Sun Tzu now reaching a new audience

I recently discovered that at least one Japanese publisher has released a manga version of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War:

Somebody can't spell...

Somebody can’t spell…

During the chaos and confusion at the end of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty, Wu Zixu and Sun Zi leave their native land of Chu for the land of Wu after their parents are killed. They take an oath of allegiance to fight for King Helü of Wu. The story portrays the life of Sun Zi and the superior art of war that he develops during the two year conflict between Wu and Chu.

I also found a similar product [possibly the same one?] on Amazon.

I cannot read Japanese, and I do not know much about anime, manga, or Japanese popular culture in general, but these productions do not surprise me. Whenever popular culture regurgitates a strategic artifact, the subject almost invariably is Sun Tzu, and The Art of War retains wide appeal throughout Asia, for obvious reasons. No Western strategist – such as Jomini, Clausewitz, or Mahan –  can claim nearly as much popular stardom, despite their arguably greater impact on history.

Short Thoughts on a Long Train

The beginning of everything was in a railway train …There had been a deficit in the Budget, which necessitated travelling, not Second-class, which is only half as dear as First-class, but by Intermediate, which is very awful indeed. There are no cushions in the Intermediate class, and the population are either Intermediate, which is Eurasian, or native, which for a long night journey is nasty; or Loafer, which is amusing though intoxicated. Intermediates do not patronize refreshment-rooms. They carry their food in bundles and pots, and buy sweets from the native sweetmeat-sellers, and drink the roadside water. That is why in the hot weather Intermediates are taken out of the carriages dead, and in all weathers are most properly looked down upon.

Rudyard Kipling, The Man Who Would Be King.

The quality of train travel has improved somewhat since Kipling wrote that amusing paragraph. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, the fortunate circumstances of ample spare time and a convenient ultimate destination permitted me to travel aboard AMTRAK, America’s taxpayer-subsidized passenger rail service, a first for me as it was for numerous other travelers, judging by the many people who asked the same question I did to the attendant at the embarking station: “How does this entire process work?”

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RADM Wylie Mania and the Next Threat to Freedom

A couple of items:

Lynn Rees over at Zenpundit has posted an impressive compendium of all material concerning RADM J.C. Wylie that is available online, including blog posts by myself, Mr. Rees, and Seydlitz89. Who is J.C. Wylie? Mr. Rees’ post answers that question.


The 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division is a blooded combat unit that has seen multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, and traces a lineage back to the First World War. Recently, however, soldiers in the barracks were made aware of a new enemy on the horizon:

I took this photograph myself and I investigated the authenticity of the poster; it was a genuine project conducted my military and wildlife personnel. They have since been removed, and for good reason. Soldiers I spoke with were justifiably insulted and felt infantilized by such a bizarre and pathetic “warning.”

Despite my best efforts, however, I never spotted the hyper-aggressive, man-eating variant of the Eastern Grey Squirrel.

The Implications of Hunting Camouflage

Hunting is an activity that sharply divides rural and urban populations, the latter often associating it with the uncouth country folk that roam the vast hinterlands beyond the suburbs. This prejudice extends to the implements of hunting itself, including firearms and the wide array of commercial camouflage that has become available in recent years. Despite its technical effectiveness (much more so than the Army’s UCP, which only works if you happen to be fighting in a granite quarry), hunting camouflage carries the stigma of rural backwardness, and is often wholeheartedly embraced by hunting enthusiasts as a form of defiance to the same stigmatization.

Urban disdain of rural sports is nothing new, but the truth is that hunting and the clothing associated with it are ingrained in American culture, owing to their unique role in the nation’s founding. In March 1775, the second Virginia Convention established a committee consisting of Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and George Washington to study the possibility of forming a militia to protect Virginia in the upcoming war with Great Britain. According to their plan, all infantry would be uniformed with a “hunting shirt,” essentially a homemade, loose-fitting frock that hanged to the thighs. From Kevin Hayes’ The Road to Monticelloan intellectual biography of Thomas Jefferson:

“This choice of weaponry and uniform was largely based on what was available locally. The preceding year the First Continental Congress had agreed to an association similar to the Virginia associations of earlier years. Like the others, this new association forbade colonists from importing most goods of British manufacture. Consequently, Virginia militiamen would be outfitted in a uniquely American fashion. The hunting shirt had long been an article of clothing identified with backwoodsmen, those unsavory and uncivilized characters who inhabited the fringes of colonial society, somewhere in that middle ground between the westernmost plantations and the wilderness. It now became the uniform of a patriot.”

