Summary: The United States cannot fight a war against radical Islamism and win. That’s obvious, but we’re doing it anyway. Here Chet Richards looks at our Grand Strategy as described by George Friedman of Stratfor.
There are those who will tell you that if you can’t sit in on meetings of our national security apparatus, the best alternative is to read George Friedman. So his most recent column in Stratfor, “Avoiding Wars that Never End“, might be taken as a trial balloon for a less intrusive policy for dealing with the treat posed by radical Islam. Friedman proposes returning to the strategy that proved successful in the two great wars of the twentieth century:
The United States cannot fight a war against radical Islamism and win … But the United States has the option of following U.S. strategy in the two world wars. The United States was patient, accepted risks and shifted the burden to others, and when it acted, it acted out of necessity, with clearly defined goals matched by capabilities. Waiting until there is no choice but to go to war is not isolationism. Allowing others to carry the primary risk is not disengagement. Waging wars that are finite is not irresponsible.
Read the article. Although it seems like a welcome, if belated, exercise in 21st century realpolitik, if you read carefully, you find the same failed grand strategy that got us into our present condition: We will still be fighting an “ism,” primarily with military force.
As Friedman himself notes, this was not our original goal:
That goal was not to deny al Qaeda the ability to operate in Afghanistan, an objective that would achieve nothing. Rather, the goal was to engage al Qaeda and disrupt its command-and-control structure as a way to degrade the group’s ability to plan and execute additional attacks.
Summary: Today Chet Richards looks a recent Stratfor post about the crisis of the middle class, and from there explores some of the challenges facing 21st century America.
George Friedman, Founder and CEO of Stratfor, is always worth reading for the same reason that, say, James Kilpatrick was: You might not have agreed with much that he wrote, but there were usually a few nuggets amidst the infuriation, and he wrote so amazingly well. In fact, in his later years, his columns on writing were all I remember.
Friedman has an important column in Stratfor, The Crisis of the Middle Class and American Power. He opens with:
I received a great deal of feedback, with Europeans agreeing that this is the core problem and Americans arguing that the United States has the same problem, asserting that U.S. unemployment is twice as high as the government’s official unemployment rate. My counterargument is that unemployment in the United States is not a problem in the same sense that it is in Europe because it does not pose a geopolitical threat. The United States does not face political disintegration from unemployment, whatever the number is. Europe might.
And proceeds to argue most eloquently that the United States faces exactly that. This was also something the late John Boyd (Colonel, USAF) worried about. For examples, here’s part of his discussion of the prerequisites for an insurrection. From his presentation Patterns of Conflict, slide 94:
Summary: Some say that America suffers from a disability, the inability to learn even simple things from history or the example of other nations. Such as our inability to construct a rational health care system (a task solved one or more generations ago by our peers), and the rodeo clown show we call a “foreign policy”. This new article from Stratfor suggests that times are changing, and nine years after 9-11 we’ve begun to learn a little about the nature of modern terrorism.
Today’s recommended reading is an excerpt from “Terrorism, Vigilance and the Limits of the War on Terror“, George Friedman, STRATFOR, 5 October 2010 (republished with permission). While an excellent and valuable article, Chet Richards gave a deeper analysis in If We Can Keep It – A national security manifesto for the 21st century (2008). While brilliant, like most American geopolitical analysis the writer adopts the clean-minded idealism of freshman. Freidman never hints that our anti-terrorism mania might benefit elements of our ruling elites. Businesses profiting from high-margin contracts. Bureaucrats seeking larger empires. And in general, those benefiting from a larger and more powerful government.
What the government is saying to its citizenry is that, in the end, it cannot guarantee that there won’t be an attack and therefore its citizens are on their own. The problem with that statement is not that the government isn’t doing its job but that the job cannot be done. The government can reduce the threat of terrorism. It cannot eliminate it. This brings us to the strategic point.