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Thread: McMaster on war (merged thread)

  1. #81
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    The US army is pretty good at adjusting to new situations in the pursuit of defeating military threats.

    Where we fall short is when such a defeat is not the path to victory. Will be sitting down with McMasters and his team soon, but having listened to Army senior leadership talk about how they view IW recently, I am not optimistic that this new Capstone Concept will do much more than rearrange the proverbial deck chairs...

    Will see what they have to say though, and see if we can't widen the aperture a bit.
    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)

  2. #82
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Disruptive thinker

    There are numerous hits on 'McMaster' and he appears to have four threads and they will be merged, with a new title.
    When the US army, at the request of Colonel H R McMaster, set up small military bases within the Iraqi town of Tal Afar during 2006, he pioneered a new strategy of bottom-up leadership. In his talk at TEDxWarwick 2011, Tim Harford, Economist and senior columnist for the Financial Times, suggests that the success that followed was not just due to the bottom-up approach, but was also based in Colonel McMaster's ability to recognise and react to local problems and challenges.
    Which ends with:
    Other businesses are also decentralising their management as they acquire new technology, with a realisation that there is no substitution for political knowledge of time and place. This, Harford states, is the management lesson of the war in Iraq and one that we all can learn from.
    Link:http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/knowledge/...04/timharford/
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 06-25-2012 at 09:23 AM.
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  3. #83
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    Default Future of Ground Forces with MG McMaster

    http://csis.org/event/ground-force-m...-still-matters

    MG McMasters is interviewed by Dr. Maren Leed at a CSIS event regarding the role of ground forces in the future security environment.

    During the discussion MG McMaster identifies what he calls two scary lessons that some people have apparently learnt from the past decade of conflict:

    1. We think we can wars by raiding

    2. We think we can outsource our wars and have others fight them

    Both of these comments seem to be making a swipe on some of the verbiage coming out USSOCOM, but I don't think anyone senior in USSOCOM thinks we can wars with a raiding approach. Most realize it is a tool in the toolbox that does have numerous applications, but rarely is it decisive.

    Regarding lesson number 2, I think this argument is weak because it is based on a series of assumptions that are not credible when you scratch the surface, yet on the other hand assisting others with addressing their security needs when it is appropriate is still a valid strategy. Of course this isn't new, we have been doing this for decades.

    At the end of the day the U.S. military is responsible for defending our Constitution and nation, not our partners. Most of the time we have done that with partners, but if someone is proposing a national defense strategy that hinges on outsourcing this responsibility to partners that seems to be irresponsible and dangerous.

    Moderator's Note

    There is an earlier thread 'McMaster on War': http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...read.php?t=647
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 04-21-2013 at 10:09 PM. Reason: Add Note & link

  4. #84
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    Irresponsible and dangerous?

    List the countries which can defend themselves successfully without allies, please.

    If you cannot create a long list here with more than a hundred countries around, maybe you should consider whether you became used to a very high level of ambition and then mistook it for a kind of minimum requirement.

  5. #85
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Outsourcing

    I will listen to 'Hal' McMaster later today. Meantime a quick response to Bill M. post (in part):
    2. We think we can outsource our wars and have others fight them.....

    Regarding lesson number 2, I think this argument is weak because it is based on a series of assumptions that are not credible when you scratch the surface, yet on the other hand assisting others with addressing their security needs when it is appropriate is still a valid strategy. Of course this isn't new, we have been doing this for decades.
    It appears to me that sometimes the USA in the GWOT has assisted others with addressing primarily US security needs, not their own security needs. Mali comes to mind and the externally funded, almost mercenary like AU intervention in Somalia, where few Somalis appear to fight for their own government.
    davidbfpo

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    Fuchs

    Irresponsible and dangerous?

