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Thread: Countering Lind-dinistas - if the mission is impossible, don't blame me

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    Council Member TheCurmudgeon's Avatar
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    Default Countering Lind-dinistas - if the mission is impossible, don't blame me

    I am looking for assistance with a project. Normally I would ask in the RFI section but there is a thread going there that I don’t want to step on, so I make my Request For Assistance here.

    I am getting tired of the Lind’s of the world who feel that the fact we could not create a stable democracy in either Iraq or Afghanistan as a failure of Army Leadership. My response is that the military could not create such a political entity because it is impossible to do. You cannot create a stable democracy where the conditions do not exist to support it. You certainly cannot do it by external force of arms.

    My basic argument I have. Three points:

    1. The requisites for democratization did not exist in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

    2. Attempting to create a democracy where one was not possible created instability perpetuating the conflict

    3. COIN could not overcome 1 and 2. Pop-Centric COIN is correct, but it cannot create legitimacy. It must adapt to the desires of the population.

    The three arguments support the final point that the failure was never on the part of the military. The mission was de facto impossible. Therefore, to look to reform the military based on the failures in Iraq and Afghanistan is folly. The military is good at what it is designed to do. It is not good at social engineering, nor should it be.

    What I am looking for is any references or anecdotes to support any of the three arguments.

    I am also happy to listen to counter-arguments, as I would like to address them as well.

    Thanks

    Stan aka the curmudgeon
    "I can change almost anything ... but I can't change human nature."

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    Default Reference

    Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu & James Robinson. Not a military tomb by any means, but is an easy read with historic examples that do a good job of providing a baseline understanding of conditions required for "democracy" and thus COIN. Good hunting.

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    Default Some links

    For those who do not read everything published by Small Wars, of late William Lind has appeared on the following:

    1) The Continuing Irrelevance of William Lind - a SWJ article, with two comments and is on:http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art...f-william-lind

    2) Our Debating Military - a SWJ Blog notice, with no comments and on:http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/our-debating-military

    3) Mr. Lind, May We Focus Our Rage Please?- a SWJ Blog notice, with four comments and on:http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/mr-...ur-rage-please

    4) Gardening in a “Barren” Officer Corps- a SWJ notice, with three comments and on:http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/gar...-officer-corps

    Yes there are other, older items which mention Mr Lind, these appear to be those that are relevant.

    These two SWJ Blog notices appear relevant: COIN's funeral an FP article: http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/coin%E2%80%99s-funeral and Next COIN Manual Tries to Take Commanders Beyond Iraq, Afghanistan on:http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/nex...aq-afghanistan
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    A widely defined negative is impossible to prove, so it's impossible to prove that the mission was impossible.
    This means it's faulty to use this assertion as a cornerstone of a case.

    On the other hand, the burden of proof falls on the other party - but it's impossible to prove that the mission was possible.


    The disagreement is no fertile ground for a debate, as both parties are logically unable to prove even only their assumptions. This leaves a huge playing field for unfounded assertions, and basically no potential for a conclusive, decisive argument.


    It's much easier to argue that a political effort should be carried by political forces, not by military forces. It's hardly possible to make a conclusive case for the assumption that military forces should execute a political effort that cannot succeed by disarming the opposition alone.
    State Dept. 'lost' the Iraq occupation by not throwing its weight into the conflict.

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    Council Member TheCurmudgeon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    A widely defined negative is impossible to prove, so it's impossible to prove that the mission was impossible.
    This means it's faulty to use this assertion as a cornerstone of a case.

    On the other hand, the burden of proof falls on the other party - but it's impossible to prove that the mission was possible.


    The disagreement is no fertile ground for a debate, as both parties are logically unable to prove even only their assumptions. This leaves a huge playing field for unfounded assertions, and basically no potential for a conclusive, decisive argument.


    It's much easier to argue that a political effort should be carried by political forces, not by military forces. It's hardly possible to make a conclusive case for the assumption that military forces should execute a political effort that cannot succeed by disarming the opposition alone.
    State Dept. 'lost' the Iraq occupation by not throwing its weight into the conflict.
    I will work in probabilities. How does a 1 in 1,725 chance of success based on the known socioeconomic factors in play in Iraq in 2004. So, yes, I can't prove an impossibility, I can assert that it was highly improbable.

    Long Time Coming: Prospects for Democracy in Iraq.

