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Thread: The American Way of War in 25 Words or Less

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default The American Way of War in 25 Words or Less

    The American Way of War in 25 Words or Less - via War on the Rocks:

    In 25 words or less, give your thumbnail version of the “American Way of War.”

    That is the challenge that Dr. Scott Stephenson of the Command and General Staff College gives his students and that is the challenge I present to you, dear WOTR readers.


    What say you Council members?

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    I think that title sums it up nicely. We aren't happy unless we can distill something to a snapshot (25 words or less). It doesn't have to be accurate...just short.

    In all seriousness, I'm not really sure we have a coherent way of war...at least not one way. If we wanted to snippy, you could turn a movie line on its ear and use something like "If we come, we will build it." We build up our military to suit a particular situation, we build infrastructure to house that army in a standard we think it needs, and start reworking the local landscape (both physical and cultural) to suit the needs of the moment. There's also a certain haphazard quality about Americans making war. We've always had an uncertain relationship with a professional military, and our political system isn't designed to formulate long-term strategy.

    So something like "Bullets before bodies, and if we come we will build it" might sum up the entire experience (assuming, of course, that it's a wise thing to simplify complex concepts into Twitter lines).
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Default There were several from 50's and 60's

    "Never send a soldier...when you can send a missile!"

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    Council Member BayonetBrant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    We build up our military to suit a particular situation, we build infrastructure to house that army in a standard we think it needs, and start reworking the local landscape (both physical and cultural) to suit the needs of the moment.
    so we're the chameleons of war!

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    There's also a certain haphazard quality about Americans making war. We've always had an uncertain relationship with a professional military, and our political system isn't designed to formulate long-term strategy.
    Actually, Perrin makes a rather compelling case that the US operational art, and theater-level strategy, is built around a 'converging columns' model of warfare, but that relies on identifying come conquerable centers of gravity for the enemy that can be controlled by said columns.
    Not all that applicable to a counterinsurgency, tho.
    It's also amusing to hear the American military talk about how we "don't do counterinsurgency" when we spend 175 years doing exactly that from 1760 to 1935 or so, with a few brief 'conventional' interruptions
    Last edited by BayonetBrant; 09-23-2013 at 07:29 PM. Reason: spacing
    Brant
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    “their citizens (all of them counted as such) glorified their mythology of ‘rights’… and lost track of their duties. No nation, so constituted, can endure.” Robert Heinlein, Starship Troopers 1959

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    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    25 words or less.

    Nothing will happen. Those rat-bastards! Throw everything at 'em. Now! Ok, I'm bored. That's good enough. Yawn. Nothing will happen.....
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    Default Moosemuss

    MOOSEMUSS.jpg

    Credit to Ken White (12-15-2007).

    Regards

    Mike

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    Default Love the Moose Muss, Mike

    Thanks to Ken.

    Serious note: Converging columns was a widely used operation during the Indian Wars and was what was planned in the Little Bighorn campaign until Custer tried it at the tactical leve (again) withe far more tribesmen than he could handle.It wasn't just American Small Wars operational art, the Brits used it 3 years later when the Zulu ambushed them at Isandluwana.

    Cheers

    JohnT

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    Default M(=Momentum)oosemuss

    Before I forget this, I'd change M=Mass to M=Momentum:

    Like velocity, linear momentum is a vector quantity, possessing a direction as well as a magnitude: p=mv.
    Or, getting back to Ken's post:

    Mass should be changed to Nathan. As in Nathan Bedford Forrest -- a simple reminder to get "thar fustest with the mostest."
    which has the same velocity and mass elements as "momentum" - yielding a vector quantity well suited to "converging columns", etc.

    But, NOOSEMUSS just doesn't have the same ring as MOOSEMUSS; so thus "Momentum" instead of "Nathan".

    Regards

    Mike
    Last edited by jmm99; 09-23-2013 at 09:25 PM.

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    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John T. Fishel View Post
    Thanks to Ken.

    Serious note: Converging columns was a widely used operation during the Indian Wars and was what was planned in the Little Bighorn campaign until Custer tried it at the tactical leve (again) withe far more tribesmen than he could handle.It wasn't just American Small Wars operational art, the Brits used it 3 years later when the Zulu ambushed them at Isandluwana.

