"A rare book which will be read with relevance for decades....The logical next step after Sun-tzu, Machiavelli, and von Clausewitz." - Weekly Global Report
The Art of Victory: Strategies for Personal Success and Global Survival in a Changing Worldby Gregory R. Copley
In a changing world, conflict is inevitable -- but defeat is not. In fact, by understanding how civilizations and societies naturally evolve, one can not only adapt but flourish, and emerge better than ever in any sphere: personal, professional, or global.
Award-winning historian and global strategist Gregory R. Copley draws from decades of experi-ence… See more details below
In a changing world, conflict is inevitable -- but defeat is not. In fact, by understanding how civilizations and societies naturally evolve, one can not only adapt but flourish, and emerge better than ever in any sphere: personal, professional, or global.
Award-winning historian and global strategist Gregory R. Copley draws from decades of experi-ence advising political and military leadership to offer a holistic and balanced view of simple success strategies, with 28 maxims for survival and prosperity in the advancing wave of social, technological, and environmental change we now face. Not since Sun-tzu's The Art of War has a blueprint for success offered so much to so many, with lessons that speak to every walk of life. In The Art of Victory, we learn that victory itself begins with a single act. . . is the principal goal of a society...is beyond the power of any individual. . . is never created or sustained by weakness. . . can never be total, and this is its beauty. . . cannot be bought or sold; it can only be won. . . and much more.
From the halls of political power to the corporate boardroom to the living room, the timeless lessons in The Art of Victory will ensure that individuals and societies not just survive but thrive in the new century.
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Meet the Author
Gregory R. Copley has worked internationally at the highest levels of government advising on strategies to achieve economic and political success. He is the founder and editor
of the Global Information System intelligence service used by governments, and the Defense&Foreign Affairs series of publications, including the Defense&Foreign Affairs Handbook, hailed as "indispensable" by President Ronald Reagan's National Security Advisor, William Clark; and author of thousands of articles, classified papers, speeches, and books on strategy, defense, and aviation. He lives in Washington, D.C.
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Read an Excerpt
The Emerging Global Revolution
Turn and take one last look around at your life, at the life we humans have built over the past few thousand years. It is already gone. The granite columns of antiquity remain, though they crumble, and humanity, more vast in its numbers, remembers little of its past. This great upheaval we see today is how the epochs change.
Our ego, our strong and vital sense of self, tells us that this era of change is different from all past human experience, that the future is unchartable and unmanageable. But that is not so. We can shape the future, as we have always done, perhaps more so now than ever before. There are golden times again for us to make.
And yet we are in the eye of the hurricane, an Age of Global Transformation, a pivotal time for humanity. The pace of change has been accelerating, and not just in science and technology: Human numbers are surging, and flooding into urban, mostly coastal, populations. As with organisms at any level, increasing the population within a confined space generates activity, friction, heat. We cling to the known world, but are also fixated by the promises and fears of the future. But we have forgotten that in the past mankind was more aware of the tools of survival with which nature equipped us.
It is approaching four decades since Alvin Toffler, in Future Shock, noted that humanity was entering an age when the pace, scale, and embracing nature of change would be overwhelming. Add to that the impact of compounded population growth, coupled with climate change. Little wonder that much of humanity feels a deep sense of unease, and searches for answers, though futurists John Naisbitt and Patricia Aburdene, writing in Megatrends 2000 in 1990, optimistically forecast "a period of stunning technological innovation, unprecedented economic opportunity, surprising political reforms, and great cultural rebirth."
They were not wrong, but they foresaw only part of the emerging world.
There are indeed many reasons for optimism, but the obsession with current technology and with imagined future innovations obscures the fact that human nature itself has not changed. It is only when faced with great threats to our existence -- or merely to our comfort -- that we contemplate who we are, and what we must do to reach that promising future. And we have largely forgotten the implicit, innate laws of survival, which remain critical to our ability to cope with the massive change we now confront.
