Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Scales on War (and Murder)

 

Scales of WarI commend to you this interview with Major General (Retired) Robert Scales, on his new book Scales on War: The Future of America’s Military At Risk. The interview is good; Scales is perceptive, tough, and smart, and you ignore his input at your peril.

These are our nation’s warriors. Their job is one that requires them to leave the wire every day with the intention of finding, closing with, and killing the enemy. They do battle with their foes close in and at the small unit level. These engagements should be one-sided fights, with the odds weighted in favor of American infantrymen and special operators. Tragically, this is not the case.

More:

The fact that the Army has even managed to maintain the level of proficiency it has is a miracle, but that’s how armies break. They break internally; they break from the bottom up, and once they break they’re irreparable for upwards of a decade. […] The only challenges are, number one, the insensitivity and the lack of concern for close-combat soldiers who form the tip of the spear in a volunteer force. The only danger of the all-volunteer Army is that we’re going to run out of, or exhaust, those who do the killing, but that’s not an institutional problem. It’s a problem of priorities and concern. There’s no downside in wars in this era to having a professional force.

Scales also addresses the moral and strategic necessity to avoid fair fights and I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment. Consider a personal vignette from my own days back in the wire:

I was running off to check in at the OPCEN (operations center) while my team sergeant finalized our recovery/refit from the last mission.

“Hey, I’m running up the hill to check in and get the gouge, so I can start shacking up the plan for our next fight.”

“Hold on, sir.” The team sergeant deftly swiped the can of Copenhagen out of my hand with a waggle of his eyebrows. He packed in a (three finger, Blue Falcon) dip. “Just remember, I don’t want you planning for us to get into a fight. I want you planning for us to commit murder. You picking up what I’m puttin’ down, sir?”

“Copy, Master Sergeant.”

There are 20 comments.

  1. TKC1101 Inactive

    Master Sergeants advise God in heaven on a regular basis.

    • #1
    • August 30, 2016, at 2:40 PM PDT
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  2. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo

    TKC1101:Master Sergeants advise God in heaven on a regular basis.

    And if God’s on his game, he listens up.

    • #2
    • August 30, 2016, at 2:41 PM PDT
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  3. Judge Mental, Secret Chimp Member

    What is the point of having the biggest, most powerful military if you’re going to fight fair?

    • #3
    • August 30, 2016, at 2:48 PM PDT
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  4. TKC1101 Inactive

    Judge Mental: What is the point of having the biggest, most powerful military if you’re going to fight fair?

    A fine attitude. I prefer fast, dirty and almost invisible. The kind of action one can look at the adversary and go “Who, Us?” while grinning from ear to ear.

    • #4
    • August 30, 2016, at 2:53 PM PDT
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  5. Seawriter Member

    I have written several books about warfare and naval combat. I agree whenever a “fair fight” occurs it means one side or the other eff’ed up (the side which could have had the advantage). A classic example is the battle between Shannon and Chesapeake in the War of 1812. It was the most materially balanced naval duel during that war (and likely in the entire period from 1792 to 1816). But only on the surface.

    Vere Broke, who commanded Shannon had drilled his men in live-fire gunnery, using moving targets at sea for nearly three years. He had also added sights to every gun, and painted an arc around each gun so that the lieutenant commanding a battery could call out a number and every gun would point to that number. The numbers focused all of the guns to converge at one spot 50 yards out.

    James Lawrence of Chesapeake had just taken command of his ship. The crew was experienced but had not worked together. Without a single gun drill, he sailed straight at Shannon to fight broadside to broadside. Lawrence even had an opportunity to stern-rake Shannon, but passed . He could beat the Brits without it.

    In 30 minutes, Broke took Chesapeake. The Americans were shot to pieces. Lawrence was fatally wounded.

    In my book Constitution vs. Guerierre I speculated on what would have happened had Stephen Decatur commanded Chesapeake. My conclusion: Decatur would have avoided battle until his men were trained.

    Seawriter

    • #5
    • August 30, 2016, at 3:22 PM PDT
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  6. Doug Watt Moderator

    If your plan includes making it a fair fight then it’s a lousy plan. I’d use a stronger adjective than lousy but CofC doesn’t allow it.

