Every day in America shows our eagerness for war. We’ll get what we want, eventually.

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.

Source: Syed Zaid Zaman Hamid


(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?

System Failure

(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:

  1. How often do insurgents win?  How much time does successful COIN require?, 29 May 2008
  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.
  3. 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.
  4. A look at the history of victories over insurgents, 30 June 2010
  5. COINistas point to Kenya as a COIN success. In fact it was an expensive bloody failure., 7 August 2012



9 thoughts on “Every day in America shows our eagerness for war. We’ll get what we want, eventually.”

  1. Col. John Boyd, America’s greatest military strategist, emphasized the advantages of a defensive grand strategy.

    Boyd had a reservoir of comments he repeated regularly, one of which was, “A lot of people in Washington talk about strategy. Most of them can spell the word, but that’s all they know of it.” The establishment’s insistence on an offensive grand strategy, where we attempt to force secular liberal democracy down the throats of every people on earth, is a major reason for our involvement and defeat in Fourth Generation conflicts. A defensive grand strategy, which is what this country followed successfully through most of its history, would permit us to fold our enemies back on themselves, something Boyd recommended. With us out of the picture, their internal fissures, such as those between Sunni and Shiites in the Islamic world, would become their focus. But as usual, Boyd was right: virtually no one in Washington can understand the advantages of a defensive grand strategy.

    Being involved in every conflict on earth is useful if the real game is boosting the Pentagon’s budget rather than serving our national interests. Here too Boyd had a favorite line. He often said, “It is not true the Pentagon has no strategy. It has a strategy, and once you understand what that strategy is, everything the Pentagon does makes sense. The strategy is, don’t interrupt the money flow, add to it.”

    Source: “John Boyd’s Art of War,” William S. Lind, 16 August 2013.

    When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, the men’s weapons will grow dull and their ardour will be damped. If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength. (..)
    Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources of the State will not be equal to the strain. (..) Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardour damped, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue. (..) No long war ever profited any country: 100 victories in 100 battles is simply ridiculous.

    Source: “The Art Of War,” Sun Tzu, ca. 2nd century B.C.

  2. An important aspect is how history is being blatantly rewritten: Iraq was a success; US forces relied upon patience and restraint to liberate it; they minimized collateral damage; in the last 5 to 7 years, operations were narrowed to Special Operations raids and drone strikes (where have all the surges in Iraq and Afghanistan gone?) etc, etc.

    The other interesting aspect is the growing number of “incidents” which were vehemently denounced as demonstrating that the USA or its allies are under attack from those hostile forces, but that went done the memory hole without any conclusive determination, among others:
    1) the assassination of Rafi Hariri (blamed on Assad);
    2) the bungled terrorist attacks in Thailand (blamed on Iran);
    3) the bus bombing in Bulgaria (blamed on Hezbollah);
    4) the chemical attack(s) in Syria (blamed on Assad);
    5) the downing of MH17 in Ukraine (blamed on separatists);
    6) recurrent bouts of cyberattacks (blamed on either Russia or China).

    Proofs are never produced, and after a sustained outcry those events are never mentioned again — not even to remind people how dastardly the enemies of the USA have always been.

    When stepping back to re-considering how those (and other) aforementioned articles trumpet the need for war against the new fashionable enemy (nowadays ISIL/ISIS/IS), then the extent to which the historical record is being manipulated appears quite unsettling — as does extent to which people do not even seem to notice.

    1. As in so many things, Orwell got it right. I too have noted little “modifications” of official history that go unnoticed, largely because people either never knew about the real events when they happened, or have forgotten, or they just don’t care. These “little changes” are common to the middle-of-the-road, mainstream media — the kind that future historians will look to first. It’s really quite creepy to see it in action. Some examples I can think of off-hand:

      1) That Saddam Hussein “kicked out” the weapons inspectors in 1998 instead of the reality that they were withdrawn for their own safety after Bill Clinton announced he was going to bomb Iraq in operation Desert Fox.

      2) The complete amnesia about the non-existent WMDs that were the causus belli of the Iraq war, and the subject of months of hysterical propaganda leading up to it. In reading official news stories that mention the origin of the war — that never happened. It was all about democracy, you see.

      3) Even more recent: Obama withdrew the U.S. troops from Iraq. Although he did hint at this during his campaign, in fact Bush agreed to withdraw by 2011 because he couldn’t get the Iraqi government to sign a SOFA granting immunity from Iraqi law after all the massacres of civilians by U.S. soldiers and mercenaries.

  3. Did you even read Goldberg’s article? This is not beating the drum for war, but rather an analysis of how notions of national honor can change the dynamics of realist expected benefit calculations. He also expressed skepticism that the U.S. as currently led can be a reliable partner to any nation. And right next to his byline is his twitter feed promoting “Five things that could go wrong with the president’s plan by @ByronYork.” These are not arguments for a new war.

    I’d say it was a nice job hitting the wrong target.

    1. Arms merchant,

      That’s too weird an interpretation for discussion. I will just quote the close, and let readers decide what Goldberg is advocating.

      “That is why Obama had to issue the mother of all redlines in the Baltics last week, vowing unconditional support for our allies. He was right to do so, for reasons of realism, honor and theater. But at this point it is an open question around the world whether America is the sort of country that will deliver on such commitments.”

  4. FM –

    Let me drop the fancy wording. Reader TheLaw makes the same point in the comments section for Goldberg’s article: “I think Mr. Goldberg makes a good point–many of our fellow citizens are not into deep thinking on many matters of state, and are driven by emotion. The poll numbers he cites support this.”

    As for your last paragraph, Goldberg opines that Obama has a case for his Russia policy (“He was right to do so”), but says nothing about Iraq, ISIS, or Syria. Exactly where do you disagree with this formulation: “The neglect of [national honor] considerations can have enormous costs (as can too much consideration; see World War, First.” ?

    I dare you to find anything in the article that explicity endorses Obama’s Iraq policy. You are reading into it what is not there.

    1. Arms,

      The entire opening is about ISIS.

      As for the “national honor”, that is primitive bs used to manipulate us. Our history shows that the people running this nation care not the slightest about honor — judging by the allies betrayed, the treaties broken, etc.

      As for “endorses Obama’s policy”, I said nothing like that. He’s a conservative shilling for war. Whatever Obama does will be either wrong or insufficient.

      I am done with these sad, even delusional, comments. Let readers judge for themselves.

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