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

  1. #21
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    You do know you sound apologetic?


    Let's assume for a while that the mission was impossible.
    That would be an even bigger failure than failing in a possible mission!

    The top brass' job was to understand the limits of the own institution (to recognize that the mission is impossible) and to inform the political (civilian) leadership about its findings.
    Said leadership surely insisted, but that's the moment when a non-failing institution would proceed to simply sacrifice its top brass one after one, as they insist on the finding.
    They didn't for career reasons, and the army surely enjoyed all that growth in budget and numbers (all bureaucracies do) - and failed its nation by consuming a huge budgets, inflicting huge long-term costs, sacrificing lives and limbs and achieving close to nothing.


    And you surely recognize that the alternative criticism above is not beyond the 3GW crowd's established repertoire, right?


    The army cannot escape the blame for its failure; pointing at retired politicians doesn't deflect anything.

  2. #22
    Council Member TheCurmudgeon's Avatar
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    Fuchs. I am not apologizing, only offering condolences.

    To blame the military is to absolve the civilians ... And those who believe that democracy was possible.

    Worse, using it as justification to attack the military is simply unforgivable.
    Last edited by TheCurmudgeon; 04-26-2014 at 02:59 AM.
    "I can change almost anything ... but I can't change human nature."

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  3. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    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.
    War is certainly an extension of policy, but the two are not separable IMO. It makes no sense for a nation to set as policy something which it knows is not achievable militarily, and it is incumbent upon the professional military to 1) know what is and is not militarily achievable, and 2) to explain it to the policy makers in no uncertain terms. Kim Jong Whoever is in charge of NK now could set as his policy tomorrow that it was necessary for NK to conquer China (a task similarly impossible for NK, in my view, as us democratizing Afghanistan). It's his military leaders' job to explain to him that it's a REALLY bad idea. In that country, they might get shot for saying something that the boss doesn't want to hear. Over here, they might have to take their pension a bit earlier than they had planned, and then go get a cushy job at some think tank making six figures and thinking big thoughts. My sympathy doesn't exactly overflow.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    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.
    No argument as to our training. We weren't even really prepared for COIN, never mind nation-building. While you're right that the military is not in a position to tell pols they're wrong with the political science part, it is certainly within the military's purview to explain its own capabilities and limitations to them. Thereby letting them know, among their policy options, which ones they can actually expect to succeed. The distance between "overthrow the Taliban" and "make Afghanistan a functioning democracy" is so vast in scope that you could measure it on a galactic scale. One is achievable, the other...

    Maybe if enough people resigned, it would send the right message... Because frankly, those who have stayed in haven't fixed the problem either. Unfortunately, I haven't seen anything that indicates that the problem is getting solved. Only that we have a sexual assault epidemic, that women should be able to do any job men do in the military, and budget, budget, sequestration, budget... none of which addresses the problems we are discussing. I'm not confident that the solution can come from within the belly of the beast.

  4. #24
    Council Member TheCurmudgeon's Avatar
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    Former 302,

    First off you assume that the military understood not just Nation Building but Democratization theory? Yeah, right.

    I am sorry, but all this arguing that the "military should have known" only goes to let the politicians, the people who REALLY should have known, off the hook.

    It would have been one thing if they would have let it go with "you guys suck cause you keep losing." It is another whey they say "not only do you guys suck cause you keep losing, but you are broke and you need to fix yourself before we give you another stupid mission." Sorry, not waiting for the next shoe to drop.

    Perhaps what needs fixing is the civil-military relationship.
    "I can change almost anything ... but I can't change human nature."

    Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan
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  5. #25
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    Worse, using it as justification to attack the military is simply unforgivable.
    Hardly. The military is held in much higher regard in the United States than usual in most developed countries. A dent in its image is hardly unforgivable.

    In fact, criticism and questioning the performance, capabilities and ways is very useful. Even criticism that misses a point can be useful in fostering an environment in which actual deficiencies are quickly exposed and remedied.

    An army is an armed bureaucracy, and bureaucracies need constant oversight and pressure, or else they go astray on their autopilot which maximises their budget, personnel, and their leadership's comfort.

    It's also very typical of bureaucracies to expect and demand respect for their work, and to react appalled to external criticism.



    An army is supposed to serve its country (or its dictator).
    The U.S.Army has evidently not served the interests of its country in the Iraq occupation, though it fooled itself into believing so and superficially it "served" (just to what end?).
    It didn't serve by achieving an outcome better than no war nor did it accomplish its mission nor did it protect the country from the wastefulness of warfare by forcefully insisting on the impossibility of the mission.
    It was in no way useful.

    A trillion to three trillion dollars, thousands of KIA, ten thousands of cripples and nothing to show for it.


    It would be an interesting sociology/psychology research project to identify what it takes to believe that the army did not fail its country grossly in that whole affair.

