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Analyzes military policy & philosophy of Chinese communist leader. Major influences, politics, strategy & tactics, writings, successes, ideology, Marxism-Leninism, discipline, principles.... More...
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Analyzes military policy & philosophy of Chinese communist leader. Major influences, politics, strategy & tactics, writings, successes, ideology, Marxism-Leninism, discipline, principles.
Abstract Mao Tse-tung was one of the most important military as well as political figures of the twentieth century. His doctrine of protracted guerilla revolutionary war had a major influence on the history of the second half of the twentieth century, and his military doctrines were successfully employed by the North Vietnamese to stymie the United States during the Vietnam war. Yet--in contrast to most famous generals--his military career is not one of dramatic victories won in the field. Indeed, his most famous single military exploit is a retreat, the Long March. In order to understand the nature and significance of Mao's military thought, we must understand both the political context of that thought and the military context in which Mao operated. In spite of the famous dictum of Clausewitz that war is an
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The different fates of Ho Chi Minh's and SaddamHussein's armies in the face of American airpower and firepower providesone vivid measure of the degree to which Mao's military thought differedfrom Western preconceptions. Belatedly realizingthis, the Kuomingtang finally committed first-rate "Central" troops againstthe Communist forces. Though not original in his contribution to the substance of Marxist philosophy, Mao is highly original--indeed heterodox--in applying this philosophy to the concred conditions of China. Machiavelliwrote on war, as well as on politics, and was in fact placed in charge of a(strikingly unsuccessful) Florentine republican militia raised to resistthe claims of the Medicis. It is by this harshlyrealistic measure that Mao must be recognized as a great military leader. In the countryside, however, it hadencountered difficulty in imposing its effective control in the face oflocal warlords. 346. Yetthe U.S. Mao Tse-tung on Revolution and War. New York: Viking, 1971.----------------------- Since the Chinese have traditionally used a non-alphabetic writingsystem, rendering Chinese words into Roman characters is difficult, and avariety of systems have been used. Apart from his understanding of the underlying unity of the militaryand the political, a striking feature of Sun Tzu's military thought was hisapproach to the central problem of war itself: overcoming the enemy. His doctrine of protractedguerilla revolutionary war had a major influence on the history of thesecond half of the twentieth century, and his military doctrines weresuccessfully employed by the North Vietnamese to stymie the United Statesduring the Vietnam war. Its arrangement is unfortunately chronologicalrather than topical, and the lack of an index also makes it more difficultto consult specific topics. 244ff. Much of it is also heavily overgrown--poor conditionsfor American-style methods; in contrast to the Iraqi desert, which wasnearly ideal for those methods. For if he does not know where I intend to give battle he must prepare in a great many places. China lacked the resources tomount a successful frontal, conventional war against the large and modernImperial Japanese army. 65. Ibid., p. 54-55. His ideal wasRepublican Rome, a society which had no professional officer corps; allcommand ranks above that of centurion (equivalent roughly to a senior NCOor warrant officer in a modern army) were held by regular public officials. That, fromSun Tzu to Mao Tse-tung, they generally chose not to do so points to a long-standing difference between Chinese and Western perceptions of the meansand objectives of war. Even in his political writings, The Prince andThe Discourses, Machiavelli gave much attention to military matters; notsimply to the overall organization of forces, but to military strategy,tactics, even the training of troops. Machiavelli did so because he regarded the conduct of war as integralto the conduct of politics, and his military prescriptions were closelybound up with his overall political values. 221. Mao Tse-tung was not operating in a culturalvacuum; much of his military thought was rooted deep in Chinese tradition. B. In order to understand the nature and significance of Mao's militarythought, we must understand both the political context of that thought andthe military context in which Mao operated. Peking:Foreign Language Press, 1963. Peking: ForeignLanguage Press, 1963.Newnham, Richard. H. Sun Tzushows an awareness of the political context of war that in some waysforeshadows Mao; he ranks the political support enjoyed by the nationalleadership as the most crucial factor in achieving victory. Ibid., pp. China is today rapidly evolving into something not very differentfrom what the Kuomingtang regime might have become had it survived,authoritarian, neo-Confucian, and increasingly capitalist. Saio-yu. For romanization of Chinese, see Richard Newnham, About Chinese(London: Penguin, 1971), pp. Syracuse, NY: SyracuseUniversity Press, 1959. 