Features Australia

Learning from the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels

Joe Biden does not understand the art of war

5 February 2022

9:00 AM

5 February 2022

9:00 AM

After rolling my ankle on the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea, I asked one of our local guides, the grandson of a Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel, if he had a bush remedy. He proceeded to extract leaves from the seemingly impenetrable jungle and rubbed them on my right knee. The sensation was that of a thousand angry fire-ants. I asked, ‘what about my ankle?’ He responded, ‘you no longer have an ankle problem’. He had me there. From then on, I thought more about my knee and less about my ankle. This is the predicament facing the population of the United States as President Joe Biden escalates the war-talk against Russia. A war to defend the Ukraine, one of the most corrupt countries in Eastern Europe.

One lesson from walking the Kokoda Track with the guides is how much they can tolerate compared to suburban adventurers – many guides do the track in thongs.

Biden’s self-inflicted domestic problems range from inflation, an invasion on the US southern border, the worst crime wave in a generation, a fentanyl epidemic and labelling parents domestic terrorists. Now the Democrats are facing a potential washout in this year’s mid-terms.

In this context, there are three points to consider. The first is the idea of diversionary foreign policy. With troubles at home, distract voters with war. From King Henry V and the third instalment of the Hundred Years War against France to the Russian-Japanese War of 1904, there are numerous case studies suggesting war has been used to resurrect a leader’s political fortunes. Remember Operation Desert Fox when in 1998 President Bill Clinton launched a dubious bombing campaign on Iraq in the midst of his Monica Lewinsky impeachment scandal? Even the Islamist extremists got into it. They shifted from the near-enemy to the far-enemy during the 1990s up until the recent period with Isis. Realising the implementation of their interpretation of Islam was ruinous, better to deflect blame onto others. Shifting the focus to foreign threats and playing the victim is what we expect from dictators, not Western democratic leaders. It is easier to do today with many media demonstrating the critical thinking abilities of hand-fed pigeons.

The second point is fighting a nuclear-armed conventional military that has never concerned itself with human rights. When conducted with extreme prejudice, warfare is brutal and violent, and its bloody reality offends Western leaders and commentators. In Afghanistan, US Special Operations Forces’ use of night-raids was curtailed after the BBC, NGOs and Western politicians agreed that one of the most successful tactics against the Taliban bomb-making network was an affront to the jihadi’s ‘human rights’. The disparity between the Russian perception of war and that of this new Western woke generation was on display during military recruitment campaigns in 2021. Last year the US military ran cartoon-animated recruitment ads with flowers and all the diversity boxes ticked. Think Tinkerbell. The Russian ad showed seriously mean, fit, take-no-prisoner types. Maybe the new US recruits can cast spells.


It’s hard for many to accept, but we just hold different values. A flick through history will reveal the unspeakable hardships suffered by Russian and Chinese people over generations. These shape a people’s evolutionary psychology or moral DNA – a concept rejected by the inclusivity crowd. Twice in 2021 the US military was beaten in war-gaming exercises. Once against the People’s Liberation Army of China and the second against the British Royal Marines. The team with the best and the most military hardware on the planet lost – twice. Not all that surprising, considering these days the US military under General Mark Milley is focused on reading Marxism and trying to understand ‘white rage’.

The third point is Biden’s Russian policy. It has been a Chamberlain-like disaster. From removing sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, thereby ensuring Germany and France become dependent on Russian gas, to handing Putin a list of sixteen US industries he’d prefer were not hacked. Guess what, now everyone is scrambling to shore up gas to the EU in case Putin turns the tap off.

Biden’s response continues to be feeble. Virtually no financial punishment has been inflicted on Putin or his cronies. Russia has deployed around 120,000 troops to the border with the Ukraine, along with a stack of military hardware. Biden has put 8,500 US troops on high alert with no ultimatums. This does not mean they are on the tarmac with face paint on. It’s the Afghanistan withdrawal debacle all over again.

The art of war is about shaping the mind of an opponent. This can be done by pulling financial and economic levers as well as cutting sources of trade and energy. For some it could be their reputation because they have a big fat ego.  The point is to avoid the fight. Napoleon said, ‘the moral is to the physical three to one’. The ancient Greek general Epaminondas (418 – 362BC) understood this in how he finally defeated the Spartans. His political masters were furious. They wanted a fight. Most modern-day Western leaders have largely been politically reinforced by a self-obsessed, social-media generation. They lack what former US National Security Advisor, General H.R. McMaster, describes as ‘strategic empathy’. When considering how to unhinge an adversary the opportunity lies somewhere between what they value the most and where they are most vulnerable.

Once you figure that out, you can have strategic empathy, rather than the current strategic narcissism.  After Soviet diplomats were kidnapped by Hezbollah in 1985, the head of the KGB was sent to deliver a message to Ayatollah Khomeini. During the conversation something was muttered about not always being in control of nuclear weapons. The Ayatollah asked to check the translation to confirm he heard correctly; that the Soviets would hate for a bomb to land on Mecca or Medina. While these negotiations were taking place the Soviet’s Alpha Group abducted members of the kidnapping cell and sent the castrated bodies back to their buddies. It ended swiftly after that.

It’s always possible that Biden and other Western leaders really do know what they are doing.

Yet it seems none have worked out what Putin values the most and what makes him most vulnerable.

Meanwhile Biden is distracting Australia from the gravest threat to freedom within our region. The last thing the US and Australia can handle is a two-front war.

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