Tag Archives: william lind

What could go wrong if we attack Syria?

Summary: Lost amidst the details and blather about our proposed attack on Syria is the possibility that we might get hurt. More accurately, that our grand strategy makes a severe defeat highly likely. If not in this crises, then in one of the future crises our policies seek out — and even create as needed.

Keep Calm: Set World on Fire

“Early and provident fear is the mother of safety.”
— Edmund Burke to the House of Commons, 11 May 1792

“Fear cannot be without hope nor hope without fear.”
— Baruch Spinoza, Ethics (1677)


  1. What could go wrong?
  2. A note from the past?
  3. About our military
  4. For More Information

(1) What could go wrong?

“Fear is sharp-sighted, and can see things underground, and much more in the skies.”
— Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote de la Mancha (1605-1615)

US foreign policy has been one of bellicose response to all challengers, trusting on the support of our allies, the weakness of our foes — and their inability to work together. We consider it a winning formula in the sense that the only serious blowback was 9-11. So far.

On the other hand, our contempt for diplomacy has quickly escalated many confrontations into military conflicts — most of which we lose (see section 3). We lose in the sense of achieving no national goals, paid for by dead and crippled soldiers and wasted resources. These loses are tolerable for a nation of our size and vigor, and domestic political dynamics keep this system running despite its 50+ years of failure.

This policy is the equivalent of Russian Roulette with a revolver of many chambers. The odds of disaster are small for any individual intervention. If continued long enough we will find a chamber with a loaded cartridge, starting a chain of events with large, unpredictable, and probably unpleasant results. We need not speculate at how events in a small nation can shake the world. The last century provides a clear example with the assassination on 28 June 1914 of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo by six Bosnian Serb assassins.

(2) A note from the past reminding us of what can happen

“Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.”
— John F. Kennedy, inaugural address on 20 January 1961

In hindsight WWI was the inevitable result of growing tensions in Europe — tensions that the great nations not only failed to resolve, but repeatedly played upon. William Lind explains

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Update about one of the seldom-discussed trends shaping our world: 4GW

Summary: One of the great stories of 21st century looks to be the conflict between nations using conventional military methods (2GW and 3GW), and forces using 4GW. So far the latter are winning almost every time. America’s inability to adapt to this new world, part of our larger #FailureToLearn, is another strike against the Second Republic (that built on the Constitution). Here’s a brief status report on the war, concluding with a new article by William Lind, our Thucydides.


Source: Syed Zaid Zaman Hamid website

Image source:  Syed Zaid Zaman Hamid


One of the interesting aspects of recent history is the coincidence of

  1. the collapse of discussion about 4GW in US military and geopolitical circles,
  2. victories by insurgents using 4GW methods over foreign armies in Iraq and Afghanistan, &
  3. most important, the perhaps history-making victory by Bin Laden’s al Qaeda.

The second point is important to us, but the usual outcome since WW2 (after which 4GW became the dominate form of military conflict; see section C below).  The third point is the big one. Based on the available information, one of Bin Laden’s goals was to destabilize the US political regime. Massive increase in military spending (using borrowed funds). The bill of rights being shredded (note yesterday’s House vote to tear another strip from the 4th amendment). Our Courts holding show trials of terrorists — recruited, financed, supported by our security services. Torture and concentration camps.

Image from Encyclopedia Mythica

Bin Laden’s other goal, more clearly stated, was to incite a war between the USA and Islam — perhaps as Bismarck used wars to unify small States to create Germany. We took the bait: invading Iraq and Afghanistan, attacking Pakistan, Yemen. And now spreading our war into Africa. We see the domestic fruits of this in the hysterical reaction of the US people to the Boston Bombing.

9-11 might join the roster of history’s great battles, perhaps as the most effective single military operation in history.  It cost bin Laden his life and destroyed his organization. He probably considered the result well worth the cost. And like the head of the hydra, new offshoots of al Qaeda have appeared to replace the old.

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Gift ideas – Books to get or give

I like books that challenge my views, as in the saying attributed to Mark Twain

“What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.”

So here are two recommendations of books that challenge our views, esp about the things we know for sure.

The Culture of Defeat – On National Trauma, Mourning, and Recovery, Wolfgang Schivelbusch (2001) — Esp Chapter One, about the successful counter-revolution by the post-bellum American South.  The regained dominance over their black neighbors, at a high cost — slow modernization, economic inferiority vs. the North and West.

The Culture of War, Martin van Creveld (2008) — About the truth that American cannot face:  we love war.

The following are useful books, timely lessons and insights for America.

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Let’s blow the fog away and see what General McChrystal really said

Summary:  the McChrystal’s Assesment consists of layers of absurdity, piled high.  Future generations will study it as a prime example of early 21st century madness, when such a thing was taken seriously.

Essentials of the McChrystal’s Initial Commander’s Assessment of the Af-Pak War, released 30 August 2009.

  1. Amnesia is the essential requirement
  2. The key strategic element is that we have no strategy.
  3. Hope is the plan, cost is no object.
  4. Nation-building in Afghanistan today.  Mexico next?
  5. For more information from the FM site, and the Afterword

(1)  Amnesia is the essential requirement

Amnesia is the essential requirement to be an American geopolitical guru — or Amerian journalist covering geopolitics.  As described in How many troops would it take to win in Afghanistan? (15 September 2009), we are closely following the military’s playbook for escalating a small war — perfected in Vietnam.  This remains invisible to many experts, as in this excerpt from Stratfor’s “McChrystal and the Search for a Strategy in Afghanistan“, 22 September 2009:

This is a statement by an officer of the modern U.S. Army, an institution with a broad disdain for the legacy of Gen. William Westmoreland. As first commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam (1964-1968) and then Army chief of staff (1968-72), Westmoreland’s legacy has come to be seen as that of having asked for more and more American troops without a winning strategy. In other words, he continued to commit more American soldiers to a conflict without a strategy that had any real chance for success. While one can debate the history, many in the U.S. Army’s officer corps today consider Westmoreland an officer who did the ultimate disservice to his country — and perhaps more importantly, to his men — by allowing a failed political and military strategy to continue to consume American lives. … With this report, McChrystal has clearly differentiated himself from this path.

Absurd.   For example, the report’s language on page 2-20 could come from DoD report about Vietnam written up to the very end:

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Blowback – could our military become a threat to America?

Expansion of a nation’s armed forces when its internal cohesion is weakening (i.e., in an era of State decline) risks an autoimmunine response.  Read closely, because this is too hot to spell out. 

Update:  The 3 excepts give describe the most likely danger as individuals turning against our regime, not the military as a whole.  Here’s a biological analogy:

Autoimmume Disease:  Failure of an organism’s defenses to recognize its own constituent parts as self, resulting in an immune response against its own tissues.  See Wikipedia for more information.

Yes, it can happen to us.  Slight indications of early symptoms are already in the news.  We can look forward to more articles like these.  And even more if (when) we demobilize from our Middle East wars.

  1. Oklahoma City war veteran accused of selling bombs to gang members“, The Oklahoman, 25 December 2008
  2. On War #290: Blowback Revisited“, Defense and the National Interest, 3 February 2009
  3. Militia – the ultimate defense against 4GW, this site, 31 May 2008

Another powerful aricle, but subscription only:  “Jesus killed Mohammed: The crusade for a Christian military“, By Jeff Sharlet, Harper’s Magazine, May 2009.

This is one of a large number of posts on the FM site exploring the decline of the America political regime, of which this might be one aspect.  Links to others appear at the end.


(1)  Oklahoma City war veteran accused of selling bombs to gang members“, The Oklahoman, 25 December 2008 — Excerpt:

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