July 23 Sources: Fog and Friction of War

The article The Fog of War on Cable TV and events in Iraq and Lebanon motivated me to dig up my notes from an old seminar on war. These ideas are from long-dead guys like Thucydides, Clausewitz or Liddell Hart. It is amazing how much applies today. War is the collision and interaction of living forces. It is never rational. Both sides think they can win (otherwise why fight?) and each side adapts to the other. Most things in war are simple but implementation is hard and never predictable because of fog and friction.

Friction is simply the usual things not working (FUBAR, SNAFU). This is unavoidable and systems must be designed to adapt to friction, since it cannot be eliminated. Friction appears even in exercises . It is much worse when the shooting starts and fear, hate or revulsion prevents accurate assessments.

Fog is an unsystematic uncertainty. We just don’t know and we don’t know what we don’t know.

There is often no decisive factor in war. The other side is likely to have a response. Even when you think they are beaten they may not accept defeat. They also are not seeing the world clearly.

War cannot be broken down into its parts. It must be seen as a whole. It is an interaction of the political-military and society.

Planning and intelligence operations tend to be geared toward assessing the other in ways we understand. That is why it is so hard to understand non-modern or non-state actors. Before 9/11 the idea that a non-state actor could do something with such strategic meaning was unthinkable.

War creates a momentum of its own. It affects leaders, who may become prisoners of this momentum. The Syracuse campaign recorded by Thucydides has always given me pause. If you have not read it, you should. It is great both as history and as tragedy.

Sorry for the War Theory 101, but sometimes we need to be reminded of the basics. I know I did.

Other sources are below.

BTW for newcomers, I list sources I found interesting during the past week. The only pattern to my choices is my interest. I share them in case anyone wants to look at them. Feel free (or not).

A Blogger Portrait
Deadly Conversations
Democrats Increase Lead
Development Versus Free Trade
Is Corporate Social Responsibility Serious Business?
Losing the War in Iraq
Market Based Approaches to Environmental Regulation
Multilateralism: A Diplomatic Mantra
High Oil Prices Could Presage Stagflation
Public Opinion & the War in Iraq
Lessons from the 1996 Welfare Reforms
The Contrarian: Are NGOs Playing Both Sides in the Human Rights Debate?
The Fog of War on Cable TV
Weekly Review of Human Rights
Why Did Bush Blink on Iran (Ask Condi)

Posted by Jack at July 23, 2006 10:23 PM
Comments
Comment #170095


republicans love war.

war is a “core” value for the republicans.

Posted by: tlc at July 23, 2006 10:46 PM
Comment #170097

republicans have nothing to do except start or promote a war agenda.

republicans want America to give “war” a chance.

republicans love war.

Posted by: tlc at July 23, 2006 10:47 PM
Comment #170099

tlc

I give your sort two responses before I give up. Maybe you should read some of the sources about war. I know you said you don’t read books, but do make an exception for Thucydides, Clausewitz or Liddell Hart. Maybe also try On the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace. It is much more complicated than you think and very few people love war and that number drops with experience.

After you do some reasonable study, I will accept your comments. Of course, you will not be making the same kinds of them.

Posted by: Jack at July 23, 2006 10:52 PM
Comment #170103

Jack,

Don’t you find it a bit ironic that the information in your “”blogger portrait” link is the result of a National Phone survey?

Posted by: Rocky at July 23, 2006 11:00 PM
Comment #170104

A little. We still have to use the mainstream tools. When I wrote my “why we blog” article below, I used the Pew Research only as the starting point. I recently attended a seminar on blogging and talked to many people. That is where I got more impressions.

You know blogging has its strengths and weaknesses. Face to face meeting still is worth many thousands of blog words.

Posted by: Jack at July 23, 2006 11:06 PM
Comment #170106

jack,

who says i’m looking for your acceptance…

you just can’t take my statements for what they are…

i don’t remember saying that i don’t read books…

why do you put words in the mouths of bloggers you don’t agree with…

is it because you are frightened of debate?

is it because you are scared of dissent?

is it because you are a rah rah republican cheerleader who will say anything pro-republican regardless of it’s merits?

Posted by: tlc at July 23, 2006 11:07 PM
Comment #170107

The trouble with recent US military interventions is that the leaders use the above concepts of “friction” and “fog of war” as excuses after the fact, rather than considering such issues in their plans beforehand.

Ultimately, it’s better if people are barely ever reminded of these concepts by their government, in the course of a war. The very art of war is to cut down on all these elements, while increasing them for the enemy.

The more you have to appeal to these concepts to stall people for time, the worse off your military policy is. Like most professionals, the ones who do this right, usually make it look easy.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at July 23, 2006 11:10 PM
Comment #170109

tlc

Sorry. When I reread your comments (in the previous thread) I saw that you were saying the Republicans like me don’t read books, not telling us whether or not you read books. If you do read books, then you might want to take a look at some of those I mentioned. They are not that hard. Even us uneducated Republicans can figure them out. I actually did read them, although some many years ago. I read some of Thucydides in the original Greek, so that problably does not count in your world.

BTW this is my last comment to you in this thread unless you pose a real question or make a real argument.

Posted by: Jack at July 23, 2006 11:21 PM
Comment #170113

I don’t have any real arguments or questions for you right now.

But I will take your last response as a civil, (non-name calling) response to a set of strong political statements about the republican party.

I’m done for the night.

You have a good evening.

Posted by: tlc at July 23, 2006 11:37 PM
Comment #170115

tlc:
“republicans love war.”

“is it because you are frightened of debate?

is it because you are scared of dissent?”

Care to back these statements up with a few facts? It’s easy to make overreaching false statements like, “All democrats want to cut & run”, or “The French are cheese-eating surrender-monkeys”.

OK, maybe that last one was true…but you see the point. It adds nothing to the debate to accuse without facts to back your position up.

It just makes you look ignorant. Thought you’d like to know.

Posted by: Martian at July 23, 2006 11:40 PM
Comment #170116

republicans love war…

the topic of this blog is how I back that statement.

the republicans are frightened of debate…

the republicans are scared of dissent…

the numerous name-calling responses i have received on this blog since i started posting here is how I back that statement.

good night

Posted by: tlc at July 23, 2006 11:51 PM
Comment #170117

no one on this blog is reading books to restore the peace…


the only reason why republicans on this blog are reading books…

…is to bone up on their war-hero skills

…maybe so they can learn to become masters of war

…so they may become experts on modern-warfare

…forget about peace

…that’s for tree-hugging / left-wing / peacenik / hippie / unpatriotic / terrorist sypathizing Democrats

…republicans on this blog can only post the virtues of war.

Posted by: tlc at July 23, 2006 11:59 PM
Comment #170118

good night…

again.

heh heh heh

Posted by: tlc at July 24, 2006 12:00 AM
Comment #170120

tlc

Lets debate

What President oversaw WWII?
What 2 Presidents began and continued the VietNam war?
What President used US power in the former Yugoslavia?
Was it the core value of these Presidents to rush to war?
What party was in control of congress during WWII?
What party controlled congress during VietNam?

Was it this parties core values that employed military might?

What would be an acceptable reason for the US to go to war?

And finally…
Are you now, or have you ever been a member of the communist party?

little McCarthy joke for ya!

