Have we, as a nation, lost it? More importantly, have our civilian and military leaders lost it, and have Americans forgotten the need to continue the fight, not only because of our enemies today but our potential enemies tomorrow?
Yes, it’s a link dump questioning our will to fight and win, presented in three parts. Here’s hoping y’all read each of them in their entirety.
Ralph Peters: Politically Correct War [emphasis in original]
Have we lost the will to win wars? Not just in Iraq, but anywhere? Do we really believe that being nice is more important than victory?
It’s hard enough to bear the timidity of our civilian leaders – anxious to start wars but without the guts to finish them – but now military leaders have fallen prey to political correctness. Unwilling to accept that war is, by its nature, a savage act and that defeat is immoral, influential officers are arguing for a kinder, gentler approach to our enemies.
They’re going to lead us into failure, sacrificing our soldiers and Marines for nothing: Political correctness kills.
Obsessed with low-level “tactical” morality – war’s inevitable mistakes – the officers in question have lost sight of the strategic morality of winning. Our Army and Marine Corps are about to suffer the imposition of a new counterinsurgency doctrine designed for fairy-tale conflicts and utterly inappropriate for the religion-fueled, ethnicity-driven hyper-violence of our time.
We’re back to struggling to win hearts and minds that can’t be won.
The good news is that the Army and Marine Corps worked together on the new counterinsurgency doctrine laid out in Field Manual 3-24 (the Army version). The bad news is that the doctrine writers and their superiors came up with fatally wrong prescriptions for combating today’s insurgencies.
Astonishingly, the doctrine ignores faith-inspired terrorism and skirts ethnic issues in favor of analyzing yesteryear’s political insurgencies. It would be a terri- fic manual if we returned to Vietnam circa 1963, but its recommendations are profoundly misguided when it comes to fighting terrorists intoxicated with religious visions and the smell of blood.
Why did the officers in question avoid the decisive question of religion? Because the answers would have been ugly.
The politically correct atmosphere in Washington deems any discussion of religion as a strategic factor indelicate: Let our troops die, just don’t hurt anyone’s feelings.
So the doctrine writers faked it, treating all insurgencies as political. As a result, they prescribed an excellent head-cold treatment – for a cancer patient. The text is a mush of pop-zen mantras such as “Sometimes doing nothing is the best reaction,” “The best weapons do not shoot,” or “The more force used, the less effective it is.”
That’s just nutty.
Douglas Hanson: The Generalsâ€™ Fantasy Wars
When consummate Rumsfeld critic Ralph Peters finally comes to the conclusion that maybe the senior level military commanders running the war just might have had something to do with the mess in Iraq, you know an earth-shattering revelation has just occurred. Unfortunately, Petersâ€™ public unburdening has come two years too late to save one of the most effective defense secretaries in history.
One of the major criticisms of the SecDef was his unyielding desire to modernize the military over all else. It may be a shock to some people, but the Armyâ€™s deep thinkers have been playing around with alternative warfighting concepts and associated hardware long before Rumsfeld assumed office. Slamming Rummy over his near-religious devotion to all things transformational is the height of hypocrisy.
This whole transformation initiative actually came about in the 1990s, in an effort to cope with drastically reduced end-strength and defense budgets. Digitization, light forces, and post-modern theories on battle were rationalized as the wave of the future. Operations in Bosnia and Kosovo and the air war against Serbia only reinforced false notions of painless conflicts.
Criteria for success consisted of demonstrating proficiency at proving the â€œno-costâ€ theory of battle instead of doing what it takes to win wars. Academic credentials replaced tours with troop units, and frankly, a few leaders had no objective grasp of reality about the nature of war, especially if we ever ran into hard-core fanatics who were not interested in sitting at the bargaining table.
Years later, after one of the most successful offensives in military history, our huge advantage in Iraq was frittered away by quickly returning to the 1990s comfort zone. Presence patrols were reported euphemistically as â€œoffensive operations,â€ humanitarian aid supplies had priority for shipment over spare parts for combat systems, and bartering with the enemy became standard operating procedure.
In Iraq, the response to increasing attacks on both Iraqi security services and US forces was to officially deny the presence of die-hards of Saddamâ€™s Army, while pinning the blame on some mysterious â€œinsurgencyâ€ run by Al-Qaedaâ€™s second-in-command, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The problem is, once he was killed, the finest troops in the world went back to their base camps and allowed the cadre of the Special Republican Guard and the Iraqi Intelligence Service to continue their campaign of terror and attrition. They werenâ€™t quitting no matter how many schools or hospitals we built.