Man, unique among species, uses technology to improve his chances for survival. These tools enable, with increasing certainty, the existence of an ever-greater number of humans in an environment once only capable of supporting far fewer people. Massive population growth coupled with vast changes in weather and the globalization of communications and the tools of human interaction, such as computing, and abstraction and "remote engagement," have created vast swaths of people disconnected from any sense of the past, motivated solely by the present and self, yet with ready access to cheap technologies. Through such changes do we now see, for example, great tools in the hands of the historically illiterate. "Knowledge" has replaced wisdom.
This maelstrom, gathering pace over two centuries -- like a burgeoning hurricane over the ocean -- has obliterated from our consciousness the intrinsic principles of human societal survival. But the survival of our bloodlines and societies is our victory over nature and our rivals. The reality is that we have seen great change before. Not on the same scale. Not at the same speed. Not with the same glittering technologies. There are core principles -- for the moment obscured by the accumulating detritus of centuries -- which can allow us to find our horizons in this new age. They can give us comfort and direction, and enable us to control our own environment, as individuals and as societies.
Society has become, perhaps inescapably, obsessed with change and the fear that permanence is illusory, and that durable items and the structures of the past are but obstacles to our access to the future. But this obscures the reality that change is only possible because it builds on an historical base, a constantly expanding base, of lessons and evolving tools. There is an acceptance that calculators and computers have replaced the need to be able to do simple arithmetic. But what if everyone forgot the principles of mathematics? Even this would not present a problem until a crisis arose, but somewhere, someone has to understand how the process works; how the tools of society and victory were -- and are -- built. An understanding of that context builds confidence in facing future crises.
To control our own destinies, we need to reach back and rediscover the aspects of human nature which guide our survival instinct, and then apply this understanding to our Age of Global Transformation. This book, based on a considerably larger historical study I compiled for the intelligence and strategic policy community on the concepts and origins of victory, looks at how future trends -- many even more surprising than those forecast by Toffler, Naisbitt, and Aburdene -- are emerging. More important, it looks at how we can cope with these changes and master our own destiny.
This is not the work of a Nostradamus. It is based solely on some four decades of intelligence work, on observation, and on managing a complex information-gathering network with hundreds of field collectors and thousands of sources. It is the result of looking always to history, of functioning daily within an existing current intelligence apparatus, and of working over these decades with governments, institutions, and leaders in attempting to solve the major problems facing societies. What has become clear during that time is that out there are the answers to most of our challenges in a rapidly transforming world. These answers are in our genes and in our historical experience.
Understanding How Our Past Relates to Our Future
We know that global warming threatens coastal environments and island communities around the world and the viability of life in regions like the arid lands of China's Xinjiang Province or Africa's Sahel. But we cannot know how aware the people of the lower Indus River Valley were that their world was changing as the last Ice Age drew to an end around 10000 b.c.e. By 8000 b.c.e, the major cities of the lower Indus Valley were beneath the sea. Higher up the Indus Valley, a number of major population centers continued to thrive for several thousand years after the last Ice Age, and archaeologists began in the twentieth century to probe their ruins and runes for the secrets of their civilization. Of greater significance, however, was the work begun at the dawn of the twenty-first century into the secrets of the cities that for ten millennia had lain hidden on the bed of the Arabian Sea.
Glaciers melted and the sea rose, in history's forgotten time before Egyptian pharaohs. The changes faced by the inhabitants of these cities were gradual. The waters lapped incessantly higher over the years. Societies had time to adjust, and to drift away to higher ground.
Even earlier, the development of human language was slow, haltingly and erratically enabling the development of concepts, because concepts require the use of words and definitions of things. This enabled mankind to move from nomadic hunter-gatherer tribes and clans to fixed locations, learning how to engage in agriculture. And as agriculture ensured consistent food supplies, towns and cities became feasible, emerging in the lower Indus Valley, and at Jericho and other locations in what is now Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon. The transformation and urbanization of societies through agriculture moved slowly, steadily, and irrevocably, in most places, although some clans of hunter-gatherers ignored the transformation of humanity and persisted, even into the twenty-first century, in their nomadic way of life.
