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Thread: dissertation help please! US military culture and small wars.

  1. #21
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Jeffery Record from the Air War College has written quite a bit about this. He even did a whole book about it (have not read it) go to the Air University Link for his recent book review...."How David Beats Goliath".....or something like that.

  2. #22
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Link from the SWJ Library to Jeff Records on article on why culture stops America from winning small wars.

    http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=6640

  3. #23
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Slapout has done you a favor, Xander.

    You'll note that the linked article he provides mirrors your beliefs to a great extent. I believe that reflects the common wisdom of academia, the political classes and the media -- however I and others disagree with that on several counts.

    I'll use Record's words and give my counterpoint. I say 'my' because these words are mine however I've found a large number of people all over the country -- not members of the academy or media -- who essentially agree.

    Quoth the abstract of Record's essay:
    "Americans are averse to risking American lives when vital national interests are not at stake. Expecting that America's conventional military superiority can deliver quick, cheap, and decisive success, Americans are surprised and politically demoralized when confronted by Vietnam- and Iraq-like quagmires."
    I strongly agree with his first point and more strongly disagree with his second. SOME Americans feel that way and they tend to move in the social circles in which Jeffrey moves; more Americans, I think are disappointed (not demoralized) that the armed forces have not succeeded and they are generally not surprised. The 'wisdom of crowds' syndrome applies; most are less surprised at failure or tedium than are the political and chattering classes.
    "...Since the early 1940s, the Army has trained, equipped, and organized for large-scale conventional operations against like adversaries, and it has traditionally employed conventional military operations even against irregular enemies.
    He's showing his ignorance -- that's been true since 1787; that Prussian influence...It has been particularly true since 1900-17.

    Having said all that, he's correct in his inference:
    "Barring profound change in America's political and military culture, the United States runs a significant risk of failure when it enters small wars of choice, and great power intervention in small wars is almost always a matter of choice. Most such wars, moreover, do not engage core U.S. security interests other than placing the limits of American military power on embarrassing display. Indeed, the very act of intervention in small wars risks gratuitous damage to America's military reputation.
    but wrong, IMO, on three counts in the way he arrived at that inference; (1) his attribution of the risk aversion of the public is wrong as I stated above; (2) he does not understand or state all the drivers for the Army's predilection for avoiding small wars -- quite simply, they're very messy, very tedious and hard on the troops. That simple. Congress aids in this because of their misperception that the public is vehemently opposed (they are not, the 1/3 and two year rules apply) and their, Congress', desire to fund the big ticket procurement items as opposed to necessary training as vote buyers; (3) the statement that "the very act of intervention in small wars risks gratuitous damage to America's military reputation." is a left leaning ideological statement that is highly arguable if not downright ludicrous.

    He ends with:
    "The United States should abstain from intervention in such wars, except in those rare cases when military intervention is essential to protecting or advancing U.S. national security."
    I agree with that and again say he got the correct result but for the wrong reasons.

    The real reason to avoid such wars aside from the fact that they're messy and tedious (the Army position) is that we Americans are too impatient to prosecute them properly (the two year rule), too politically diverse and / or divided to develop unity of purpose in most cases (the 1/3 rule) and that most of them are, indeed, not necessary to secure US interests (Record's first and only accurate point...). IMO, of course.

  4. #24
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    Default Good points, Ken.

    Peter Feaver, a Prof of Political Science at Duke and a Naval Reserve officer, has done a lot of survey research on American public attitudes toward military interventions. Summarizing much of that, Feaver found that the American public is more than willing to sustain casualties in a conflict that they believe is important and that is being prosecuted effectively. Feaver's research tends to support the overly simplistic, but accurate in practical terms, 1/3 and 2 year rules (of thumb). But note that the public is willing to support a war longer and more willingly if the two stated conditions obtain.

    Cheers

    JohnT

  5. #25
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Red face Thanks, John. My laziness again gets caught...

    The 1/3 and two year rules are of course nothing but very simplistic rules of thumb, shorthand for American diversity / divisiveness and impatience. I know the psych-folks say there's no such thing as a national trait. Perhaps, but those two things come close to disproving that idea...

    The 'rules' are a convenient and concise way to express two phenomena for which as you say there is evidence -- and there's certainly some practical accuracy there, subject as always to the exceptions. My general observation has been that a majority of Americans will support the effort for far longer if they perceive it is being prosecuted as well as can be expected and see a real American interest in the outcome.