Posted by: JR at July 24, 2006 12:10 AM
Comment #170121

tlc-
Stylized writing is a special effect, which should be used sparingly. It doesn’t impress people much when they’re done reading the points.

The problem with the Republicans right now is that they’ve got more political leadership than they’ve got intellectual or policy leadership. The whole enterprise is built around winning political battles, here and abroad.

Politics, though is a poor substitute for real results, and the GOP is finding that out the hard way. Events have a way of communicating things to people on their own, even if you don’t want them to.

Ultimately, my problem with Jack’s post is the extent to which it’s mainly about rationalizing the lack of progress in the wars featured on television.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at July 24, 2006 12:12 AM
Comment #170123

Stephen

Exactly what intellectual & policy leadership would one find in the Democratic party right now other than no to war and no to most, if not all, Bush initiatives?
You wrote “The whole enterprise is built around winning political battles, here and abroad.” And currently the Democratic party is worried about what other than politics? Also: “Politics, though is a poor substitute for real results” What “real” results are you looking for? I get the whole intellectual thing, really not important for me that my leader has read everything on the Book of the month club for the Academics and Intelligentsia Society. Better he makes sound decisions based on right and wrong, life and death and the defense of my life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.
But that’s just me.

Posted by: JR at July 24, 2006 12:27 AM
Comment #170124

j.r. ewing,

you’re right…

it is just you.

Posted by: tlc at July 24, 2006 12:48 AM
Comment #170127

JR,
While I appreciate your humor,you made at least 2 historical mistakes.

What President oversaw WWII?

What 2 Presidents began and continued the Vietnam war?

Roosevelt and Truman oversaw WWII. Two Presidents

There was no Vietnam WAR - it was a so-called “Police Action”.

Eisenhower,(he sent in the “advisors”) ; Kennedy,who never had a chance one way or the other, however some documents found in his desk after his death showing his desire to remove the US from the war*; Johnson,(managed to turn the fool “Police Action” into a distaster); and Nixon who started bringing the troops home.

*The documents found were varified by the FBI for the Original Warren Commission Report and are in Vol. 15 of the entire collection. (Very carefully slid in to the article). They are not mentioned in the ‘73 investigation as far as I could tell.

Posted by: Linda H. at July 24, 2006 1:07 AM
Comment #170128

Linda

Yes, thank you, but the difference between police action and war is a lesson in semantics. FDR was the force behind WWII, Truman was out of the loop until FDR passed. Military advisors do not an army make. JFK was in VietNam and could have begun a drawdown ASAP if he was both willing or politically able and, whoops!, I forgot about the Bay of Pigs.

Your points are well taken and appreciated, but my post was meant to address the absurdity of Republicans being warmongers as opposed to Democrats.

No political leader in the free world wants war, circumstances/events dictate the move towards war much more so than politics.

Posted by: JR at July 24, 2006 1:33 AM
Comment #170129

tlc

Jr Ewing, nice attempt but didn’t like the show.

No, I’m a junior to my Dad, a veteran of WWII who operated sonar equipment on a US Navy minesweeper in the Med preparing for the land invasions of, among other places, Anzio and Southern France. My Hero in more ways than one and I’m proud to be his son, God rest his soul.

This is the second time in as many days that I have asked you straight forward questions and not received a straight forward answer. Are you frightened of debate? Dissent? I haven’t called you a name, or made fun of you or belittled you, why not answer?

Posted by: JR at July 24, 2006 1:45 AM
Comment #170130

JR,

As a conservative, I gotta warn you that I fail to see what good it does to bring up WWI or WWII in terms of Democrats being a party of war. Last time I checked, unless you’re one of those Blame America Under All Circumstances revisionist historians who imagine Roosevelt knew about Pearl Harbor beforehand, Most Americans have a very favorable impression of the man. Beyond that, it would seem that WWII is the last war that we Americans can safely feel proud about, so again you might want to hold off on saying anything bad about Roosevelt as it relates to WWII.

Posted by: 1LT B at July 24, 2006 1:57 AM
Comment #170132

Curiously, the last couple of months I’ve been reading about ancient warfare. I’ve been struck by the similarities between some ancient battles and recent ones. For example, the ambush at Teutoburg Forest in 9 A.D. when Arminius defeated three Roman legions led by Varus. Arminius, having served in Roman auxiliaries, learned Roman tactics and cleverly trapped Varus in a dense forested bog in which the Romans could not draw into battle formation. It was a slaughter and ended Augustus’ hope to conquer what is now much of Germany and surrounding areas. When your opponent does not stand still, but fades into and out of the surroundings, you can no longer hope to win with open field tactics. We saw this in Vietnam where the Viet Cong knew the landscape much better than us, and additionally, could fade into the population. We see it now in Iraq. When you do not know where or who your enemy is, war, even for a superpower, becomes very difficult. In our own war for independence, we learned that hiding behind trees and rocks and using our knowledge of the landscape gave us an edge over the British formations.

Jack, I am impressed that you’ve read some Thucydides in Greek — studying Attic Greek was the single toughest intellectual challenge of my life (15 years ago, alas — I’ve forgotten much.) You might find this amusing. One day my professor was explaining the middle voice, how when used with some middle voice verbs the subject is thought of as acting on itself. He then gave a few examples. I couldn’t resist asking this very prim and proper man if the verb erao had a middle voice form. His face turned a very rosy red.

What does this have to do with Republicans or conservatives? Nothing, and despite some of the comments posted here, neither did your post :)

Posted by: Trent at July 24, 2006 2:09 AM
Comment #170133

Jack

An up close opinion on Hamas, Hizbollah and Israel. the culture of war seen in everyday life, as witnessed by the author. Makes perfect sense to me.

Posted by: JR at July 24, 2006 2:13 AM
Comment #170134

1lt

I only bring him and others up as a counterpoint to a “party” being pro war. My only problem with FDR was his social programs, as a Commander in Chief he is second only to Lincoln and Bush2 is closing fast.

Republican/Democrat/Whig/Bullmoose/Libertarian. Who wants war? But, who would use war as the tool of protection when circumstances/events dictates the necessity? That is the question.

You make a great point about Americans being proud of WWII, why is it after this generations Pearl Harbor all we can do is listen to anti-war protests and malicious name calling of our armed services and Commander in Chief?

Dylan sang it best and it’s been happening since his heyday….
“The times they are a changin’.”

Posted by: JR at July 24, 2006 2:33 AM
Comment #170137

There are wars which are fought as a last resort. There are others which are fought as a matter of moral obligation.

And then, there are the wars of choice. Relatively insignificant actions like Panama & Granada are examples of previous Republican invasions which served primarily as political grandstanding for domestic consumption. When Reagan sent the Marines into Lebanon, and 241 died in a bombing, Reagan said withdrawal would be surrender, and “we will never surrender.” Three days later, the US withdrew. The next day, we invaded Granada.

Iraq was a war of choice.

After WWII, Germany and Japan were set up with liberal democracies and liberal economies, with labor unions, government health care, business ownership kept in country, and so on.

Iraq was supposed to fulfill the conservative version of government, with labor unions banned, national industries sold to the highest multinational corporate bidder, and so on.

It is not really “the fog of war” when war is waged by choice, for political considerations, to influence elections and help domestic energy industries be even more profitable.

