Martin van Creveld advises Trump to not repeat Obama’s errors & invade Syria

Summary: Martin van Creveld warns Trump against taking his generals’ advice and invading Syria, repeating Obama’s mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan. History show that his odds of success are low.

Lessons learned

Are You Listening, President Trump?

By Martin van Creveld.
From his website, 16 March 2017.

Re-posted with his generous permission.

 

Fifty-six years ago, President Kennedy entered office eager to show how weak his predecessor, Eisenhower, had been and how brave and decisive he himself was. He sent his troops to Vietnam, and the rest is history.

Two months ago, President Trump entered office eager to do the same in respect to his predecessor, President Obama. To do so, he has hit on the brilliant idea of sending more American troops to Syria. In response, President Assad of Syria has told him that such troops, deployed without his permission, would not be welcome. Also that, over the last seventy years or so, almost every time Western, specifically American, troops went into the so-called developing world they failed to achieve their objectives. In quite a few cases the outcome was to open the gates of hell, as the Koran put itAs the following, extremely partial, list of their failures shows, Assad is right.

1944-1948. A few hundred active “terrorists” hound the British out of Palestine, leading to the establishment of the State of Israel.

1946-1954. French troops are defeated in Indochina, leading to Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Laotian independence.

1948-1960. British troops fail to hold Malaya and end up by withdrawing from the country. Thanks to a masterpiece of propaganda, the Brits make most of the world believe that they had actually won the war. But this does not prevent Malaysia from becoming independent state. {See details here.}

1950-1953, Western forces, operating under UN auspices, wage against North Korea and China. The outcome, stalemate, is probably the best that could have been achieved.

1953-1960. British troops fail to defeat the Mau Mau Revolt in Kenya, ending up by withdrawing from the country, which gained its independence. {See details here.}

1954-1962. The War in Algeria, which had been a French colony for well over a century, ends with a humiliating defeat for France.

1955-1960. An insurgency forces the British to give up Cyprus, which becomes an independent country.

1963-1967. Another insurgency forces the British to surrender Aden. Ditto.

1965-1972. The Second Vietnam War, which was the largest of them by far, ends with the decisive defeat of the US and its allies and their final withdrawal.

1970-1975. As part of the Second Vietnam War, the US invaded Cambodia. In 1975 it had to throw in the towel. With the US cowed and decolonization all but complete, major Western attempts to intervene in the developing world came to a halt.

1982-1984. A small continent of US troops enters Lebanon, but quickly leaves again after terrorists start blowing them up.

1991-1992. The US and its allies, provoked by Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, go to war. In almost seventy years, this is the only campaign that resulted in a clear victory. As a result, President George Bush declares that the US “has overcome the Vietnam Syndrome.”

1993. The US and its allies send troops into Somalia. To absolutely no avail, except for turning that country into an even worse hell than it already was.

2002-present. To avenge 9-11, the US and its allies invade Afghanistan. The resulting mess is still waiting to be cleared up.

2003-present. The US and its allies invade Iraq. Saddam Hussein is overthrown and, ultimately, killed. However, once again the outcome is a mess that has still not been resolved.

2005-present. French and British forces, initially supported by US cruise missiles, assist local militias in overthrowing Dictator Muammar Gadhafi. The outcome is the same as in Iraq.

2011-present. Small NATO contingents take part in Syria’s murderous civil war, but achieve practically nothing. Thanks in part to Russian aid, the side whom the US and its allies oppose, i.e. President Assad, seems to be gaining the upper hand.

Are you listening, President Trump?

————————————————-

The two kinds of insurgency: insurgents always win the kind we fight

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”
— Upton Sinclair in I, Candidate for Governor: And How I Got Licked (1935).

There is knowledge that must remain secret for our military to maintain its current form. Since Mao developed fourth generation war during WWII, almost no foreign armies have defeated local insurgents (special cases such as Northern Ireland). Our failed occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan add to that long list.

Instead our military highlights another kind of insurgency, where robust local governments defeat local insurgencies (when they are so weak so as to need support from foreign armies, their odds of survival drop to near-zero).

For more about this see Why the West loses so many wars, and how we can learn to win.

Martin van Creveld

About the Author

Martin van Creveld is Professor Emeritus of History at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and one of the world’s most renowned experts on military history and strategy.

The central role of Professor van Creveld in the development of theory about modern war is difficult to exaggerate. He has provided both the broad historical context — looking both forward and back in time — much of the analytical work, and a large share of the real work in publishing both academic and general interest books. He does not use the term 4GW— preferring to speak of “non-trinitarian” warfare — but his work is foundational for 4GW just the same. See links to his articles at The Essential 4GW reading list: Martin van Creveld.

Professor van Creveld has written 20 books, about almost every significant aspect of war. He has written about the history of war, such as The Age of Airpower. He has written about the tools of war in the fascinating Technology and War: From 2000 B.C. to the Present and Wargames: From Gladiators to Gigabytes (see the chapters about modern gaming, wargames for the people).

Some of his books discuss the methods of war: Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton, Training of Officers: From Military Professionalism to Irrelevance, and Air Power and Maneuver Warfare.

He has written three books about Israel: Defending Israel: A Controversial Plan Toward Peace, The Sword And The Olive: A Critical History Of The Israeli Defense Force, and a biography of Moshe Dayan.

Perhaps most important are his books examine the evolution of war, such as Nuclear Proliferation and the Future of Conflict, The Transformation of War: The Most Radical Reinterpretation of Armed Conflict Since Clausewitz (IMO the best work to date about modern war), The Changing Face of War: Combat from the Marne to Iraq, and (my favorite) The Culture of War.

He’s written controversial books, such as Fighting Power: German and U.S. Army Performance, 1939-1945 (German soldiers were better than ours!), Men, Women & War: Do Women Belong in the Front Line?. and Pussycats: Why the Rest Keeps Beating the West (2016).

And perhaps most important for 21st century America, his magnum opus— the dense but mind-opening The Rise and Decline of the State— describes the political order unfolding before our eyes.

For More Information

If you found this post of use, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Also see these posts about the history of COIN (we close our eyes so as not to learn from it):

  1. Max Boot: history suggests we will win in Afghanistan, with better than 50-50 odds. Here’s the real story.
  2. A major discovery! It could change the course of US geopolitical strategy, if we’d only see it.  — About the doctoral dissertation of Erin Marie Simpson in Political Science from Harvard.
  3. A look at the history of victories over insurgents. — A study by RAND.
  4. COINistas point to Kenya as a COIN success. In fact it was an expensive bloody failure.
  5. Return of the COINistas (the zombies of military theory).

Two books by Martin van Creveld about modern war.

Transformation of War
Avilable at Amazon.
More On War
Available at Amazon.
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2 thoughts on “Martin van Creveld advises Trump to not repeat Obama’s errors & invade Syria

  1. I read something as compelling as This, historically quite clear in a summation and I place it alongside the size of the DoD Budget and other expenditures of a military nature. There is a large group of people here obviously have some serious disconnect with reality.
    Perhaps we are nothing much more than a group of chimpanzees, oh yeah a few bonobos tucked in but still. A few generals? Nah, it’s more than that.

    Like

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