Society was again transformed with the explosion of literacy following the development of movable type and printing in 1450. The portability of knowledge caused by this development created new wealth and power. Those societies with widespread literacy and easily reproduced languages became prosperous and dominant.
Civilization profoundly altered direction yet again with the agricultural revolution of the eighteenth century, and then still more with the Industrial Revolution, which agriculture and urbanization had combined to create and which the growing complexity of human society had demanded.
All this is our heritage. But -- our egos tell us -- these upheavals are in the past, and we do not need to learn them again. We are different. The future is different. We have tamed change.
Or so the people living today in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius believe. No volcanic eruption will again rob them of their homes and lives. Despite the patterns of history, people are more densely packed into the towns beneath Vesuvius than at any other time in history, even though the mountain has erupted violently many times in recent centuries. The famous eruption occurred nearly two thousand years ago -- it was in 79 c.e. that Pompeii and Herculaneum were swamped with lava and pyroclastic flows and with scalding ash -- but it has erupted again about three dozen times since then, most recently in 1944.
Life changes constantly, and we still have not absorbed many of the changes which occurred even during the twentieth century.
After World War II, in the triumphant nations of the Allied West, a "baby boom" created a population bubble in the rich, industrialized societies. This demographic trend skewed and indeed paralyzed the economic and political thinking of our present generation. This moving demographic bloc of "baby boomers," who are now approaching retirement, will also pass. Yet few are thinking about the economic consequences beyond this blip. And what if once again totally new reproductive patterns transform the shape of societies? Certainly, China's one-child policy has already dramatically skewed the balance of sexes in the world's most populous nation, with as-yet-unknown -- but significant -- consequences.
Still we refuse to acknowledge the gravity of change. The tectonic shifts in history -- the discovery of agriculture, the end of the Ice Age, and so on -- affected everything from how wars were fought to who came to power, to how societies became prosperous.
The Art of Victory lies in understanding those laws of nature which are essentially immutable, and how these constants can be adapted to meet the turmoil of the changing world. Those societies and individuals which succeed do so by recognizing familiar paths through what appears to be an alien landscape of change. The laws of nature have not changed; we have gradually, throughout human development, discovered more and more of what nature has always held in store for us. But we have also forgotten some of the tools with which we were equipped to cope with change.
We are, in fact, better prepared to face the strange new gifts of science and the chaos of mass human concentrations than were the humans who faced the onset of the last Ice Age. And yet their survival forms the very basis of the victory we share today.
The Context of Change
Strategic reality changes as the global context changes. And we are now coming to a confluence of various strands of profound change. We are on the brink of a global shift of humanity which has aspects in common with the end of the last Ice Age, an era which brought the birth of agriculture and the rise of towns and cities. Another great shift, with the introduction of mass literacy which followed the fifteenth-century development of movable type, then led us to the industrial and information revolutions.
Some shifts are decided by nature; some by human action. We are now engaged in a shift which is the result of the works of both nature and man.
Throughout this book we will explore these emerging trends, and the tools we need to discover, and rediscover, in order to cope with them. Let us, initially, look at a few of the major emerging trends.
Climate and Population
The new global shift includes climatic and environmental change: new patterns of weather, rising sea levels, transformed ocean currents (further compounding the altered weather patterns), the creation of new areas of terrestrial aridity (and of areas of revived fertility and productivity), and so on. The shift will affect agricultural and habitat viability, with ramifications for political stability in many countries. This process has already begun, and the results are evident within our generation. The time scales of these changes are accelerating.
The new global transformation -- the abyss as well as the sunlit upland into which we now stare -- includes dramatic and epochal changes in population patterns: the first substantive reorientation of societies since the Middle Ages (which led to the age of colonial migration which essentially created our present global geopolitical shape). The new age of transformation -- the result of the impact of technologies of transportation, computing, and mass communications, along with rising but unevenly distributed wealth -- has caused a fluid and natural movement of large masses of people from low-opportunity areas to high-opportunity areas. This all changes the nature of sovereignty, the role of government, and the functioning of human mechanisms of choice (democracy in its formal and informal modes).
