Tag Archives: william lind

William Lind: a voice from the past explains our broken army

Summary: We applaud the heroism and sacrifices of our troops, but remain blind to the incapacity of our army. Here William Lind explains our military’s core problem and how to fix it. Only our intervention will make this possible (excerpt through crushing defeat, as happened to Prussia).

“The spirit of the army is the spirit of its officers.”
— Attributed to Prussian General Ernst von Rüchel (1754-1823).

Samuel Pepys by John Hayls (1666).

Samuel Pepys by John Hayls (1666). The National Gallery.

 

A Voice From the Past

By William S. Lind

From traditionalRIGHT
25 August 2015

Here with their generous permission

 

Last year, friends gave me a splendid Christmas present in the form of all ten volumes of The Diary of Samuel Pepys covering the years 1660-1670. (As if that were insufficient, they accompanied it with a richly decorated chamber pot for the Imperial Library). Pepys, a civilian, was primarily responsible for developing the first modern naval administration, which turned a collection of ships into the Royal Navy.

The diary’s entry for July 4, 1663, touches on a broader matter. After visiting a general muster of the King’s Guards, Pepys wrote,

Where a goodly sight to see so many fine horse and officers, and the King, Duke (of York) and others come by a-horseback . . . (I) did stand to see the horse and foot march by and discharge their guns, to show a French Marquesse (for whom this muster was caused) the goodness of our firemen; which endeed was very good . . . yet methought all these gay men are not soldiers that must do the King’s business, it being such as these that lost the old King (Charles I) all he had and were beat by the most ordinary fellows that could be.

Pepys’ theme, the defeat of parade-ground armies by “most ordinary fellows”, is an old one. It appears to be unknown to our own military, or, more likely, they know it but cannot conceive it applies to them.

But it does. With all their vastly expensive equipment, they can put on a wonderful show, shows such as Gulf War I and the initial phase of Gulf War II. But once they no longer face another king’s Royal Guards and come up against those ordinary fellows, they lose. The U.S. Marines, who put on a show all the time, and a very convincing one, are now 0-4 against guys in bathrobes and flip-flops armed with rusty AKs. Pepys’ age-old theme repeats itself.

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William Lind describes 2 visions of America’s future

Summary:  What will America look like in in 2025, after another decade of our long war? In the second of this series William Lind describes two scenarios, failed and successful responses to risks regarded as likely among paleoconservatives. Seeing visions of the future like this can help you decide how to vote in November 2016. Perhaps the fears of each group are what most clearly distinguishes Left and Right in America.

Coin Toss

 

Our future as two sides of the coin
By William S. Lind

 

The first toss of the coin: a dark vision

America’s “long war” continues to prove Sun Tzu correct: no nation ever benefits from a long war. From Afghanistan through Iraq to war with Iran (following Congress’s rejection of President Obama’s deal with Iran, which led to Iran building an atomic bomb, which led to an American attack), in Syria, and now in Saudi Arabia, America has failed to attain closure while spending itself into ruin. As I write in this year of 2025, the Federal debt is six times the GNP, revenues cover only 23% of federal expenditures, and it takes 25,000 dollars to buy one yuan {currency of China, now worth $0.16}. Almost half of the federal budget goes to paying interest on the debt. It is rumored the Estates General will soon be called, in the form of a Constitutional Convention.

In Washington, since the explosion of a suitcase nuke in Seattle on 25 December 2024, both political parties agree we must continue to fight. Although al Qaeda claimed credit for the Seattle bombing, American intelligence traced the origin of the plot to Saudi Arabia. This was no surprise; everyone had known for decades that most Sunni extremism had its roots in Saudi money. Previously, the United States had to pretend otherwise because of its dependence on Saudi oil. Now, with imported oil unaffordable, that was irrelevant.

Coin Toss: heads

The Saudi war is following the usual course. The initial American invasion, with three divisions, quickly captured Riyadh and destroyed the Saudi state. Fourth Generation war goes on in all the populated parts of Saudi Arabia — even the Shiites are fighting us, at the same time they fight the Sunnis — and jihadi volunteers pour in to defend Mecca and Medina, both of which U.S. troops occupied at the demand of our military commanders, who said they were being used as safe havens.

American air, drone and missile strikes hit daily throughout the Islamic Middle East and Southwest Asia. None of what we do appears to make any difference. Washington’s policy remains one of serial failure: when what we do fails in one venue, we go on to do the same thing somewhere else. Only complete financial ruin, which is rapidly approaching, appears likely to change anything.

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William Lind looks at our generals, sees “rank incompetence”.

Summary: Concluding this series about our senior military leaders we have a typically brilliant and brutal analysis by William Lind. This would have been shocking news in 2000; a decade of failed wars show it to be the simple truth. We can do better, but the Pentagon will not reform without pressure from us.  Rightly so; it’s a professional military — but it’s our responsibility.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

“Chabrias said that the best commanders were those who understood their enemies. … He also said that an army of stags led by a lion was more formidable than an army of lions led by a stag.”

— From “The Sayings of Kings and Great Commanders” by Plutarch (46-120). Chabrias was a great Athenian general (d 357 BC). It need not be either of these choices; we can have lions led by lions — and even a few generals who understand our foes.

