The Art of War

The dictum, “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer,” is enshrined in the classic book, The Art of War, written by Sun Tzu, the brilliant Chinese general and military strategist, over two and a half millennia ago.

There is no better place to test the timelessness of this axiom than with United States foreign policy of today.

The axiom was a directive to leaders to prepare for or against attack. Keeping enemies “closer” provides knowledge of their plans and machinations, and develops an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses and how best to exploit them. Instead of applying these words as intended and developing a strong and coherent foreign policy position, the president and his secretary of state have misconstrued the operative word “closer” and are aggressively pursuing a program of rapprochement with governments considered terroristic or beyond the pale by American law with values diametrically opposing those of the West, namely the Palestinian Authority, the ayatollahs of Iran, and Castro’s Cuba.

Speaking in Miami last Friday, President Obama gave his opinion that the United States should revise its policies with Cuba.  Obama commented that policies established in the early 1960s no longer make sense in this dramatically different world. Of the three governments listed above, it is Cuba that has the least global impact, yet offers the greatest insight into the president. Cuba is both communist and non-Democratic, its leaders effectively running unopposed since Castro came to office in 1959.

Obama’s presidency seeking company with a communist country is not a surprise. It has been riddled with abuse of power, bypassing the democratic process (i.e. Obamacare); his policies are big-government to the point of Socialist (e.g. Obamacare); and his strong personal alliances with Bill Ayres and others of the extreme Left.

Obama’s speech, given at a Democratic fundraiser, observed, “Keep in mind that when Castro came to power I was just born.” Though I doubt any of the adoring Democrats in attendance found these words troubling, I most certainly did, as if the fact that he wasn’t born negates the existential danger that Castro posed to the U.S.

This egotism is what deludes Obama into thinking he can persuade the Iranians by replacing the “stick” with the “carrot.” Many believe the “stick” was never hard enough nor wielded properly, thus leading to a prolonged duplicitous negotiation with the Iranians, violating another of Sun Tzu’s lessons from The Art of War, “What is essential in war is victory, not prolonged operations,” accepting “operations” to mean negotiations. The Iranians clearly appreciate Sun Tzu and employed yet another of his dicta, “All warfare is based on deception,” using the verbal subterfuges of negotiations to mask and accelerate the use of their centrifuges.

Closer to home, Secretary of State John Kerry has just concluded a most unimpressive series of visits to Israel. During his shuttling back and forth between Israel and neighboring governments he not only enunciated the Palestinian Authority’s talking points clearly, he stated them with the conviction of a true believer. The impression he made on Israel was that he was irredeemably biased and that the United States was priming to push Israel under the proverbial bus to ensure a victory for the Obama administration’s pursuit of the Holy Grail of negotiations: A comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority with the establishment of an independent Palestinian State.

Speaking like a perturbed parent warning a child about the consequences of poor decisions, Kerry proceeded to ask rhetorically (I think), “I mean, does Israel want a third intifada?”; threaten Israel with isolation, “If we do not resolve the issues between Palestinians and Israelis, if we do not find a way to find peace, there will be an increasing isolation of Israel, there will be an increasing campaign of delegitimization of Israel that’s been taking place on an international basis”; and incredulously ask concerning settling Yerushalayim and Yehudah and Shomron. “If you say you want peace in Palestine and all Palestine belongs to the people who live there, how can you build in a place that eventually will be Palestine?”

His vision of Israel with or without a treaty is a nightmare: the nation will either be immersed in an intifada and isolated from the West or unable to build on our ancestral homeland. Since Kerry offered no criticism of Palestinian intransigence, celebration of the released terrorists, or the growing number of terrorist attacks, it is clear that if peace is not achieved Israel will be to blame.

Living outside of the United States is like standing on a cliff overlooking a forest, permitting a broader perspective on the foreign policy of the White House. From this vantage point, what I see is deforestation, and havoc wrought by Obama’s feckless policies articulated and executed by Secretary of State Kerry in dealings with the Palestinians, Egypt, Syria, Benghazi, and in its most incendiary extreme, Iran. I am proudly American and as such wish better leadership for so great a country. Cuddling up to the Cubans? Treaty with Teheran? Preferring the Palestinians? This is not keeping the “enemy closer,” it is embracing them.

Sun Tzu said, “The art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.” It seems the Oval Office has not gotten the memo that we are in a war of cultures and we are losing. Our enemies are implementing the timeless wisdom of Sun Tzu; shouldn’t the West? It appears by the way things are going, that the Sun merely sets in the West.


Meir Solomon is a writer, analyst and commentator living in Alon Shvut, Israel, with his wife and two children. He can be contacted at