1. Have you ever come across a painting, by Picasso, Mondrian, Miro, or any other modern abstract painter of this century, and found yourself engulfed in a brightly coloured canvas which your senses cannot interpret? Many people would tend to denounce abstractionism as senseless trash. These people are disoriented by Miro's bright, fanciful creatures and two- dimensional canvases. They click their tongues and shake their heads at Mondrian's grid works, declaring the poor guy played too many scrabble games. They silently shake their heads in sympathy for Picasso, whose gruesome, distorted figures must be a reflection of his mental health. Then, standing in front of a work by Charlie Russell, the famous Western artist, they'll declare it a work of God. People feel more comfortable with something they can relate to and understand immediately without too much thought. This is the case with the work of Charlie Russell. Being able to recognize the elements in his paintings - trees, horses and cowboys - gives people a safety line to their world of "reality". There are some who would disagree when I say abstract art requires more creativity and artistic talent to produce a good piece than does representational art, but there are many weaknesses in their arguments.People who look down on abstract art have several major arguments to support their beliefs. They feel that artists turn abstract because they are not capable of the technical drafting skills that appear in a Russell; therefore, such artists create an art form that anyone is capable of and that is less time consuming, and then parade it as artistic progress. Secondly, they feel that the purpose of art is to create something of beauty in an orderly, logical composition. Russell's compositions are balanced and rational, everything sits calmly on the canvas, leaving the viewer satisfied that he has seen all there is to see. The modern abstractionists, on the other hand, seem to compose their pieces irrationally. For example, upon seeing Picasso's Guernica, a friend of mine asked me, "What's the point?" Finally, many people feel that art should portray the ideal and real. The exactness of detail in Charlie Russell's work is an example of this. He has been called a great historian because his pieces depict the life style, dress, and events of the times. His subject matter is derived from his own experiences on the trail, and reproduced to the smallest detail.I agree in part with many of these arguments, and at one time even endorsed them. But now, I believe differently. Firstly, I object to the argument that abstract artists are not capable of drafting. Many abstract artists, such as Picasso, are excellent draftsmen. As his work matured, Picasso became more abstract in order to increase the expressive quality of his work. Guernica was meant as a protest against the bombing of that city by the Germans. To express the terror and suffering of the victims more vividly, he distorted the figures and presented them in a black and white journalistic manner. If he had used representational images and colour, much of the emotional content would have been lost and the piece would not have caused the demand for justice that it did. Secondly, I do not think that a piece must be logical and aesthetically pleasing to be art. The message it conveys to its viewers is more important. It should reflect the ideals and issues of its time and be true to itself, not just a flowery, glossy surface. For example, through his work, Mondrian was trying to present a system of simplicity, logic, and rational order. As a result, his pieces did end up looking like a scrabble board.Miro created powerful, surrealistic images from his dreams and subconscious. These artists were trying to evoke a response from society through an expressionistic manner. Finally, abstract artists and representational artists maintain different ideas about 'reality'. To the representational artist, reality is what he sees with his eyes. This is the reality he reproduces on canvas. To the abstract artist, reality is what he feels about what his eyes see. This is the reality he interprets on canvas. This can be illustrated by Mondrian's Trees series. You can actually see the progression from the early recognizable, though abstracted, Trees, to his final Explanation, the grid system.A cycle of abstract and representational art began with the first scratchings of prehistoric man. From the abstractions of ancient Egypt to representational, classical Rome, returning to abstractionism in early Christian art and so on up to the present day, the cycle has been going on. But this day and age may witness its death through the camera. With film, there is no need to produce finely detailed, historical records manually; the camera does this for us more efficiently. Maybe, representational art would cease to exist. With abstractionism as the victor of the first battle, may be a different kind of cycle will be touched off. Possibly, some time in the distant future, thousands of years from now, art itself will be physically non-existent. Some artists today believe that once they have planned and constructed a piece in their mind, there is no sense in finishing it with their hands; it has already been done and can never be duplicated.The author argues that many people look down upon abstract art because they feel that:
 





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  • By: anil on 05 May 2019 02.31 am
    All of the options have been stated in the passage by the author as reasons given by critics of modern abstract art. Hence, option D.