Along with the new technologies of transportation, computing, and communications, the blurring and loosening of artificial societal constraints embodied in the new globalism has created a surge of people from rural areas to coastal urban clusters on a more profound scale than even the gradual shift from hunter-gatherer nomadic tribes to agricultural settlements. This is particularly evident already in, for example, China, and will become increasingly evident in Africa, the South Asian Subcontinent, and the Americas.
At the same time, we are witnessing the first major and progressive population declines in Europe and Africa in hundreds of years, the result of demographic aging and birth-rate patterns on the one hand, and disease and economic challenges on the other. We are also on the edge of the era in which mankind will move into the near-space environment -- including operations on the moon -- almost seamlessly, with impact in the coming decade on defense and transportation, as well as on the manufacture of specialty medicines, chemicals, and other items.
But it is also clear from history -- from the era of the Black Death, particularly the lice-borne bubonic plague in Europe and Asia in 1347; from the flu epidemic which killed between 20 and 40 million people in 1918-19; from the AIDS pandemic of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries; and from the gathering avian flu epidemic of the early twenty-first century -- that globalization will likely lead to sweeping pandemics with profound strategic consequences. Quite apart from the impact on demographics, which can distort economic models, disease can strike at the heart of victory. Napoleon Bonaparte would have created a Continental trading system excluding Britain if his 1812 invasion of Russia had succeeded. The impact on history would have been profound, and French could have been the lingua franca of the world today instead of English.
What defeated Napoleon, however, was not only the onset of an extreme winter in his invasion of Russia but -- as has now been confirmed by exhumations in the early twenty-first century of the bodies of French Grand Army troops from mass graves -- relapsing fevers transmitted by body lice.
And while the health of leaders, armies, and societies has always been a key determinant in history, perhaps the most challenging and overlooked issue facing societies today is the question of population. Not only has the population growth become an issue of profound importance when considering infrastructure and human needs, but globalization has ensured that the phenomenon of population movement and loyalty has, for the first time, become something which must be considered in an entirely new light. "Population strategies" -- which at their core cover the concept of building viable, committed societies operating within new hierarchical frameworks -- will become the major challenge for governments in the twenty-first century.
The Creation of Militant Societies
Change, chaos, and anomie -- of which terrorism and alienation within society are but symptoms -- will lead rapidly during the coming decade or two to a reactive period of increasing and near-universal militarization and militancy. Where this does not occur, civilizations will perish or erode still further. And the companion of the militarization of society will be increasing "political correctness." In both its formal sense (militarization or increasing governmental control) and its informal sense (societally dictated or "fashionable" -- actually regimented and militant -- attitudes about what is acceptable), this is a normal coping mechanism of society to assert control over change; to reassert balance.
Only as political, social, and security situations stabilize will the apparent threats fade, and life -- as it did in the 1960s and 1970s and briefly in the 1990s -- relax.
This is not a call to arms, a suggestion that such militancy should happen; that alarm has already been sounded by the chaos of change. This study is a call to understand what it means and how to survive the change, to prosper, and to emerge victorious.
The Militarization of Space. . . and China Is in the Lead
The question of the militarization of space is no longer open. Space is, and will increasingly be, militarized. Not all of this activity will be offensive in nature: Apart from contributions to science, space holds the key to neutralizing offensive strategic ballistic missiles and their nuclear or other strategic payloads. Dr. Stefan Possony, the great strategist, and Ronald Reagan -- even before he became president in 1981 -- saw the promise of such a system, which would have been controlled by a consortium of all the major powers and would have effectively neutralized strategic ballistic missiles. Few people saw far enough into the future to realize that this system could have brought benefits to all of humanity by making nuclear war less feasible.
