Truth as a Weapon
“War is the continuation of politics by other means.”
“Politics is the continuation of war by other means.”
The first of these is the most famous aphorism of Carl Von Clausewitz, the eminent Napoleonic-era military theorist. The second saying originated with the twentieth-century leftist philosopher Michel Foucault. This second aphorism has become the guiding mantra of Progressive leftists everywhere.
Does it matter? Are not the two saying the same thing? They seem to be.
In fact the apparent symmetry is not real. Not only are these two very different, they are diametrically opposite. One is constructive, and has beneficial side effects, while the other is intrinsically destructive and evil.
In order to understand the profound difference between these two statements it is necessary to consider the cultures of war and politics. They are very different.
Consider the classical definition of politics as the “art of compromise.” Differences between individuals or groups are inevitable because different people have different experiences and needs and sometimes these conflict. However, if there is much held in common there is always the possibility that the pain of giving something up can be ameliorated by the benefit of gaining a compensation. That is what politics is all about.
I learned this lesson as a boy when my father was asked to mediate a very bitter industrial strike. This was in an industry where earlier strikes had even led to bloodshed. For many weeks my father struggled with the incompatible demands of both sides, getting very little sleep in the process. Eventually he had a wonderfully creative insight and proposed a formula wherein each side gave up some things but, in return, gained more than they had desired in the first place – more, but different. The strike was settled and that formerly contentious industry has had industrial peace for more than half a century.
Only when differences exceed commonality and become irreconcilable is war an option. Politics seeks compromise. War seeks victory. But victory to Von Clausewitz had a different meaning than victory does today. Von Clausewitz wrote a century and a half after utter savagery had annihilated half the population of central Europe. In the period after the Thirty Years War the leaders of Europe sought to diminish the brutality of war with rules of engagement, with political compromise. This was not a new idea. The Church had, many centuries before, established Chivalry for just this purpose. The new rules were, in fact, a renovation of the old.
The Twentieth Century witnessed a return to unbridled savagery in war. After the Second World War leaders in the West tried to reestablish the old chivalrous rules of engagement – with limited success. Particularly in America, euphemisms such as “police action,” “limited war,” “kinetic engagements,” and the currently fashionable “man caused disasters” attempt to disguise and soften the reality. Total victory is no longer sought. In the presence of nuclear weapons such misdirection has its place, but it can also lead to bad policy.
Even if war is to be limited, and total victory is no longer the objective, war still has one major qualitative characteristic which profoundly destroys the symmetry between the two opening statements:
In 1274 BC Ramesses, king of Egypt, sent a powerful army north to wrest the city of Kadesh from Muwatalli, king of the Hittites. Hittite secret agents hoodwinked Ramesses into believing that Muwatalli’s army was far distant. In fact, the Hittite army was hidden behind a nearby hill – shielded by the agents’ lie. The resulting Hittite ambush drove the Egyptians from the battlefield with Ramesses barely escaping with his life. Ramesses, in one of the first recorded examples of spin, claimed a great victory – even though he had been thoroughly trounced.
Thus, deceit in war is nothing new. In fact, war deceit even has a formal name: stratagem. Victory often depends on deceit in one form or another. As Winston Churchill once famously declared: "In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies."
So there is the source of the asymmetry: War derived from politics has limits. Politics derived from war has no limits – everything is permissible to achieve political victory, especially lies.
In civil politics trust is essential -- a man must be as good as his word. Without honor, integrity, and honesty, the politics of compromise will always fail. Conversely, the core of the kind of politics that is derived from war is deceit. Such politics has no honor, no integrity, no honesty, no trust. Without these essentials, compromise is impossible and a political society inevitably, irretrievably, fractures and internal war becomes probable. Almost every nation has experienced this ultimate disaster, ours is no exception as our Civil War attests. The possibility of civil war provides a powerful incentive to achieve honorable political compromise.
This brings us to our present situation. The current leadership of the Democrat Party is Progressive Left. The Progressive Left lies. The Progressive Left is not interested in compromise. Its nonstop lies are justified by its view of politics as warfare where always the “ends justify the means.” This pernicious belief is exposed by the behavior of the president and senior members of the current administration. It is through their actions that you discover what they really believe. How many times has our president lied? How many times have his senior subordinates lied? Deceit is at the heart of this administration. The Progressives strive for total victory and the complete elimination of opposition. All means to this end are considered legitimate.
And yet, the leadership of the Republican Party, the Old Guard, still adheres to the first dictum that war is politics gone wrong. This view is the only correct view if we wish to maintain a healthy society. It is essential that politics be returned to the realm of civility instead of warfare. Unfortunately, Republican leaders still pretend that the leadership of the Progressives is honorable and trustworthy even though they must know better. I suspect that the pretense is maintained in order to prevent a political catastrophe. If so, I sympathize.
This adherence to the old politics is at the heart of the split in the Republican Party between the Old Guard and Tea Party conservatives. This split, in my opinion, is simply a disagreement over tactics and is not fundamental. The Old Guard correctly recognizes the need for election victory. On the other hand, the Tea Party is well ahead of the Old Guard in understanding that the Progressive Democrats really are at war with America. That they are, in fact, revolutionaries and will stop at nothing to gain total victory and the destruction of our Constitutional America.
The Republican Old Guard must ultimately come to understand that you cannot survive if you don’t recognize that your adversaries are at war with you and that they seek your annihilation.
To survive this conflict you must win. To win you must acquire a sufficiently potent weapon. If deceit is an essential characteristic of this war, then truth must be the weapon to defeat deceit and return us to productive politics. Indeed, truth is far more powerful than lies. The reason is simple: Once someone is exposed as telling lies, they are no longer trusted and they lose their power. Truth is the great disinfectant.
Thus, I propose a fundamental strategy for Republicans: Truth. Rigorous truth, first, last and always. Announce that this will, permanently, be the Republican policy – then stick to it! Forthrightly broadcast the truth at every opportunity and through every available means. Don’t be shy! This political war can be won by stripping Progressives of their most potent weapon -- lies.
Telling the truth is not the entire story. Telling the whole truth is essential! In Catholic tradition sins of omission are often much worse than sins of commission. The same is true of the news. Key information deliberately left out of a report can literally reverse the meaning of the report. Republicans must never be guilty of this. Some news organizations routinely censor key information in order to influence the political debate. When this happens it is not enough for conservatives to simply report what’s missing, a news organization which misleads must be exposed, by name.
There are other practical things that conservatives can do to disseminate the truth. Frankly, Government statistics are tainted by a conflict of interest: Government gains with false statistics. To counter this, conservatives and honorable liberals, acting together, can sponsor multiple, fully independent, bipartisan, nonpolitical institutions whose only function is to report the truth – facts and figures. Report accurate statistics on the economy. Report the truth about political or bureaucratic malfeasance. Report the consequences of laws and regulations. Embed contemporary events in accurate history. No fudging, no political or academic bias. Instantly correct errors. Become the trusted information sources for all news organizations and for political decisions by both parties. In other words, do what news organizations are supposed to do.
By permanently adopting a strategy of unvarnished truth, in its full context, Republicans will inevitably gain the respect of the general populace. Political power will follow. And so, too, will the reorientation of many Democrats into allies instead of adversaries -- despite deeply felt differences. There are many honorable people among the Democrats but they have little power given their current Progressive leadership. Conversely, with a Republican leadership devoted to truth, conservatives should not be afraid of compromise, both within the Republican Party and by bridging across to honorable Democrats. In this way a new coalition can be formed which will defeat the Progressives and start the healing of our nation. This healing is essential. If the lying Left continues its ascendency then this nation will inevitably fracture beyond repair.