“SAS kill up to 8 jihadis each day, as allies prepare to wipe IS off the map.” Bold words we’ve heard before.

Summary: We interrupt our series of articles about 4GW for a news bulletin illustrating why we so often lose them.  We don’t just lose them. We excitedly cheer while losing. We feel bold and powerful when we lose. FAILure to learn has painful consequences, but feels great when it blinds us to unpleasant news. Reform hurts; it’s the price paid to win. A price we seem unwilling to pay.

Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results. This is the 2nd of two posts today.

— Old wisdom of Alcoholics Anonymous (details here)

Vainglorious (click to enlarge and see the real picture)

SAS quad bike squads kill up to 8 jihadis each day,
as allies prepare to wipe IS off the map

Daily News

22 November 2014
(the date doesn’t matter, since these stories appear so often in the news —
and have since the 1950s)

Opening to this story about bold Western soldiers on their way to victory:

Daring raids by UK Special Forces leave 200 enemy dead in just four weeks. Targets are identified by drones operated by SAS soldiers. Who are then dropped into IS territory by helicopter to stage attacks. The surprise ambushes are said to be ‘putting the fear of God into IS’. The raids are attacking IS’s main supply routes across western Iraq. …

Pictures of brave bold British soldiers and their weapons accompany the text. Plus aerial photos of the results. These fun stories build support for the government, enthusiasm for the war, make us feel well-informed, and fill the space between advertisements. In the future these stories will be written by software, as their rigid template has been perfected by use in scores of wars since Mao brought 4GW to maturity after WW2.

How many such stories have we read since 9/11? Too bad that killing our way to victory has almost never worked when applied by foreign armies against well-established insurgencies. See the links below to learn about the sad history of this tactic against 4GW. For an analysis of why this fails see The solution to jihad: kill and contain our foes. Give war another chance!

That we try it again (and again) represents a FAILure to learn, perhaps even outright insanity. Why do we fail to learn? The officer corps of western nations is probably the best-educated in history (although Martin van Creveld shows that they’re not usefully educated). They’re supported by a massive corps of civilian geopolitical experts, most with PhD’s in relevant specialties, often from our elite universities. Yet out ability to learn from experience would be considered retarded in a toddler.  Perhaps we cannot reform our military until we solve this puzzle.


Update: examples of our inability to see 4GW

Please read these astonishing articles, showing of blindness to 4GW as the dominant form of warfare for over 60 years (since Mao brought it to maturity after WW2):

(1) The Warrior Ethos at Risk: H.R. McMaster’s Remarkable Veterans Day Speech“, Council on Foreign Relations, 18 November 2014 — After 13 years of failed wars, a senior general shows that he still has little understanding of 4GW.  Many of the individual points he makes are consensus wisdom (i.e., we all agree), but these serve as a patina on his call to arms in the Long War. It’s not always 1939; not every foe is NAZI Germany. We’ll continue to earn defeat until we see more clearly.  Excerpt:

As President Obama observed “a non-violent movement could not have stopped Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms.” America, he observed has used its military power, “Because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.”  Ultimately, it will fall today, as it fell then, on the shoulders of American servicemen and women to stop mass murderers who threaten all of us, our children, and our grandchildren.

It is for this reason that American veterans are both warriors and humanitarians.

(2) Is military force no longer the way to win wars?” by Jonathan Marcus, (diplomatic correspondent), BBC, 21 November 2014 — Excerpt:

So why cannot military force secure the sort of definitive outcomes that seemed to be achievable in the past? Look more widely today and the problem is the same. … In all of these cases Western-style armies with overwhelming access to the most modern military technologies available either cannot prevail or do so in only a mitigated fashion.

So what’s going wrong? What has changed? Is it that military force itself is no longer so useful? If so, why? Or is it perhaps that military force is being employed in the wrong circumstances or maybe even in the wrong way?

Two things are worth noting. First, the context of war has changed dramatically from inter-state conflict to wars within broken states. Armies are actually very good at taking on other armies – that after all is what they are trained for and understand. But battling against shadowy forces inside a failed country whose languages and culture are poorly understood is quite another matter.

Until we see 4GW and understand its dynamics we’ll continue to spend the lives of our soldiers, and our limited resources, on these futile wars. We will feel powerful while doing so, until we’re weaker at the end.

At an early intergovernmental meeting on the importance of psychological warfare, one of {General} Harkins’ key staffmen, Brigadier General Gerald Kelleher, quickly dismissed that theory. His job, he said, was to kill Vietcong.  But the French, responded a political officer named Donald Pike, had killed a lot of Vietcong and they had not won. “Didn’t kill enough Vietcong,” answered Kelleher.
— From The Best and the Brightest, David Halberstam (1972)

The late Dr. Harry Tiebout, who worked with alcoholics and was a strong supporter of AA for 30 years, defined us as “defiant individualists.”  The Big Book {of AA} identifies us as selfish and self-centered, driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity.
— James Jensen, The twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (1993).

Posts in this series about 4GW, reflecting on 25 years of 4GW defeats

  1. Chuck Spinney asks why we choose to lose at 4GW.
  2. William Lind: thoughts about 4GW, why we lose, and how we can win in the future.
  3. “SAS kill up to 8 jihadis each day, as allies prepare to wipe IS off the map.” Bold words we’ve heard before.
  4. What is a fourth generation war, the wars of the 21st century? Who fights them, and why?
  5. The battle that mattered most to America: the Pentagon vs. Military Reformers. It’s over.
  6. What is a fourth generation war, the wars of the 21st century? Who fights them, and why?.
  7. Understanding 4GW, the first step to winning the Long War — #1 of GI’s series.
  8. DoD defends itself against dangerous new ideas about 4GW. — #2 of GI’s series.
  9. 4GW allows ISIS to fight and win against more powerful armies. Like ours. — #3 of GI’s series.
  10. Using 4GW might give the Islamic State a big future. — #4 of GI’s series.

For More Information

(a)  How often do insurgents win using 4GW against foreign armies? Almost never, as these studies show (they’re too painful for us, and so put down the memory hole).

  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 — The doctoral dissertation of Erin Marie Simpson (Political Science, Harvard) examines the past & present of counter-insurgency.  This analysis 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

(b)  There are solutions to 4GW, if we wish to make the necessary effort of will to seize them.

  1. A solution to 4GW — the introduction
  2. How to get the study of 4GW in gear
  3. Arrows in the Eagle’s claw — solutions to 4GW
  4. Arrows in the Eagle’s claw — 4GW analysts
  5. Visionaries point the way to success in the age of 4GW
  6. 4GW: A solution of the first kind – Robots!
  7. 4GW: A solution of the second kind
  8. 4GW: A solution of the third kind


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