Cross-posted from zenpundit.com
Colonel Keith Nightingale, was featured at Thomas Rick’s Best Defense blog “future of war” series at Foreign Policy.com. It is a strong piece, well worth reading:
The seven ingredients of highly adaptive and effective militaries
The there are two great truths about the future of war.
The first is that it will consist of identifying and killing the enemy and either prevailing or not. We can surmise all sorts of new bells and whistles and technologies yet unknown, but, ultimately, it comes down to killing people. It doesn’t always have to happen, but you always have to prepare to make it happen, and have the other guy know that.
The other great truth is that whatever we think today regarding the form, type, and location of our next conflict, will be wrong. Our history demonstrates this with great clarity.
Well then, how do we appropriately organize for the next conflict if both these things are true? There are a number of historical verities that should serve as guides for both our resourcing and our management. In no particular order, but with the whole in mind, here are some key points to consider that have proven historically very valuable in times of war. The historic degree of support for any one or all within the service structures usually indicated the strengths and shortfalls of our prior leadership vision, preparation, and battlefield successes or failures at the time…..
Nightingale goes on to explain the important variables of technology, intelligence, personnel quality eccentric or maverick thinkers, linguistic and cultural expertise, deployability and leadership. His points are sound and I recommend them with general agreement.
One area I wish he had spent more time expounding upon was the part “prevailing or not
“. We face a major problem here in that the current generation of American leaders, our bipartisan elite, our ruling class – call them whatever you will – do not seem to care if America wins wars or not
Certainly, our civilian leaders stand ever ready to claim political credit
from any tactical success or bask in the reflected glory of the admirable heroism of individual soldiers, Marines, pilots and sailors. And no one wants to be the guy blamed for an overseas disaster (“Who lost China?”, the Vietnam Syndrome, Desert One, Iraq) or losing a war, but winning one? Victory in a strategic sense? Not really a priority for this administration or its prominent GOP critics. Not even close.
While the Beltway elite are generally fairly enthusiastic about starting wars, once begun the orientation of our officials appears to be one of “management” rather than “leadership”. The war is perceived a problem to be “managed” – like unemployment, sex scandals or high gas prices – in terms of how short term public perceptions of the war impact domestic politics and the fortunes of politicians, donors, lobbyists and other credentialed, upjumped ward heelers. Victory, if it comes, is as likely to be a product of chance rather than design. Few nations as fantastically wealthy and militarily puissant as the United States could lose a war to an enemy as backward and impoverished as the Taliban without an impressively clueless political culture wallowing in narcissism and moral retardation.
Perhaps this astrategic
or anti-strategic posture is merely the natural course of cultural evolution in complex, imperial powers
. Did Roman senators, patricians or the plebian masses living on the dole in Rome circa 180 ad trouble themselves to look beyond the pleasures of the bath house or the table and worry overmuch about the sacrifices of the legions manning the the forts on the Rhine that kept them safe? Did the British aristocracy and gentry of Hanoverian Great Britain
cease their addictions to gambling and whoring long enough to preserve their empire in North America?
Has human nature changed enough in the last two hundred or two thousand years that it is reasonable to expect that we are any different?
There is time to turn away from the path of decline, oligarchy and creeping authoritarianism – America is an incredibly wealthy and powerful nation, blessed in many ways, which is why we can survive periodic bouts of corruption and gross mismanagement. However, this time we have raised a new class among us; children of the sixties and seventies, now turning gray, and this Manhattan-Beltway nomenklatura
have the ethical compass of the locust and the spirit of the courtier as a form of class solidarity
. They seem to view their fellow Americans with a mixture of paternalism, disdain and fear,
They will go neither easily nor quietly.