The military theorists and think tanks need to gaze into their navels some more. If I understand them correctly, they are convinced President Bushâ€™s remarkable and forward thinking democratization strategy in the region has failed because they didnâ€™t hunt down and kill the enemy with purpose and passion. And that respnsibility falls on â€¦ Rumsfeld? Cheney? The President? Maybe they all need to go back to school, or better yet, just go home.
The supreme irony of the campaign against Rummy and the President is that by all indications, both listened intently to their generals in the field and gave them free reign to pursue their post-modern warfighting theories into oblivion.
Hat tip to the Discerning Texan.
Mark Steyn: U.S. must prove it’s a staying power
On the radio a couple of weeks ago, Hugh Hewitt suggested to me the terrorists might try to pull a Spain on the U.S. elections. You’ll recall (though evidently many Americans don’t) that in 2004 hundreds of commuters were slaughtered in multiple train bombings in Madrid. The Spaniards responded with a huge street demonstration of supposed solidarity with the dead, all teary passivity and signs saying “Basta!” — “Enough!” By which they meant not “enough!” of these murderers but “enough!” of the government of Prime Minister Aznar, and of Bush and Blair, and troops in Iraq. A couple of days later, they voted in a socialist government, which immediately withdrew Spanish forces from the Middle East. A profitable couple of hours’ work for the jihad.
I said to Hugh I didn’t think that would happen this time round. The enemy aren’t a bunch of simpleton Pushtun yakherds, but relatively sophisticated at least in their understanding of us. We’re all infidels, but not all infidels crack the same way. If they’d done a Spain — blown up a bunch of subway cars in New York or vaporized the Empire State Building — they’d have re-awoken the primal anger of September 2001. With another mound of corpses piled sky-high, the electorate would have stampeded into the Republican column and demanded the U.S. fly somewhere and bomb someone.
The jihad crowd know that. So instead they employed a craftier strategy. Their view of America is roughly that of the British historian Niall Ferguson — that the Great Satan is the first superpower with ADHD. They reasoned that if you could subject Americans to the drip-drip-drip of remorseless water torture in the deserts of Mesopotamia — a couple of deaths here, a market bombing there, cars burning, smoke over the city on the evening news, day after day after day, and ratcheted up a notch or two for the weeks before the election — you could grind down enough of the electorate and persuade them to vote like Spaniards, without even realizing it. And it worked. You can rationalize what happened on Tuesday in the context of previous sixth-year elections — 1986, 1958, 1938, yada yada — but that’s not how it was seen around the world, either in the chancelleries of Europe, where they’re dancing conga lines, or in the caves of the Hindu Kush, where they would also be dancing conga lines if Mullah Omar hadn’t made it a beheading offense. And, as if to confirm that Tuesday wasn’t merely 1986 or 1938, the president responded to the results by firing the Cabinet officer most closely identified with the prosecution of the war and replacing him with a man associated with James Baker, Brent Scowcroft and the other “stability” fetishists of the unreal realpolitik crowd.
What does it mean when the world’s hyperpower, responsible for 40 percent of the planet’s military spending, decides that it cannot withstand a guerrilla war with historically low casualties against a ragbag of local insurgents and imported terrorists? You can call it “redeployment” or “exit strategy” or “peace with honor” but, by the time it’s announced on al-Jazeera, you can pretty much bet that whatever official euphemism was agreed on back in Washington will have been lost in translation. Likewise, when it’s announced on “Good Morning Pyongyang” and the Khartoum Network and, come to that, the BBC.
For the rest of the world, the Iraq war isn’t about Iraq; it’s about America, and American will. I’m told that deep in the bowels of the Pentagon there are strategists wargaming for the big showdown with China circa 2030/2040. Well, it’s steady work, I guess. But, as things stand, by the time China’s powerful enough to challenge the United States it won’t need to. Meanwhile, the guys who are challenging us right now — in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea and elsewhere — are regarded by the American electorate like a reality show we’re bored with. Sorry, we don’t want to stick around to see if we win; we’d rather vote ourselves off the island.
As it is, we’re in a very dark place right now. It has been a long time since America unambiguously won a war, and to choose to lose Iraq would be an act of such parochial self-indulgence that the American moment would not endure, and would not deserve to. Europe is becoming semi-Muslim, Third World basket-case states are going nuclear, and, for all that 40 percent of planetary military spending, America can’t muster the will to take on pipsqueak enemies. We think we can just call off the game early, and go back home and watch TV.
It doesn’t work like that.
Hat tip to the Belmont Club.