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MCQ-> Have you ever come across a painting, by Picasso, Mondrian, Miro, or any other modern abstract painter of this century, and found yourself engulfed in a brightly coloured canvas which your senses cannot interpret? Many people would tend to denounce abstractionism as senseless trash. These people are disoriented by Miro's bright, fanciful creatures and two- dimensional canvases. They click their tongues and shake their heads at Mondrian's grid works, declaring the poor guy played too many scrabble games. They silently shake their heads in sympathy for Picasso, whose gruesome, distorted figures must be a reflection of his mental health. Then, standing in front of a work by Charlie Russell, the famous Western artist, they'll declare it a work of God. People feel more comfortable with something they can relate to and understand immediately without too much thought. This is the case with the work of Charlie Russell. Being able to recognize the elements in his paintings - trees, horses and cowboys - gives people a safety line to their world of "reality". There are some who would disagree when I say abstract art requires more creativity and artistic talent to produce a good piece than does representational art, but there are many weaknesses in their arguments.People who look down on abstract art have several major arguments to support their beliefs. They feel that artists turn abstract because they are not capable of the technical drafting skills that appear in a Russell; therefore, such artists create an art form that anyone is capable of and that is less time consuming, and then parade it as artistic progress. Secondly, they feel that the purpose of art is to create something of beauty in an orderly, logical composition. Russell's compositions are balanced and rational, everything sits calmly on the canvas, leaving the viewer satisfied that he has seen all there is to see. The modern abstractionists, on the other hand, seem to compose their pieces irrationally. For example, upon seeing Picasso's Guernica, a friend of mine asked me, "What's the point?" Finally, many people feel that art should portray the ideal and real. The exactness of detail in Charlie Russell's work is an example of this. He has been called a great historian because his pieces depict the life style, dress, and events of the times. His subject matter is derived from his own experiences on the trail, and reproduced to the smallest detail.I agree in part with many of these arguments, and at one time even endorsed them. But now, I believe differently. Firstly, I object to the argument that abstract artists are not capable of drafting. Many abstract artists, such as Picasso, are excellent draftsmen. As his work matured, Picasso became more abstract in order to increase the expressive quality of his work. Guernica was meant as a protest against the bombing of that city by the Germans. To express the terror and suffering of the victims more vividly, he distorted the figures and presented them in a black and white journalistic manner. If he had used representational images and colour, much of the emotional content would have been lost and the piece would not have caused the demand for justice that it did. Secondly, I do not think that a piece must be logical and aesthetically pleasing to be art. The message it conveys to its viewers is more important. It should reflect the ideals and issues of its time and be true to itself, not just a flowery, glossy surface. For example, through his work, Mondrian was trying to present a system of simplicity, logic, and rational order. As a result, his pieces did end up looking like a scrabble board.Miro created powerful, surrealistic images from his dreams and subconscious. These artists were trying to evoke a response from society through an expressionistic manner. Finally, abstract artists and representational artists maintain different ideas about 'reality'. To the representational artist, reality is what he sees with his eyes. This is the reality he reproduces on canvas. To the abstract artist, reality is what he feels about what his eyes see. This is the reality he interprets on canvas. This can be illustrated by Mondrian's Trees series. You can actually see the progression from the early recognizable, though abstracted, Trees, to his final Explanation, the grid system.A cycle of abstract and representational art began with the first scratchings of prehistoric man. From the abstractions of ancient Egypt to representational, classical Rome, returning to abstractionism in early Christian art and so on up to the present day, the cycle has been going on. But this day and age may witness its death through the camera. With film, there is no need to produce finely detailed, historical records manually; the camera does this for us more efficiently. Maybe, representational art would cease to exist. With abstractionism as the victor of the first battle, may be a different kind of cycle will be touched off. Possibly, some time in the distant future, thousands of years from now, art itself will be physically non-existent. Some artists today believe that once they have planned and constructed a piece in their mind, there is no sense in finishing it with their hands; it has already been done and can never be duplicated.The author argues that many people look down upon abstract art because they feel that:
 ....
