Important reading for every American who wishes to understand our foreign wars

On rare occasions we are blessed with essays both brilliant and timely, words that meet our immediate needs.  Here we have one such by a veteran and military expert.  Here is a brief excerpt from the current issue of Armed Forces Journal — given only to illustrate as an sample of the author’s thinking, to encourage you to read in full this important article.

At the end are references to other valuable articles about our foreign wars.  Plus other posts from on the FM site discussing why a defensive strategy will work best for America in an age when 4GW has become the dominant form of warfare — and the home court advantage often becomes decisive.

Refusing battle – The alternative to persistent warfare“, Douglas MacGregor (Colonel, US Army, retired), Armed Forces Journal , April 2009 — Excerpt:

In this volatile setting {of today’s world}, direct American military involvement in conflicts where the U.S. itself is not attacked and its national prosperity is not at risk should be avoided. Otherwise, American military involvement could cause 21st century conflicts to spin out of control and confront Americans with regional alliances designed to contain American military power; alliances that but for American military intervention would not exist. It is vital the U.S. not repeat the mistakes of the British Empire in 1914: overestimate its national power by involving itself in a self-defeating regional war it does not need to fight and precipitate its own economic and military decline.

Avoiding this outcome demands new goals for American military power and a strategic framework that routinely answers the questions of purpose, method and end-state; a strategy in which American military action is short, sharp, decisive and rare. Such a strategy involves knowing when to fight and when to refuse battle.

… The lesson is a straightforward one: When national military strategy fails to answer the questions of purpose, method and end-state, military power becomes an engine of destruction not just for its intended enemies, but for its supporting society and economy, too. Regardless of how great or how small the military commitment, if the price of victory is potentially excessive, then the use of force should be avoided. After all, the object in conflict and crisis is the same as in wrestling: to throw the opponent by weakening his foothold and upsetting his balance without risking self-exhaustion. …

America’s experience since 2001 teaches the strategic lesson that in the 21st century, the use of American military power, even against Arab and Afghan opponents with no navies, no armies, no air forces and no air defenses, can have costly, unintended strategic consequences. Put in the language of tennis, the use of American military power since the early 1960s has resulted in a host of “unforced errors.” Far too often, national decision-making has been shaped primarily by the military capability to act, not by a rigorous application of the purpose/method/end-state strategic framework.

Decision-making of this kind explains why Operation Iraqi Freedom never had a coherent strategic design. The capability to remove Saddam Hussein was enough to justify action in the minds of American leaders who assumed that whatever happened after Baghdad fell to U.S. forces, American military and civilian contractor strength would muddle through and prevail. It’s also why U.S. forces were kept in Iraq long past the point when it was clear that the American military and contractor presence in Iraq was a needless drain on American military and economic resources.

The superficial thinking informed by a fanciful view of American history and international relations that gave birth to the occupation of Iraq is not a prescription for American prosperity and security in the 21st century. The recently annunciated military doctrine known as “persistent warfare” is a case in point.

Persistent warfare advocates the use of military power to change other peoples’ societies through American military occupation. It’s a dangerous reformulation of Thomas Jefferson’s advocacy for the bloody excesses of the French Revolution summed up in his slogan, “Until all men are free, no man is free.” Fortunately for the American people, President George Washington rejected Jefferson’s enthusiasm for an American alliance with Revolutionary France, an alliance that would have invited the destruction of the new U.S. “Twenty years’ peace, combined with our remote situation would enable us in a just cause to bid defiance to any power on earth,” Washington argued in 1796.

Washington understood the importance of making prudent choices in national military strategy at a time when the economic and political development of the United States was extremely fragile. Today, America’s economic woes along with the larger world’s unrelenting drive for prosperity creates the need for new choices in national military strategy. The most important choice Obama must make is to reject future, unnecessary, large-scale, overt military interventions in favor of conflict avoidance; a strategy of refusing battle that advances democratic principles through shared prosperity — not unwanted military occupation.

… Treating conflict avoidance as a declared strategic goal should give pause to those in Washington who think counterinsurgency is something American military forces should seek to conduct. For outside powers intervening in other peoples’ countries as we have done in Iraq and Afghanistan, so-called counterinsurgency has not been the success story presented to the American people. Making cash payments to buy cooperation from insurgent groups to conceal a failed policy of occupation is a temporary expedient to reduce U.S. casualties, not a permanent solution for stability.

Lord Salisbury, one of Britain’s greatest prime ministers, told his colleagues in the House of Commons “the commonest error in politics is sticking to the carcass of dead policies.” Salisbury’s words should resonate strongly with Americans today. America’s scientific-industrial base and the military power it supports give American policies and interests global influence, but the deliberate use of American military power to bring democracy to others in the world under conditions that never favored its success has actually weakened, not strengthened, American influence and economic power.

It is crucial that choices among competing resource allocations in defense be illuminated by a much clearer perception of their likely strategic impact. Strategy and geopolitics always trump ideology, and military action is not merely a feature of geopolitics and statecraft, it’s the employment of it.

The choices the new president makes among various military missions will ultimately decide what national military strategy America’s military executes. Of the many missions he must consider, open-ended missions to install democracy at gunpoint inside failed or backward societies along with unrealistic security guarantees to states and peoples of marginal strategic interest to the U.S. are missions America’s military establishment cannot and should not be asked to perform.

Today, America’s share of the total world gross national product is roughly 32 percent, substantially less than its 49 percent share of 40 years ago. Yet the U.S., like the British Empire 100 years ago, continues to lead the world in the creation of wealth, technology and military power. And, thanks to American naval and aerospace supremacy, America retains the strategic advantage of striking when and where its government dictates, much as Britain did before World War I.

But like Britain’s resources in 1914, American resources today are not unlimited. Years of easy tactical military victories over weak and incapable nation-state opponents in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq have created the illusion of limitless American military power. This illusion assisted the Bush administration and its generals in frustrating demands from Congress for accountability; allowing politicians and generals to define failure as success and to spend money without any enduring strategic framework relating military power to attainable strategic goals.

The result is an unnecessarily large defense budget of more than $700 billion and military thinking that seeks to reinvigorate the economically disastrous policies of territorial imperialism. Unchecked, the combination of these misguided policies will increase the likelihood the U.S. follows the path of Britain’s decline in the 20th century. Though Britain was not defeated militarily in World War I, it squandered its blood and treasure on a self-defeating war with Germany in 1914 along with a host of imperial experiments in the aftermath of World War I, all of which were political, military and economic disasters for the British people. A strategy of refusing battle that routinely answers the questions of purpose, method and end-state in the conduct of military operations is the best way for the U.S. to avoid following in the footsteps of the British Empire into ruin.

About the author

From his Wikipedia entry:

Colonel Douglas A. Macgregor PhD. is a retired American senior military officer and author. He is widely recognized as one of the most influential military thinkers of the late 20th and early 21st Centuries.  

… Macgregor’s seminal work, Breaking the Phalanx: A New Design for Landpower in the 21st Century (Praeger, 1997) was the first book by an Active Duty military author since Brigadier General William Mitchell, U.S. Army Air Corps, to challenge the status quo and set forth detailed proposals for the radical reform and reorganization of U.S. Army ground forces. His follow-on work, Transformation under Fire: Revolutionizing How America Fights( Praeger, 2003) expands on the concepts and ideas for reform and includes a foreword by a former British four-star general, Sir Rupert Smith.

… Macgregor is now the lead partner with Potomac League, LLC, an intellectual capital brokerage and consulting firm based in Reston, Virginia.

… Macgregor’s newest book: Warrior’s Rage: The Great Tank Battle of 73 Easting; will be due out the Fall of 2009. In it Macgregor explains how the failure to finish the battle with the Republican Guard in 1991 led to Iraq’s second major confrontation with the United States in 2003 resulting in two hollow military “victories” and the tragic blood-letting that continues today in Iraq.

Other valuable perspectives on our foreign wars

Each of these deserves a detailed discussion.  Unfortunately lack of time makes that impossible.  All I can do is recommend that you read these.