Today, in any event, and even without the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) envisioned by Possony and embraced by Reagan, we are witnessing the end of the viability of nuclear weapons. They are -- as has been the case with all weapons throughout history -- being overtaken by other technologies. Nanotechnologies, for example, will help make anti-ballistic-missile technology vastly more efficient, rendering the crude, rocket-borne weapons of mass destruction impotent. Ballistic missiles will never, with certainty, arrive at their targets, and the bluff of the states which have gambled on nuclear weapons will have been called. Moving beyond that, nanotechnologies will themselves be the basis for offensive capabilities to neutralize command and control systems, perhaps to paralyze an opponent's infrastructure. But nanotechnologies will in turn create countermeasures: Within the framework of nano-technology itself, offensive capabilities will develop and so will hardened defensive capabilities.
Apart from nanotechnologies, other sciences envisioned for SDI are now becoming feasible: space-based, energy-derived weapons -- including automatically directed lasers -- able to destroy nuclear-tipped ballistic weapons as they reach into space at their apogee, before they have the chance to descend on their targets. This capability, envisioned at the beginning of the 1970s, was decried by many scientists of the day as impossible, just as human flight was ridiculed, along with space travel and submarine warfare.
But even if we were merely to extend our present capabilities in a linear fashion, terrestrially based anti-ballistic-missile systems have already made problematic the success of North Korean and Iranian ballistic missiles. The greatest potency which lingers for those nuclear weapons held by "rogue states" lies in their psychological impact. Our collective minds are held captive by icons of the past. Science has already moved on, even if many scientists and politicians have not.
Transformed Energy, Food, and Water Production
The emerging new technologies and scientific, chemical, and biological breakthroughs, which will radically affect all human life, include developments in nanotechnology which will transform food production and fuel efficiencies and, indeed, the very question of what constitutes fuel. New, safe nuclear energy technologies -- which do not pose the same risks as current approaches in terms of waste material or the ability to produce weapons-grade by-products -- are on the brink of viability. These will further transform and revitalize the human ability to harness power for industry and for the desalination and movement of clean water, as well as reducing emissions from fossil fuels.
In the late twentieth century we were contemplating the finite life of energy resources; now we need not. We were contemplating the finite availability of safe drinking and agricultural water, and of food; now we need not. The Age of Biology is also now full upon us, and once again the farmers will provide renewable fuels for motive power: not hay for horses, this time, but cornstalks and other agricultural products to transform into ethanol. Agricultural powers once again will control their own destinies, free from hostage dependency on imported oil.
This comes just in time for the United States, for example, which is now in the last great fight for domination of the fossil fuel marketplace. It is gradually losing its dominance over that arena, but no matter: The loss of dominance over world oil resources impels the United States to ensure the smooth transition to an age dominated not by fossil fuels, but by biofuels and other energies. But the energy business -- possibly the biggest single economic factor in the world today -- is like a supertanker; slow to change course. And it never will change course until it sights a reef and the captain gives the order. The reef is already in sight.
Productive Societies Surrendering to Unproductive Societies?
We know that science and technology allow us to take control of our destiny; to avoid, for example, the entanglements the pursuit of oil has brought. But have we the strength to grasp our destiny in our own hands? Or is it possible that we could succumb, through loss of will, to a new dark age before we can actually bring these stunning scientific breakthroughs into use? We know that we are now in an age where, once again, new states will be born, and others will die. It is up to us to choose whether to be part of the rebirth of a society or part of the slow and geriatric failing and death of one.
Lenin once said that the capitalist West would one day bid to supply the rope for its own hanging. As it transpired, the communists were not around when the time came to call for bids on the rope. Today, the productive nations of the world (the ones which produce and export food surpluses, technologically value-added goods, and services) may squabble among themselves, but their challenge comes almost solely from societies in which the people produce nothing of benefit to their fellow humans. And yet these unproductive societies are using the cheaply acquired technologies of the productive societies against them.
