If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle. – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

If you haven’t figured it out yet… This post is off topic from the usual training related information here, but I think it is pretty important.

As Sun Tzu noted, knowing your enemy, is one of the primary keys to victory in battle. Although I was required to read The Art of War (According to the Commandant’s Reading List) and really did understand the importance of “knowing the enemy” I’ll have to admit, I didn’t do nearly the reading and study into the conflict in Iraq (The primary operation going on for me at the time), the Iraqi people, and the history (current and past) as I should have as a leader.

Unfortunately, this is something that you can only look on in hindsight to realize the mistake. At the time, I wasn’t really concerned with the strategic implications of the work we were tasked with doing. I was only concerned with the information directly in front of me, without applying much critical thought.

Sadly, this is exactly how most people these days live their lives. The internet and mass media make if incredibly hard to sift through the noise and find the signal, the useful and unbiased information that can actually inform smart opinions.

Which typically leads to a whole lot more ignorant nonsense…

This has been especially true with the rising media coverage of the Islamic State (ISIS) especially in light of the recent Paris attacks, and has only been fueled by politically biased opinions, misleading rhetoric, and frankly, straight up bigotry.

Well, if you’re a frequent reader of the information I put out on Strategic Athlete then you probably know that I’m not a big fan of people who speak in black and white and attempt to proclaim absolutes (i.e. CrossFit is dangerous, all Muslims are evil, Ronda Rousey is the greatest female fighter ever) as they are typically wrong.

I try to hold myself to a higher standard since there seems to be a ton of you in my little rapidly growing community that actually listens to what I have to say. I take that responsibility seriously and go out of my way to educate myself, fact-check, research, and admit when I’m wrong to ensure you have the best information available.

So, with that said, I want to hold you to a higher standard too

More importantly, I want you to hold yourself to a higher standard.

I’m challenging all of you to take a step back and educate yourself on this ISIS problem before you post a “nuke em all” meme to Facebook. I want you to spend a few minutes of your life learning about the enemy, why they exist, how they think, and what threat they actually pose to you, this country, and other in the world.

Why this is improtant

In the short term, a deeper understanding of what is actually going on may help you frame some of the decisions coming down from higher, or at the very least, keep you from becoming a contributor to the noise.

In the long term, I’m hoping you make a habit of questioning everything, doing your own due diligence, and setting the example for those around you.

Regardless of the rank you hold, the job title you have, or what you are currently doing in life, there are millions of Americans (and people from all over the world) trying to make sense of the violence we’ve become so accustomed to over the past 15 years.

If you’re a Veteran or currently on Active Duty then you have to understand that the civilian population you interact with each day is probably looking to you to help them answer some questions. They respect your opinion, even if you don’t know what your opinion is yet…

Your challenge reading list

Since I’m challenging you to learn more about your enemy, I figured I point you to a handful of articles to get the discussion going that I’ve found interesting over the past few days.

Think of this as your Friday Reading Round-Up, just on Monday, and not about training…

Hopefully, this short list provides some helpful insight into the current crisis in the world and allows you to form a more intelligent opinion that the majority of keyboard warriors out there.

If you come across other articles that may be beneficial to this conversation then post them in the comments.

Si vis pacem, para bellum

Preparation begins with studying your enemy.