I just knew my High School latin would come in handy one day!* The title of this post is famously attributed to Julius Caesar, but the concept (in different words) goes back to ancient Greece. Many believe that Caesar was referring to his enemies on the battlefield, when in fact he was talking about those he had already conquered and those he ruled back home in Rome. The ancient romans knew that if they could keep the tribes they conquered envious of and quarreling with each other, they would never take the time to realize they had a common enemy in Rome. They also knew that if they kept the citizens back home always suspicious of those of different religions, colors, or social strata that they would never band together to demand any substantive change.
The means by which old Julius was able to execute his divide and conquer strategy are simplistic compared to the tools that modern rulers have at their disposal. The mass as well as social Media, the public school system, linguistic programing – the list goes on and on. It’s really no wonder that blacks fight with whites, catholics are suspicious of muslims, poor people are envious of rich people (and probably vice versa in every case).
So it was with great interest that I head about the OffNow campaign. Off Now seems to have started in Utah as a campaign to prevent the NSA data center there from being able to function by having the state cut off the necessary cooling water, the water being state property. Its grown from there (rapidly it seems) to be a nationwide campaign focused on state level nullification of the NSA. The basic concept is that if we can’t get the Federal government to do something about the NSA, we’ll get the state to do it for us.
This whole concept intrigues me because it applies the divide and conquer strategy to the government. If we can get the Feds and a good number of the states fighting with each other, then maybe they will be distracted long enough that all of the groups that are kept divided (and thus conquered) to realize that they have way more in common than they have been led to believe. Maybe together, we can become a little less conquered.
As interesting as this approach is, it’s far from foolproof. I started with Caesar, so let’s end with Sun Tzu:
So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong, and strike at what is weak. – Sun Tzu
The groups that OffNow is trying to divide and conquer are experts at it. As a profession, they’ve been at it for thousands of years. We should take what Sun Tzu said thousands of years before that, and recognize that we are engaging our foe in a “fighting style” in which they have far more experience. It may be a worthwhile diversion, but it alone will not ensure victory.
*In all fairness to Latin, its actually something I use (subconsciously anyway) almost every day. It has helped my vocabulary, comprehension and grammar more than I know.