I read Tsun Tzu, the ancient military strategist from China’s Imperial past long before I lived in China. I have blogged about him before. I wrote about Mao’s reliance on Sun Tzu when I was writing one of the seminal posts in this blog. China was very fresh in my mind in those days. One thing that has changed since that early post is that I have since managed to read through Mein Kampf and some other books by the founding and influential Nazis. But they are not at the center of this discussion.
Perhaps the best literary quality of what might be called successful political manifestos and plans for cultural change would Saint Augustine’s City of God and the collaborative Federalist Papers of America’s founders Jay, Hamilton and especially Madison. Not so long ago in the East, Chairman Mao Zhe Dong actually produced a book of some literary interest — the once ubiquitous Little Red Book was a sort of mutlipurpose book which was a reworking of Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” , Mao’s own art of war which any cultural conservative with his resume would have to produce having had his experiences and on the other hand it was a radical experimentation with making Marxian and Hegelian theory and the Communist Manifesto into something Chinese. It is a sign of Mao’s talents that he could create a brief and readable book which largely accomplished these goals.
I have never read Hitler’s My Struggle or Mein Kampf and the fact that I mention it is probably more than I am normaly inclined to do in writing. I have not read The Turner Diaries although I believe that the author is still alive and is my fellow American. These I think are manifestos which resemble mine in being personal although the Turner Diaires are unique in actually being a novel. I do not despise all anger and violence and the sense of an urgent need to do something. My disdain for these books comes from another place and embodies other criticisms.Hitler was a socialist who is somehow lumped with the right like Mao he killed a lot of people in his own country. Mao admired George Washington far more than most foreigners of his stature ever have and maintained that admiration his whole life. Hitler imitated some of the American experiment but I have always despised Hitler and yes I have always admired Mao. I visited his tomb in Beijing with great respect and bought mementos as gifts. However, I could certainly have schemed against him and shot him if we had been fated to meet as adversaries. I simply would have done it with respect.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
― Sun Tzu,
The most obviously current challenge facing the Trump administration is the confrontation with North Korea. North Korea is a subject of discussion in this blog fairly often. A recent post has dealt with the subject of North Korea primarily. In addition Asia has long been a major subject of interest here. I have recently posted on my Facebook timeline a You Tube link related to what North Koreans think about Americans and another to what South Koreans think about the U.S. Army.
Those are among the small efforts that I can make to try to provide a glimpse of what the situation is like along the Yellow Sea where I lived in China amid Russians, North Koreans, South Koreans and the Chinese — among others. It is in fact a challenge for this part of the world to be well understood across much of the republic. It is not clear that we are communicating well with any of the parties in the East nor all that badly either. Much is currently unclear. That is not likely to be entirely accidental.
“All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.”
― Sun Tzu,
It has been over a dozen years since I walked around China, and especially Yantai’s Korea Town. For me the chances I made there for influencing the way things have worked out have slipped away. One of the things that has happened as I have gotten older is that I have slowly reached the point where very few of my minutes are spent hoping for a specific set of advantages such as one might play for in a set of business deals if one were a major worldwide developer. In many ways there is far less resonance between my life and that of Donald Trump in recent years than there has been in the past. Although our lives have never been much alike. I could try to find a few good things to say about this administration generally but I am not likely to do as much of that as I possibly could. I am an American and I support the American President in his efforts to promote our interests. Many who do support each and every country affected by this crisis nonetheless have reason to question the capacity, skill, information and even intentions of their leaders — how one balances doubt and support varies from country to country. Su Tzu had a few thoughts about what made a leader successful in conflict.
“Thus we may know that there are five essentials for victory:
1 He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
2 He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.
3 He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks.
4 He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.
5 He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.”
― Sun Tzu,
I am not likely to do much of that in this post. The fact of the Trump Administration’s existence and its communications of policies and messages is more of my concern today than other things are. This has been a difficult week at a personal level — a week of moving ever in a downward spiral. But that is much the same pattern that typified my week on any given week of the Obama Administration. Neither the Trump Administration nor the Obama Administration excited in me great hopes for the future. Neither have I blamed either administration in a large and significant way for the lack of hope that I often feel. Presidential politics provides one set of frameworks for the world in which I live my life. Both Trump and Obama have tried to modify and amplify the effect that their presidency could have in many of our lives. But for most people, I am not sure that the personal impact has been all that great. That is only if one takes a very narrow view of the office. At another level every Presidency has a great impact. I have recently mentioned the Roosevelt legacy in politics and whether one discusses Franklin, Eleanor or Teddy — the Roosevelts were also a transformative force.
But I am not confident that President trump will move in the transformational directions that I would like. I have set out an agenda in this blog and I still stand by it. It has cost me a great deal — and I had severe limits on what I could afford when i began to write it. But having written policy statements, model constitutions and cultural criticism — one stands by them. At least this one who is me does, whenever possible. But since the Conservatives became the majority in the UK Parliament and Trump was elected here the interest in the politics put forth here has declined overall.There have been spikes of interest in this blog, even very recently. I am hopeful that it may yet have its role to play. This has been a week of getting things into a lower orbit in some ways. I am simply aware of the constant trend toward pairing down expectation and limiting exposure to the internal risk of having to focus on the barest kind of public existence.
This is a different day than many I have had and yet there is a definite connection to it’s seemingly countless dates which are its mates across the course of my life. But it is also a day in the Trump administration and this blog has not focused on politics nearly as much as it did during the Obama Administration. I am only checking in here to say my politics have not changed but the President has and we must face the future he is leading us into. This is a challenge and we must recognize that fact — yet there is more than winning which is desirable.
“What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease.”
― Sun Tzu,