Military Review

The Art of Avoiding War ("The Atlantic", USA)

The Art of Avoiding War ("The Atlantic", USA)

Why is it so difficult to defeat an enemy who does not want to fight, and what does this mean for the US foreign policy strategy?

The Scythians were nomads who dominated the vast stretch of Pontic steppes north of the Black Sea, that is, in the territories that today belong to Ukraine and southern Russia, from 7 to 3 a century before Christ. Unlike other ancient peoples, who left no trace behind them, the Scythians continued to be horrified long after their disappearance. Herodotus wrote that they “ravaged the whole of Asia. They not only collected tribute from all nations, but also raided and took away everything that those nations had ”. According to the legend, when Napoleon realized that the Russians were ready to burn their own capital rather than to surrender it to his army, he exclaimed: “They are Scythians!”

However, our contemporaries should pay attention not to the cruelty of the Scythians, but to their tactics of countering the advancing Persian army of King Darius at the beginning of the 6 century BC. Darius’s infantry approached the Sea of ​​Azov in the hope of meeting with the military units of the Scythians there in a decisive battle, but the Scythians continued to retreat deep into their vast territories. Darius was puzzled, so he challenged the Scythian king Idanfirs: If you consider yourself stronger - fight, if not - give up.

Idanfirs told him that since his people had neither cities nor cultivated land that the enemy could destroy, he had nothing to protect, and therefore he had no reason to give battle. Instead, his people constantly attacked the Persian troops with food, and then quickly retreated. And each time the small detachments of the Persian cavalry scattered in disarray, while the main army of Darius continued to weaken, more and more moving away from their bases and supply lines. In the end, Darius left the territories of the Scythians, in essence, having suffered a defeat and never got the opportunity to fight the enemy face to face.

In other words, killing an enemy is easy, but finding it is much more difficult. And today this truth has not lost its relevance. Today, the landscape of war is much broader and there are far fewer fighters on it than during the planned operations of the Industrial Age. Hence the conclusion: do not hunt for ghosts and do not dive too deep into a situation in which your civilizational advantage plays no role. Or, as the ancient Chinese sage Sun Tzu said, “the side that knows when to fight and when not to conquer wins. There are roads that do not go; there are armies that are not attacked; there are fortresses because of which they do not fight. ” In this regard, it is worthwhile to give an example of the fateful Sicilian campaign of the end of 5 century BC, which Thucydides wrote about in his chronicles: Athens sent a small detachment to distant Sicily to support its allies there, but over time they were so deeply bogged down in this conflict that the prestige of the whole maritime empire depended on this victory alone. This is described by Thucydides история It seems especially relevant if we recall the wars in Vietnam and Iraq. The history of the Athenians, as well as the history of Darius, show how an obsession with your own honor and reputation can lead a great power to collapse. The image of the army of Darius, moving nowhere along the boundless and inhospitable steppe in search of an enemy, who almost does not appear, is so strong that it goes beyond simple symbolism.

Your enemy will never fight you on your terms, only on your own. That is why the concept of asymmetric warfare is as old as the world. When militants bombed cars and attacked marines and soldiers in the labyrinths of Iraqi cities, they were Scythians. When the Chinese attack the Philippine warships and claim their rights to the sea, facing fishing boats, coast guard boats and oil platforms and avoiding any conflicts with US warships, they are Scythians. When ISIS warriors arm themselves with knives and video cameras, they also become Scythians. Largely because of these Scythians, the possibilities of the United States for predicting the outcome of conflicts are very limited, despite the status of a superpower. America faced the truth faced by all the empires: in order to maintain its status, you should not take part in every battle. In the first century AD, Tiberius retained Rome, refusing to intervene in the bloody internecine conflicts on the northern border. Instead, he showed strategic patience, watching the slaughter closely. He knew well the limits of the power of Rome.

The United States does not pursue militant groups in Yemen, as Darius did in Scythia, but instead, from time to time, deliver targeted air strikes. The fact that the US is using drones is not evidence of the strength of Americans, but of their limited capabilities. The Obama administration should recognize these restrictions and not allow the country to become even more bogged down, for example, in the conflict in Syria. If the US helps to overthrow dictator Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday, what will they do on Thursday, when they find that they contributed to the establishment of a Sunni jihadist regime, or on Friday, when will the Alawite ethnic cleansing begin? Perhaps this is exactly the battle in which you do not need to participate. But Assad killed tens of thousands of people, and maybe even more, and is supported by Iran! This is true, but remember that emotions, however justified they may be, can be the enemy of objective analysis.

