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Re: Unrestricted Warfare

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  • thekoba@aztec.asu.edu
    ... Dear Eric, At long last, and straining the capacity of my computer, I read through this book by Colonel Wang and Colonel Qiao of the People s Liberation
    Message 1 of 2 , Jan 16 5:24 PM
      >Dear Kevin,
      >You may remember that book by the two Chinese military
      >officers which was translated into English under the
      >title Unrestricted Warfare.
      >I ordered it via a bookstore over two months ago and
      >it still hasn't come. Today I searched the internet
      >to see if the publisher still puts it out. I don't
      >know if that publisher does or not, but what I
      >discovered is that the CIA translation is available on
      >line in two places:
      >and, in PDF format (I think this is the CIA site):
      >I've started going through the book quickly. For my
      >taste it spends too much time defining certain terms
      >and quoting experts on them from US military
      >publications (which at least gives a feel for how
      >closely the Chinese are watching what the US military
      >write and publish).
      >Nevertheless, their perspective is very interesting
      >and you might want to familarize yourself with it. It
      >is in general reasonable, and their overall thrust is
      >sound -- saying that a new concept of weapon is needed
      >whereby anything can be turned into a weapon, and that
      >this is the means for poorer countries to counter the
      >I went ahead and printed out the 228 pages from the
      >PDF site, but you might try printing chapters from the
      >other site or some other method -- or even read on
      >line, which I don't mind doing with relatively short
      >texts of a few pages, but not for books.

      Dear Eric,

      At long last, and straining the capacity of my computer, I
      read through this book by Colonel Wang and Colonel Qiao of
      the People's Liberation Army. I did not bother to print it
      or download it but simply read it straight from the address,
      taking all afternoon to do so.

      Wang and Qiao were certainly right that there are many means
      of waging warfare besides the strictly military, including
      economic warfare, cyber warfare, and psychological warfare.
      They are correct to point out that these non-military forms
      of warfare produce casualties and suffering among civilians
      and are themselves waged by civilians, so that there is no
      meaningful distinction between soldiers and civilians in
      modern warfare. It is true that the sanctions against Iraq
      are being enforced by the United States Navy, but the
      economic deterents against breaking ranks are also instrumental
      in maintaining the sanctions, and even were the Navy not there,
      few countries would violate these sanctions. The sanctions,
      have, of course, killed more people than the 1991 war did.

      I was a bit puzzled by the authors' claim that the 1997
      economic crisis in Asia was an act of economic warfare and
      started by a single person. That is mind-boggling to me.
      I've never heard that hypothesis before and find it difficult
      to believe that to be possible unless the economy in Asia
      was already about to collapse anyway. Nonetheless, whether
      or not that particular claim is true, the modern norm of free
      trade and an unrestricted world market economy does make
      countries vulnerable to trade wars and other forms of
      economic attack.

      The authors seem remarkably insigntful on recent events,
      given that this was written prior to 2001. For example,
      they write of how the United States has only a small
      fraction of its military budget devoted to anti-terrorism,
      and how the anti-terrorist effort of the U.S. government
      is fragmented into 47 agencies. Apparently in this they
      foresaw the creation of Homeland Security. They mentioned
      the World Trade Center as a potential target, but remembering
      that there had been an attack there in 1993, that is not
      quite as surprising as it may initially sound.

      The work is certainly flawed in many ways. The authors are
      themselves guilty of hackneyed thinking and perpetuating old
      stereotypes, such as claiming that Hitler was a maniac with
      no knowledge of strategy and tactics. The work is also
      riddled with Postmodernism, including the insistence that there
      are rules of victory on the one hand and the insistent that
      these rules are unknowable or at least undefinable on the other.