Think of these challengers to the industrial societies: Almost all of them produce nothing of a value-added nature. Some of them may sell oil, or coca leaf, or opium and cocaine, but this is an accident of geography, not a feat of scientific or technological progress by those from whose lands the oil and narcotics flow. Yet today, all of the efforts by the industrial world are focused on the demands of people who choose not to cherish education and productivity, the tools of survival and prosperity.
In less than a century, the oil-producing states of the Middle East will have nothing of great importance to sell unless they become diversified economies. Oil, by then, will be a minor fuel. We will look back on them as we did, with bemusement, on the salt sellers of yore, or the dealers in tulip bulbs in seventeenth-century Holland. To our detriment, we still focus our attention on the price of oil. To their detriment, the oil-producing states of the Middle East fail to move their societies to literacy, science, and production.
An Age of Savage Wars and Global Criminals
Few people today are familiar with many of the countries which existed only, say, three hundred years ago, except for the major players: France, Britain, Russia, and so on. Italy did not then exist as a sovereign state; nor did the United States of America, or Germany. And more countries will appear or disappear in the next few decades. Wars of secession, and the reshaping of boundaries -- largely suppressed by the Cold War -- begin anew. The wars to break up Yugoslavia are still not over. And in many of the new wars we will see a resurgence of savagery as groups "rediscover" old identities and seek to capitalize on the permissive climate of change and chaos.
Many of the superficial old "man-made" rules don't apply any more. We are back to the basic yet exceptionally sophisticated rules of survival logic with which nature equipped us. But who, today, in a world made abstract by technology and man-made constructs, has given any thought to what they are?
From this turmoil we also already see the rise of new global criminal movements benefiting from the globalization of technologies and societies. The international banking constraints imposed to restrict terrorists have not hampered the new, more vicious criminal movements. In all of these, the Albanian criminals have displaced the old Sicilians, and are sweeping aside even their old partners, the Turks. If the twentieth century was the criminal age of the Sicilian mafia; the twenty-first century is the age of the Albanian mafia. Even the Russian mafia, let loose after the collapse of communism, is no match for the Albanian criminal industry, which is now operating across Europe and into the Americas, closely tied to the Islamist jihadists. In many respects, the Al Qaeda phenomenon owes its success to the financial links with the Albanian mafia, just as the Albanian criminals owe their success to the logistics and networks of Al Qaeda.
The chaos of changing borders is fertile ground for criminality. In the coming decades there will be more and more "no go" areas in the world. And this is partly the reason why some societies will react with greater militarization and rigidity. In many respects, the terror has just begun. Criminal states, such as the Kosovo Albanian "state," could profoundly change our sense of security. Kosovo was by 2006 already a semistate where international peacekeepers went in fear, and yet it petitioned for international recognition as a sovereign state. Already it is becoming like Afghanistan under the Taliban. And like the Taliban destruction of the ancient Buddhas of Bamiyan, the Albanian Islamist process of destruction of the Christian churches will be complete, and Western civilization will be gone from a large part of the Balkans.
In its place will be a criminal terrorist state, leaching into the heart of Europe. And it was made feasible by the short-term policies of many European and U.S. politicians of the 1990s, who allowed the breakup of the former Yugoslavia to be engineered without thought to how, if it was indeed necessary, it could be undertaken without the chaos, heartbreak, and enduring hatreds that ensued.
Those who think that the creation of a spreading Albanian state across what was once the Yugoslav federation will occur without major reactions from within the region are mistaken. We will all feel the reverberations over the coming decade.
Not "Clashes of Civilizations," But New Civilizations Defined
Some were also contemplating "clashes of civilizations." It becomes increasingly clear, however, that while societies still search for separate and distinct identities and horizons, we also acknowledge that all members of the species Homo sapiens are fundamentally alike and related by common ancestry. Our view of racial differences, which has been a driving force in human history, is now being changed by scientific research and population movement. This is unlikely to stop conflict over racial and cultural issues, but globalism is indeed changing how ethnic and communal nations interact.
