January 13, 2013

Eliot A. Cohen, speaking of former senator Chuck Hagel’s service in the Vietnam War, declared that “technology, strategy, tactics, and organization now are all utterly different” [“Hagel’s war service isn’t the point,” op-ed, Jan. 11] That statement, and the claim that everything is different in war “now,” is often heard and always wrong. The bulk of our war effort in Afghanistan involves soldiers and Marines patrolling the countryside, searching villages, watching for ambush and other attack, standing sentry in hot day and freezing night, and other tasks that would be familiar to those in the legions of Rome and every other grunt before and since. Tools have changed and dimensions have been added, but the fundamentals haven’t altered. The words of Sun Tzu in “The Art of War” (over two millenniums old) and those of Carl von Clausewitz in “On War” (nearly two centuries old now) are just as relevant today as when they were written. For those on the tip of the spear, war never changes. Mr. Hagel’s experience is indeed relevant to his becoming defense secretary.

John G. Hemry, Owings

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