    Cheers

    JohnT
    That wasn't an ambush. It was a well executed Zulu attack against a poorly disposed British defensive position.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    Council Member Morgan's Avatar
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    The American way:

    Throw money at it!!

    4 words

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Here are the winning submissions at War on the Rocks.

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BayonetBrant View Post
    Actually, Perrin makes a rather compelling case that the US operational art, and theater-level strategy, is built around a 'converging columns' model of warfare, but that relies on identifying come conquerable centers of gravity for the enemy that can be controlled by said columns.
    Not all that applicable to a counterinsurgency, tho.
    It's also amusing to hear the American military talk about how we "don't do counterinsurgency" when we spend 175 years doing exactly that from 1760 to 1935 or so, with a few brief 'conventional' interruptions
    But that's always been the rub...the American military has a thing for preparing for the war they want to fight and ignoring the wars they've actually been fighting.

    The best example of converging columns working in the Indian Wars was the Red River War. It had two aggressive commanders (Miles and Mackenzie) with good units and (especially Mackenzie) an understanding of how to achieve the objective of the campaign. The Great Sioux War was another story...

    And Custer had a thing for dividing his regiment. Did it at Black Kettle's village and got away with it, and then failed at the Little Bighorn. I don't think he ever adjusted down from his days as a cavalry commander in the Civil War. It's worth nothing, if only in passing, that Custer never commanded a regiment during the war.
    Last edited by Steve Blair; 09-24-2013 at 03:19 PM. Reason: Stupid filter...can't fix it, so changed wording.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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    Destroy everything in 1 week. Spend 10 years apologizing and helping rebuild.

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    "To throw resources against often hyped-up threats until public patience runs out or some actually important problem requires a readjustment of priorities."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Morgan View Post
    The American way:

    Throw money at it!!

    4 words
    Four words, just FOUR words? That's far too ECONOMICAL for America.

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    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John T. Fishel View Post
    Serious note: Converging columns was a widely used operation during the Indian Wars and was what was planned in the Little Bighorn campaign until Custer tried it at the tactical leve (again) withe far more tribesmen than he could handle.It wasn't just American Small Wars operational art, the Brits used it 3 years later when the Zulu ambushed them at Isandluwana.
    When converging columns fail, it is because the columns don't/can't communicate with each other. So, to return to the original request, I nominate the following:

    "Shoot, scoot, communicate."
    Vir prudens non contra ventum mingit
    The greatest educational dogma is also its greatest fallacy: the belief that what must be learned can necessarily be taught. — Sydney J. Harris

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wm View Post
    When converging columns fail, it is because the columns don't/can't communicate with each other. So, to return to the original request, I nominate the following:

    "Shoot, scoot, communicate."
    Actually that's not always the case. Mackenzie and Miles didn't communicate much at all during the Red River War, but they were both aggressive commanders who would stick with the enemy once they were located. Crook's unexplained paralysis after the Rosebud contributed a great deal to the disaster at LBH. Terry's decision to fragment his own column didn't help matters, either.

    At least during the Indian Wars period, I'd say most converging column campaigns that failed had more to do with either poor decisions or a lack of aggressiveness on the part of one of the column commanders and not so much communications. Communications could play a role, but if one commander had a case of the "slows" all the talking in the world wasn't going to help matters.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tukhachevskii View Post
    Four words, just FOUR words? That's far too ECONOMICAL for America.
    Naw...it's the vision statement for the plan. Wait 'till you hit the actual mission statement.....
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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    Thumbs up

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    Naw...it's the vision statement for the plan. Wait 'till you hit the actual mission statement.....

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    Council Member AdamG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SWJED View Post
    Here are the winning submissions at War on the Rocks.
    *Giggle*

    2. Jack McDonald, War Studies Department, King’s College London:

    Use a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Occasionally eat a nut, occasionally hit own nuts. Everyone else is scared, horrified and awed in equal measure.
    Last edited by AdamG; 12-10-2013 at 05:14 PM.
    A scrimmage in a Border Station
    A canter down some dark defile
    Two thousand pounds of education
    Drops to a ten-rupee jezail


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