Statecraft: War



Table of Contents

1. Overview

The objective is to coerce other players to do what you want. "Coerce" means they don't want to do it, but want even less the damage you will inflict if they refuse.

If the other players were anything but humans, this would be so easy we wouldn't call it war. We long ago gained the social and tool sophistication needed to shape, mold, or if need be kill any mountain, sea, plant, or animal. But when the other players are humans it gets dicey.

  • Some will probably survive our first attack, and the survivors will fight back.

  • They may win. Resistance groups are notoriously good at stalemating and eventually defeating invaders. If all they do is kick you out of their space, that may seem a safe bet for a play at empire building. But what if they come attack you at home? Did you plan for that?

  • If you were really nasty early on, and then lose, you can expect hard times. These considerations have led to independent evolution of "rules of war" in many places. "Counting coup", "first blood", "no poison gas", "don't harm women and children", etc.

    Warriors generally understand this. People with power but no reasonable expectation of losing may not. Police, prison guards, presidents, plutocrats, and pundits tend to be eager to bend the rules.

  • They are intelligent. To defeat them will require that you understand their motives and methods. Can your own culture survive exposure to an alternative point of view?

  • They may be morally superior. If you are comfortable in your role as exterminator, enslaver, and empire builder, then it doesn't matter if they are morally superior. But if your own power stems from a culture which prides itself on being the "good guy", and helping the downtrodden, then you will be in danger of losing the war at home even if you have superior force abroad.

    This gets awkward when the ruling elite accept the role of enslaver, but proclaim their "good guy" role to the citizens. You have to ensure the citizens never see the reality of what you are doing. Controlling the media message, destroying those who question you, and wrapping yourself in the flag are critical parts of your toolkit.

2. Threat-based Warfare

The opponent is a human and thus a model builder/user. Therefore we don't have to actually carry out attacks to get a desired response. It is possible to threaten to do so. The opponent shrewdly estimates the reality of the threat (vs a bluff) and makes his move.

This only works if you have demonstrated a) access to force and b) willingness to use it. In other words you need credibility ("street cred").

Some people are willing to go to war just to establish credibility. They are banking on winning the war, no matter how flimsy the pretext.

There is a problem with this tactic: It is very hard to win a real war. Doing so requires the good will of the citizens. That good will is available only for causes which are seen as necessary for the full extent of the war (not just for its inception).

The danger is not just that a leader will start a war on false pretenses and thereby waste lives and resources. The real danger is that doing so makes the state more vulnerable to attack later, because no-one believes when a real threat emerges.

This is known as "the boy who cried wolf". Or these days, "the boy who cried WMD."

Citizens cannot afford to squander their readiness to fight when it is really needed. They will reasonably get rid of leaders who do the squandering.

2.1. Target

Who should you threaten? You want to control the actions of a state and its citizens. Either you have to threaten them one at a time, or you can threaten the leaders and let them use the normal mechanisms of the society to direct the state's actions.

If you target the leaders, then you can threaten them as individuals or as members of a ruling tribe. Merely threatening to curtail their power (e.g., by exposing their hypocracies) may be sufficient to get the desired response. Blackmail, extortion, bribery (e.g., campaign contributions), and threats of assassination are the tools of the trade.

If you threaten the population at large, be aware that this may galvanize support for a potent response. Generally citizens put up with their leaders but pay little heed. If directly threatened, they will leap to the ramparts. A nation-state aroused to war is a potent foe.

Either way, the opponent has the standard animal/mammal threat reactions for danger to self, family members, and tribal groups. In addition, as a human the opponent is vulnerable to threats to mental constructs. Religious icons, culturally significant geography, or even something as abstract as the group's language can be targets.

As a practical matter nothing is as effective as old fashioned threat of bodily harm. Much of the engineering of warfare is devoted to killing and maiming the other team, and preventing killing and maiming of your team.

2.2. Weapons

To kill-or-maim you must exert force on the other guy's body. You can slice, dice, bludgeon, pierce, or blast to goo. You can also use poison gas, foul odors, unbearably loud noises, germs, radiation, poisoned water supplies. Whatever it takes to take the other player out of the game.

It is generally assumed per "rules of war" (see above) that you will pick your targets judiciously (thus the international concern about bio-war, land-mines and high-altitude bombing). This means you have to be somewhere in the neighborhood, and thus vulnerable to attack yourself. This leads to an arms race for weapons which project force from afar. See harding90. It is also an incentive to use robots in the battle field.