MCQ-> One of the criteria by which we judge the vitality of a style of painting is its ability to renew itself- its responsiveness to the changing nature and quality of experience, the degree of conceptual and formal innovation that it exhibits. By this criterion, it would appear that the practice of abstractionism has failed to engage creatively with the radical change in human experience in recent decades. it has, seemingly, been unwilling to re-invent itself in relation to the systems of artistic expression and viewers’ expectations that have developed under the impact of the mass media. The judgement that abstractionism has slipped into ‘inertia gear’ is gaining endorsement, not only among discerning viewers and practitioners of other art forms, but also among abstract painters themselves. Like their companions elsewhere in the world, abstraction lists in India are asking themselves an overwhelming question today: Does abstractionism have a future? The major- crisis that abstractionists face is that of revitalising their picture surface; few have improvised any solutions beyond the ones that were exhausted by the I 970s. Like all revolutions, whether in politics or in art, abstractionism must now confront its moment of truth: having begun life as a new and radical pictorial approach to experience, it has become an entrenched orthodoxy itself. Indeed, when viewed against a historical situation in which a variety of subversive, interactive and richly hybrid forms are available to the art practitioner, abstractionism assumes the remote and defiant air of an aristocracy that has outlived its age; trammelled by formulaic conventions yet buttressed by a rhetoric of sacred mystery, it seems condemned to being the last citadel of the self-regarding ‘fine art’ tradition, the last hurrah of painting for painting’s sake. The situation is further complicated in India by the circumstances in which an indigenous abstractionism came into prominence here during the 1960s. From the beginning it was propelled by the dialectic between two motives, one revolutionary and the other conservative-it was inaugurated as an act of emancipation from the dogmas of the nascent Indian nation state, when an’ was officially viewed as an indulgence at worst, and at best, as an instrument for the celebration of the republic’s hopes and aspirations. Having rejected these dogmas, the pioneering abstractionists also went on to reject the various figurative styles associated with the Santiniketan circle and others. In such a situation, abstractionism was a revolutionary move, It led art towards the exploration of the s 3onsc)ous mind, the spiritual quest and the possible expansion of consciousness. Indian painting entered into a phase of self-inquiry, a meditative inner space where cosmic symbols and non-representational images ruled. Often, the transition from figurative idioms to abstractionist ones took place within the same artist. At the same time, Indian abstractionists have rarely committed themselves wholeheartedly to a nonrepresentational idiom. They have been preoccupied with the fundamentally metaphysical project of aspiring to the mystical- holy without altogether renouncing the symbolic) This has been sustained by a hereditary reluctance to give up the murti, the inviolable iconic form, which explains why abstractionism is marked by the conservative tendency to operate with images from the sacred repertoire of the past. Abstractionism thus entered India as a double-edged device in a complex cultural transaction. ideologically, it served as an internationalist legitimisation the emerging revolutionary local trends. However, on entry; it was conscripted to serve local artistic preoccupations a survey of indigenous abstractionism will show that its most obvious points of affinity with European and American abstract art were with the more mystically oriented of the major sources of abstractionist philosophy and practice, for instance the Kandinsky-Klee school. There have been no takers for Malevich’s Suprematism, which militantly rejected both the artistic forms of the past and the world of appearances, privileging the new- minted geometric symbol as an autonomous sign of the desire for infinity. Against this backdrop, we can identify three major abstractionist idioms in Indian art. The first develops from a love of the earth, and assumes the form of a celebration of the self’s dissolution in the cosmic panorama; the landscape is no longer a realistic, transcription of the scene, but is transformed into a visionary occasion for contemplating the cycles of decay and regeneration. The second idiom phrases its departures from symbolic and archetypal devices as invitations to heightened planes of awareness. Abstractionism begins with the establishment or dissolution of the motif, which can be drawn from diverse sources, including the hieroglyphic tablet, the Sufi meditation dance or the Tantrie diagram. The third- idiom is based on the lyric play of forms guided by gesture or allied with formal improvisations like the assemblage. Here, sometimes, the line dividing abstract image from patterned design or quasi-random expressive marking may blur. The flux of forms can also be regimented through the poetics of pure colour arrangements, vector-diagrammatic spaces anti gestural design. In this genealogy, some pure lines of descent follow their logic to the inevitable point of extinction, others engage in cross-fertilisation and yet others undergo mutation to maintain their energy. However, this genealogical survey demonstrates the wave at its crests, those points where the metaphysical and the painterly have been fused in images of abiding potency, ideas sensuously ordained rather than fabricated programmatically to a concept. It is equally possible to enumerate the troughs where the two