“The fog of war” is what conservative philosophy spreads, in order to conceal the results of its disastrous implementation. Declaring the insurgency is in its “last throes,” blocking the Senate Phase II investigation of the political manipulation of intelligence, the lies about WMD, the lack of any significant relationships between the secular Iraqi regime and Islamic fundamentalists, these are not “the fog of war.”
Not exactly.

Posted by: phx8 at July 24, 2006 2:55 AM
Comment #170140

Trent said “When your opponent does not stand still, but fades into and out of the surroundings, you can no longer hope to win with open field tactics. We saw this in Vietnam where the Viet Cong knew the landscape much better than us, and additionally, could fade into the population. We see it now in Iraq. When you do not know where or who your enemy is, war, even for a superpower, becomes very difficult.”

——

The major problem for established militarized nations such as the U.S. is that their armies are organized for the wrong type of war.

An industrial war is waged between nations. The stronger and the better organized the nation’s army and the better their leaders are strategically and tactically, the more chances they have at winning. Winning has to be seen as destroying both enemy war waging (supply, infrastructure, etc.) capabilities as well as their morale.

However, the wars of the present and the future are “wars among the people”, not industrial wars. From top to bottom armies are still structured to wage industrial wars, as powerful defence company lobbies want it to. The return on expensive ships, tanks, howitzers, etc diminishes significantly when using them in non-industrial war.

I beg you to read “The Utility of Force” by General Sir Rupert Smith (one of British most distinguished soldiers, RET) who does an excellent effort in explaining this in civilian-speak.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,23112-1779750,00.html

Posted by: Josh Grant at July 24, 2006 4:11 AM
Comment #170141

phx8 said: “Iraq was supposed to fulfill the conservative version of government, with labor unions banned, national industries sold to the highest multinational corporate bidder, and so on.

It is not really “the fog of war” when war is waged by choice, for political considerations, to influence elections and help domestic energy industries be even more profitable.”

——

I strongly agree but like to broaden the scope.

Going to war against the Saddam regime/Axis of Evil/terrorists/etc. is the means, the lubricant to make hard-right conservatism easier (inevitable?) to swallow by U.S. society.

911: “Cataclysmic Pearl Harbour-like event” to unite the (majority of the) nation around core conservative dogmas like good versus evil.

- Ensures a moralist international policy supported by extremely strong defense spending.

- Leads to a “starving the beast” domestic budgetary policy. Taxes are cut (first time ever in war-time) while non-defense spending is not curtailed at all. As defense spending can not be cut (moralist intl policy) you know what will have to go when the economy tanks and economy/stock market-related tax revenue dries up.


You can not find more proof that war is effectively used to tilt a nation’s political foundation to one side - in this case clearly more conservative - than in the U.S. right now.

Posted by: Josh Grant at July 24, 2006 4:27 AM
Comment #170149

Martian,

Care to back these statements up with a few facts? It’s easy to make overreaching false statements like, “All democrats want to cut & run”, or “The French are cheese-eating surrender-monkeys”.

OK, maybe that last one was true…but you see the point.

Care to back the French bashing up with a few facts? You know, it’s easy to make overreaching false statements like “All republicans are french bashers” or “French bashing is the national sport in of any american cow-boys.” While, clearly, none is true.

You see the point: it adds nothing to the debate to bash to back your position up.
It just makes you look plain french-bashing.
Thought you’d like to know.

Otherwise, I agree 99% with your suggestion to tlc.

;-)

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at July 24, 2006 5:41 AM
Comment #170155

JR,

I understand what you were getting at about Roosevelt, just remember that in Roosevelt’s case, the war came to him, not the other way around.

Josh Grant,

Not all future wars are likely to be “wars of the people” though many of them most likely will be. The reason that we keep our industrial war equipment and training is that these types of wars are hundreds of times more destructive and we need to be able to counter potential enemies such as China. Furthermore, its not that our weapons are not capable of attaining victory, its that we as a people can no longer justify inflicting the types of casualties these weapons entail in a “peoples war.” 60 years ago, using technology that was extremely primitive compared to waht we have today, we inflicted tens of thousands of casualties through the movements of massive armies and bombing on a scale never before seen and likely never to be seen again. Our goal is not to reduce Iraq to the Stone Age, hence our restraint. I’m always amazed by the ignorace of those (not accusing you) who try and say that we deliberately kill civilians. If we wanted to, we could level every city in Iraq within a few weeks at most using conventional bombardment. If we wanted to kill civilians, the casualty lists would be in the millions, not what we’re seeing now. In any case, I’ll read that link you put up and see if I can give you any meaningful comments.

Posted by: 1LT B at July 24, 2006 6:54 AM
Comment #170159

1LT B,

Please do read the link and, even better, take a bite at the book to.

I completely agree that realpolitik dictates us to having sufficient guns to eventually wage industrial-type wars. Problem is our enemies know that we agree, so they will use guerilla and terror tactics forever… because they agree with us that the U.S. is the strongest party in an industrial war. Hence we are losing the “utility of our force”, together with billions of $ squandered in pushing the military in the wrong direction.

As to an hypothetical future industrial war with China… I smell Mutually Assured Destruction in the air.

Basically, our military force is above-excellent at fighting army-to-army (great utility of force) but inept at countering the enemy tactic of using terrorism/guerilla warfare, let alone the (re)building of nations per our chosen values.


Posted by: Josh at July 24, 2006 7:35 AM
Comment #170165

Stephen

This is not about rationalizing lack of progress or about glorifying war. Nobody can read Thucydides (especially the Syracuse expedition) and be enthusiastic about war. In fact the Syracuse expedition has some echoes of Iraq in the initial enthusiasm and confidence followed by problems.

I do think the study of these things explains the situation in Iraq. That is not the same as rationalizing it. Both sides in the Iraq debate make the same mistake in assuming that WE are the actors and so anything that happens is the result only of our efforts - good or bad. War is the class of living forces. It is like biology with complex living forces, not action reaction physics.

Linda H

Kennedy may have wanted to get out of Vietnam. Bush wants to get out of Iraq. It is what they do that you have to judge. Republican and Dem presidents behave very similarly (check into FDRs PREWAR wiretaps etc) because they situations they face are very similar. If Kerry was elected in 2004, we would still be in Iraq. The lesson of wars past and preserving the peace is that if you refuse to fight in general or get out too soon it results in bigger wars. It is an art, not a science, deciding when to go in, stay or leave.

Trent

Mine was more than 20 years ago and I forgot ALL my Greek. You are lucky to have kept some. What I still remember is how the patterns (and sometimes the actual ideas) were so different in translation. I remember reading Plato’s Symposium on Love and not recognizing parts in the English text. Studying Greek is something that is good to HAVE done, no something I recommend people do.

You are right that this post is not overtly political, but I do believe that trying to understand the big issues of war and peace is important to politics. My partisan take is that Dems are not understanding the complexities just now and the peace wing of the party is just silly. That does not mean war is good, but the idea that it is always avoidable or will go according to plan is not smart. BTW many Republicans began to fall into the same silliness during Kosovo. Fortunately, Serbia caved.

Phx8

I supported the action in Iraq in 2003. I explained why last year.

