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Thread: Time to hold the US generals accountable for Afg. and Iraq

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Time to hold the US generals accountable for Afg. and Iraq

    Actually the sub-title for a FP Blog piece, written by its editor and the title is 'A New Challenge for Our Military: Honest Introspection':http://www.foreignpolicy.com/article..._introspection

    The second opening paragraph will suffice to start:
    Yes, certainly there has been national debate about whether we should have been involved in those wars, one that has belatedly delivered the message to our political leadership that it is time to bring our troops home. But about one crucial array of issues concerning our involvement we have been stunningly silent: the competence of our military leaders, the effectiveness of the strategies they have employed, and the very structure and character of our military itself.
    His last sentence is:
    Let's do our duty to ourselves and show our military that we respect it enough to know that it can stand up to the scrutiny it deserves.
    There are a few signs here in the UK that our own civil-military leadership are uncomfortable with the two wars and the debate is in similar terms:
    the competence of our military leaders, the effectiveness of the strategies they have employed, and the very structure and character of our military itself.
    When I say civil-military leadership in the UK I do not mean political leadership, rather the senior permanent civil servants and the senior military officers.

    From this distant vantage point there is already a debate about these issues, but it appears not to resonate with the winder public nor amongst elected representatives.
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default He has valid comments on the need for some introspection.

    We really need more than introspection. A very thorough relook and recasting of effort is long overdue. That's a belief held by a great many inside and out of the armed forces. The real issue is what form such a deep look and recasting might take. The important question, around really since World War II, is why has such a deep look not occurred. The answer to that lies in part with the services but about 80% of the problem is blatantly political and predicated not on the defense of the US, not in relation to our foreign affairs but rather on our domestic politics. That factor means design inefficiencies for political preference reasons...

    That said, what David Rothkopf has also done is write a well crafted political hit piece that touts all his beliefs. That's a perfectly acceptable thing to do though I suggest that a more honest approach would achieve better results.

    He's been around enough -- worked for Kissinger Associates, the Carnegie Endowment and was in the Clinton Administration so he's being rather facile in gently and subtly blaming the Armed Forces for things 'they' have done or not done while not really doing more than aiming a few minor sideswipes at the many shills and ills of the politicians and of Congress who like the way things now operate. Those are the folks who established and support the current system -- and who prefer a degree of ineptitude on the part of the armed services. Mr. Rothkopf is correctly saying the service need to take a deep honest look and begin some fixing. He is quite wrong in not holding the several Administrations and Congresses accountable for not forcing such a fix -- a fix that will never occur unless it is forced. Why should it be otherwise...

    Established is a good word. He's part of the Establishment -- they're 80% of the problem and he wants the 20% to do better...

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Ken, some problems are about the president and the advice he gets.

    I remember a recount from a WH meeting where (supposedly) the Biden plan and a 'surge' were discussed. Obama was undecided so far. He said (supposedly) something along the lines of 'either the military can win this in 18 months with a surge or it won't at all, so we'd need to leave'. Petraeus jumped in and confirmed exactly this; 18 months time to turn AFG around or else it would be the right thing to withdraw after 18 months. Obama accepted and pushed the smaller CT/TF Ranger-style plan aside.

    18 months later Petraeus had left of the mess to his successor and the surge (or whatever it was; maybe "double down"?) failed (obviously!?).


    The military is to blame for much on the political level (same in other countries), for it simply did not do its job at the high level. It did not advise well, it did not overcome its primitive 'can do' attitude, it did not overcome its bureaucratic instincts.


    edit: It did not move quickly enough against its incompetent or even toxic leaders either.

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    If we're going to apply scrutiny to and question the competence of generals who failed to achieve the objective of transforming Afghanistan, shouldn't we apply equal or greater scrutiny to the politicians and policymakers who elected to pursue that rather bizarre objective in the first place?
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    That is supposed to happen in about 4 year intervals.

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    We gave our military virtually everything it asked for.
    Yet, in the wars we have just been through, we are left with a troubling track record.
    Some senior military leaders may have failed, but as others have pointed out our civilian leaders are the real blame for developing policy end states that were not and are not achievable through the application of military force.

    The only people who speak positively about our current strategy are our senior leaders, so it appears our public affairs propaganda actually has more impact on our leaders than the intended audience and they have simply followed their own deception, or worse they're lying to the American people. Missteps are understandable and should be always be expected in war, and should be forgiven, but failing to learn and adapt is not. More stupid rarely works, recognizing something is stupid and then trying something else is more likely to succeed.