  1. Let’s Win the Wars We’re In“, John A. Nagl (Lieutenant Colonel, US Army, retired), Joint Force Quarterly, 1st Quarter 2009
  2. Let’s Build an Army to Win All Wars“, Gian P. Gentile, (Colonel, US Army), Joint Force Quarterly, 1st Quarter 2009
  3. The damage done – The Bush administration discredited crucial strategic concepts“, Ralph Peters, Armed Forces Journal, March 2009 
  4. America’s economic decline“, Loren Thompson, Armed Forces Journal, March 2009 

For more information from the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar.  Of esp interest these days:

Some posts about the need for America to adopt a defensive strategy:

  1. Thoughts on FMFM 1-A, an important tool for survival in the 21st century, 6 July 2005
  2. Lessons Learned from the American Expedition to Iraq, 29 December 2005
  3. Why We Lose at 4GW, 4 July 2007
  4. A solution to 4GW – the introduction, 12 March 2008
  5. How America can survive and even prosper in the 21st Century – part I, 7 June 2008
  6. How America can survive and even prosper in the 21st Century – part II, 14 June 2008

42 thoughts on “Important reading for every American who wishes to understand our foreign wars

  1. “America’s experience since 2001 teaches the strategic lesson that in the 21st century, the use of American military power, even against Arab and Afghan opponents with no navies, no armies, no air forces and no air defenses, can have costly, unintended strategic consequences.”

    Soft war is always expensive, prolonged, and fraught with unsought consequences. Wise? Perhaps. Nicer than the “more rubble less trouble” alternative? Certainly. To paraphrase the Beatles, “The war you take is equal to the war you make.”

  2. Charming but naive. The U.S. military budget does not exist in order to maintain our army; the U.S. army (and navy and air force and marine corps) exist in order to provide an excuse to continually increase the U.S. military budget. Like a giant tapeworm, the U.S. military-industrial complex has now taken over Uncle Sam, and he is allowed to keep walking around only in order to provide sustenance to the parasite. Alas, as the parasite demands ever increasing resources, Uncle Sam is not long for this world. In the meantime, the usual symptoms of chronic parisitism show themselves: inanition, mental confusion, incoherence, weakness, etc.

    At this point the U.S. miltiary-indsutrial complex parasite has grown so large and the host so weak that killing the parasite would destroy the host.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: A sad but largely true perspective. See the Center for Defense Information for lots of supporting evidence. However it is vital that we understand that it need not be so!

  3. I didn’t understand the comparison with Britain in 1914, they could hardly stand aloof from a conflict which would decide the fate of Europe.

  4. This is hardly new or original – even when it is true and I can only agree. Once again the Israelis are ahead in warfare and understand after twenty years of fighting with the Palestinians in 4GW style that they could only respond by withdrawing from most occupied areas and building a wall/fence. This is a defensive move and it doesn’t stop all attacks, but it has made the problem of suicide terrorism more manageable. Israel is today a giant “gated community”, but I can hardly see any other options for the Israelis. Even a peace treaty and the creation of Palestine as a state wouldn’t change the fact that Israel is surrounded by a sea of poor and desperate Palestinians.

    The United States is still far behind since it is still caught in the “cult of attack”, but bad policy-making doesn’t really help either. After the Vietnam War the chairman of JCS general Colin Powell created the Powell doctrine, which basically stated that military forces should only be employed in future war when there was a clear exit-strategy and only with overwhelming force. It worked in the Gulf War of 1991, but was since then diluted. Mostly because the politicians were angry that the generals kept saying “no” to their ideas of intervention there and there. Like secretary of state Albright once said to general Powell regarding the question of intervention in Bosnia: “So why do we have this wonderful big, shiny army if we never want to use it?”.

    The US military is like a shark. It can only survive as long as it keeps swimming. If it can’t be used it will become irrelevant for the politicians and die. The same mechanism works the same way in even much smaller countries. As part of my PhD I have interviewed several high-ranking officers in the Danish military who are quite frank that they would face cutbacks if they didn’t play along and committed forces for international operations. We now have a small air force (48 planes) committed to defend the air space of Denmark, Iceland and the Baltic countries. We have a small navy hunting pirates in the Indian Ocean and a small army fighting in Helmand i Afghanistan. We also had a recent defense white paper stating that the armed forces could face armed confrontations around the North Pole (a large part might be Danish because of our possession of Greenland) and should – oh by the way – prepare itself for interventions in Africa as part of our “humanitarian militarism”.

    But of course we get something in return. Our efforts in empire-building are certainly not wasted and no soldier has died in vain: Our prime minister just got the position as Secretary General for NATO.

  5. Col Gentile points out the difference in operational art between FM 100-5 and FM 3-0 but that misses the point. What if the doctrine writers for FM 3-0 wanted to convey more than an linear if-then approach? “knowing when and if simultaneous combintations[of offense, defense, and stability operations]are appropriate and feasible” is a function of a planning process that includes designing operations with operational art in mind and design that includes non-lethal effects.

    The military needs to be mnore than a blunt instrument and that includes its education and training. sadly, Col Gentile gives one the impression that unless the training comes from a US Military institution with a set in stone US Military solution then its all unacceptable. von Moltke the Elder is emulated and studied in the military, if they really intended to emulate his principles then they would have also emulated his concepts of how officers are educated and trained; with a very healthy dose of civilian education, education when synthesized with military principles and experience gives an officer a wider frame of reference. It is not rocket science to wield a blunt instrument; it takes finesse and a more complex understanding of the dynamics to design the kind of operational art that FM 3-0 articulates and modern conflict demands. (yes, there is a difference between complicated and complex. the MIlitary does complicated well; complicated is planning logistics and multiple unit moves. The military does not do complex and in fact it abhors complex because the complex requires deep theoretical understanding of social dynamics.

  6. @electrophoresis:
    Your point about the Military-Industrial Complex is a good one. The Military tapeworm is rather a wee invader compared to the Entitlement parasite*. The Military has a straightforward link to the Constitution. For Entitlements, further mental gymnastics are required.

    *http://perotcharts.com/category/challenges-charts/page/14

  7. Lord Salisbury, one of Britain’s greatest prime ministers, told his colleagues in the House of Commons “the commonest error in politics is sticking to the carcass of dead policies.”

    Can anybody cite any movies, bestselling novels, songs, or other popular icons that celebrate the current “Global War on Terror,” or whatever it is that we are now fighting? For all the “Support the Troops” incantations, where are the “Willie and Joe” cartoons? The cavalry coming to the rescue? The Black Sheep squadron?

    There is something phony, artificial, contrived about the GWOT. It is George Bush in a flight suit; Cheney snarling. It is a bunch of three and four letter acronyms. Petraeus is no Patton, no Eisenhower, no McCarthur, or even a Marshall. No Grant, no Sherman, no Custer. It is boring – or at least we are bored.

    The American Empire is going out — not with a bang, but a whimper.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: That’s an easy question — “Team America: World Police“! OK, maybe not. That the only movie celebration of the GWOT is a commedy suggests you are correct; that it was a flop suggests that we’re not yet ready for that news.

  8. In the Salisbury quote, i would change policy to treaties. The entire reason insurgencies exist is because we have signed on to treaties that create a giant umbrella for insurgencies to operate. in the civil war, we moved whole towns and put them in camps to contain insurgencies. we can’t do that today and i’m not arguing for a return to that. however, we should take a look at the current treaties we have signed to ensure they are compatible with our national security.

  9. Wait.. what? This guy is saying President Eisenhower did the right thing by stopping the Korea War? It was just the opposite. I agree that we should take a more practical approach to employing force but once you employ it, you win. No Victory, No Peace. Look at the mess North Korea is and then calculate that amount of treasure we have wasted since the 50s on that. We demonstrated that we could be beaten and that our resolve was weak. That is a formula for more wars, not less.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Yep. After all, what did this Eisenhower guy know about winning big wars? Too bad “Major Scarlet” was not there to help him win WWII and Korea!

  10. “This illusion assisted the Bush administration and its generals in frustrating demands from Congress for accountability; allowing politicians and generals to define failure as success and to spend money without any enduring strategic framework relating military power to attainable strategic goals.”

