- The Washington Times - Friday, January 5, 2007

On April 12-13, 1861, at Charleston, S.C., forces in a state of rebellion against the United States bombarded the U.S. Army garrison at Fort Sumter. On April 15, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln declared a state of insurrection and called for 75,000 volunteers to enlist for three months of service.

At Christmas 1861, the Charleston Mercury noted that “there is anything else than ‘peace on earth and good will to men,’ yet the present situation and the prospect before us afford ample cause for gratitude. We are not perhaps so well off as we might have been, but are intact as a nation, and after many months of war with a people much superior to ourselves in numbers and resources, have proved our ability to maintain our independence.”

In both the North and the South in 1861, wise solons thought the American Civil War would be quickly concluded without much loss of life.

The hell of the American Civil War had not yet dawned on the consciousness of Americans.

On June 28, 1914, a gunman assassinated Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria and Prince of Hungary and Bohemia. A war started, but many thought it could not last long. By Christmas 1914, armies were engaged along a 500 mile front.

Still, there was a sense the fighting forces were all gentlemen. The Christmas Truce of 1914 provided a brief respite from the carnage. Soldiers of both sides laid down their arms, climbed out of their trenches and celebrated together along the Western Front. Few had, as yet, envisioned massed air forces dropping bombs, mustard gas attacks and casualties (military and civilian) numbering over 37 million.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt told the U.S. Congress and the world that December 7, 1941, was “a date which will live in infamy.” Did he fully understand the duration of the impending conflict, the numbers of casualties and the impact of nuclear weapons on the world’s future? Probably not.

The U.S. involvement in Vietnam started innocently enough. In 1954, liaison officers with the newly established United States Military Assistance and Advisory Group deployed to the Republic of Vietnam. For the next eight years, U.S. activities in Vietnam consisted mainly of advisory and staff responsibilities. This began to change in mid-April 1962 when the U.S. began deploying helicopters to Vietnam to aid the South Vietnamese with logistics.

Following the Gulf of Tonkin incident in August 1964, the U.S. commitment to Southeast Asia expanded. The advisory and assistance phase of the Vietnam War ended and the U.S. now began to deploy combat troops in great numbers. Men like U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara knew America would be successful in Vietnam.

While speaking about Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told listeners of Infinity Radio in November 2002, “The idea that it’s going to be a long, long, long battle of some kind I think is belied by the fact of what happened in 1990.”

On Feb. 3, 2006, The Washington Post’s writers Josh White and Ann Scott Tyson started their article “Rumsfeld Offers Strategies for Current War” this way: “The United States is engaged in what could be a generational conflict akin to the Cold War, the kind of struggle that might last decades as allies work to root out terrorists across the globe and battle extremists who want to rule the world, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday.” Mr. Rumsfeld was responding to a years-long Pentagon study which resulted in the Quadrennial Defense Review or QDR. The QDR stated bluntly that “The United States is a nation engaged in what will be a long war.”

Despite his many critics, Donald Rumsfeld seems to have exhibited a deeper understanding of war than most.

Reporters howled at some of his press conference remarks, which frequently seemed evasive. In congressional hearings, his language and approach frequently frustrated senators and their staffs.

“As we know, there are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know we don’t know. ”

Donald Rumsfeld delivered this line during a Pentagon news conference on Feb. 12, 2002. Hart Seely wrote about Mr. Rumsfeld’s seemingly round about way of discussing war in Slate Magazine. His article was called, “The Poetry of D. H. Rumsfeld.”

Mr. Rumsfeld was far from the first to utilize some obscure sounding language to deal with the difficult subject of war. In about 500 B.C., Sun-tzu, wrote in “The Art of War,” “In all history, there is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare. Only one who knows the disastrous effects of a long war can realize the supreme importance of rapidity in bringing it to a close. It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war who can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on.” Sun-tzu was a Chinese military man who lived in the state of Wu in the sixth century B.C. His book, “The Art of War” is still required reading at military war colleges around the world.

Sun-tzu’s many observations, it seems, are still relevant today. He wrote, “Those skilled in warfare move the enemy, and are not moved by the enemy.” Sun-tzu also believed that, “Water’s formation adapts to the ground when flowing. So then an army’s formation adapts to the enemy to achieve victory.”

Without overstating this case, there are two observations that may be made about war. First, what men envision at the beginning is seldom found to be true at the end. And, second, adapting to the changing situation and forcing the enemy into bad situations for him is often a key part in achieving success.

The United States is believed to be at a turning point in the war in Iraq. A large segment of Americans wants to get the troops home quickly.

Yet troops returning from Iraq would do so knowing they had not “moved the enemy” the way Sun-tzu demanded. And what do you think our troops and their leaders would say about America’s ability to, like water, “adapt to the enemy to achieve victory”?

John E. Carey, a war college honors graduate, is the former president of International Defense Consultants Inc, and a frequent contributor to The Washington Times.

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