Wednesday, May 09, 2007


Wrong Tzu

Image at right: Lao Tzu

I heard US 'Defense' Secretary Gates on National Public Radio today pitching for more money from Congress.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates says he wants $700 billion to fund the Pentagon and the war in Iraq. If he gets it, he will preside over the equivalent of what would be the tenth-largest economy in the world. ...

When considering all the wars America has fought since the Revolution, adjusting dollar amounts to 2007 figures, the Iraq/Afghanistan war comes out as the second-most-expensive in U.S. history, second only to World War II.
The report goes on:
... Pentagon officials are understandably anxious about what to do if they don't get the supplemental cash soon.

"If we pulled out all the stops, made use of everything possible available to us, we could probably fund the war into July," Gates said, "but I would tell you the impact on the Department of Defense would be huge if we had to do that."

To underline his point, the secretary offered a little Chinese philosophy.

"As Sun-Tzu said more than 2,500 years ago," Gates said, "the art of war teaches to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him."
It's too bad that Gates and other American rulers aren't less enamored with Sun Tzu and instead more inclined toward Lao Tzu. Here are a few passages from the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu:
Whoever relies on the Tao in governing men
doesn't try to force issues
or defeat enemies by force of arms.
For every force there is a counterforce.
Violence, even well intentioned, always rebounds upon oneself.
--chapter 30, stanza 1

Weapons are the tools of violence;
all decent men detest them.

Weapons are the tools of fear;
a decent man will avoid them
except in the direst necessity
and, if compelled, will use them
only with the utmost restraint.
Peace is his highest value.
If the peace has been shattered,
how can he be content?
His enemies are not demons,
but human beings like himself.
He doesn't wish them personal harm.
Nor does he rejoice in victory.
How could he rejoice in victory
and delight in the slaughter of men?
--chapter 31, stanzas 1 & 2

When a country is in harmony with the Tao,
the factories make trucks and tractors.
When a country goes counter to the Tao,
warheads are stockpiled outside the cities.

There is no greater illusion than fear,
no greater wrong than preparing to defend yourself,
no greater misfortune than having an enemy.

Whoever can see through all fear
will always be safe.
--chapter 46

When rich speculators prosper
while farmers lose their land;
when government officials spend money
on weapons instead of cures;
when the upper class is extravagant and irresponsible
while the poor have nowhere to turn--
all this is robbery and chaos.
It is not in keeping with the Tao.
--chapter 53, stanza 2

Center your country in the Tao
and evil will have no power.
Not that it isn't there,
but you'll be able to step out of its way.

Give evil nothing to oppose
and it will disappear by itself.
--chapter 60, stanzas 2 & 3
All passages are from the Tao Te Ching as translated by Stephen Mitchell (New York: Harper & Row, 1988).

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