2.3. Deception

Modern weapons and tactics are good enough that either side could win if given a headstart. Thus it is critical to hit the opponent where and how he/she does not expect it. Speed, secrecy, advance information, and deception are the tools.

Deception in an era of global internet and cell phones with cameras means lieing to your own citizens as well as to the enemy. You can get away with this as long as you never misuse the gambit. E.g., the BBC apparently tells the truth for years on end. Then just when the British Crown needs it most, it will tell a whopper with the same grace and charm used for cricket matches. In contrast, many media outlets in the USA lie about anything remotely embarrassing to the ruling-group, so the opponent is not deceived (though the US citizens may be).

2.4. Warriors

Speed and secrecy in many cases dictate small highly-trained teams. Military organizations all over the world have established "special operations" groups. The task is to get in, do the deed, and get out before the opponent knows anything is amiss.

The typical highly skilled special ops warrior is not well paid. Leaving the official military and joining the mercenaries gives a massive boost in pay. It is also convenient for politicians to secretly hire mercenaries to do things they can't formally require of their official armies (e.g., posse comitatus). This win-win dynamic makes mercenary armies a growth industry. All you need is an unscrupulous ruling elite and a complacent populace.

Where small secret teams are not practical, we commit massive forces. What we lack in deception we make up for in superior firepower. Thousands of frontline warriors, backed by tens of thousands of support staff. In the days of lances, swords, and arrows, the rear echelon would be safe -- you could psychologically let down your guard. Modern technology expands the depth of the battle zone so that these days support staff (and the folks back home) are also subject to attack. For both frontline and rear echelon troops, that attack can be inhumane, unrelenting, and unexpected.

Keeping track of all these people in "the fog of war" is impossible without delegation of authority. Warriors are commonly grouped in 5's to form emotionally closeknit teams, then in 10's to form working units. From there upward (usually by decades) armies (and navies) are built in a hierarchy.

If the warriors can operate on their own (motivated, educated to a common purpose, and capably of taking initiative), then you can dispense with the higher level structures. A resistance movement typically retains this flatter structure until it is strong enough to take on the enemy in massed battle.

2.5. Logistics

Warriors are humans, and thus need food, water, latrines, sleeping quarters, spare clothes, medical attention, etc. They also need weapons, weapon repair, ammunition, and transport to/from places of battle. These combined efforts are the world of logistics.

A modern national army usually expects to provide all its own provisions.

It is sometimes possible to "live off the land", with or without native cooperation. The extreme of "friendly" is a resistance or guerrilla effort, where you can expect to be fed, re-supplied and safeguarded wherever you knock on a door. The extreme of "unfriendly" is to loot, rape, and pillage your way across the enemy lands, destroying life in all forms (Sherman's March comes to mind.)

2.6. US Position

The USA maintains the most stupendously powerful armed forces the world has ever seen. It is used largely for threat-based posturing. To maintain credibility, ruling elites periodically send it off to kill people. Except for the loss of a few thousand non-ruling-elite military personnel and hosts of other non-ruling-elite humans, it is a freebie for the ruling elite. All they have to do is assure the media proclaims the exercise to be in the nation's best interests.

2.7. Multinational Position

Since the USA is the premier military power on the face of the planet, it is essential for ruling elites worldwide to control it. In the crudest terms, bribes and blackmail do the trick. The more sophisticated form is based on revolving doors.

3. Stealth-based Warfare

Sometimes the other player doesn't respond to threats. This is often a problem when a charismatic leader has galvanized opposition to your plans. It is also a problem where you cannot conjure up an acceptable reason to officially go to war. In these cases, you just want to exterminate the other player, without arousing suspicion. Poisons, drowning, car accidents, and aircraft accidents seem to be the tools of the trade. Worst case, it is generally recognized as an assassination but can't be pinned on you.

Sniping (long-distance rifle shots from hidden locations) is at the boundary of threat and stealth. A sniper team (spotter and sniper) may crawl for days through the countryside, pulling a drag-bag with their tools. Then in dead of night, they dig in and camouflage their position. They wait and watch for the opportune moment. Finally they fire one shot ("one shot, one kill"). Then slink away just as carefully. This level of skill also works from rooftops, apartment buildings, and delivery vans from blocks away. In both rural and urban settings, this is outside the normal range of lookouts and bodyguards, and thus essentially undetectable. Apparently, different weapons are used for different tasks:

  • Crossbow or silenced .17 or .22: Short range stealth.
  • .223: Standard issue, wall-of-bullets type weapon not really suited to sniping, but usable in a pinch.
  • .308: Normal sniping to perhaps 500 yds.
  • .338: Heavier bullet and more energy remaining out to perhaps 1000 yds
  • .50 BMG: More for smashing through car engines or brick walls than pure human killing. Adequate energy to perhaps 1500 yds.