    List the countries which can defend themselves successfully without allies, please.
    This comment is irrelevant to the argument I'm making, and the argument I think MG McMasters is making. Neither dismissed the value of allies, but ultimately we're responsible for defending our nation and our national interests, which IMO implies basing our national defense resourcing decisions on the assumptions that our allies and partners will take care of it for us seems very dangerous. There is a big difference between "outsourcing" and coalitions.

    Let's face facts, most of our allies and partners, perhaps especially true in Europe have enjoyed a relatively free ride when it comes to security, since the U.S. provided it. Putting the politics aside, assuming it was in Europe's interest to remove Saddam, neutralize Afghanistan as a safehaven, or even defend South Korea (something I think South Korea is probably capable of doing on its own), they don't have the means.

    davidbfpo

    It appears to me that sometimes the USA in the GWOT has assisted others with addressing primarily US security needs, not their own security needs. Mali comes to mind and the externally funded, almost mercenary like AU intervention in Somalia, where few Somalis appear to fight for their own government.
    True, but more accurately put we help others when we have "common" security interests. I agree our approach backfires when we attempt to cherry pick a particular threat group (Cartel, terrorist group, or a specific insurgent group) in a particular country, because we fail to address the larger systemic issues that ultimately more important to the assisted nation's security. You can take that issue up with our State Department and Congress.

    All nations ultimately act to pursue their own interests.

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    If people are criticizing the opening phase of OEF in 2001 and the SOF-centric approach, because somehow that is akin to thinking we could win a war with SOF and raiding, I'd counter that phase was not 'war'.

    Can you accomplish limited objectives through raiding? Absolutely, and we've done so throughout history. Even our SOF raiding practices in Iraq went after certain objectives.
    If the general was referring to policy-makers and some narrow views they may hold, roger, but I don't think too many folks in the force hold on to the illusion that raiding wins wars in the larger sense of the word.

    ETA: I finished the clip and understand the angle of his points better. I completely concur that we shouldn't put all of our eggs in a "raiding" approach to war. In an unspoken manner, McMaster seemed to allude to the standard "we need to be able to take and hold ground," mantra.
    Last edited by jcustis; 04-22-2013 at 04:24 AM.

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    Default Smart Talk

    I count MG McMaster among the "smart guys". One of my reasons for that is his book, Dereliction of Duty - with which, I am and was very much in agreement (before the book was written; and even before McMaster was born in 1962).

    Although the CSIS talk covered many points, Bill has pointed to the two "scary lessons":

    1. We think we can wars by raiding

    2. We think we can outsource our wars and have others fight them
    As to the first point, then Maj. McMaster (in a PBS interview, Lessons of Vietnam) had this to say (inter alia):

    Q. What are we to take from Vietnam about the concept of graduated pressure and the use of force, particularly air power, as a form of diplomatic communication? Why not bombs for peace?

    A. There is a grave danger associated with calling the bombing of another country anything but war. During the period in which Vietnam became an American war, Lyndon Johnson and Robert McNamara created the illusion that attacks on North Vietnam were alternatives to war rather than war itself. Bombing, particularly from the perspective of the receiving end, is not "communication." Bombs result in death and destruction. After engaging in acts of war against another nation, there exists a degree of uncertainty in terms of the enemy's reactions. War inspires an unpredictable psychology and evokes strong emotions that defy systems analysis quantification.

    Once the United States crossed the threshold of war against North Vietnam, the future course of events depended not only on decisions made in Washington, but also on enemy responses and initiatives. Sadly, Pentagon war games predicted the enemy reaction, a massive offensive on the ground, but McNamara ignored that advice. Indeed, many people within the administration made compelling arguments against the assumption that bombing would affect Hanoi's will sufficiently to convince North Vietnam to desist from its support of the insurgency in the South. Until the massive deployment of ground troops in 1965 forced him to confront the consequences of his earlier decisions, McNamara continued to view the war as another business management problem. The notion that air power alone could solve the complex military and political problem of Vietnam was based in ignorance and advocacy by air power zealots. It was obvious to many at the time that bombing fixed installations and economic targets was not appropriate for Vietnamese communist mobile forces. Curiously, the definition of the enemy's strength derived from the strategy rather from a critical examination of the full political, cultural, and military reality in South Vietnam. Perhaps a lesson is that one should take pause before using military force for communication, punishment, or catharsis. The application of military force without a clear idea of how that force is contributing to the attainment of policy goals is not only unwise, but dangerous.
    His CSIS comment on "raiding" was explicitly referenced to Douhet - and implicitly to over-hyped expectations for "shock and awe". So, McMaster has been consistent on point 1 since the 1990s.