principles do not come together, thus arriving at a very different account. Uncharitable as it may sound, the history of Indian abstractionism records a series of attempts to avoid the risks of abstraction by resorting to an overt and near-generic symbolism which many Indian abstractionists embrace when they find themselves bereft of the imaginative energy to negotiate the union of metaphysics and painterliness. Such symbolism falls into a dual trap: it succumbs to the pompous vacuity of pure metaphysics when the burden of intention is passed off as justification; or then it is desiccated by the arid formalism of pure painterliness, with delight in the measure of chance or pattern guiding the execution of a painting. The ensuing conflict of purpose stalls the progress of abstractionism in an impasse. The remarkable Indian abstractionists are precisely those who have overcome this and addressed themselves to the basic elements of their art with a decisive sense of independence from prior models. In their recent work, we see the logic of Indian abstractionism pushed almost to the furthest it can be taken. Beyond such artists stands a lost generation of abstractionists whose work invokes a wistful, delicate beauty but stops there. Abstractionism is not a universal language; it is an art that points up the loss of a shared language of signs in society. And yet, it affirms the possibility of its recovery through the effort of awareness. While its rhetoric has always emphasised a call for new forms of attention, abstractionist practice has tended to fall into a complacent pride in its own incomprehensibility; a complacency fatal in an ethos where vibrant new idioms compete for the viewers’ attention. Indian abstractionists ought to really return to basics, to reformulate and replenish their understanding of the nature of the relationship between the painted image and the world around it. But will they abandon their favourite conceptual habits and formal conventions, if this becomes necessary?Which one of the following is not stated by the author as a reason for abstractionism losing its vitality?
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MCQ-> I want to stress this personal helplessness we are all stricken with in the face of a system that has passed beyond our knowledge and control. To bring it nearer home, I propose that we switch off from the big things like empires and their wars to more familiar little things. Take pins for example! I do not know why it is that I so seldom use a pin when my wife cannot get on without boxes of them at hand; but it is so; and I will therefore take pins as being for some reason specially important to women.There was a time when pinmakers would buy the material; shape it; make the head and the point; ornament it; and take it to the market, and sell it and the making required skill in several operations. They not only knew how the thing was done from beginning to end, but could do it all by themselves. But they could not afford to sell you a paper of pins for the farthing. Pins cost so much that a woman's dress allowance was calling pin money.By the end of the 18th century Adam Smith boasted that it took 18 men to make a pin, each man doing a little bit of the job and passing the pin on to the next, and none of them being able to make a whole pin or to buy the materials or to sell it when it was made. The most you could say for them was that at least they had some idea of how it was made, though they could not make it. Now as this meant that they were clearly less capable and knowledgeable men than the old pin-makers, you may ask why Adam Smith boasted of it as a triumph of civilisation when its effect had so clearly a degrading effect. The reason was that by setting each man to do just one little bit of the work and nothing but that, over and over again, he became very quick at it. The men, it is said, could turn out nearly 5000 pins a day each; and thus pins became plentiful and cheap. The country was supposed to be richer because it had more pins, though it had turned capable men into mere machines doing their work without intelligence and being fed by the spare food of the capitalist just as an engine is fed with coals and oil. That was why the poet Goldsmith, who was a farsighted economist as well as a poet, complained that 'wealth accumulates, and men decay'.Nowadays Adam Smith's 18 men are as extinct as the diplodocus. The 18 flesh-and-blood men have been replaced by machines of steel which spout out pins by the hundred million. Even sticking them into pink papers is done by machinery. The result is that with the exception of a few people who design the machines, nobody knows how to make a pin or how a pin is made: that is to say, the modern worker in pin manufacture need not be one-tenth so intelligent, skilful and accomplished as the old pinmaker; and the only compensation we have for this deterioration is that pins are so cheap that a single pin has no expressible value at all. Even with a big profit stuck on to the cost-price you can buy dozens for a farthing; and pins are so recklessly thrown away and wasted that verses have to be written to persuade children (without success) that it is a sin to steal, if even it’s a pin.Many serious thinkers, like John Ruskin and William Morris, have been greatly troubled by this, just as Goldsmith was, and have asked whether we really believe that it is an advance in wealth to lose our skill and degrade our workers for the sake of being able to waste pins by the ton. We shall see later on, when we come to consider the Distribution of Leisure, that the cure for this is not to go back to the old free for higher work than pin-making or the like. But in the meantime the fact remains that the workers are now not able to make anything themselves even in little bits. They are