Keep fighting! We must not learn from our wars.

Summary:  We were ejected from Iraq, gaining nothing we sought. No oil, no ally against Iran, no unsinkable aircraft carrier in the Middle East. All but the mad hawks realize we gained nothing in Afghanistan. Now comes the post-game show, as our military’s boosters attempt to fog our vision and erase our memories, preparing us for more wars. The truth is out there, if only we would make an effort to see.
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Afghanistan war
Learning is one way to honor their sacrifice

Contents

  1. We lose because we’re ignorant of history and refuse to learn
  2. Bitter fruit from our failure to learn
  3. The history of counterinsurgency by foreign armies, a history of failure
  4. A more detailed explanation of why foreign armies fail at COIN
  5. For More Information
  6. A closing note from Friedrich Schiller

(1)  We lose because we’re ignorant of history and refuse to learn

Keep Fighting: Why the Counterinsurgency Debate Must Go On“, Mark Stout (Director of the MA Program in Global Security Studies at Johns Hopkins), War on the Rocks, 3 December 2013 — Opening:

Counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine in general and the military’s FM 3-24 in particular have been the subject of extensive and often vitriolic debate in recent years.  Now the debate is finally subsiding, but not in a satisfactory way.  It must not be allowed to die yet.

This reasonable article by an expert avoids the big question: why have we learned so little after six decades of failure by foreign armies fighting local insurgencies? It suggests that the next round of debate about counter-insurgency warfare will produce still more tortured history justifying the next war (we could have won!) and happy theory (next time we’ll convince the locals to have good government).

Let’s rewind the tape to see what we learned from the last round. For example, how many counter-insurgency experts listened to Martin van Creveld’s warnings? Such as this from Chapter 6.2 in Changing Face of War (2006):

What is known, though, is that attempts by post-1945 armed forces to suppress guerrillas and terrorists have constituted a long, almost unbroken record of failure … {W}hat changed was the fact that, whereas previously it had been the main Western powers that failed, now the list included other countries as well. Portugal’s expulsion from Africa in 1975 was followed by the failure of the South Africans in Namibia, the Ethiopians in Ertrea, the Indians in Sri Lanka, the Americans in Somalia, and the Israelis in Lebanon. … Even in Denmark {during WWII}, “the model protectorate”, resistance increased as time went on.

Many of these nations used force up to the level of genocide in their failed attempts to defeat local insurgencies. Despite that, foreign forces have an almost uniform record of defeat. Such as the French-Algerian War, which the French waged until their government collapsed.

Seven years later and we’re still attempting to avoid learning from our failed wars.

(2)  Bitter fruit from our failure to learn

Some people are running the sums to see the results of our most recent infatuations with counter-insurgency. Before we let our military experts repeat this history let’s remember the results of their projects in Iraq and Afghanistan. Here’s a look at Iraq: “Rumsfeld’s War and Its Consequences Now“, Mark Danner, New York Review of Books, 19 December 2013 — Excerpt (red emphasis added):

A bare two weeks after the attacks of September 11, at the end of a long and emotional day at the White House, a 69-year-old politician and businessman — a midwesterner, born of modest means but grown wealthy and prominent and powerful — returned to his enormous suite of offices on the seventh floor of the flood-lit and wounded Pentagon and, as was his habit, scrawled out a memorandum on his calendar:

Interesting day— NSC mtg. with President— As [it] ended he asked to see me alone… After the meeting ended I went to Oval Office—He was alone He was at his desk— He talked about the meet Then he said I want you to develop a plan to invade Ir[aq]. Do it outside the normal channels. Do it creatively so we don’t have to take so much cover [?]

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Failure

… Nearly 2 years have passed since the last American soldier crossed the Iraq border into Kuwait, ending in quiet ignominy the American phase of a war that had begun in highly ballyhooed “shock and awe” more than 8 years before.In Iraq, the sectarian guerrilla war set off by the invasion goes on, the suicide bombers continue their work, hundreds of Iraqis die in horrific violence every month.

That most Americans would prefer to ignore this does not alter the reality that we live in a world the Iraq war has made. Before the war, Iraq had served the United States as a check on the revolutionary ambitions of the Islamic Republic of Iran — a “tilt” to Iraq that Donald Rumsfeld had personally set on course, during talks with Saddam in Baghdad in 1983 as President Reagan’s special envoy. It took the American invasion two decades later to make of Iraq an Iranian ally.

