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Thread: Parameters: Colin S Gray vs. Gates

  1. #1
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    Default Parameters: Colin S Gray vs. Gates

    http://www.carlisle.army.mil/usawc/P...inter/gray.pdf

    Notice footnote 18:

    Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates offers the contestable statement that "[f]or the foreseeable future, this [strategic] environment will be defined by a global struggle against a violent extremist ideology that seeks to overturn the international state system." National Defense Strategy (Washington: Department of Defense, June 2008), 2.

  2. #2
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Okay, I've noticed it. What's your point?

    One assume there is a point or you wouldn't have posted it but your comment doesn't tell us what that point might have been...

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default A good article but

    I honestly don't see too much discord in what SEC Gates has said and what Gray is saying (or written before). For the SECDEF "foreseeable future" may just mean until we reach our objectives (as defined and redefined - or as “the objective yet to be named), until a new objective comes along that takes precedence, or until we decide it is no longer an objective we care to pursue.

    While Gray's remarks about planning have truth to them, leaders get paid to make a judgment that you can apportion limited resources to, and often to account for their judgment. I have noticed that is tough balancing act to maintain, particularly when those above, below and around prefer neat tidy answers that absolve them from risk - even if intuitively we may know them to be of false comfort. Sometimes a remark may be said for more than its face value. So what one person may read into "foreseeable" future and what someone else may read into may be two different things - that may serve a purpose, and worth the risk of being vague.

    While Gray covers in depth the interactive nature of politics between outsiders in this article and how these relate to war, he does not speak as much to the nature of domestic politics as it affects fear, honor and interest - and how that manifests itself in policy and strategy. Reading Thucydides I was struck by how much the politicians of his time resemble those of ours.

    Best, Rob

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    Default Without the nuance this time...

    It's a fairly interesting essay in and of itself, but thought his point -- that Gates et al are wrong to focus on Islamic radicalism (in context, read: insurgency) as the defining threat for the foreseeable future -- was worth posting here, given that it runs counter to conventional views on where resources should be allocated and where future conflict should arise, and reminds me of Gentile's article in Foreign Policy.

  5. #5
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default I don't think that's a good assumption

    Quote Originally Posted by TristanAbbey View Post
    ...given that it runs counter to conventional views on where resources should be allocated and where future conflict should arise...
    There are many who post on this Board (I happen to be but one) who do not agree that resources should be allocated as you seem -- nuance again on your part, I presume? -- to imply. If you indeed meant that the emphasis and collective wisdom pointed to 'small wars' only or nearly so and / or that Islamic radicalism (or insurgency) is the future, then like Gray, I doubt one can be that positive. In fact, I strongly question that. As Gray and Yogi Berra said, predictions are very difficult, especially about the future.

    I also suggest that Gates may not be totally on board with that vision of the future (past Afghanistan and Iraq) -- he must tailor his remarks to the cares of the day in Washington and he's been very astute at that. I think Gates is too sharp to fall into the trap of predicting the future in a world bereft of the false stability of the Cold War.

    In any event, aside form this Board and those two, I strongly doubt the system that is the US Government and DoD will allocate resources as you imply. Some; yes -- but not likely much. Congress won't allow it for one thing...

    The original posting, sans comment from you, could have gone either way; i.e. do you agree with Gray or do you agree with the apparent Gates position. Thus my question.

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    Default I don't know what the future holds...

    But:

    1. I think the combination of Gates + the rise of COIN folks from CNAS (Nagl & Co.) + Obama's purported focus on Afghanistan suggest that we see some major shift in resources towards fighting small wars -- to the extent, anyway, that the shift is greater than what has already been done over the past couple years.

    2. I am not a national security professional, so these are my views as an outsider looking in to the discussion. I am always happy to be educated when in error.

    3. If war is politics by other means, then the question of future wars is a political question. So the question of Gates vs. Gray is the wrong question insofar as it ignores the will of the political class, which is increasingly distant from military experience, disdainful and/or ignorant of war, etc.

    4. But if forced to answer the question, I have to say I'm agnostic because I don't know enough. Islamic radicalism certainly defines a large part of the strategic environment, but does it override energy and demographics? I'm not sure.

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    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Post Interesting piece from Colin (as usual)

    Quote Originally Posted by TristanAbbey View Post
    But:

    1. I think the combination of Gates + the rise of COIN folks from CNAS (Nagl & Co.) + Obama's purported focus on Afghanistan suggest that we see some major shift in resources towards fighting small wars -- to the extent, anyway, that the shift is greater than what has already been done over the past couple years.

