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Thread: Recruiting for SWC members because....

  1. #81
    Council Member TheCurmudgeon's Avatar
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    Default It is up to us ....

    OK, first, I have had several beers, so my ramblings may be slightly more incoherent then they usually are, but I feel I must contribute. Right now we are in a funk. The Gentile's of the world are trying to convince everyone that small wars are no longer relevant. (to the theme song of the Beverly Hillbillies) "Near Peer competitors are just terrific, so they packed up their strategy and pivoted to the Pacific". Yeah, you go with that girl. As I heard Barrett say once: "China all grown up ... gonna be a looker." Here is the real deal. The next time troops will be put in harms way it will be in a small war. And if we don't do something about it, we will repeat the same mistakes we have in the past.

    I for one am not willing to do that. With alcohol as my witness, I believe it is up to us to make this Journal into something that makes the news. I am not sure how, but I know why. I remember seeing a picture once that was entitled "the long grey line". It depicted West Point Cadets marching out of a fog. The representation was meant to demonstrate that there was a long history behind the Academy, but to me it was more generic (being an OCS type of guy). It represented the Soldiers past, present, and future. We will make the same mistakes again if those of us who have witnessed it first hand don't help find the answers.

    To any of you still reading this rant, please, PLEASE, contribute to this journal. Even if you think you comments are not worthy. I asked for help with a project I was working on under the RFI section. I have over 1800 view, but only 47 posts (and half of those are mine). Come on people -- let us know what you think. Your opinion matters! That is why we fought the Germans at Pearl Harbor (sorry FUCHS).

    OK, I am done now ...and I need another beer.

    Please help keep this endeavor alive. It really is worth the effort.

    The Curmudgeon (AKA LTC Stan Wiechnik)
    Last edited by TheCurmudgeon; 07-31-2013 at 01:55 AM.
    "I can change almost anything ... but I can't change human nature."

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  2. #82
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    Default Reading vs Posting

    Da Cur....

    2000 views vs 47 posts, over a week, doesn't seem too bad to me. That's 42.5 views per post; and 285 views per day. I've had a long-running thread, The Rules - Engaging HVTs & OBL (from May 2011), with 20500 views vs 166 posts, over ca. 800 days. That's 123.5 views per post; and 25.6 views per day. So, I'd say you beat expectations for what (IMO) was a somewhat specialized topic.

    As the other Stan just said, there's a time factor to all of this - as well as the competing influences of the other parts of our lives. I don't sweat the eventual outcome - keep on trucking.

    Regards - have a virtual Guiness stout on me

    Mike

  3. #83
    Council Member TheCurmudgeon's Avatar
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    Default

    It is not the the time factor that bothers me. It is that so many people viewed without comment. People, please say something! Even if it is that you think we are crazy. Clausewitz did not cross the Potomac so that you could sit on your ... behinds and not contribute your two cents worth. Samual Adams did not give up needlepoint and take up brewing so that you could site on your hands. It is just not the internet way. Please, for the love of whatever you feel is wholey, contribute!
    "I can change almost anything ... but I can't change human nature."

    Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan
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  4. #84
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Part of the challenge is getting people to look back. As cropped up in one of the linked blog posts, at least 2-3 generations of U.S. students and "leaders" have been conditioned to value law degrees, engineering, and the like above liberal arts (including history and geography). People like to forget that during the "good old days" of the Powell Doctrine we were scattering penny packets of troops all over the place in humanitarian assistance, advising, and the like. Like it or not, our military has historically been involved in small wars more than they have conventional conflicts. Even the fiction about Afghanistan being our "longest war" doesn't hold up to historical examination. That's absolutely no knock on the folks doing the heavy lifting there, but between 1865 and 1890 the Army was involved in this little thing called the Indian Wars. It may not look impressive now, but it absorbed about 75% of the Army's field strength (either in garrison duties or campaigning). It wasn't popular "at home" (when people even remembered there was fighting going on), there were locals seeking to make a profit of the government's presence, and West Point didn't even bother teaching tactics to match the environment (they were still busy fighting the Civil War).

