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I had a eureka moment while watching the tennis French Open on Sunday. A commentator said that playing on clay required knowledge of the terrain, brick by brick, as they showed machines grinding red bricks for the clay surface. She then read quotes from Sun Tzu, a Chinese general from 512BC, whose philosophy was and is today, regarded as one of the most influential on how to decisively defeat one’s opponent in his book, ” The Art of War“.
I admit to never have read it nor heard of the general but it piqued my interest since it seemed so apropos in today’s political environment. The results of my research proved fruitful as you’ll see.
A key principle of Sun Tzu’s philosophy is to attack the opposing side’s weaknesses and keep them off-balance: “Therefore, when I have won a victory I do not repeat my tactics but respond to circumstances in an infinite variety of ways.” In other words, be creative when developing strategies and tactics in order to defeat your foe.
Sun Tzu stressed the importance of positioning in military strategy. The decision to position an army must be based on both objective conditions in the physical environment and the subjective beliefs of other competitive actors in that environment. He didn’t think that strategy was planning in the sense of working through a set list, but that it requires quick and appropriate responses to changing conditions. Planning works in a controlled environment; but in a changing environment, where competing plans collide, anything can happen and expect the unexpected. Such is politics and thus my ah-haa moment and conclusion:
Romney’s strategic playbook seemingly comes from The Art of War, by Sun Tzu.
Obama’s strategic playbook knowingly comes from, Rules For Radicals, by Saul Alinsky.
Most here are familiar with Alinsky’s tactics and questionable ethics, yet Obama has used them as his coveted NFL playbook. It worked like a charm for the 2008 election, but hopefully the voters that were blinded by hope and change have now figured out that his secret playbook was nothing more than a thin veil of Marxist theory. Now we can add forward to his list of radical euphemisms.
Romney has proven to be an excellent student of warrior tactics on his path to presidential victory. Not only has he proven to be a clever fighter, but he positioned himself to turn his opponent’s narrative upside down while taking incoming from Obama, the MSM and his surrogates. While Axelrod was being heckled in Boston by Romney supporters, clearly a borrowed Alinksky tactic, Romney simultaneously made an unexpectant maneuver when he gave a speech on Obama’s failed taxpayer adventures at the now defunct Solyndra headquarters.
Although there are many more quotes from both Sun Tzu and Saul Alinksky, these are examples that stand out when comparing the candidate’s campaigns to their tactics. When reading these, think of Obama’s Bain mutiny, his nostolgia to campaigning against McCain, his attack on Romney’s record as MA Governor, Axelrod’s saying Romney would insult Hispanics if he picked Rubio as his VP, the surrogates he sends to the front line and all his failed trial ballons.
First, a list of quotes from Sun Tzu’s, The Art of War:
1. Understand the terrain.
2. All warfare is based on deception.
3. In battle, there are not more than two methods of attack, the direct and the indirect. Yet these two in combination give rise to and endless series of maneuvers.
4. Attack him when he is unprepared, appear where you are least expected.
5. Engage people in what the expect, confirm their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment, that which they cannot anticipate.
6. Nothing is more difficult than the act of maneuvering for advantageous positions.
7. Maneuvering with an army is advantageous; with an undisciplined multitude, most dangerous.
8. Hence that general is skillful in attack whose opponent does not know what to defend; and he is skillful in defense whose opponent does not know what to attack.
9. The clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy’s will to be imposed on him.
10. Whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy, will be fresh for the fight; whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle will arrive exhausted.
11. If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
12. The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy. To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself. Thus the good fighter is able to secure himself against defeat, but cannot make certain of defeating the enemy.
13. So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak.
And now a list of Alinsky’s core tenets from, Rules for Radicals:
1. Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.
2. Never go outside the experience of your people.
3. Whenever possible, go outside of the experience of the enemy.
4. Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules.
5. Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.
6. A good tactic is one that your people enjoy.
7. A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.
8. Keep the pressure on with different tactics and actions, and utilize all events of the period for your purpose.
9. The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.
10. The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.
11. If you push a negative hard and deep enough, it will break through into its counterside.
12. The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.
13. Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.
There is no doubt that Obama’s radical Alinsky tactics are in full display now and when he campaigned in 2008. This year, I believe he’s using his surrogates more in order to hide himself from his true election methods. For instance, OWS had to be a brainchild from either him or his Chicago friends. Here is an excerpt from, Rules for Radicals:
The revolution must manifest itself in the corporate sector by the corporations’ realistic appraisal of conditions in the nation. The corporations must forget their nonsense about “private sectors.” It is not just that government contracts and subsidies have long since blurred the line between public and private sectors, but that every American individual or corporation is public as well as private; public in that we are Americans and concerned about our national welfare. We have a double commitment and corporations had better recognize this for the sake of their own survival. Poverty, discrimination, disease, crime – everything is as much a concern of the corporation as is profits. The days when corporate public relations worked to keep the corporation out of controversy, days of playing it safe, of not offending Democratic or Republican customers, advertisers or associates – those days are done. If the same predatory drives for profits can be partially transmuted for progress, then we will have opened a whole new ball game. I suggest there that this new policy will give its executives a reason for what they are doing – a chance for a meaningful life. […]
Lastly, Holder talking only to Black preachers, as opposed to all faiths, is a conspicuous way to reinforce and energize the Black vote. This has always been a dream of Obama from his community organizing days and here is the shocking proof, which I highly recommend you read the entire paper for real insight, from http://obamacom.blogspot.com/2008/05/alinsky-obama-community-organizing.html, which was first published in the August/ September 1988 Illinois Issues [published by then-Sangamon State University, which is now the University of Illinois at Springfield].
Why Organize? Problems and Promise in the Inner City By Barack Obama
(c) 1990 Illinois Issues, Springfield, Illinois
Chapter 4 (pp. 35-40) of After Alinsky
[…] Nowhere is the promise of organizing more apparent than in the traditional black churches. Possessing tremendous financial resources, membership and most importantly values and biblical traditions that call for empowerment and liberation, the black church is clearly a slumbering giant in the political and economic landscape of cities like Chicago. A fierce independence among black pastors and a preference for more traditional approaches to social involvement (supporting candidates for office, providing shelters for the homeless) have prevented the black church from bringing its full weight to bear on the political, social and economic arenas of the city.
Clearly this election will be a battle of wills, tested and untested plans and trickery. Obama’s tactics are definitely stale and Romney’s are fresh and surprising to me and many conservatives that were hoping for a different nominee, although I’m now convinced he’s the man for the job. C’est la vie! So far, I see Romney as a Sun Tzu type leader and Obama as a Saul Alinsky type follower. Leaders win battles; followers lose. Juxtaposition exposed. Set, game, match.