Under Saddam, Iraq had been devoid of Islamic jihadists; it took the American occupation to make of Iraq a breeding ground for jihadists and a laboratory for developing and honing their techniques of asymmetric warfare: the car bombs, kidnappings, improvised explosive devices, and other ruthless tactics in a cheap and effective “toolbox” that has been employed with considerable success from Afghanistan to Yemen to Mali. Iraqi jihadists, many of them former soldiers and officers in the Iraqi army that the American occupiers abruptly dissolved in the summer of 2003, have become the proud foot soldiers of the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria,” a proclaimed zone of insurgency and Wild West lawlessness that stretches west from Fallujah through Anbar province and into the heart of Sunni Syria.

While the increasingly repressive Shia government that the Americans helped install in Baghdad collaborates with Tehran in its support of Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, the Sunni insurgents that the Americans unleashed struggle to overthrow Assad in what is becoming the central battle of the three-continent-wide Salafi uprising that al-Qaeda, by its audacious September 11 attacks, had been determined to ignite and foster. Now the Sunnis are increasingly striking back at Hezbollah and its Iranian sponsors in Lebanon.

The Sunni–Shia struggle set in motion by the American invasion of Iraq has become the vortex of a violent political struggle that stretches from South Asia to the Gulf. Meantime, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has grown fivefold. Bin Laden is dead, but in Pakistan and Somalia and Yemen the drones go on striking, killing by now several thousand, and more rise to take their place. The jihadists are not winning but they are not disappearing either. There is no end in sight.

Though Bush is long gone, replaced by a president who had seemed to voters to be in many ways his opposite, this geopolitical reality has hardly changed. As Rumsfeld remarks to {Errol Morris in the film The Unknown Known}:

Barack Obama opposed most of the structures that President George W. Bush put in place: Guantánamo Bay, the concept of indefinite detention, the Patriot Act, military commissions. Here we are, years later, and they’re all still here. I think that has to validate, to some extent, the decisions that were made by President George W. Bush.

One needn’t accept such “validation” to concede that more than a dozen years later we still live in the world that Bush’s “war on terror” made. The “state of exception” that began on September 11, 2001, has not ended, owing not only to the political compromises and misplaced priorities of the Obama administration but to the terribly misbegotten and self-defeating way the “war on terror” was conceived and waged.

(3)  History of counterinsurgency by foreign armies, a history of failure

We cannot excuse our ignorance about counter-insurgency’s record of failure by saying it is hidden or difficult to see.

(a)  For an introduction see this review of the rise and fall of COIN by Kelley Beaucar Vlahos, one of America’s finest journalists: “Learning to Eat Soup with a Spoon“, American Conservative, 31 August 2012.

(b)  For deeper analysis see:

  1. How often do insurgents win?  How much time does successful COIN require?, 29 May 2008 — Robert W. Chamberlain (Captain, US Army) gives the answer in the Armed Forces Journal.
  2. Max Boot: history suggests we will win in Afghanistan, with better than 50-50 odds. Here’s the real story., 21 June 2010 — Boot discusses 7 alleged victories by foreign armies fighting insurgencies. They’re not.
  3. A major discovery! It could change the course of US geopolitical strategy, if we’d only see it, 28 June 2010 — The doctoral dissertation of Erin Marie Simpson (Political Science, Harvard)  examines the present and past analysis of  counter-insurgency.
  4. A look at the history of victories over insurgents, 30 June 2010 — RAND counts the record of failure
  5. COINistas point to Kenya as a COIN success. In fact it was an expensive bloody failure., 7 August 2012 — Debunking bogus history.

(4)  A more detailed explanation of why foreign armies fail at COIN

(a)  The first lesson of our failed wars: we were warned, but choose not to listen — Speech by Martin van Creveld, February 2008

(b)  “On Counterinsurgency”, Martin van Creveld, from Combating Terrorism, edited by Rohan Gunaratna (2005)

  1. How We Got to Where We Are is a brief history of insurgency since 1941 and of the repeated failures in dealing with it.
  2. Two Methods looks at two paths to victory at counterinsurgency: President Assad’s suppression of the uprising at Hama in 1983, and the British operations in Northern Ireland.
  3. On Power and Compromises draws lessons from the methods just presented and goes on to explain how, by vacillating between them, most counterinsurgents have guaranteed their own failure.
  4. Conclusions — let’s hope we learn.

