Skip to comments.The Pipe Dream of Easy War
Posted on 07/21/2013 11:39:05 PM PDT by neverdem
A GREAT deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep, the novelist Saul Bellow once wrote. We should keep that in mind when we consider the lessons from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan lessons of supreme importance as we plan the military of the future.
Our record of learning from previous experience is poor; one reason is that we apply history simplistically, or ignore it altogether, as a result of wishful thinking that makes the future appear easier and fundamentally different from the past.
We engaged in such thinking in the years before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001; many accepted the conceit that lightning victories could be achieved by small numbers of technologically sophisticated American forces capable of launching precision strikes against enemy targets from safe distances.
These defense theories, associated with the belief that new technology had ushered in a whole new era of war, were then applied to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; in both, they clouded our understanding of the conflicts and delayed the development of effective strategies.
Today, budget pressures and the desire to avoid new conflicts have resurrected arguments that emerging technologies or geopolitical shifts have ushered in a new era of warfare. Some defense theorists dismiss the difficulties we ran into in Afghanistan and Iraq as aberrations. But they were not aberrations. The best way to guard against a new version of wishful thinking is to understand three age-old truths about war and how our experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq validated their importance.
First, war is political. As the 19th-century Prussian philosopher of war Carl von Clausewitz said, war should never be thought of as something autonomous, but always as an instrument of policy.
In the years leading up to the...
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OpEds like this is why I still check the NY Times.
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Wars are supposed to be publicly debated. The purpose of this is to avoid wars which the public doesn’t understand and focus on critical fights, not Presidential whim.
When was the last declared war?
Another good question. We haven’t had that question of declaring war debated since the Korean War began on 25 June 1950. Korea was sold to Americans as a “police action” under the UN when it was a real war. There was no declaration of war as happened in WW2 — and there haven’t been any since 8 and 11 December 1941. [America declared war on Japan only on 8 December; it declared war on Germany and Italy on 11 December after those two countries had declared war on America.]
When was the last declared war?The last one we won.
It’s a bit of a straw man headline.
US wars in the main combat phase are one thing — but occupation of a country with an insurgency will always turn into a war of attrition, and is best left to the locals.
I remember the diplomatic struggle with Turkey to bring the heavy 3rd (?) Army into Iraq before hostilities commenced in March 2003. Colin Powell could never get it done, so they launched without what would seem to be a major part of the pre-campaign strategy. I don’t know why he discounts that fact in his critique.
Every war the U.S. has fought since World War II was basically a "colonial" war. This means there's no way to effectively defeat the enemy from a traditional standpoint when the sole purpose of the military campaign is to turn the enemy into suppliers and customers of global industries. There's no reason to lay waste to entire nations when the whole purpose of engaging them militarily is to transform them into trading partners.
We have had ZERO wars fought by us since WW2. Congress has not declared war on anybody since WW2, for the simple reason that Article 2 section 4 of the UN Charter forbids us to do so without UN approval. It has all been "police actions" or "authorization for the use of force".
We have not had victory, because we have not waged war. War involves the destruction of the enemy's capabilities to the point where they are forced to surrender or face extermination -- which were the choices given to Germany and Japan in 1945.
BTW, I am a firm believer that the UN is a total joke and the U.S. ought to throw these bums out of their NYC digs to go to their other headquarters in Brussels, Belgium; Geneva, Switzerland; or Nairobi, Kenya. We then implode the UN building and let NYC develop the property. America withdraws from the UN and severs all ties with it.
Nor was there a treaty of peace, only a cease-fire agreement.
This is one more Constitutional duty Congress has abdicated.
I don't think so. I don't know who wrote it, McMaster or the NY Times, but war is man's most complex undertaking, IMHO. There's a reason that Sherman said "war is hell." If you don't make it so, you're unlikely to win.
US wars in the main combat phase are one thing but occupation of a country with an insurgency will always turn into a war of attrition, and is best left to the locals.
Despite technological and tactical superiority, people get maimed and killed for nothing without the twin strategies of attrition and long term occupation. Witness Germany, Japan and South Korea, as imperfect as South Korea remains. That's the only way to really win, at least in American history. That's why World War I, Vietnam and Iraq were utter wastes. It's why Afghanistan will likely be another waste.
I write this while attempting to be a serious student of history. I graduated basic training on my 18th birthday. I went to Vietnam twice as an Army infantryman when I could have gone to the City College of New York while it was still tuition free in 1969.
I saw the World Trade Center burning from the Bronx on September 11, 2001. As a general rule, we no longer have what it takes to do anything beyond punitive expeditions because the left will undermine it, unless it's Clinton in the Balkans, or Obama in Libya. Witness Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. I'm tired of my fellow citizens getting killed and maimed for nothing!
P.S. We got a stalemate in Korea because of geography and superior firepower. Korea's DMZ was defensible because Korea was a peninsula. LBJ's failure to appreciate the nature of that stalemate led to our follies in Southeast Asia where the commies got havens for their ground forces in North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
P.P.S. I recently heard, I forgot where it was, maybe on a Charlie Rose show or C-Span, that the Chicoms would not commit ground forces to Southeast Asia because our artillery units chewed them up so badly in Korea. It's what could be expected when you put your troops in mass formations, but has any one else heard that?