So what divides us will continue to be the essence of conflict. Still, within the competition between societies -- and by societies, I mean essentially cultural/historical amalgams -- the underlying thread that mankind is competing for survival with the rest of nature will come again to the fore. In the "peace" and prosperity which followed the titanic confrontations which were the hallmark of the twentieth century, the smug, safe, secure modern states embarked upon the divisive social policy of "multiculturalism," which created, essentially, substates of communities within states.
"Multiculturalism" in its current fashionable form has created fundamental disunity in states. For the modern host nations, the policy was not to "divide and conquer" opposing societies; it was to ingest them into modern societies, to "divide and surrender." By consciously embracing multiculturalism, we deliberately rejected nation building, and nation building was seen -- in the last decade of the twentieth century and first decade of the twenty-first century -- as anathema to short-term economic gain. But nation building -- perhaps in new forms -- is what is being undertaken by those societies which seek to end the long victory of the West.
Why should we be surprised, then, when national unity -- already pressured by globalization -- fails? That is not to deny the cultural heritages of the many, diverse peoples composing the modern nation-state; rather, it is critical to place this rich cultural tapestry within the context of nation building.
This new era of change will affect how we must regard our processes of society, sovereignty, government, defense, intelligence, trade, science, and technology. Clearly, the short-, medium-, and long-term economic trends are directly affected by all of this. Our jobs, our security -- the value of everything we pass to future generations -- is intrinsically tied to this great evaluation. It is only when we confront ourselves with such introspection, at such a time as this, that we realize we must reconsider our positions on almost everything.
The Tools Are in Our Hearts and Minds
We cannot decide anything without contemplating the impact of the emerging contextual changes. We will look both at the context of the changes we face and at how societies have historically either survived and prospered or failed, particularly during times of global transformation. It is no accident that some individuals, organizations, and societies triumph over nature, and over other individuals, organizations, and societies. It is the Art of Victory.
A Context of Victory
We cannot fail to see that our strategic context has changed, and will change again, and more rapidly, over the coming decades. How do we cope, adapt, thrive? What is the context for victory? Clearly, it will all get down to understanding ourselves and our societies, and understanding our environment, and determining how to act upon this knowledge.
The world is divided into only two camps: one which believes we must take responsibility for defining our future, and one which clings to the hope that someone or something else will take care of our safety and welfare. Most of us have a foot in both camps, but lean more one way than the other. The first group retains a more primal comprehension of species survival; the second wants no sacrifice in the standard of living and wealth which our forebears created. The meek shall inherit the earth? Sure; inheritance is the only way they'll get it. The rest of us have to work for our survival and independence.
Even so, many of the things which affect us are beyond our control: the last Ice Age and its effects; the current exponential growth in human population; and many aspects of the current global warming pattern -- akin to the end of the last Ice Age -- which may (or may not) result in part from the growth in human numbers and activity. How we react to things not of our making will decide whether we survive and prosper. Those who wait for someone else -- government or God -- to resolve the problems will be in for an unhappy time. Nature -- God, if you prefer -- has already given us the tools to survive against the threats of man and the environment. We just need to use them.
Within the framework defined for us by nature, history's path and the fate of peoples turn often upon a chance -- its weight unrealized at the moment -- seized by a single leader. Such a vital watershed occurred on October 14, 1066. It was a day, in autumnal England, of bloody, intense blackness which was later seen to have marked the end of a long night of civilizational stasis. The decisive -- though narrowly won -- military triumph by Duke William of Normandy on this day was to become one of the pivotal acts in transforming Europe and in ensuring the resumption of the rise of Western civilization. It was a civilization which had its origin in the mists of the Hellenic city-states and Roman modernism and the deeper recesses of Persian philosophy. But it had fallen into five centuries of darkness, ignorance, and chaos.
It was on October 14, 1066, that the invading Normans -- a mere sesquicentury removed from their own departure in 911 from the Norse regions of Denmark -- conquered the English forces near Hastings, in the south of England.