The essence of sniping is that a specifically-chosen opponent is dead before his/her team knows anything is amiss. This is the stealth part. However, once you have demonstrated that skill, and willingness to use it, the threat part is easy. You are targeting the opponent's rulers directly, and thus have influence over the opposing nation without its citizens even knowing there is a problem.

3.1. US Position

The USA maintains a large (and apparently growing) apparatus of death units for this task. Because the US culture depends on a "good guy" image to maintain internal social order, it is imperative that these units and their successes and failures never be revealed or acknowledged. We therefore usually train other nations to do the work, and remain nearby as advisors, supplying reconnaissance, communications, and transport. The trainee pulls the trigger.

3.2. Multinational Position

As with threat-based warfare, multinationals attempt to control US resources through back-room deals. However it is sometimes easier to go directly to mercenaries when independent action is needed.

4. References

See also History.


J. B. Alexander. "Future War". St. Martin's Press, 1999. ISBN 0312194161.

Armies can't politically afford to use their full firepower on obviously undergunned or even pacific enemies. LEO's can't politically afford to shoot, club, or firehose political dissidents. Nevertheless, the people running the show want results. The enforcers turn to weapons which get results without leaving dead bodies and/or scars.

These include irritant gases, blinding lights, deafening sounds, electrical shocks, and similar tools. The idea is for the LEO to be able display in court a video tape showing that he himself has experienced the weapon and thus understands its implications.

Thus freed from the onus of mass civic revulsion, the LEO can use the weapon to ensure results. Since of course neither the LEO nor anyone else can actually withstand the weapons over extended periods, the power brokers win and the Gandhi-wanna-bees lose.

The critical issue missing from this book is any sense that sometimes the dissidents and civil disobedients should win control of the streets, at least temporarily. Failing that opportunity to express greviences, the body politic is on its way to truly bloody civil war.


Richard Belfield. "The Assassination Business: A History of State-Sponsored Murder". Carroll and Graf, 2005. ISBN 0-7867-1343-7.

The subtitle itself conveys the author's position. He writes to explain what it is, and to thereby compel us to stop doing it.

Potentially controversial interpretations of historical events are presented as facts, with plenty of notes, but no citations for cross-checking. Still, he isn't really doing a history text but rather using historical events to illustrate the mechanisms of assassination. These are:


Carl von Clausewitz. "On War". Originally published 1832. Published in English with forward by Col. F. N. Maude, 1908. Republished by Penguin with forward by Anatol Raporport, 1968.

The key treatise on nation-state warfare with massed armies, in the days of gunpowder but not machine-guns. It clearly anticipates "game theory", including arguments that simple computation cannot solve the puzzle.

The forwards don't do justice to the actual text. Clausewitz is attempting to analyze complex competing interactions under conditions of imperfect knowledge before, during, and after the events. In modern economics and in agent-based artificial intelligence, these are still known to be difficult problems.

He particularly focuses on the role of "friction" and the thus-significant role of a strong leader who by technical prowess and strong personality is able to lead physically and emotionally exhausted troops to accomplish anything at all, much less victory.

The text is most known to the general populace for equating war to diplomacy (war is an extension of diplomacy by other means). In the actual context this is more a comment about how civilian and military leaders establish achievable objectives.

In military circles, it is known for advocating "total war", with commitment of all the society's resources to the effort (as compared to "real war", where the effort is perhaps half-hearted and involves only a few players.) Clausewitz was responding to the French revolution and the resulting Napoleonic wars, where massed numbers of committed French troops overwhelmed formally-trained military professionals.

It must be remembered that he was writing in the era of gunpowder (where anyone can be an effective warrior) but not yet machine-guns and total-war bombing of civilians (where human bodies wilt under technical might).


Jack Coughlin, Casey Kuhlman, Donald Davis. "Shooter: The autobiography of the top-ranked Marine sniper". St. Martin's Press, 2005. ISBN 0-312-33685-3.