    I'm also convinced that most Americans are little affected by bodybags -- provided they see a return or prospect of one for the loss. ADDED, for Xander -- that's the great unwashed, the American public. Politicians and Academia are affected by them; the former for unreasoning fear of voter turnoff, the latter due to ideological persuasion. The media here in the US will affect sadness and dismay while they revel behind the scenes at the thought of greater sales; "if it bleeds, it leads" being their watchwords.

    The thing that has always bothered me is not the fickleness of that 1/3 of the public in the center who vacillate depending on how well things seem to be going (though they're mildly annoying; either the effort is worthwhile or it is not) but the large ideological component of either Yea or Nay sayers.

    I am unable to understand people or politicians (not the same thing, I think...) who put party loyalty or personal ideology above the needs of the nation. I understand that 'good' is a relative and viewpoint dependent judgment but it seems to me that a large number of good and bad determinations pertaining to a particular war or military operation are based mostly upon political affiliation or leaning...

    Allowing ideology to affect ones choices I can understand -- if one is inclined to dislike war, then non-support of most or all wars is understandable and even correct IMO -- to like this or that war dependent upon which party started it is particularly pathetic and borderline indefensible IMO.
    Last edited by Ken White; 11-30-2008 at 08:53 PM. Reason: Addendum

  6. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    I am unable to understand people or politicians (not the same thing, I think...) who put party loyalty or personal ideology above the needs of the nation.
    Regarding the people, I think they see wars as a part of the political power struggle within the country and truly believe that the political power struggle is more important to the fate of the nation than the outcome of the war. Presidents get good approval ratings when the war kicks off (See 41 and 43). There is a political interest in the opposition party to remove public support so as to erode the political clout gained by the executive and his party. I think that many in the party truly think that this is in the country's long-term best interests.

    Regarding the politicians, I think they (most) are just power-hungry sociopaths. The rest are probably motivated by sentiments similar to the people.

  7. #27
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default You could largely be correct.

    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    Regarding the people, I think they see wars as a part of the political power struggle within the country and truly believe that the political power struggle is more important to the fate of the nation than the outcome of the war.
    I'm sure this is true but still question the rationale for such a belief.
    Presidents get good approval ratings when the war kicks off (See 41 and 43).
    That's the 1/3 rule kicking in. One could make the same comment about Clinton and the Balkans or Kennedy and Viet Nam. Initial support about 60% ±; then when things didn't go well, support declines to about 30% ± as the fickle, 'how well is it going' middle third abandon ship (then come back as things improve -- or not...). In all those cases, the bulk of the less than hard core Anti-war types in the 30% ± opposition to the war were supporters of the out of power political party of the time. Same thing has been true in most of our wars. That makes political sense but is still, to me, illogical and perverse.
    There is a political interest in the opposition party to remove public support so as to erode the political clout gained by the executive and his party. I think that many in the party truly think that this is in the country's long-term best interests.
    I'm sure you're correct, I think pretty much the same thing but submit in the first case that is totally venal IMO and in the latter case, that's just dumb because both parties have done enough wrong along the same line that no one should have much faith in either of them to do much that's good for the nation.
    Regarding the politicians, I think they (most) are just power-hungry sociopaths. The rest are probably motivated by sentiments similar to the people.
    We can totally agree on that...

    As I said, you're probably, almost certainly, right -- but I'm still at a loss to really understand it. Maybe that's because I own more than one firearm???

  8. #28
    Council Member AmericanPride's Avatar
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    I'm sure this is true but still question the rationale for such a belief.
    I think most people believe, knowingly or not, that what's "good" for them is also "good" for the country as a whole. Political factions are always busy rewriting history and reality to illustrate the significance and necessity of their own existence.
    When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles. - Louis Veuillot

  9. #29
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Probably true. However, the problem is that

    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    I think most people believe, knowingly or not, that what's "good" for them is also "good" for the country as a whole.
    what is good for Person no. 1 is slightly different for Person no. 2 which is slightly different fer Person no. 3 -- and so on to no.301,214,726. IOW, the sliding scale of what's perceived as 'good' is infinite -- and changes almost daily as the age, circumstances, locations and situation of people change in multitudinous ways. Ergo, there is no real thread of continuity or logic so I still question the rationale. Sorry.
    Political factions are always busy rewriting history and reality to illustrate the significance and necessity of their own existence.
    True. That's bad enough; they also tend when in power to write dippy laws based on those skewed perspectives and including some that they hope will cement their hold on that power -- thus I strongly question the need for their existence even if they don't.