    Leaders must be encouraged to generate independent ideas and then have the moral courage to voice them. Responsibility, moral courage, and competence are all intermingled and should be part of this discussion for both civilian and military leaders. I rarely see debates anymore, our leaders should deeply debate strategies and only salute and move out once the final decision is made, but now we're very quick to default to group think. Why? What has changed?

    We have also lost our ability to judge our actions or their consequences with a critical eye.
    The author may be right, but it is due more to a culture that prohibts being self-critical rather than having lost our ability to do so. Mistakes are common in war, that is why the credit belongs to the man in the arena, but the man in the arena is expected to be a thinking man capable of adapting, not something less than a man who blindly follows doctrine or a plan.
    Last edited by Bill Moore; 03-25-2012 at 02:50 AM.

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    That is supposed to happen in about 4 year intervals.
    One of those intervals approaches, so you can expect to see everybody who might be held accountable demanding that somebody else be held accountable.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default No disagreement from me on that...

    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    Ken, some problems are about the president and the advice he gets.
    Yes to both. However, he has or should have (but does not -- that's another thread...) People who serve as a cross check to the military advice. If he or she accepts bad military advice, whose fault is that? The bad advisor's or his / hers for accepting it?
    The military is to blame for much on the political level (same in other countries), for it simply did not do its job at the high level. It did not advise well, it did not overcome its primitive 'can do' attitude, it did not overcome its bureaucratic instincts.
    I agree. That's why I wrote this: "He is quite wrong in not holding the several Administrations and Congresses accountable for not forcing such a fix -- a fix that will never occur unless it is forced. Why should it be otherwise..." (emphasis added / kw)

    Instead of saying "why should it be otherwise" I probably should have written "We'd be foolish to expect otherwise..."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    Leaders must be encouraged to generate independent ideas and then have the moral courage to voice them. Responsibility, moral courage, and competence are all intermingled and should be part of this discussion for both civilian and military leaders. I rarely see debates anymore, our leaders should deeply debate strategies and only salute and move out once the final decision is made, but now we're very quick to default to group think. Why? What has changed?
    Because the moral courage to speak out and pension stability are incompatible. Soldiers who need/rely on their military pension will fold under pressure.

    As is said, pension slavery makes (moral) cowards out of (physically) brave men.

    My suggestion is that instead of borrowing billions from China to give to the Afghan kleptocracy who turn move it to Dubai (and other places)... why not look after your soldiers who have given the best years of their lives to the service and provide them with bullet proof pensions (safe from the despicable influence... and grubby paws of your politicians).

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Yes to both. However, he has or should have (but does not -- that's another thread...) People who serve as a cross check to the military advice. If he or she accepts bad military advice, whose fault is that? The bad advisor's or his / hers for accepting it?
    Maybe the fault of the people who voted for him knowing well that his background was law theory and short legislature service (history science, as minimum some deputy governor service and a more versatile -thus necessarily longer- legislative track record would have been preferable)?

    Maybe the fault of more competent people who did not run against him in the primary?

    Maybe the political system's fault which led to the aforementioned factors?


    The military is a bunch of institutions / bureaucracies. You can identify duds, you expect that the institution / bureaucracy removes them.
    The failure can more easily be diagnosed than in the political system.


    edit: Of how many generals and colonels got Marschall rid of in WW2 because of their incompetence? IIRC it was about 500. In the midst of a huge force expansion (multiplication) with a huge scarcity of formally qualified officers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    Maybe the fault of the people who voted for him knowing well that his background was law theory and short legislature service (history science, as minimum some deputy governor service and a more versatile -thus necessarily longer- legislative track record would have been preferable)?

    Maybe the fault of more competent people who did not run against him in the primary?

    Maybe the political system's fault which led to the aforementioned factors?
    Their own Thomas Jefferson is credited with saying “The government you elect is government you deserve.”

