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Old 04-05-2016   #1
Bill Moore
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Default Strategy in the 21st Century

After finally finishing the book, "Strategy: A History" by Lawrence Freedman

http://www.amazon.com/Strategy-Histo...ry+of+Strategy

I feel compelled to start a threat on strategy in the 21st Century to explore want remains constant and what has changed. The intent to share what I took from this book, and then explore other areas, with the hope others will dive in to seriously explore this important topic. The ability to develop good strategy is essential for national security. Most seem to agree that something is off kilter since 9/11, and I suggest if we fail to identify and fix it we are putting our nation in peril.

Like many of you, I'm extremely busy, so I'll start with a few areas I intend to explore in more depth later. Of course, remaining true to form, I intend to be provocative.

Freedman's book (over 700 pages) addresses he early origins of strategy, military strategy, radical and revolutionary movements, business strategies, and interdisciplinary theories of strategy.

While Freedman appears to respect Clausewitz's deep insights on the nature of war, he doesn't fall into the trap of hero worshipping him and points out some flaws in his theory.

- He challenges CvC's duel between two opponents (the wrestling match) as being overly simplistic due to the nature of coalitions, which makes it much more complex than a dual between them and us.

- I tend to agree with his criticism of the center of gravity concept. CvC borrowed terms from the physics of his day, like COG and friction. Friction of course makes sense as a metaphor, but a COG only made sense if the enemy could be viewed holistically, so that an attack on one point were it all came together would throw it off balance or cause it to collapse (the fallacy of systems thinking). In the 80s, new thinking encouraged the belief that the COG was something that led to the enemy's brain, then using maneuver warfare (older concept, but embraced again in the 80s) seeking to dislocate him psychologically.

In practice the COG concept caused confusion and disagreement, it would have been easier if they adapted Jomini’s concept of the decisive point (not the doctrinal decisive point tied to a COG) to avoid the burden of an inappropriate metaphor. COGs have historically wasted planner’s time, and usually who won out was the strongest personality, not the best analysis. The real problem was the COG has been expanded to the point of meaninglessness. It encouraged the expectation that there could be a very specific set of operational objectives that would produce the desired political effect if attacked properly.

The idea that societies and their associated military systems might be comprehended as complex systems encouraged the view, reflected in the perplexing searches for enemy COGs, that hitting an enemy system in the exact right place would cause it to crumble quickly, as the impact would reverberate and affect all the interconnected parts.

The frustration of the search was a result of the fact that effects would not simply radiate out from some vital center. Societies and armies could adapt to shocks. As systems, they could break down into more subsystems that are viable, establish barriers, reduce dependencies, and find alternative forms of sustenance. CvC’s theory of decisive victory required reassessment based on the emergent political situation. CvC recognized it as it he started to relook limited war before he died, but the concept of a decisive battle retained its powerful hold over the military.
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Old 04-05-2016   #2
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For me, I actually found the business strategy more interested. I have read volumes on military strategy, but after reading Freedman's description of strategy evolution in business I found myself seeing how it impacts military strategy, normally in a negative way.

He started off by discussing Taylorism, who focused on identifying how workers could be used more efficiently. In his view, a doer would not be able to understand the principles of management science either because of a lack of education or insufficient mental capacity, so they would have to be guided by the educated. It required people to work smarter but not by being smart themselves. I equated this to robotics before we had robots. The more the worker could be treated as an unthinking machine the better because without the complication of independent thought it would be possible to calculate how best to extract optimal performance. I can see the logic in that, but people are not robots, and one can see how this mentality led to significant labor unrest.

Lenin pronounced Taylorism as exploitive, yet he adapted the methodology. It was easier to push this form of management in the USSR where opposition could be crushed than the U.S.

He discussed McNamara at sufficient length. He was brought into to the SECDEF from Ford Motor Co. by JFK. He strengthened OSD, challenging the services to justify their budgets and programs in the face of intensive questioning by the whiz kids, mostly from RAND. It had a major impact on the management of the military programs and the conduct of operations, especially Vietnam. By the time he left OSD in 1968, his approach was derided for its relentless focus on what could be measured rather than what actually needed to be understood. (We still suffer the curse of measuring, and only having SMART objectives so they can be measuring, and still managing to lose, because as stated above we ignore what can't be measured).