The role of the sniper in Gulf War II, in the form of highly mobile support units. Coughlin developed the notion and Kuhlman provided the command-structure to make it happen. Not exactly appreciated by normal Army or Marine officer corps. The trick was to get into action at all, and to stay far enough toward the front to be effective without out-running support. Shots typically at 400yds to 1000 yds, usually against unsuspecting targets who believe they themselves are the snipers controlling an area. Each shot is a personal encounter, which takes a toll on the shooter's psyche.

Also valuable for Keegan-style "face of battle" insights re the sandstorms and the toppling of the Saddam statue.


Kenneth W. Estes. "The Marine Officer's Guide", 5th ed. United States Naval Institute, 1985. ISBN 0-87021-408-X.

Covers history, protocols, career advice, social advice, etc.

See esp. the list of recommended readings on the profession of arms (I've read many of them; some listed here, others under History). Interestingly, it includes Tacitus's "Annals", which is hardly history in the modern sense, and certainly not a source for details of battle. But it is an insightful treatment of how politics really works in the upper echelons, by someone who knew it well. A US Marine officer must be aware of the skullduggery his military and civilian leaders may commit -- and must sometimes make a personal choice of career versus honor.

I selected this as an example of the social context of a modern professional warrior. Other branches and other nations have similar arrangements.


Andrew Flach, Peter Field Peck. "The United States Marine Corps Workout". Five Star Fitness, 1999. ISBN 1-57826-011-6.

This is not an official Marine Corps publication but it is officially acknowledged to contain the standard fitness tests and regimens for bootcamp and on-going training. Flexibility, endurance, and strength. The idea is to build a body which can carry self, supplies, and weapons over rugged terrain, in and out of foxholes, and up cargo nets.

I selected this as an example of the physical training needed for a modern professional warrior. Other branches and other nations have similar requirements. Someone with this basis can be expected to learn specific skills fairly readily (e.g., SCUBA diving, sky diving, mountain climbing).

NOTE: This physical basis, even with several years of daily training in specific martial arts, is not enough to make a world-class unarmed warrior. If a North Korean taunts you into a fight, don't do it... unless you have been training since you were 6 years old, and were the outstanding student of the past generation at the Korean national tae-kwon-do dojo, and have fought the guy before in competition. But under those circumstances he wouldn't be taunting you.


Peter Harclerode. "Fighting Dirty: The inside story of covert operations from Ho CHi Minh to Osama Bin Laden". Cassell & Co., 2001. ISBN 0-304-35382-5.

History, with battle conditions, operations, deceptions. The take-home lessons is simply this: Yes, it happens, and good ol' USA does it as well as anyone (and with a lot more money).

My personal take is this: Military leaders and politicians who say we don't do it are lieing. They consider it their duty to lie to the general citizenry, because they tell themselves the citizenry is too naive to handle the truth, or that secrecy is needed to protect troops from the enemy.


The enemy already knows you are bombing the hell out of his country, and are attempting to assassinate his leaders. Only the citizens back home are in the dark. Despite the ubermensch, Leo Straussian, talk-show bombast, the man/woman in the street is quite capable of dealing with grim realities. Women who survive a difficult childbirth, people who survive serious car accidents, parents who have lost children, etc. are all too familiar with bloody reality. Given honest evidence and a choice, most people will make solid decisions. Trade-offs of blood-for-oil, multinational-control-of-nations, etc can be discussed openly and resolved stoutly.

What the citizenry will NOT accept is secret wars meant to keep power in the hands of certain elites. For that reason alone, the elites will continue to run Iran-Contras, School of the Americas, and a never ending stream of clandestine operations.


David Harding, ed. "Weapons: An International Encyclopedia from 5000BC to 2000AD". St. Martins Press, 1990. ISBN 0-312-03950-6.

From club and thrown rock to Trident submarines. The essence is to stand out of range of the opponent and send a projectile at him with enough accuracy to hit the target and enough energy to kill him when it does. Similarly, weapons must become more accurate and powerful to overcome defensive positions. If humans happen to get in the way of a bomb meant to break open a bunker, oh well.

[Since WWI trench warfare, and on through VietNam to Iraq, underground bunkers have been able to withstand the heaviest bombs we can make -- except nuclear. The Bush administration wants to turn global warfare nuclear in order to break into underground bunkers and mountain caves. See Keegan's analysis of the sanity of such escalation.]


John Keegan. "The Face of Battle" Penguin Books, 1976. ISBN 01400.4897-9.