How can the United States avoid the fate of Darius? How can the United States not suffer from its own pride while fulfilling all its moral obligations? To do this, they need to use intermediaries, wherever they are - even if these intermediaries are among their enemies. If Iranian-backed Hussites are ready to fight al-Qaeda in Yemen, why should the Americans object to this? And if the Iranians provoke a new wave of inter-religious conflicts in Iraq, let it be their fault, because they did not bother to learn the lessons of the Scythians. If the Middle East has become a place of constant conflicts of low intensity between different groups of Scythians, let Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iran themselves develop their own balance of forces, while the United States will be somewhat aloof. After all, caution is not the same as capitulation. And finally, let the United States regain the status of a sea power in Asia and a land defender in Europe, where there are far fewer Scythians and much more ordinary villains. Scythians are the enemies of missionary nations, nations that know no boundaries. America, of course, must try, but it should not - like Darius - overly exert its strength.

Subscribe to our Telegram channel, regularly additional information about the special operation in Ukraine, a large amount of information, videos, something that does not fall on the site:

Dear reader, to leave comments on the publication, you must sign in.
  1. Rav075
    Rav075 27 May 2015 05: 28
    Posted by Robert D. Kaplan

    Another Scythologist ... fool
    1. Kos_kalinki9
      Kos_kalinki9 27 May 2015 06: 52
      Maybe even a Scythogrande.
      1. Serge Mikhas
        Serge Mikhas 27 May 2015 08: 25
        Scythians are enemies of missionary nations, nations that know no borders. America must surely try

        Well, we sent these missionaries under the ice, and drowned in Berezina, and strangled in our own den, and even smoothed a lot more. To see where she’s going to snatch it now ...
    2. -Barbarian-
      -Barbarian- 27 May 2015 07: 36
      You are missing one important detail. The fight with us Russians has moved to a new level of information warfare. The author of the article unobtrusively makes us associate our Scythian ancestors with today's terrorists.
      When militants planted bombs in cars and attacked marines and soldiers in the labyrinths of Iraqi cities, they were Scythians. When the Chinese attack the Philippine warships and claim their rights to maritime territories, encountering fishing boats, coast guard boats and oil platforms and avoiding any conflicts with American warships, they are Scythians. When ISIS warriors arm themselves with knives and video cameras, they also become Scythians.
      The result of this comparison can easily become a persistent myth that everything Russian (up to the actions of the ancestors) is a synonym for terror and aggression. And although the general tone of the article, addressed primarily to the Americans, can be expressed with the phrase:
      Perhaps this is just the battle in which you do not need to participate.
      , you can clearly see the message:
      The United States does not (should) suffer from its own pride, while fulfilling all its moral obligations. To do this, the United States needs to use intermediaries, wherever they are - even if these intermediaries are among their enemies.

      And that means that we are facing serious clashes with all the puppets and mercenaries of the White House, who will not dare to enter a fair fight.
      1. A. Yaga
        A. Yaga 27 May 2015 23: 54
        Quote: -Barbar-
        The author of the article unobtrusively makes us associate our Scythian ancestors with today's terrorists.

        In in! Scythians = terrorists? This association has also twisted me!
  2. Same lech
    Same lech 27 May 2015 05: 33
    If you consider yourself stronger - fight, if not - give up.

    Continuing the theme ...

    Samantha Power, who already is a deplorable sight, attacked the Russian diplomat. Spraying saliva, she claimed that Russia “has no right to forget that it is not a winner, but a vanquished one” and “Moscow’s behavior is outrageous because Moscow, by blackmailing the United States with nuclear weapons, humiliates America.”

    smile history repeats itself
    The author is clearly alarmed by the defeat of the United States in new conflicts .... very well .... I wish the US to fail everywhere.
    1. mojohed2012
      mojohed2012 27 May 2015 06: 37
      Before the collapse of the United States, it’s not a decade, but a year or two.
      The war will destroy them: there may be civil between states when the dollar is paper, and maybe racial when black is against white and yellow, and white is against everyone.
      God forbid this, but what they have done to the world and with us requires that God at least punish them somehow.
      And one more thing: yesterday they wrote in the media (RG, RT, etc.) that in a church in Kiev a group of children who "prayed" for Ukraine became ill. At the same time - how bad it was for that soldier at Potroshenko's inauguration.
      I believe that there is a god, and these are his signals to that stench and obscurantism, to which the junta in the neighboring country and the states reached in their desire to crush everyone under themselves ...
  3. Russ_Dry
    Russ_Dry 27 May 2015 05: 47
    It seems that the Americans are going to back up, and thus prepare public opinion.
    They say we will be wise and do not continue to spray our forces. On the contrary, in a situation where the terrible (tm) Russia again thought up becoming a great power, and China has almost become one, it is necessary to gather strength. for the throne under amers began to stagger.
    1. CTEPX
      CTEPX 27 May 2015 06: 43
      Quote: Russ_Dry
      it seems the Americans are going to back up