    Federal office holders, including elected politicians all seem to forget their oath of office:

    "I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."

    I see no mention of party -- or, indeed, of District or State in there (nor, for the Armed Forces, of Branch or Service... ).

  10. #30
    Council Member AmericanPride's Avatar
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    Ergo, there is no real thread of continuity or logic so I still question the rationale. Sorry
    That's because, I'd argue, people are not necessarily rational -- more like rationalizing.
    When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles. - Louis Veuillot

  11. #31
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Heh

    We can agree on that...

  12. #32
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    Default The admission oath at SCOTUS

    is even simpler:

    I, __, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that as an attorney and counselor of this Court I will conduct myself uprightly and according to law, and that I will support the Constitution of the United States.
    Interestingly enough, under Rule 8 (attorney discipline), a majority of the Court decides without an adversarial merits hearing whether "conduct unbecoming" (the standard for disbarment) has occured - the burden is then on the attorney to prove innocence. So it has been from the gitgo.

  13. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    ...That makes political sense but is still, to me, illogical and perverse... in the first case that is totally venal IMO and in the latter case, that's just dumb because both parties have done enough wrong along the same line that no one should have much faith in either of them to do much that's good for the nation... I'm still at a loss to really understand it.
    Same here. It makes no sense to me. I just know that it is, regardless of whether it should be.

    Holy crap, that kind of rhymes.

  14. #34
    Council Member BayonetBrant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by xander day View Post
    one of the problems that I have with this dissertation is in sourcing material. I do not, unfortunately, have access to the most up to date books and journals, and as such I am having to rely upon many useful, but old, sources- of which the university library only has a limited number. Hence why what I have outlined may well sound re-hashed or done before.
    http://www.au.af.mil/au/aul/periodicals/dodelecj.htm


    That links gives you a pretty comprehensive listing of US military professional journals. At a minimum, it should help alleviate the source material problem.
    Brant
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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Linn's recent book "The Echo of Battle" gives a good, general overview of what he sees as US military culture. It's general, and I do have some quibbles with some of his points, but he does speak concisely to why the US military may appear to be poorly prepared for LIC in some instances.
    "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

  16. #36
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Hmm. Lawyer Poet

    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    Same here. It makes no sense to me. I just know that it is, regardless of whether it should be.

    Holy crap, that kind of rhymes.
    Soldier Scholar, Honest Broker -- a man of many parts...

    On the poetry though, keep your day job.

  17. #37
    Council Member CR6's Avatar
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    Default 2005 Parameters Article

    Quote Originally Posted by John T. Fishel View Post
    Feaver found that the American public is more than willing to sustain casualties in a conflict that they believe is important and that is being prosecuted effectively. Feaver's research tends to support the overly simplistic, but accurate in practical terms, 1/3 and 2 year rules (of thumb). But note that the public is willing to support a war longer and more willingly if the two stated conditions obtain.


    JohnT
    This article by William Darley supports that contention, viewed through the lens of the effect of media on popular support for US military operations. It also includes decent end notes that Xander may find of use.
    "Law cannot limit what physics makes possible." Humanitarian Apsects of Airpower (papers of Frederick L. Anderson, Hoover Institution, Stanford University)

  18. #38
    Council Member CR6's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    Linn's recent book "The Echo of Battle" gives a good, general overview of what he sees as US military culture.
    I had a similar thought Steve. BTW your mention of Linn's work on the Philippines here prompted me to check it out. Another good source for Xander for some context of how American forces have fought insurgents in the past.
    "Law cannot limit what physics makes possible." Humanitarian Apsects of Airpower (papers of Frederick L. Anderson, Hoover Institution, Stanford University)

  19. #39
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Linn's work on the Philippines is indeed stellar. He's a "must read" when it comes to this period, and how the Army dealt with one of its first overseas COIN-type efforts.
    "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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    thanks for all of the help guys! am reducing the dis. down quite a bit and am reading (alot) of the sources that you lot linked me to. thanks a hell of a lot!

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