Friday, June 19, 2009

Warfare -- Will a weak nation attack a strong one?

[See Michael Kuznetsov's comments below mine]


I confess that I did offer the opinion that the Russian Winter played a role in both the defeats of Napoleon and Hitler, but I qualified that statement. I believe I said, "I won't insist on it." In fact when I think or write about those two, Napoleon and Hitler, I think of their mistakes rather than the Russian successes. Why would any general send an army into dangerous winter conditions without providing it with proper clothing?

As to the other quote of mine which you found objectionable. It is an exploration of the ideas of anthropologists Steven A. LeBlanc and R. W. Wrangham, I wouldn't say that they represent, particularly, the ideas of America or even my ideas. That never occurred to me. They are presented as representing the ideas of all humans. These and other scientists believe that they have discovered a genetic predisposition to war. To disprove the part of their theory you object to, you would have to show in history examples of weak nations attacking nations they believed were stronger. I don't think you can do that. If a nation is found in history to have attacked a stronger one; then I think you will also find that it made a terrible mistake. It miscalculated. It thought it was superior but as it turned out it wasn't.

This has been common sense for a long time and it is only new that scientists find this same behavior reflected in our nearest relative, the Chimpanzee.

Consider for example Luke 14:31-32. "Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit-down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace."

Note that Jesus doesn't insist that 20,000 will always defeat 10,000. We have seen the case of Xenophon and his "Anabasis," his "uphill march." He was successful in maneuvering his army through forces that outnumbered him because his soldiers, leadership and tactics were superior to those of they encountered on their way back to Greece. Also, Xenophon didn't decide to attack superior forces initially. When the king he was fighting for as a mercenary was killed, he was forced to fight his way home.

I have read a great deal about warfare and would like to hear some examples of Russia attacking enemies it knew to be more powerful than it was. I can't think of any nation that has done that. Even Japan didn't do that when it attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 for it believed its alliance with Germany would prevail over the US in the long run.

Even in cases where an aggressor is ultimately vanquished, he probably believed at the time of his initial aggression that he would win.

And I exclude guerilla activities in this analysis, for the guerilla's do not intend to meet an enemy on a field of battle. They intend to do just as the Chimpanzees do, to sneak up and attack the enemy when it isn't expecting it, and then run away.

I also exclude nations that have been attacked by a stronger enemy and then find means to attack the enemy at night or in the early morning (Chimpanzee fashion) in hopes of getting the stronger enemy to withdraw.

Yes, weak nations often defend themselves against stronger nations, but that isn't what the anthropologists were talking about.

Lawrence Helm

Michael Kuznetsov has left a new comment on your post "Britain as Superpower":


I struggled to comprehend which country (apart from Britain) the Anonymous considered to be a second superpower, but I failed.
Indeed, mostly he sounds rather inadequate.
So, I do not feel like having a discussion with him.

I have re-read my older comments on your blog and found that, actually, I have already expressed all what I could.

From time to time I visit your blog and continue to consider it interesting.
Sometimes your materials sound funny, e.g. the childish thesis about how General Frost defeated both Napoleon and Hitler.
It's very funny ha-ha!

Some other materials sound extremely revelatory and explicitly self-exposing.
For example, I quote your words:
"So, yes we are hard-wired for war, as the anthropologists tell us, but not in a blind way. We calculate, and if the odds are against us, or if there is no advantage in moving ahead with an attack, then we refrain. We don't do it. And we see that we don't have to do it . . . [although, when attacking Iraq] The risks of retaliation were low."

For us Russians, the American idea, expressed by you, to attack only those weak who could not strike back sounds unexpectedly too much self-disgraceful.

If, some fifteen or so years ago, I had read (but I had not) such phrases anywhere in our Russian press, I would have immediately concluded it to be a dirty piece of sheer anti-American commie's propaganda.

But I do strongly believe that you personally are neither a Communist, nor an anti-American activist.
Hence, Lawrence, I feel very much amazed with your revelations.



1 comment:

Michael Kuznetsov said...


I feel satisfied and relieved with your explanation.
Evidently, I must have failed to understand you in full measure regarding the alleged "American idea to permanently attack the weak."

So, I can now say that my esteem toward the American people is restored, which fact is rather comforting for my Russian Soul:-)

I will try to continue our interesting and helpful exchange of opinions as soon as possible.