212-13. Syracuse, NY: SyracuseUniversity Press, 1959.Sun Tzu. Mao hadalready gained some experience in the revolutionary organization ofpeasants. E.g., the prevalent American public anxiety before the Gulf War,which surely owed much to the memory of the previous American militaryencounter with a Third World army in Vietnam. In this respectMao's thought was a triumph of circumstance over ideology. Indeed, much of Mao's military writing is very suggestive of Sun Tzu: Oppose fixed battle lines and positional warfare, and favor fluid battle lines and mobile warfare. Chinese armies, however, were like Western onesbased primarily upon infantry in the classical period, and could easilyhave adopted frontal-assault tactics had they chosen to do so. The reason is probably that counter-insurgency forces seldom if everwere actually reliant on the populations among whom they were operating.The civil role of the army thus tended to become a purely theoretical (oreven public-relations) doctrine, handed down from rear headquarters, butgenerally ignored by the forces in the field, who instead coined the vulgarinterpretation, "when you've got 'em by the balls, their hearts and mindswill follow." The Red Army could not follow this cynical interpretation, because itgenuinely relied on the support of the population among which it operatedfor most of its supply and sustenance; without continual reinforcement ofthe need for good relations with the population, a revolution army wouldhave found in the countryside not security but isolation and ultimatelyextinction. Keegan, pp. And when he prepares everywhere he will be weak everywhere.And again, in even closer foreshadowing of Liddell Hart: March by an indirect route and divert the enemy by enticing him with a bait. Oppose fighting merely to rout the enemy, and uphold fighting to annihilate the enemy. SunTzu was concerned with the means by which battles were won, but winningbattles was not in his view the key to success in the conduct of war. In thepostwar era, very few Third World revolutionary movements actually overcameWestern colonial powers, or neocolonial regimes backed by Western power--Mao and his Vietnamese disciples being the exceptions that very nearlyprove the rule. New York: Alfred A. Nowhere in Mao's career are there any great set-piecevictories, like those we associate with Erwin Rommel or Douglas MacArthur.Indeed, the single most famous episode in Mao's military career is the LongMarch, a retreat--and, moreover, a retreat in which virtually all those whobegan perished. Because of itsofficial character, however, it has some notable lapses; for example, it isstrikingly deficient in coverage of the crucial period in 193 when theurban-oriented Li Li-san line was rejected in favor of Mao's agrarianrevolutionary approach. New York: Viking, 1971. xvii. Such an army will beinvincible." In Western history, this sort of continuity has been the exception.War might be understood as an extension of policy, but when war came thepolitical leadership has, since the Renaissance at least, tended to stepback and put the generals in charge of the effort. Ibid., p. Since most primary sources regarding Mao's military career werewritten or translated using the Wade-Giles system, that form of the name isadopted here. An Outline History of China. Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung. After 193 , the Red Army and the Chinese Communist Party decisivelyleft their urban origins behind and committed themselves to the peasants,the countryside, and a new doctrine of revolutionary war. China had experienced mass peasant uprisings before Marx wasever heard of; outstandingly, the Taiping rebellion had shaken China forover a decade in the middle of the nineteenth century. In the Leninist model the peasants were essentially inert, but Maoperceived that millions of Chinese peasants plainly had a potentialrevolutionary consciousness of some sort. The "little red book" of selected quotations from Mao was, in itsheyday, the most widely distributed book in the world, with the possibleexception of the Bible, and achieved quasi-scriptural authority withinChina. Thelast in particular cannot be stressed too much. (In this respect, Lee must be judged the worsefailure; Rommel was never supreme commander, whereas Lee was in overallcommand of the Confederacy's armies.) Mao did not gain great victories inthe field, but at the end of the day he and his party were absolute mastersof mainland China. Thevacuum left by the eventual Japanese collapse was one which the Communistswere prepared to fill, while the Nationalists were not. Dick Wilson, The Long March (New York: Viking, 1971), pp. Mao is in effect the originator of the"hearts and minds" doctrine of the civil role of an army in insurgency; inthe 196 s and 197 s, Western counter-insurgency specialists borrowed fromthis concept, though on the whole with very indifferent success. This originality consists primarily in four things: (1) shifting the locus of revolution from the urban centers to the rural areas, (2) developing a communist party based on the peasantry, (3) systematic attention to class alliance and "united front" tactics, and (4) emphasis on a protracted military conflict based on peasant guerilla warfare. Supporters of U.S. S. New York: ModernLibrary, 195 .Mao Tse-tung. An Outline History of China. Rommel and Robert E. But the main body of theenemy force continued to elude them (in fact, in Western terms it scarcelyexisted), and so did ultimate victory, as measured by the collapse of theenemy. The Prince and the Discourses. Garden City,NY: Doubleday, 1969.Saio-yu. 218. Mao now developed this ad-hocexperience into an essentially new theory of agrarian revolution. It is possible that a much earlier experience in Mao's lifecontributed to his grasp of the conditions of rural China. Essentially, Mao took a specific military contingency, theimpracticability of urban uprisings and the potential practicability ofrural guerilla war, and joined it to a dramatic re-interpretation ofMarxism-Leninism that emphasized the peasantry as the revolutionary class,and therefore gave at least the appearance of Marxist-Leninist theoreticallegitimacy to just the type of revolutionary war that he and the Partymight be able to win. Although this account, officially published by the Chinesegovernment, covers the whole sweep of Chinese history, its emphasis isunsurprisingly upon the twentieth-century history that led up to theestablishment of the People's Republic. The classical Chinese politicalphilosophers were as indifferent to military affairs as their Westerncounterparts; the Analects of Confucius are as devoid of consideration ofmilitary strategy as is the Republic of Plato. By the ultimate test of success, Mao had vindicated his generalship. The ChineseCommunist system, so potent in war, proved in the long run to be unequal tothe demands of peace. This is a collection of Mao's military writings, officially issued bythe Chinese government. 