    In fact, there was almost no known factor in favor of democracy in Iraq. This quote is from a 2004 article:

    Iraq lacks any of the preconditions academics generally accept as being necessary for democratization to succeed. It has no middle class to speak of independent from the state; oil revenues, the life-line of any Iraqi regime, are notorious for their ability to centralize rather than democratize power; the country has no tradition of limited or responsible government; national identity is weak in the face of rival religious or ethnic loyalties; regional neighbors will do what they can to undermine whatever democratizing movements exist; and the democrats themselves lack a figure such as Nelson Mandela or Kim Dae Jung who could give them leadership.
    I think I am safe to make the assertion I will make.
    Last edited by TheCurmudgeon; 04-25-2014 at 08:15 PM.
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    After the fact. Our perceptions are now tainted by experience.
    This clouds our vision for what was actually in the realm of possibilities.

    I suppose a "pre-1982 Lebanon"-style republic was possible. It would have required a balancing of powers, and enough commitment to the folly that the powers in-country believe in the persistence of the balancing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    After the fact. Our perceptions are now tainted by experience.
    This clouds our vision for what was actually in the realm of possibilities.
    The factors that were missing were well known in 2004. They were based off a 1959 research paper. They were ignored by the political leadership who choose to believe the "end of history" crowd like Larry Diamond and Francis Fukiyama. The fact that it did not come about meant that it was, for all intents and purposes, outside the realm of probability.
    "I can change almost anything ... but I can't change human nature."

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    Probability.

    I remember some probability estimates, though only vaguely.
    They were about the probability of the commies winning the Cold War because of the softness and defensiveness of the West.

    I think I read those in the mid-80's. Those probability figures were rather high.

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    Curmudegeon's first post cited in part:
    My basic argument I have. Three points:

    1. The requisites for democratization did not exist in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

    2. Attempting to create a democracy where one was not possible created instability perpetuating the conflict

    3. COIN could not overcome 1 and 2. Pop-Centric COIN is correct, but it cannot create legitimacy. It must adapt to the desires of the population.
    Now a few years ago I attended a conference on the Middle East and a number of Arab speakers stressed to them 'democracy' did not mean first and foremost 'representative democracy'. To them accountability was far more important whether by the rule of law, less corruption etc.

    My "armchair" understanding of Afghanistan is that in the rural areas there was a form of direct democracy, mainly exercised by elders and in jirgas. I suspect it helped that the state had very little power or functions beyond the cities - long before Soviet or allied intervention. Carter Malkasian's book covers this well.

    I wonder what are 'the requisites for democracy'. One thing for sure in either Afghanistan or Iraq they are not what we have or thought they should have.
    davidbfpo

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    Default My Thread On The Maneuver Warfare Handbook....

    Curmudgy,
    This is a link to a thread I started in 2010 after starting my own assessment of Lind and his concept of 4GW. I started by getting a copy of Lind's book on Maneuver Warfare and reading several of his articles from various sources. This man has been the victim of one of the most vicious slander (Political Correctness) Campaigns that I have ever seen.


    http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=9484
    Last edited by slapout9; 04-25-2014 at 09:54 PM. Reason: fix date

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    I am getting tired of the Lind’s of the world who feel that the fact we could not create a stable democracy in either Iraq or Afghanistan as a failure of Army Leadership. My response is that the military could not create such a political entity because it is impossible to do. You cannot create a stable democracy where the conditions do not exist to support it. You certainly cannot do it by external force of arms.

    My basic argument I have. Three points:

    1. The requisites for democratization did not exist in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

    2. Attempting to create a democracy where one was not possible created instability perpetuating the conflict

    3. COIN could not overcome 1 and 2. Pop-Centric COIN is correct, but it cannot create legitimacy. It must adapt to the desires of the population.

    The three arguments support the final point that the failure was never on the part of the military. The mission was de facto impossible. Therefore, to look to reform the military based on the failures in Iraq and Afghanistan is folly. The military is good at what it is designed to do. It is not good at social engineering, nor should it be.

    What I am looking for is any references or anecdotes to support any of the three arguments.

    I am also happy to listen to counter-arguments, as I would like to address them as well.

    Thanks

    Stan aka the curmudgeon
    I have a bit of a counter-argument for you. In general, I agree with most of your points... but I cannot understand how you do not view this as at least a partial failure of our military leadership. Particularly in light of the other points you make, specifically calling the mission "impossible."

    1. Accepting your premise that the mission is "impossible," the question that naturally arises to my mind is who is it that should know what constitutes an impossible mission for the military?

    2. If you do not know that an impossible mission is, in fact, impossible, whose fault is that?

    3. If you do know that a mission you are given is impossible, but you decide to give it the old college try anyway, as opposed to, say, resigning in protest that your boss is about to spend a lot of blood and treasure in pursuit of something that you know to be impossible, whose fault is that?