Then a great discussion on planning that is very applicable to the military. Planning cycles came to dominate corporate life, with everybody waiting for a formal document that would tell them how to behave. Politically, the result was to strengthen the center at the expense of alienating those responsible for implementation, who were apt to become cynical in the face of meaningless targets.

The long-range forecasts upon which they depended were inherently unreliable, and the organizational inform was often dated, collected haphazardly into inappropriate categories and taking little account of cultural factors. These structures risked paralyzing decision-making and came at the expense of flexibility.

The success of planning depended on the ability to control the future consequences of present actions. This meant controlling the decisions of many people, with different interests and purposes, so as to secure a premeditated effect. Some causal theory must connect the planned actions with the desired future results, and then the ability to act on this theory.
By the 1980s, strategic planning was losing its luster. The planning departments became large and expensive, the next cycle began as soon as the previous one finished, and the outputs were ever more complicated. .

As in the military, the business world lost confidence in models based on centralized control, quantification, and rational analysis left an opening for alternative approaches to strategy (design?). Whether a superpower corporation or country, as the environment became less manageable, the cumbersome processes the model demanded became less dysfunctional and unresponsive.

In the 1980s, Harvard business professors complained managers abdicated their strategic responsibilities. They sought short term gains rather than long term innovation. The problem’s root was managers increasingly relying principles that prize analytical detachment and methodology over insight.

This part was enlightening to me, he described the folly of confusing rank with expertise. The idea that any General, regardless of background, would be capable of leading a combat or stability operation, based on management or military principles is dangerous.

Freedman wrote, "A false and shallow concept of the professional manager had developed. Such people were pseudoprofessionals who had no expertise in a any particular industry or technology but were believed to be able to step into an unfamiliar company and run it successfully thru strict application of financial controls, portfolio concepts, and a market-driven strategy."

The good news is the military seems to be increasingly recognizing these problems. Next thoughts on hyper competitiveness.
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Old 04-05-2016   #3
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Final post tonight, and perhaps for a few days. After which I want to start addressing strategy in the 21st Century, as it contrasts with traditional or legacy strategies.

Freedman's discussion on competition between businesses has equal merit between nations conducting competitive strategies short of war.

The Japanese managed to combine lower cost and superior quality and then imitated each other, which meant the approach was bound to be subject to diminishing marginal returns as it became harder to squeeze more productivity out of existing factories and others caught up with the efficiency of their operations. Cutting costs and product improvements could be easily emulated and so left the relative competitive position unchanged, In fact, hyper-competition left everyone worse off (except perhaps the consumers). A sustainable position required relating the company to its competitive environment. Outperformance required a difference that could be preserved.

Note our national security documents frequently refer to the eroding U.S. technological competitive advantage due to the rapid proliferation of military related technology. So along comes the Red Queen Effect.

The problems facing companies trying to maintain a competitive advantage when everyone was trying to improve along the same metric was described as the Red Queen Effect. By focusing solely on operational effectiveness the result would be mutual destruction, until somehow, the competition stopped, often through mergers. Hopeless firms were likely to be those competing w/o end in the red oceans, instead of moving out to the blue oceans where they might create new market space. (21st century military implications?)
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Old 04-05-2016   #4
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Bill,

There are a mass of previous threads where 'strategy' features in the title and not all of them relate to President Obama.

It may help to return to the 2014 thread 'The Understanding and Meaning of Strategy has been lost', which IMHO touched upon the same issues; it was based on a book written by the British academic Hew Strachan:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ad.php?t=19848

I attended a local lecture given by Lawrence Freedman, part of the publication process and unlike previous talks he'd given on non-strategy subjects he was not persuasive, indeed it was all too overpowering.
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Old 04-05-2016   #5
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David,

I appreciate the thought, but that isn't the direction I want to take this thread. I'm not convinced the meaning of strategy has been lost. The idea that strategy only belongs in the realm of the military has been outdated since Kings quit leading their armies into battle. For me, Freedman touched on a number of issues I can relate to from personal experience. However, I only used Freedman to start the thread. It isn't about him, it is about identifying what has changed and what remains the same regarding strategy and strategic factors in the 211st century.
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Old 04-11-2016   #6
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Interesting topics Bill. One thought that immediately comes to mind: I think the U.S. suffers in this regard in part due to the barrier constructed between military strategy and political strategy, often leaving both military officers and political officials confused or frustrated with the other. This barrier has become increasingly destructive because of the intensification of 'political warfare' (a term I use broadly here to describe all the non-military activity taken by states to compel other states to change behavior). So, what element that has changed is that military strategy is most directly and strongly connected with political strategy than in previous generations.
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Old 12-12-2017   #7
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Default Can't Kill Enough to Win? Think Again

