The Fault in Our Wars

 

Just a thought — throwing it out here.  It may be that we have gotten so bad at going to war (the full diplomatic, political, social, military, economic set of things, not just the military warfighting) because we have missed a key point about war due to our experience.

We fought a series of wars under the Cold War which were not proper wars, despite lots of proper fighting, suffering, sacrifice, and killing.  These were proxy wars.  These wars did not need to be won; they just needed to be fought.  They were but points within a larger effort, and there was therefore a way to transition even from a well-fought stalemate to a better position if it meant that the USSR’s aims had been stymied.  Exit conditions?  Victory?  Consequences?  None of these things mattered the way they did in say WWI or WWII.  Proxy wars were important more as signals than as wars.  Truly politics by other means, but not truly war despite most elements of war flying in loose formation.

Just a thought.  The last thirty years saw us involved in several large efforts which look like wars, but which may have been undertaken with a flawed set of foundations even deeper than the obvious.  Our entire government has trained itself to operate in the context of proxy wars, with a focus on messaging at the expense of mission.  I suspect that this drives some of the “new” fifth-generation this that and the other, which may just amount to post hoc attempts to account for the presence of a lot of non-war goals competing with war goals, which have not changed in all of history.

Offered for your consideration.

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  1. Kevin Schulte Member
    Kevin Schulte
    @KevinSchulte

    Before Bush I never thought of the US as an Empire . Boy was I mistaken.

    “Washington is the Celestial City and we are dirt people.”-ZMan 

    • #1
  2. navyjag Coolidge
    navyjag
    @navyjag

    Maybe until Gulf War I in 1991.  After that you may be right. 

    • #2
  3. Bishop Wash Member
    Bishop Wash
    @BishopWash

    There was a recent article comparing World War II to Afghanistan. It mentioned how different the mindsets were. In WW II leaders were given a few months to make a difference or be replaced. Being replaced wasn’t a career killer, you were just the wrong person for the time. In Afghanistan it was a one year assignment so as long as things weren’t too screwed up a commander could bide time until the next guy. No incentives to really end it.

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  4. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    There was a recent article comparing World War II to Afghanistan. It mentioned how different the mindsets were. In WW II leaders were given a few months to make a difference or be replaced. Being replaced wasn’t a career killer, you were just the wrong person for the time. In Afghanistan it was a one year assignment so as long as things weren’t too screwed up a commander could bide time until the next guy. No incentives to really end it.

    I think you’re talking about an article referencing Thomas Ricks talk/books on firing generals and winning wars. 

    Here’s a video of his entitled “US Military Leadershp in Decline”, which I am about to watch.  Also, scouring Audible for something of his.

    There’s a bunch of his stuff on YouTube.  I remember Hugh Hewitt interviewing him a long time ago.

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  5. Bishop Wash Member
    Bishop Wash
    @BishopWash

    BDB (View Comment):

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    There was a recent article comparing World War II to Afghanistan. It mentioned how different the mindsets were. In WW II leaders were given a few months to make a difference or be replaced. Being replaced wasn’t a career killer, you were just the wrong person for the time. In Afghanistan it was a one year assignment so as long as things weren’t too screwed up a commander could bide time until the next guy. No incentives to really end it.

    I think you’re talking about an article referencing Thomas Ricks talk/books on firing generals and winning wars.

    Here’s a video of his entitled “US Military Leadershp in Decline”, which I am about to watch. Also, scouring Audible for something of his.

    There’s a bunch of his stuff on YouTube. I remember Hugh Hewitt interviewing him a long time ago.

    That’s it.

    • #5
  6. Nohaaj Coolidge
    Nohaaj
    @Nohaaj

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):
    In Afghanistan it was a one year assignment so as long as things weren’t too screwed up a commander could bide time until the next guy. No incentives to really end it.

    There were also the asinine rules of engagement, which penalized our fighting forces if they engaged known enemy if they hid behind a skirt, or pretended otherwise to not be a combatant – for the moment. We declawed our military, and set them up in a lose lose scenario. 

