“Illusions of Victory – There’s No Strategy To Win in Afghanistan“, Douglas MacGregor (Colonel, US Army, retired), Defense News, 28 September 2009 — I recommend reading it in full. Excerpt:
Douglas MacArthur is regarded as a great commander because he got some very important things right, most famously the Inchon landing. He also got some things wrong, such as his push to the Yalu River.
His catchy statement, “there is no substitute for victory,” was also wrong, though not so wrong as the armchair strategists who quote it out of context. In fact, “victory” is often an illusion, a will-o’-the-wisp that can lead nations and armies deeper into the bog of history until they disappear.
Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan had the foresight to avoid the bog, to halt inconclusive military operations in Korea and Lebanon before they consumed America’s strength. Such men are rare, and even more rarely honored for their actions.
Slightly amended, however, MacArthur’s statement applies to most politicians – presidents like Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon. Both were men whose fear of political defeat made retreat from unsound policy pronouncements on Vietnam impossible even when they no longer made sense. They hoped commanders in the field would compensate with combat forces to turn hope into reality. Johnson and Nixon discovered the hard way that “no defeat on my watch” is not a strategy or the basis for one.
Once again, an American president is under pressure to commit American forces to action in the hope the generals can salvage a failed effort. His military advisers are telling him this will-o’-the-wisp will lead him safely through the swamp of muddled conflict to green pastures and still water. Unfortunately, the generals are urging him to look for victory in the wrong places, forgetting that American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan serve the interests of Iran and Russia far more than they do the interests of the United States. …
About the author
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 — and a fellow at the Straus Military Reform Project
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.
For a links to his presentations and a detailed bio see here.
Other articles by MacGregor
“Future Battle: The Merging Levels of War”, Parameters, Winter 1992-93
- “Command and Control for Joint Strategic Action”, Joint Force Quarterly, Autumn/Winter 1998-1999
- “Transforming Operational Architecture for the Information Age“, Martial Ecologies (for the Israeli Defense Force and the Jaffee Center, Tel Aviv University). (2000)
- “Transformation and the Illusion of Change”, National Security Studies Quarterly, Autumn 2000
- “A New Joint Operational Architecture: The Key to Transformation”, Strategic Review, Fall 2000
- “The Joint Force – A Decade, No Progress”, Joint Force Quarterly, Winter 2000-2001
- “The Balkan Limits to Power and Principle”, ORBIS, Winter 2001
- “Resurrecting Transformation for the Post-Industrial Era: A New Structure for Post-industrial Warfare”, Defense Horizons, September 2001
- “The Failure of Military Leadership in Iraq – Fire the Generals!“, Counterpunch, 26 May 2006
- “Outside View: Iraq realities — Part 1“, UPI, 27 June 2008
- “Outside View: Iraq realities — Part 2“, UPI, 30 June 2008
- “Adapting to Reality in Warfare: Changing how the Army and Marines Organize to fight in the 21st Century“, 11 November 2008
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