During the time between the German-Russian Non Aggression Pact and 22 June 1941, the American Left and CPUSA did everything they could to sabotage war supplies being shipped to the UK to fight Germany. After the German invasion the Left did a 180 degree turn and became one of the strongest backers of war supplies — especially to the Soviet Union. The Left also clamored for a second front to ease the German pressure on the Soviet Union.
Victory in Europe left Russia with a lot of Eastern Europe that Stalin did not want to give back and so the Russian troops stayed on and these Eastern European countries became communist states will allegiance to Moscow.
The American Left followed the Soviet party line: Western allies bad, Soviet Union and its captive Eastern states as good.
The American Left sees this country is the aggressor in everything we do. It undermines American interests every chance it gets. The Soviet Union is gone, so the American Left has made common cause with the Muslim Islamofascists. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Until there's a way to counter the American Left, America can never successfully win a war. The problem is that the U.S. State Department also undermines American interests because it is heavily penetrated by the Left. Neither SecState John F’ing Kerry or SecDef Chuck Hagel are the sharpest knives in the drawer. Neither has American interests in mind; they are surrender monkeys. Ditto for their bosses, Barry Obongo and Vallerie Jarrett.
The Soviet Union is gone....You think?
Lately, I'm not so sure.
Spot on analysis.
The Chinese wouldn’t commit troops to Indochina because the Vietnamese didn’t want ‘em there, historically they are enemies. Also in Korea, the 2 million Chinese volunteers had dropped something like 500K casualties and there wasn’t much of an infrastructure for battlefield medics. The amphibious landing behind their lines, added to much better training on the UN side (firepower wasn’t too different, not least because of Chinese numerical superiority), caused a pretty rapid collapse of the apparent commie success. The Korean DMZ should have been established along the border with China, and I’d be surprised if that isn’t accomplished sometime in the next twenty years.
The reason the headline is a straw man is, there is no Easy War Pipe Dream — main combat really results in rapid success, but our armed forces shouldn’t be used as the local gendarmes. It has to be followed by effective local recruitment. After Saddam was found, he should have been given a televised drumhead trial and shot. All trace of his sorry ass should have been bulldozed or burned, and that televised. Iraq should have been partitioned to create independent Kurdistan (our Turkish “allies” and Syrian and Iranian enemies would have complained of course) and the rest left to a nice civil war. To reprise, the best part of a Muzzie civil war is, everyone wins.
That's not how they write the history of their Korean tactics, whatever it's worth. They see themselves as successful in deploying huge numbers of light infantry that overwhelmed American forces by their decenhttp://bevinalexander.com/excerpts/korean-war/tactics-chinese-communists-korean-war.htmtralized control.
Mao wanted to surpass the Soviets, and cooked up the volunteer invasion scheme; the Russian advisors unexpectedly supported the idea. Oddly enough, the North Koreans had some top generals who opposed the idea, on the basis that the US had very deep experience with large amphibious invasions (from WWII) and a peninsula was an ideal geography for a decisive result from such an invasion. They were overruled, and during that terrible UN retreat to the Pusan perimeter, they looked dead wrong. It didn’t last. Attempts to crush the perimeter failed time after time, and a breakout started as a diversion just ahead of the Inchon landings.
There it is.
Thanks for the ping!
The reds took a break from history during our Vietnam War.
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The most immediate need was for anti-aircraft artillery, units to counter the overwhelming American air power over North Vietnam. Ho would request Chinese AAA units during a meeting with Mao in May of 1965 and PLA forces would begin flowing into North Vietnam in July of 1965 to help defend the capital of Hanoi and the transportation network to include railroad lines and bridges. This movement of troops from China was not lost on the U.S. as reported in a Top Secret CIA Special Report which identified seven major PLA units in North Vietnam to include the 67th AAA Division, and an estimated 25,000 to 45,000 Chinese combat troops total.  Recent Chinese sources indicate that this PLA AAA Division did indeed operate in the western area of North Vietnam.  In addition to AAA forces the PLA also provided missiles, artillery and logistics, railroad, engineer and mine sweeping forces. These forces would not only man AAA sites but would also build and repair Vietnamese infrastructure damaged or destroyed by U.S. airstrikes.  Such units would have quite a bit of repair work to do given that there would be more than a million tons of bombs dropped by U.S. aircraft upon North Vietnam from 1965 to 1972.  The Second Vietnam War would drag on for years as a sort of operational stalemate existed in the skies over North Vietnam. The U.S. could and did bomb the North at will, but the sheer numbers of Chinese forces, to include a total of 16 AAA divisions serving with a peak strength of 170,000 troops attained in 1967, would ensure that a high price would be paid by U.S. pilots with targets often rapidly rebuilt after destruction.  Chinese engineering and logistics units would perform impressive feats of construction throughout their stay in North Vietnam effectively keeping the transportation network functioning.
The Korean DMZ should have been established along the border with China, and Id be surprised if that isnt accomplished sometime in the next twenty years.
That's why and when the Chicoms got directly involved in the ground combat in the Korean War. Our forces were on or approaching the Yalu River, the historical border between China and Korea, which the Middle Kingdom viewed as another vassal state. An American ally on their border was unacceptable.
The reason the headline is a straw man is, there is no Easy War Pipe Dream main combat really results in rapid success, but our armed forces shouldnt be used as the local gendarmes. It has to be followed by effective local recruitment.
That's only been done in Grenada and Panama, both relatively small and isolated.