2) Pay fairly for what you buy. Theepigrammatic quality of translated Chinese, for example, is an artifact ofthe language itself, not of the individual writers or translators. This, for example, was the outcome of Che Guevara's ill-fatedattempt to export the Cuban revolution to rural South America in the 196 s. The Kuomingtang had already demonstrated that it could crushrevolution in the great cities. If, in Clauswitz' famous phrase, war is the extension of politics byother means, then the ultimate test of war is not victory in thebattlefield, but success in attaining the political objectives for which awar was fought. 225. To give a somewhat fuller answer to the question, "why was Mao asuccessful commander?" is the subject of the following discussion. The Three Main Rulesof Discipline and the Eight Points for Attention, the essentialdisciplinary doctrine of the Red Army, were as follows: The Three Main Rules of Discipline are as follows: 1) Obey orders in all your actions. Hong Kong: JointPublications, 1979. Mao's terribly costly victory exacted its own price. In that paroxysm, Chinese Communismpolitically and morally exhausted itself. Liddell Hart would call theindirect approach. Whatever Lenin might havethought of the peasants (and he did not think highly of them), theyconstituted the vast majority of the Chinese people, and sufferedexploitation of a type at least akin to that of the urban proletariat.Moreover, the military situation in China was potentially favorable torural revolution. If he prepares to the left, his right will be vulnerable and if to the right, there will be few on his left. 3) Return everything you borrow. Sun Tzu, The Art of War, S. Sun Tzu, who probably lived around the sixth century BC, was ageneral who wrote what has become the pre-eminent military classic in theChinese intellectual and political tradition. One of these is the moralfactor, of which he says: By moral influence I mean that which causes the people to be in harmony with their leaders, so that they will accompany them in life and unto death without fear of mortal peril.Note that Sun Tzu says "leaders" and "people," not "commanders" and"troops." He is not giving a mere passing acknowledgement to the HomeFront, but acknowledging from the outset that national solidarity iscrucial to success in war. Mao's political and militarythought stemmed from the same premise, though applied in very differentcircumstances; both the political strategy of the party and its militarystrategy were rooted in the familiar analogy of the rural population to a"sea," in which armies operate like fish, and upon which they mustultimately depend for their sustenance. On the fundamental unity ofarmy and people, Mao emphasized that "The army must become one with thepeople so that they see it as their own army. London: Penguin, 1971. 85. Rejai, Mostafa, ed. The degree to which Mao can be said to have made originalcontributions to the theory of Marxism-Leninism is open to question.However, even those who challenge his claims to theoretical originalitymust admit to a profoundly original contribution to revolutionary practice: There is little doubt that Mao's status as an innovator in Marxist philosophy is at best marginal; the various claims for his originality appear to be unfounded. policy in Vietnam have variously blamed theantiwar movement or the American press for the defeat. Yet--in contrast to most famous generals--hismilitary career is not one of dramatic victories won in the field. Inmaking this adaptation, Mao Tse-tung in fact quietly rejected much ofMarxist-Leninist theory, according to which urban workers, not thepeasantry, were identified as the revolutionary class. 1 7. As late as 1992, BillClinton's Vietnam-era record was a political issue, though not a strongenough one to deny him the presidency. 22 -32. Indeed,his most famous single military exploit is a retreat, the Long March. Knopf, 1993),pp. Vietnam is not so large, but it is not small; it is about athousand miles long. Control of the railroads was important in the RussianRevolution, but though the rails physically ran through the countryside thesystem was of course wholly urban in its social setting. Griffith, trans. The Long March. New York: OxfordUniversity Press, 1963. 77-78. Starting from almost nothing,Mao and the Communists overcame immense political and military obstacles tobecome rulers of a fifth of the human race. In sharp contrast to the practice in premodern Europe(but not to Machiavelli's Italy), Sun Tzu takes it for granted thatpolitical leaders will not command their armies in person, indeed hespecifically warns, in terms that modern generals would approve, againstuninformed political meddling in military planning. But he alsounderstood, as Mao did and the American political leaders of the Vietnamera did not, that national resolve is crucial to ultimate military success. BibliographyKeegan, John. The Communistswere compelled to give up the base areas they had established, and in thecourse of the march itself their remaining forces were almost entirelyeliminated. Mao Tse-tung and I Were Beggars. For if he prepares to the front his rear will be weak; and if to the rear, his front will be fragile. Although he is now best knownfor The Prince, a handbook for dictators, Machiavelli was a republican atheart. In the Marxist model of history, a predominantly rural society couldonly pass through the first historical stages of slavery and feudalism; thenext stage, capitalism, depended upon the bourgeoisie, which impliesurbanism. The actual roots of Mao's military (and political) thought must,however, be sought in Chinese history. Mao Tse-tung on Revolution and War. As such, it is an extremely useful guide toanyone who is dealing with Chinese-language texts in translation. 