    I could go on, but the short version is that I agree with both Stans. This stuff is important, and if we don't keep up the chatter too many important lessons will slip away again and have to be relearned the hard way.
    "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

  5. #85
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    Default I don't see any fresh thinking on Small Wars....

    An an outsider to the military, I don't see much difference between some of supposed "retreat into conventional mode" and the "small wars are important" types.

    I see a comfortable retreat into familiar arguments about familiar topics using overly represented and familiar examples by some proponents of the study of small wars--with no real reflection on what might have happened in the past decade or so and no opening up of the discussion on a theoretical or practical level.

    Why the constant retreat to a few examples that seem to keep cropping up, the British in Malaya, Algeria, the Indian Wars, the Phillipines?

    For the study of the Afghan campaign, a very careful full-rounded study of various South Asian insurgencies (outside the comfortable frameworks often presented on SA insurgencies here, same old same old, even the Indian General that wrote an article on COIN basically just repeated "hearts and minds") might be interesting.

    I feel I spend too much time commenting already and would prefer to read academic papers or books on "small wars areas of interest" to me that don't seem to be covered much here. If I find interesting things, I will post--time permitting.

    The moderators are awesome. The commenters and contributors are awesome.

    David is absolutely terrific as a moderator.

    But if the study of small wars is so important why are those interested always circling around the same few topics in the same way? I see nothing new, just the same old half-conceived notions of American history and practice regarding small wars.

    It's a fascinating topic so where is the robust study and argumentation outside a little social science and some tactical discussion?

    Best to all.
    Last edited by Madhu; 07-31-2013 at 05:38 PM. Reason: Edited last few paras for clarity

  6. #86
    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default Not everything can be that clear with an opinion

    Hey Madhu,
    Would almost tend to agree with you. However, seems all the lessons learned from the past and our members' vast knowledge of the same has fallen on deaf ears.

    We are not always meandering in the past, but sharing what we may feel has indeed been overlooked and deserves a relook or, we feel a need to share what our past revealed.

    As duly noted, most of us come from military backgrounds and are in one form or another, still serving.

    Not everything herein is Small Wars, but most everything has something to do with what may eventually occur and has often been overlooked by far more intelligent beings.

    Regards, Stan
    If you want to blend in, take the bus

  7. #87
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Madhu View Post
    Why the constant retreat to a few examples that seem to keep cropping up, the British in Malaya, Algeria, the Indian Wars, the Phillipines?
    Actually, both the Indian War and the Philippines are poorly-studied here. Brian Linn is one of the few scholars who actually has devoted a great deal of time and attention to the Philippines (at least the period from 1898 through 1910 or so), and his work is outstanding. The Indian Wars tend to be rather spotty, and often the focus is on a specific individual or battle rather than a longer-term view of the conflicts. There are a few outstanding scholars to be sure, but some areas remain very neglected and would certainly repay study. That doesn't mean that they are the "be all and end all" of small wars, but to assume that they've been mined out would be a mistake.

    I agree that there is a lot of (misplaced) focus on areas like Malaya and Algeria. There's also little attention paid to things that have happened in both Central and South America.
    "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

  8. #88
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Need More Beer Thinking

    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    OK, first, I have had several beers, so my ramblings may be slightly more incoherent then they usually are, but I feel I must contribute.
    Beer Thinking is often Strategic Thinking

  9. #89
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    Default Lost Lessons

    For the group at large, many have commented that here we go again, we're going to forget all the lessons learnt about Small Wars just like we did after Vietnam. What lessons do you feel are critical that we allegedly learned since 9/11 that we are at risk of losing?

    This is an important question, because so far no one has really addressed it.

