Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Sun Tzu, Napoleon and Barack Obama: Legitimacy, the Limits of Military Power and the Credible Capacity to Coerce.

As I wrote before the event, the authorities were not going to interfere with the Arms Expo because to do so would have been a strategic mistake of colossal proportions. (Thus making the local Facebook commandos -- who publicly declared their chicken little predictions and warnings to others not to attend -- the instruments of their own outing as cravenly cowards.)
Stuck as I was at Dallas-Forth Worth waiting for planes that never came in, I had many a conversation with other passengers in purgatory. I was amazed at how many people freely shared their own fears for the future and, more importantly, their very specific preparations to meet the events of economic/socital collapse, three-sided race war, civil war against a tyrannical government or some combination of all three.
What came through these conversations was this: There is some considerable slice of the citizenry who are psychologically and physically prepared to resist tyranny in any form -- far more than the tyrants are prepared to deal with them. It is also plain, as I have written and said many, many times, that the Obama regime has thrown away its legitimacy, its "Mandate of Heaven," with an ever increasing number of its citizens. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO OVER-EXAGGERATE WHAT THIS MAY MEAN IN THE VERY NEAR FUTURE.
In my blocks of instruction that I taught at the Arms Expo this weekend, I hit these points pretty hard. I also recommended to all that they obtain a copy of Dr. Joe Strange's book Capital 'W' War. Strange illustrates one example of this process and how failed legitimacy and the limits of military power combine to produce a strategic failure of the "credible capacity to coerce" that have particular relevance to the discussion about a possible American 4th Generation Warfare civil conflict in the 21st Century. (Fusion center analysts please take note.)
In 1807 Napoleon's empire was very impressive, but England -- the hated enemy -- remained undefeated and defiant.  To weaken England by economic warfare, Napoleon sent part of his army into the Iberian Peninsula to compel Portugal to participate in the Continental System.  Even though Spain was his ally in this affair, Napoleon took advantage of the presence of French troops in Spain (ostensibly on their way to Portugal) to convert the Spanish Monarchy into a "more reliable" ally against Britain.

After considering a few options, Napoleon decided to place his own brother, Joseph, on the throne, and issued 'secret orders for the arrest of the Spanish Royal Family.  This 'secret' soon sprung a leak, resulting in a spontaneous popular uprising in Madrid on the 2nd of May 1808 (the Dos de Mayo) and the deaths of many 'surprised' French soldiers.  But the French contingent in Madrid quickly rallied and retaliated with ruthless countermeasures.  Shortly thereafter, Joseph entered Spain along with the bulk of the French Army (which for a time was led by Napoleon himself).  Over the next several months, the French smashed one Spanish Army after another (with few exceptions).

  When studying the Peninsular War, we often tend to focus on the military assistance provided to the Portuguese and Spanish by the British (first under Moore and then Wellington).  This emphasis does not do justice to the resistance offered by the Portuguese, or the vast majority of the Spanish people who were lead by local partisan leaders, by army generals who here and there still commanded small numbers of regular troops, and by hundreds of priests and monks.

The Portuguese used scorched earth tactics under the direction of Wellington.  In Spain, the French occupation armies encountered guerrilla and partisan warfare, the nature and scale of which has seldom been seen in modern military history.  That resistance was characterized by a vicious cycle of brutality.  In sieges reminiscent of the Middle Ages, whole towns and cities fought to the last man, woman and child.  Moreover, these towns and cities were surrounded by thousands of square miles of rugged terrain ideally suited for partisan/guerrilla warfare.

There are many typical anecdotes; here is just one:  Four French soldiers (perhaps stragglers) were foraging for food.  They came to a small house.  Inside was a woman and her small child.  The woman said she had no food, but the soldiers found some 'hidden' in the attic.  still not trusting the woman, they made her feed some of the food to her own child, which she did.  The soldiers then ate.  Soon (but too late for them) one of them noticed the child turning blue.  The mother had poisoned her own child for the purpose of poisoning for enemy soldiers.  Before they died, the soldiers brutally bayoneted both mother and child.