ignorant and helpless, and cannot lift their finger to begin their day's work until it has all been arranged for them by their employer's who themselves do not understand the machines they buy, and simply pay other people to set them going by carrying out the machine maker's directions.The same is true for clothes. Earlier the whole work of making clothes, from the shearing of the sheep to the turning out of the finished and washed garment ready to put on, had to be done in the country by the men and women of the household, especially the women; so that to this day an unmarried woman is called a spinster. Nowadays nothing is left of all this but the sheep shearing; and even that, like the milking of cows, is being done by machinery, as the sewing is. Give a woman a sheep today and ask her to produce a woollen dress for you; and not only will she be quite unable to do it, but you are likely to find that she is not even aware of any connection between sheep and clothes. When she gets her clothes, which she does by buying them at the shop, she knows that there is a difference between wool and cotton and silk, between flannel and merino, perhaps even between stockinet and other wefts; but as to how they are made, or what they are made of, or how they came to be in the shop ready for her to buy, she knows hardly anything. And the shop assistant from whom she buys is no wiser. The people engaged in the making of them know even less; for many of them are too poor to have much choice of materials when they buy their own clothes.Thus the capitalist system has produced an almost universal ignorance of how things are made and done, whilst at the same time it has caused them to be made and done on a gigantic scale. We have to buy books and encyclopaedias to find out what it is we are doing all day; and as the books are written by people who are not doing it, and who get their information from other books, what they tell us is twenty to fifty years out of date knowledge and almost impractical today. And of course most of us are too tired of our work when we come home to want to read about it; what we need is cinema to take our minds off it and feel our imagination.It is a funny place, this word of capitalism, with its astonishing spread of education and enlightenment. There stand the thousands of property owners and the millions of wage workers, none of them able to make anything, none of them knowing what to do until somebody tells them, none of them having the least notion of how it is made that they find people paying them money, and things in the shops to buy with it. And when they travel they are surprised to find that savages and Esquimaux and villagers who have to make everything for themselves are more intelligent and resourceful! The wonder would be if they were anything else. We should die of idiocy through disuse of our mental faculties if we did not fill our heads with romantic nonsense out of illustrated newspapers and novels and plays and films. Such stuff keeps us alive, but it falsifies everything for us so absurdly that it leaves us more or less dangerous lunatics in the real world.Excuse my going on like this; but as I am a writer of books and plays myself, I know the folly and peril of it better than you do. And when I see that this moment of our utmost ignorance and helplessness, delusion and folly, has been stumbled on by the blind forces of capitalism as the moment for giving votes to everybody, so that the few wise women are hopelessly overruled by the thousands whose political minds, as far as they can be said to have any political minds at all, have been formed in the cinema, I realise that I had better stop writing plays for a while to discuss political and social realities in this book with those who are intelligent enough to listen to me.A suitable title to the passage would be
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MCQ-> The painter is now free to paint anything he chooses. There are scarcely any forbidden subjects, and today everybody is prepared o admit that a painting of some fruit can be as important as painting of a hero dying. The Impressionists did as much as anybody to win this previously unheard of freedom for the artist. Yet, by the next generation, painters began to abandon tie subject altogether, and began to paint abstract pictures. Today the majority of pictures painted are abstract.Is there a connection between these two developments? Has art gone abstract because the artist is embarrassed by his freedom? Is it that, because he is free to paint anything, he doesn’t know what to paint? Apologists for abstract art often talk of it as Inc art of maximum freedom. But could this be the freedom of the desert island? It would take too long to answer these questions properly. I believe there is a connection. Many things have encouraged the development of abstract art. Among them has been the artists’ wish to avoid the difficulties of finding subjects when all subjects are equally possible.I raise the matter now because I want to draw attention to the fact that the painter’s choice of a subject is a far more complicated question than it would at first seem. A subject does not start with what is put in front of the easel or with something which the painter happens to remember. A subject starts with the painter deciding he would like to paint such-and-such because for some reason or other he finds it meaningful. A subject begins when the artist selects something for special mention. (What makes it special or meaningful may seem to the artist to be purely visual — its colours or its form.) When the subject has been selected, the function of the painting itself is to communicate and justify the significance of that selection.It is often said today that subject matter is unimportant. But this is only a reaction against the