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The Republican war on Mueller is right out of Sun Tzu (and so is Mueller’s response)



The Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu wrote The Art of War in the 5th-6th century BCE, before China was united. It was a time when regional warlords did battle with each other, with land passing back and forth between clans. Sun Tzu focused almost exclusively on how to defeat an enemy, not simply through battle but through deception and by exploiting his weakness. We see explicit examples of Sun Tzu’s advice in the current Republican war against Donald J. Trump’s primary enemy, who is—not North Korea, but Robert Mueller.

The clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy’s will to be imposed on him.” Trump and his lawyers understand this fundamental rule of shifting the grounds of the battle. Mueller is coming, armed with subpoenas and lawyers; therefore, Trump must impose his own will upon Mueller. How? “Appear at points which the enemy must hasten to defend.” Rather than wait to be charged with crimes by Mueller, seize the advantage, and attack him first.

But with what crimes? It hardly matters. Anything at all, to cause confusion and sow disarray in the enemy camp. “By inflicting damage,” says Sun Tzu, “[the combatant] can make it impossible for the enemy to draw near.”

Thus the accusations against Mueller have been mounting all summer, in hope of distracting a determined special counsel and forcing him to devote his energies to defend himself. Spurious as these anti-Mueller allegations are, they give aid and comfort to Trump’s allies, who are Mueller’s enemies.

One of the first to counter-attack Mueller on Trump’s behalf was the disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. As early as last Spring, using a phrase popular at Breitbart, he accused the special counsel of aiming “the tip of the deep state spear” at the president. Then, borrowing the language of Trump himself, Gingrich reassured Republicans that the Mueller investigation was “a rigged game,” and he planted the first seeds of suspicion that Mueller—a lifelong Republican appointed to lead the FBI by George W. Bush—was actually a crypto-Democrat.

Soon, with Gingrich and other revanchist Trumpites covering their backs, right wing Congressional Republicans joined the anti-Mueller brigade. Typical of them was the Arizona tea party Representative, Trent Franks, who in August became one of the first Republicans to demand Mueller’s resignation.

Since then, as the evidence against Trump and his family and associates has become more damning, the attacks on Mueller have increased in severity. The latest comes from (no surprise) the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page which, despite the fact that the paper’s real journalists are doing yeoman’s work in investigating RussiaGate, continues a flamboyantly shrill and desperate defense of the president. In “How’s He Going to Explain This?”, the conservative apologist James Freeman resurrects the moribund story of (yes), Hillary’s email server, which nobody cares about anymore, except for the most lunatic fringe of Trump loyalists. Comey, Freeman writes (and we’ve read similar nonsense a thousand times) “exonerate[d] Hillary Clinton…before FBI agents finished their work.” That there is zero evidence to substantiate this claim is irrelevant. It is enough to make the charge. As Sun Tzu explained, “To ensure that your whole host may withstand the brunt of the enemy’s attack and remain unshaken- this is effected by maneuvers direct and indirect.”

Charging Comey with being pro-Hillary is the only thing Republicans have left. It is the “indirect maneuver” designed to allow the Trump regime to “withstand the brunt of the enemy’s attack.” That it is absurd and laughable on its face is obvious: Comey released his damning letter about resuming the Hlllary investigation ten days before the election, while keeping secret the fact that the FBI was investigating the Trump campaign (and Comey hasn’t explained that bizarre behavior to this day). The result, as everyone knows although Republicans cannot admit it, is that enough swing voters switched from Hillary to Trump, thereby giving the groper-in-chief the election.

One of Sun Tzu’s principle tactics was “doing certain things openly for purposes of deception.” This spreads confusion and chaos and lowers morale in the enemy’s ranks; deception is in fact the “basis” of “all warfare.” One presumes that Robert Mueller, too, has read Sun Tzu, and knows precisely how the Republican Party is spreading deceptive disinformation. He is not wasting his time responding to every ridiculous allegation, but is husbanding his resources, following Sun Tzu’s sage advice: “If there is an outbreak of fire, bide your time [and] do not swallow bait offered by the enemy.”

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