It was an invasion in which the conquerors, despite their ultimate impact on the course of history, were themselves soon absorbed into the land and culture (also predominantly Norse) which they had invaded. Their French language was preserved for a time, but only in the sovereign's court, and ultimately gave way altogether to the living, expanding idiom of English, which consumed much of the French language to satisfy its voracity for exploration and expansion.
A day's battle -- the chance seized -- was the catalyst for the transformation of civilization. Nothing has since been the same.
Western civilization, a millennium after the events of 1066, has grown into "modern civilization," embracing and engulfing beliefs, cultures, and nations, virtually all with hitherto incompatible and conflicting needs, aspirations, and geographical realities.
And yet humanity moves -- societies and individuals move -- from day to day, generation to generation, without weighing the motivation for their progress, or considering the extension of their goals and imperatives into the infinite future. The survival of the human species, and its individual societies, cultures, languages, beliefs, and dominance over the landscape, is taken for granted. History tells us that no species is immune from obliteration; no culture, language, ethnic community, nation, or belief system is guaranteed its survival. Yet we fail to learn from history. We know that the Neandertals are no more. We know that the languages and beliefs of ancient Egypt are gone beneath the sands, interpreted -- as the writings of the Sumerian scribes and poets of ramparted Uruk -- from fragmentary scripts chiseled into weathered stone.
Still we persist in the belief in the inevitable linear progress and dominance of our own cultures, tribes, religions, and languages. But this belief is without the foundation of a structure or conscious process to ensure the survival of those things which we hold most dear, which define our existence and purpose.
The survival and dominance of a society through history is its principal victory. As with the chance triumph of Duke William of Normandy at the Battle of Hastings, the fate of civilizations turns on unexpected things. The languages we speak, the generations which may -- or, in defeat, may not -- follow our family line, the welfare we enjoy: all hang upon pivotal events but must be confirmed and compounded by the consciously defined processes of history.
More than two centuries after the Norman Conquest of England, the Mongol leader Khubilai Khan -- the grandson of the greatest conqueror of them all, Genghis Khan -- mounted his second attempt to invade Japan. The Mongols, in three generations, had already conquered much of the Eurasian landmass, including China. Had the conquest of Japan succeeded and had Khubilai Khan lived long enough to restore the unity won by his grandfather to the Mongol leaders, it is possible that a fourth generation of Genghis Khan's heirs would have ultimately expanded, once again, in the main direction open to them: westward, further into Europe. But even they, for logistical reasons, would have had to rethink the process of their spectacular victory to that point and change their strategies to adapt to different geography.
Many factors spelled an end to what had seemed an inexorable expansion of the Mongol world, but had it continued we would have been living in a history developed far differently, an Eastern victory. As it chanced, the Mongol attempt to invade Japan failed, in large part due to one variable which still eludes the control of man: the weather. Khubilai Khan died soon thereafter. The Mongol empire, which rose from nothing to become the world's greatest power under Genghis Khan -- and expanded still further under his sons and grandsons -- transformed, in the period following the "globalization of Genghis Khan," into new, sedentary powers which existed until the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The shape of the modern world was created by the conquest in 1066 of England, which prospered as a result of the massive upheaval -- and then the settlement of nations and societies into new patterns -- begun by Genghis Khan.
So much of the destiny of humanity hangs on what we do every day. The least we can do is to understand what led us here, what ensures our societal future, and how we can ensure that this future -- if it indeed is to exist -- is in the image we wish it to be.
This is the Art of Victory. So let's examine twenty-eight maxims which can provide the underpinnings of victory; how they have related historically, and how -- when applied practically to everyday life and government today -- they gird us for tomorrow's fray. These maxims, at the head of each chapter, are meant to highlight an underlying factor in the achievement of victory, certainly on a societal level, but also with a strong applicability to the individual.
Copyright © 2006 by Gregory R. Copley
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