Lions led by donkeys

Rank Incompetence

By William S. Lind
The American Conservative, January/February 2013
Posted with the generous permission of the author and the TAC.“

It was tragic that the career of General David Petraeus was brought down by a mere affair. It should have ended several years earlier as a consequence of his failure as our commander in Afghanistan. Petraeus, like every other theater commander in that war except Stanley McChrystal, could have been replaced by a concrete block and nothing would have changed. They all kept doing the same things while expecting a different result.

Thomas Ricks’s recent book The Generals has reintroduced into the defense debate a vital factor the press and politicians collude in ignoring: military incompetence. It was a major theme of the Military Reform Movement of the 1970s and ’80s. During those years, a friend of mine who was an aide to a Marine Corps commandant asked his boss how many Marine generals, of whom there were then 60-some, could competently fight a battle. The commandant came up with six. And the Marine Corps is the best of our services.

Military incompetence does not begin at the rank of brigadier general. An old French proverb says that the problem with the generals is that we select them from among the colonels. Nonetheless, military competence — the ability to see quickly what to do in a military situation and make it happen — is more rare at the general officer level. A curious aspect of our promotion system is that the higher the rank, the smaller the percentage of our competent officers.

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William Lind: thoughts about 4GW, why we lose, and how we can win in the future

Summary: Twenty-five years ago, in October 1989, the Marine Corps Gazette published  “The Changing Face of War: Into the Fourth Generation”, by four active duty military officers and a civilian military historian. It explained that a new era of warfare had begun, sparked by the invention of nukes (rendering suicidal conventional war among major powers), brought to maturity by Mao (and improved by generations of success and failed insurgencies since then). We failed to learn how to fight these, as proven by our two failed wars after 9/11, the new bipartisan ones being launched now, and the future ones being prepared in Africa.

This series of posts will help you better understand our defeats and prepare you for what is to come. And, perhaps, help motivate you to join the effort to retake the reins of America. This is the second chapter, by guest author William Lind (the civilian co-author of Into the Fourth G). This is the first of two posts today.

4GW

Source: Syed Zaid Zaman Hamid

 

Thoughts on the 25th anniversary
of the publication of the original article on
the Four Generations of Modern War

By William Lind

 

Since the publication of the original article in the Marine Corps Gazette, three things have happened.

First, events have justified the article’s description of the Fourth Generation as war that escapes the state framework. The high-tech alternative, which became known subsequently by a number of buzzwords — the Revolution in Military Affairs, Transformation, Net-Centric Warfare, etc. — is not where war has gone. Most of the high-tech systems we continue to buy have proven irrelevant to fighting non-state forces. So far, at least, the F-22 has not shot down a single Taliban flying carpet.

Second, the theory of 4GW has been expanded and refined, a process that will continue. The most important addition to the theory has been Martin van Creveld’s book, The Transformation of War. Tom Hammes’s book, The Sling and the Stone, while sound on the first three generations, has brought confusion to much of the discussion of 4GW because it gets the Fourth Generation wrong. Insurgency is not a dialectically qualitative change in war. It is merely one way in which war has been fought for a long time. As van Creveld puts it, 4GW is not a change in how war is fought (though it brings such changes) but in who fights and what they fight for. That is a dialectically qualitative change, the biggest since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.

The third thing that has happened is actually a negative, i.e., something that did not happen. Despite overwhelming evidence that 4GW is the wave of the future (including four defeats of the U.S. armed forces by 4GW opponents: Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan), the U.S. military has not moved to prepare for it. It remains, and apparently will remain until covered by the lid of history’s trashcan, a Second Generation military. That is to say, it reduces war to putting firepower on targets.

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How I learned to stop worrying and love Fourth Generation War. We can win at this game.

Summary: Looking through the archives of any website discussing modern war quickly reveals how little we have learned since 9-11, despite our futile but large expenditures of money and blood. The resistance to war with Syria (outcome still unknown) suggests that the time might have come to dust off these lessons. Perhaps America has grown weary of failure, and become willing to explore different paths.

This series expands on a post from July 2005. The other chapters:

  1. We are the attackers in the Clash of Civilizations. We’re winning.
  2. Handicapping the clash of civilizations: bet on America to win

4gw vs USAF bomber

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. History of defense vs offence
  3. A new era of defensive strategy
  4. Making the change
  5. About fourth generation warfare
  6. About the win rate of foreign armies fighting insurgents

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(1) Introduction

In 2009 I wrote that our military’s response to 9-11 was to adopt the WW1-era cult of the offense (natural, since our military doctrine was largely WWi-era 2GW). Two failed occupations later, we continue to seek foreign monsters to destroy. The American public’s opposition to intervention in Syria indicates that the bankruptcy of this doctrine has become obvious. But what can replace it?

In both his “On War” articles, in the Fourth Generation Warfare Field Manual, and particularly in his article “Strategic Defense Initiative”, William Lind points to a possible solution to America’s strategic problems:

{O}ne matter of prime importance seemed to be agreed by all parties: in the so-called War on Terror, America must remain on the offensive. … There is little doubt that “being on the offensive” sounded good to most voters. But if the objective is to design a strategy that brings victory in the War on Terror, a different approach may have much to recommend it.