(5)  For More Information

(a)  Reference pages listing posts about:

(b)  The two most important posts about counterinsurgency on the FM website:

(c)  Other posts about COIN:

  1. The 2 most devastating 4GW attacks on America, and the roots of FM 3-24, 19 March 2008
  2. A key to the power of FM 3-24, the new COIN manual, 20 March 2008
  3. Dark origins of the new COIN manual, FM 3-24, 23 March 2008
  4. Another “must-read” presentation by Kilcullen about COIN, 27 May 2008
  5. COIN – a perspective from 23rd century textbooks, 10 June 2008
  6. Is COIN the graduate level of military hubris?, 30 July 2008
  7. COIN as future generations will see it (and as we should see it today), 1 July 2010
  8. COIN – Now we see that it failed. But that was obvious before we started (when will we learn?), 6 December 2011
  9. COIN, another example of our difficulty learning from history or experience, 7 December 2011
  10. As we start new wars, let’s see an expert at COIN review a classic textbook about COIN, 25 February 2012 — Review of Galula’s Counterinsurgency Warfare – Theory and Practice
  11. “COIN of the Realm” – reviewing one of the books driving our strategy in the Long War, 18 March 2012 — Review of Nagl’s How to Eat Soup with a Knife
  12. A look back at the madness that led us into our wars. How does this advice read 6 years later?, 26 June 2012

(6) A closing note from Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller

From “Die Jungfrau von Orleans” (The Maid of Orleans), Act III, Scene vi (as translated by Anna Swanwick) (1801)

Head in sand
By Paul Newman

Folly, thou conquers, and I must yield!
Against stupidity the very gods
They contend in vain. Exalted reason,
Resplendent daughter of the head divine,
Wise foundress of the system of the world,
Guide of the stars, who art thou then if thou,
Bound to the tail of folly’s uncurbed steed,
Must, vainly shrieking with the drunken crowd,
Eyes open, plunge down headlong in the abyss.
Accursed, who strives after noble ends,
And with deliberate wisdom forms his plans!
To the fool-king belongs the world.

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29 thoughts on “Keep fighting! We must not learn from our wars.

  1. My guess as to why our experts fail to learn from the history of failure by foreign armies fighting local insurgencies — imagine the result if we let the Pope choose the scientists doing genetic research. After 60 years of brilliantly written research and poor real-world results, we might notice they’re all creationists.

    Proving that the US military cannot conduct large scale counter-insurgency operations gets you exiled from the cool kids table in the lunchroom. No invitations to the fancy conferences funded by defense contractors, and no grants. You’re ignored by the stream of officers who fill the masters and PhD programs.

    The important but unspeakable reality is that our military experts — and most of our geopolitical experts — are warmongers in the literal sense. For details see What is a warmonger? Who are the warmongers?, 10 March 2011.

  2. I think we have to be careful about the word “failure” here. Look at the trillion dollars spent in Iraq and Afganistan. The private corporations who directly and indirectly benefit from this largess of (borrowed) money would chortle at the idea that they have “failed” in any way.

    Just like the Prison Guard Unions and the Prison-Industrial complex love them some War on Drugs, a war that costs trillions in long term costs and has imprisoned an amazing percentage of the population. Failure? Look at our stock price and my executive salaries!.

    1. Brian,

      That is an important point, vital to understand why we spend so much on the military, intel, and security — despite getting so little from it. Public spending, private profits.

  3. I’m not so sure that this is a matter of learning nothing from experience. I think it’s more a matter of following the money to see who profits from endless war and perpetual occupation.

    I see now that Mr. Obama has broken another promise. This time it’s the one about extricating our military from Afghanistan. Apparently a deal is being cut to allow anywhere from 6,000 to 15,000 American troops to remain there until 2024, and thereafter! Of course, we should not be surprised, since once we invade someplace, we never seem to leave. For some reason, the US presently maintains around 702 military bases in 130 foreign countries. Why have such a large number of bases if they are not to be used at some point? Well, world domination via overwhelming police action would be my guess. For God’s sake, we still have military presences in current allies, Germany and Japan since 1945, and South Korea since the early ’50s!

    It’s no wonder that this country is broke, and cannot provide adequate social services without taxing its base into a recession. That’s why we need an unending stream of crises, whether real, manufactured or assumed, to cow the public into our serial acts of aggression. In an era of increasing budgetary constraints, to support the same level of, or proliferation in, military spending, it has become traditional practice to confront an ever more cash-strapped electorate with vicious response to threat after threat from distant potentates who have no means whatsoever of actualizing their threats against us. Fear and the perception of looming danger always provide a productive environment for unthinking and unqualified support of military strength.

