The Art of War: Rethinking Our Political Pickle and the Parsha

Like everyone else, I have been replaying the terrorist attacks of January 6th over and over in mind. How did this come to be? What were they thinking?

Seeing that it was an act of war, in thinking about this I got to rereading the Art of War by Sun Tzu. There in the chapter on maneuvering he wrote:

Do not interfere with an army that is returning home. When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard. ( Art of War 7:35-36)

The Sun Tzu attack theory, the Russian and Chinese hybrid strategy

Reading this not not excuse the actions of these terrorist, but it does help me better understand them. I appreciate that they felt cornered and that they did not have a choice. I also see how for the faction there that we white nationalist, they feel that the new diverse administration is an impediment to their “returning home”. They have a mythical belief that America was a white country. Make America Great Again is their battle cry. I can understand this feeling, but can I sympathize with it?

As we see in B’Shalach, this week’s Torah portion, we see that soon after allowing the children of Israel to depart from Egypt, Pharaoh chases after them to force their return. The Israelites find themselves surrounded. They are trapped between Pharaoh’s armies and the sea. Instead to trying to fight the Egyptian army, Moshe is instructed to raise his staff over the water. A this moment the sea splits to allow the Israelites to pass through evading the pursuing Egyptians. The lesson is that despite the feeling of being cornered, there is always a plan C. We just need to be creative.

I can strive to understand and even sympathize with the insurrectionists, but that does not preclude my need to stand up against them and what they stand for with all of my might. They need to believe that there is a way out. This does not mean that the enemy is allowed to escape. They all need to be held accountable for their actions. The object, as Tu Mu, 9th Century poet, puts it, is “to make him believe that there is a road to safety, and thus prevent his fighting with the courage of despair. After that, you may crush him.” But we need to do that in the courts. Adopting military or pugilistic language will only fuel their imagination that they are cornered making them more viscous. While it might seem like we need a miracle, we need to pause and think about creative ways through the pickle we find ourselves.

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