    The military is a bunch of institutions / bureaucracies. You can identify duds, you expect that the institution / bureaucracy removes them.
    The failure can more easily be diagnosed than in the political system.
    In war time yes. Less so in peace time. The longer the peace the more the military 'adjusts' itself to the needs of peacetime at the expense of keeping the military at a constant state of readiness (or near readiness).

    edit: Of how many generals and colonels got Marschall rid of in WW2 because of their incompetence? IIRC it was about 500. In the midst of a huge force expansion (multiplication) with a huge scarcity of formally qualified officers.
    There lies the inherent weakness in most militaries (which have to rely on mobilisation in time of war). You can produce soldiers in a matter of months from scratch but not so with senior NCOs and senior officers. The inability in peace time to 'test' officers on the way up also contributes to those able to 'game' the system to get promoted to senior officer level.

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    JMA, have your ever heard of the readiness of the East German NVA during the 80'S?


    They had separate training and war equipment, the latter almost always at 100% readiness.

    Their fighter squadrons prided themselves in full squadron alert launches (without early warning) within 8 minutes - with taxiing in excess of 60 kph.

    Their army forces evacuated entire barracks within ten minutes of an unexpected training alert.

    The extreme contrast in readiness was one of the big shocks of the reunification in 1990.


    It IS possible to have an amazing peacetime military readiness, at least in regard to some easily measurable kinds of readiness.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    Leaders must be encouraged to generate independent ideas and then have the moral courage to voice them. Responsibility, moral courage, and competence are all intermingled and should be part of this discussion for both civilian and military leaders. I rarely see debates anymore, our leaders should deeply debate strategies and only salute and move out once the final decision is made, but now we're very quick to default to group think. Why? What has changed? .
    Are the debates not happening at all, or are they just not happening in public?

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Because the moral courage to speak out and pension stability are incompatible. Soldiers who need/rely on their military pension will fold under pressure.

    As is said, pension slavery makes (moral) cowards out of (physically) brave men.

    My suggestion is that instead of borrowing billions from China to give to the Afghan kleptocracy who turn move it to Dubai (and other places)... why not look after your soldiers who have given the best years of their lives to the service and provide them with bullet proof pensions (safe from the despicable influence... and grubby paws of your politicians).
    How many officers have lost their pensions for giving advice that politicians don't want to hear? Obviously generals, like (for example) ambassadors, are expected not to publicly challenge decisions, but are there really such severe repercussions for dissenting opinions expressed through accepted channels? If a senior officer had expressed the opinion that occupying Afghanistan and trying to democratize it was a perverse enterprise destined for failure no matter what strategies were adopted, would he have been stripped of his pension, or would he simply have been ignored?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    Maybe the fault of the people who voted for him knowing well that his background was law theory and short legislature service (history science, as minimum some deputy governor service and a more versatile -thus necessarily longer- legislative track record would have been preferable)?
    The policy commitments in question were made by the President before this one... and in both cases they were elected by people with very little concern for foreign or military affairs, which are generally not the basis on which elections are decided in the US.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    This is what happens when one calls virtually every type of problem "war" and sends the military out to wage "warfare" to solve the problem. Yet one more reason why I believe "Irregular warfare" to be such a dangerous construct. To make the operations we were in make sense as war we had to invent IW; when in turn then led to this odd idea in current Army doctrine that what the Army does today in Afghanistan is as much "major warfare" as what it did in WWII, I or the Civil War. The military is chasing its tail and eating itself because senior leaders, as Bill Moore mentioned, lacked either the understanding of the nature of the problem they were tasked to solve, or the moral courage to stand up and say "hang on, let's talk about what this is really all about," or both.

    If Ken is right (and he usually is on these things), that this author is a former member of the Clinton administration, I find that very rich indeed. They say Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Well, certainly Clinton played the sax and chased chubby interns while America's Cold War foreign policies for engaging the post Cold War world he inherited grew increasingly obsolete and inappropriate. To the point that when he handed off power to President Bush, the attacks of 9/11 were well into the planning and execution process.

    When I developed my model for thinking about insurgency and transnational terrorism in a fresh light, it was based on a handful of fundamental concepts.

    1. That the primary source of causation for political instability radiates outward from government, in domestic policies and actions for insurgency, and foreign policies and actions for transnational terrorism; and it is the perceptions of those impacted by such governance that matters most, not the intentions or perceptions of the governments themselves.

    2. That these dynamics are a continuous process, that ebbs and flows, with most populaces being largely satisfied most of the time.

    3. That the role of the military is not unlike the role of the military in other civil emergencies. Last in, first out; not here to solve the problem, but merely additional capacity to help a failing civil government bring a problem back within the span of their civil capacity. Also to provide time and space for that same government to identify where it is going wrong and make appropriate changes in policy and action so as to remove the causal drivers. Otherwise the efforts of the military only serve to suppress violence for some period of time, that will inevitable reappear in due time.

