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June 29th, 2010
10:43 AM ET

PR blowup masks Afghan war's reality

David Frum
CNN Contributor
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/OPINION/06/28/frum.war.mcchrystal/tzleft.david.frum.ckennedy.jpg caption="David Frum: You win or lose wars by using violence to shape global public opinion " width=300 height=169]

"War is politics by other means," wrote the Prussian philosopher of war Carl von Clausewitz. The career and resignation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal drives home an updated and equally profound truth: "War is PR by other means."

Von Clausewitz's famous dictum was meant as a corrective to obsolete ancient ideas. Primitive warriors might fight for glory, or for booty, or to fulfill a divine commandment. Modern states must think about war and peace more rationally and pragmatically.

My update of von Clausewitz is also a corrective to an obsolete idea. In the modern media age, you no longer win wars by killing maximum numbers of the enemy. You win (or lose) wars by using violence to shape global public opinion.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Afghanistan
soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Augsbee

    Personally, I think the objective of the war in Afghanistan got lost as it has become more of an Ego war, spitting contest between Democrats and Republicans.

    June 29, 2010 at 4:44 pm |
  2. Rose from Muscoy, Calif

    It's like playing chest...for the rich.

    June 29, 2010 at 2:55 pm |
  3. Kim

    What are our other countries thinking about this ? Where is Hillary Clinton ? Is this true and ya never know with the media ! Berlin defense minister of Germany Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg told German public television that McChrystal as the commander of NATO forces in Afghan assured stability in the ranks at a critical time. McChrystal and he worked well together . "He is the guarantor of the new strategy in Afghan." Guarantor=A person who guarantees to pay for someone elses debt if he or she should default. We aren't the only ones paying and contributing to this war. What does Hillary Clinton say about that and those relationships with this change in Generals ? Why didn't Obama just ignor this magizine article and keep working ?Back your General Obama and stand up for them ! Especially over media confusion ! When is the Ticker Tape Parade ? Oh and then we heard John on CNN make an inference about the policy being weak and this administration didn't want to come out and tell the public but that's what they're thinking. How do you know what they're thinking and go ask Hillary Clinton ! Let's hear her tell us what's going on !

    June 29, 2010 at 2:33 pm |
  4. Rose from Muscoy, Calif

    David Frum...
    Do you believe that the FEDERAL RESERVE, which is a GROUP of 12 BANKS which is owned by a few who are well-to-do...who have many saying in what happens to our money, and to the fate of when to have wars or peace or disasters in the world?

    Do you think the FEDERAL RESERVE have to much power in what happens in the world?

    June 29, 2010 at 2:32 pm |