Lind quotes from Carl von Clausewitz’s On War :

“{D}efense is simply the stronger form of war, the one that makes the enemy’s defeat more certain. We maintain unequivocally that the form of warfare that we call defense not only offers greater probability of victory than attack, but that its victories can attain the same proportions and results.”

Lind’s essay develops the strategic implications of a defensive strategy. Quite sensibly, since history shows us that a defensive posture is stronger than offense. Look at Europe: since the Treaties of Westphalia in 1648 few invaders have achieved profitable victories against roughly equal opponents; all of the large aggressors have lost. This post looks at other aspects of this solution.

(2) History of defense vs offence

Bill Bonner, an American expatriate living in France, once observed that after 300+ years of French military adventures — with their dead scattered over Europe – the French have considered what they gained from this sacrifice, and find it insufficient. Perhaps the French and their neighbors in Europe have learned the impotence of 2nd and 3rd generation militaries in a 4th generation world. Their conventional wars against each other produced no victors; their 4GWs waged as colonial powers after WW2 produced only defeats.

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What could go wrong if we attack Syria?

Summary: Lost amidst the details and blather about our proposed attack on Syria is the possibility that we might get hurt. More accurately, that our grand strategy makes a severe defeat highly likely. If not in this crises, then in one of the future crises our policies seek out — and even create as needed.

Keep Calm: Set World on Fire

“Early and provident fear is the mother of safety.”
— Edmund Burke to the House of Commons, 11 May 1792

“Fear cannot be without hope nor hope without fear.”
— Baruch Spinoza, Ethics (1677)

Contents

  1. What could go wrong?
  2. A note from the past?
  3. About our military
  4. For More Information

(1) What could go wrong?

“Fear is sharp-sighted, and can see things underground, and much more in the skies.”
— Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote de la Mancha (1605-1615)

US foreign policy has been one of bellicose response to all challengers, trusting on the support of our allies, the weakness of our foes — and their inability to work together. We consider it a winning formula in the sense that the only serious blowback was 9-11. So far.

On the other hand, our contempt for diplomacy has quickly escalated many confrontations into military conflicts — most of which we lose (see section 3). We lose in the sense of achieving no national goals, paid for by dead and crippled soldiers and wasted resources. These loses are tolerable for a nation of our size and vigor, and domestic political dynamics keep this system running despite its 50+ years of failure.

This policy is the equivalent of Russian Roulette with a revolver of many chambers. The odds of disaster are small for any individual intervention. If continued long enough we will find a chamber with a loaded cartridge, starting a chain of events with large, unpredictable, and probably unpleasant results. We need not speculate at how events in a small nation can shake the world. The last century provides a clear example with the assassination on 28 June 1914 of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo by six Bosnian Serb assassins.

(2) A note from the past reminding us of what can happen

“Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.”
— John F. Kennedy, inaugural address on 20 January 1961

In hindsight WWI was the inevitable result of growing tensions in Europe — tensions that the great nations not only failed to resolve, but repeatedly played upon. William Lind explains

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Update about one of the seldom-discussed trends shaping our world: 4GW

Summary: One of the great stories of 21st century looks to be the conflict between nations using conventional military methods (2GW and 3GW), and forces using 4GW. So far the latter are winning almost every time. America’s inability to adapt to this new world, part of our larger #FailureToLearn, is another strike against the Second Republic (that built on the Constitution). Here’s a brief status report on the war, concluding with a new article by William Lind, our Thucydides.

4GW

Source: Syed Zaid Zaman Hamid website

Image source:  Syed Zaid Zaman Hamid

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One of the interesting aspects of recent history is the coincidence of

  1. the collapse of discussion about 4GW in US military and geopolitical circles,
  2. victories by insurgents using 4GW methods over foreign armies in Iraq and Afghanistan, &
  3. most important, the perhaps history-making victory by Bin Laden’s al Qaeda.

The second point is important to us, but the usual outcome since WW2 (after which 4GW became the dominate form of military conflict; see section C below).  The third point is the big one. Based on the available information, one of Bin Laden’s goals was to destabilize the US political regime. Massive increase in military spending (using borrowed funds). The bill of rights being shredded (note yesterday’s House vote to tear another strip from the 4th amendment). Our Courts holding show trials of terrorists — recruited, financed, supported by our security services. Torture and concentration camps.

Image from Encyclopedia Mythica

Bin Laden’s other goal, more clearly stated, was to incite a war between the USA and Islam — perhaps as Bismarck used wars to unify small States to create Germany. We took the bait: invading Iraq and Afghanistan, attacking Pakistan, Yemen. And now spreading our war into Africa. We see the domestic fruits of this in the hysterical reaction of the US people to the Boston Bombing.

9-11 might join the roster of history’s great battles, perhaps as the most effective single military operation in history.  It cost bin Laden his life and destroyed his organization. He probably considered the result well worth the cost. And like the head of the hydra, new offshoots of al Qaeda have appeared to replace the old.

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