The Art of War
Are you a toy soldier? Many Christians are. They playact like they are fierce warriors, but the day of war reveals how much of a warrior they really are. Oftentimes they are not as tough as they seem, or as smart as they seem, or as revelatory as they seem. The day of war is a day of revelation: who is a paper tiger, who is a battle-hardened veteran, who is in basic training, who is somewhere in-between.
If you are not combat credible (an important term), unhealthy people will not be deterred or discouraged from attacking you. If you are not combat credible, demons will not be deterred from attacking you. If you are not combat credible, the environment will shape you instead of you shaping the environment. You do not have to be a toy soldier, or an expendable footsoldier, or an amateur! However, to go from awkward basic training to battle-hardened veteran who wins consistently, one must learn the art of war. Warcraft. Military doctrine. War-making and war-winning concepts.
This is precisely what the Word of God says to us.
Expert in War?
Song of Songs 3:7,8 describe King Solomon's praetorian guard with a curious descriptor: expert in war. Here is the full verse, notice the underlined. Song 3:7,8 (ESV): ...Around it are sixty mighty men, some of the mighty men of Israel, all of them wearing swords and expert in war...
Oh to become an expert in war! David prayed for God to teach him the art of war, and my goodness, God responded. In Psalm 144:1 David tells us (ESV), Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle... Again in Psalm 18:34 he said (ESV): He trains my hands for war...
We can develop expertise in the wars of life, but like David, we have to be taught the art of war--from the Lord, from others, from our own study. We have to be taught warcraft, military doctrine, war-making and war-winning concepts that are generalizable across all wars in life.
Three foundational concepts underpin all warcraft: situational uniqueness, individual level, and offense/defense. If you remember nothing else, remember these.
Every conflict has its own set of unique variables, and therefore, war-making must be flexible and adapted to each situation. How the Soviet Union fought Nazi Germany on the flat Eurasian steppes in winter is not how they fought the mujahideen in Afghanistan on rocky terrain in weather hotter than hell itself. The Soviet red army defeated Nazi Germany's eastern force and pushed them all the way back to Berlin, but they left Afghanistan in disgrace after not appreciating the very different variables there on numerous levels.
To kill the lion and the bear David used his bare hands (1Sam 17:34-36). To kill Goliath he used a slingshot. To kill many others he used a sword. Situational uniqueness = strategic uniqueness.
Every individual soldier has a different level of ability and experience, and therefore, war-making must be formfitted to each individual's level. The expendable footsoldiers who stormed the beach of Normandy were fighting with a much different strategy than the special operators who snuck behind Nazi lines to gain sensitive intel and study the beast from within.
Before David mastered the sword God made him master the slingshot. Before he mastered the slingshot God made him master his own bare hands. Individual level = strategic adjustment.
Offense & Defense
Psalm 18:34,35 (ESV, underline mine): He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have given me the shield of your salvation...
Notice David mentions an offensive weapon (a bow) and a defensive weapon (a shield). Proactive weaponry (a bow) and reactive weaponry (a shield). An unstoppable force and an immovable object. In the artistry of war you need both. You need proactive strategies for moving in and possessing, but also reactive strategies for blocking and preventing. You cannot win by being good at only one.
As long as Nazi Germany was on offense, doing their blitzkrieg lightning war, they were unstoppable. But when Operation Barbarossa got bogged down at Stalingrad and twelve miles outside Moscow, World War II changed permanently. When the Soviets counterattacked and the Americans invaded from the west, Nazi Germany could not defend what they had conquered. In the artistry of war you must be an unstoppable force offensively and an immovable object defensively.
Three foundational concepts underpin all warcraft: situational uniqueness, individual level, and an offense-defense completeness. If you remember nothing else, remember these.
War-Making & War-Winning Tactics
Beyond the three foundations, war-making and war-winning depend on nuanced tactics. Think of the foundations as prewar (preparations before battle) and the tactics as intrawar (actual execution of battle). Here I will focus only on a few tactics. The Lord, others, and your own study can teach you many more that fit your battle's situational uniqueness, your individual level, and your offense/defense system.
The Initial Period of War
In Russian and Chinese military doctrine, the "initial period of war" or "first phase of war" is the most important. For this reason they focus intensely on first-phase operations, like extraordinary preparation, preemptive ideas, and quick actions to create a sudden, instantaneous advantage. As long as Nazi Germany was attacking countries with this win-the-first-phase, lightning-quick approach, they were unstoppable. When they got bogged down in protracted conflicts that stretched further and further away from that first-phase advantage, it was the beginning of the end.
What you do in the first minutes and hours of your personal battle is crucial. Do you immediately seek the Lord and ride out the emotions with Him, waiting for His peace and battle tactics? Do you immediately recruit trustworthy, privacy-protecting intercessors to help you with that first-phase push? Or do you let emotions slave-drive you into acting impulsively, speaking impulsively, and helping your enemy beat you?
ETA: Exploiting Temporal Advantage (Exploiting Time-Related Advantage)
ETA, or Exploiting Temporal (Time-Related) Advantage, essentially means acting on windows of opportunity. Those windows might be brief, calling for lightning-fast actions, or protracted, calling for subtle incrementalism over time. Regarding brief windows, think of Russia's lightning-fast seizure of Crimea in 2014. Russia perceived Ukraine's and NATO's response would be too slow or too inconsequential, so it acted suddenly, unexpectedly, and successfully. Regarding protracted windows, think of China's island-building in the South China Sea, starting in 2013. They built subtly and incrementally--always with plausible deniability and claims of peaceful intent--to avoid a major U.S. or NATO response. Nine years later, these allegedly "peaceful" islands are military and industrial outposts, capable of receiving and deploying military aircraft.