Source: https://www.usni.org/magazines/proce...in-think-again

By Lts. Col. Bolgiano and Taylor (Ret.), Proceedings Magazine, December 2017, U.S. Naval Institute

Quote:
Those given the awful task of combat must be able to act with the necessary savagery and purposefulness to destroy those acting as, or in direct support of, Islamic terrorists worldwide. In 2008, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Admiral Michael Mullen said, “We can’t kill our way to victory.” Ever since, many have parroted his words. But what if Admiral Mullen was wrong? The United States has been at war with radical Islamists four times longer than it was with Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in World War II. And those previous enemies were far more competent and aggressive than the terrorists. It is time to kill a lot more of them.
Key Arguments:
  • U.S. ROEs are too restrictive and JAGs are incompetent
  • "It takes killing with speed and sustained effect to win wars"
  • The First Gulf War was bloody, but for the Iraqis
  • The Civil War was a war of attrition
  • The U.S. used strategic bombing against civilians and combatants in Germany and Japan, including the use of nuclear weapons
  • Edward Luttwak was right in 1999 ("fighting must continue until a resolution is reached. War brings peace...")
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Old 12-12-2017   #8
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Azor,

Thanks for posting, I was going to do so this weekend. The oft repeated phrase that you can't kill your way to victory is another example of misguided group think. People simple repeat these quotes as though they're facts that can't be challenged. If we opt to use military force to achieve an object, then we must use sufficient force to compel a decision. Failure to do so will result in prolonged conflicts with no winner.

Other group think quotes that should be considered assumptions instead of fact include: by, with, and through is always the best strategy; the center of gravity in COIN is always the population; all politics are local; it takes a network to defeat a network; it is the lack of economic opportunity that creates terrorists; and so forth. Any of the above may be true in a specific instance, but they are not universal laws.
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Old 12-12-2017   #9
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Certainly one can kill their way to victory in war, it just depends on what type of victory one seeks.

But if the war is an internal one, this is likely to be a pyrrhic victory.

The "American Way of War" remains a valid model for state on state warfare. Defeat the military, government and population of one's opponent completely; and then be generous in peace with broad reconciliation in peace, avoiding overly corrupting the perceived self-determination of the new governance that emerges, and remember that the defeated state will tolerate much more "influence" over their future if one is perceived as lessor of two evils (i.e., US presence in Germany, South Korea and Japan prevented much harsher occupations from impacting those places and people. We tend to forget that).

When one stops the war when the opposing government capitulates, but their military and population are not defeated, it is still a win, but not one that validates treating the affected nation and people as "defeated" (i.e., Germany post WWI, and equally Russia post-Cold War).

What Luttwak advocated for in "Give War a Chance" was the importance of letting political conflicts play out. When an external power intervenes to force a winner through the application of their power, it corrupts the legitimacy of the victory. The loser will always rationalize "but for...". This is when external power comes in as arbitrator. I believe increasingly external power should come in as mediator. Not to pick winners and losers; but to use their power to force the internal parties to the table and address issues that the current government would prefer to ignore. Like mediation in a failing marriage, terms developed and agreed to by the parties are more palatable and durable than those imposed by a judge.

The nature of war is not much changed by the modern strategic environment, but as power shifts to populations relative to governments it is highlighting that political conflict within a single system is not the same as that between two or more systems. War is the final argument of Kings; but revolution is the final vote of the people.
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"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)
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Old 12-12-2017   #10
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Bob,

Where we sometimes disagree is over the following statement.

Quote:
The nature of war is not much changed by the modern strategic environment, but as power shifts to populations relative to governments it is highlighting that political conflict within a single system is not the same as that between two or more systems. War is the final argument of Kings; but revolution is the final vote of the people.
Some the VEOs are waging a war within a single political system, many are waging a global jihad with ambitions to change political systems external to their country. To your point about power shifting between states, and power shifting to super empowered individuals and groups, I agree. Some of these non-state groups are waging war against the U.S. and our allies. Attempting to solve this challenge by addressing local governance issues will not work. We have to recognize the type of conflict we're in, and not confuse everything with traditional Cold War COIN/FID models. At the same time, we can't paint with too broad of brush, because not every group employing terrorism if part of this global jihad movement.
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Old 12-12-2017   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
Bob,

Where we sometimes disagree is over the following statement.