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  7. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Nohaaj (View Comment):

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):
    In Afghanistan it was a one year assignment so as long as things weren’t too screwed up a commander could bide time until the next guy. No incentives to really end it.

    There were also the asinine rules of engagement, which penalized our fighting forces if they engaged known enemy if they hid behind a skirt, or pretended otherwise to not be a combatant – for the moment. We declawed our military, and set them up in a lose lose scenario.

    Yes, but our military is also complicit in pushing its goals, which are increasingly what Eisenhower warned about.  

    • #7
  8. Al Sparks Thatcher
    Al Sparks
    @AlSparks

    I agree with the overall premise of the OP.

    Looking at Vietnam, that applies.  Assuming the domino theory was true, and I do think it was, the Vietnam War prevented the Communist takeovers of Cambodia, and Singapore.

    We did blunder, we could have won in the sense that South Vietnam would have survived, but our involvement there was not for nothing, despite our loss.

    Referring to it as a proxy war is probably accurate.  The American public’s perception of proxy wars is unduly pessimistic.

    • #8
  9. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    We have institutionalized war by rotating units there on a regular schedule.   No one has a motive to take risks to win because they’ll be gone in 6 to 12 months.  In fact, total victory would really screw up the deployment cycle.  It’s asinine.  They need to send units over and tell them, you’re not coming back until the war is over.

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  10. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Skyler (View Comment):

    We have institutionalized war by rotating units there on a regular schedule. No one has a motive to take risks to win because they’ll be gone in 6 to 12 months. In fact, total victory would really screw up the deployment cycle. It’s asinine. They need to send units over and tell them, you’re not coming back until the war is over.

    As much as I agree with this, it would only work if the whole government and country were also committed, and one of the casualties of the last 30 years is that we can now go to war in peacetime.  War has become for most people something that somebody else does, and if units are pressed to stay until the job is done, so what?  I cannot imagine he horror of being trapped for the duration in a war which the country does not care about winning — and that is where we are today.

    • #10
  11. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    BDB (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    We have institutionalized war by rotating units there on a regular schedule. No one has a motive to take risks to win because they’ll be gone in 6 to 12 months. In fact, total victory would really screw up the deployment cycle. It’s asinine. They need to send units over and tell them, you’re not coming back until the war is over.

    As much as I agree with this, it would only work if the whole government and country were also committed, and one of the casualties of the last 30 years is that we can now go to war in peacetime. War has become for most people something that somebody else does, and if units are pressed to stay until the job is done, so what? I cannot imagine he horror of being trapped for the duration in a war which the country does not care about winning — and that is where we are today.

    If you’ll recall, the invasion of Afghanistan enjoyed nearly unanimous support after 9/11, and support for Iraq was also pretty high until about 2005.  Support was never really that low even today.

    The key to warfighting for the US is to not lose the support of the American people.  The American people will support a war for quite a long time as long as they believe we are fighting to win.  We weren’t.  Also, you have to win before democrats get power because they will betray the nation,

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  12. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    If you’re going to fight a war, you need to be willing to kill.  From my superficial civilian point of view, our society lost the stomach for killing.

    In WWII,  Bill Halsey’s slogan was “Kill Japs!  Kill Japs!  Kill more Japs!” and he was celebrated for it.  We bombed cities throughout Europe and Japan.

    We ended the 1991 Gulf War because pictures of the “Highway of Death” were too much for our political leadership to handle.  In Afghanistan and Iraq civilian deaths lead the headlines.

    I’d like to think that the present attitude is an improvement in our civilization, but unfortunately it hasn’t permeated through to our opponents.

    • #12
  13. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):
    I’d like to think that the present attitude is an improvement in our civilization, but unfortunately it hasn’t permeated through to our opponents.

    Been around the world and found

    That only stupid people are breeding

    The cretins [mating] and feeding

    And I don’t even own a TV

    • #13
  14. Eb Snider Member
    Eb Snider
    @EbSnider

    It would appear that higher military brass is more interested in white papers and posturing, than in real nuts-and-bolts of waging effective conflicts. The Military seems to have lost focus on practical and concrete consequences. And mission creep. A couple points amount others. As stated above Gulf War was pretty clear cut for US though. A well defined problem and objective.