    • #6
    • August 30, 2016, at 3:55 PM PDT
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  7. Arahant Member

    Boss Mongo: Scales also addresses the moral and strategic necessity to avoid fair fights. I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment.

    Amen to that. What was it Patton said? Something like, “It’s not our job to die for our country. It’s our job to arrange for the other guy to die for his country.”

    • #7
    • August 30, 2016, at 8:55 PM PDT
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  8. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo

    Arahant: Amen to that. What was it Patton said? Something like, “It’s not our job to die for our country. It’s our job to arrange for the other guy to die for his country.”

    I think “other guy” was actually “poor, dumb bastard.” But, yeah, you got the gist of it.

    • #8
    • August 30, 2016, at 9:25 PM PDT
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  9. TKC1101 Inactive

    Finally read the interview. Fine work, well reasoned and it shows what experience means over the political parts of the military.

    We need to get these guys back in charge. More war fighters and less powerpoint pushers.

    • #9
    • August 30, 2016, at 10:16 PM PDT
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  10. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo

    TKC1101:Finally read the interview. Fine work, well reasoned and it shows what experience means over the political parts of the military.

    We need to get these guys back in charge. More war fighters and less powerpoint pushers.

    Scales was a fighter, and only endured politics. One of the few GO’s who gave a fig for his own aggrandizement. Hopefully, his book won’t be a voice in the wilderness.

    • #10
    • August 30, 2016, at 10:21 PM PDT
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  11. Profile Photo Member

    Boss Mongo:

    TKC1101:Master Sergeants advise God in heaven on a regular basis.

    And if God’s on his game, he listens up.

    This is very disturbing – I thought God was a Master Sergeant.

    • #11
    • August 31, 2016, at 7:47 AM PDT
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  12. Doug Watt Moderator

    Boss Mongo:

    TKC1101:Finally read the interview. Fine work, well reasoned and it shows what experience means over the political parts of the military.

    We need to get these guys back in charge. More war fighters and less powerpoint pushers.

    Scales was a fighter, and only endured politics. One of the few GO’s who gave a fig for his own aggrandizement. Hopefully, his book won’t be a voice in the wilderness.

    Less MBA’s and less preparing officers for CNN interviews where they give the interviewer the Henry Kissinger lecture. More officers like the Marine when asked what options the militia had before the Marines started their push through Fallujah. His response to the question was they can surrender or die.

    • #12
    • August 31, 2016, at 7:58 AM PDT
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  13. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    TKC1101: Master Sergeants advise God in heaven on a regular basis.

    The biggest problem in Obama’s downsizing of the military (and it’s not exclusively his doing as others have historically fallen into the same trap) is the up or out mentality. We are forcing out too many proven combat leaders simply because they have reached their promotional threshold.

    Most of my Marine’s immediate supervisors have combat experience in either Afghanistan or Iraq. Should his reserve unit become active, those are the men I want leading him, not someone who’s done nothing but train at Twentynine Palms.

    • #13
    • August 31, 2016, at 7:59 AM PDT
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  14. Dave L Member
    Dave L Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Interview with an Iraq POW tank officer first Gulf War. He said something like this: “It was night, the viability was poor. The tank on the left of me blew up, but we could not see who was shooting at us, then the tank to the right of me blew up, we still could not see who was shooting at us. I ordered my crew to evacuate our tank, then it blew up. Awhile later American tanks and armored vehicles moved onto our position, and we surrendered.”

    That is ideally way you want to fight, you want to reach out and destroy your enemy before he can even see you.

    • #14
    • August 31, 2016, at 8:44 AM PDT
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  15. DocJay Inactive

    I sent this to my boy. Thanks Boss.