6) The enemy has been induced to make mistakes. The first condition, active support of the population, is the most important one for the Red Army. In conflicts between Western and non-Western powers in modern times,however, the Western forces have generally won (politically as well as inthe narrow military sense), even when the enemy had as much access toWestern arms and techniques, relative to the technology of the day, as didMao's army. During the heyday of colonialism, Western forcesfrequently encountered enemies who fought evasively, melting away fromconcentrations of strength and striking suddenly against weakness. Selected Military Writings of Mao Tse-tung. But the Communists came to this war pre-armed with a suitablemilitary doctrine, and with a congruent political doctrine as well. Guerilla warfare alone has not in most cases proved to beeffective against conventional Western forces. In the wake of a failed uprising in Nanch'ang in 1927,Mao fled with other survivers into the Hunan-Kiangsi mountains, and thereformed the beginnings of the Red Army. The reader should, however, perhapskeep Rejai's own (anti-communist) political perspective in mind whenevaluating the editor's commentaries on Mao's military thought. London: Penguin, 1971.Rejai, Mostafa, ed. The second most important was to break up his alliances(a political rather than narrowly military measure, we may note).Attacking the enemy's army was only his third measure, while attackingcities was--foreshadowing Mao--a measure to be avoided if possible. The avoidance of battle as a primary means of deciding a war is thusa respect in which Sun Tzu anticipated Mao by some twenty-five centuries.The contemporary military historian John Keegan has suggested, indeed, thatdirect, frontal assault upon the enemy--the charge, whether by cavalry,infantry, or armor--which we tend to think of as the the base-line elementof war, is a peculiarly Western cultural institution. In the West ithas a very long history, going back to the Greek phalanx. In these ways Mao's "model" of the communist revolution departs from its Soviet counterpart. What is especially significant from our point of view is thecontinuity between the military and the "civil" in Mao's thought. To Mao, as toMachiavelli, war and politics were a continuum, not isolated compartments. It was in this extremity that the decision was made toundertake what became known as the Long March. Mao later insisted thatthe Long March was in fact "entirely unnecessary," in that had the Red Armyused better generalship the Fifth Encirclement could have been defeated.In fact, however, there was no practical alternative. In conventional military terms, as noted at the beginning of thisdiscussion, the Long March was a nearly total disaster. Saio-yu, Mao Tse-tung and I Were Beggars (Syracuse, NY: SyracuseUniversity Press, 1959), p. The actual materialthus, in substantial measure, duplicates that found in Selected MilitaryWritings of Mao Tse-Tung, discussed above. Militant revolutionary Marxism, Leninism,arose in a country that was indeed largely rural and semifeudal, but theParty was rooted in the industrial proletariat of the large cities, andsiezed power through control of the cities and the urban industrialinfrastructures. It was not theform of warfare practiced in most primitive societies, however; nor has itbeen characteristic of non-Western civilizations. TheRussian revolutionaries made no important contributions to the art of war.Nor, in fact, did the military challenges which the Russian Revolutionfaced--a disintegrating Czarist army, and later the White Russian militaryforces and a rather ineffective Western intervention--compare to thosefaced by the Chinest Communists during their long revolution, interruptedas it was by the Japanese invasion of China. 2) The terrain is favorable for operations. This analogy is frequently associated with Mao's strategy, but thepresent writer has been unable to find specific use of it in Mao's ownwritings. TheChinese Communist Party originally pursued an urban insurrectionarystrategy, in keeping with orthodox Marxist-Leninist theory; only when urbaninsurrection failed was the party forced to retreat to rural bases, and torethink its political and military strategy to fit a rural context. 5) Don't hit or swear at people. In spite of the famous dictumof Clausewitz that war is an extension of policy, the study of war and ofpolitics have been largely isolated from one another in the Western world.Political philosophers paid little attention to war, and military theoristspaid little attention to broader political issues. About Chinese. As a student,Mao and a friend, Saio-yu, took a period of time off from school to go intothe countryside as beggars. He continually laid great emphasis upon thestrategic importance of space: China is a vast country--"When it is dark in the east, it is light in the west; when things are dark in the south, there is still light in the north." Hence one need not worry about lack of room to maneuver.