    The US is truly the champion state for military spending. Many vested interests certainly do not want to see the least bit of reduction in the absolutely bloated defense budget. Consider the following metrics for military spending for the 18 largest spending nations in 2009, in terms of 2008 purchasing power parity. First is the nation, second is $billions in reported military spending, and third is % military spending to GDP: USA, $663 billion, 4.3%; China, 99, 2.0; UK, 69, 2.5; France, 67, 2.3; Russia, 61, 3.5; Germany, 48, 1.3; Japan, 47, 0.9; Saudi Arabia, 39, 8.2; Italy, 37, 1.7; India, 37, 2.6; South Korea, 27, 2.8; Brazil, 27, 1.5; Canada, 21, 1.3; Australia, 20, 1.8; Spain, 19, 1.2; Turkey, 19, 2.2; Israel, 14, 7.0; and Greece, 14, 3.6.

    The above numbers show that the US spends 6.7 times the amount that China spends, 10.9 times that of Russia, and 1.9 times that of the next 5 biggest spenders. The US spent $663 billion as compared to the next, 17 largest spenders, who in aggregate, paid out a total of $665 billion. The US spent as much for military adventures in 2009 as the next 17 largest countries combined!

    My assertion is that powerful, vested interests in the US profit from war and war readiness. Since all organizations take steps to perpetuate themselves, the military interests will take steps to increase their power, control, and profit. Spending for imperial purposes in such magnitude is difficult to effect in an era of stability connoting generalized peace. Instead, we are, and will be under our current elites, confronted with an Orwellian construct out of “1984,” where war, or war footing is permanent.

    PS: I really like your website. Whether I agree (almost always) or disagree (seldom) with your analyses and worldview, your posts are always interesting, reasoned, and well-written.

    1. Steve,

      “I’m not so sure that this is a matter of learning nothing from experience. I think it’s more a matter of following the money to see who profits from endless war and perpetual occupation.”

      That, and your following analysis, are spot on.

      You are rightly reminding me of the punchline to the old joke, when the Lone Ranger and Tonto are surrounded by hostile indians. Tonto says “What do you mean by ‘we”, paleface?”

      We have learned nothing. But our leaders might have learned much.

      As for our geopolitical and military experts, many of them appear to have learned nothing. Upton SInclair tells us why (from his 1935 book):

      “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it.”

  4. As previously mentioned in FM’s excerpt from Martin van Creveld, post-1945 counterinsurgents have a nearly unbroken record of failure.

    Interestingly enough, one of America’s best paid propagandists (Max Boot) wrote a whole book about insurgency and even made a database attempting to catalogue various details about them. I haven’t attempted to investigate his assertions (yet), but here it is.

    http://www.cfr.org/wars-and-warfare/invisible-armies-insurgency-tracker/p29917

    1. Hoyticus,

      (1) “counterinsurgents have a nearly unbroken record of failure.”

      More specifically, counterinsurgency by governments usually wins.

      Governments so weak that they need foreign boots on their soil — usually lose.

      See the reports cited in this post for the grim details.

      (2) Max Boot

      Wrong way Boot, one of our largest engines of disinformation on military matters. Given his articles misinformation about basic history, I suggest not relying on his work.

      See posts about his “work” here:

      http://fabiusmaximus.com/tag/max-boot/

    2. I agree that for the most part anything written by Boot is disinformation/propaganda.

      However, the salient point from Martin van Creveld’s “On Counterinsurgency” is that foreigners never win against a native insurgency (post-1945). The point being, America is not culturally similar enough to Vietnam, Afghanistan or Iraq to be able to wage counterinsurgency and win, i.e. we cannot be the British in Northern Ireland or Hafez al-Assad in Syria because the places we invaded are fundamentally different from America.

      Also, as van Creveld stated, both places were already being ruled over by the same governments/forces that later acted as counterinsurgents. In other words, we cannot defeat insurgencies therefore we should stop invading countries and inadvertently birthing them or exacerbating them.

    3. Hoyticus,

      I agree.

      So the question is why has such an obvious point — visible in both history and common sense (the former a better guide than the latter, imo) — eluded most of our military and geopolitical experts? And journalists? And the hordes of mil-bloggers, many of whom are well-educated, often with ample relevant experience?

