Summary: Our long war, with its failure to achieve its objectives despite the expenditure of so much money and blood, has been marked by serving officers protesting the madness of our tactics — as we copy tactics of other foreign armies defeated by local insurgents using fourth generation war. Here is another, by Captain Waddell (USMC) — speaking from his hard-won experience. Since Trump seems determined to continue the long war, doubling down on failure, we should listen to list to the Captain’s advice.
“There is a powerful article in the February issue of the Marine Corps Gazette by Capt. Joshua Waddell, a company commander in the 1st Marine Division. It is so heartfelt that it kind of jumps off the page.”
— Thomas Ricks in “A powerful attack on the Marine Corps leadership — by a serving Marine captain“, 7 February 2017.
By Joshua Waddell (Captain, USMC) in the Marine Corps Gazette, February 2017.
Reposted with their generous permission.
“It is time that we, as professional military officers, accept the fact that we lost the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Objective analysis of the U.S. military’s effectiveness in these wars can only conclude that we were unable to translate tactical victory into operational and strategic success.”
I now thoroughly convinced there is something deeply wrong with the part of the Marine Corps occupying the I-95 corridor leading to the Pentagon. What has become painfully apparent to me is the drastic difference between the mindset of the Operating Forces and the Supporting Establishment. While I grant that, in the case of the former, the prospects of being shot, blown up, or otherwise extinguished tend to be wonderful motivators to constantly improve and perform, the Marine Corps Supporting Establishment is filled with senior officers whose backgrounds include extensive experience in combat within the Operating Forces. Why then is there such a divide between the organizational energy and innovative agility of our Marines and the depressive stagnation found within the Supporting Establishment?
I believe I know a big part of the answer: self-delusion. Let us first begin with the fundamental underpinnings of this delusion: our measures of performance and effectiveness in recent wars. It is time that we, as professional military officers, accept the fact that we lost the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Objective analysis of the U.S. military’s effectiveness in these wars can only conclude that we were unable to translate tactical victory into operational and strategic success (“‘We Fail Better’ Should Not Be the Motto of the U.S. Military“, FP, Oct 2015).
As military professionals, it is not sufficient to offload the responsibility for these failures, at least in their entirety, to decision makers in Washington or in perceived lack of support from other governmental agencies. We must divorce ourselves from the notion that criticism of our performance is an indictment or devaluation of the sacrifices our Marines made on the battlefield. Like many of you, I lost Marines in the “Long War” as well. It has taken several years of personal struggle to arrive at the conclusions I am writing now. What makes this necessary, however, is that if you accept the objective, yet repulsive, fact that our Marines died on the losing side of our most recent wars, you cannot then accept that the status quo of the Marine Corps, and the larger defense establishment, is in an acceptable state of affairs.