[2 ]Space had a relative as well as an absolute significance; during the waragainst Japan, the central fact was that China was simply too big for theJapanese forces to really control all of it, especially if guerillaactivity (even if ineffective in any narrow sense) had the effect ofdenying the Japanese any safe rear areas within the country. GardenCity, NY: Doubleday, 1969. And when he prepares in a great many places, those I have to fight in any one place will be few. The actual text of The Artof War includes both the writing of Sun Tzu himself and expansions andcommemtaries added by his successors in the classical age. Hong Kong: JointPublications, 1979.Wilson, Dick. logistics, air power, and reinforcements. Mao's political and military philosophies were radically different fromMachiavelli's, but he shared with Machiavelli a strong sense of thefundamental continuity between military and political strategy. North Vietnameseattempts to create another Dien Bien Phu against the Americans alwaysfailed in the face of U.S. Abstract Mao Tse-tung was one of the most important military as well aspolitical figures of the twentieth century. In 1934 they smashedthrough the defenses of the Communists, and seemed on the point ofannihilating them. Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince and the Discourses (New York:Modern Library, 195 ). Mao Tse-tung, Quotations From Chairman Mao tse-Tung (New York:Praeger, 1967), p. Sun Tzu. 169-75. 98. Saio-yu notes that at one point he remarked that poor ruralfamilies seemed happier than the well-to-do, whereupon Mao replied that "wecan call that the destiny of the rich and poor." This experienceperhaps gave Mao a sense of the Chinese countryside that most earlyCommunist cadres, children of the cities, did not have. In a reversal of Clausewitz' dictum, the politics ofthe Chinese Communist regime came to be essentially war continued by othermeans, e.g., the Cultural Revolution. The subsequent development of the revolution was complicated by thesimiltaneous effort to expel the Japanese invaders, an effort in which theCommunists and the Kuomingtang joined hands. Mao Tse-tung on Revolution and War(Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1969), p. Selected Military Writings of Mao Tse-tung. Moreover, it cannot remotely be said that Mao triumphedagainst weaker foes; only in the final phase of the Revolution, as theNationalist armies and government began to disintegrate, Mao and theCommunists were materially the weaker party. Why, then, we might fairly ask, is Mao regarded as oneof the greatest commanders and strategists of the twentieth century, ratherthan as one of its worst failures? In the Chinese context this does not have thesame connotation as it has in the West; Buddhist tradition gives begging atype of moral respectability, to this experience might be compared tocontemporary Western students taking a year off from school to work ortravel. 49. Marxist-Leninist theory might provide a framework for revolutionary thought and amodel for (urban) revolutionary agitation and action, but the underlyingimpulse to rebellion against oppression by the rich and powerful lay deeperthan that. ________. In the final phaseof the civil war, from late 1945 to 1949, the Nationalists and theirAmerican supporters were in the position of attempting to shovel back thesea. In the course of the Long March, the Chinese Communistarmy was decimated; of some eighty thousand who began the March, only someeight thousand were alive at the end. By familiar Western standards of judging success in a militarycommander, it would be difficult to imagine a less auspicious high point toa general's career. Shortly thereafter, heplaces "which ruler possesses moral influence" first on his list of factorsby which he would predict the outcome of a war. This is not to say that Sun Tzu does not distinguish military frompolitical spheres. A History of Warfare. Keegan, p. Knopf,1993. 354-55. New York: Alfred A. The separation hasextended into the intellectual sphere; from even ancient times, Westernpolitical philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle wrote about theinstitutions of civil society. 5) The enemy has been reduced to a tired and demoralized state. In the course ofthe war, American forces gained military successes in the field, andinflicted far more casualties than they received. The Art of War. 77. The enemy must not know where I intend to give battle. The close relationship of the civil and the military was furtheremphasized by the military doctrine that Mao evolved. 2) Don't take a single needle or piece of thread from the masses. Sun Tzu, 47-48. For this reason, Rejai's compilation of Mao'smilitary thought, discussed below, is recommended as an alternative readyreference. In addition tothis text, the Griffith edition includes a number of introductory essays,including an extremely useful analysis of the ways in which Mao drew on SunTzu's thought; this essay also incorporates a brief military history of theChinese Revolution itself. [1 ]Ibid., p. 4) Pay for anything you damage. Rejai, p. Mao and his associates soon discovered that these forces, well-equipped and trained in part by German advisors, were of a wholly differentquality than those they had previously defeated. His central point is that theinterrelationship between war and political goals, presumed by Clausewitz,has not held true for war in most parts of the world, and in most cultures. This book consists primarily of selected excerpts from Mao's militarywritings, introduced and commented upon by the editor. But whereas ancient writersspecifically on war, such as the Roman Vegetius, were broadly apolitical,the Chinese military classic, The Art of War, by Sun Tzu, shows continualawareness of the political context of war. The Art of War. Rejai, pp. Among Western politicalthinkers, he comes closest to Mao in his integration of