      Downright bizzare in its mysticism, is the frequent reference
      by the authors in the latter portion of this work to the
      ratio of 0.618, the "golden section", one of the mystical
      numbers of Pythagoras. Supposedly, the authors claimed, this
      number is the key to military formations and other aspects of


    • thekoba@aztec.asu.edu
      ... Even the physical sciences occasionally use empirical mathematical models that are not firmly grounded in scientific laws. I know of some cases of that in
      Message 2 of 2 , Jan 17 9:14 AM
        >Dear Kevin,
        >On the mysticism of the Chinese colonels, I have
        >observed that as various human pursuits become more
        >technical, that pratitioners of them have a way of
        >mistaking the phenomena created by their technical
        >activities for the ultimate causes of the phenomena.
        >This produces a kind of post modern mysticism, often
        >non-religious, but none the less far removed from
        >My wife worked in foreign exchange in Hong Kong for
        >awhile. In that sphere, as in the stock market, for
        >example, they make charts of the ups and downs of the
        >market. Of course the ups and downs are all numbers
        >and can be played with as mathematically minded people
        >will do.
        >And play with them they do. They come up with all
        >sorts of mathematical formulae whereby one can, with a
        >fair degree of accuracy "predict" future fluctuation
        >of the market based on what has gone before. In
        >particular they "predict" or "estimate" how quickly
        >the market will "climb" out of a "trough", where it
        >will "peak" etc.
        >Yet all of this in fact is mystification. Because the
        >market is responding to external stimuli. Those
        >stimuli might be of significant importance materially
        >-- such as a war or revolution -- or they might be the
        >silly response of investors who are encouraged by
        >Bush's words that he'll be giving some tax bonanza to
        >the rich.
        >Of course it is true that given the nature of the
        >market and its "players" one can predict to a certain
        >extent their habitual modes of behaviour.
        >Nevertheless, what they wind up focusing on with all
        >their mathematical formulae is only the effect of
        >actual objective causes. It becomes a kind of
        >mystification because they start to talk about "laws"
        >of the market's behaviour etc., even though the market
        >itself and its behaviour are all dependent upon
        >upheavals going on in the real world.

        Even the physical sciences occasionally use empirical
        mathematical models that are not firmly grounded in
        scientific laws. I know of some cases of that in
        meteorology. Back when I was a graduate student at
        the University of Arizona, one of the professors
        in the atmospheric sciences department, Dr. Benjamin
        Herman (I'll leave you to speculate on his religious
        affiliation), came up with an empirical relationship
        to predict when snow would fall in Tucson. It was
        surprisingly simple (the criterion was that the
        temperature from the upper-air sounding at Las
        Vegas for the 850 mb level be -2 C or lower), and
        surprisingly accurate (it was correct four times in
        five the one winter, 1989-1990, when the criterion
        was hit five times). I would not accuse Dr. Herman
        of mysticism (on this issue anyway), and I'm sure
        he realized that there were far more complex issues
        deciding whether or not there would be snow in
        Tucson, but apparently in economics some people take
        these empirical mathematical models to be a substitute
        for understanding of basic principles.

        >Marx actually talks about this where he says that some
        >people perceive an economic crisis only when the stock
        >market crashes and banks fail. They therefore link
        >economic crises with some sort of financial breakdown,
        >not by over production, leading to a fall in sales,
        >leading to capitalists going bankrupt and not paying
        >debts, leading to bank failures.
        >(I once was given a history project to interview
        >people who had lived through the Great Depression, and
        >almost everyone, including my mother, percieved it as
        >beginning with massive bank failures. The stock
        >market crash and more importantly the crisis of
        >overproduction was not something that entered their
        >field of awareness.)