  6. #26
    Council Member TheCurmudgeon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    Hardly. The military is held in much higher regard in the United States than usual in most developed countries. A dent in its image is hardly unforgivable.

    In fact, criticism and questioning the performance, capabilities and ways is very useful. Even criticism that misses a point can be useful in fostering an environment in which actual deficiencies are quickly exposed and remedied.

    An army is an armed bureaucracy, and bureaucracies need constant oversight and pressure, or else they go astray on their autopilot which maximises their budget, personnel, and their leadership's comfort.

    It's also very typical of bureaucracies to expect and demand respect for their work, and to react appalled to external criticism.



    An army is supposed to serve its country (or its dictator).
    The U.S.Army has evidently not served the interests of its country in the Iraq occupation, though it fooled itself into believing so and superficially it "served" (just to what end?).
    It didn't serve by achieving an outcome better than no war nor did it accomplish its mission nor did it protect the country from the wastefulness of warfare by forcefully insisting on the impossibility of the mission.
    It was in no way useful.

    A trillion to three trillion dollars, thousands of KIA, ten thousands of cripples and nothing to show for it.


    It would be an interesting sociology/psychology research project to identify what it takes to believe that the army did not fail its country grossly in that whole affair.
    Can you restate all that into a rational counterarguement?
    "I can change almost anything ... but I can't change human nature."

    Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan
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  7. #27
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    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.
    You might want to recheck your Targeting. Lind was one of the first to openly oppose Nation Building. One of his famous quotes was "We are trying to turn Afghanistan into Switzerland" or something close to that. If you get the chance listen the radio interview from 2007 I think he starts with a discussion about Somalia.
    Here is the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hjQOMlpH9A
    Last edited by slapout9; 04-26-2014 at 04:55 AM. Reason: stuff

  8. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    Former 302,

    First off you assume that the military understood not just Nation Building but Democratization theory? Yeah, right.
    Not at all. Rather, I assume that they knew that they DIDN'T understand it, and therefore should know to stay in their lane. How successful is any large organization at coming up with a way to do something that basically no one's ever done before and no one is trained how to do under fire? You might as well try to run a tank/infantry integration range with a bunch of civilians who are picking up a rifle for the first time. The result is predictable.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    I am sorry, but all this arguing that the "military should have known" only goes to let the politicians, the people who REALLY should have known, off the hook.
    All I'm arguing for is that the military should have known its own capabilities and limitations, and have delivered potential COAs to the policy makers which were in line with them. If the military says that it can do something that it can't, whose fault is that? If, on the other hand, they are ordered to do something while protesting that they can't do it, that's a different situation. It seems to me the former, and not the latter, is what actually occurred though. I may be in error.

    In any event, I'm not excusing the politicians; they are a breed of people permanently divorced from reality. If those advising them are equally divorced from reality, however, it's something of an exponential effect of bad.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    It would have been one thing if they would have let it go with "you guys suck cause you keep losing." It is another whey they say "not only do you guys suck cause you keep losing, but you are broke and you need to fix yourself before we give you another stupid mission." Sorry, not waiting for the next shoe to drop.

    Perhaps what needs fixing is the civil-military relationship.
    I'd agree that the civil-military relationship is indeed what is broken. I could write a novel about why I think it is, but to keep it short, it seems to me that our instant-information age and sensationalist media have made the military's job infinitely more difficult. I never let my boys take personal cameras outside the wire, precisely so that no videos or pictures ever found their way into the interwebs. But what do you do about youtube videos of Marines pissing on TB corpses? There would have been little if any rage about such an incident in WWII. Probably would have been in VN, were it possible, but it wasn't. Nowadays, the President of the US has to be concerned about what a Lance Corporal is doing. Think FDR ever gave much thought to the political ramifications of what some E2 somewhere was doing? We have so much oversight that we pay attention to all the things we can't get caught screwing up, instead of all the things that we're actually out there to do...

    I'm rambling now... but to end, I just want you to understand that I'm mainly playing devil's advocate here. As I said initially, I agree with your points in the main.

  9. #29
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    Can you restate all that into a rational counterarguement?
    It wasn't so much a counterargument as some pushing against a pro-institution bias. The problems with your conclusions begin with your narrative.

  10. #30
    Council Member TheCurmudgeon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by former_0302 View Post
    I'm rambling now... but to end, I just want you to understand that I'm mainly playing devil's advocate here. As I said initially, I agree with your points in the main.
    I appreciate devil in you.

    I need to see where I am lacking.
    "I can change almost anything ... but I can't change human nature."

    Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan
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  11. #31
    Council Member TheCurmudgeon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    It wasn't so much a counterargument as some pushing against a pro-institution bias. The problems with your conclusions begin with your narrative.
    If what you are seeing is institutional bias then you are missing the point of the argument. No one could have accomplished that mission. Period. With that said, why are you now attacking the military for failing to do the impossible (OK, improbable)?