    For example, the absolute continuing debacle of Afghanistan.  An observer might view that as a cowardly, incompetent cluster-F… however, it is a fantastic opportunity for somebody to write a white paper and do presentations on things like “logistics of mass evacuations”, “how long can non-allies use various US military equipment without official DOD appropriations”, “Tactical issues related to communication gaps”, “equity, diversity, and inclusion in deciding who is left abandoned”, etc… I recall the so called “green on blue attacks” in Afghanistan during years of that conflict. For those unfamiliar with this term it refers to Afghan forces that the US trained who turned around and murdered US servicemen at the most opportune time. One of the those innocuous Pentagon phrases for sometimes horrible. But it makes a good white paper publication for “winning hearts and minds” happy talk that was in vogue.  Something to talk about some evening at the War College or to position oneself for the next gig. Meanwhile those where the rubber meets the road must deal with the fallout of the higher ups decisions.

    Military conflict is serious business, and should be treated as such without half measures or silly sidetracking. General Sherman of the Union understood this. He may have been a SOB, but he was very effective and key in ending the civil war. Sherman avoided dillydallying, instead focused on his plan and carried it out. He also avoid fantasies of “remaking the nature of war”. He thought dragging things out was actually more cruel versus a decisive blow that brought resolution.

    • #14
  15. Al Sparks Thatcher
    Al Sparks
    @AlSparks

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):
    If you’re going to fight a war, you need to be willing to kill.  From my superficial civilian point of view, our society lost the stomach for killing.

    One thing that Victor Davis Hanson said in one of his columns within a year of taking over Iraq, was that we were having trouble there because we hadn’t killed enough of the enemy.  There were too many members of the Iraq army still alive, along with their disbanding that army allowing those idle soldiers to cause mischief.

    We hadn’t really rubbed the country’s nose in it before accepting a surrender.
    That we had done exactly that in Germany and Japan made our occupations there more successful.  For that matter, what Sherman did during the Civil War before peace broke out had a lot to do with the North’s successful occupation of the South..

    That does mean killing, lots of killing while still in the combat phase combined with a benign occupation.

    • #15
  16. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    As modern civilizations age bureaucracies grow, bottom up shrinks and folks have to be manipulated increasingly to support whatever the top comes up with.  It’s a process of dying, which every civilization that has ever existed does.  Some live longer than others, we’ve done well. We were a new thing but the new thing is ending as have all others through the same process.  We could split off states where leaders understand because more people do, but won’t.  My kids will continue to live with the wealth freedom created, their kids will still have lots of stuff and are smarter than average so some will get to exploit it, but the end is inevitable even though we don’t know how it will end.  We won’t choose rejuvenation so it’ll be rot or war. 

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  17. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Al Sparks (View Comment):
    There were too many members of the Iraq army still alive, along with their disbanding that army allowing those idle soldiers to cause mischief.

    That was never the problem.  The problems in Iraq were the Chechens and Somalis that came up to radicalize the Shias.  Strange, no?

    • #17
  18. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Al Sparks (View Comment):
    There were too many members of the Iraq army still alive, along with their disbanding that army allowing those idle soldiers to cause mischief.

    That was never the problem. The problems in Iraq were the Chechens and Somalis that came up to radicalize the Shias. Strange, no?

    I thought Shias came pre-radicalized.

     

    • #18
  19. Al Sparks Thatcher
    Al Sparks
    @AlSparks

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Al Sparks (View Comment):
    There were too many members of the Iraq army still alive, along with their disbanding that army allowing those idle soldiers to cause mischief.

    That was never the problem. The problems in Iraq were the Chechens and Somalis that came up to radicalize the Shias. Strange, no?

    Not sure if this is satiric or not.  I admit to a lot of ignorance about Iraq, but I figure the radicals from Iran had more influence than Chechans and Somalia.

    And they also had more live unemployed ex-soldiers to radicalize.

    Both can be true.

    • #19