    The US Civil political and policy leadership of the entire Cold War and post Cold War era by in large refuses to be truly introspective and self-critical. Sure, the Liberals will rip up the Conservatives and vise versa; and both will be quick to beat up on "the intelligence community" for not identifying the growth of the threats our policies were provoking, or upon "the military" for not simply making the problems go away.

    The hard facts are, while Containment worked, it was not all hugs and kisses for those with the misfortune to be part of the ring of containment. A great discussion of this is in these two articles that look at the thinking of Walter Lippmann who was a loud, and wise voice for avoiding "excessive Western Fundamentalism" and other such flaws.

    http://www.firstprinciplesjournal.co...eme=home&loc=b

    http://www.firstprinciplesjournal.co...cle=1299&loc=r

    Our Generals are not to be held harmless though. We are promoting a crop of senior leaders who have been "effective" but only at implementing long, costly, temporary suppressive effects. Those same generals, as Fuchs points out, have fired countless subordinates for not being "effective enough." Here is a news flash for the generals, in most instances, when one is working to help some other nation attain some semblance of sovereignty, legitimacy and true stability not sustained through massive internal security forces - efficiency and effectiveness of foreign military tactical operations are the enemy of achieving the strategic level effects one is after. But it is counter-intuitive, and certainly counter-military culture, to do less or be less effective in order to achieve better results.

    Presidents Clinton and Bush both were big proponents of the idea that we "make America safer by making others more like us." The ideological roots of the Cold War are deep. To believe that the world yearns for US brand "democracy" or "universal and enduring values" or "leadership" is a mix of being a bit too full of what we see as our role in causing the Soviet collapse, and also buying into our own PSYOP narrative that we adopted in the early 1950s when we abandoned our historic stance on "self determination" in favor of a theme designed to compete with the Sino-Soviet theme of Communism as a vehicle for throwing off Western colonialism and attaining better governance.

    Idologically we need to get back to our roots. Let others find their own paths, while ensuring we have access to the resouces and markets necessary to sustain our own economic well being. In terms of how we see the world we need to recognize the primacy of the role of policy in creating the conditions that produce the symptoms we send our military out to address, and we need to recognize the role and limitations of military effort in dealing with such symptoms and almost always counterproductive effect on the base problems.

    I doubt we are ready for such a remarkable change of course. Certainly not judging by articles that seek to simply pin this rose solely on the lapel of the military.
    Last edited by Bob's World; 03-25-2012 at 01:24 PM.
    Robert C. Jones
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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    A little more analysis of the complex thinking over several decades of Walter Lippmann:

    http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articl...tury?page=show

    "If his proposals were contradictory, his fundamental preference for caution was clear. He was, throughout the period, pessimistic about the usefulness of American intervention. In 1935 he wrote:

    A cold appraisal of the American interest which is, I take it, to protect our own development as a free nation, seems to me to lead to the conclusion that we can contribute nothing substantially to the pacification of Europe today, that vague commitments would only mislead Europe and mask the realities. For the time being, therefore, our best course is to stand apart from European policies, (p. 334)

    If this was true of Europe, it was even more true of Asia. When Japan seized Manchuria and Outer Mongolia, Lippmann wrote, "In the whole great region in which Japan claims predominance we have no particular political interest of our own to protect. If there is to be any concerted action, let the policy emanate from the governments which have a definite stake in the area"-Russia, China, the European powers. This was "a policy of realism."
    The same realism caused him to think Chamberlain wise in 1938, because he was "expedient" in the face of superior force:

    In dealing with these warrior statesmen, the democracies must not delude themselves with the idea that there is any bloodless, inexpensive substitute for the willingness to go to war. Collective security, economic sanctions, moral pressure, can be made effective only by nations known to be willing to go to war if necessary. If that willingness to fight does not exist, then Mr. Chamberlain is right when he concludes that he must try to make tolerable terms with the dictators...(p. 370)
    This is Realpolitik at its purest. It offers a specific application of Lippmann's famous dictum that a workable foreign policy "consists in bringing into balance, with a comfortable surplus of power in reserve, the nation's commitments and the nation's power." Where power (which includes national will) is limited, so should be commitments..."
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 03-25-2012 at 02:37 PM. Reason: Fix quote
    Robert C. Jones
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    I remember a recount from a WH meeting where (supposedly) the Biden plan and a 'surge' were discussed. Obama was undecided so far. He said (supposedly) something along the lines of 'either the military can win this in 18 months with a surge or it won't at all, so we'd need to leave'. Petraeus jumped in and confirmed exactly this; 18 months time to turn AFG around or else it would be the right thing to withdraw after 18 months. Obama accepted and pushed the smaller CT/TF Ranger-style plan aside.
    First, consider what the President campaigned on. Secondly, the President doubled the number of troops in Afghanistan as soon as he took office (to about 60k, fulfilling part of his campaign promise). The debate you mention above happened after that increase as part of the policy review. The end, as we all know, was an additional 30k+ troops. I think the bigger problem with the Biden plan was that it contradicted what the President campaigned on and it would be difficult to explain a large reduction in troop levels right after the President just doubled them.

    There is also the problem that Presidents and politicians are generally only interested in solutions that are not politically damaging to them. This is a big part of the domestic politics problem that Ken mentioned and, IMO, it becomes the most important factor in wars of choice, which is what this has become. Military advice doesn't exist in a vacuum and military advice which doesn't help the political leadership is usually not welcomed.

    So, IMO, this is a war that, for the US, is now driven by domestic politics more than anything else. I think if a course-of-action presented itself that would allow the US to "declare victory and go home," then almost any President would take it. Unfortunately, no such solution is apparent (at least not to me). IMO, that kind of solution is what the President was seeking in his 2009 review. Many options were explored, but few were politically acceptable. And so the President (in my judgment, as I was not a party to any of the internal discussions), went with the "surge" strategy in order to avoid replicate the US domestic political effects of the Iraqi "surge." The Iraq "surge" changed perceptions and provided the political space for the US to declare victory and go home. It was such a successful political strategy that politicians of all stripes try to take credit for it.

    Unfortunately, as many of us predicted at the time, the "surge" strategy did not work in Afghanistan (or rather, is not working). If anything, things are worse from a domestic political perspective, especially in light of recent events. I think at this point the military cannot deliver any "solution" in Afghanistan that will be perceived as a "win." Without anything to take credit for, politicians and the elites of this country (like Mr. Rothkopf) will do what they always do, which is seek to shift the blame. So I see Mr. Rothkopf's piece as laying the ground work for that. The narrative will be one of military failure and not strategic or political failure.


    JMA,

    Because the moral courage to speak out and pension stability are incompatible. Soldiers who need/rely on their military pension will fold under pressure.

    As is said, pension slavery makes (moral) cowards out of (physically) brave men.
    That doesn't apply to US General officers. Their pensions are already vested by the time they make GO. And, if you look at the history of such things, they are treated with kid gloves compared to lesser ranks. Only egregious crimes result in real repercussions - usually criminal and immoral activity simply forces retirement or, at most, results in a general officer article 15 equivalent which also ends in retirement. These guys aren't afraid of loosing their pensions - they are motivated by other factors.
    Last edited by Entropy; 03-25-2012 at 02:33 PM.
    Supporting "time-limited, scope limited military actions" for 20 years.

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/op...lies.html?_r=2

    Another good current take on the situation.

    And that is why it’s time to rethink everything we’re doing out there. What the Middle East needs most from America today are modern schools and hard truths, and we haven’t found a way to offer either. Because Hanson is right: What ails the Middle East today truly is a toxic mix of tribalism, Shiite-Sunni sectarianism, fundamentalism and oil — oil that constantly tempts us to intervene or to prop up dictators.
    AND

    In Afghanistan, I laugh out loud whenever I hear Obama administration officials explaining that we just need to train more Afghan soldiers to fight and then we can leave. Is there anything funnier? Afghan men need to be trained to fight? They defeated the British and the Soviets!

    The problem is that we turned a blind eye as President Hamid Karzai stole the election and operated a corrupt regime. Then President Obama declared that our policy was to surge U.S. troops to clear out the Taliban so “good” Afghan government could come in and take our place. There is no such government. Our problem is not that Afghans don’t know the way to fight. It is that not enough have the will to fight for the government they have. How many would fight for Karzai if we didn’t pay them?
    I don't agree with all of Tom Friedman's arguments, but I do agree with his point. We have a policy problem, not a military problem. Our military problem is that we are over employing the military in efforts to make un-workable policy work. Our WAYs are inappropriate, so we find ourselves applying ever increasing military MEANs into the mix to make it balance out. We find ourselves now weary and confused as to why we have a military at war to sustain a nation at peace, at least at a peace as we have defined it.