    I could understand an argument to re-look the civil-military relationship. Perhaps give the military the power to say "No", or give them the ability to go directly to the public with the failings of the administration. But I don't really like either of those, In the end we are a tool of the administrations policy.
    Last edited by TheCurmudgeon; 04-26-2014 at 02:19 PM.
    "I can change almost anything ... but I can't change human nature."

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  12. #32
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Humans are still hardcoded for social interaction in clans.
    If someone attacks your clan - that's an attack on you.
    Someone criticizes your institution - that's (perceived as) a critique of yourself.
    The typical reaction is that the clan members rally and fight back.

    Critique can be useful even if it's inaccurate, though. It is necessary to tolerate and embrace critique in order to overcome the partisanship and to improve (the own clan).



    Here's what you did:

    (1) Someone criticised your clan with the allegation of failure.

    (2) You respond that your clan is free of guilt because some other clan failed allegedly.



    Here's what would be useful:

    (1) Someone criticised your clan with the allegation of failure.

    (2) You respond by exploiting this reminder about clan imperfection to push for clan improvements, to foster beginner's interest in clan improvement and to create/maintain an environment in which both is standard.

  13. #33
    Council Member TheCurmudgeon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    Humans are still hardcoded for social interaction in clans.
    If someone attacks your clan - that's an attack on you.
    Someone criticizes your institution - that's (perceived as) a critique of yourself.
    The typical reaction is that the clan members rally and fight back.

    Critique can be useful even if it's inaccurate, though. It is necessary to tolerate and embrace critique in order to overcome the partisanship and to improve (the own clan).



    Here's what you did:

    (1) Someone criticised your clan with the allegation of failure.

    (2) You respond that your clan is free of guilt because some other clan failed allegedly.



    Here's what would be useful:

    (1) Someone criticised your clan with the allegation of failure.

    (2) You respond by exploiting this reminder about clan imperfection to push for clan improvements, to foster beginner's interest in clan improvement and to create/maintain an environment in which both is standard.
    Your assumptions are twofold. First, that I believe the criticism is valid. It is not. Second, that I am defending a specific institution. I am not.
    "I can change almost anything ... but I can't change human nature."

    Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan
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  14. #34
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    The first assumption is not necessary, nor did I want to imply it.

    The second "assumption" is not an "assumption", but an observation - a description of a fact. You are defending the U.S.Army/U.S.Military against Lind's (and similar) critiques.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    I am getting tired of the Lind’s (...) 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.
    (...)
    The three arguments support the final point that the failure was never on the part of the military.
    Now if that's not the axe you have to grind, what is it? Aversion against Lind? That would be an even lesser reason for a counter-critique.


    My impression is that your counter-critique is a gut-level reaction, even though you attempted to make it look logic-driven with your three points.



    Here's a technique for how to avoid such an impression and still provide a rebuttal:
    (1) Proclaim that Lind cannot prove that the mission was ever possible and how this undermines his case,
    then
    (2) point out ineffectiveness of last three decades of Lind critique as evidenced by his repetition of old points,
    then
    (3) point at better opportunities for critique, and need for improvement that (in your opinion) deserves more attention and justifies greater effort and urgency.

    (3) would signal a honest interest in improvement and it would signal that the reaction is not simply partisan defensive.

  15. #35
    Council Member TheCurmudgeon's Avatar
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    It was a gut level reaction, but not in defense of the Army, or really an attack on Lind. It was a gut level reaction to the continuing fallacy that you can create democracies. That if we had just understood or implemented COIN better or had followed the dictates of 4GW. Its all bunk. The problem was the mission was not feasible.

    I would not care if Lind was attacking State or the UN, he is still wrong to place blame on an organization for failing to do what is, for all intents and purposes, an impossibility. As the fictional character Dr. Manhattan points out in my favorite quote, you can't change human nature.

    BTW, as long as that fallacy exists, the same one that was behind the idea of modernization in Vietnam, we will get involved in this stupidity again.

    Fuchs, I get the feeling that you disagree with my base proposition, that it was a practical impossibility to create a functioning stable democracy in Iraq or Afghanistan.
    Last edited by TheCurmudgeon; 04-27-2014 at 02:33 AM.
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  16. #36
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    Here's what you did:

    (1) Someone criticised your clan with the allegation of failure.

    (2) You respond that your clan is free of guilt because some other clan failed allegedly.
    I have nothing to do with the any of the clans in question, and in my view the failure was primarily at the policy level, in selecting utterly unrealistic objectives and pursuing them with tools poorly suited for the purpose.

    I do suspect that the military, at the senior leadership, could and should have explained these things to the policymakers much more aggressively. Since I'm not privy to the discussions at that level, I don't really know what was said and what the reaction was. At the operational level, of course, the officers and men involved would have had little input or choice.