military issuesinto his thought. Ibid., p. Oppose the strategy of striking with two "fists" in two directions at the same time [i.e., dispersing one's forces, and uphold the strategy of striking with one "fist" in one direction at one time. It aptly demonstrates the integration of Mao's military thoughtwith his broader political thought; out of thirty-three chapters, five dealspecifically with military or military-political issues, in addition tomany other individual excerpts that touch upon these areas. (New York: OxfordUniversity Press, 1963), p. So doing, you may set out after he does and arrive before him. He had proceeded originally on an ad-hoc basis; the nascent RedArmy had perforce been required to develop a rural base in its fastnessesafter the first disaster at Nanch'ang. Tung Chi-ming, An Outline History of China (Hong Kong: JointPublications, 1979), pp. 53ff. Mao Tse-tung and I Were Beggars. A striking exception tothis pattern of divorce is Machiavelli, whose military thought was closelyintegrated with his broader political philosophy. Keegan also emphasizes thedistinctiveness of the Western tradition of direct assault, in contrast towarfare among other civilized societies, which has often drawn on guerilla-like methods of strike and withdrawal. 4) The enemy's weak spots have been discovered. It is therefore a most usefulintroduction to the official Communist Party interpretation of modernChinese history, including its interpretation of both the military eventsand the political background of the revolutionary struggle. The intimate relationship between army and idea behind thisanalogy is implicit on the political level in the decision to use the ruralpeasantry instead of the urban proletariat as the revolutionary base class,and on the military level in the second Principle of Operation: "Take smalland medium cities and extensive rural areas first; take big cities later."For the latter see Mostafa Rejai, ed. Griffith, trans. Machiavelli, Niccolo. A striking feature ofMao's career was the remarkable degree of continuity between his militarythought and his broader political thought. From a broadstrategic perspective, however, this is beside the point. 3) All the main forces of the Red Army are concentrated. This is a general historical account of the events leading up to theLong March, and of the Long March itself. The short answer is that he won. One able to do this understands the strategy of the direct and the indirect. The most important element of offensive strategy, in SunTzu's view, was to disrupt the enemy's strategy--to unnerve him, or throwhim off balance. War has often played a largely symbolic role, as for example among theAztecs, and has frequently been culturally limited in various ways toensure that it did not get out of hand. [2 ]Mao Tse-tung, Selected Military Writings of Mao Tse-tung (Peking:Foreign Language Press, 1963), p. The most widespread, until recently,was the Wade-Giles system, in which Mao's name is rendered Mao Tse-tung.The Pinyin system has been adopted in official in China, and is nowgenerally used in the American press. What worked in vast China might prove less suited to muchsmaller countries such as El Salvador or Guatemala, where (among otherthings) much of the population lives in the capital city, and is notdependent upon the surrounding countryside to the degree that most Chinesecities were. Machiavelli is striking among Western political philosophers not onlyfor the ruthless pragmatism for which he is most famous, but also for theclose interrelationship he perceived between the general problem ofgovernment and the specific problem of warfare. Oppose bandit ways, and uphold strict political discipline. However, topical arrangement ofthe materials, and the presence of an index, make it more useful for thestudent of war who is seeking to grasp Mao's military thought, while theeditor's introduction is also useful in providing a summary of thebackground of Mao's military career. The urban workerswere too small a fraction of China's population; moreover, the cities inwhich they were concentrated were also the center of the Kuomingtang'ssupport, and an environment in which its forces could most readily maintainits control. Tung Chi-ming. Ibid., p. Sun Tzu alsoespoused a theory on the conduct of war that had a number of points ofsimilarity to the theory of guerilla war. The non-Western cultures which Westerners have most often encounteredin war through their history, have been Middle Eastern; the Persians inancient times, the Muslims in the medieval era. Ibid., p. From that point, they could only move from strength to strength. 1 2. The first objective in war, accordingto Sun Tzu, was to disrupt the enemy's strategy, then to break up hisalliances, and only thirdly to fight battles. This is a general outline of the characteristics of the written andspoken Chinese language. (The very word, rooted in the German burg, "fortress," and latera fortified town, conveyed this sense.) For a society to leap fromfeudalism to socialism while bypassing the capitalist stage wascontradictory to Marxist theory. Thisessay is not intended to be an account of the military aspects of theChinese Revolution or a history of Mao's military career. The war inVietnam, against an army and society operating on Maoist militaryprinciples, was the worst military defeat the United States ever suffered,and one whose demoralizing effects still persist. Yet a strikingfeature of the Vietnam war was that the United States suffered nosubstantial military defeats in the course of the war. Mao frequently quotes the Clausewitz dictum in his military writings,yet in an important sense the reverse of that dictum also proved decisivein the career of his movement. The Prince and the Discourses. If warlords commanding a few thousand ill-treated andwretchedly equipped troops, and having little or no popular base orlegitimacy, could defy the Kuomingtang armies, then it was highly plausiblethat a well-disciplined revolutionary movement could do so. Week after week, year after year, American soldiers came home inbody bags, with no visible sign of progress, until at last the Americanpublic was no longer willing to give energetic support to the furtherprosecution of the war. New York: OxfordUniversity Press, 1963.Tung Chi-ming. At this point, Mao seems to have gone back to first principles,drawing in part, perhaps, upon his own personal experience. 