"The [Lost] Art of War" by General Sun Tzu is the oldest treatise of military strategy that you can get. It is also often listed as the favorite or "last book read" by the sort of men folk who are interviewed by the popular press. Probably bull shit. Sun was making notes hundreds of years BC and though the Chinese were clever, their war making skills could have been better. For instance they invented "gun powder" but not the gun.
I don't care to argue the military history of the Middle Kingdom because the Chinese were xenophobes with no global aggression policy, unlike, say, Spain. No my argument is more to do with the relatively recent phenomenon where large well equipped world powers have racked up a losing record against what are essentially back water tribes. That's the point of this go-round.
Why do I get to write it? Well, I was a soldier once and I fought back several times against aggressive insurgents. I rose and fell in stature and finally settled into the modest rank of Private 1st Class or PFC for short, and while it is true that an army is actually run by the crusty and crafty sergeants, it is also a fact that a few well placed PFCs can easily wreck havoc on the whole thing. Joseph Heller's "Ex-PFC Wintergreen" is a case in point.
So given all that, I see little reason why I shouldn't be able and qualified to update General Sun and a few modern folks as well on how to get a war up, over and come out a winner.
First, it is obvious to me, we should not commit our resources to one side of some countries' internal conflict (civil war). Why? Well foremost would be the fact that it is damn hard to figure out exactly whom you should be killing. This is no small matter in warfare, and makes a conflict damn hard to prosecute.
Next; Fighting a war is very expensive, so it is a good idea the have a rational goal in mind when you decide to get one going.
Furthermore; When the people with whom you are fighting either, start the thing or present such a danger to the your country that the average citizen can clearly understand and agree with, you stand a very good chance having the sort of unified support that will carry you to a noble victory.
Now, in my opinion, it would be wise for a country that is considering, contemplating, dreaming of, in fear or in hope of making war to spend some time gaining intelligent intelegence about the potential enemy. Of course it would be great to know their secret plans and how many bullets your opponent has, but it is also important to understand the social and religious culture of your foe. In Vietnam a country where I used to be a soldier for the USA, the Americans made loads of gaffs and then wondered why "friendly" civilians would sometimes act out in a way that might prove fatal for someone. Knowing more about the sharp rift between the Shia and Sunni factions of Islam and how each would react to Saddam's fall from power might have made for a different strategy in that war.
It is possible to break down war to the components of a fight between two kids who know each other. Like this: You know exactly who you will be fighting; You know if your opponent is a bully or a clever tactician who knows judo; You know whether or not your adversary might use allies if a loss seems evident and you know the sort of personal stuff that could weaken your opponent or make the person fighting mad. Now you can use this knowledge either as a way toward a winning strategy or to avoid the fight all together without losing face.
I do not know what General Sun would say about this thesis other than it is over simplified, but Is it really that oversimplified? To me it seems a better ploy than wandering around having to make snap decisions in regard to friend or foe, losing lots of young folks, spending a zillion bucks on a decidedly non crowd pleasing event where the only happy campers are the Big Leader's inner circle who are making an inflated wage doing the same same that GI Joe and GI Jane do for chump change out of love and respect of Country. Now doesn't that seem pretty fouled up?