    The sentence above requires a comment for your readers’ consideration. Generals should only provide military options, not political options. They didn’t (or so it appeared). Their words and actions seemed to be driven by politics.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: You refer to how things should be, but in reality the military has wielded powerful political force since WWII.

  11. Comment #7: “Can anybody cite any movies, bestselling novels, songs, or other popular icons that celebrate the current “Global War on Terror,” or whatever it is that we are now fighting?”

    Well, as Team America tells us, Hollywood are pussies, hence no blockbuster war-prop movies from there. But Television is a different matter. I can think of ’24’ and ‘Navy CIS’ of the top of my head (and like FM I do not myself have a television, so I’m quite sure there are more).

  12. “Conflict avoidance” is a fruitful concept, a potential third way between empire and isolation. In the excerpt, the author derides the fantasy of intervening to install democracy everywhere in the world. That was more relevant in the Bush era than now. Obama has seemingly abandoned that rationale in favor of fighting where “terrorists” have forced us to. Unless the author treats the subject of terrorism elsewhere, defeating terrorism can still be employed as a “strategic” purpose.

    The dynamics of empire, as Duncan and electrophoresis point out, are missing from this analysis. Is the military under the control of the politicians or are the politicians under the control of the military/industrial complex? Eisenhower warned that the latter could become the case. Secondly, can America pursue/preserve its dominant economic position in the world, and the lifestyle of its citizens, without trying to control the behavior of lesser countries, by military means if necessary?

    “Conflict avoidance” and “defensive posture” are admirably sane prescriptions, but do they make any sense while we still follow a policy of dominating global resources and markets, and opposing any social/economic system other than our own?
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    Fabuis Maximus replies: I cannot find words sufficiently strong to disagree with the following.

    “Obama has seemingly abandoned that rationale in favor of fighting where “terrorists” have forced us to.”

    IMO the US has near-zero interest in the intra-tribal (for want of a better word) wars in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. The border was deliberately drawn thru the Pastun region as part of the Brit’s post-colonial divide and rule strategy. The situation will sort itself out without our intervention — and despite our intervention. Like al Qaeda’s role in Iraq, it is a minor factor in the conflict. Calling either side “terrorists” is just propaganda.

    Update: I misunderstood what sencal was saying. See comment #20 for his explanation.

  13. FM: thanks for great post and, as so often, valuable collection of reference materials. I tried three times to cut this down and it kept getting longer so am posting as is. Sorry!

    After reading Nagl: it seems (not for the first time) that overarching strategic considerations are often missing from military analysis. For example, Nagl chose not discuss the reasons why one would end up in these nasty ‘asymmetric’ situations involving COIN etc.

    This would involve more basic strategic considerations such as: ‘what do we want to achieve’, without knowing which ‘victory’ remains as elusive to achieve as to define.

    For example, what went wrong in Iraq? The leader was toppled rather quickly after which regime change – the goal of most inter-nation wars – should have proceeded. But it didn’t. Why not?

    Because it didn’t, unending COIN operations proceeded. In other words, either the situation after military ‘victory’ engendered insurgent operations or the strategy was faulty ab initio. In other words, military victory did not achieve its strategic objective, namely – in conventionally speaking – for the opponent to acknowledge defeat and come to terms.

    How are post-conflict ‘peace’ or ‘regime change’ defined and thus achieved? What are the preconditions, most of which reside in domains outside those that the military per se can command and control? Is there an accessible body of knowledge about this for military and political strategists or is the entire strategic universe basically a form of ad-hoc bumbling that Nagl oft decries in his military/tactical context of his article?

    How can one realistically fashion a military ‘mission’ without defining its ultimate political objectives? Or: without understanding how a victory or ‘peace’ is to be achieved, how can one determine the manner with which to apply force (aka ‘the military’) in order to achieve it? Perhaps this is akin to a Goedel’s theorem situation wherein the underlying operational paradigm (be it a scientific theorem or military campaign) does not include the entire universe of its own meaning, i.e. there is always a larger context. In other words, the objective of a military campaign is part of a context larger than the scope of what such military campaigns per se can achieve.

    Perhaps this issue can be simply framed as – and disregarding fundamentally crucial concerns as to why one would want to do such a thing in the first place: why and how does one realistically capture and occupy/subjugate a foreign nation? Is this something that the military is equipped to analyse, let alone effect (especially given the current disconnect between State and Pentagon)? Obviously, this requires spelling out the various economic and political quotients involved which presumably are the causus belli (though usually the last thing those in power wish to articulate).

    This leads to the inner strategic core: what is the overall mission of the US military, i.e. – to echo some of the posts above – the core motivations of the infamous military-industrial-congressional complex? More importantly, what is the underlying societal mission which such diplomatic, economic and military projection of influence (including force via the military) serves?

    To answer this we must first eradicate any gaps between perception and reality viz. perceived versus actual larger societal mission; this means understanding the overarching societal context in which military (and other national) operations always take place. (Of course – and not coincidentally – this is also required for dealing with the current ‘bankster-engendered’ crisis as well.)

    In short: what is America’s overall societal ‘mission’? It seems this is unclear right now. Perhaps it always has been, but circumstances are becoming more restricted, requiring a greater level of precision and efficacy than perhaps they heretofore have demanded.

    Whether in the economic or military-diplomatic spheres, and as Nagl eloquently points out within the military tactical context, we keep blundering from one ad-hoc response to the next even though such responses are governed by larger, ongoing motivations and modus operandi that remain essentially unexamined.

    Many keep repeating that first we need to fix the immediate crisis, then later we can address more structural concerns. As the militarily victorious and yet politically moribund Iraqi campaign exemplifies, perhaps this approach is putting the cart before the horse.

    In short, it is time to address substantive reform all around without which everything else basically fulfils Einstein’s notion of insanity: doing the same thing again and again but expecting different outcomes.

  14. The Iraqui oil is being sold to …? and the money is going to …? The trans afghanistan pipeline now runs from … to …. and is paid for by …? The Aynak copper mine could not be developed by the Afghan people for the Afghan people because … ?
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    Fabius Maximus replies: (1) Iraq’s oil revenue is going to the various Iraq governments. Oil being fungible, it does not matter to whom it is sold.

    (2) “The trans afghanistan pipeline now runs from … to …. and is paid for by …?”

    What trans-Afghanistan pipeline? The $7.6 billion Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline (TAPI) is just an idea, despite many attempts to build it (I think this 2002 announcement was the most recent). It’s moving foward, very slowly. See Wikipedia for details.

    (3) What is your point regarding the Aynak copper mine? From Wikipedia (it also has links to additional info from the Afghanistan Geological Survey):

    Copper mineralization at Aynak in Logar Province was stratabound and characterized by bornite and chalcopyrite disseminated in dolomite marble and quartz-biotite-dolomite schists of the Loy Khwar Formation. Although a resource of 240 million metric tons at a grade of 2.3% copper had been reported, a number of small ore lenses were potentially not practically and economically minable. Open pit and underground mining would be needed to exploit the main ore body, and other infrastructure problems, such as inadequate power and water, were also likely. The new (2005) Mining Law might favor the development of the deposit by using public tenders. The Government issued a public tender for the deposit in 2006 with a deadline of October 28, 2006, and expected the granting of concessions in February 2007. Nine mining companies from Australia, China, India, and the United States were interested in the prospect.

  15. Erasmus asked: This leads to the inner strategic core: what is the overall mission of the US military, i.e. – to echo some of the posts above – the core motivations of the infamous military-industrial-congressional complex?

    That’s simple. The core mission of the military-industrial complex is to grow larger. It has succeeded spectacularly at that mission.

    Erasmus went on to inquire: …What is the underlying societal mission which such diplomatic, economic and military projection of influence (including force via the military) serves?

    This betrays a severe confusion about the U.S. military-industrial complex. It has no societal mission. The U.S. military-industrial complex cares nothing about American society. It is not hostile to it, nor does the American military support our society (despite lip service in that direction): it is simply indifferent to American society.