        Not many people are aware that the Great Depression
        started, not in the industrial sector in 1929,
        but in the agrarian sector in 1927. American farmers
        were overproducing food, and food prices declined.
        This was primarilly because American farmers had
        access to petrol-powered tractors, combines, and
        other modern farm machinery, and because they often
        owed money on these items, purchased on credit, the
        low food prices were particularly ruinous to them.
        The city-dwellers probably didn't notice the crisis
        initially, because for them there was a temporary,
        benefit--food was cheaper. When the crisis spread
        and put them out of work, there came a point when
        they had no more money to purchase even cheap food.
        Ironically tens of thousands of Americans starved
        to death and millions endured malnutrition and other
        hardships because the country was producing too much

        >After that there was a great deal of talk including by
        >Roosevelt about the need for public confidence in the
        >banks, the economy, etc., as if the Depression were
        >caused by some "lack of confidence." The "lack of
        >confidence" was a fact, but it was a result of the
        >failures, not a major cause (except insofar as cause
        >and effect are linked dialectically, and ultimately
        >react on each other).

        I seem to recall he phrased it something like "We have
        nothing to fear but fear itself." Of course if the
        overproduction crisis that caused the failures has
        not been resolved, you can have all the confidence
        in the world and still come up with the same results.
        When Roosevelt started dismantling the New Deal
        programmes, thinking the crisis in confidence was
        over, he was faced with the second wave of the
        Depression, 1937-1938. The crisis was, of course,
        eventually resolved, but only by the tremendous
        production for military use. It was in 1943 that
        the rate of unemployment again reached the pre-
        crisis level of 2%. Continued military production
        for the Cold War prevented the crisis from coming

        >The colonels have hit upon the truth that guerrilla
        >warfare in the current epoch goes beyond irregular
        >troops in the field to include all sorts of
        >"non-military" type of activity. They indicated that
        >if the great powers can strangle countries by
        >non-military but lethal means, the masses might
        >respond with their own choice of unconventional but
        >lethal means. That is a step forward. But over all
        >they leave all their discussion at the superficially
        >empirical level.
        >My feeling is that they, like the Chinese
        >establishment today, seem to want to replace
        >materialism with positivism (post-modernism being a
        >contemporary manifestation of that). It basically
        >holds that we can't have "knowlege" of objective
        >reality, we can only have "perceptions". Therefore we
        >can't know "causes" or analyse "cause and effect" but
        >can only come up with correlations. We can't say that
        >wind makes the flag wave, we can only say that wind
        >and flag waving have a very high level of correlation.
        >Instead of really analyzing social forces in the
        >world, they do an in-depth reading of US military
        >magazines. Like the US military men, they see
        >"threats" and "opportunities" but do not really
        >understand that repression breeds resistance. Or even
        >if they understand that, their focus remains on the
        >level of "effects" rather than of the causes. That
        >was my impression after reading what I did manage to
        >read of their book.
        >So maybe they can see Soros working against some
        >country but they really cannot explain that
        >phenomenon, perhaps because of political constraints,
        >but quite possibly because they are not theoretically
        >equipped to do so. They are used to looking only at
        >the surface phenomena.
        >I still think it is useful as it gets people thinking
        >about struggle more broadly than they are used to, and
        >in particular shows that the involvement of the
        >civilians in warfare is now at an extremely high level
        >and that therefore talk about harming civilians is
        >often highly arbitrary and propagandistic. In
        >particular since the imperialists have no problem with
        >starving millions in the Third World to death, it is
        >incumbent upon the anti-imperialist side to see that
        >guerrilla warfare should not be limited to men and
        >women in rag-tag uniforms toting rifles in the jungle,
        >but can extend to all sorts of pursuits.
        >An older generation showed the liberation forces how a
        >small group with poor weapons could beat or at least
        >exhaust a large well equipped enemy. The Chinese
        >colonels, without really introducing anything new,
        >bring those forms of struggle under the umbrella of
        >guerrilla warfare, in a sense. But their theoretical
        >framework remains very superficial and therefore
        >eclectic -- including their use of mathematical

        Although the Chinese government still officially gives
        some lip service to dialectical materialism and Mao
        Zedong thought, these colonels and other people in high
        positions are probably aware that embrassing anything
        smacking of the ideology of the 1949 to 1976 period is
        political suicide in modern China.


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