    Point 2 is obviously more complex - in fact, the bulk of the CSIS talk is devoted to multiple factors bearing on the respective roles of the US and "partners" (a broader term than "allies").

    MG McMaster didn't explicitly cite the following as an example of the "scary" mindset for outsourcing wars and having others fight them. However, I shall:

    We are not about to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.
    --Lyndon Johnson, Oct. 1964
    At that time, I thought LBJ was lying; and, in the event (the next 12 months), he was.

    Now I'm going to have to watch the whole video again. IIRC, he never did answer the question (included in a multi-part question) about where and how the Marines fit into all of this.

    Regards

    Mike
    Last edited by jmm99; 04-22-2013 at 04:00 PM.

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    I count MG McMaster among the "smart guys". One of my reasons for that is his book, Dereliction of Duty - with which, I am and was very much in agreement (before the book was written; and even before McMaster was born in 1962).
    Mike,

    I concur, and I don't disagree with any of his assertions, but as others have said I think they have to be taken in context. Raiding in some cases may achieve our objectives short of war, and in other cases raiding is a tactic to pursue war aims. Outsourcing is a terrible term due to its connotation, but if we can empower others to address security issues where we have "common" interests that is an appropriate course of action. I do agree we can't outsource our wars, and it does seem to me that this has been implied in more than a few articles.

    The bottom line is the Army is struggling with its vision for the future, and IMO clinging too much to OEF-A and OIF as examples of what the future portends. I don't have answers or even good suggestions at this point, but suspect the Army will need to develop new capabilities to address future security challenges related to intelligence, strike, human domain, and developing doctrine that facilitates the implementation of mission command as described by the Chairman's white paper.

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    Default Quo Vadis, Mac

    Bill,

    McMaster and everyone else working on the future role(s) of the Army (Navy, Marines, Air Force) are faced with a plethora of variables in political and policy constraints (the example following is the way I look at the larger picture):

    A. Sea Control - Global or Regional ?

    1. Commercial Projection

    2. DIME Projection


    B. Land Control - Global or Regional ?

    1. Commercial Projection

    2. DIME Projection


    C. Air-Space Control - Global or Regional ?

    1. Commercial Projection

    2. DIME Projection


    D. Cyber Control - Global or Regional ?

    1. Commercial Projection

    2. DIME Projection


    E. Information Control - Global or Regional ?

    1. Commercial Projection

    2. DIME Projection
    Each one of these major "control" areas has a private aspect ("commerce"), which itself will have multiple major variables (its own "DIME") and will influence politics and policies that will or might affect it. The multiple aspects of the governmental DIME cannot be expected to march in lockstep with each other, much less with non-governmental interests. One could also add NGOs, international organizations, etc., to this mix.

    The "Global or Regional" issue will be decided in each of these major "control" areas by what actually happens. In trying to predict what will happen, the futurist planner (absent a working crystal ball) is faced with many methodology issues.

    Methodology Issues

    Several methodology issues are:

    1. What is Material vs What is Relevant ? Millions of facts, people, places, etc., may affect the future to some extent - and, hence, are "relevant". Those that weigh heavily on the future are "material". What weighs heavily (substantially, etc.) tends to be subjective. We also must confront the "butterfly flapping its wings" argument - which raises Cain with judging materiality. A variant of the "butterfly flapping" is the "1% possible nuclear attack" - the risk is small, the consequences are huge.