    I'll challenge some comments I find to be illogical that are offered up by small wars advocates:

    1. DOD pushed the "Rebalance to the Asia-Pacific" so they could focus on big wars and ignore small wars. This is wrong on all accounts. The rebalance to the Asia-Pacific was directed by our National Leadership (not DOD) for very sound strategic reasons. It just so happens that there are a number of potential scenarios in the region that could result in a state on state conflict of significant severity. DOD is focused on preventing those, if that fails we have to be ready to fight. The number of U.S. service members that would be killed in a conventional conflict would most likely be significantly higher than those killed in Small Wars. Bottom line we have to be ready for the unlikely, because the unlikely is more important to our national interests than the very often exaggerated threat from small wars to our interests. Second, there are more small wars in the PACOM area of responsibility than any other. There are over 20 separatist, insurgencies and terrorist movements in India along, and the number rapidly increases as you start moving east through Bangladesh, Nepal, Burma, Thailand, etc. The PACOM conducts FID in a number of countries (at different levels), so no one is exactly running away from Small Wars, but at the same time our leaders have an appreciation of the full spectrum of threats and what ones pose significant risk to us, and which ones simply counter some of our interest.

    2. There are more small wars than larger state on state wars. That is very true, and lets hope that remains the case. However, in and of itself that is not a strong argument for the U.S. military to focus on Small Wars, because the vast majority of them we have little or nothing to do with. On the other hand, it is important to note that sometimes it is very much in our interests to engage in Small Wars for strategic reasons (not just because there are more of them).

    3. We lost our Small Wars knowledge after Vietnam? What small wars skills did we gain during Vietnam that we lost? I admit many in the conventional army and Marines (especially LTCs and below in the 90s couldn't spell insurgency) may have ignored them, but Special Forces and some elements of general purpose forces were constantly engaged in small wars around the globe since the end of the Vietnam until 9/11. I came in during the late 70s and most of my career was focused on so called small wars and irregular warfare.

    4. At the tactical and operational level what did we learn since 9/11 that we need to maintain that we're at risk of losing? I don't want to touch policy an and strategy, because we apparently didn't learn much in that regard. I can think of a few things, but want to hear your comments first.

    The point of this effort is to move beyond the empty rhetoric of here we go again repeating history and tossing the baby out with the bath water and identify specific skills and knowledge we're at risk of losing. Once identified we can develop recommended ways to preserve these skills/knowledge.

    I'm not convinced our military was as ate up as some of you seem to think. Our guys were doing back to back rotations in Bosnia and Kosovo prior to going into Afghanistan and Iraq, and that was certainly a messy small war by definition. 3d Special Forces Group (many of them) deployed to Afghanistan shortly after redeploying from Africa where they were supporting Peace Operations (small wars in this case), we had a long history of conducting counter narcotics missions globally (small wars sort of), and the list goes on. Go back to the 80s the list gets much more extensive. We seemed to do pretty well initially in Afghanistan with a few extraordinary men, local partners, and bombers. It got stupid when the policy got stupid. We did well in Iraq, to include the SF units working with Kurds who played a significant role in the decisive operations to oust Saddam. It was our politicians who denied we faced an insurgency that delayed the military's adaption to the threat. Not saying big Army was prepared for what came, but it wasn't as simple as some here seem to imply it was.

  10. #90
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    We have learned how to do the wrong things better, but at the same time have somehow convinced ourselves that any strategic failures in the face of that tactical prowess are the fault of others - the host, the congress, the unwillingness to fully commit to a Clausewitzian or Galulaian solution either one, etc.


    I for one hope that the primary lesson learned is that we still are not very good at this and that our "new" approaches are no better than our old ones at actually helping some place become more naturally stable; and that forced conditions of artificial stability by our hands are harder to create and less durable to sustain in the emerging environment. They also will remain hotbeds for follow-on insurgencies and recruiting grounds for acts of transnational terrorism.

