Even if we were able to use any weapon we had in the face of whatever vile and unreasonable provocation, we would in the west talk ourselves out of it. We will not face up to reality.

    And the muslim dictator you talk about appears to be a long dead bandit. It’s hard to ask his ‘faithful’ to replace him. I believe the phrase ‘not going to happen’ fits perfectly.

  14. El Draque says:

    Nuke Mecca?
    Why not just steal the Kaaba?
    The Crusaders tried it but failed to get there.
    (They surely had no idea how much it weighs, anyway.)

    As far as violence is concerned, I’m against it, unless – in the Anglican theory – the idea is to “tie up the mad dog”.

    Evil has to be resisted, or evil triumphs.

    For while I accept that all individuals have to be treated fairly, however daft their beliefs, I won’t accept as an equal a doctrine that says that God’s greatest creation, Mankind, capable of aspiring to reach the stars, is so evil that he has to be enslaved by a 7th century book; nor that half of Mankind has to be wrapped in a sack and beaten into submission by the other half.

  15. NickM says:

    Fightin’ talk… There are times when I wish that a US Prez would step up to the plate and say this…

    “40 minutes ago I issued the launch codes to three Ohio-class boats and the Tridents are already airborne. By the time this broadcast is finished every channel will be carrying the news of the utter destruction of Riyadh, Qom, Kandahar, Mecca and Medina and this is why…”

    But that is wrong. We must endure however bad it gets because we are either better than they are or we are nothing. We need to work out how to win without becoming the scum we fight.

    We must win but we can never descend to their level.

    Oh, don’t get me wrong! I would love to see the boom lowered and the flame of the West unfettered in it’s full panoply but…

    That is not how we do things. Another 7/7 or Madrid and fuck knows but so far we fight as soldiers. Allah fucking help them if they manage to (and I think they won’t) unleash the blood-dimmed tide for it will be truly apocalyptic. That is of course what they think they want because Allah is on their side but Allah don’t exist but JDAMs do.

  16. Kinuachdrach says:

    “We must win but we can never descend to their level.”

    Which brings us back to the British firebombing of Dresden. Or Sherman’s march through Georgia. If it comes to war, the “least inhumane” approach is maximum violence to bring the war to an end as rapidly as possible. At least, that is what good old Patton would have told us.

    OK, some of the discussion on this thread may have been tongue in cheek, but the idea of SAD does deserve some consideration. If Obumble suddenly announced on the eve of election that he had decided to get rid of some excess nuclear weapons by dumping them on the Arabian peninsula, that would be wrong.

    But there would be nothing wrong with making it clear & public today to all parties that terrorist attacks on Western homelands will not be tolerated, and will invoke an automatic nuclear response against publicly designated target cities. And also making clear to those on the public target list what they have to do to be taken off it.

    But as mehere says — not going to happen. The likes of David Cameron would rather express sympathy to the relatives of those killed in a terrorist attack than be thought of badly by the BBC for preventing an attack. The sad thing is that this moral weakness makes an attack more likely, as Chamberlain demonstrated.

  17. NickM says:

    I disagree. The slaves of Allah would love to be threatened with a nukin’. And forget Dresden. The real killer was in ’43 when Operation Gommorah practically annihilated Hamburg. That was BTW the last time Hitler went out and about. He was visibly shaken by the scene of what Bomber Command could do. Alas they then moved onto Berlin which was a mistake. As to Sherman’s infamous march from “Atlanta to the sea”- oddly enough I have spent quite a bit of time in Georgia and Sherman is not on their list of “top fellas” to this day.

    I even visited the “Confederama” at Stone Mountain. I was just a good ole boy (never meaning no harm).

    I never welded the car doors shut mind. And whilst some of my female cousins are attractive they don’t have legs quite like that either.

    “Dukes of Hazard” was filmed in North Georgia. My Georgian ex grew up in the vicinity of Kennesaw in a village with one shop – “Wild Jack’s Gun and Herb Store” which did exactly what it sounds like. Alas she drove a Honda without the Confederate Battle Banner painted on the roof. She once met “the Dukes” at the opening of a strip mall in Georgia. The extent, to this day, that Europeans regard the SE USA as a place that you get buggered by mono-toothed slack jawed yokels staggers me. Atlanta is very modern and my ex’s father was very much of the opinion that it was so because Sherman torched it. It creates a culture of non-permanence if you see what I mean.

    Well I never had to “squeal like a pig” and was indeed met with courtesy and excellent customer service. As in other southern states – never been West of the Miss. – how could I ever go back after crossing that rubicon?. I guess (and I am being a bit romantic here – but what the heck, that was a fine night in Memphis*) it’s just that a simple prejudice is so much easier than the facts.

    *Cue the Rolling Stones, “I met a gin-soaked bar-room queen in Memphis…” Dear reader, I did. And then we went to Graceland.

    If you have only been to see the fucking mouse or shopping in New York or San Fran then bugger it (millenium hand and shrimp). Go South! It is beautiful in parts.

  18. PaulH says:


    Firstly, I’m not British, so I have no colonial guilt. Nor do I have any sense of moral superiority. I just work from first principles of libertarianism… Whatever you want to do, either on your own or with another consenting adult is entirely your own business, so long as you don’t keep me up all night with the racket. A christian would recognise this sentiment from the saying ‘Do unto others….etc.’

    In the real world however, this attitude is being constantly subverted by the control freaks and power hungry who wish to control our lives for their own sense of gratification. I don’t know where you are, but where I live, the government does all kinds of stuff I don’t agree with. But, apart from an annual tax demand, they mostly leave me alone to get on with my life, for which I am forever gratefull to live in a western democracy. I suspect that most people in Iran or Saudi Arabia or Palestine just want to get on with their lives, enjoy their kids, live in peace. Unlike us in the west, however, they have no say in how they are governed so they just have to sit back, watch the ‘powers that be’ do their stuff and hope that nothing too bad happens. They are just observers rather than participants in the political life of their counties.

    So it seems a tad unfair to nuke them for shit their governments do.

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