Monday, July 27, 2009

The Slaps that Shape the Face of War

The successful use of the Warrior’s Guide to the Other Guy’s Culture is matter of culling from the information about a culture that reveals it’s Face. Face issues include duty, honor, country, family, be they individual or collective. Battles are fought to grab something, smash something and/or brag about it. It is the bragging and the humiliation that shapes the face of a war.

George Washington’s Christmas Eve attack on the Prussians at Trenton was intended to slap the British Face, to humiliate them and to announce to the Colonies that he intended to fight and win. The positive spin on this definitive Slap in the British Face induced thousands of militia in Pennsylvania and New Jersey to join the rekindled Revolution. A few months before, the British seemed to have the rebellion under hand. After all, Washington had lost ninety percent of his forces after the battles on Long Island.

The Hessian troops under British control were excellent troops, but in the European tradition in which they had been trained and accustomed to, rape, pillage and plunder were not only for service support but as job benefits. This was a Slap in the Face of those in New Jersey that over came their immediate drift to settle up with King George. George Washington’s Slap came as a welcome comeuppance.

Pearl Harbor was not only destructive, but it’s biggest impact on America was it was a huge Slap in the Face by Asians, who by the logic of the day, were inferior. In order to fit this attack into a culturally correct framework was to call the attack a “dastardly and unprovoked” sneak attack. To this day, the term “sneak attack” is ingrained in American culture. But, a Warrior knows that to attack without surprise, an “un-sneaky” attack would the attacker suffering some dastardly results.

FDR knew that this Slap had to be returned. The Doolittle attack was expected to do little in real military or industrial terms. It’s effect as a Slap was a real Face Saver for America, and the insult to Japan resulted in the failed attempt to take Midway.

Likewise did Churchill take the accidental bombing of the London docks by a stray Luftwaffe bomber into an opportunity to bomb Berlin. That Slap in Hitler’s Face shifted the bombing of RAF bases and factories to the bombing of London, the Blitz. This stiffened the resolve of the British, attracted American support, and gave the RAF precious time to rebuild.

Humiliation of an beaten enemy may make the humiliator feel warm and fuzzy, but the cold fury that it engenders has a nasty habit of blow back. The humiliation by Imperial Germany on France at Versailles in 1871 came back in spades at Versailles in 1919. That humiliation was returned in 1941 at the same railway car that saw the surrender of German forces in 1918. In propaganda one portrays the Villain (Bastard, Bitch and/or Brat) to provide fodder for the Hero and Heroine to protect the Helpless. And return the favors in kind.

Face issues are the first of the four “F’s” of Family (collective) decision values, the others are Fate, Fortune, and Fame. Taken together with the Temporal aspects of culture,
Time and Space, the Warrior learns when to slap, when to turn the other cheek, and when to kick back.

Gordon S Fowkes
Lt Col, US Army (Ret)

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