World nation states instantly took on alignments accordingly as they favored or protested the 59 United States Tomahawk target strikes at the Shayrat airfield in Syria last week. This necessarily raised speculations that World War III is breaking out. In yesterday’s column, I touched on fears having already heightened over this concern by the dropping of a 21,000-lb non-nuclear bomb on Afghanistan by the United States and the hasty dispatch of the USS Vinson aircraft carrier clearly as a preemptive action against possible military intervention from the vocally avowed antagonist of the United States in the Far East, North Korea, whose leader Kim Jong Un has been widely described as “desperate ready” to strike against the United States. The instant US naval maneuver in Far Eastern waters speaks much of the anticipation by the United States of North Korea’s taking advantage of an open Russo-American confrontation in making good its oft-repeated threats of striking America with nuclear war heads right into its heart.
Only China’s announcement of non-involvement in the two-superpower world fight augurs less horrifying prospects for the immediate future. This is to say that it is unlikely the United States and Russia would go fighting it out on a world scale without hurting China and thus drawing in the third top world superpower into the fray. Stated conversely, that is saying China won’t ever let the two big world bullies ravage each other without doing something in its own super capacity to stop the fight that ultimately will not only destroy themselves but the whole humanity as well.
It is for reason of the foregoing that I asked the question in yesterday’s column: Is China the great equalizer between world doom and salvation?
The question indicated a desperation by the weak of the world in clinging on to China as the one single hope of sanity in an extremely militarized atmosphere in which one unfortunate fit of madness, as that often bragged about by North Korea, can send humanity crashing to its doom. China’s focus on common prosperity for the nations of the world, which is the centerpiece of OBOR (one-belt-one-road) concept, makes it clear that world military dominance is far from its international objectives, and though its military capabilities may be at par with, and in certain areas better than, those top ones in the community of nations, those capabilities have never been demonstrated in scopes beyond internal defense, and in exceptional cases, defense of friends.
Ironically, however, China’s circumspection in the extremely heightened tension cannot escape the universal mandates in Sun Tzu’s Art of War. One such mandate states: “Before doing battle, one calculates in the temple and will win, because many calculations were made; before doing battle, one calculates in the temple but will lose, because few calculations were made.”
The Trump order for the Tomahawk target strikes in Syria doubtlessly demonstrates that US war strategists have made Sun Tzu’s mandated calculations before doing battle. The next issue to be resolved is, had Trump – or his war strategists – made enough and correct calculations to make sure he would win the battle he did? The only way to resolve the issue is to wait for the war already begun to take its natural course.
The dropping of the 21,000-lb conventional bomb in Afghanistan and the dispatch of the USS Vinson aircraft carrier to the Koren peninsula could form part of the beginning of a larger war between the US and Russia but could still constitute a testing of the waters of, an imminent perhaps but still a potential, World War III.
The next to watch out for is actual military action to be undertaken by the Soviet Union. None such has Russia done yet outside of publicly condeming the US “unilateral attack,” just like those of its allies in the conflict, such as Syria, Iran and Bolivia. Only a physical military action by Russia against the United States will show whether or not the Tomahawk target strikes was the trigger for World War III.
But then if the Tomahawk air strikes were indeed meant by the United States to be such trigger, regardless of whether Russia responds militarily or continues the cool with which it defused the international tension created by the Cuban missiles crisis in 1962, World War III would erupt as the United States had programmed it.
Wars are endemic in a community of nation states. So long as one state is suffused with a strong sense of superiority over the others, its drive to subjugate other states is obsessive. In all instances, such obsession is irrepressible. In an interview during the period of his trial in 1945, General Masaharu Homma, the British-trained “Poet General” Commander of the Japan Expeditionary Forces in the Pacific, called Japan’s war strategy “madness” and had no chance of winning. But Imperial Japan proceeded with the war strategy of Premier Hideki Tojo, Homma’s classmate at the Imperial Japan Military Academy and whom he beat for honors during their studies there, learning too late with the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that indeed, as Homma put it, the war Japan triggered in the Pacific in 1941 was madness. In September 1945, Emperor Hirohito finally accepted the terms of the Potsdam Declaration calling for unconditional Japanese surrender.
Indeed, as Sun Tzu mandates, generals make calculations in the temple. But it is one thing to calculate, it’s another thing that the war calculation is correct. Japan pulled the trigger in the Pacific war with the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 but ended up surrendering to the allies four years later. Had Hitler known that the Allies would eventually defeat Germany in 1944, would he have made the first strike of annexing Poland, thereby igniting the World War II conflagration?
By ordering the Tomahawk target strike in Syria, Trump, like Hitler or Hideki Tojo, had only a mindset for victory. The order evidently neglects the fact that down history, the United States has suffered huge defeats: its greatest military defeat in history, the Fall of Bataan in 1942; its trouncing by Vietnam in the Vietnam War in the 70s; its great toll of 30,000 men in the Korean War in 1950.
By Sun Tzu’s Art of War, the very fact that wars break out shows that calculations for their outbreak were wrong. History is replete with examples of wars that drive home the lesson: those who pull the trigger are most often outshot.