    To cut through the confusion implied by this question, ask yourself: “What is the underlying societal mission of heroin dealers?” There is none. They want to get their customers hooked, then grow their operation as large as possible. Same deal with the U.S. military-industrial complex. They want to get their customers (congress and the Pentagon) hooked, then they want to grow their operation as large as possible. The consequences of that growth concern the U.S. military-industrial complex no more than the side effects of growing their operations concerns the Mexican drug cartels, or Monsanto which is currently attempting to create a monopoly on all genetically-modified seeds worldwide, or big pharma which are presently actively stamping out all inexpensive generic drugs worldwide especially in third-world countries, or Microsoft which is currently forcing a defective garbage operation system (Vista) down its customers’ throats despite ferocious resistance. None of these organizations think in terms of any kind of “societal” mission. They have no concern for American society. Like blind mindless e coli in a dish of agar, they simply strive to grow as much as possible.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: This is so cynical it deserves decisive refuation. Unfortunately, I see no rebuttal evidence, which is sad.

  16. Electro: my post was too long but I had originally intended to include from Pfaff:

    “Schumpeter remarked in 1919 that imperialism necessarily carries the implication of an aggressiveness, the true reasons for which do not lie in the aims which are temporarily being pursued…an aggressiveness for its own sake, as reflected in such terms as “hegemony,” “world dominion,” and so forth…expansion for the sake of expanding…. This determination cannot be explained by any of the pretexts that bring it into action, by any of the aims for which it seems to be struggling at the time…. Such expansion is in a sense its own “object.”[12]

    Perhaps this has come to apply in the American case, and we have gone beyond the belief in national exception to make an ideology of progress and universal leadership into our moral justification for a policy of simple power expansion. In that case we have entered into a logic of history that in the past has invariably ended in tragedy.”

    I think that, albeit less ‘cynically’, is similar to what you express. However, I continue to believe – and perhaps it is no more than superstition or whimsy – that although elites and their populations are often at odds, they are still part of the same cultural-societal tartan, inextricably woven together, and thus ultimately mutually responsible for each other’s continuation as such. Put another way, perhaps we could say: ‘we all get the elites we deserve.’

  17. For an entertaining overview: “Liquid war: Welcome to Pipelineistan“, Pepe Escobar, Asia Times, 26 March 2009 — Excerpt:

    The new Silk Road of energy sees Washington, Beijing, Moscow and Tehran fight for control of Caspian oil lines on a global energy battlefield on which the fate of humankind could well be settled. Pepe Escobar enters the Space Odyssey-style map room of Russian energy giant Gazprom, spends a rainy “night” in Georgia, and discovers the thrill of following energy around the “arc of instability”.

    I agree with FM that oil is fungible etc. However, who controls the flow is more important than anything else be those who control not only have access but can deny it to others. It doesn’t really matter, anyway. Under the refreshingly progressive new leadership in the White House, America will be totawy gween in a few short years and we won’t need that nasty stinky stuff any more anyway!

  18. FM: “This is so cynical it deserves decisive refuation. Unfortunately, I see no rebuttal evidence, which is sad.

    Oh, please. Electro is just running the same old junk con perfected by William Burroughs in “Junkie” and “Naked Lunch” wherein any capitalist entity can be likened to smack dealers. It’s not an argument but a literary device and a shopworn one at that.

    For the sake of comparison see this. The tone of sly collusion reminds one most of the passage in the the material referenced above concerning the hubris of Opium smokers in groups:

    “Now your heroin addict does not say hardly anything and that I can stand. But your Opium “Smoker” is more active since he still has a tent and a Lamp . . and maybe 7-9-10 lying up in there like hibernating reptiles keep the temperature up to Taking Level: How low the other junkies are “whereas We – WE have this tent and this lamp and this tent and this lamp and this tent and nice and warm in here nice and warm nice…”

    The less than original premise: “What is the underlying societal mission of heroin dealers?” There is none. They want to get their customers hooked, then grow their operation as large as possible” is “cut and paste” thinking.

    * “What is the underlying societal mission of Wal Mart?” There is none. They want to get their customers hooked on cheap prices, then grow their operation as large as possible.
    * “What is the underlying societal mission of solar power panel manufacturers?” There is none. They want to get their customers hooked on the idea of green power, then grow their operation as large as possible,
    * “What is the underlying societal mission of Islamic fundamentalists?” There is none. They want to get their customers hooked on Allah, then grow their operation as large as possible.

    Now I realize that there will alway be ad copy for Wal Mart, Solar Panels, and Allah underscoring the “social mission” of same, but should we follow Electros cuts and pastes there will always be ad copy for any entity that operates in its own self-interest.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Your comment reminds me of the Sesame Street game “which of these is unlike the other three?”
    * Wal-mart operates a service, in which customers make voluntary trades of goods for money.
    * Solar power makers manufacture goods which people choose to buy.
    * Islamic fundamentalists (mostly, not always) get converts, who make voluntary professons of faith.

    The Department of Defense operates as part of the Iron Triangle, to a large extent a parasite on America — whose valuable services are dwarfed by the larger dysfunctional bulk in its operation. We who fund it have little say in its operation.

  19. FM replies: “I cannot find words sufficiently strong to disagree with the following: ‘Obama has seemingly abandoned that rationale in favor of fighting where “terrorists” have forced us to.’

    “Installing democracy” and “fighting terrorism” are indeed propaganda. I merely noted that Obama is using the latter more than the former. Are you making a distinction between fighting the Taliban and fighting terrorism? That would be technically correct, but more honored in the breach than the observance. Listen to how the administration refers to Israel/Palestine. Hamas (the elected Palestinian government) will generally be called a terrorist movement, whereas Israel (the terrorist state) is our “democratic” ally.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: My mistake. I misunderstood what you were saying.

  20. The depiction of American foreign policy as “imperialist” or the U.S. military as “aggressive” remains one of the most vulgar left-wing canards. America is not an empire and the U.S. military is not a pack of aggressive warmongers. To the contrary: the central goal of the U.S. military is to present itself to its civilian paymasters as useful, even if that involves pacifist humanitarian missions wholly unsuited to an army. The U.S. military does not care what it is used for, or even whether it is used, so long as the American military is perceived as being useful by its civilian paymasters. Such a perception is necessary to continue funding; that is all that concerns the U.S. military.

    Consequently, we find that the American military’s missions are haphazard and incoherent. One year the American military embarks on anti-drug police actions (invasion of Panama), a few years later it morphs into a force for defending international law & order (Desert Storm), a few years later it transforms again into an humanitarian welfare agency (Somalia). American foreign policy isn’t imperialist because it isn’t really a policy — it’s all over the map, and for the obvious reason: namely, the U.S. military’s persistent need to present itself as indispensible to its civilian paymasters, regardless of the mission.

    This also explains the peculiar lack of aggressiveness of the U.S. military. One year, American army forces secure rice supplies to starving kids, the next year the U.S. air force is bombing Serbia from 30,000 feet, a few years later the American military invades Iraq and pulverizes its regime using massive shock & awe. This bizarre swing from near-total non-aggression (Somalia) to extremes of force (shock and awe in Baghdad) can only be explained when we recognize that the U.S. military adapts chameleon-like to present itself as the ideal solution to whatever policy issues concern the current administration, regardless how ill-suited they may be to military action. If drugs are a big political issue (1989), the American military presents itself as the ideal anti-drug globo-cop. If Saddam threatens the Saudi oil fields (1991), the American military changes its wardrobe to an international super-UN avenging army. When CNN starts running pics of starving kids in Somalia (1993), the American military does another wardrobe change into a humanitarian welfare agency doing food handouts (with guns politely moved to the background).

    This is the opposite of imperialism. The U.S. military wishes merely to continue its funding, and to that end it constantly finds a way to present itself as the ideal solution to whatever issues concern its civilian paymasters during this particular week. Whether the U.S. military can actually solve any of those policy problems is a non-issue. Firstly, because the U.S. military has a gung-ho can-do mindset and can always convince itself that it does indeed offer an ideal solution to whatever policy problem its civilian paymasters face (war on drugs, failed states, threatened Saudi fields, whatever. Soon enough global warming, I imagine). And, second and more importantly, because the people inside the U.S. miltiary who drive America’s military bureaucracy never face any career damage for failing to accomplish a policy goal. Instead, the military officers (ranks between major and general officer) who are most instrumental in running and expanding America’s military bureaucracy primarily suffer career damage if the military bureaucracy gets its funding cut.