    2. Consideration of the Past, Present and Future. As you point out, excessive emphasis on past wars will probably give a false prediction of the future. The past does allow us to avoid re-inventing the wheel; but will that wheel work in the future as it did in the past ?

    3. Immediate Consequences vs Deferred Consequences. The theory is that the usual bad guy is concerned about what will happen to him today if he acts badly; the consequences far down the road will usually not be an effective deterrent.

    Setting the Focus (Worldviews)

    The basic idea is to consider the Geopolitical Maximum vs. the Geopolitical Minimum for each one of the major "control" areas.

    I'd say that US Commercial Projection will be Global in all five areas; it will not "control" all of those areas; and there will be some "white spaces" on its maps. I'd say that US DIME Projection will also be Global in three areas: Air-Space Control; Cyber Control; and Information Control. Again, DIME Projection will not "control" all of those areas; and there will be some "white spaces" on its maps.

    That leaves Sea Control and Land Control - where to me the DIE Projections are Global, but the M Projections are more limited. My theory is illustrated in my "Never Again Region" map:

    World Map US Limits.jpg

    I've been influenced during my lifetime by four "Never Again Situations" - Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq. None were disasters (e.g., as the French and German marches on Moscow were); but they fell short of expectations and were failures at least in part. So, my normative lines of land and sea armed force projection are the far Atlantic and far Pacific littorals, absent exigent circumstances.

    I do not accord with the normative "Heartland" theory, illustrated by its original 1904 presentation:

    Heartland.jpg

    and summed by Mackinder's "rule":

    "Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland;
    who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island;
    who rules the World-Island controls the world."
    (Mackinder, Democratic Ideals and Reality, p. 106)
    Actually, I've shifted the "Heartland" to the Americas. Doing that by its very nature imposes limitations on African-Eurasian ground wars and Indian Ocean naval wars. The problem is overstretch - i.e., re-enactment of Syracuse and Aegospotami.

    "Heartland" Refs (all short):

    Wiki, The Geographical Pivot of History

    Mackinder, The Geographical Pivot of History (1904)

    Fettweis, Sir Halford Mackinder, Geopolitics, and Policymaking in the 21st Century (2000 Parameters)

    Gaming the Plan - An Example

    War Plan Green: see Brian M. Linn, The Echo of Battle (2007). This is a little cited case study, with two paragraphs at p.92 and notes for original sources at p.264 (the plans and studies are not online that I could find).

    In 1922, the Mexican army was assesed to be so weak that War Plan Green was changed to Special Plan Green, an occupation plan: the army would establish a government, reform the education and legal systems, employ honest police and civil servants, with the clear and expressed US intention to create "peace and good order." I'd call that nation building.

    In 1924, Special Plan Green was war gamed. The resulting report concluded that the most probable COA for the Mexicans was not to resist the main invasion columns; but to wait a while and then engage in guerrilla warfare, etc. The majority staff conclusion was that the occupation would morph into a long, slow and frustrating unconventional war.

    So, in 1927, Special Plan Green was amended to provide for a rapidly moving direct attack with the purpose of deposing the Mexican government, and then immediately withdrawing. The plan required that it be made clear to the Mexican people that the US did not intend a military occupation; that the operation was not against the Mexican nation; but was an operation solely against the Mexican government. In short, it was a gigantic raid.

    The dissenting voices were legion. One declared: "We ought to realize that punitive expeditions, or expeditions to dispossess the government in power, are worse than useless and are not to be undertaken." (Linn, p.91)

    What is important here is that the plan was gamed with voices heard - not who was right or wrong in the 1920s. Ironically, the first stage in OIF proved that a very large raid can successfully remove a government (SPG 1927). The rest of the Iraq scenario then proceeded to follow SPG 1922 ("nation building"), with the Iraq results soon being quite similar to the 1924 war game.