      There is no one answer, or one perspective from which to see it. I use the Observation-Orientation-Decision-Action loop as a framing context, and describe the problem as a Failure to Learn.

      That’s of course not the end of the answer. Beyond that explanation lies the question WHY, usually the most difficult of question — and necessary to develop a workable solution.

  5. “Wrong way Boot, one of our largest engines of disinformation on military matters. ”

    Who are some of the others?

    Also, are there any writers – preferably modern or contemporary, and besides Boyd and van Creveld – whose works you would recommend to those attempting to acquire a good or better understanding of warfare?

    1. Derek,

      Let’s look at some of the good guys.

      William Lind, co-author of the semi al “Into the Fourth Generation” in the Marine Corps Gazette. Now writes at Am Conservative and TraditionalRight.

      Colonel Gian Gentile, officer and a history professor at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Read his books and articles.

      Andrew J. Bacevich. Colonel, US Army, retired. Now Prof History at Boston U. Books and articles.

      Books: The Utility of Force by Rupert Smith (General, British Army, retired).

      Chet Smith books.

      There are others. The key point is that we have no shortage of real experts. We just prefer shills and charlatans. It is our choice.

    2. Thanks for the list.

      I had sort of written Lind off after having read his attacks on the critical theorists of the Frankfurt School, so I’ll be interested to see whether his writing on military affairs are of higher quality.

    3. Fair enough, and it’s not my intention to place you in a position to explain or defend Lind’s more outrageous statements. From a relatively neutral perspective, though, I think that the point you made raises some interesting questions (I apologize in advance for topic drift):

      – Is the phenomena of an expert in one field acting as though clueless in another field a common attribute of experts making claims outside of their area of specialty? Or is this more common amongst military experts, and if so, why?

      – If this is a general pattern of experts (perhaps spurred on by their successes in one domain they feel they can tackle all), what becomes of the project of becoming a well rounded individual, conversant in many diverse topics?

      I am aware that Boyd, who I’d argue (or agree) is the most important military thinker of modern times, intended his theories to be applicable to domains of conflict outside of warfare. So that to me implies a search for common principles and/or the possibility of a meta theoretical system capable of subsuming many areas of inquiry (branches of science, etc.), even if restricted to conflict.

      Ironically, in light of Lind’s disparaging remarks about ‘cultural Marxism’ or whatever procedure that has supposedly set itself in opposition to cultural conservatism, Osinga’s scholarly treatment of Boyd’s work makes many comparisons to Boyd and postmodernism and goes as far as to characterize Boyd as the first postmodern military strategist.

    4. Derek,

      “Is the phenomena of an expert in one field acting as though clueless in another field a common attribute of experts making claims outside of their area of specialty? Or is this more common amongst military experts, and if so, why?”

      Common as dirt. I have no idea why.

      “If this is a general pattern of experts what becomes of the project of becoming a well rounded individual, conversant in many diverse topics?”

      A “well-rounded” individual has not become a universal savant. Rather he or she is a good citizen, functional in many aspects of life, able to converse with a wide range of people, and appreciate a wide range of life’s experiences.

  6. Brian M nails it. You say “We gained nothing” from our endless unwinnable foreign wars since 2001, FM…but who is “we”?

    If you mean the bottom 99% of the population, certainly, they gained nothing. But if you look at the military contractors, the Pentagon brass who need their ticket punched for promotion and pay raises, if you look at the think tanks and the foreign policy “experts” who make 6-figure salaries and posh academic careers by parroting the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review, if you look at the congressmen and senators who boosted their careers and won re-election by talking tough about “defeating terrorism” and “fighting over there so we don’t have to fight them over here,” all these people benefited immensely from our foreign wars over the last 10 years.

    “People say the Pentagon does not have a strategy. They are wrong. The Pentagon does have a strategy; it is: Don’t interrupt the money flow, add to it.” — Col. John R. Boyd

    “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” — Upton Sinclair

  7. William Lind has some odd views about contemporary society — for example, like Mencius Moldbug, he’s a neoreactionary politically who advocates a return to an hereditary monarchy (!) and who believes Western society went wrong with the French Revolution (!!), but Lind’s analysis of military affairs is absolutely stellar.

    Lind’s final “On War” column from 15 December 2009 is directly on point with what FM has been posting about the U.S. military. In fact, Lind’s entire column is what Chuck Spinney would call a Schewrpunkt:

    “Parting Thoughts, For Now,” William S. Lind, 15 December 2009.