    The surest way to rise in America’s military is to shepherd a big complicated expensive weapons system through the procurement process. America engages in actual wars too seldom, and wins them too infrequently, for actual war-fighting to serve as a reliable path for military career advancement. Instead, officers in the American military have learnt that the surest path of career advancement involves working the Pentagon bureaucracy. Ultimately, that means expanding funding for some area of the U.S. military-industrial complex. This is not cynical, but normal behavior in any large bureacracy. Since the Pentagon remains the world’s largest office building, and the U.S. military-industrial complex the world’s largest bureaucracy, you would expect Jerry Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureacracy to apply with full force.

    Incidentally, we must make a sharp distinction twixt the behavior of the people who serve in the U.S. military and the behavior of the military-industrial complex as a whole. To generalize inaccurately, U.S. military officers are smarter, better educated, more public-spirited, and more intensely patriotic than the average American. However, all bureaucracies create rules in order to legitimize themselves (if in doubt, a bureaucrat can point to a given rule to justify his actions) and all bureaucracies seek to expand their funding (if you run a dept of a bureaucracy, your pay and rank increase if your dept gets bigger).

    The behavior of people in groups often contradicts that of individuals. Thus, just as juries often arrive at verdicts with which each individual jury member vehemently disagrees, the Pentagon as a whole often behaves in ways sharply contrary to the patriotic impulses of its individual members. This is not cynical, but instead a description of the behavior of people in bureaucracies. It applies with equal force to the DEA, HUD, etc., but proves less important in those organizations because they don’t take up nearly as much of the American GDP as the military-industrial complex does.

  21. “Conflict avoidance” and “defensive posture” are admirably sane prescriptions, but do they make any sense while we still follow a policy of dominating global resources and markets, and opposing any social/economic system other than our own?”

    It seems clear to me that our newly unfolding posture is to bring all these things in alignment, sencal. Moving forward, America will have a much smaller footprint than the world has come to expect from us. Apparently, our Sasquatch days are over.

  22. Electro: your excellent observations on the workings of the military mind, the bureaucracy and its relation to the political realm is like a skilled dissection of the brain or nervous system. However, showing that the military is a sensitive, patriotic, obediant organ, does not prove that the total body it inhabits is not imperialist. Not all imperialisms are the same. America’s, relying more on economic coercion than military occupation, is the first of its kind. Not all imperialisms are internally consistent. There are always dissenting political factions.

    Of course the driving force behind our imperialism is economic — the desire or need to control a disproportionate amount of the world’s resources and markets. It lies more in Wall Street than the Pentagon. But the military is a willing partner in this, and when you consider the revolving door between the military and its industrial providers, and the important position those providers (Boeing, e.g.) play in the total economy, it’s not wrong to say the military is an important part of what keeps the imperialist agenda going.

    Chalmers Johnson’s books demonstrate that of all the players that make up the imperialist lobby, the one least subject to democratic oversight is the military.

  23. Regarding the words and actions of generals, I provide the following general comment. (pun not important) Coulda, shoulda woulda and did are all different states, and we often perceive reality as the “did” state. It is not always so. Just because I can hold my breath for 30 seconds does not make that period a reality for you. And it may not be for me either, except once.

    And yes, politicians often dictate and control the report cards of military decision-making people, as well as those of many other folks in our (or any) society. But such influence is just one of many influences that dictate behavior.

    The question that needs an answer (or thought before reaching an answer) is why such behavior happens. Human nature? Influences, such as peer pressure, demographic factors, education, or family desires? Other causes, too numerous to mention?

    I suspect that this comment will not be seen by many folks because it is attached to yesterdays’ post, but national strategy is an interesting subject, provoked here by an interesting article by MacGregor. Thanks FM.

  24. Fabius.. as for your snarky {reply to comment #9}: what do you know about winning wars much less military strategy? at least i’m a graduate of ILE with a Strategy background. Geez. Instead of snark, perhaps you can tell us how it was perfectly ok to stop at the 53rd. Care to expound on why it was stupid to allow an unassailable base of operations for the Chinese and the Vietcong in those perspective wars? Eisenhower also had a President, FDR, that told Ike to fight until you get unconditional surrender. As a President, Ike failed to consider the strategic consequences of failure. But what do I know, I’ve just been in the military for 22 years.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: It was sarcasm — “mocking with irony.” Deserved, IMO. Look, every site on the Internet is different. This site does serious discussion of geopolitics, things on the edge of the known. Big remarks, like “As a President, Ike failed to consider the strategic consequences of failure”, get no respect here — unless you provide supporting evidence (after all, it seems like a preposterous statement).

    Ditto saying that “President Eisenhower did the {wrong} thing by stopping the Korea War.” Leading the Allied coalition to victory in Europe and keeping us out of Vietnam (following the fall of Dien Bien Phu) IMO creates a presumption that he’s right, unless strong evidence is given otherwise. Saying that Eisenhower was wrong because you are “a graduate of ILE with a Strategy background” and have “been in the military for 22 years” is a much, IMO. It creates a basis for your reasoning to taken serious, but not that you are a superior strategist to Eisenhower.

    Your analogy of Korea with Europe is far-fetched, IMO. FDR told Ike “to fight until you get unconditional surrender” because Europe was the central battleground against facism. FDR did not say that every war should be be fought until the enemy surrenders unconditionallly. My guess is that FDR would consider such a broad statement as foolish, perhaps insane. Korea and Vietnam were peripheral areas, as shown by the minimal long-term consequences to our defeat in Vietnam.

  25. “Generals should only provide military options, not political options.”

    FM related comment: “You refer to how things should be, but in reality the military has wielded powerful political force since WWII.”

    I am not so sure about this. Well, let’s leave aside lower-level generals and assume we are talking about theatre commanders, i.e. Ike’s and so on.

    On the one hand their prime responsibility is to be on top of the military operational aspects under their purview and make sure of ‘victory’. On the other hand, are there any truly great generals in history who operated outside the realm of politics? Is it even possible given that national polity, governance strength, treasury, narrative etc. is usually bound up in any large-scale military campaigns, aka ‘war’?

    Alexander, Caesar (Julius), Napolean, Wellington etc. etc. In fact, because all such great military leaders had to be very well tuned into the political situation underpinning the very existence of their army in the first place, let alone its military mission, their role might possibly be defined as providing the bridge between national military strategy in any conflict and its tactical expression in the form of applying military force to effect it. As such, it is their duty to provide acute political quanta to the mix.

    For (pure hypothetical) example: committing their armies to invading Russia when they know that a) there is insufficient political and economic capital to prosecute such a large undertaking and b) the Russians are more than capable of withstanding whatever force we have at hand would be a dereliction of duty. Put another way, unless they are convinced they can pull it off and their country will provide the necessary means to do so, they should not agree to lead those armies.

  26. From the article on Lockheed, p. 6 paragraph 13: “Smith explains that nine countries will use the F-35 — the United States, the U.K., Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Norway”

    Being a Dane, I can tell you that us buying the JSF is not certain yet (and was by no way certain back in 2007). In january 2008 a Defence Commission was established to establis the direction our armed forces are to take in the future, among these deliberations are what fighter/bomber shall replace our F-16s. Originally, the contenders were the F-35 JSF, the Saab Gripen and the EuroFighter. The EuroFighter was taken out of the running and the Boing F/A-18 entered.

    Now, politics being politics, this article was printed in the newspaper Information on 8. dec. 2008. The vignette reads “Several members of the defence Commision believe they are being witheld information on the comming purchase of fighter jets. They fear they will be presented with a bundle-solution they have no chance of fully comprehending. The Chairs leadership is also under attack.” The article expands on this that nine weeks before the paper they are authoring is due, they have still not started debating purchase of aircrafts. The fear is they will be presented with a solution put together by the MoD, the Chiefs of Staff and the chair of the commision, then having too little time to examine the proposal thoroughly.