    In a recent conversation with a highly regarded political/policy insider and advisor I suggested as much, and he stared at me in outraged shock at my suggestion that we needed less military action and more focus on how we best reform our foreign policies for the world we actually live in today, and proclaimed "that would be admitting that terrorism works!!"

    Well sir, violence does work. "War is the act of force to compel our enemy to do our will."

    A converse of that is, that a populace will employ acts of violence against a government that imposes an unacceptable will upon them when given no legal recourse to address their concerns.

    Violence is a sword that cuts both ways.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 03-25-2012 at 07:56 PM. Reason: Fix quotes
    Robert C. Jones
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    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    They defeated the British and the Soviets!
    Fascinating comment. I would be interested in your definition of 'defeated'.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Fascinating comment. I would be interested in your definition of 'defeated'.
    You would have to ask Tom Friedman to get his intended definition, as that is his statement not mine.

    But yes, they made them pack up and go home. When one is being occupied by a much more powerful nation, that pretty much stacks up to "defeat" of the same.

    Like in all conflicts, it is a cost benefit equation. They made the cost exceed the benefit.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

  20. #20
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    Posted by JMA

    There lies the inherent weakness in most militaries (which have to rely on mobilisation in time of war). You can produce soldiers in a matter of months from scratch but not so with senior NCOs and senior officers. The inability in peace time to 'test' officers on the way up also contributes to those able to 'game' the system to get promoted to senior officer level.
    This is no doubt true, but while all senior officers are political to some extent or they wouldn't be senior officers, that doesn't mean they can't lead a fight. Some can, some not so well. We're all a product of our past, and only the exceptional can adapt effectively to new situations they haven't been trained for. You may recall the U.S. General during the early years of OIF who publically stated after the insurgency started, "we are not trained for this type of fight, and we didn't war game for it." That was a true statement, but of course the Army couldn't take a time out to adjust it training, it needed to adjust to while fighting. In my opinion it seemed to adapt slower in both Afghanistan and Iraq than it did during previous conflicts (Vietnam may be the exception). Ten plus years later it is clear that a significant level of adaptation took place, so my argument is we adapted slower than we should have, not that we have failed to adapt.

    The U.S. Army was quite simply inep when it first started conducting operations in North Africa during WWII, but leaders learned or were fired, training and tactics were modified and in a short period of time became a combat capable Army. Not only did the Army adapt rapidly, but so did our special operations. In less time than it takes a member to go through the Special Forces Qualification Course today we stood up and starting employing the OSS. Some hard lessons were learned during the early years, but the SAS logo "who dares wins" rings true when it comes to special operations. High risk operations mean failure may be the norm, but it is worth the risk. That mind set doesn't exist anymore, and probably won't since political parties will exploit any failure for all its worth in the court of public opinion instead of collectively explaining to the American people that is the nature of these operations.

    The Army that overthrew Saddam was quite good, but that same Army wasn't so good the day after when the nature of the fight changed. That same Army that went into Afghanistan two years prior wasn't that good, because they were not trained to fight in that terrain or against that type of foe. They did O.K., but that was largely due to technical and fire power advantages, not tactical superiority.

    General Petreaus turned the fight around in Iraq , but failed to turn the fight around in Afghanistan. It appeared that he tried to replicate the same methodology he applied in Iraq, which in my view is one reason our COIN doctrine is so dangerous. While it spells out every situation is unique, it still recommends a one size fit all approach (clear, hold, build).

    I think the biggest flaw in our structure is a system enabled by information technology to facilitate micromanagement/control, that prohibits Bns and COs from adapting. They have relatively little freedom of movement compared to their peers of yesteryear, and that inhibits learning and adaption at the tactical level.

    At the strategic level, I'll leave that to Bob Jones since I think he is hitting the right notes in general on that one. Not sure what the answer is to this, perhaps burning Georgetown to the ground so it no longer produce this current crop of policy advisors. Perhaps electing former senior military officers and NCOs into office (but most have too much honor to enter politics) to help change the culture. As a nation we still have near unlimited potential if we would just learn to apply the power we do have more effectively.

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