Summary: The year is only 7 weeks old and we’ve already taken several steps accelerating phase two of our mad Post-9/11 Wars. Our primary method is FAILure to Learn, repeating the tactics that didn’t work during the past 14 years. This will not end well for us. (2nd of 2 posts today}
US forces have begun fighting along side the Iraq army (Apache attack helicopters supporting the Iraq army). Special Operations forces have increased their tempo of operations in Afghanistan. We’ve dispatched a brigade of 4,000 to Iraq, with a vague explanation of its mission (more are warming up in the US to go). Obama’s submitted to Congress a vague Authorization for the Use of Military Force against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (AUMF, to fight the wars already under way).
This makes no sense. We conducted our first wave of wars — Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen — in direct violation of the two lessons of post-WWII history. Both are quite obvious.
- Foreigners (especially foreign infidels) almost never defeat local insurgents. Their presence undermines the legitimacy of the host government and arouses opposition in proportional to their activity (i.e., the more we do, the more they hate us).
- Large numbers of troops are needed to have even a small chance of winning (large numbers as a ratio to the local population opposing us). Details here.
Having proven our incompetence at 4GW, now we escalate to outright madness by repeating the same failed methods but on a smaller (and hence less likely to work) scale. It’s a FAILure to learn, a weakness no amount of power can counterbalance. Not at WWI levels (doubling down with failed tactics), but still inexcusable.
“Insanity is repeating one’s actions while expecting a different result”. We could feel good about this insight if it was Einstein’s — if it took an Einstein to see our mistakes! But it’s old wisdom from Alcoholics Anonymous, people who know all about dysfunctionality. (More about this here.)
Perhaps that’s our destiny, to screw up repeatedly in foreign wars until we fritter away all that our nation’s wealth and ingenuity have given us. After we hit bottom we can enroll America in Fools Anonymous.
The key thing to know about our wars
It’s often said that our leaders — business and political — are fools. Those dumb bankers. Those dumb generals. Those dumb folks in Congress. That’s silly. All of these groups have profited enormously from what we see as mistakes (i.e., the crash, our failed wars, our rotting America). It’s the equivalent of a loser at Vegas cursing those dumb casino owners.
We, the citizens of America, are fools to allow these wars to be waged in our name, paid for by our taxes. We can stop them whenever we find the will to re-take the reins of America. The political machinery the Founders bequeathed us lies idle but potentially powerful, awaiting only our energy to empower it.
For More Information
Posts about the key insight from post-WWII history about 4GW. This would change the course of American foreign policy, if we paid attention.
- How often do insurgents win? How much time does successful COIN require?
- Max Boot: history suggests we will win in Afghanistan, with better than 50-50 odds. Here’s the real story. — 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 — Andrew Exum points us to the doctoral dissertation of Erin Marie Simpson in Political Science from Harvard on the history counter-insurgency.
- A look at the history of victories over insurgents.
- COINistas point to Kenya as a COIN success. In fact it was an expensive bloody failure.
4 thoughts on “Our escalation shows the key US military strategy: FAILure to learn.”
It is a culture that cannot learn because success of the individual officer is based on zero-defects. The first aspect of critical thinking is the ability to criticize one’s thinking and past assumptions. This means you might have made of mistake, which is not permitted in our military or society today.
That is a brilliant insight, the best single sentence summary of the problem.
It’s also operationally useful, as this behavior is not tied into deep structural fractures (e.g., not essential to the money flows of the iron triangle).
On a larger scale, America’s political & social system has become dysfunctional because it’s based on zero defects. America in 2015 is always the greatest country in the world, the greatest military in history, the greatest economy in history, the greatest medical system on earth, the shining “city on a hill.” After the fall of the USSR, capitalism (eerily like communism before it) was proclaimed the greatest system in history — we are now informed in tones of punitive absolutism that capitalism (like communism) can never fail, but can only be failed by inadequate implementation. Reminiscent of the claims for the divine right of kings just before WW I.
What is American Exceptionalism but zero defects writ large?
The infantile spoiled-brat American people don’t want to hear about problems with America’s medical system, America’s military, America’s economy, America’s racist poverty-ridden corrupt crony-capitalist society. They only want cheerleading and rah-rah praise every 4 years from feckless servile presidential candidates who fawn over “the greatest people in the greatest country on earth.”
That’s a recipe for disaster. Criticism is the only know way of detecting and correcting error, but the American people won’t tolerate it. Instead their response is: “America: love it or leave it.” The Easter Islanders probably offered similar cheerleading and praise to the guy who cut down the last tree, and showered similarly acid contempt on anyone who suggested it might not be a great idea.
“On a larger scale, America’s political & social system has become dysfunctional because it’s based on zero defects.”
What? Every media overflows with Americans talking about the problems in America (stemming from other folks, of course). I don’t know anybody who says we have “zero defects”. The more common view across the political spectrum is that we’re on the brink of disaster due to our defects.
Also, it strikes me as delusional to say America is “dysfunction” in a such a broad sense. Some institutions are imo, but then that’s probably always been true for every society since the invention of cities. When you look around and see every institution functional, then rejoice! You’re dead, and gone to Heaven.