    Then the week before our former PM became the new NATO secretary-general, Lockheed offers a pricecut for the F-35 at the same time classified information is leaked from the Defence Commision, stating that our fleet of F-16s still have about 20 years of service left in them.

    Only time will tell if John A. Smith’s assertion will be true. The Defence Commision is expected to reveal it’s paper this month.

  27. {From Reuters, 4 April 2009 — Excerpt:

    China’s top integrated copper producer, Jiangxi Copper Co, and China Metallurgical Group Corp, are going ahead with exploration of the vast Aynak Copper Mine, south of Kabul, after they won the contract to develop it last year.}

    China Metallurgic and Jiangx Copper ,having won the contract , starting developement by building access roads .. security provided by US soldiers .
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    Fabius Maximus replies: So what? This provides zero support for your comment #12, unless you think we invaded Afghanistan so that Chinese firms could get the development rights.

  28. Fabius, mocking things you don’t understand isn’t a serious form of debate. it’s a childish trick to dodge a point. if you want a 60 page monograph on military strategy that isn’t going to happen here either.

    i understand warfare and the second and third order effects of it. i was highly critical of how president bush handled the iraq war. however, as a former commander, i understand that i don’t have the big picture that a president has. they, Ike and Bush, may have had other considerations that i’m not privy too. regardless, from a war-fighting view, operational and strategic, what they did was inept. ok. do you see the difference? there is a price to pay for ignoring basic laws of warfighting. it hasn’t changed since the time of Sun Tzu. perhaps your problem is you don’t see a price for this error.

    i’ve lived in korea. i know how south koreans feel about the war. they blame us for having split the country and having to live in fear of another war. now they have to live with an atomic nKorea just 20 kilometers for Seoul.. population 14,500,000. that is just one of the second or third order effects.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Since you provide no support for your statements, or any rebuttal to my objections, the only reply possible is “whatever”.

    As for “dodging the point” and “mocking things I don’t understand” — I provided specific objections. You reply with an appeal to authority (i.e., yourself!). In cases like this — conclusions that you say are obvious to experts — the usual procedure is to cite published authorities. Speaking ex cathedra, as you do, carries little weight with me; others will draw their own conclusions.

  29. @Major Scarlet

    As much as I sympathise with the plight of the nork-population, do you truely believe that the UN forces could have fought the korean communists and their chinese backers to an unconditional surrender? Remember the long march? Returning to the 38th offered containment instead of a non-trinitarian quagmire which the US most probably would have to handle alone, their allies allready being impoverished by WWII and UNSC Resolution 82 not mandating an invasion of the DPRK but merely the protection of the RoK.

    With regards to splitting the country, that was done at the Potsdam Conference after Stalins prompting at Yalta for bufferzones in both Europe and Asia. The reason for Western-Allied aquiesence? The need for Russian support in the US-Japanese war (which could arguably be the demonstration that the US resolve was weak, yes this is speculation, but not less so than your statements.)

    I guess you would also argue for intervention in Hungary in 1956 then? If not, what is the difference? Remember, at the time of the intervention a popular revolt had established a coup d’etate, abolished the secret police, withdrawn the country from the Warzaw Pact and promised democratic elections.

    Now, talking about the treasure the DPRK has cost the US after ’56 I have one question for you – where is the crystalball Eisenhower should have used to guage the madness of the Il’s?

  30. FM, I get it. When you make a comment it is about a specific objection based on your opinion so there is no need to provide a citation but when i have an opinion.. unless i provide a citation it carries little weight. i asked a specific question of you. that doesn’t require citations. if you want a citation i’ll go an find an online version of the Art of War by Sun Tzu and link it.

    this is your site and you can define the debate with whatever metric you wish. for some reason, you chose not to answer my question in #26. besides, i didn’t make an appeal to authority. i simply stated my credentials and background knowledge. perhaps you should read up on appeals to authority and use them properly.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: You want a citation that Eisenhower was the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe? That we won WWII? That Europe was the central battleground against facism? Perhaps you could be more specific as to your objections, and which of my comments require supporting evidence.

    As for citations, I will state this again. You say that Eisenhower should not have ended the Korean War. Do you believe this is a widely held view among experts (in which case you can provide some citations)? Or is this an personal (idiosyncratic) view: the mainstream consensus is wrong — that you are correct based on the facts that you are “a graduate of ILE with a Strategy background” and have “been in the military for 22 years”. Also, I don’t believe Sun Tzu wrote an analyis of the Korean War.

  31. Rune, Potsdam was before the war. The Koreans blame us for stopping after the war started and we had the norks on the ropes. Yes, we could have taken the entire country but it did risk drawing China in to the war, officially.

    as for the long march, that was the Chinese civil war. i don’t see your point for referencing it.

    As for your hungary reference, i’m not an interventionist. the united states is already too involved with other countries business. we should reserve our military might for matters of importance. i do believe that if we choose to get involve we go in with clear objectives and win. victory is not defined, in my book, as a tie or containment.

    for a comparison of containment vs victory, compare germany and japan with north korea and vietnam. north korea continues to cause problems 50 years after our “containment”. japan is re-arming, south korea is a friend out of need but behind doors they dislike us and don’t trust us, and the norks are exporting their missile technology to the highest bidder, usually our enemies.

  32. @Major Scarlet

    I am fully aware that Potsdam was before the Korean War, but that does not negate that that is when the 38th was drawn and UNSC Resolution 82 did not give any mandate for change there. In other words, the goal of the conflict was never the unification of Korea, that battle had been lost at the negotian table. The strategic goal was the liberation and safeguarding of the South Korea. Do you not ‘win’ when your strategic goals have been met?

    As for the long march, I am using this to illustrate the tenacity of the enemy.

    *If you do not believe reaching your strategic goals equals victory, then how would you have ‘WON’ in Korea?
    * Do you believe that a decade long occupation facing non-trinitary action without a UN-mandate would have succeded?
    * Would you have gone in with the expressed purpose of unifying Korea or pursued this goal clandestinely – and how would this effect the allies that had signed up under UNSC Resolution 83?
    * Do you believe the Korean population would be for this?
    * How would colatteral damage in the fight against chinese sponsored insurgents have impacted the goodwill of US soldiers with the koreans?
    * Would an occupation and unification be possible without a direct military confrontation with China?
    * The US could probably have dropped another nuclear bomb to put itself in respect, but at that time the Soviets were also nuclear and world opinion might be a tad negative as well, should that have been done to make victory certain – would it have worked and why?

    My supposition is that the UN forces would never have gotten a clear-cut victory – the nork leaders would simply never have surrendered. Without a formal surrender, the UN troops would not have been able to pull back to the 38th. The US could have declared victory after the UN forces had defeated the nork regular army, but would then have to occupy the DPRK thus going against the UN mandate – a ‘victory’ that would have been proven as hollow as the one in Iraq.

    Furthermore I’d like to know if you believe that there would be no resentment against US personel stationed in Korea today if a unification had taken place – and if so, why?

    You throw Germany and Japan at me, I will counter with Cuba, the result of the containment there let to the best medical system and the best doctors in the carribian and latin america, despite having it’s economy laid in ruins by paranoid US. Also, I’d still like an answer to where the crystal ball Eisenhower should have used to divine the Il’s madness is?

    Apart from 20/20 hindsight vision on nork nuclear armament, what made the DPRK such valuable real-estate that it would justify potential open hostilities with China?

    You are most probably much more skilled than me at moving set-pieces on the table or leading troops in battle. But it is clear to me that you are as myopic as the men that thought playing mercenary for the corrupt south vietnamese regime and invading Iraq or Afghanistan were a good ideas, not suprisingly being a product of the same machine. The way I see it, Eisenhowers actions in Korea is parralel to Gulf War I and your insistence on ‘winning’ is Gulf War II (ongoing).