    The answer to all of the above is Army and Marine leadership. The answer to (1) is simply a matter of employing your troops in line with their capabilities. If you willingly employ your troops out of line with their capabilities, you should expect either failure or a miracle, the former being significantly more likely. The answer to (2) has to do with professional competence. If you don't understand that a mission is impossible, why not? Should (a) the fact that it is impossible have been obvious to you from the outset, or (b) is it that what you were doing was so far outside of both your own and others' past experience that you could not reasonably have been expected to understand the enormity of the endeavor? The answer to (3) has to do with moral courage. If you did understand the impossibility of your task, why didn't you fall on your own sword to prevent it from happening?

    Personally, I think that the right answer is probably mostly in line with 2(b). However, even if that's the case, it doesn't absolve our senior leadership in totality, though more so than the other cases. In the case of 2(b), I'd say it makes them guilty of extreme over-optimism. As in, the sort of optimism which would lead someone to believe that they can cross the Pacific Ocean in a single bound...

    If it's not 2(b), but one of the other cases, that leads to significantly different conclusions...

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Curmudegeon's first post cited in part:

    Now a few years ago I attended a conference on the Middle East and a number of Arab speakers stressed to them 'democracy' did not mean first and foremost 'representative democracy'. To them accountability was far more important whether by the rule of law, less corruption etc.

    My "armchair" understanding of Afghanistan is that in the rural areas there was a form of direct democracy, mainly exercised by elders and in jirgas. I suspect it helped that the state had very little power or functions beyond the cities - long before Soviet or allied intervention. Carter Malkasian's book covers this well.

    I wonder what are 'the requisites for democracy'. One thing for sure in either Afghanistan or Iraq they are not what we have or thought they should have.
    The definition of "Democracy" causes many problems.

    The original article is here. Essentially, they were income level (wealth), education, industrialization, and urbanization (from memory). Much more study had been done particularly in the 1990s to explain why democracy beat out communism. In any case, most of this was well known.

    Isolated localities often use some form of "democracy" in that the heads of the local households get together to decide matters that concern all. But this is not the liberal democracy as we know it with universal human rights.

    Rule of Law is problematic, because that translates into procedural legitimacy, which simply means that you are following the social norms and rules of the society . Stoning a women for being raped may represent the appropriate action. Interfering with that stoning may be seen as failing to uphold the rule of law. To often these vague terms are tossed around like they have a common meaning. They do not.
    Last edited by TheCurmudgeon; 04-25-2014 at 10:49 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9 View Post
    Curmudgy,
    This is a link to a thread I started in 2010 after starting my own assessment of Lind and his concept of 4GW. I started by getting a copy of Lind's book on Maneuver Warfare and reading several of his articles from various sources. This man has been the victim of one of the most vicious slander (Political Correctness) Campaigns that I have ever seen.


    http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=9484
    Slap, while Lind is my current target, he is simply a representative of a wider group of civilians who want to place the blame for the failures of the last 12 years squarely on the military. I don't care if they choose to blame us for their failures. Just don't tell me I need to fix what is not broken.

    We have problems, don't get me wrong. But looking at why we failed to create a democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan is not our problem. It was beyond the capabilities of the resources and time put against the problem.
    Last edited by TheCurmudgeon; 04-25-2014 at 10:46 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by former_0302 View Post
    I have a bit of a counter-argument for you. In general, I agree with most of your points... but I cannot understand how you do not view this as at least a partial failure of our military leadership. Particularly in light of the other points you make, specifically calling the mission "impossible."

    1. Accepting your premise that the mission is "impossible," the question that naturally arises to my mind is who is it that should know what constitutes an impossible mission for the military?

    2. If you do not know that an impossible mission is, in fact, impossible, whose fault is that?

    3. If you do know that a mission you are given is impossible, but you decide to give it the old college try anyway, as opposed to, say, resigning in protest that your boss is about to spend a lot of blood and treasure in pursuit of something that you know to be impossible, whose fault is that?

    The answer to all of the above is Army and Marine leadership. The answer to (1) is simply a matter of employing your troops in line with their capabilities. If you willingly employ your troops out of line with their capabilities, you should expect either failure or a miracle, the former being significantly more likely. The answer to (2) has to do with professional competence. If you don't understand that a mission is impossible, why not? Should (a) the fact that it is impossible have been obvious to you from the outset, or (b) is it that what you were doing was so far outside of both your own and others' past experience that you could not reasonably have been expected to understand the enormity of the endeavor? The answer to (3) has to do with moral courage. If you did understand the impossibility of your task, why didn't you fall on your own sword to prevent it from happening?