I could revise this now in light of subsequent events, to make myself look prescient, but that would be a liberal thing to do. Review that post and you will have a good look at why I think Iraq was a threat and our response appropriate.

1LT

I don’t agree that the war came to Roosevelt. Pearl Harbor sure did, but we were in a shooting war with Germany well before that. The Rubin James was sunk in October 1941 and it was not just on a pleasure cruise. Thank God Roosevelt did so many of the same things Bush has done to get us prepared and prevent the Nazis from finding advantage. If Roosevelt had really waited for the war to come, it would have been even worse for us.

Posted by: Jack at July 24, 2006 7:50 AM
Comment #170178

i love to listen to the elephants make their case for this war. first it’s “justified and victory is imminent”, then its “well it may take a little longer, but victory will be attained.” then it’s this blog, telling of the fog of war and why we’re losing and crippling any hopes we had in the beginning…love it…good stuff.

Posted by: Lucas at July 24, 2006 9:25 AM
Comment #170181

Lucas

I never said we were losing. It is more complicated than I (I cannot speak for others) hoped it might be. Please read the refernced blog from a year ago about the reasons for the war. Unlike some commentators, I do not revise ex-post facto. Those reasons were true then and they remain true today. Subsequent events have shown other factors.

The notes for this post are from 2003 (BTW) and Thucydides wrote a little before that. I recall that Viktor Davis Hanson discussed it with Cheney and there was public discussion. It is nothing new to educated people. Maybe some liberals are hearing it for the first time and some Democratic Senators pretend they didn’t understand when they voted for the war, but it is not new.

If you prefer to keep Saddam, you also have to assume there would have been consequences and compare them There is no zero option and I will not allow opponents that fallacy.

Posted by: Jack at July 24, 2006 9:44 AM
Comment #170187

@Lucas:

I call this a learning process. As we are in it we would better learn from our mistakes hic et nunc, no?

1. There is no such thing as “victory” as it was in the context of the old industrial war. Industrial war between armies is all about a clash of strenghts. You win when you are stronger and employ your force smarter. The current “war” (engaging tactics like terrorism/guerilla warfare) is a clash of wills. We clearly overestimate our military force as it does not have sufficient utility, and produces great collateral damage further demonising the U.S. - i.e. strenghtening the will of (prospective) terrorists/guerillas.

2. Make sure your long-term political goals and objectives match those of the military. That is the famous Clausowitzian trinity of army, state and people that must be in balance. When using your military arm to spread freedom, make sure your military “win” (e.g. removing Saddam and co) does not create a situation where “freedom” (or even setting up the infrastructure to provide it) is almost impossible to be won.

Posted by: Josh at July 24, 2006 9:54 AM
Comment #170209

IT’s amazing to me that what I’m going to say will be categorized by many as a liberal or Democratic position because I simply see it as reasonable.

I opposed the War on Iraq for several reasons. First and foremost, the connection between Iraq and the 9/11 terrorists was virtually non-existant, despite the comments of Cheney and others. Remember how many believed Saddam was involved? It was a misconception our government did not try hard to dispel. (And in my less calm moments, I would use harsher and I believe more accurate language.) Second, weapon inspectors were pleading for more time (time we could have used on the diplomatic front — not with Iraq, but with the world), but we could not wait a few more months. Third, I did not believe the American people were being told the genuine rationale for the war — rather we were being fed patriotic rah-rahs, words such as terrorists and WMD. Fourth, I did not feel in my gut that Bush and his crew were up to the task.

None of this is new to anyone reasonably political aware at the time, and I know that some people of good faith disagree. That’s fine — honest debate is good, but I do not believe the administration was being honest with the American people. As it turns out, intelligence was not well analyzed by the administration, and yes, I do believe Cheney etc. cherry picked intelligence to support a war they had wanted before 9/11.

I know the arguments against my position, but I will add that Iraq was well contained at the time. Two-thirds of the country was a no-fly zone, our satellite and aerial surveillance was focused on the country, and we had virtually uncontested air superiority. If war really was necessary, we had the luxury of picking the right moment. Instead, we did what we did, and we are paying the consequences.

We now have a president who claims the war authorization gives him carte blanche to dispense with legal safeguards to OUR privacy and liberty. Since in the deepest sense, war on terror can be indefinite, these actions are particularly scary and Orwellian. We use technicalities to dispense with Geneva Convention rules and have tortured prisoners, many of whom are prisoners on the flimsiest pretenses. We have betrayed the very values we proclaim around the world. And I firmly believe the actions of our president have decreased our security. I do not believe it is radical to suggest there were far, far more effective approaches to combat world terrorism.

And now what do we do? Our options are limited. If we withdraw from Iraq, anarchy ensues, and an increasingly beligerent Iran becomes the major power player in the region. So we do what we can to bolster the government in the hopes that it can handle its own security, a hope that increasingly appears too optimistic. We, the world’s largest superpower, cannot control security in the country, but we say the new government will, eventually, be able to. As an American, I hope to God they can, and if that means that history heralds Bush as a great leader, that’s cool with me; in this instance I pray that I am wrong.

Jack, you say that Democrats do not understand the complexities of war. I would go further and say that most Americans don’t, including Republicans and especially including Bush and his crew. It seems clear that our Administration had unrealistic expectations — remember all the talk about our being welcomed as liberators or that Iraqi oil would pay our costs? Mission accomplished, indeed.

By the way, I also blame the Democrats for this — for not standing up and protesting more forcibly. I am deeply ashamed of both political parties and I am appalled at the vast ignorance of the American people. I do believe we were lied to, but that is no excuse. As citizens it is our responsibility to inform ourselves — the information was available if we were willing to turn off our DVD players and I-Pods and fulfill our duty as citizens. I am not saying that reasonable people could not disagree with my position, but I am saying we could have had a much better debate in this country before entering into something as momentous as war.

Our leaders HAVE failed us. Colin Powel had the opportunity to speak out before this, but he chose to toe the line, and the man I once considered worthy of my vote for president missed a chance for genuine greatness. But more to the point, I believe the American people failed themselves. We have betrayed our values, amde the world a more dangerous place, and limited our options for dealing with genuine threats.

Posted by: Trent at July 24, 2006 11:16 AM
Comment #170220

Phillipe:

Sorry for the French bashing. I did say those statements were examples of over-reaching and false statements. Just injecting some humor.

BTW, I am mostly Scottish, but part French, on my mother’s side.

Posted by: Martian at July 24, 2006 12:08 PM
Comment #170225

Josh,

A very interesting link, I’ll try and get a hold of the book. I’ve always felt that one way America could learn from the British is to have people such as Lawrence of Arabia who lived with the people of the colonies for protracted periods of time and earned their trust. General Sir Smith is doubtless right about the make-up of future forces for dealing with peoples wars. Industrial armies do have the capacity to easily win such a war, unfortunately it would involve killing everybody, which I doubt we will ever do.

As for China, MAD is a long way off. I’d like to return the favor of recommending some good reading material, in this case “The Rise of US nuclear primacy” by Karl Lieber and Daryl Press, which was published in the March/April 2006 issue of Foriegn Affairs. It details how incremental improvements to the US strategic arsenal coupled with Russian drawdowns and Chinese stasis has basically given the US nuclear primacy, ie the ability to launch a truly disabling first strike. When taken with our ballistic missle shield (provided it works) the world has become vastly safer or more dangerous depending on your point of view.