  33. My supposition is that the UN forces would never have gotten a clear-cut victory – the nork leaders would simply never have surrendered. Without a formal surrender, the UN troops would not have been able to pull back to the 38th. The US could have declared victory after the UN forces had defeated the nork regular army, but would then have to occupy the DPRK thus going against the UN mandate – a ‘victory’ that would have been proven as hollow as the one in Iraq. Therefore the armistice was the lesser of two evils.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Your supposition is supported in some fashion by most experts. To cite just one of many examples, see chapter 17 (the Pursuit of Peace) in Max Hasting’s “The Korean War” (1987). He says that by the Summer of 1952 — as it became evident that full victory was unlikely — “the weariness of the United Nations {the nations, not the organization} and, above all, the United States with the war in Korea was becoming intolerable.” Support for the war among the American people had collapsed, as he shows with some very sad annecdotes — and data from the Presidential campaign.

    And within the military as well. Perhaps the most telling is this from the Assistant Chief of Staff (Plans) to the Joint Chiefs (15 September 1952):

    “It appears that, within current capabilities and existing policies, there are no military courses of action that will ensure a satisfactory conclusion to the Korean struggle.”

  34. rune,
    the long march was only effective in as much as chang kai shek failed to take seriously the threat of the decimated communist forces. he allowed them to survive because he thought he had them beaten back to a point that they we combat ineffective. his other failure was to enlist their help to fight the japanese. this gave mao’s forces time to rebuild and train for large scale operations. there is a saying that a wounded snake bites with twice the venom. you have to kill the snake or it seeks revenge.

    i’m not an expert on the potsdam accord but i’m fairly certain that at some point if you break a treaty.. it becomes null and void. when the communist forces came south, more than likely that treaty was thrown out the window but that’s a guess.

    re: cuban medical system… (El cuento de la Salud en Cuba)
    there are people that aren’t drinking the kool-aide that you are drinking about the cuban medical system. when castro needed help, he got doctors from spain.. not cuba. also, their economy is laid in ruins because of communism. europe has no problem trading, vacationing, and building up the cuban economy. canadians can freely travel there. castro has robbed his people blind and you blame america? have another toke on whatever that is your smoking bro.

    about the list of questions you brought up.. i don’t have time to answer your thousands of questions. you have some good points about the problems that Eisenhower faced however, i think i made it clear earlier, i’m looking at the process from a purely military point of view. our founding fathers warned of entangling alliances for the very reasons you mentioned. the problem should determine the coalition, not the other way around. un and nato missions are fraught with disconnected agendas and national interest. nato and europe rung their hands are thousands in the former yugoslavia were killed. saying that we were worried our friends would get mad if we actually won a war is surreal to me. of course the koreans want to be unified and they would have appreciated it but our relationship with them is more complicated than just that issue.

  35. FM note: I recommend reading this comment, a wonderful example of the Fermat Gambit

    FM replies: “Yep. After all, what did this Eisenhower guy know about winning big wars? Too bad “Major Scarlet” was not there to help him win WWII and Korea!”

    logical fallicy… here’s the problem with hiking Eisenhower or any General up on a pedestal and i don’t blame you for not understanding.. i don’t think you have a military background. ILE or as it was once called CGSC (Command and General Staff College) is a graduate program designed for Majors to work on a General officers staff. As such, graduates are prepared to present courses of action for the commander to select and to refine as necessary based on his guidance. at the end of the day, the general doesn’t do it all by himself in a vacuum. he has a crack staff of highly trained officers that are helping him shine. also, eisenhower didn’t have the formal General officer education that Generals today get. he was a Captain for almost 20 years and was promoted by leaps and bounds during the war. he was a smart guy but to pretend he was some kind of savior of europe and all things military is to lend credence to information that confirms your perception while ignoring information that contradicts it.

    FM replies: “It was sarcasm — “mocking with irony.” Deserved, IMO”

    stretching just a bit but i think it fits.. logical fallacy of poisoning the well.

    FM: “As for “dodging the point” and “mocking things I don’t understand” — I provided specific objections. You reply with an appeal to authority (i.e., yourself!). In cases like this — conclusions that you say are obvious to experts — the usual procedure is to cite published authorities. Speaking ex cathedra, as you do, carries little weight with me; others will draw their own conclusions.

    logical fallacy of style of substance.

    i’m going to end my discussion here. this is taking up too much of my time. i know i didn’t frame my early points very well. got it and thanks for the lesson in choosing my words more carefully. at the end of the day, i truly believe that you have a better chance at peace with victory. leaving an enemy behind will usually make matters worse as we have seen in iraq, korea, europe (by that i mean the soviets), and asia.

    —————-

    Fabius Maximus replies: This is the finest example I have seen of the Fermat Gambit. It’s borrowed from Fermat’s Last Theorem, in which the great mathetician Pierre de Fermat wrote in the margin of a book:

    It is impossible to separate a cube into two cubes, or a fourth power into two fourth powers, or in general, any power higher than the second into two like powers. I have discovered a truly marvellous proof of this, which this margin is too narrow to contain.)

    While it is unlikely that Fermat had such a proof (a correct proof, that is), he gifted us a technique used since then in countless debates in bars and blogs. Major Scarlet provides a well-executed version of this.
    * X makes a stunning assertion,
    * for which X gives no supporting evidence or reasoning.
    * X assures us that he can do so,
    * because he is great,
    * but has too little time.
    * Followed by a quick exit.

    I suspect we see here is someone falling afoul of the wide range of communities on the Internet. In many sites — including many excellent and influential sites — the debate is like that of the local pub. Brash statements spark interesting discussions, and detailed support (evidentiary or logical) are not required (boring!).

    This site is at the other extreme of the range. Detailed analysis is encouraged, often quite long — with links to supporting evidence. The relatively high traffic to this site (in the low-medium range, per Technorati) I consider extraordinary. I told the founder, Chet Richards (Colonel, USAF, retired — editor of Defense and the National Interest) — that there was no audience for this (“The only audience would he me, him, and mom”). He said otherwise, and was proven correct.

    Confusion reigns when folks cross from one end of the spectrum to other. Which is what I suspect we see here. Like showing up in jeans for a fancy dress party, its nothing of real significance.

  36. oh yeah.. there’s that big ego coming out. instead of rational thought you provide condescension without having to address the question i asked of you. you still haven’t answered that question i asked you in #26. instead you heap scorn on anyone that dares step outside of your forgone conclusions. btw.. did you miss the part about where i admitted that i chose my words incorrectly in my initial post? i admitted that what i really meant was that, from a purely military stand point, halting operations was strategic blunder. i’ve explained why and given examples of that. i understand that presidents have to consider more things than just military victory. yet you keep pounding away at that initial post i made. your credibility is in question if you can’t at least acknowledge that and your entire analysis of Fermat Gambit is shot.

    i love the projection of so nicely calling me a troll. as if the internet isn’t full of your types as well. someone that wraps himself in a thin veneer of intelligence provided by wiki. a greek or roman name, a demonstrated inability to answer questions when pinned down on a topic, instead of addressing points you attack the weakest part of an argument in an attempt to discredit any valid points that may prove you wrong. i could go on but people like you are tedious.
    .
    ———

    Fabius Maximus replies: By the numbers.

    (1) “i admitted that i chose my words incorrectly in my initial post.”

    After several paragraphs about logical fallicy, poisoning the well, and style of substance — none of which seemed relevant to what I said — the meaning of that sentence was not (and is not) clear to me.

    (2) “i admitted that what i really meant was that, from a purely military stand point, halting operations was strategic blunder.”

    Do you mean that comment #36 (your reply to Rune), was a correction to your original comment #9? If so, AOK. This site is littered with corrections and retractions from me (and others), sometimes after being shot down in flames. That’s life when writing about things on the edge of the known. Welcome to the club.

    (3) “without having to address the question i asked of you.” {comment #26: “perhaps you can tell us how it was perfectly ok to stop at the 53rd”}

    Why? You were the one with the theory. I was just asking for supporting evidence.

    (4) “i love the projection of so nicely calling me a troll.”

    No. The long explanation was expressly to show the opposite. The vast internet ocean has many islands, home to many different communities. This site runs differently than most, and I explained how statements that are fine — even stimulating — elsewhere don’t fly here.