Hunting shirt

Repost: Machiavelli on Gun Control

From the David Wootton translation:

No new ruler, let me point out, has ever disarmed his subjects; on the contrary, when he has found them disarmed, he has always armed them. For, when you arm them, their arms become yours, those who have been hostile to you become loyal, while those who have been loyal remain so, and progress from being your obedient subjects to being your active supporters … But if you take their arms away from those who have been armed, you begin to alienate them. You make it clear you do not trust them, either because you think they are poor soldiers or disloyal. Whichever view they attribute to you, they will begin to hate you.

The Prince, Chapter 20.

The Blogger Who Came in from the Cold

2011 was not the year to quit blogging. The world is on fire. But I have been unable to study the flames.

Because I’m now in them.

In other news, I’ve hit the big time: an article based on my work in graduate school was recently published by Small Wars Journal. The abstract is as follows:

According to the principle of destruction the best way to achieve victory in war is to disarm the enemy by destroying his forces in battle. However, irregular warfare is commonly assumed to operate through processes that make the principle of destruction irrelevant. An analysis of the writings and military experiences of T.E. Lawrence, Mao Tse-tung and Ernesto “Che” Guevara, three of the 20th century’s most influential theorists of irregular war, supports the argument that the principle of destruction remains valid in irregular warfare. This conclusion admits of one major exception in conflicts where a sharp asymmetry of interests exists between the belligerent parties, when it is possible for irregulars to achieve victory by exhausting the enemy’s political will, rather than by destroying his military forces.

I encourage all my readers to head on over to SWJ and take a look, though unfortunately, my present circumstances preclude me from active participation in the discussion.

Until next time: Happy New Year.

The voice of Wylie, Clausewitz down under, and a Roman stab in the back

Some fun miscellany:

RADM J.C. Wylie is of some significance to this blog. Though I am familiar with his writings and career history, his death 18 years ago precludes anyone from learning more about the man himself. Thus my keen interest when I recently stumbled across a video of Wylie speaking before a USS Fletcher reunion in late 1992, just a few months before his death, in which he shares some humorous anecdotes about his service aboard the destroyer during World War II. The quality of the video could be better, but it shows that Wylie was lucid, eloquent and sharp all the way to the end of his life, and adds some personality to the theory of Power Control.


LibriVox, which collects audio recordings of public domain works, has available the first four Books of On War, narrated in an Australian accent. Beware, however: the Howard-Paret translation is still owned by Princeton University Press, so the LibriVox audio is based on the nightmarish Graham translation.

Be sure to check out LibriVox’s catalog of other works. Plenty of stuff for the daily commute or jog.


I have been reading Alistair Horne’s A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954 – 1962, the definitive history of the French-Algerian War. He introduces Part 2 of the book with the following letter, attributed to Marcus Flavinius, a Roman centurion of the Augusta Legion:

We had been told, on leaving our native soil, that we were going to defend the sacred rights conferred on us by so many of our citizens settled overseas, so many years of our presence, so many benefits brought by us to populations in need of our assistance and our civilization.

We were able to verify that all this was true, and, because it was true, we did not hesitate to shed our quota of blood, to sacrifice our youth and our hopes. We regretted nothing, but whereas we over here are inspired by this frame of mind, I am told that in Rome factions and conspiracies are rife, that treachery flourishes, and that many people in their uncertainty and confusion lend a ready ear to the dire temptations of relinquishment … Make haste to reassure me, I beg you, and tell me that our fellow-citizens understand us, support us and protect us as we ourselves are protecting the glory of the Empire.

If it should be otherwise, if we should have to leave our bleached b0nes on these desert sands in vain, then beware of the anger of the Legions!

I have a very difficult time believing this authentic; the sentiments seem completely alien for a 1st century AD Roman centurion. In fact, Horne cites the source as Jean Lartéguy famous novel, The Centurions. I am unable to find any earlier reference to the letter, and it seems completely apocryphal. However, I would be fascinated to be proven wrong, if someone has information to the contrary.

Well that ruined my day

I ordered a copy of Che Guevara’s Guerrilla Warfare from Amazon a few days ago. I found a very inexpensive paperback edition that was only about $6.00 brand new, but I did not closely examine the details of the publisher. It arrived in the mail today, at which point I finally noticed the publisher – Ocean Press – and read the back cover:

“Published in association with the Che Guevara Studies Center, Havana.”

I’m not sure if I will be able to sleep tonight.