Some the VEOs are waging a war within a single political system, many are waging a global jihad with ambitions to change political systems external to their country. To your point about power shifting between states, and power shifting to super empowered individuals and groups, I agree. Some of these non-state groups are waging war against the U.S. and our allies. Attempting to solve this challenge by addressing local governance issues will not work. We have to recognize the type of conflict we're in, and not confuse everything with traditional Cold War COIN/FID models. At the same time, we can't paint with too broad of brush, because not every group employing terrorism if part of this global jihad movement.

Bill, I suspect we disagree less than you might imagine on this. Obviously we do not live in a black and white world. Rare is the conflict that is purely "within" or "between." Most are a fusion of both. And yes, this new breed of VEO that the core groups for ISIS and AQ are prime examples of, conduct global UW campaigns in very state-like ways (but without the burden of state-like vulnerabilities).

Many in recent years have conflated these UW campaigns by slapping AQ or ISIS prefixes onto dozens of disparate revolutionary movements around the globe. That totally confuses the nature of those individual movements, as well as the character of the overall campaign. That is why I have long advocated for abandoning the reactive, symptomatic logic of CT and adopting a C-UW approach that focuses on the strategies, campaigns and alliances of these organizations.

By recognizing that the drivers of resistance insurgency are unique from the nature of the drivers of revolutionary insurgency it allows us to design more comprehensive campaigns that recognize that distinction and are designed to address both from the top down (as well as dealing with the UW efforts of state and VEO actors seeking to leverage both to their advantage).

Many have argued in places like Afghanistan that the problem must be solved from the bottom up. The problem is, that at the "bottom" there is no way to know the motivations of the fighter before you. Also, most of these places are broken from the top down through bad policies and poor governance.

Historically, when state power could routinely trump and suppress popular power, there was little need to make a distinction between revolution and resistance. After all, the "win" was defined as the state remaining uncoerced and the insurgent defeated. That was no true win then, and is even less of a win today. Time to put a finer point on our thinking.
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"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)

Last edited by Bob's World; 12-12-2017 at 09:09 PM.
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Old 12-12-2017   #12
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Default Notable Responses to "Can’t Kill Enough to Win? Think Again"

Moral Repugnance: A Response to ‘Can’t Kill Enough to Win? Think Again’ Foreign Policy (December 11, 2017)

By Lt. Col. Dan Sukman, U.S. Army

Source: http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/12/11/...n-think-again/

Introduction:
Quote:
There are multiple ways to describe retired Lt. Cols. David Bolgiano and John Taylor’s article in the December issue of Proceedings magazine. Rather than call a spade a spade in an ad hominem-type attack, it is worth the time to deconstruct their argument bit by bit, and then to offer an alternative position.
Key Points:
  • Bolgiano and Taylor blame JAG advisors for overly restrictive ROEs, but the ROEs are the responsibility of commanders, the staff leads are J3 and J5, and staff JAGs merely assist. The authors provide no evidence of JAG incompetentence but rely upon “ad hominem attack” and “wholesale slander”.
  • Comparing conventional past inter-state warfare with present operations against non-state actors is a logical fallacy
  • Bolgiano and Taylor ignore that precision-guided munitions were not available in the 1940s-1950s, necessitating indiscriminate strategic bombing with an added objective of demoralization. Ironically, civilian morale was only bolstered by the bombing of Germany, Japan and Britain.
  • The authors attribute high PTSD and suicide rates among veterans to a lack of victory parades; again, without any evidence.
  • The authors refer to Luttwak’s 1999 essay, “Give War a Chance”, without reflecting on its logical conclusion that, “nations would be part of a never-ending global conflict lasting for centuries until one nation prevailed above all others.”
  • Bolgiano and Taylor make “bizarre” claims that the Cold War was won entirely by the U.S. defeating the Soviet Union, despite many “competing theories as to why the Soviet Union collapsed”, and dismiss humanitarian missions as “new missions to justify force structure”, when in fact, “these types of missions have been a staple of the U.S. military” e.g. the Berlin Airlift.
  • Quote:
    The authors’ insistence that the way to win wars is through attrition lacks an intellectual foundation. It is understood that conflict is about achieving a political aim. The well-known strategic theorist Sun Tzu wrote that the ultimate skill for a general is to win without fighting. Moreover, another well-known theorist named Clausewitz wrote, ‘As War is no act of blind passion, but is dominated by the political object, therefore the value of that object determines the measure of the sacrifices by which it is to be purchased.’ People who are serious about warfare understand that war, although characterized by violence, is about attaining a political objective. Nations can achieve this through ways and means other than attrition.