Trent,

I agree with your last two paragraphs. I think that the Democrats’ lack of opposition to the war early, cooupled with the percieved cut and run attitude and no message but “WE AREN’T REPUBLICANS” has badly hurt thier credibility. AS a soldier, I’m extremely disappointed with much of the American people. I seem to recall that they favored the war by somewhere around 80% before it started, so they dropped us into Iraq and now want us to leave without accomplishing our mission, basically invalidating the sacrifices we’ve made. I don’t like being over here, but I deeply believe that if we leave before the Iraqis are truly able to run the country themselves we’ll just have to come back again. Our Air Force and Navy still give us the ability to project power worldwide no matter how tied up the Army is, but I fear that we may have forever lost our moral standing.

Posted by: 1LT B at July 24, 2006 12:13 PM
Comment #170277

Jack ” is much more complicated than you think and very few people love war and that number drops with experience.”

I beg to differ, some industrialists (making uniforms, providing logistics, guns, bombs, missiles) love war, without it they’d be out of business.

That’s a lot of lobbying power demanding that governments up the ante and try to stir up trouble.

Posted by: abhcoide at July 24, 2006 3:34 PM
Comment #170299

abhcoide

This is the “Arms of Krupp” argument. Some individuals can obviously prosper from particular wars, but war creates uncertainty and uncertainty is bad for most business.

There is no shortage of markets for most goods. A firm that can make uniforms can make T-shirts or slacks. Makers of big arms packages (F16s etc) do not need or particularly want an actual war. They can sell plenty of planes and parts in peace maintenance.

Posted by: Jack at July 24, 2006 4:43 PM
Comment #170300

Jack,

I’d like to debate your premises. I will avoid bait or diatribe as responses allow.

War … is never rational.
If an adjoining nation invades or bombards your territory, is it irrational to defend yourself? If an adjoining nation peacefully uses the water from a major river that supports half your population, but does so to an extent that threatens your coutries food supply, is there a point where initiating a war becomes rational?
Both sides think they can win (otherwise why fight?)
I don’t think Grenada or Iraq had rasonable expectations of victory.
and each side adapts to the other. Most things in war are simple but implementation is hard and never predictable because of fog and friction. Friction is simply the usual things not working (FUBAR, SNAFU). This is unavoidable and systems must be designed to adapt to friction, since it cannot be eliminated. Friction appears even in exercises . It is much worse when the shooting starts and fear, hate or revulsion prevents accurate assessments.

Fog is an unsystematic uncertainty. We just don’t know and we don’t know what we don’t know.

OK, that part is your definition section, I’ll work with it.
There is often no decisive factor in war. The other side is likely to have a response.
There is always a decisive factor. In the civil war it was Northern resources outlasted the South. Same for WWII, WWI,.. In fact, in any evenly matched war, the factor is attrition.
Even when you think they are beaten they may not accept defeat. They also are not seeing the world clearly.
If you only “think” they are defeated, who’s to say you’re not the one “not seeing the world clearly”?
War cannot be broken down into its parts. It must be seen as a whole. It is an interaction of the political-military and society.
You need to understand the parts, otherwise the whole will make no sense. Take the big bang; It is the ultimate of a chaotic situation. It is understandable as a whole even if a square cm of it could never be predicted as anything other than an average or expected value.


Posted by: Dave1 at July 24, 2006 4:45 PM
Comment #170343

Dave1

War is never rational

It doesn’t mean war is not logical. It just quickly gets out of hand because it is very emotionally difficult to kill or risk being killed, or having other do it. That is why it is hard to turn off or control. Normal people cannot easily kill another person. Killing is messy and sickening. People need an emotional justification. It is not enough to be told you should kill this guy. That is one reason war has so many rituals and traditions. It appeals to emotion. It gives justification and expands the individual to encompass something bigger that takes the responsibility.

Each side thinks they can win

See never rational above. Let’s take your example, however. In Granada, they Granada people did not fight in any significant way. The only people to put up any resistance were the Cubans and they quickly gave up. In the Iraq case, it depends on what you mean by win. Evidently Saddam actually thought he COULD win. He did not expect a victory over the U.S., but he thought if he could put up enough resistance the world would stop the conflict and he would win, since regime survival was his idea of victory. The current insurgency is not so much military as a combination of ethnic haters and terrorists. For each of them, the fact that they can kill Americans or the other ethnic group is their goal.

Decisive factor

What I mean is that our “decisive factor” may not work and is subject to counter measures. The South nearly won the war. It is true that Northern resources IF applied would win. But there was a good chance they would not be. Many in the North were looking for accommodation. Had Sherman and Grant not won in the West, there could have been stalemate and a Democratic victory in 1864 almost certainly would have brought a negotiated settlement.

As in Vietnam, there was no way the North could lose in an actual fighting war, but the political dimension was a problem. The same goes, BTW, for Iraq.

Re the Parts

You cannot take the parts out w/o changing the understanding of the whole. It is how they work together (or not) that makes the difference. If we neglect the politics, a battlefield victory may not be important. Take Iraq again. We have clearly won on the battlefield. We COULD stay in Iraq for decades suffering the losses we are taking now. But we cannot tolerate it politically or economically. We may lose in the political realm. One of the problems with our Iraq planning is that we overemphasized the battle part of war and neglected the political aspects.

It is like ecology or a living thing. You can understand all the parts of an animal and still not explain life. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Posted by: Jack at July 24, 2006 8:19 PM
Comment #170447

Jack,

Good post, I tend to agree with most of it. What constitutes victory is an essential element of what we go to war about. Japan in WWII never believed that they could occupy the US, nor did they believe they could ever outproduce or outlast us in a protracted war. They believed that if they hit us hard enough and inflicted significant defeats, such as Pearl Harbor and the Phillipines, that we would simply feel it was too costly to try and defeat them.

Many, from the Confederate States of America to the Vietnamese have banked on us simply walking away from a conflict knowing that they could not defeat us in the long run. The difference from WWII to today is that since WWII we have never truly achieved victory. In Korea, we defeated the North and thier Chinese “volunteers” but failed to remove a corrupt regime from power. In Vietnam, we fought a defensive ground campaign that could not be won so long as the enemy was willing to take casualties and draw the war on to break our political will. The insurgents hope to do the same. We as a people need to realize that if we do want to win, we will continue to take casualties and evaluate whether or not the losses we suffer now are too much to bear, especially measured against the potential casulties we would take in another war in the Middle East that could result from the collapse of Iraq into Talibanesque chaos.

Posted by: 1LT B at July 25, 2006 2:22 AM
Comment #170467

1LT B wrote:

“We as a people need to realize that if we do want to win, we will continue to take casualties and evaluate whether or not the losses we suffer now are too much to bear, especially measured against the potential casulties we would take in another war in the Middle East that could result from the collapse of Iraq into Talibanesque chaos.”

—————————————————-

With this I could not agree more.

Take Iraq. Imo the political facts as well as anecdotal evidence from the field have already proven that a major strategic policy is needed immediately. This as the utility of applying our military forces in Iraq is getting worse by the day due to the current political constellation.

