Summary: As we approach the 25th anniversary of the article that started research about 4GW, our newspapers give daily demonstrations that we’ve learned nothing since Mao brought 4GW to maturity after WW2. Worse they show our unwillingness to learn from failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, and our belligerence — even eagerness for war. Perhaps we see foreign war as a distraction from our political decay and mounting internal problems, kicking ass in the emerging nations to show that we’re still men.
Here is one day’s craziness in American geopolitics: six articles about our next round of wars published on September 8. We can do better. Laughter and mockery of this nonsense would make a good start.
(a) “Upholding America’s honor in a dangerous world“, Jonah Goldberg, op-ed in the Los Angeles Times — Rational geopolitics, with logical reasons to wage war? Not here. To mention just one of Goldberg’s fallacies, Iraq is by most measures worse off than before we “liberated it” (without invitation).
Then, some jihadi punks beheaded two Americans and taunted the U.S. in the process. The same jihadis conquered and enslaved territories Americans fought, bled and died to liberate. They boasted that they beat us in a war and vowed — ridiculously — that their flag would fly over our White House.
Attitudes, particularly among the very patriotic and pro-military tea party crowd, suddenly and predictably shifted. This time last year only 18% of Republicans told pollsters for the Pew Research Center that the U.S. does “too little” abroad. By last week that number more than doubled and will probably keep rising. A YouGov poll in September 2013 found 62% of Americans opposed military force in Syria. Only 20% supported it. Now, 63% favor intervention in Syria and only 16% are against.
(b) “Another way to defeat IS“, editorial by the Christian Science Monitor –They hope that Arab societies reform themselves. How is this us “defeating” IS? Muddled thinking.
“Arabs need a hopeful model of progress if they are to rally behind the US in ‘destroying’ the Islamic State group. Such a democratic model is coming along well in Tunisia, the original home to the Arab Spring.”
(c) “Blind to the world’s ‘broken windows’“, Richard Cohen, op-ed in the Washington Post — To Cohen America is the world’s cop (albeit an unpaid and illegitimate cop), the President is the world’s emperor — responsible for maintaining order, and the world is just like Boston. These mad beliefs can have only ugly consequences for us. Excerpt:
The world today is suffering from the failure of President Obama to apply a school of law enforcement that happened to originate in O’Neill’s home town, Boston, and goes by the moniker “broken windows.” The problem, simply stated, is that Obama was deaf to the sound of tinkling glass.
… It’s an observation of human nature: We all like to feel that someone’s in charge. … What works for the subways or a city works as well in international relations.
(d) “We Learned (the Hard Way) the Value of Restraint in Iraq; We Can’t Forget It Now Against ISIS“, Stephen Liszewski (Colonel, USMC), Council on Foreign Relations — This displays a cornucopia of errors, on several levels. He draws lessons from a failed war. He assumes tactical excellence is the same as strategy (similar to the mistake Germany made in both WW1 and WW2). Today’s events show the “success” of the US in Anbar (odd that it’s now a core stronghold of ISIS). Also, when did Congress declare war on “violent extremist ideologies”? Can we really bomb and kill our way to victory over ideologies?
As the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) continues to dominate the headlines, many commentators have called on U.S. policymakers to remember the lessons produced by over a decade of hard fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. One of the key lessons from those conflicts is the importance of patience and restraint when responding to enemy aggression. A premature or imprecise application of U.S. military power in response to recent ISIS actions could undermine our larger efforts to defeat this threat and the larger threat of violent extremism in the region. We learned the importance of patience and restraint at the tactical level in Iraq; these lessons are applicable now at the strategic level against ISIS.
… Much of the success of U.S. forces in Al Anbar province came from our ability to fight the insurgency with great tenacity and skill while simultaneously minimizing collateral damage.
… The fight against ISIS is part of a larger war against violent extremist ideologies. We need to remember this as we move forward in Iraq. It is becoming increasingly clear that we will take the fight ISIS.
… U.S. combat power can play a critical role against ISIS. In order to be effective, this combat power will have to be applied in a patient and deliberate manner … The application of U.S. combat power will also require detailed intelligence to ensure the actions we take are directed against the right targets. We must have a clear understanding of the situation on the ground and a comprehensive plan before we pull the trigger.
That last paragraph is especially odd. Will US combat power prove to be more effective against ISIS than in Iraq and Afghanistan? And where will we get this wonderful intelligence, better than that produced the wars destabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan?
(e) “America’s resumption of ‘the long war’“, Michael Gerson, op-ed of the Washington Post — An architect of a failed war as member of the Bush Jr White House Iraq Group. Only a nation that enjoys failure would take advice from such people. He makes big statements, clear about who we’re fighting — but no mention of who we’re fighting to support. Note this special lunacy, ignoring the spread of US military operations across the Middle East and Africa:
The last five, six, seven years have seen a consistent attempt to narrow U.S. efforts to Special Operations raids and drone strikes while retreating from geostrategic commitments (as in Iraq) or ignoring them (as in Syria).
(f) “Confronting the ISIS Threat“, editorial in the New York Times — No explanation of the threat ISIS poses to the interests of the USA. Nor is there a glimmer of a strategy. The usual NYT editorial mush.
For More Information
The history of COIN that we refuse to learn:
- How often do insurgents win? How much time does successful COIN require?, 29 May 2008
- 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.
- A major discovery! It could change the course of US geopolitical strategy, if we’d only see it, 28 June 2010 — Andrew Exum (aka Abu Muqawama) points us to the doctoral dissertation of Erin Marie Simpson in Political Science from Harvard. She examines the present and past analysis of counter-insurgency. This could change the course of American foreign policy, if we pay attention.
- A look at the history of victories over insurgents, 30 June 2010
- COINistas point to Kenya as a COIN success. In fact it was an expensive bloody failure., 7 August 2012