59.----------------------- 3 81. The Griffith edition of Sun Tzu contains a usefulintroductory essay comparing Sun Tzu and Mao, and emphasizes the role thatthe failure of urban revolution at the beginning of the 193 s had on thesubsequent development of Mao's strategic and political thought. Ibid., pp. Mao's integration of the political and themilitary is foreshadowed, to a considerable degree, by Sun Tzu. Oppose the policy of isolation, and affirm the policy of winning over all possible allies. Except for the troops engaged in frontal defense against the enemy, our forces will be switched in large numbers to the enemy's rear in comparatively dispersed dis- positions, and, basing themselves on all areas not actually occupied by the enemy and co-ordinating with the people's local armed forces, they will launch extensive, fierce guerilla warfare against enemy- occupied areas, keeping the enemy on the move as far as possible in order to destroy him in mobile warfare.On the role of retreat as a positive action in warfare, Mao held that theCommunist army should retreat until the following conditions were met,conditions strikingly reminiscent of passages in Sun Tzu: 1) The population actively supports the Red Army. Saio-yu, a boyhood and schooldays friend of Mao, did not follow Mao'slater political line, and subsequently left China. In another anticipation ofMao, Sun Tzu considered attacks against cities to be the least favorableoption. 3) Turn in everything captured. Since these societies havegenerally based their systems on the mastery of horse-archery, it isperhaps not surprising that they would seek to avoid head-on clashes.Cavalry--with the notable exception of medieval Western knights--are ill-suited to such tactics. Essential to both was the repudiationof what was perhaps the central tenet of Marxism-Leninism: the role of theurban proletariat as the revolutionary class. ultimately abandoned its war effort, and with the fall of SouthVietnam two years later the Communist political objectives were fullyrealized. The dominant line of the Party,under Li Li-san, remained urban, and in 193 a new wave of attempts tosieze cities was suppressed at great cost to the Communists. In the wake of these disasters, Mao realized--as the older Partyleaders, trapped by their Leninist orientation, did not--that an urbanproletarian revolution was simply not viable in China. B. In a quarter-century of nearlyconstant warfare, against the Nationalist Chinese government, variouswarlords, and Imperial Japan--and with the Nationalists having received, inthe last years of the war, massive American logistic and technical support,the Chinese Communists under Mao's leadership ultimately prevailed. (In Guatemala, moreover, this population is mostly of adifferent culture and ethnicity than the rural rebels. France would go down in the next round, and theBritish Empire would not long survive its finest hour. Guerilla warfare and the war of maneuver, bothtaking advantage of China's vast spaces, were the only viable options forresistance. Maoemerges, perhaps unsurprisingly, as a serious student and a ratherhumorless young man, though his time as a beggar, besides exposing him tothe Chinese countryside, perhaps shows a side of his character subsequentlyrepressed. "Towin one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill.To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill."[1 ] In furtherance of this goal, Sun Tzu laid continual emphasis uponwhat the twentieth-century strategist B. 64. New York:Praeger, 1967. Third World revolutionary movements of recent decades often erred byblindly borrowing from Mao's military prescriptions while failing to graspthe broader strategic (and political) thought in which those prescriptionswere embedded. They acknowledged the need for a militarycapability (e.g., Plato's "Guardians"), but the problem of how to conductwar once it broke out fell beyond their self-accepted purview. Mao Tse-tung,one imagines, might turn over in his grave if he could see what hisintegrated military and political doctrines have wrought less than twodecades after his death. Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung. By the time it ended, the material fortunes of the ChineseCommunist party and army had fallen to their lowest point--lower, even,than in the wake of the failed urban uprisings of 193 . Mao was perhaps forced to this understanding by circumstances. Lee were both brilliant successes inthe field, but in the last analysis they must be judged as militaryfailures, since the causes for which they fought suffered ultimate defeatand political extinction. In part, Mao's exceptional success (and that of the Vietnamese) mightbe credited to the nature of the terrain upon which they were fighting.China is a very large country, and the Long March would have beenimpossible without enormous spaces in which to carry it out. China'sspaces would not, however, have proven effective had not Mao correctly readtheir strategic significance. Ibid., p. Annotated Bibliography Keegan, John. It is intended,instead, as an examination of Mao's military thought; its roots, itsdevelopment, and its intimate relationship to his political thought. But