Sun-Tzu on Peru’s political battlefield

Pedro Castillo’s presidential election and the start of his government two weeks ago sparked a contest that will define Peru as a nation for decades to come. This dispute has existential importance because it confronts two radically different visions of Peru, each supported by half of the electorate in an election surrounded by serious questions about its legitimacy.

If war is the continuation of politics by other means, politics has a lot to do with war and its art. The current struggle for power in Peru, although not yet a declared war, can turn into an open social confrontation with dire consequences. Admitting this possibility does not mean having a daring and irresponsible perception of reality, much less the desire to aggravate the fragile social architecture of Peru.

The human condition being what it is, the science of war has been studied since ancient times. Sun-Tzu Art of war is a lasting example of the philosophy of war that receives recurring attention not only in military academies, but even in the corporate world. For its versatility and timelessness, it deserves to be remembered in the context of the current political struggle in Peru.

Sun-Tzu begins his short treatise written in the 6th century BC. AD by listing five fundamental factors that determine the art of warfare: moral influence, climate, terrain, command and discipline. In the current Peruvian political sphere, these factors acquire a very particular tone.

Moral influence has several flags, including, on the side of the Castillo government, the struggle for a new country with a socialist imprint and a new constitutional order and, on the opposition side, the defense of democracy, economic freedom and transparency on an electoral result disputed by many. The climate is the initial moment of a precarious government with weak alliances trying to consolidate itself with radical political scaffolding in the face of diffuse opposition. The terrain is fundamentally Peru, with its vast historical, social, and geographic complexities synthesized right now in the power struggle between the executive and the legislature, but with dangerous international connotations that may involve China, Venezuela, and Cuba. , in the face of possible resistance. led by the United States. The leadership is in the hands of a small radical group with classic Marxist-Leninist convictions, while the opposition is not unified and manifests itself in a diffuse way through the leadership of various political forces. Discipline is properly the structure and logistics of the political forces that lead the confrontation, with an executive power quickly organizing itself against an opposition that is still confused and weak.

Whoever occupies the battlefield first comfortably awaits his enemy, said Sun-Tzu. It is tempting to disagree with this statement given the Peruvian government’s greater capacity to execute with the means at its disposal. But while the executive branch is powerful, Congress has the formal strength given by its oversight and the legislative powers given by the constitution.

It is a basic principle of Sun-Tzu’s theory that all war is based on deception, but in the Peruvian case this thesis is limited by the Marxist-Leninist ideological basis of government which conditions and defines its action. The political determinism of the government is a double-edged sword which gives purpose and energy but also makes its methods transparent and can therefore allow an effective defense against its ultimate intentions of total control. The clarity of the political objectives of the group in power must allow the opposition to define its strategy.

The importance of surprising speed and expediency as methods of struggle were recognized by the government in its early days in power, notably through changes in the military hierarchy, the appointment of a cabinet revealing an attempt to sharpen the political confrontation and in the first efforts to create an internal control system as an alternative to the national police through peasant patrols (“rondas campesinas”). The “divine speed” enjoyed by ancient Chinese strategists seems to be understood by Castillo and his political base.

On the opposition side, there is no strategy of discernment beyond the systematic maintenance of constitutional mechanisms concerning the balance of powers. On the military level, a vision of defensive war predominates in the opposition, reacting only to the maneuvers and actions of the adversary, which confirms the observation that pure defense only makes sense when the force is insufficient. . Nothing is more difficult than the art of maneuvering, Sun-Tzu also says, and this is proven by opposition tangled in their tactics regarding where, when and how to face the actions of the executive, including what to do with it. must face the appointment of a predominantly politicized and radical cabinet.

Victory is the primary goal of war, but the meaning of political victory is different for both sides. For Castillo and his acolytes, victory means a permanent consolidation of power that would allow them to achieve their so-called goals of social equality. For the opposition, the vision of victory is diffuse and oscillates between a desire to slow down the work of the government – thus facilitating an orderly political transition at the end of its mandate in five years – and a presidential vacancy which would allow new elections. legislative. short term. As Sun-Tzu says, one who is confused in his designs cannot respond to the rival.

It is of paramount importance in war to attack the strategy of the enemy, and the immediate step in the case of Peru would be to destroy the alliances that support the executive power. Dividing the adversary when united appears to be one of the few tactics that the opposition uses more effectively as it has exposed the contradictions between the ruling political party, its allies and supporters, especially with regard to the controversial ministerial appointments. But if plans can not be nipped in the bud or alliances broken, the Chinese philosopher recommends sharpening the weapons to achieve victory, which can only mean tempting the presidential vacancy.

He will be victorious whose ranks are united in the goal. This prognosis must be listened to by a democratic opposition which still does not seem to understand who the enemy is and what their objectives are. We also do not see what the opposition is trying to defend: democracy, the economic model or both. In any case, the struggle for false idols like the restoration of Peru’s international reputation should be avoided. Sun-Tzu also said that no evil is greater than the sovereign’s military orders precisely because of his remoteness from the field and his lack of knowledge of local reality, adequate observation for those seeking leadership. opposition in international organizations or forums. , or with prestigious figures more concerned with preserving their notoriety. Whoever is eager to defend his reputation pays no attention to anything else, Sun-Tzu said wisely.

War experts need to know where and when a battle will be fought, and for this it is essential to know your own strengths and those of the competitor. In political competitions, public opinion is the most important provision of the arsenal and moral influence must materialize in public opinion. In the case of the Castillo government, the latest polls showing his party’s declining approval ratings are good indicators of its true political strength.

Victory can be created, but for this it is necessary to define the political objectives of the struggle, to create a minimum political consensus to act with unity of command and to use the vast resources of the resistance, especially in public opinion and civil action. .

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect those of

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