Doesn’t anyone read The Art of War anymore? Have we forgotten Cortez and Columbus? Waging a war against an opponent that outnumbers our forces is simple – you do it primarily with trade, secondarily with propoganda, thirdly with political support to upcoming leaders who are friendly to you, and fourthly by incremental encroachment. You don’t go in guns a blazing. No one – no one – ever thought we could take over Iraq. I mean, come on. How can a buffalo take over an ant hill? The ants will eat him up – he has no chance of stepping on them all, with only his four huge feet.

We all know the reason the US is in Iraq is to control the oil, and to intimdidate other countries in the region to trade favorably with the US. So if that is the reason, how to go about it successfuly?

Actually, the US troups have succeeded in the aim of their superior officers, the CEOs of the multinational oil companies. So their war has been won. Temporarily, at least.

But isn’t there a more tactical approach to the problem of getting at Iraqi oil, and intimidating other players into allowing access to their oil?

We couldn’t have bribed Sadam – he was insanely wealthy – he owned a resource rich country. We weren’t having much success funding his enemies – he kept wiping them out wherever he could sniff them. And the culture of the region is highly isolationist, and very difficult for most westerners to understand – even if we wanted to – which we don’t.

Covert operatives couldn’t get access to snipe the leader, and even if they did, power vacuums are the devil we don’t know.

If you thought that the US economy was dependent upon oil, that without it, a major economic crises and the collapse of the ability of the government to pay its bond debt would occur, how would you go about securing access? The question isn’t how to find oil alternatives – in this universe, potential alternatives would not forestall an economic collapse. The question is how to keep the supply when others control it.

I think the US should have paid greater attention to its image in the region. We should have, by now, a 60 year history of student exchange. We should have been sending over doctors to work in free clinics, as our embassadors. We should have strengthened econonomic and cultural ties on the micro level. We should have expats living in their communities. We should be a part of them, and them of us.

Think how the Chinese control big money and politics throughout SE Asia – incrementally and by seeming to be assimilating to their host countries. Think of Cuba’s brilliant global diplomatic outreach program, of sending its skilled doctors as aid to other countries. Think of the political benefit that accrues from the US Peace Corp.

Instead, we have this immense and impenatrable cultural divide, that keeps the US people shut out from the halls of Arab power. Forcefully shut out from their society. We are their other – and never more, than now.

That is the recipe for how to lose a war.

To win it, you have to become their us. The best way, the historically most successful way, is to brainwash their populace to believe that our god is more powerful than their god. Then they will fight our war for us, and gather in our churches with offerings. Our gods can captivate their imagination, and we can capture influence culturally. Is our Hollywood God more powerful than their entertainment gods? They can come to find the music of Britney Spears more groovy than their folk tunes. To believe that the western standard of living could be theirs for the taking, if only they get educated in our universities.

The battle for mid-east oil should have been engaged incrementally, with the long view. Not in some military takeover that is destined to be a short term victory that alienates us.

Sun Tsu wrote ages ago that war is a risky last resort in the tactitions arsenal – a sign of poor marshalling of resources. Its obvious stuff. You have to take over a country culturally before your military presence will stick. Alexander the Great could consolidate Indian fiefdoms not because of the size of his army, but because his governmental system was embraced as a social good. The Roman conquered at least as much by cultural inflence as by the sword. Napoleon and the Mongols merely swept through, with short lived occupations. To take over a country and keep it, you have to first make them prefer your leadership style. Don’t expect you can reverse that order.

Update: The Commerce Department has been forced by Judicial Watch to turn over records of spring, 2001 meetings held between Dick Cheney and execs from global oil giants, records that suggest that the group decided months before September 11th that the US energy policy would center on taking control of Iraq’s oil. Link