    In the words of Huey Lewis, we "need a new drug."
    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)

  11. #91
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Reading, thinking and some posts

    Bill M. asks a good question:
    What lessons do you feel are critical that we allegedly learned since 9/11 that we are at risk of losing?
    So I think a thread entitled 'Lost Lessons' may emerge, but then Madhu's post entitled 'I don't see any fresh thinking on Small Wars....' gives a contrary viewpoint. So the thread maybe called 'Lost Lessons & Fresh Thinking: a challenge for SWC'.

    My reopening of this thread was four days ago and we have just hit a 1k views, with thirty one posts. That indicates to me an ample readership, but only a fraction comment.
    davidbfpo

  12. #92
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Default We Lost The Lesson That The Air Force Can Fight Small Wars

    In the late 40's and early 50's the Air Force came up with the concept of using an American Air Force and a small force of advosrs(CIA) but let the supporting country supply the needed Army. So I say the biggest lesson lost is that the Air Force cannot fight a Small War.....They can.

  13. #93
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9 View Post
    In the late 40's and early 50's the Air Force came up with the concept of using an American Air Force and a small force of advosrs(CIA) but let the supporting country supply the needed Army. So I say the biggest lesson lost is that the Air Force cannot fight a Small War.....They can.
    Back when the Air Force was made up of Army guys??

    Try to get the current Air Force to invest in the platforms necessary for that type of engagement today. Even AFSOC is invested in the wrong platforms the wrong personnel, and focused on the wrong missions to support small wars effectively.

    But your point is a valid one.
    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)

  14. #94
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9 View Post
    In the late 40's and early 50's the Air Force came up with the concept of using an American Air Force and a small force of advisers (CIA) but let the supporting country supply the needed Army. So I say the biggest lesson lost is that the Air Force cannot fight a Small War.....They can.
    Slap,

    Was this concept proved though? If so please enlighten me, where?

    Sounds like the Imperial British 'air policing' model used in the Middle East, notably in Iraq and less certain now on he North-west Frontier between the wars.
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Slap,

    Was this concept proved though? If so please enlighten me, where?

    Sounds like the Imperial British 'air policing' model used in the Middle East, notably in Iraq and less certain now on he North-west Frontier between the wars.

    Afghanistan invasion 2001.

    The concept's description does indeed sound conspicuously like the British aerial 'policing' over Iraq around 1930, though.


    The idea of running a small war with the air force is q highly questionable one. Air force and even more so naval air operations are insanely expensive (especially if you don't want to have troops in the country to run and guard bases and supply convoys). Small wars' utility is rather small, so the means employed should have rather low variable costs.

  16. #96
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Slap,

    Was this concept proved though? If so please enlighten me, where?

    Sounds like the Imperial British 'air policing' model used in the Middle East, notably in Iraq and less certain now on he North-west Frontier between the wars.
    The concept was resurrected in no small part due to the budget wars playing out at the end of the Eisenhower administration and the transition to Kennedy and his "flexible response" ideas. In particular they were trying to fend off an emphasis on conventional conflict (and special operations) that might cut into their bomber funding (and the rise of helicopters within the Army drove their thinking as well, but that's a different story in some ways). Fuchs is correct that something superficially similar did take place in Afghanistan. As for testing at the time, the Air Force claimed that some small-scale deployments in the late 1950s and early 1960s "validated the concept," but the only battlefield testing I'm aware of would have taken place in Laos. And even then it wasn't the same thing.

    And Bob, they didn't invest in the platforms to fight that kind of war back then, let alone now.
    "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

  17. #97
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9 View Post
    In the late 40's and early 50's the Air Force came up with the concept of using an American Air Force and a small force of advosrs(CIA) but let the supporting country supply the needed Army. So I say the biggest lesson lost is that the Air Force cannot fight a Small War.....They can.
    Aren't we the supporting country?

    That might work in some circumstances, if the country we're supporting has a functional army and the terrain is suitable. There will also be many circumstances in which it will not work, notably those in which the "country" we're supporting has no army, or if we've chosen to disband that army.

