Summary: As we start a new war, will we remember the lessons of our last wars? Most importantly, will we continue to run like hamsters on the wheel? We kill our foes, and nearby citizens. As infidel foreign invaders, the locals consider our actions illegitimate. The insurgents gain support and members. So we ratchet up our effort. Oddly, we’ve known this for over a decade but repeat our actions.
“Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.”
— A warming from
By Alcoholics Anonymous, people who know about dysfunctionality.
(1) Quotes from those who learned from our wars
These are but a few of the many warnings about our mad tactics. I suspect there are many more stamped SECRET in DoD’s files.
John Kerry, 2 August 2004. This reads differently a decade later, since the Obama administration has continued most of these policies:
“The policies of this administration, I believe and others believe very deeply, have resulted in an increase of animosity and anger focused on the United States of America. The people who are training terror are using our actions as a means of recruitment.”
“Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States”, National Intelligence Estimate (NIE 2006-02R), April 2006
We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives; perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere. The Iraq conflict has become the “cause celebre” for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement.
… The jihadists replay images of Muslim civilians under attack by the West to justify their actions to Muslim audiences.
“Guantanamo’s Shadow“, The Atlantic, 1 October 2007 — “The Atlantic recently asked a group of foreign policy authorities about the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba”
“The Guantanamo system has hurt the U.S. and our fight against Al Qaeda. We have abandoned the moral high ground and, through our actions, have become one of the principle recruiting agents for Islamic extremism.”
“Our strongest asset internationally was our reputation and credibility on human rights. We have squandered that.”
“Hurt, on balance, because it has severely damaged our moral case in the world, which we have to have in order to rally support for combating Al Qaeda.”
“Both in the obvious public relations way, worldwide, and quite directly, in showing Al Qaeda that we can very easily and quickly be seduced into wild overreactions. That is just what Osama Bin Laden hoped. Since it worked so well, he has an incentive to repeat.”
“It has done enormous damage to our reputation and soft power.”
“‘Top Secret America’: A look at the military’s Joint Special Operations Command“, Washington Post, 2 September 2011
Even before the Army’s Abu Ghraib prison photos began circulating in 2004, a confidential report warned that some JSOC interrogators were assaulting prisoners and hiding them in secret facilities. JSOC troops also detained mothers, wives and daughters when the men in a house they were looking for were not at home. The report warned these detentions and other massive sweep operations were counterproductive to winning Iraqi support.
(2) America’s trinity of warfare
Modern armed forces, of both developed and undeveloped nations, tend to rely on a trinity of operational methods. None of these are new of course (almost nothing is new in war, it’s all a matter of combinations and emphasis).
- Popular front militia
- Massive firepower on civilians
- Sweep and destroy missions
Since WW2 armies rediscover these 3 methods, dressing them up in the fancy terminology befitting “radical” innovations. The repeated failure of these methods doesn’t discourage repeated confident use. Our greatest failure is our failure to learn.
We can do better. Our prosperity, perhaps our survival, depends on learning from our experiences in the long war.
(4) For More Information
(a) Posts about the American trinity of warfare:
- Three blind men examine the Iraq Elephant, 6 February 2008
- Winning hearts and mind with artillery fire, 26 May 2008
- Another example of winning hearts & minds with artillery, 29 May 2008
- The Trinity of modern war at work in Afghanistan (more evidence that amnesia is a required to be an American geopol expert), 12 July 2009
- About our operations in Kandahar – all that’s old is new again, 20 October 2010
(b) Posts about learning:
- COIN, another example of our difficulty learning from history or experience, 7 December 2011
- Remembering is the first step to learning. Living in the now is ignorance., 29 October 2013
- Time to ask about lessons learned from our wars, a last opportunity to gain something from them, 30 October 2013
- Expanding the size and scope of our Special Operations Forces, an alternative to learning from our failed wars, 3 November 2013
- A note from the time of WWI, lessons from The Great War for us fighting the Long War, 23 January 2014