    Personally, I think that the right answer is probably mostly in line with 2(b). However, even if that's the case, it doesn't absolve our senior leadership in totality, though more so than the other cases. In the case of 2(b), I'd say it makes them guilty of extreme over-optimism. As in, the sort of optimism which would lead someone to believe that they can cross the Pacific Ocean in a single bound...

    If it's not 2(b), but one of the other cases, that leads to significantly different conclusions...
    Former, first, thanks for the counterargument.

    There were certainly high ranking members of the military who should have known that the plan had holes. GEN Franks high on that list. I will address that towards the end of the article.

    But is War is an extension of policy, then we rely on our politicians to lay out the policy. Democratizing the middle east with a Pollyanna view of what that was going to take, and then blaming the failure to succeed on the military, I have a problem with.

    We are not trained as political scientists or sociologists. We learn the art and science of war. We depend on the politicians to get the political science right. We are not in a position to tell them they got it wrong. As I have been told many times, my only option is to resign. That does not fix the problem.
    "I can change almost anything ... but I can't change human nature."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    Probability.

    I remember some probability estimates, though only vaguely.
    They were about the probability of the commies winning the Cold War because of the softness and defensiveness of the West.

    I think I read those in the mid-80's. Those probability figures were rather high.
    I never saw any probability estimates of success of creating a democratic Iraq or Afghanistan. If you find any, let me know. All the ones I have found, dating back to 2004, say it was not possible.

    If you find anything saying that it was possible, I would love to see it.

    Essentially, what I am finding is that every academic said it was not possible, but the administration ignored that and gave the military their marching orders. If you find anything counter to that let me know.
    "I can change almost anything ... but I can't change human nature."

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    Very quick google search
    http://e-collection.library.ethz.ch/...h-22383-31.pdf

    There are always at least a few optimists.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    Very quick google search
    http://e-collection.library.ethz.ch/...h-22383-31.pdf

    There are always at least a few optimists.
    How do I translate this?
    "I can change almost anything ... but I can't change human nature."

    Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    State Dept. 'lost' the Iraq occupation by not throwing its weight into the conflict.
    I can't agree with that. State has no more capacity for "nation-building" than the military does. As far as I can determine the US Government has no such capacity, which is why the job got dropped on the military.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    Slap, while Lind is my current target, he is simply a representative of a wider group of civilians who want to place the blame for the failures of the last 12 years squarely on the military. I don't care if they choose to blame us for their failures. Just don't tell me I need to fix what is not broken.

    We have problems, don't get me wrong. But looking at why we failed to create a democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan is not our problem. It was beyond the capabilities of the resources and time put against the problem.
    I couldn't agree more, been chanting this mantra for over a decade: asking an army to build a nation is like asking an engineer to perform surgery. Trying to remake the army into a nation-building force is going to get you an inadequate nation-building force and is also likely to compromise the army's ability to perform its core functions, which could be a real problem if we ever actually need an army.

    Even the best hammer in the world makes a very lousy screwdriver. That's not the fault of the hammer, it's the fault of those who choose to deploy the hammer because they forgot that they don't have a screwdriver in their kit.

    As you say, none of this means the army has no flaws: every institution has flaws and problems, and every institution can improve. Blaming the failure of "nation-building" on flaws in the army, though, is to me both irrational and dangerous, the danger being that efforts to reshape the army to correct those hypothetical "flaws" could render the army less able to perform the functions for which it is actually intended.
    “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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    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    How do I translate this?
    Give the 2nd page a try...

    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    I can't agree with that. State has no more capacity for "nation-building" than the military does. As far as I can determine the US Government has no such capacity, which is why the job got dropped on the military.
    Nation-building takes decades.

    The establishment of a political system and quasi-consensus on the other hand can be largely accomplished in two years. State Dept. could have drawn together the various factions through diplomacy -with many career diplomats and politicians- towards such a quasi-consensus.

    The military was fighting symptoms of political failure, not doing policy itself until it was too late. Bremer et al treated the challenge as an administration challenge when it was in fact a challenge of drawing diverging parties towards a quasi-consensus on how to run the country (how to distribute the spoils).
    Last edited by Fuchs; 04-26-2014 at 12:58 AM.

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    Fuchs,

    Read "Schizophrenic Doctrine: Why We Need to Separate Democratization Out of Stability and COIN Doctrine" It was simply not possible to create a democracy in Iraq or Afghanistan.

    I know people in the West want to believe that. They want to believe that everyone wants freedom. That is not the case. Sometimes they just want to survive.

    I wish the answers I keep coming up with were different. But blaming the Army for the failures of the political elite is not going to change human nature.

    Oh yeah, the second time I got the English. Thanks
    "I can change almost anything ... but I can't change human nature."

    Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan
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