We are stuck in the middle between Israel and the muslem world. A lot of people say that Bush and Co absolutely love a good Israeli-Lebanese/Hezbollah conflict “because it takes our eyes away from Iraq”. Should they be really extremely short-sighted (which I don’t think they are) and only focus on domestic politics… ok, but the U.S. just got outplayed by Iran on the Iraq situation. By stirring up the Israeli conflict Iran forced us to openly take sides with Israel. Result: political chaos in Bagdad and anti-American rethorics galore. Basically Israel versus Lebanon/Hezbollah created a very bad mid to longer-term situation in Iraq for us if you ask me.

I am not advocating to “cut and run” at all, but to engage in diplomacy as soon as possible to put together a true international “coalition of the willing peacekeepers and nation rebuilders”.

We can not do it alone without suffering too much damage for too little yield, damage both in terms of solders KIA or injured and to our international reputation.

We can not just cut and run and leave the situation to the democratically elected Iraqi government, as militias would completely take over Iraqi political and basic daily life and the country would become a hotbed for extremism under the wings of big brother Iran.

Still, I refuse to call this adapting to “the fog of war”, as it was announced in numerous official documents, books, analyses. etc. - a long time ago. Admitting you were wrong and employing an open UN coalition - instead of bashing the institution - might be the only way “out”.

Posted by: Josh at July 25, 2006 8:03 AM
Comment #170477

1LT B, Jack-
Y’all should read David Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest. It wasn’t the lack of political will that lost us Vietnam. We could have had all the political will in the world, and that would have only served to grant us more casualties and greater costs, not victory.

First, according to him, we supported the wrong kind of leaders in Vietnam, folks who represented the old decrepit order that was very unpopular.

Second, we failed to make being South Vietnamese something to fight and die for. We convinced ourselves we were fighting against insurgents when the mood in the country was that they were fighting a civil war, with our side less popular.

Third, we fought their war for them. We could never win it for them that way, much less for ourselves.

Fourth, information flowed badly, if at all, between Washington and the generals in Saigon, and vice versa. Without reliable information about what was happening, Presidents and Secretaries of Defense who commanded this war could not make sound decisions, and Generals were often held to policies by their civilian superiors that did not work at all.

Fifth, the politicians scapegoated the media for doing it’s job of informing them of it. Problems were evident to reporters long before they were to the people running the war. Unfortunately, many in the government became arrogant about the war, and unwilling to answer their skeptics charges with a good check of the facts.

Sixth, they were functionally low tech and relied on infantry, of which they had plenty of reserves. Because of that, they could escalate more cheaply than we could, and at their own initiative. Our political failures allowed troops and supplies to funnel into South Vietnam. Further failures of discipline, like My Lai, galvanized the Vietnamese public against us. Because of this, we could not destroy their forces.

Seventh should be obvious. Americans can be pretty trusting, so long as they see results. Often politicians make the mistake of just feeding them bullshit to maintain their consent. But when start to build a lie like that, you trap yourself in a vicious cycle of dishonesty, which forces you to essentially continue your dishonesty in order to shield yourself from the consequences of your last lie, and the sum total of your lies.

Unfortunately, reality has a way of reasserting itself on people, an if some kind of truth doesn’t come your way to redeem your promises of victory, the final thud as people hit the ground from their disillusionment will be quite loud. It was the Democratic Party who ended up in a broken heap the last time. Unfortunately, the lesson the Republicans learned, for the most part, from this, was that the Democrats didn’t fight hard enough. In truth, they fought extremely hard. We only have about a fifth of the soldiers in Iraq that we had in Vietnam at its peak, and there was constant fighting. It’s a well quoted statistic that we dropped more ordinance on Vietnam than we did in the entire course of WWII.

But here we go again, with will and all those things. It’s convenient to place all the emphasis on will being the course to victory. It costs money to raise more soldiers, by enlistment or conscription. It costs political capital to visibly change the plan. Calling for American to devote greater will to the Iraq war requires little action on the part of the administration itself. And who knows, it might work!

Only it doesn’t. You can’t sustain will forever without reason, without cause. At this point, it is not up to the American people to start winning in Iraq, it’s up to Bush. Only if he can convincingly turn things around does he have any business asking us to put our will behind this war. Much as people like myself want this war won, the support of the vast majority of people will not come until people begin to see a decent way out of this war to a better conclusion in Bush’s policies.

Unfortunately, Bush, stubborn as ever, wants to stay the course.

This is how you break the public will: have your leaders screw up something, stubbornly vow to keep doing things their way, and then treat the public to both continued screw-ups and continued stubborn resolve to do things their way. By taking that route, a leader drains the hope from people that events will be redeemed, especially as complication compounds complication.

The quagmire that’s losing us Iraq isn’t overseas. It’s right here in this country, in Washington D.C., in the selfish power games of leaders who’ve failed their people.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at July 25, 2006 8:43 AM
Comment #170521

Stephen

Halberstram’s book stops too soon. The war changed under Creighton Abrams. He crushed the insurgency in the early 1970s. But political will was lacking and when the North invaded in force, we did not back the South.

Remember how the war ended. With an invasion from the North with armor and air support. It was an invasion by an organized army. This was like Grant took Richmond. It was not a successful local rebellion of little guys in black pajamas.

BTW MaiLai galzanized nobody except in the U.S. The Viet Kong and NVA carried out massacres like that every day before breakfast. It was bad because Americans have higher standards, but that sort of act could not have surprised anyone familiar with the Viet Kong of NVA.

Posted by: Jack at July 25, 2006 11:32 AM
Comment #170534

tlc sounds like Benji, the DNC lap dog. Here is a lesson for all the people that think Republicans are pro-war. Any rational human bring hates war. The Republican party wants America’s enemies crushed, which is good. America never starts wars, its enemies do. The enemy always strikes us first (or attempts to strike us). America does not conquer. We occupy to root out our enemies (like Iraq now), or to rebuild and ally with (like Japan back in post-WWII). We hate war, but sometimes people must do what they hate to survive.

Posted by: stubborn conservative at July 25, 2006 12:27 PM
Comment #170539

Jack-
First and foremost, you’re expecting the tail to wag the dog. This was an undeclared war, that the Public was steadily discovering was much more problematic than advertised. Hundreds of American soldiers were coming home in body bags a week, and this war was costing us billions that had a punishing effect on our economy. What good was the war doing these people that they should try and win what escalation after escalation failed to do?

The South, in the end, should have been able to back itself, to fight off the invaders. The North managed to defend itself, managed to fight us to a hopeless stalemate, after which the economics and priorities of our country took precedence. We could afford neither in the military sense or the economic sense to continue the war. That equaled our defeat. Political will, at this point, had already proved to only make things worse.

Now it wasn’t inevitable that this would happen. That’s just the way it did. Will cannot survive without the means to carry out what is willed.

And yes, The North took over the South with an old fashioned regular army attack. But that was against a force equivalent to theirs. They didn’t mismatch their approaches. They used insurgencies and ground escalations we couldn’t match to defeat us, then they took the traditional angle against enemies that were closer to their level. That’s strategy.

Will, by itself, does not win wars. It can only motivate, not enable, the drive towards victory. We did not have the resources to continue the fighting, we had complicated our war in Vietnam beyond our ability to untangle, and alienated the people there, and finally, we let the military, the government and the people get dangerously deluded about what was really going on, such that disillusionment came with sharp and overwhelming shock.