    Regards

    Mike
    Last edited by jmm99; 04-24-2013 at 05:03 AM.

  11. #91
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    From JMM:
    I've been influenced during my lifetime by four "Never Again Situations" - Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq. None were disasters (e.g., as the French and German marches on Moscow were); but they fell short of expectations and were failures at least in part. So, my normative lines of land and sea armed force projection are the far Atlantic and far Pacific littorals, absent exigent circumstances.

    The entire post was excellent but this phrase was really exceptional and hopefully can be remembered by those making policy.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 04-25-2013 at 08:04 AM. Reason: Fix quote

  12. #92
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Raiders, Advisors And The Wrong Lessons From Iraq

    A "lurker" asked if SWC had spotted this speech by BG McMaster, at CSIS, on March 20th 2013. It appears to be mentioned on SWJ and was in the Daily News round-up.

    The title was 'Raiders, Advisors And The Wrong Lessons From Iraq' and one news report was:http://breakingdefense.com/2013/03/2...ons-from-iraq/

    Link to CSIS video:http://csis.org/event/ground-force-m...-still-matters
    davidbfpo

  13. #93
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default The Pipe Dream of Easy War

    The latest McMaster article in the NYT; which ends with:
    What we can afford least is to define the problem of future war as we would like it to be, and by doing so introduce into our defense vulnerabilities based on self-delusion.
    Link:http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/21/op...pagewanted=all

    Makes an interesting comparison with the restrictions placed on serving British soldiers to write a book chapter, a very different public exposure when compared to the NYT.
    davidbfpo

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    The latest McMaster article in the NYT; which ends with:

    Link:http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/21/op...pagewanted=all

    Makes an interesting comparison with the restrictions placed on serving British soldiers to write a book chapter, a very different public exposure when compared to the NYT.
    Excellent article by one of our few clear thinkers on war on active duty. He doesn't reject the value of technology, but the Rumfield like hubris associated with it. Shock and awe sort of worked against the Iraqi military, but there were a lot of social and political factors at play that influenced the collapse the military that we chose to ignore (silient evidence). Shock and awe had no discernible impact on the subsequent rebellion against our occupation, AQ in Iraq, or the civil war. Sure it gave a tactical edge that I don't recommend sacrificing, but as MG McMasters pointed out, we initially forgot the old truths that war is political, human, and uncertain.

    It seems we started down this path under McNamara with his obsession of measuring progress in war, there by creating a pseudo-science of sorts that eventually resulted in a dysfunctional strategic approach in Vietnam. That eventually evolved into the toxic effects based operation (EBO) doctrine and Warden's Systems approach that attempted to replace uncertainty with certainty. It viewed the world as red and blue, and if blue did a particular action then red would respond a certain way. It neglected to recognize the multiple factors that influence political and social behavior and both concepts failed, yet Congress still seems to want to embrace the concept of what MG McMaster's calls the "Simple War."

    defense was driven by ideas that regarded successful military operations as ends in themselves, rather than just one instrument of power that must be coordinated with others to achieve, and sustain, political goals
    I will take a step further, although on the books we allegedly have a system for synchronizing all elements of our national power with the National Security Council and Staff, I don't think any of us would invest in these entities if they were companies because they have repeatedly failed to produce a profitable service.

    Thucydides identified nearly 2,500 years ago: fear, honor and interest. But in the years preceding our last two wars, thinking about defense undervalued the human as well as the political aspects of war.
    He correctly points out we under appreciated this initially in both Afghanistan and Iraq, but then adapted.

    THIRD, war is uncertain, precisely because it is political and human. The dominant assumption of the “Revolution in Military Affairs” was that information would be the key to victory.
    But in Afghanistan and Iraq, planning did not account for adaptations and initiatives by the enemy
    My favorite quote in the article is,
    clear thinking about war costs nothing
    , but that unfortunately is part of the problem. What lobbyist on Capital Hill is going to push for this?

