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6 Ways to Lose a War
July 22, 2002

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

There are all kinds of ways to win a war. Volumes have been written on the subject. But losing one is a little bit different.

To lose you've got to develop the right kind of mindset, the kind that gives in fairly easily to emotion. You've got to look at time as an ally that will muddle even the most stubborn of memories. And you've got to count on people's ability to act foolishly during times of uncertainty.

If you want to lose a war, here are six surefire ways to achieve the twisted "success."

1. Deny

To lose a war, you must be willing to indulge in the comfort of amnesia. Unpleasant memories must be pushed aside.

Events that are particularly horrific, such as those of Sept. 11, must be dismissed as a one-time occurrence. Catastrophic images, despite their accuracy, must be replaced with heart-warming ones. Don't focus on any real culprits. And as to worrisome facts, they've got to be suspended indefinitely.

Once you accept the notion that this kind of thing probably won't happen again, you'll be sufficiently weakened to maintain a losing attitude.

2. Delay

To lose a war, procrastination must be a priority. Remind yourself that you've got plenty of time. The slower the pace, the better.

Instead of taking care of security concerns, you can pressure your leaders to get back to their usual political maneuverings ­ attacking each other and running for re-election.

Make them think the public is not really interested in a discussion about the safety of the country. Get them sidetracked on things like prescription drug benefits, Social Security and other official-sounding stuff like rehashed international treaties.

By the way, don't speak about the issue of immigration unless you're talking about the richness of diversity, the importance of re-uniting families or the right timing for another round of amnesty. Borders and ports have to be looked at as secure enough already. The government's on top of it.

3. Demonize

To lose a war, you must put a stop to meaningful discussion. It's fairly easy to do. Just respond to any proposal or program ­ like military tribunals, INS reform, Camp X-Ray, foreign visitor registration or assistance from ordinary citizens ­ with hyperbole. Make sure you remember to react with ample alarm.

To really put dialogue on ice, use terms like police state, Gestapo and totalitarian dictatorship. Condemn ideas as a whole. Forget about pointing out meritorious portions of suggested plans.

And make the most out of fear over loss of civil liberty. If you can convince others to believe that the worst violations of civil liberties are occurring, you've laid some solid loser groundwork.

4. Distract

To lose a war, you need to pull attention away from thoughts about ever-present perils. Here's where the 24-hour news cycle really comes in handy.

Cable outlets and the metropolitan press adjust their headlines to whatever's hot at the moment. Anything can be effective in helping to shift gears ­ corporate corruption, local crime, natural disasters, campus protests, you name it. The list is endless.

But try to rotate the topics to keep interest at a heightened level. And if at all possible, raise the tag line to "crisis" and things will be all the worse for it.

5. Demoralize

Demoralization is pretty straightforward. All you have to do is create a concoction of moral relativism, multiculturalism and political correctness. The blend will result in a kind of insanity that undermines all sorts of efforts.

One ingredient in the mixture is mandatory ­ the one where you make it just short of a crime to scrutinize individuals because of their national origin or ethnic appearance.

Before you can say "Refills, anyone?" you'll have security employees like those at airports using their time to search baby strollers and confiscate nail clippers from grandmas. This will get you lots of mileage on the losing track.

6. Divide

To lose a war you've got to polarize people. Any spirit of unity is a no-no.

Polarization can be accomplished in a number of ways. There's the tried-and-true class envy, the handy-dandy race card and the time-tested gender gap.

Try to get an activist judge to get rid of cultural binders like the Pledge of Allegiance. If you succeed, push also for eliminating expressions of faith, songs of praise, overly patriotic displays and basic mottos. These kinds of things signal a commitment to a creed that can severely affect your momentum.

A word of caution: You may experience setbacks in this process if reasoning begins to run high or reality rears its head.

That's when you have to stick with the six. If you don't, instead of losing a war you'll only lose a measly battle.

Reproduced with the permission of . All rights reserved

Copyright © 2002 -
James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

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