January 05, 2018

Sun Tzu and the Trump/Bannon Feud

Timothy Birdnow

Donald Trump and Steve Bannon are going at it like a pair of kindergarteners, and much is being made about the silliness. But is this what it appears?

First, Breitbart, Steve Bannon's publication, is still cheerleading for the Trumpster, which is odd given the viciousness of recent tit-for=tat comments by the President and his former adviser. If this were a serious breech between the two I would expect Breitbart to turn against Trump as well. That they are still quite supportive suggests to me we are seeing a tactical deception.

Chinese military philosopher Sun Tzu stated thousands of years ago: 18. All warfare is based on deception.

19. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.

20. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him.

End excerpt.

Feign disorder. Deceive, Appear unable to attack.

22. If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.

End excerpt.

Isn't this exactly what Trump has done all along? The Media and Democrats are of choleric temper and Trump always seeks to get under their skin.

16. Amid the turmoil and tumult of battle, there may be seeming disorder and yet no real disorder at all; amid confusion and chaos, your array may be without head or tail, yet it will be proof against defeat.

17. Simulated disorder postulates perfect discipline, simulated fear postulates courage; simulated weakness postulates strength.

[...]


19. Thus one who is skillful at keeping the enemy on the move maintains deceitful appearances, according to which the enemy will act. He sacrifices something, that the enemy may snatch at it.

20. By holding out baits, he keeps him on the march; then with a body of picked men he lies in wait for him.

End excerpts.

Doesn't this sound familiar? Trump has been doing this all along, feigning disorder and weakness and maneuvering the Left onto untenable ground, and Bannon has been working with Trump from the beginning.

Here's more:

8. Hence that general is skillful in attack whose opponent does not know what to defend; and he is skillful in defense whose opponent does not know what to attack.

I remember the St. Louis Rams back at the beginning of the twenty first century; they had a technique where everyone in the backfield was in motion, all over the backfield. An opponent, when asked about it, was flummoxed and could only say "that'd a bunch of shit", with language failing him. See, all that motion made it impossible for the defense to get a sense of what was going to happen, and with the Rams ability to pass or run and their blinding speed it was nigh unto impossible to stop them. (That ended with the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, and we now know they had the Rams playbook thanks to espionage.)

I think Trump and Bannon are doing this to confuse and flummox the opposition. Media people can't get a unified line of attack to use on Trump, and the Democrats cannot create policy to oppose him.

Sun Tzu also said:

11. If we wish to fight, the enemy can be forced to an engagement even though he be sheltered behind a high rampart and a deep ditch. All we need do is attack some other place that he will be obliged to relieve.

12. If we do not wish to fight, we can prevent the enemy from engaging us even though the lines of our encampment be merely traced out on the ground. All we need do is to throw something odd and unaccountable in his way.

Does anyone doubt that Trump does this with his many tweets? When he goes after the NFL for political correctness, for instance, he attacks another place where the enemy is relatively weak (and yet determined to win there) and so they have to waste time and effort defending Colin Kaperneck and the timid NFL response instead of creating a narrative to attack Trump elsewhere.

George W. Bush never did this. His strategy was to hide behind ramparts, defend fixed fortifications. The result was Bush squandered all the good will he received from his defense of the country and a good economy, allowing the enemy to choose the times and places they would attack. In the end Bush wound up with one of the lowest approval ratings of any President. He didn't understand Tzu, and neither did anybody in the GOP.

Bush never understood that:

4. The rule is, not to besiege walled cities if it can possibly be avoided. The preparation of mantlets, movable shelters, and various implements of war, will take up three whole months; and the piling up of mounds over against the walls will take three months more.

He also never understood that the spirit and morale of the army must be maintained if one is to win, and that only by winning. Sun Tzu stated:


21. The clever combatant looks to the effect of combined energy, and does not require too much from individuals. Hence his ability to pick out the right men and utilize combined energy.

22. When he utilizes combined energy, his fighting men become as it were like unto rolling logs or stones. For it is the nature of a log or stone to remain motionless on level ground, and to move when on a slope; if four-cornered, to come to a standstill, but if round-shaped, to go rolling down.

Bush was happy to let his base twist in the wind. His strategy was to avoid making mistakes and to use defensive ramparts to the point where his army - the grass roots - grew demoralized. It was terrible strategy.

Trump avoids all of these problems by his endless tweeting. And while we sometimes fear things like this Trump/Bannon feud they never go on that long and often end to our success and satisfaction.

Am I right about this feud? I have no idea. I may be wrong as wrong can be, but I wonder. Donald Trump is a far more clever fellow than he is so often given credit for, and I wonder if he isn't applying these principles from Sun Tzu. At least I hope so.

I've always thought Trump would turn on us. He may yet, but thus far he's been fairly steady. Let's hope he's better than we think - or fear.

Posted by: Timothy Birdnow at 12:42 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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1 You may be exactly correct, Tim. Way too many people discount the ancient Chinese general, probably because he's so, well, ancient. They think that things have to be done differently today, just because it's TODAY. But Sun Tzu was ahead of his time. Way ahead.

And I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if both Donald Trump and Steve Bannon made a careful study of Sun Tzu when they were in college.

Another president who was good at this thing was Dwight Eisenhower. He could be facing a situation where people were starting to get into trouble, mainly because of a testosterone attack, and Ike would say "OK, time for me to go out there and confuse the issue," and he'd go out and hit them with what sounded like a bunch of nonsense, and they'd end up saying "What the hell did he just say?" and the tension would dissipate, and the problem would go away, and everybody'd forget about it. The press thought Ike was a dunce, when in fact he was a genius.

Posted by: Dana Mathewson at January 05, 2018 08:04 PM (h8yX6)

2 Well, as they say covfefe!

Yes, Dana; Ike was great at that. His opponents never knew where he was coming from.  I guess that goes with the territory when you've been commander of all the allied forces, you learn how not to say things.

Posted by: Timothy Birdnow at January 06, 2018 08:05 AM (h8yX6)

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