    A troll is one who disrupts normal on-topic discussion. You have not done so. This is normal discussion on the FM site.

  37. @MS

    “the long march was only effective in as much as chang kai shek failed to take seriously the threat of the decimated communist forces. he allowed them to survive because he thought he had them beaten back to a point that they we combat ineffective.”
    If he was so indifferent to the CPC, then why did KMT Generals Zhang Xueliang and Yang Hucheng have to KIDNAP Chiang, in what is known as the Xi’an Incident to get him to concentrate on the Japanese in Manchuria?
    Even if this was not so and Chiang had grossly underestimated the CPC, it still does not negate my using the Long March to illustrate the tenacity of the CPC, now does it? You are comparing apples and oranges here mister. Furthermore the myth of the Long March was great morale boosting propaganda ‘if we could do that, we can also defeat the imperialis devils’ or something like that. You bringing up the 2nd Sino-Japanese war also prompts me to the fact that the CPC gained invaluable experience in guerillia warfare, something that would have come in more than handy in the event of a US occuparion of the DPRK.

    “there is a saying that a wounded snake bites with twice the venom. you have to kill the snake or it seeks revenge.
    My, oh my. I guess you like Chiang would disregard the grizzlies claws swiftly approaching the back of your head while chasing the wounded snake? If not, I don’t see the point.

    “i’m not an expert on the potsdam accord but i’m fairly certain that at some point if you break a treaty.. it becomes null and void. when the communist forces came south, more than likely that treaty was thrown out the window but that’s a guess.”
    The Potsdam Treaty, relevant to this, set up two nation-states on the korean peninsula, that is all. The norks aggression did not breach the treaty, but was nation-state attacking nation-state. Had the US occupied the north, they would have gone against the UN mandate and been in breach of treaty.

    “when castro needed help, he got doctors from spain.. not cuba. also, their economy is laid in ruins because of communism. europe has no problem trading, vacationing, and building up the cuban economy.”
    That Spanish doctors are better trained than Cuban does NOT negate the fact that Cuban doctors were the best in the carribean or latin america. If x is part of sum A and y is part of sum B and x>y, x will still not be the best in sum B, that will still be y, basic logic.
    Yes, now the US are the only ones embargoing Cuba, but this has not always been so fx. the OAS embargoed from ’59-’75 and thanks to the Torricelli Law and Helms-Burton act, foreign companies trading with Cuba are restricted or barred in trade with the US, so saying that ‘europe has no problem trading’ is a fallacy and you know it.

    “our founding fathers warned of entangling alliances for the very reasons you mentioned. the problem should determine the coalition, not the other way around”
    This is a cop-out and not faceing the realities of the day – either then nor now. It is an important discussion, but completely and utterly irrelevent to the issue at hand.

    “of course the koreans want to be unified and they would have appreciated it but our relationship with them is more complicated than just that issue”
    I agree, they would have been happy to be unified and then wanted you to get the hell out of Dodge – which would never have happened. Then after a decade of military checkpoints, colatteral damage and general bullying by downy chinned GIs suspicious of all natives because any native could be an ambush in the making… not so much so.

    directed at FM: “you still haven’t answered that question i asked you in #26.”
    This is the pot calling the kettle black, I am still waiting to hear why North Korea was real-estate valuable enough that it would justify potential open hostilities with China? Where is the crystal ball Eisenhower should have used to divine the Il’s madness? Is reaching your strategic goals not equal to victory?

    Now, I guess the biggest problem here is where you state: “i’m looking at the process from a purely military point of view”
    Even though you claim this, it seems to me your vision is still myopic, as myopic as the guy who thought up the ‘Mission Accomplished!’ banner for Bush. This has nothing to do with political considerations, but a vainglorious hubris in looking at the military aspects. This though is quite secondary to the fact that if you willingly equip yourself with blinders to avoid looking at anything but the purely military aspects, then this is most probably not a discussion you should participate in and thus this will be my final respons in the debate. I will be happy to continue if you were to broaden your horizon to the geopolitics that is the focus of this site.

  38. Rune,
    refresh my memory.. what does the long march and chinese tenacity have to do with anything? the chinese weren’t officially at war with us and didn’t have much heavy equipment to fight with. as for the chinese guerilla skills, they already had them. that is how they fought chang kai shek. what they didn’t have was firepower, artillery, etc or the ability to use them. they gained those skills fighting the japanese in tandem with nationalist forces. so you’ve got it backwards.

    re: cuba and the embargo.. so what. what would you have done? why are we even talking about cuba? btw, have you even been to cuba? latin america? do you have a legitimate site that can confirm your statement that cuba has the best medical care in the carribean? no kool aide drinking sites mkay?

    as for potsdam… you obviously don’t know anything about the agreement and how it related to korea — The Korean Conflict by Burton Ira Kaufman (1999)

    re: pot/kettle.. do you remember why macarthur was fired? or for that matter why patton was fired? both generals recognized the threat and advised their command/presidents of it and got axed for their candidness.. alot like general shinseki. from a military standpoint.. what would have happened if we listened to patton and fought and destroyed the communist in europe when we had the chance? regardless, as for strategic goals see below for part of the answer. truman, not eisenhower, pulled back the assault. we can second guess truman, who i think was too sympathetic to communist and probably had cloaked communist on his staff, SoS Dean Acheson for one. also, make sure you read all of the link i provided about the history of korea and the potsdam agreement. if you still believe that the soviets honored that agreement to the letter after reading that then we’ll agree to disagree.

    as for your final comment.. the military sets the conditions for political victory. that’s clausewitz. so, from a purely military aspect, we fit into the political arena by setting the conditions for a political victory. so of course i’m looking at it from a strictly military point of view. i’m a miltary man and you aren’t. if our political leaders want to win the political victory, something we failed to do in vietnam, they must give the military proper guidance and goals to achieve our objectives.

    btw, i just realized.. how did we get on eisenhower and the korean war? truman was president during the korean conflict. anyways.
    .
    .
    FM note: Two comments on this.

    (1) “the military sets the conditions for political victory.”

    Not in the United States.

    (2) Rune is, broadly speaking, correct that the decision to divide Korea was made at the series of conferences between leaders of the Allies during WWII (including Potsdam). Disagreeing, Major Scarlet cites “The Korean Conflict” by Burton Ira Kaufman, which contains only one sentence mentioning the Potsdam Conference:

    At the Cairo Conference of 1943 {FDR, Churchill, Chiang Kai-shek} declared that “in due course Korea shall become free and independent.” The Potsdam Conference of July 1945 reaffirmed the Cairo statement.”

    For a more detailed analysis see “Politics and Policies in Divided Korea: Regimes in Contest” by Young Whan Kihl (Westview Press, 1984). From pages 29-30:

    The decision on divided Korea was part of the Allied wartime agreements that included the terms of Soviet participation in the Pacific war against Japan. It was at one of the military talks between the U.S. and Soviet officials held in Potsdam, for instance, that the Korean problems were discussed, although no explicit statement was made at the Potsdam conference regarding the division of Korea into two occupation zones. The military planners reportedly agreed that there should be a line of military demarcation in the general area of Korea between the U.S. and the Soviet air and sea operations. No decision was made at the Potsdam conference regarding Korean partition because, according to Harry Truman, neither U.S. nor Soviet troops were expected to “march into Korea in the immediate future.” Nonetheless, one source indicates that the plan to occupy Korea was formulated unilaterally by the United States in a set of instructions in July 1945 from General George C. Marshall, who was then the U.S. army chief of staff, to Lieutenant General John E. Hull, the U.S. army operations division chief and a member of the military delegation at the Potsdam conference. An eyewitness reports:

    “… General Hull and some of his planning; staff studied a map of Korea trying to decide where to draw a line for an army boundary between U.S. and Soviet forces. They decided that at least two major ports should be included in the U.S. zone. This led to the decision to draw a line north of Seoul which would include the port of Inchon (and Pusan). This line north of Seoul, drawn at Potsdam by the military planners, was not on the 38th parallel but was near it and, generally, along it.”

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