Theoretically, we could have won it with more political will, but such theoretical considerations would neglect how we would pay for that further escalation, how we would take on all the other problems that put us in the will-draining situation we were in already.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at July 25, 2006 12:50 PM
Comment #170548

Stephen

It may have been a bad idea to get involved in Vietnam. But the counter insurency worked when we started to do it.

The North conquered the South with tanks and airpower. Do you believe the North made these tanks and planes themselves?

Vietnam still sucks. Other countries of the region are tigers. Vietnam will come around to the free market too, but it is set back.

Think of how bad it would have been if N. Korea had won in that conflict (and conquered the South). Back in the 1950s, the North could have defeated the South in a fair fight. It is good we that didn’t happen. Now think how much better it might have been if the South Vietnam had not been conquered by the North.

It is a shame we lost that war. The Vietnamese people suffered as a result and so did all the other people of Indo China.

Posted by: Jack at July 25, 2006 1:20 PM
Comment #170555

Jack;

War is never rational It doesn’t mean war is not logical.
Please explain the difference. When something is rational, it means logic was used properly. So something is either logical or not, rational or not. If by rational you mean “right” then I agree. War is never “right” but it may be necessary.
Each side thinks they can win. See never rational above.
In both Grenada and Iraq we were the agressor nation. In both cases we knew we would win (at least the battle).
Decisive factor; What I mean is that our “decisive factor” may not work and is subject to counter measures.
Your referring to assesment that is part of a leaders thought process; i.e. being “right” or “wrong”. The realities of the situation dictate the outcome, which are monstrously complex. In the end, I stand by my statement that there is a decisive factor. We just don’t always know what it will be.
Re the Parts “Take Iraq again. We have clearly won on the battlefield.”
Are you trying to say “That depends on what “is” is”? The left has been saying for years that we won the battle but not the war. Have you finally come to that realization too?
It is like ecology or a living thing. You can understand all the parts of an animal and still not explain life. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
You’re looking for “meaning”. That’s a different science. Posted by: Dave1 at July 25, 2006 1:47 PM
Comment #170621

Jack-
I already said defeat wasn’t inevitable in Vietnam. A working counterinsurgency is nice, but it would have been a working strategy had we managed in in the Kennedy years By the time the Vietnam War was drawing to a close, it was far too late to win the war, and not just a few battles, by an effective counterinsurgency.

I cannot emphasize the importance of the timing of success enough. The situation changes in a war over time, and opportunities present at the beginning do not necessarily endure. Bush’s stubbornness is worse than him merely ignoring people’s concerns. We’ve already lost many opportunities to change the course of the war. It takes an optimist like me to believe that opportunities remain to redeem the war.

As for winning with tanks and airpower, I would maintain that the South was not disadvantaged there. The disadvantage is that the North wanted to be a nation, and the south just wanted the war over.

It was never our war to win. We were fighting on behalf of folks who didn’t didn’t much believe in the cause they were fighting for. Their armies didn’t stand and fight, generally, they didn’t have any truly inspirational leaders, and the North Vietnamese had them outmatched in both departments.

They were unenthusiastic fighters to begin with. Having us leave, as we had to, didn’t improve things. If we had really won, They would have been equal to the task of their own defense.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at July 25, 2006 5:45 PM
Comment #170622

Logic depends on the premises. If we grant false premises, we can arrive at a logically valid but wrong conculsion. Rational implies a good sense examination of premises, goals and results.

Of course in Granda and Iraq we thought we would win. I said BOTH sides think they will win. In the Granada case this was not true. That is why there really was no war. Resistence was nominal. In Iraq I believe Saddam thought he could win. Victory defined by him as survival of his regime when the world community stopped the war. It is the same tactic he used in 1991 and the same tactic Hezbollah is hoping to use now. It does work often. It probalby would have worked (and I am giving my true opinion, not being provocative. You might consider this a good thing anyway) with Clinton or Gore.

Decisive factor. I won’t argue if you want to define the decisive factor that way. It is not useful, however. It is like saying that you will die of something, but we don’t know what it is (or when). This is a true statement, but not useful.

Re the battle or the war - War always has its political aspects. We did the battle fighting very well and the politics less well. I do not believe we “lost”. In the worst practical scenario, we have a divided Iraq with none of the parts as hostile as Saddam and with none of the parts as potentially strong. In the likely scenario, we have a reasonably democratic Iraq. It just took longer to get there. I also am not sure a better political outcome was possible. We made mistakes, no doubt,but the situation was hard.

It seems to have been the Saddam strategy to not fight much in battle but sabotage the peace. Countering this is difficult since Saddam had three decades to create the structures of terror and our attack on Iraq was - by plan - not very destructive. Most of the infrastructure was left intact and relatively few Baathists were killed. Outside terrorists also took up residence in Iraq after we chased them out of Afghanistan. They were also ready to go.

Re ecology - I am looking for meaning and some predictive power. If you look at the whole, you can find SOME. If you look at the parts you cannot.

Posted by: Jack at July 25, 2006 5:52 PM
Comment #170628

Stephen

It was probably a mistake to get involved in the early 1960s. Even had we won, it would not have been worth the cost. However, by 1970 we were in and we began to win against the insurgency. Having won that, we agreed to the peace with the North Vietnamese. They broke all the agreements and invaded the South when they got the chance. I am not sure if U.S. support would have saved the regime, but we did not give it for political reasons at home.

There are lots of myths about Vietnam and some are directly contrary to fact.

The biggest myth is that little guys in black pajamas beat the U.S. army and that these guys had popular backing. In fact, after Tet the VC were largely gone. There was no backing for them. The peasants really didn’t take sides. This was probably also true in the North. Apathy or hating both sides is not support.

We always hoped to fight a real battle with the North. Ironically, we did not do it when the opportunity came. Our airpower could have destroyed the NVA armor. We did not do it.

So let me be clear. I believe Vietnam was a mistake at inception. When Kennedy backed the Diem plot, we were going down the wrong path. In those days we were not doing the right thing on the ground, but the political climate was favorable. We had to a large extent corrected the problem on the ground by the early 1970s, but by then the political war was lost. Whether or not a reprive during the NVA invasion would have saved the south to become like South Korea (which was also a basket case until the middle 1960s) or just postponed the inevitable is something we can only speculate about.

Posted by: Jack at July 25, 2006 6:07 PM
Comment #170652

Jack-
In videogames and most movies, particularly the one I’m fighting through right now with a friend, you can win by destroying this or that. In the real world, destruction is hardly ever the clean answer.

I think the peasants did take sides, and took sides with the VC enough to allow them to do some real damage. Most people, of course, probably wanted to just remain safe, but if you think about it, that’s precisely the kind of apathy in your people that you don’t want. You don’t want people indifferent to an insurgency, you want them hostile to it, even to the point of death.

Technology only wins wars when it serves strategic purposes in bring about the successful resolution of events. Otherwise, depending on it can create a false sense of security, and a ham-handed use of it.

This is, I think, the lesson that Republicans have failed to learn. We may be the most advanced military power in the world, but we are still human, and our opponents are no less capable of adapting to our technology than we are to coming up with it and using it.

