Tag Archives: strength

Embracing Defeat, Part II: Blood and Will

Note: This is part of a series of reviews for Blueprint for Action. The introduction and table of contents are also available.

Tom Barnett has been embracing losing.

Now it is time for him to embrace defeat.


In the first part of Embracing Defeat, I outlined Barnett’s two plans for winning the Global War on Terrorism: the Reverse Domino Theory to move countries to the Core, and the A-Z Rule-Set for dealing with bad guys.

Dr. Barnett also looks at the enemy and lists his plan for defeating globalization, and outlines a Hub and Spoke Response System for dealing with it


Dr. Barnett also list’s the enemy’s four strategies

  • Discourage Mobilization
  • Lie Low ’til After the Blow
  • Encourage Insurgency & Chaos
  • Wait for Withdrawal

The enemy’s schemes boil down to blood and will. Will, or Moral Warfare, is the enemy using his superior resolve to take away our determination. By discouraging mobilization, he relies on peace activists and other ne’er-do-wells in America to turn parts of America against the war before it begins. By lying low, he prevents bloodshed by his side while our hyper-successful Leviathan kills anything it can find. By encouraging insurgency, he increases the blood we spill and further takes away our will. By waiting for withdrawal, the enemy knows our will depletes quickly, and that time is on his side.

The enemy’s formula is extremely successful. Variations of it, where the blood wasn’t even spilled by Americans, have been used to topple American allies. Persia fell to an Islamic Revolution that could have been prevent by a coup — a coup that President Carter vetoed, because of the non-American blood that might be spilled in it. Likewise, South Vietnam fell after the US Congress slapped a de-facto embargo on it, because it was winning a war that was spilling Communist blood.

Barnett almost recognizes these weaknesses

In :

Spending American treasure on securing global peace in one thing (because we’re rich), but spending American blood is something altogether different. A big part of the so-called Vietnam Syndrome was the notion that the American public is casualty-averse, something many strategies believe was reinforced by the terrible experience in Somalia, when the bodies of American soldiers were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. (204)

Dr. Barnett goes on to exempt high-tempo Leviathan operations, leaving the weakness on the SysAdmin’s lap. A similar point, that the Leviathan is free of public weakness but the SysAdmin is full of it, comes from Blueprint for Action

The reality of the transformed Leviathan is, however, that the Pentagon can go to war quite effectively without asking buy-in from the public. What it can’t do, because we’ve also stuffed most of our natural SysAdmin forces (e.g. military police, civil affairs construction) in the Reserve Component, is go to peace without gaining the public’s buy in. (33)

Dr. Barnett acknowledges the strength and will of the Bush Administration

If there’s one thing the Bush Administration has accomplished, it’s demonstrated that the U.S. Government is willing to wage war with almost no concern for the resulting VIP body count, the subsequently incompetent occupation, or the inevitable political uproar back home. (185)

But how can one have faith that Americans will continue to be won by strong, determined leaders like Bush, when even Barnett supported the Opposition?

And even under President Bush, “doubts” (weakness and cowardice) naturally grow when America tries to fight a SysAdmin war

Such an approach can work for a while, but then the photos from Abu Ghraib are posted on the Web, and you have to explain to your kids why that sort of stuff is okay when it’s the bad guys who are really bad. And if you’re the president? Well, maybe the doubts creep in when your own White House counsel warns you about possible war-crimes charges over Guantanamo, your oversight-free mini-gulag down in Cuba. (129)

Barnett sees hope for strength and resolve in religious proselytization, something I originally called the neocon-theocon axis

Remember how nineteenth-century colonialism went hand in hand with missionary zeal? Well, we shouldn’t be surprised that an era that demands a grand strategy of shrinking the Gap would go hand in hand with a renewed focus on proselytizing global faiths. While the more secular Left can’t support U.S. interventionism abroad because of its association with military means, and the secular Right can’t stomach the “betrayal” of our “founding principles” for similar reasons, the religious community — both left and right — similarly can’t stomach the notion that America, with all its wealth and power, stands by while the faithful in numerous Gap countries (and a few New Core ones like China) suffer persecution for their beliefs. To believers, then, the Heavenly Father’s admonition to spread the faith trumps the Founding Father’s inhibitions on mixing church and state. (298)

But this is a hope, not a guarantee. It’s better to recognize our weakness, and take what strength there is as a bonus, than to hang our dreams on the devout of the future.

A clear-eyed view of our past would embrace defeat and recognize that America would rather be a cowardly traitor than spill blood and will. Grand strategists must realize this.

As Barnett has said

So you can’t be just about peace in this quest, because that’s like pretending you can fashion a world with neither crime nor police (205)


If you want to be all about peace, you have to understand war (266)

You can’t be just about victory in this quest, because that’s like pretending you can fashion a war without defeat. If you wish to kiss victory, embrace defeat.

Or maybe more clearly:

When you see fear, start running toward it. (47)

How should Dr. Barnett run towards betrayal and cowardice? Stay tuned, and find out!

This has been Embracing Defeat, part of a series of reviews for Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett’s Blueprint for Action. The posts in Embracing Defeat are:

I. Barnett’s Two Strategies
II. Blood and Will
III. The Born Gimp
IV. Embracing Victory