    • #15
    • August 31, 2016, at 10:09 AM PDT
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  16. Pugshot Member
    Pugshot Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I recently read an excellent biography of Dwight Eisenhower, “Ike’s Bluff” by Evan Thomas. It focused on Ike’s time as president with particular emphasis on his foreign policy. One thing that Thomas made clear was that Eisenhower, based on his military experience, was loath to involve the US in war – but his firm belief was that if we did go to war, we should do it all out: the application of overwhelming and irresistible force. He made sure that everyone – particularly our possible enemies – understood that this meant everything we had including nuclear weapons. Opinions varied with regard to whether he was serious about the use of nuclear weapons (hence, Ike’s bluff), and Eisenhower played this card very close to his vest. But there is no doubt that, at least up to the use of nuclear weapons, every other weapon we had would be directed at, and used without restraint, against anyone who had the misfortune to go to war with the US. This “bluff” (to the extent it was one) only worked because (1) Ike’s reputation as a military leader lent it credence, and (2) the US in the 1950s had a military that could back up the bluff. By the same token, Ike had a population who, having largely lived through (and fought) WWII had a much higher respect for and appreciation of the military. He also had a thriving economy, fewer social programs to fund, and a military draft that would allow him to ramp up enlistments in fairly short order. Today we have a president who has no military experience and whose threats mean nothing, and a military that has been constantly eroded. It is a tribute to the men (and women) in uniform that we are as effective as we are.

    • #16
    • August 31, 2016, at 12:02 PM PDT
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  17. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo

    Dave L: Awhile later American tanks and armored vehicles moved onto our position, and we surrendered.”

    First Gulf War, we were taking so many prisoners that it was slowing us down. We had planned on fighting through, not rolling up POWs whom we had to water, feed, and keep from exposure (for whatever reason, the Iraqis would take off their boots before they ran away to look for an opportunity to surrender, and their feet were ate up and vulnerable to the elements).

    Many were so traumatized, they’d drop into the fetal position whenever they’d hear the MLRS go off in the distance. The Multiple Launch Rocket System was shooting Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions–basically, bomblets. The missile would shoot and drop the DPICM over an area target, and the bomblets would go off all over that area.

    From a distance, it sounds almost like popcorn popping. The POWs would hear that, they’d go pale, their eyes would roll up, and they’d drop.

    • #17
    • August 31, 2016, at 5:34 PM PDT
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  18. TeamAmerica Member
    TeamAmerica Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Pugshot:I recently read an excellent biography of Dwight Eisenhower,

    snip…

    if we did go to war, we should do it all out: the application of overwhelming and irresistible force. He made sure that everyone – particularly our possible enemies – understood that this meant everything we had including nuclear weapons. Opinions varied with regard to whether he was serious about the use of nuclear weapons (hence, Ike’s bluff), and Eisenhower played this card very close to his vest. But there is no doubt that, at least up to the use of nuclear weapons, every other weapon we had would be directed at, and used without restraint, against anyone who had the misfortune to go to war with the US. This “bluff” (to the extent it was one) only worked because (1) Ike’s reputation as a military leader lent it credence, and (2) the US in the 1950s had a military that could back up the bluff. By the same token, Ike had a population who, having largely lived through (and fought) WWII had a much higher respect for and appreciation of the military.

    Snip …

    and a military that has been constantly eroded. It is a tribute to the men (and women) in uniform that we are as effective as we are.

    Ike’s policy of implying a possible nuclear response- in 1953 against North Korea, and later against China, was effective in its time. However, it likely gave both of our adversaries strong incentive to develop their own nukes.

    • #18
    • September 1, 2016, at 2:40 PM PDT
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  19. Nanda Panjandrum Coolidge

    HooWah, Boss – and thanks, All! Wisdom here!

    • #19
    • September 4, 2016, at 2:42 PM PDT
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  20. Pugshot Member
    Pugshot Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    @teamamerica

    Ike’s policy of implying a possible nuclear response- in 1953 against North Korea, and later against China, was effective in its time. However, it likely gave both of our adversaries strong incentive to develop their own nukes.

    By the time Eisenhower was president, the main enemy of the 50s (USSR) already had nukes and Ike’s focus was on them. China’s and North Korea’s development of nukes was probably assisted by the USSR for their own reasons (solidarity of Communist countries; additional nuclear allies against the US). Moreover, I would suggest that China and North Korea went nuclear not because they feared a US attack, but instead because their leaders (Mao and Kim Jong Il) wanted nukes to announce to their own people and the world that their nations were so powerful (as were the two leaders) that the West must respect them. Possession of nuclear weapons was the sign of a “first-line” nation, and I believe that was the prime motivation for their acquisition of nukes.

    • #20
    • September 4, 2016, at 8:03 PM PDT
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