    Part of this whole discussion, of course, is the nature of "mission creep"... at the early stages of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq the military leadership may not have recognized the extent to which the military would have the nation building task dumped on the military. Again, though, an honest analysis would require detailed knowledge of the discussions that took place at that time.
    “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

  17. #37
    Council Member TheCurmudgeon's Avatar
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    Dayuhan, while the historical story of how the military ended up with the mission to create democracies might be interesting, I am not sure it is germane to the issue at hand. The fact is that creating a stable, democratic Iraq was part of our mission.

    Our mission:
    A Stable and Democratic Iraq: Now that coalition military forces have ousted Saddam Hussein's regime, the United States will work side-by-side with the Iraqi people to build a free, democratic, and stable Iraq that does not threaten its people or its neighbors. Our goals are for Iraqis to take full control of their country as soon as possible and to maintain its territorial integrity. We will assist the Iraqi people in their efforts to adopt a new constitution, hold elections, and build a legitimate government based on the consent of the governed and respect for the human rights of all Iraqis. We will remain in Iraq as long as necessary, but not one day longer.
    http://www.state.gov/s/d/rm/rls/dosstrat/2004/23503.htm

    We fell into it after it did not happen on its own.
    Last edited by TheCurmudgeon; 04-27-2014 at 02:57 AM.
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  18. #38
    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    The definition of "Democracy" causes many problems.
    Also problematic, by the way, is the scope of application of the term. As was pointed out, at some level, some inhabitants of parts of Afghanistan may have had democracy. However, the so-called nation state Afghanistan did not (and I suspect probably never will) have democracy. I say so-called nation state because it and many other problematic nations in the world today, had their nationhood handed to them (or forced upon them) by their former imperial masters/colonial overseers/occupiers.

    In what follows I am taking a lead from what Fuchs pointed out in post 32,

    The West has managed to ensure a mess in a lot of the so-called 3rd world by the way it realigned the world after the last 2 world wars. Now they are trying to defend their bad past by trying to fix their mistakes. But, surprise, surprise,they are using almost the exact same means as they used to create the first problem.

    First, the West told folks, rather forcefully in many cases, what nation they were by telling them where their boundaries were, rather than letting them figure that out for themselves. Now the West is telling them, again rather forcefully, what kind of governments they must have.

    This seems like two failures in observing the principle of self-determination. I suspect each is derived from some sense of guilt for having caused problems in the first place and now trying to assuage that guilt by "fixing" things. But why we do it is less important than that we do it and will not stop.

    I seem to remember that the definition of madness is doing the same thing twice and expecting different outcomes.

    So, perhaps the 1st world nations could stop telling people outside their own borders where to draw their boundaries or what kind of governments to have. If enough of those other people can get their act together long enough to create a self-governing entity that seems to have staying power (what counts as self-governing and for staying power for how long are as yet to be determined), then viola, we have a legitimate nation that may ask for help from the "stable" first world nations and expect to receive it. Any other form of invitation should be politely declined. Any impulse to intervene without an invitation should be immediately suppressed, hopefully by the citizens of the nation whose leadership has the impulse. If the majority of the nation has succumbed to lunacy, then the other first world nations must intervene, just as any family would with when Uncle Wally starts dancing in the street naked.

    Dealing with non-state actors who are not attempting to engage in nation building is a job for police forces, not the military. So is dealing with would be nation builders who use terrorism outside their own planned national boundaries as a technique for trying to get what they want.

    The devil, of course, is in the details--like what happens if/when the Pashtuns want part of Afghanistan, part of Iran, and part of Pakistan. But even details need a basic framework to contain them, first, don't they?

    How does this respond to Lind? I suggest he is just one of those crazies who try to get different outcomes with the same method.
    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

  19. #39
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    Stepping back and looking at the bigger picture if strategy is aligning ends, ways, and means using all elements of national power and our stated ends were stable democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan what exactly did our military fail to do when it comes to the use of military power to set conditions for this to happen?

    I think most agree those ends are laughable, but that is what they were. I will be the first to self criticize and critic my military, but for criticism to be valuable it should be constructive. If our military did what differently exactly, then how would it have changed the outcome?
    Last edited by Bill Moore; 04-27-2014 at 12:47 PM.

  20. #40
    Council Member TheCurmudgeon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    Stepping back and looking at the bigger picture if strategy is aligning ends, ways, and means using all elements of national power and our stated ends were stable democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan what exactly did our military fail to do when it comes to the use of military power to set conditions for this to happen?

    I think most agree those ends are laughable, but that is what they were. I will be the first to self criticize and critic my military, but for criticism to be valuable it should be constructive. If our military did what differently exactly, then how would it have changed the outcome?
    That is the basic statement I would like to make.
    "I can change almost anything ... but I can't change human nature."

    Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan
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