By William W. Whitson
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A war that threatens to completely eliminate a major member of the system should be terminated, lest its continuation completely upset the prevailing balance and thereby threaten other major and minor members. For the same reason, members must quickly act in concert to oppose any single member or coalition that threatens to establish hegemony or to impose a supranational government, for either circumstance might reduce all lesser members to mere office-holders. If a war should defeat or seriously undermine the power of a major member, peace talks should give consideration either to restoring that member or to raising a minor member to major member status, in order to avoid a dangerous reduction of the number of power centers.
Warlord political-military strategy and tactics reflected the prevailing military ethic and organization outlined above. Essentially unburdened by any ideology other than the maintenance or expansion of personal political power, warlords, often unconsciously, followed rules and techniques of realpolitik to sustain a balance-of-power system. Strategic deployment of warlord military power on a national scale, at least until the Kuomintang's Northern Expedition of 1926, reflected the classic behavior of creating multiple power centers and concludinf alliances that would prevent a single power from dominating the entire system.
Tactics. At the tactical level, warlord employment of military force depended largely on the troops' level of training. Some warlords, like Chang Tso-lin and Feng Yii-hsiang, spent considerable money and time training troops and officers. In such cases, Japanese and Russian advisers indoctrinated a few cadets at provincial military academies with Western standards of staff planning and operational discipline. However, many warlords considered their men hardly better than expendable serfs, unworthy of expensive, time-consuming training, and easily replaced should inept leadership bring excessive casualties.