    3. If war is politics by other means, then the question of future wars is a political question. So the question of Gates vs. Gray is the wrong question insofar as it ignores the will of the political class, which is increasingly distant from military experience, disdainful and/or ignorant of war, etc.

    Have to bring forth a thought for you. Considering the big C's Politics by other means

    Consider that although there may well be validity in the CNAS and other picks as indicative of "COIN" centric leaning it might not be quite that simple.

    Those who've been selected tend to fit into another category which may tend to be more "politically" savvy on the administrations part. They have been seen to stand up/ out, lone voice in the storm, etc. This may be an example of where more than one set of circumstances come together to offer a "win-win" for those in charge. They get a group who have been seen publicly as part of the solution to recent actions and seen to do so in a somewhat controversial light as well. And most importantly their selection is publicly perceived as change.

    Only mention this to encourage you to make sure you look at the deeper political implications both internally and externally before assuming you can see the writing on the wall. It's almost always 10X more confusing then when you first think you've got a glimpse of it.

    Quote Originally Posted by TristanAbbey View Post
    2. I am not a national security professional, so these are my views as an outsider looking in to the discussion. I am always happy to be educated when in error.
    Me either

    If so inclined try defining exactly what makes one a professional at predicting the future or even what's gonna fall apart today.



    Quote Originally Posted by TristanAbbey View Post
    4. But if forced to answer the question, I have to say I'm agnostic because I don't know enough. Islamic radicalism certainly defines a large part of the strategic environment, but does it override energy and demographics? I'm not sure.
    May not override it per se but if most of those involved in it are in the process of dealing with that particular aberration in their societies it darn well makes understanding it important enough to dedicate resources and education to.

    Kinda like going on a trip, you may get good directions but if you fail to look for construction issues your trips gonna be a heck of a lot longer , if you even get there instead of just giving up and going back home to a nice rum&coke


    Just to be clear although I would hope most would know better; The references to appointments were not meant to denigrate either those choices or those who answered that call but rather as a reminder that sometimes we forget to pull back the curtain enough to see everything there.
    Last edited by Ron Humphrey; 02-24-2009 at 10:51 PM. Reason: Added
    Any man can destroy that which is around him, The rare man is he who can find beauty even in the darkest hours

    Cogitationis poenam nemo patitur

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    Default

    Thanks for the thoughts, Ron. Will keep that perspective in mind.

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    Default

    I don't think any of this is about politics by other means. When you are competing with another country for resources, land, prestige, et cetera, then that is politics. When a group of people is willing to blow themselves up in order to kill you, that's not politics. That's war in its purest form. But our enemies, knowing that we could nuke them into oblivion if we were so inclined, also know that we're not too keen on flaunting international norms to that extent. So they use political means, when expedient, to keep us in check. Politics, for our enemies, is war by other means.

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    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Default I can go with that

    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    I don't think any of this is about politics by other means. When you are competing with another country for resources, land, prestige, et cetera, then that is politics. When a group of people is willing to blow themselves up in order to kill you, that's not politics. That's war in its purest form. But our enemies, knowing that we could nuke them into oblivion if we were so inclined, also know that we're not too keen on flaunting international norms to that extent. So they use political means, when expedient, to keep us in check. Politics, for our enemies, is war by other means.
    Politics is war by other means, just some battles more dangerous than others
    Any man can destroy that which is around him, The rare man is he who can find beauty even in the darkest hours

    Cogitationis poenam nemo patitur

  11. #11
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Who does know what the future hods...

    Quote Originally Posted by TristanAbbey View Post
    1...that the shift is greater than what has already been done over the past couple years.
    Perhaps. I'll point out that th CNAS crew is long on theory and short on practice, as is Obama -- and that all administrations change their early views. Both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are regrettably occupied by the same political party so the guys on the East end will support that other guy -- but not to the extent of harming big campaign contributors...

    IOW, I'd expect some slight changes but nothing earth shaking -- unless Ashton Carter is a lot smarter than I think he is.
    2...I am always happy to be educated when in error.
    As am I.
    3. If war is politics by other means, then the question of future wars is a political question. So the question of Gates vs. Gray is the wrong question insofar as it ignores the will of the political class, which is increasingly distant from military experience, disdainful and/or ignorant of war, etc.
    All true but Gates versus Gray is the issue you raised. Discussion of the political class and its shortcoming leaves the area of warfare and enters the realm of politics. I'll just note that the conditions you describe have been the norm in this country for over 200 years. It's not a big problem.
    4...does it override energy and demographics? I'm not sure.
    Nor am I but my perception is that the math will rule...

  12. #12
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Hod or holds...

    Maybe I should take up bricklaying...

    It's obvious that proofreading is not my niche.

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