if the military is an extension of the political, then thepolitical is also in a sense the extension of the military. In the FirstWorld War, European nations following Clauswitzian doctrine foundthemselves its captive; the war took on a momentum of its own that ran farbeyond the political objectives or control of any party. The Long March. Wilson, Dick. 198 Sun Tzu, p. He also resembles Mao in the emphasis he laid uponpopular support; he advised against reliance upon fortresses, for example,on the grounds that it would tempt leaders into thinking they could ignoreefforts to develop a popular base; in the event of invasion, fortressescould not hold if the population behind them was disaffected and ready towelcome the invaders. It was indeed among urban workers and intellectuals that the ChineseCommunist Party originally arose, and it retained its essentially urbancharacter until the early 193 s. S. B. Victory in battle was not theobjective in war, according to Sun Tzu; indeed, the ideal was to achievevictory without fighting a battle. 93. Ibid., p. 6) Don't damage crops. It ended with apeace of exhaustion; of the major participants who were in for theduration, most collapsed entirely, France was demoralized, and Britaindesperately overstrained. It was specifically the military failuresof the early stages of the Communist revolution that moved Mao todramatically rethink not only the military but the political aspects of theParty's situation. Though hisrecollections (he kept no contemporary diary, but claims to have anexcellent memory) are undoubtedly colored by his own later politicalexperience and outlook, his memoirs provide a unique glimpse of Mao in hisformative years, in terms of both interests and personal character. That victories in battle are not equivalent to success in war is alesson which Americans learned, in an exceptionally painful manner, fromMao's Vietnamese students, Ho Chi Minh and General Giap. The Pinyin form of the name is MaoZedong. About Chinese. Whatever else may be said of him, Mao Tse-tung, or Mao Zedong, hasbeen acknowledged as one of the great military geniuses of the twentiethcentury. 7) Don't take liberties with women. Mao Tse-tung. New York:Modern Library, 195 . A History of Warfare. At the very beginning of The Art of War, Sun Tzu identifies the majorfactors shaping the conduct and outcome of war. But they hadsurvived, in the face of the Kuomingtang government and army's best effort. 8) Don't ill-treat captives.All but the last of the Eight Points for Attention relates primarily torelations between the army and the population it operates among, ratherthan strictly military affairs. As part of the republican program he argued for in The Discourses,he favored the establishment of a national popular militia, based oninfantry--a People's Liberation Army, in fact--in a country and age,Renaissance Italy, in which states normally relied upon mercenary cavalry.Mass participation in public life was, in Machiavelli's view, inseparablefrom mass participation in the military defense of the state, not onlyagainst foreign enemies but against internal coups d'etat. Ibid., p. Another central influence upon Mao's military thought was the Chinesemilitary tradition, as embodied in the military classic, The Art of War, bySun Tzu, a general and military theorist of the classical era. But as noted earlier, Mao's military thought did not exist inisolation from his political thought; indeed, the military and politicalstrategies were intimately related. Besides demonstrating thetribulations of the March--and the paradoxical but profound psychologicalboost which the survivers gained from having accomplished it--it provides asurvey of the political and military developments that led up to the breakbetween Mao and Li Li-san, an important subject not covered adequately inTung Chi-ming's official historical account of that period. It is not a reputation he gained in victorious battles, thecontext in which most of the great generals of Western history have wontheir renown. A striking exception to this "demilitarization" of Western politicalthought was that Renaissance realist, Niccolo Machiavelli. The Eight Points for Attention are as follows: 1) Speak politely. Newnham, Richard. Griffith, trans. Because the movement thatMao led grew out of the early, classically-Leninist Chinese CommunistParty, and claimed Marxist-Leninist ideology as their legitimizingprinciple, it was obviously necessary for them to disguise thisrepudiation, but it was a fundamental repudiation all the same. John Keegan, A History of Warfare (New York: Alfred A. New York:Praeger, 1967.________. Keegan's interpretation of the history of war is essentially arefutation of the Clausewitz dictum. The troops originally committed to these were poorly equippedand led by unreliable commanders who were little better themselves thanlatent warlords; in fact, the Kuomingtang's real objective may have been toweaken both the Red Army and the "non-Central" troops sent againstthem. Chaing Kai-shek had failed to read his Machiavelli; thecampaigns only served to strengthen the Communists. The topics covered range from Mao's generalphilosophy of warfare in relation to politics, to his specific analyses,made at the time, of strategic and political-military requirements duringthe various phases of the Chinese Revolution and the war against Japan, tovarious policy directives. Knopf, 1993.Machiavelli, Niccolo. The Kuomingtanggovernment countered this new threat with a series of "Bandit Suppression"campaigns. The nature of the situation,however, entirely favored the Communists. Forged in war, Maoist doctrine has proveninadequate to the challenges of peace, and is in practice being quietlyabandoned by the Chinese government.
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