excessively literary and moralistic interpretation of subject matter in the nineteenth century. In truth the subject is literally the beginning and end of a painting. The painting begins with a selection (I will paint this and not everything else in the world); it is finished when that selection is justified (now you can see all that I saw and felt in this and how it is more than merely itself).Thus, for a painting to succeed it is essential that the painter and his public agree about what is significant. The subject may have a personal meaning for the painter or individual spectator; but there must also be the possibility of their agreement on its general meaning. It is at this point that the culture of the society and period in question precedes the artist and his art. Renaissance art would have meant nothing to the Aztecs — and vice versa. If, to some extent, a few intellectuals can appreciate them both today it is because their culture is an historical one: its inspiration is history and therefore it can include within itself, in principle if not in every particular, all known developments to date.When culture is secure and certain of its values, it presents its artists with subjects. The general agreement about what is significant is so well established that the significance of a particular subject accrues and becomes traditional. This is true, for instance, of reeds and water in China, of the nude body in Renaissance, of the animal in Africa. Furthermore in such cultures the artist is unlikely to be a free agent: he will be employed for the sake of particular subjects, and the problem, as we have just described it, will not occur to him.When a culture is in a state of disintegration or transitions the freedom of the artist increases — but the question of subject matter becomes problematic for him: he, himself, has to choose for society. This was at the basis of all the increasing crises in European art during the nineteenth century. It is too often forgotten how any of the art scandals of that time were provoked by the choice of subject (Gericault, Courbet, Daumier, Degas, Lautrec, Van Gogh, etc.).By the end of the nineteenth century there were, roughly speaking, two ways in which the painter could meet this challenge of deciding what to paint and so choosing for society. Either he identified himself with the people and so allowed their lives to dictate his subjects to him or he had to find his subjects within himself as painter. By people I mean everybody except the, bourgeoisie. Many painters did of course work for the bourgeoisie according to their copy-book of approved subjects, but all of them, filling the Salon and the Royal Academy year after year, are now forgotten, buried under the hypocrisy of those they served so sincerely.When a culture is insecure, the painter chooses his subject on the basis of:
 ....
MCQ-> The persistent patterns in the way nations fight reflect their cultural and historical traditions and deeply rooted attitudes that collectively make up their strategic culture. These patterns provide insights that go beyond what can be learnt just by comparing armaments and divisions. In the Vietnam War, the strategic tradition of the United States called for forcing the enemy to fight a massed battle in an open area, where superior American weapons would prevail. The United States was trying to re-fight World War II in the jungles of Southeast Asia, against an enemy with no intention of doing so. Some British military historians describe the Asian way of war as one of indirect attacks, avoiding frontal attacks meant to overpower an opponent. This traces back to Asian history and geography: the great distances and harsh terrain have often made it difficult to execute the sort of open-field clashes allowed by the flat terrain and relatively compact size of Europe. A very different strategic tradition arose in Asia. The bow and arrow were metaphors for an Eastern way of war. By its nature, the arrow is an indirect weapon. Fired from a distance of hundreds of yards, it does not necessitate immediate physical contact with the enemy. Thus, it can be fired from hidden positions. When fired from behind a ridge, the barrage seems to come out of nowhere, taking the enemy by surprise. The tradition of this kind of fighting is captured in the classical strategic writings of the East. The 2,000 years' worth of Chinese writings on war constitutes the most subtle writings on the subject in any language. Not until Clausewitz, did the West produce a strategic theorist to match the sophistication of Sun-tzu, whose Art of War was written 2,300 years earlier. In Sun-tzu and other Chinese writings, the highest achievement of arms is to defeat an adversary without fighting. He wrote: "To win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the supreme excellence." Actual combat is just one among many means towards the goal of subduing an adversary. War contains too many surprises to be a first resort. It can lead to ruinous losses, as has been seen time and again. It can have the unwanted effect of inspiring heroic efforts in an enemy, as the United States learned in Vietnam, and as the Japanese found out after Pearl Harbor. Aware of the uncertainties of a military campaign, Sun-tzu advocated war only after the most thorough preparations. Even then it should be quick and clean. Ideally, the army is just an instrument to deal the final blow to an enemy already weakened by isolation, poor morale, and disunity. Ever since Sun-tzu, the Chinese have been seen as masters of subtlety who take measured actions to manipulate an adversary without his knowledge. The dividing line between war and peace can be obscure. Low-level violence often is the backdrop to a larger strategic campaign. The unwitting victim, focused on the day-to-day events, never realizes