      The Americans, according to the author, have already armed enough, given financial fishing rods and trained the Islamists to start their aggressive war to destroy the civilized part of Eurasia on their own)).
  4. Shabay62
    Shabay62 27 May 2015 05: 59
    And in the article, this American journalist smiled at me that he compares America with the missionaries.
    ... Scythians are enemies of missionary nations, nations that know no boundaries. America, undoubtedly, should try, but it should not - like Darius - over-strain its forces .......... That's how it is. And I wondered why it is so restless in the Middle East. And these are "SKIFS" "are to blame. hi
  5. taram taramych
    taram taramych 27 May 2015 06: 14
    As far as I know, in a Scythian campaign, Darius was defeated, his troops fled, the Scythians himself remembered his bloodthirstiness, so they cut off his head and put it in a wineskin with blood. Something like this.
    1. mojohed2012
      mojohed2012 27 May 2015 06: 40
      And most importantly: the "evil" Scythians in 1812 again defeated the European Army, as in 1945 the same army again.
    2. B08aH
      B08aH 27 May 2015 18: 51
      All this happened to Cyrus, not Darius.
  6. fvandaku
    fvandaku 27 May 2015 06: 16
    In how he began to sing, Forces is afraid to strain. Like the donkey who will die soon, from an excessive burden.
    1. mojohed2012
      mojohed2012 27 May 2015 06: 41
      A donkey in a star-striped blanket goes for a carrot, which, sitting on a donkey, is held on a stick by a Jewish man in an expensive suit.
  7. forester
    forester 27 May 2015 06: 40
    No, no, get in somewhere else. The sense of proportion is lost, which means the sense of danger is lost, which means there will be strong defeats. I hope I'll see soon if the American super-duper paratroopers again, in a panic and in a hurry, do not dump from somewhere. I also hope that the operation "Liberation of Kiev" is already being developed somewhere.
  8. Hell's Angel
    Hell's Angel 27 May 2015 07: 00
    But Assad killed tens of thousands of people, and maybe even more
    .... Clinton, Bush, Obama killed HUNDREDS of thousands of people! And this does not bother anyone. Especially such (the author) "Scythian scholars".
  9. ps-1972
    ps-1972 27 May 2015 07: 21
    Too smart article to be guided by Americans
  10. Volzhanin
    Volzhanin 27 May 2015 08: 09
    No, really! Nafik!
    Let it be better if the stripes disappear for a long time along with the small Britain.
    And we, the whole world, will help them to the best of our ability.
  11. vch62388
    vch62388 27 May 2015 08: 09
    Zillions - you. We - the darkness and darkness and darkness.
    Try, fight with us!
    Yes, we are Scythians! Yes, Asians - we,
    With slanted and greedy eyes!

    For you - centuries, for us - a single hour.
    We are like obedient slaves
    Holding a shield between two hostile races
    Mongols and Europe!

    Century, century your old horn forged
    And drowned out thunder, avalanches,
    And a wild fairy tale was a failure for you
    And Lisbon, and Messina!

    You looked east for hundreds of years
    Digging and melting our pearls
    And you, mocking, counted only the term,
    When to train cannon vents!

    Here - the time has come. Wings are beating trouble
    And every day resentment multiplies,
    And the day will come - there will be no trace
    From your Paestums, maybe!

    Oh, the old world! Until you perish,
    While you languish with sweet flour,
    Stop, wise as Oedipus,
    Before the Sphinx with an ancient mystery!

    Russia - Sphinx. Rejoicing and mourning
    And bleeding black blood,
    She looks, looks, looks at you.
    And with hatred, and with love! ...

    Yes, to love as much as our blood loves,
    None of you have loved for a long time!
    Forgot you, that in the world there is love,
    Which burns and kills!

    We love everything - and the heat of cold numbers,
    And the gift of divine visions,
    Everything is clear to us - and a sharp Gallic meaning,
    And the gloomy German genius ...

    We remember everything - hell streets of Paris,
    And the Venetian coolness,
    Lemon groves are a distant fragrance,
    And Cologne smoky bulks ...

    We love flesh - and its taste, and color,
    And the stuffy, mortal flesh smell ...
    Guilty if we crack your skeleton
    In the heavy, gentle paws?

    We used to get used to the bridle
    Playing horses zealous,
    Breaking horses with heavy sacra
    And pacify the slaves of the obstinate ...

    Come to us! From the horrors of war
    Come in peace hugs!
    Before it's too late - the old sword in the sheath,
    Comrades! We will become - brothers!

    And if not - we have nothing to lose,
    And we are not above treachery!
    Century, centuries you will be curse
    Sick later offspring!

    We are wide in the wilds and forests
    Before Europe, prigozhey
    Let's part! We will turn to you
    His Asian mug!