  15. #95
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default McMaster on "four fallacies” and “easy solutions”

    McMaster at a Brookings seminar is reported as having made the Army’s case in his characteristically blunt language.

    “What concerns me the most is really that we’ll engage in wishful thinking that’s motivated mainly by budget constraints,” he said. “You get the army that the people are wiling to pay for in a democracy, and it’s our job to do our best with it.”

    The “wishful thinking” that McMaster fears is what he calls “four fallacies” about future conflicts that promise “easy solutions”:

    “The return of the revolution in military affairs,” a theory thought discredited in Iraq — “it’s like a vampire,” he said — with its promise that long-range sensors and precision strikes will let air and sea forces win wars cleanly and bloodlessly (for us) on their own.

    “The Zero Dark Thirty fallacy” that we can solve our problems almost bloodlessly with Special Operations raids, “something akin to a global swat team to go after enemy leaders.”

    What might be called the Mali Fallacy (my words, not his) that we can rely on allies and local surrogates to do the fighting on the ground while the US provides advisors and high-tech support.

    All three fallacies, he said, begin with a core of truth: Air Force, Navy, Special Operations, advisors, and allies are all impressive and essential capabilities, but we can’t count on them to prevail alone.

    The fourth fallacy, by contrast, McMaster considers just plain “narcissistic.” The idea that the US can “opt out” of certain kinds of conflict — say, counterinsurgency, or ground warfare in general — without giving our adversaries credit for what they may be able to force us to do. Invading Afghanistan seemed ludicrous on September 10, 2001, after all, and inescapable on September 12th.
    Link:http://breakingdefense.com/2014/02/t...s-4-fallacies/
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 02-26-2014 at 01:52 PM.
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    I think McMaster's primary point is a very basic one. We don't understand the nature of war because we don't want to understand the nature of war. Our thinking regarding the subject is poor, willfully poor and it is immature. We act like teenagers who really really want it to be like we want it to be and that is how we will view it the facts and history be damned.

    This is a flaw of fundamental nature. The guys on the spot can overcome it to certain extent if they have enough time, as they did in Iraq and Afghanistan. But we won't have the time always, especially if something big happens. Our challenge is to rejigger our thinking before that happens. I don't know if we can do it. The Prussians couldn't before 1806 even though the people who transformed the Prussian army afterward were the same people they had before that year. They needed a disastrous defeat to effect change. They could afford it because the English and the Russians were around. If we have to go the same route, we won't have it so good because there is no analog to England and Russia now.

    Grant Martin made a comment on the Journal about how 'system' seems to be invincible. Nothing seems to alter it. Nothing. I think 'the system' cannot win a war, any war. We will be defeated at anything we try as long as 'the system' exists. The puerile thinking McMaster decries underlays 'the system' and if we can't change things we are looking at hard times to come.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

  17. #97
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Nick Prime, a PhD student, on the relaunched Kings of War responds to HR's latest comments, it is very critical:http://kingsofwar.org.uk/2014/02/rem...ys-narrative/?
    davidbfpo

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    Not impressed with that article. I think McMaster's primary objection to "RMA" is intellectual in that it presumes to remove uncertainty from war. The author turns that into criticism of a single procurement decision. The author also stated that recent experience demonstrates that protection should trump maneuverability and firepower. That is an extreme oversimplification.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    On SWJ, with a few comments to date, 'Reflections on the Continuities in War and Warfare', an interview of LTG McMaster by by Octavian Manea:http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art...ar-and-warfare
    davidbfpo

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    Default Q&A with Departing Benning Commander Maj. Gen. H.R. McMaster

    Q&A with Departing Benning Commander Maj. Gen. H.R. McMaster

    Entry Excerpt:



    --------
    Read the full post and make any comments at the SWJ Blog.
    This forum is a feed only and is closed to user comments.

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