what's happening to him until it's too late. History holds many examples. The Viet Cong lured French and U.S. infantry deep into the jungle, weakening their morale over several years. The mobile army of the United States was designed to fight on the plains of Europe, where it could quickly move unhindered from one spot to the next. The jungle did more than make quick movement impossible; broken down into smaller units and scattered in isolated bases, US forces were deprived of the feeling of support and protection that ordinarily comes from being part of a big army. The isolation of U.S. troops in Vietnam was not just a logistical detail, something that could be overcome by, for instance, bringing in reinforcements by helicopter. In a big army reinforcements are readily available. It was Napoleon who realized the extraordinary effects on morale that come from being part of a larger formation. Just the knowledge of it lowers the soldier's fear and increases his aggressiveness. In the jungle and on isolated bases, this feeling was removed. The thick vegetation slowed down the reinforcements and made it difficult to find stranded units. Soldiers felt they were on their own. More important, by altering the way the war was fought, the Viet Cong stripped the United States of its belief in the inevitability of victory, as it had done to the French before them. Morale was high when these armies first went to Vietnam. Only after many years of debilitating and demoralizing fighting did Hanoi launch its decisive attacks, at Dienbienphu in 1954 and against Saigon in 1975. It should be recalled that in the final push to victory the North Vietnamese abandoned their jungle guerrilla tactics completely, committing their entire army of twenty divisions to pushing the South Vietnamese into collapse. This final battle, with the enemy's army all in one place, was the one that the United States had desperately wanted to fight in 1965. When it did come out into the open in 1975, Washington had already withdrawn its forces and there was no possibility of re-intervention. The Japanese early in World War II used a modern form of the indirect attack, one that relied on stealth and surprise for its effect. At Pearl Harbor, in the Philippines, and in Southeast Asia, stealth and surprise were attained by sailing under radio silence so that the navy's movements could not be tracked. Moving troops aboard ships into Southeast Asia made it appear that the Japanese army was also "invisible." Attacks against Hawaii and Singapore seemed, to the American and British defenders, to come from nowhere. In Indonesia and the Philippines the Japanese attack was even faster than the German blitz against France in the West. The greatest military surprises in American history have all been in Asia. Surely there is something going on here beyond the purely technical difficulties of detecting enemy movements. Pearl Harbor, the Chinese intervention in Korea, and the Tet offensive in Vietnam all came out of a tradition of surprise and stealth. U.S. technical intelligence – the location of enemy units and their movements was greatly improved after each surprise, but with no noticeable improvement in the American ability to foresee or prepare what would happen next. There is a cultural divide here, not just a technical one. Even when it was possible to track an army with intelligence satellites, as when Iraq invaded Kuwait or when Syria and Egypt attacked Israel, surprise was achieved. The United States was stunned by Iraq's attack on Kuwait even though it had satellite pictures of Iraqi troops massing at the border. The exception that proves the point that cultural differences obscure the West's understanding of Asian behavior was the Soviet Union's 1979 invasion of Afghanistan. This was fully anticipated and understood in advance. There was no surprise because the United States understood Moscow's worldview and thinking. It could anticipate Soviet action almost as well as the Soviets themselves, because the Soviet Union was really a Western country. The difference between the Eastern and the Western way of war is striking. The West's great strategic writer, Clausewitz, linked war to politics, as did Sun-tzu. Both were opponents of militarism, of turning war over to the generals. But there all similarity ends. Clausewitz wrote that the way to achieve a larger political purpose is through destruction of the enemy's army. After observing Napoleon conquer Europe by smashing enemy armies to bits, Clausewitz made his famous remark in On War (1932) that combat is the continuation of politics by violent means. Morale and unity are important, but they should be harnessed for the ultimate battle. If the Eastern way of war is embodied by the stealthy archer, the metaphorical Western counterpart is the swordsman charging forward, seeking a decisive showdown, eager to administer the blow that will obliterate the enemy once and for all. In this view, war proceeds along a fixed course and occupies a finite extent of time, like a play in three acts with a beginning, a middle, and an end. The end, the final scene, decides the issue for good. When things don't work out quite this way, the Western military mind feels tremendous frustration. Sun-tzu's great disciples, Mao Zedong and Ho Chi Minh, are respected in Asia for their clever use of indirection and deception to achieve an advantage over stronger adversaries. But in the West their approach is seen as underhanded and devious. To the American strategic mind, the Viet Cong guerrilla did not fight fairly. He should have come out into the open and fought like a man, instead of hiding in the jungle and sneaking around like a cat in the night. According to the author, the main reason for the U.S. losing the Vietnam war was
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