Winning wars is about something else than the mere gaining of power. It’s about putting an enemy in check, such that they are no longer as capable of frustrating your aims as you are of frustrating theirs. In Iraq, we didn’t gain the ability to frustrate our enemy’s actions when we first had the opportunity, because our people were too busy demonstrating our superiority, and trying to vindicate their new theories of military doctrine.

In the end, I think the main problem of both wars was that the leadership were too loyal to their own visions of how things should work, and how things were working, and by becoming so hidebound to those, they let initial problems gestate and complicate in the situation, problems that would come to blow up in our military’s face.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at July 25, 2006 9:17 PM
Comment #170659

Stephen

The VC murdered and terrorized villages. Many people were against them to the point of death. They killed teachers and administrators. They had some support sometimes. Mostly they were feared. Americans were not as savage so not as feared.

Remember all the people who fled Indochina, some taking their chances in small boats on the open sea. How deparate do you have to be to take to sea in an overloaded rowboat? Supporters don’t do things like this.

The history, however, IS that the insurgency was defeated. We can speculate on whether or not the locals would have supported the insugents, but by the end of the war it didn’t matter. The insurgents did not win the war.

That is an important point about learning from the war. If we take the lesson that an insurgency cannot be defeated, we take the wrong lesson. If we take the lesson (as we have begun to do) about HOW to defeat an insurgency we take the proper lesson.

Now compare the insurgency in Iraq with that in Vietnam. Insurgents in Vietnam (and the NVA) could field a force to fight Americans. The insurgents in Iraq cannot. They can set off bombs that kill civilians and sometimes convoys. BUt they rarely can attack convoys or patrols and never successfully.

Posted by: Jack at July 25, 2006 9:42 PM
Comment #170719

stubborn conservative wrote:

“Here is a lesson for all the people that think Republicans are pro-war. Any rational human bring hates war. The Republican party wants America’s enemies crushed, which is good. America never starts wars, its enemies do. The enemy always strikes us first (or attempts to strike us). America does not conquer. We occupy to root out our enemies (like Iraq now), or to rebuild and ally with (like Japan back in post-WWII). We hate war, but sometimes people must do what they hate to survive.”

————————————————————————

I guess since the media supportive of the GOP do not agree with you anymore, you can only be considerd to be blatantly wrong.

Yesterday Fox hosted a Neil Cavuto roundtable where one of Fox’s “contributing market analysts”, Tobin Smith, clearly declared that (regarding the Middle East)

“the only reason we’re there is for oil. It’s not for democracy. It’s for oil!” and “we gotta have boots on the sand there to protect our oil”

He wasn’t even countered on the point made.

This in response to a Fox poll indicating that 72 % of respondents want the U.S. to significantly cut back money and resources to the entire Mideast region.

http://204.120.182.142/polls/poll_results/bg_results_business.jpg__basic_1688.htm

This isn’t about ideology (good versus evil) anymore, its about fighting for “our” oil.

Posted by: Josh at July 26, 2006 3:39 AM
Comment #170742

Josh,

So? Anyone who doesn’t think that oil played a part in our decision to go to Iraq is out of his mind. Perhaps you haven’t noticed, but we kinda need the stuff to make our economy work. Perhaps you’d feel better if we just let no oil come in at all from the Middle East. If so, then I hope you’re comfortable with truly high gas prices. We still pay less than Europe and the rest of the world.

If freedom, democracy etc are taken out, we probably made a mistake kicking Saddam out of Kuwait back in ‘91. He was a brutal dictator, but he was mostly our brutal dictator. If Kuwait and Iraq’s oil reserves were combined, we probably could’ve played one off against the other for even lower oil prices. Saddam also acted as a buffer for and threat to Iran, not something I think we would mind. And if he got too frisky, we’ve proven our ability to crush his armies twice.

Posted by: 1LT B at July 26, 2006 8:52 AM
Comment #170789

Jack-
Don’t mistake me for a communist sympathizer. I’m not saying the VC were liberators, or that everybody was sympathetic to them. I’m saying that we did not have enough organized resistance among the South Vietnamese to lock them out of the territory. I’m not sure folks picture of us was a rosy. I guess that would depend on which village we’re talking about.

We should include in military calculation support that is extorted and coerced as well as that which is given voluntarily, out of sympathy for cause. In Vietnam, it wasn’t enough to have people willing to help us, we had to have people completely unwilling to help the VC and the others, to deprive them of the resources the cooperation or passive tolerance allowed.

The insurgency served the purpose of the North, forcing us to expend more resources in order not to lose than we could afford. Since we know the VC were intimately connected to the North Vietnamese, even if the Vietcong was no longer an effective fighting force post Tet Offensive, they had done what the strategy called upon them to do: rack up our expenses, make trouble for us back home politically, and erode their enemy’s morale and discipline so they alienated the populace. The North didn’t have to win the war with us with their irregular VC. No, they just had to not lose. The North kept up it’s regular army incursions and small force tactics after the insurgency’s demise, and when we withdrew, they faced their Southern neighbors as military equals.

As for the insurgents in Iraq, they’re hardly capable of facing us in pitched battle, but they’re more than capable of killing ordinary people, and they HAVE been attacking convoys and patrols. Again, whether they’re successful or not in destroying the targets is not necessarily relevant. The aim of guerilla movements is to increase expense, and to force the enemy towards more paranoid and self-protecting posture, which drives up the expense of a war like Iraq.

This, as a matter of fact, is what Colonel T.E. Lawrence was doing in the remnants of the Ottoman Empire during the first World War, and his tactics have become standard issue for insurgents around the world, looking to dislodge foreign powers, or even domestic ones. You must face that an successful insurgency is a death of a thousand cuts, fatal in sum, not one by one.

You cannot defeat an insurgency unless you can defeat them at a community level.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at July 26, 2006 11:58 AM
Comment #171018

1LT B wrote:

“Josh,

So? Anyone who doesn’t think that oil played a part in our decision to go to Iraq is out of his mind. Perhaps you haven’t noticed, but we kinda need the stuff to make our economy work. Perhaps you’d feel better if we just let no oil come in at all from the Middle East. If so, then I hope you’re comfortable with truly high gas prices. We still pay less than Europe and the rest of the world.”

1. “We” - i.e. the President of the U.S. - declared War on Terror on September 12th of 2001. In the mean time he has done absolutely NOTHING legislatively to lower - even relatively - our uptake of oil as an energy resource. Automobile and energy industry lobbying, anti-Kyoto, etc. have all made us even vulnerable to a supply shortage.

2. Since declaring the War on Terror and - given this “new” context - invading Iraq “for our oil” (please see my previous post) and playing cowboy rethorics on the rest of the world the oil price has risen over 167 PERCENT!

3. Oil companies are raking in record profits.

Bottom line: We are only protecting our standard of living in the short term, burdening future generations with piles of (war) debt and the geopolitical fallout coming to haunt us for years to come. Instead of playing the popular guitar we should be informing “the folks” that they should preserve energy, not protecting it at a huge cost. It’ll be our children paying the bill we are allowing to grow ever larger and larger.

I hope you see the analogy with the fake “official” inflation measures that do not match the true total cost of living increases that “folks” have to face. If we continue on this path it will go from worse to armageddon.

Posted by: Josh at July 27, 2006 4:32 AM
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