  8. Re: Lind and the conundrum of how one so wise in one field could be so foolish in another. Socrates discusses the matter in Plato’s Apology:

    “At last I went to the artisans, for I was conscious that I knew nothing at all, as I may say, and I was sure that they knew many fine things; and here I was not mistaken, for they did know many things of which I was ignorant, and in this they certainly were wiser than I was.

    But I observed that even the good artisans fell into the same error as the poets; because they were good workmen they thought that they also knew all sorts of high matters, and this deceit in them overshadowed their wisdom; and therefore I asked myself on behalf of the oracle, whether I would like to be as I was, neither having their knowledge nor their ignorance, or like them in both; and I made answer to myself and to the oracle that I was better off as I was.”

    1. Duncan,

      Thanks for this contribution to the question I posed. I find it highly intriguing, but not definitive.

      Socrates suggests that knowledge of one domain implies ignorance in another. The question amounts to what, if any, common principles are transposable from one discipline to another (hence my earlier reference to Boyd intention that his theories apply to other forms of conflict besides warfare).

      Socrates points to conceit as the culprit in deceiving people that their excellence in one field will translate to another. In a sense, the source of their error is the same as the source of their eminence: their belief in their capabilities. If they had doubted their capabilities they would not have fallen into the error recognized by Socrates, but they perhaps also would not have become eminent in their field to begin with. Doubt is truly a double edged sword, the etymology of the word doubt stemming from the word double (or so I’ve heard).

    2. derek,

      “In a sense, the source of their error is the same as the source of their eminence: their belief in their capabilities”

      That seems likely to me. Doctors and scientists are, I find, especially prone to this behavior.

      This quickly goes over my pay grade, but perhaps the Duning – Kruger effect plays a role here. From Wikipedia:

      The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than is accurate. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude. Actual competence may weaken self-confidence, as competent individuals may falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding.

      David Dunning and Justin Kruger of the Cornell University conclude, “the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others”.

  9. I want to add that Socrates doesn’t seem to doubt that knowledge of one domain will result in ignorance in another which forms part of the scaffolding of the narrative. In some cases that may not be true, so why should he prefer to remain as he is?

    Blake’s words are also interesting in light of Socrates’ narrative:

    “If the Sun and Moon should doubt
    They’d immediately go out.”

    As are Kerouac’s (from memory): ‘No one believes that there’s nothing to believe in.’ A person would have to literally be no one otherwise they still harbor at least one belief, their self.

    FM: sorry once again for the topic drift.

    1. derek,

      “sorry once again for the topic drift.”

      It’s topic drift, but to subjects oft discussed here. The reliability of experts, the boundaries of our knowledge, reliability of our views of the world.

      Also, I’m cool with discussion of almost anything in comments when at this level.

  10. There is another factor and it is hurtful to some in the US, but is actually a very good thing and shows, that at its core, it is a good(ish) society. The US is bad at warfare, of any kind (except a few limited, though sometimes important, parts).

    In most cases it’s biggest contributions was by making things.Poor militarily, to non-existent in WW1, It was terrible in WW2 at the strategic and the tactical levels as well as just the basic fighting levels.

    Even a cursory glance at Korea, Vietnam and all the rest show a military .. that is very poor by any objective standards.

    That, if you are an American is something you should be proud of. Again, at its core, US society is non-militaristic. Despite the endless attempts by its ‘elites’ to make it so (though I say to them, be careful of what you wish for). The “I love my military’ love-in in US society these days is only a post WW2 thing, it never existed before, where the majority of people, correctly, held the military in contempt.

    You look at the US between WW1 and WW2, it was as profoundly a non-militaristic society as you could hope to get. The military, tiny as it was, was so unattractive to ordinary people that starvation looked like a better alternative. Even at the heights of the 20’s/30’s Depression the US military was not actually swamped by people trying to join(even the poorest had their pride).

    The downside was that, when it got bigger post WW2 the direction it set on was by clowns, idiots and corrupt people (Patton, Eisenhower and MacArthur in that order) with strategic directions set by people who had no idea about war at all (Marshall basically).

    Now I have insulted the pantheon of US military people, but deliberately. Because if you want to really change things then everyone has to face the truth first.

    Eg: MacArthur may be some sort of hero to some people(sod knows why), but was that man on the take….

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