Keegan, history professor at Sandhurst, is considered by many to be the top military historian of our times. In this text, he attempts to recreate battle as experienced by individuals at Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Sommes.


John Keegan. "A History of War" Vintage Books, 1993. ISBN 0-394-58801-0.

After a confusing (to me) start, Keegan works up from the neurological basis for fear/rage, through ethology to archaeological and anthropological evidence, then to prehistory and history of warfare. His guiding thesis is a rebuttal to Clausewitz's notion of "total war".

Keegan acknowledges that humans are capable of organized aggression but argues that the format is not necessarily war or pitched battles as we know them. Both in "primitive war" (where ritual and shouting mixes with actual blood letting) and in wars among states "above the military horizon" (where massed armies and systematic campaigns of slaughter occur) there are rules-of-the-road. He argues we can (and must) establish such rules in the machine-gun and nuclear age.

Keegan follows the path from face-to-face battles with clubs, swords, and lances, through horse-people of the steppes (with compound bows) to gunpowder and finally to the machine-gun era. Basically, personal honor and courage may have been useful in past modes, but under machine-gun conditions, biological humans are too easily killed for that to matter. [Notice the US attempt to substitute robots on the battle field.]


Alan M. Laudau. Frieda W. Landau, Terry Griswold, D. M. Giangreco, Hans Halberstadt. "U.S. Special Forces" Lowe and B. Hould, 2002. ISBN 0-681-89056-8.

Collection of texts originally published in 1992-93. Covers Rangers, Delta, SEALS (about 150 pages each). History, training, weapons, typical operations.


James Mann. "Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet". Viking, 2004. ISBN 0-670-03299-9.

The self-styled "Vulcans" are Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz, Powell, Armitage. Powell and Armitage are the only ones with military experience -- and they are the doves of the group. The others have been hawks-by-way-of-Leo-Strauss since the Nixon era. Strauss of course was a proponent of ubermensch-take-charge policies. The Vulcans took that to mean the US was militarily powerful, could be more powerful, and should use that power to conquer the world.

The presentation is well-researched though flattering to the players -- they each come off as intelligent, sincere, and hardworking (if somewhat full of themselves and on the lookout for their piece of the action). The book concludes by asking if the gamble in Iraq was worth it. The book dates itself by noting that a few hundred lives seems a small price to pay for restructuring the Middle East.


Alan Moorehead. "Gallipoli". Wordsworth, 1997. ISBN 1-85326-675-2.

The story of the 1915 Gallipoli campaign to provide a backdoor to the Russians by way of Turkey. It was a failure.

Notice that Marines are expected to know that battles and wars don't necessarily turn out the way we might like. [The Bush Vulcans would do well to learn this lesson.]


Militia Of Montana. "Catalog: Freedom in Preparedness", vol 11:1. Catalog of books, videos, etc for US-based resistance movements. See

A mix of military manuals and self-published how-to manuals. Caching food, survival, self-defense, weapons repair, changing identity, etc. Some of it quite practical, and some a bit farfetched.


Ralph D. Sawyer, trans, ed. "The Essence of War" Westview Press, 2004. ISBN 0-8133-9049-4.

Selections from Chinese military classics such as "Art of War", "Seven Secret Teachings", etc., organized by topic.


Rob Schultheis. "Waging Peace". Gotham Books, 2005. ISBN 1-592-40127-9.

A personal, up-close view of the people doing Civil Affairs (CA) in Afghanistan and Iraq. These are the people who get out with the people, set up schools and medical clinics, and generally reach for the "hearts and minds". The individuals are viewed as intelligent and even heroic, but the overall effort is swamped by large-scale events and corruption on all sides.


Patrick Sweeney. "The 1911: A complete look at the use, care and repair of the 1911 pistol". Krause Publications, 2001. ISBN 0-87349-281-1.

The Browning-design 1911 semi-automatic pistol was the US military sidearm for many years, was replaced by 9mm Berettas as part of NATO committments, then made a comeback within the Special Ops units. It is also the current choice for SWAT units. Some say it is only accurate at conversational distances. Others have said it is more usefully thrown at the foe than shot. Still, if you take the time to practice until the see-target/align-sights/squeeze-trigger process is second nature (say a few thousand rounds over several months), it is going to work on human-sized targets in close battle conditions. The key is that it is always there at your side, and the foe stops immediately when hit.

Creator: Harry George
Updated/Created: 2008-03-06