No irony. Really brilliant.
This widely linked post is funny, but very insightful. It accurately shows the crippling problems our military faces.
This article from Army Magazine, entitled Sun Tzu’s Bad Advice: Urban Warfare in the Information Age, contains radical ideas about what we must do to overcome the same set of problems.
This post by the always superb Wretchard at Belmont Club, ties the two together.
It is good to see some people are thinking hard instead of just saying (1) give up or (2) somebody (France, the media, Kerry, Kofi Annan, whoever) won’t let us win.
An organism that can’t adapt to its environment dies. Nostalgia for the old environment just puts off the day of painful adaptation, perhaps fatally. That is not going to happen to us. We are going to adapt and survive.
One of the great strengths America has in this war is that we have totally open discussion, including off the wall thinking. Off the wall situations require off the wall thinking. This situation we face – Suicidal maniacs from a failed civilization want to murder us all, and most people don’t believe it is really happening – sounds like something out of a science fiction novel by Philip K. Dick. But it is real.
We Americans are pragmatists. One of our greatest enemies, Rommel, said the Americans knew less but learned faster than any enemy he ever faced. He also said the Americans had an admirable lack of respect for anything other than what worked. God willing we’ll always be like that.
Pray for clear thinking, and bravely facing the truth, and hard-nosed leadership.
Happy Memorial Day. God bless America.
3 thoughts on “Brilliant Stuff (Happy Memorial Day)”
The problem with Wretchard’s post is that he’s seeing an instantiation of a larger phenomenon. The reason that the front line and the home front are merging is that everybody’s ditching a 350+ year old geopolitical framework named after the treaty that first saw it in action, the Peace of Westphalia. This treaty endinging the 30 Years War ushered in westphalianism, the idea of national sovereignty being generally inviolable and what stayed inside your own borders was nobody else’s business.
Virtually all international treaties of any import incorporate westphalian assumptions into them including the UN. The jihad brigade walks the fault lines of westphalianism by not being a state but waging war like one. Tony Blair explicitly rejected westphalianism and nobody noticed, GWB rejects it all the time when he talks about literally fighting a war against non-state actors.
All the hot shot political analysts who go on in their business as usual analytical frameworks are just out to lunch. This is a huge change and nobody’s worked out all the implications, yours truly included. My only advantage is that I know enough not to trust any assumptions to hold at this point. Pretty much everything on the international stage needs to be checked for westphalianism and whether the group/agreement is still holding because nobody has thought through the fact that the group/agreement is a dead letter without major rework or the group/agreement depends on pieces of westphalianism that haven’t fallen yet.
“… everybody’s ditching a 350+ year old geopolitical framework …”
That’s not exactly right. The Westphalian model worked in Europe because there were a small number of states that fit the model. They were unitary, they had effective governments which more or less monopolized violence within their borders, which had an interest in the system such that unlimited war was discouraged, and which possessed coherent governments which could make bargains and be expected to be bound by them and fear the consequences of breaking them. All states were sovereign, but sovereignty was empirical not legalistic. If you could not hold your own as a player, either by your own military power or by alliance diplomacy, you were eaten alive.
Of course, this system did not always work even in Europe. Louis XIV, Napoleon, the Kaiser and Hitler all tried to reshape the system to a hegemonic one rather than a multipolar system of states, and waged wars of increasing intensity in the attempt. Of course all failed, due to the offshore balancer, Britain and its daughter and heir the USA.
The problem you correctly identify is that this Eurocentric model does not work well in most places other than Europe or states which closely resemble their European ancestors.
After WWII, during decolonization, there was an attempt to create a global system of “states” was created, and in an act of liberal wishful thinking, all these half-baked entities were given flags and called states and given de jure “sovereignty”. I bow to no one in my dislike of France, but there can be no doubt that it is a real country with a real history and culture and identity uniquely its own, with real laws and real police and prisons and a real military. France is the Westphalian state par excellence. On this scale, Mozambique is not a state. Colombia is not a state. Myanmar is not a state. Pakistan is barely a state.
So, the problem you are identifying goes back at least sixty years. We are simply recognizing that some of these regions don’t even have the vestiges of a state. Agreed this presents some difficulties. But this is really more a return to the world we knew before 1945, and before 1918 with the partition of the middle east. Back in the 19th century civilized nations sent military expeditions into to “savage” areas to occupy them, or on punitive raids, without worrying about whether they were fighting a “state” or not. The Russians overran the Caususes and annexed Chechnya. That was a region, not a state. The British went into the Sudan to destroy the “mahdist” “dervishes”. No state there, either. More of a haven for a terrorist movement. The United States fought the Moros in the Phillipines. They were not a state.
We are, I hope, and as you suggest, moving beyond the pretense that the world is divided into states. It isn’t. There are states, and there are other things, areas, groupings, territories, gangs, what have you. The days when someone in robes would come to the UN in New York and we’d pretend that he was as consequential as someone from Britain or Canada are long over.
We do need a vocabulary which accurately describes the current situation. But the current situation is not so much novel as a recognition that the old world never really went away, and the dreams of the 1945 generation were in large part delusions when it came to organizing the non-European world.
In the monologue at the beginning of “Patton”, it is claimed that “The aim of war is to make the other poor dumb bastard die for his country”. Of course it’s not. The point of war is to destroy your opponent’s will to resist.
Over the past 50 years, a lot of experimentation and solid thought has gone into destroying the will to resist in the US (and other western powers). Terror, bald faced lies, disinformation, manipulating the media, visible international agreements followed by completely ignoring them, etc. have all provided notable successes.
We (the US, Blair and Bush, the Anglosphere, however you want to think of “We”) have not developed analogs of these techniques.
As good as the articles by Lt. Col. Leonhard (“Sun Tzu’s Bad Advice”) and Tom Barnett (“The Pentagon’s New Map”) may be, they still seem to put a lot of emphasis on “dieing for one’s country”. Yes, that will never go away. But our emphasis is on “shrinking the core” and winning individual cities without wiping them out, while theirs is in using the NYT and CBS to de-stabilize the government and destroy public support for the policies they don’t like. OK, we’ll win Afghanistan and Iraq, then Sudan, and probably at least one of Syria, Iran and North Korea. But there are a whole lot of countries in “the Gap”.
In a sense, this is one issue the leftoids have right. We can win as many military victories as we want, but we haven’t the time, resources or political will to handle the whole problem with this approach. They are wrong of course that becoming more pacifist and giving money to alleviate hunger and AIDS will solve the problem. If we hadn’t fed the North Korean army in the 90s, we would have had a different problem now than the Dear Leader.
Will a smarter urban combat and leviathan contain the non-state terror problem until those organizations collapse for lack of state sponsors and their own lack of productivity? It is a component of a solution. But i look at Spain and the current wrangling over what sovereignty should mean for Iraq in two months, and it can’t be the whole answer. Life is too short and the fellow travelers too numerous.
The leaflets we dropped in the past two campaigns are a really crude beginning. The compromise at Fallujah may help in some cases. But the central problem remains. How do we destroy the will to resist in a non-state organization? Bush and Blair are buying us time. But until we have an answer to that question, we do not have a road to victory.
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