    Go all, go to the Urals!
    We clear the place of battle
    Steel machines, where the integral breathes,
    With the Mongolian wild horde!

    But we ourselves are no longer a shield to you,
    From now on, we will not enter the battle ourselves,
    We'll see how the mortal battle is boiling,
    With his narrow eyes.

    We will not move when the ferocious Hun
    In the pockets of corpses will fumble,
    Burn the city, and drive the herd into the church,
    And fry white brothers meat! ...

    For the last time - come to your senses, old world!
    On the fraternal feast of work and peace,
    The last time for a bright fraternal feast
    Cries the barbaric lyre!

    Alexander Blok.

    PS The great poet was mistaken - the Scythians were Caucasians and never had slanting eyes.
    1. aviator1913
      aviator1913 27 May 2015 09: 50
      - Is everything calm among the people?
      - Not. The emperor is slain.
      Someone about a new freedom
      On the squares says.

      - Are everyone ready to rise?
      - Not. They are stony and waiting.
      Someone told me to wait:
      They roam and sing songs.

      - Who is in power?
      - The people do not want power.
      Dozing civic passions:
      It is heard that someone is coming.

      “Who is he, the people's humbler?”
      - Dark, and angry, and fierce:
      Monk at the entrance to the cloister
      I saw him - and went blind.

      He to the unknown abysses
      It drives people like herds ...
      Chasing a staff with an iron ...
      - God! Run from the Court!

      Alexander Blok
    2. Thronekeeper
      Thronekeeper 27 May 2015 12: 59
      Comrades Amenertes (Amitreus), Themistocles, Jedkhor (Takh) and control Alexander Filippovich, still Macedonian, clearly showed what to do with the "missionary nations" and how they end up.
      In addition, the comparison of the United States with the Persians of the Achaemenid era, this is perhaps the first self-recognition of counter-civilization. Since the fight against Hellas and Egypt - which was the priority of the Persians (and also with India) - is a fight against Civilization, which gave rise to Eastern and Western Christianity.
      By the way, like now, under Persian hegemony, the Jews were the first pro-Persian collaborators.
      By the way, the Saks, who are often called the Balkhash Scythians, also filled Cyrus the Great.
  12. rotmistr60
    rotmistr60 27 May 2015 08: 18
    let the US regain the status of a sea power in Asia and the protector of land in Europe, where there are much fewer Scythians and much more ordinary villains

    Here are the villains most of all overseas and among the Young Europeans. The advice that the author gives to his government cannot be accepted for one simple reason - Americans consider themselves an "exclusive" nation. Even getting in the face, they use the media to present it as a victory. But they miscalculated with Russia. Arrogance and arrogance failed.
  13. aviator1913
    aviator1913 27 May 2015 10: 08
    The article was written by an American for Americans, and she is right in that context. WE are trying to condemn what is written not for you and me. For Americans, this is a correct article which indicates that endless messianism is not always good, modern America is turning into an analogue of the Soviet Union that helped all kinds of folly, if only they proclaimed their system as communist and changed their flag. As a result, the US forces are sprayed on all kinds of single dictators who create the appearance of loyalty, but then they do what their extravagant heads “when the tail wags the dog” - this is what modern US policy in the Middle East and Europe looks like. Therefore, the modern United States is better to concentrate on areas of power without spraying on small problems. Such steps could be the withdrawal of American companies from China, something that already looks like 2 of the year gradually, when production is transferred to Mexico, Canada and satellites. And the expansion of the group in Asia, for the moral and physical support of its allies there, with the deployment of additional forces in the way of China's shipping maritime arteries. The game of small wars is coming to an end, support for sarvigols such as Israel and the Saudis should decrease, the agreement with Iran is a good start in this regard, it’s time to mix the center of power and it is time to shift
  14. Air Force captain
    Air Force captain 27 May 2015 10: 15
    Another Scythologist ... fool[/ Quote]
    - Rather, SKIFOFOB !!
  15. NordUral
    NordUral 27 May 2015 10: 40
    Far Assad to your government.
  16. Dragon-y
    Dragon-y 27 May 2015 11: 01
    "... How the United States does not suffer from its own pride .." - read "meanness" ...
  17. ma_shlomha
    ma_shlomha 27 May 2015 11: 41
    Another thing is the Chinese.
    "If you sit for a long time on the bank of the river, you can see how the corpse of your enemy will float along it."
    Sun Tzu, "The Art of War"
  18. Lapot
    Lapot 27 May 2015 12: 22
    > How can the United States not suffer from its own pride while fulfilling all its moral obligations?

    what are these obligations? who obliged them to comply?
  19. 16112014nk
    16112014nk 27 May 2015 20: 03
    Quote: mojohed2012
    Before the collapse of the United States, not a decade, but a year or two

    And that’s good, comrades! good