    The US, it seems to me, has a uniquely persistent habit of entering what might be called "large small wars": conflicts that may be fought on a "small wars" model, but with a scope, duration, and expenditure that are anything but small. Creating a government, building a nation, installing a democracy are not small endeavors. If we adopt goals that require us to do these things, we are moving into a large small war, and that's troublesome territory. In a large small war attrition and political will become major factors, and public tolerance will be limited.

    One overlooked lesson, if it was ever learned in the first place, would be to keep small wars small, and to resist the temptation to pursue objectives that push the scale out of hand.
    “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

  18. #98
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    Default Thanks for the correction and point of agreement

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    Actually, both the Indian War and the Philippines are poorly-studied here. Brian Linn is one of the few scholars who actually has devoted a great deal of time and attention to the Philippines (at least the period from 1898 through 1910 or so), and his work is outstanding. The Indian Wars tend to be rather spotty, and often the focus is on a specific individual or battle rather than a longer-term view of the conflicts. There are a few outstanding scholars to be sure, but some areas remain very neglected and would certainly repay study. That doesn't mean that they are the "be all and end all" of small wars, but to assume that they've been mined out would be a mistake.

    I agree that there is a lot of (misplaced) focus on areas like Malaya and Algeria. There's also little attention paid to things that have happened in both Central and South America.
    Thanks for the comment too, Stan.

    I tend to paint with too broad a brush in order to make a point. It's not a good habit. That's one reason I want to read more academic works. I need to break this habit. If I read more, I would have already known your point....

    At least we all agree on one thing, we need more study and to keep the study alive, current and vibrant. I think one area that I have a kind of cultural disconnect from the military (or maybe the blogs I read?) is that I'm not really looking for quick "lessons learned" in the sense of "oh, look at what those guys did."

    I have certain curiosities or questions about conflicts and want to read up on the questions because I think that current COIN doctrine oversimplifies the history of some campaigns used as a model. Gian Gentile in his book says that the models are too rigid and prevent a kind of grand improvisation (not minor tactical improvisations) or tailoring of a counterinsurgency campaign toward a specific conflict in all its peculiarities.

    I have such a different narrative of colonial small wars in my head because of my ethnic background that sometimes it's like I'm from Venus and you all are from Mars.

    Well, naturally that, given that I'm posting on a site about small wars....
    “I am practicing being kind instead of right” - Matthew Quick, The Silver Linings Playbook

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  19. #99
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    Actually, both the Indian War and the Philippines are poorly-studied here. Brian Linn is one of the few scholars who actually has devoted a great deal of time and attention to the Philippines (at least the period from 1898 through 1910 or so), and his work is outstanding. The Indian Wars tend to be rather spotty, and often the focus is on a specific individual or battle rather than a longer-term view of the conflicts. There are a few outstanding scholars to be sure, but some areas remain very neglected and would certainly repay study. That doesn't mean that they are the "be all and end all" of small wars, but to assume that they've been mined out would be a mistake.

    I agree that there is a lot of (misplaced) focus on areas like Malaya and Algeria. There's also little attention paid to things that have happened in both Central and South America.
    Even where the history is reasonably well studied, attempts to deduce currently relevant lessons from that history often stray onto very thin ice. I sometimes get the feeling that writers decide which lesson they want history to teach and then go looking for some history to teach it.

    I feel like this thread is wandering away from the immediate question of why the traffic here is growing so thin and what can be done to increase it, and toward questions more related to small wars generically.
    “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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    Noticed this thread on my RSS feed for the SMJ blog and decided to take a look. I see that I haven't posted since January 1st.

    My lack of participation boils down to two things:

    1. Burn out, plain and simple. I can't even get past a paragraph or two in a news article on Afghanistan without turning the page.

    2. Groundhog Day. I felt like I was making the same arguments over and over.
    Supporting "time-limited, scope limited military actions" for 20 years.

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