Regardless of the rightness or wrongness of Russia's and China's actions, I want us to focus on the art of war. It is often said "slow and steady wins the race". In China's island-building case, this has proven true. However, "lightning-fast and surprising also wins the race", as in Russia's Crimea case. Both cases are an enlightening study in the art of ETA, or exploiting windows of opportunity, whether those windows are brief or extended. In your personal battles, are you discerning moments of advantage in which you have to act quickly and surprisingly to win? Are you discerning extended windows of advantage in which you can incrementalize towards a victory?
Strategic Depth, The Cabbage Tactic
Adolf Hitler was bewitched by dreams of a Germanic global, millennial rule. This required two macro-objectives: (1) exterminate "inferior" groups and ethnicities (Jews, Slavs, gypsies, homosexuals, the handicapped, etc.) and (2) secure a source of endless resources and globally-strategic territory. The second referred to the Soviet Union. A heavyweight showdown was imminent between the Nazi Wehrmacht and the Soviet Red Army.
Facing literal extermination, the USSR turned to an exceptional tactic that gearshifted all of World War II: strategic depth. Taking advantage of their staggering size, they layered their defenses from the western edge all the way to the Ural mountains. As the Nazi Wehrmacht penetrated and advanced, Soviet troops simply fell back into the lines behind them. Each retreat made the Soviet front thicker and stronger, until finally, the Wermacht stalled at the Leningrad-Moscow-Stalingrad line.
A war of attrition set in. Stalin moved the industrial base to the Ural Mountains, Siberia, Kazakhstan, and a handful far east. Red Army soldiers were clothed in thick white coats with fur underneath, while the Germans ran out of resources and began freezing to death. From this strategic depth, geographically and industrially, the Soviets survived and counterattacked, driving the Nazis all the way back to Berlin to meet the Americans.
This enlightening bit of history is revelatory far beyond the Russian steppes of World War II. Psalm 48:12,13 tell us Jerusalem also had layered defenses, or strategic depth. Amazingly, we are commanded to walk around, analyze, and count Zion's "towers" and "bulwarks" (plural). The command to count (v12) Zion's towers and bulwarks indicates extensive defenses, or strategic depth. Is it only an ancient city the Lord is concerned for? Why then are we commanded to tell future generations of these numerous defenses (v13)?
Identical to strategic depth is the cabbage tactic. China uses cabbaging to seize and maintain control of islands in the South China Sea. To cut off a particular island from outside intervention and tampering, the Chinese encircle and wrap the island with layers (like cabbage) of naval ships, coast guard vessels, and fishing vessels. Are you cabbaging what God has given you to protect and develop? Or is negative outside intervention and tampering--due to a lack of layered boundaries--threatening what is good and sacred in your life?
CTAM: Contested Theater Access & Maneuverability
The last piece of warcraft we will touch on is CTAM, or contested theater access and maneuverability. CTAM says total denial of access to an enemy is not always possible, and therefore, the army must limit or handicap or frustrate or "contest" their maneuverability within the area in question. In other words, CTAM acknowledges the enemy is already inside a certain zone, and therefore, he must be limited or handicapped or frustrated as much as possible.
After the Americans successfully invaded Iraq and Afghanistan, a menacing insurgency rose up to limit, handicap, and severely frustrate the U.S.'s maneuverability within those countries. After Nazi Germany successfully invaded continental Europe, special operators, spies, saboteurs, resistance fighters, and other combatant types engaged in all manner of CTAM activities to limit, handicap, and frustrate Nazi activities. During the Vietnam War, the Americans used agent orange to clear the dense foliage the North Vietnamese were using to conceal their activities and movements and stage devastating ambushes. Think also of no-fly zones, mine fields, disrupting or destroying communication lines, disrupting or destroying supply lines, even disinformation and psychological warfare, as various forms of CTAM.
In your personal and spiritual life, you will occasionally find yourself in a situation where an enemy (human or demonic) is already established. Removing that opponent entirely may not be possible or wisest at the moment, and therefore, the military doctrine of CTAM is the tactic of the moment. The opponent must be limited, handicapped, frustrated, and contested as much as possible. Let the Spirit guide your application of CTAM in your contested theater.
Beloved, you can develop expertise in the wars of life, but like our father David, we have to be taught the art of war--from the Lord, from others, from our own study. We have to be taught warcraft, war-making and war-winning concepts, that are generalizable across all wars in life.
Do not be a toy soldier. Do not be one of those obnoxious braggadocios who playact and yap like a fierce warrior, but the day of war reveals they are not as tough as they seem, as smart as they seem, as revelatory as they seem. The day of war is a day of revelation of who is where in the art of war.
You do not have to be a toy soldier, or an expendable footsoldier, or an amateur. You can develop into a battle-hardened veteran who wins consistently.
Become expert in war.
Song of Songs 3:7,8 (ESV): ...Around it are sixty mighty men, some of the mighty men of Israel, all of them wearing swords and expert in war...