Partisan warfare throughout Spain was so widespread and so intense that it required an escort of 4,000 French cavalry just to get a message from Madrid to Paris and vice versa.  The French occupation army, including allied units, lost 50,000 dead per year (to fighting and disease) for six years before it retreated back into France early in 1814.  After his exile to a small island in the South Atlantic (after his final defeat at Waterloo), Napoleon called this six-year nightmare "His Spanish Ulcer."

The Peninsular War was just the opposite of the kind of war he had successfully waged against earlier conventional opponents such as Austria and Prussia.  It was partisan-guerrilla war of truly national proportions.  It took on elements of a class war between the Spanish upper and lower classes.  And it took on a religious character that Napoleon never appreciated.


What lay at the root of Napoleon's failure in Spain? . . . Napoleon the statesman had set Napoleon the soldier an impossible task . . . (A)lthough the immediate military means were more or less achieved, the long-term requirement of winning popular support for the new regime was hopelessly compromised.  The lesson was there for the world to read: military conquest in itself cannot bring about a political victory.  This was by no means a new lesson, but seldom in history has it been so amply demonstrated.  -- David G. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon, New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1966, p. 660.


  Napoleon, his brother Joseph, and the French armies had none -- NONE AT ALL -- in the minds and hearts of the Spanish people.  How about the credible capacity to coerce?  There is a difference between the capacity to "kill" and the capacity to "coerce."  Depending on the political context and the methods of killing, killing can be a productive component of coercion or it can be counter-productive.  "Credible Coercion" is defined by the target of the coercion; that is, by the WILL of the target.  The Spanish people decided that their will demonstrated that French Army's great capacity to kill did not translate into a credible capacity to coerce.


The French occupation army numbered roughly 300,000 troops more or less throughout the six year war.  Given Napoleon's failure to admit that he had made a fundamental political mistake, given his refusal to compromise, and given his penchant to blame his generals for every military setback, and given that Napoleon the Emperor had created a problem that no general could solve with military power alone -- 300,000 troops were not enough.  There were many French victories, but no peace.


Napoleon made four poor assumptions, the consequences of which were fatal.  In that sense, Napoleon the Emperor was the worst enemy of Napoleon the General.

(1)  The Emperor assumed that because members of the Spanish upper class supported Joseph as King, the Spanish masses would offer only passive resistance, if any.  Instead, the war in Spain took on elements of an ugly class war.

(2)  The Emperor assumed that there was a modestly large Spanish bourgeois (middle) class which would welcome the secular reforms and economic benefits of the French Revolution, as had been the case in France when the Revolutionary Government confiscated and sold Church lands to raise money and lower taxes on the middle class.  Therefore . . .

(3)  When Catholic priests and monks actively opposed the French to preserve Church lands and influence in Spanish society, Napoleon assumed that all Spaniards would see their actions as self-serving (as he did) and therefore that calls for popular resistance by the priests and monks would fall on deaf ears.

(4)  Finally, those three assumptions led Napoleon the Emperor to a seemingly logical fourth assumption: all Spanish resistance will end with the defeat of Spain's conventional armies.

NAPOLEON THE EMPEROR WAS WRONG ON ALL FOUR COUNTS.  He misjudged the Spanish people, the extent of their pride, the tenacity of their religious faith, and their loyalty to their own (Spanish) King.  He thereby underestimated the severity of the military task facing him.  "If I thought it would cost me 80,000 men I would not attempt it," he blandly asserted, "but it will cost me no more than 12,000."   The price he paid for his arrogance and ignorance was not 12,000, but 300,000 French and allied soldiers, and ultimately his own empire and throne.  -- Capitol "W" War, Dr. Joe Strange, 1998, pp. 187-191.

"The price he paid for his arrogance and ignorance was . . . ultimately his own empire and throne." Today's tyrant wannabes, especially Barack Obama, ought to remember that.


Arkindole said...

I will again mention geography, logistics, and the braggadocio of the collectivists and their presumed palace guard. Iraq and Afghanistan are roughly equivalent in surface area to California and Texas. Surge away on that plus the other 48.

Longbow said...

"Today's tyrant wannabes, especially Barack Obama, ought to remember that."

They will not remember it, Mike. They, in their hubris and arrogance, cannot grasp the concept.

Anonymous said...

Will the classes/instruction be available online, would love the tutelage sir.