Edward Luttwak, March 6, 2013 on “Conversations with History” – always quotable – below are some particularly good selections (accuracy is only as good as the speed I was able to copy down what he said):

On Chinese strategic culture ~
“The Chinese culture has no strategic logic at all, but it owns a strategic culture of which they are terribly proud…not only [Sun Tzu]…but also a whole body of classics…unfortunately, none of it is authentic strategy – what it is, its a bag of tricks.  It is stratagems.”

“Strategy begins when there is a recognition of another.  There is somebody else…[The Chinese] forget the existence of the other because historically they didn’t have another.”  

On strategy, security and power ~
“The realm of strategy is when you have contending forces seeking security and power…first you secure, and when you’re secure, you’re not content to be secure, you start looking for power…that is the continuum.”

On Afghanistan ~
“[The thinking was] We’ll turn it into Sweden and once it’s Sweden they’ll have no use for the Taliban…All of this was based on never having stepped foot in Afghanistan.  Yes, you could convert it to Sweden – but you’ll need 400 years, and you’ll have to kill three quarters of the males in Afghanistan…as well as disestablishing religion, among other things, forbidding Islam, of course.”

“So how can an intelligent, sophisticated, American democracy with universities, study centers and quite a lot of people [decide to] stay in Afghanistan to embark on such a crazy project?  Immediately after another lunatic project – which is making democracy in Iraq of all places.”

On the Pivot ~
“There are two aspects of the Pivot.  One is…the American consensus that [the recent failures in the Middle East have led to] a general abandonment of the area from Morocco to India and giving up on it.  Because nothing seems to work – neither diplomacy nor force, economic aid, withholding economic aid.  Nothing works.  Therefore abandoning – one.  That has happened, is happening, and will continue to happen.
The other thing is engaging the Pivot.  There are two aspects to [this].  One is reassuring our allies.  That is what we must do…the other would be to threaten China – and that is what we have not done and should not do.  We should be in the reassurance business…this is big allies [like Japan, India and Vietnam], out front and we are loyally behind them.”

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