Conclusion:
Quote:
Wars are not lost because a nation does not kill enough people, or kill enough of the enemy. Wars are lost when nations find themselves in strategic drift. Wars are lost when nations send men and women into combat without any clue to why they are sending them there. Without any clear strategic objectives or end state, nations will fight endless wars with nothing to show for it. Finally, we lose wars when we lose our moral compass. The instant we become a monster to slay a monster, war is lost.
No, We Can’t Kill Our Way To Victory Despite What 2 Misguided Lieutenant Colonels Might ThinkTask & Purpose (December 8, 2017)

By Adam N. Weinstein, U.S. Marine Corps. (Reserves)

Source: http://taskandpurpose.com/no-cant-ki...s-might-think/

Introduction:
Quote:
Back in 2008, Adm. Michael Mullen, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made what seemed like a self-evident observation, seven years into the Afghanistan war and five years into Iraq: “We can’t kill our way to victory.” Nine years and nearly 2,000 U.S. combat deaths later, the U.S. Naval Institute has published Can’t Kill Enough to Win? Think Again, an op-ed by two retired lieutenant colonels who charge that Mullen was dead wrong, in thrall to a culture of weakness that has permeated and hamstrung the U.S. military. The USNI is a serious outlet for professional military thought; the authors of this particular piece, David Bolgiano and John Taylor, are former paratroopers and JAGs. This article is serious but sorely misguided, another reminder that the military is slow to adapt and has never fully adjusted to counterinsurgency.
Key Points:
  • Quote:
    Consider the war in Afghanistan. Kabul still can’t control large swaths of its territory and doesn’t even enjoy legitimacy. The biggest impediment to defeating the Taliban, a fractious and far-flung enemy, has never been an inability to kill its fighters, which U.S. forces still excel at; the problem has been figuring out what comes next, after the killing. The Afghan National Army is still plagued by rampant corruption and ethnic cleavages in Afghan society still hinder a strong national identity. All of these obstacles are compounded by the fact that Pakistan, Iran, and India all have interests in Afghanistan that clash with those of the United States…Despite these complexities, Bolgiano and Taylor assume that overwhelming death and destruction will fix it.
  • Quote:
    The urge to have a clear, massive victory is understandable — but it’s never proven effective in a battlespace where multiple insurgencies are occurring at once and in competition with one another…it requires the building of central governments with legitimacy…The U.S. military has vastly superior firepower compared to its enemies, but insurgencies can still kill with ease and relative efficiency.

Conclusion:
Quote:
It is important never to confuse tactics with strategy or the immediate firefight for the desired long-term outcome. What could have been an interesting critique of U.S. military tactics at the operational level by Bolgiano and Taylor instead became a disjointed bravado-filled tirade that reeks of a longing for a time when war was simpler. The U.S. Naval Institute can do better.
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Old 12-13-2017   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Azor View Post
Moral Repugnance: A Response to ‘Can’t Kill Enough to Win? Think Again’ Foreign Policy (December 11, 2017)

By Lt. Col. Dan Sukman, U.S. Army

Source: http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/12/11/...n-think-again/

Introduction:

Key Points:
  • Bolgiano and Taylor blame JAG advisors for overly restrictive ROEs, but the ROEs are the responsibility of commanders, the staff leads are J3 and J5, and staff JAGs merely assist. The authors provide no evidence of JAG incompetentence but rely upon “ad hominem attack” and “wholesale slander”.
  • Comparing conventional past inter-state warfare with present operations against non-state actors is a logical fallacy
  • Bolgiano and Taylor ignore that precision-guided munitions were not available in the 1940s-1950s, necessitating indiscriminate strategic bombing with an added objective of demoralization. Ironically, civilian morale was only bolstered by the bombing of Germany, Japan and Britain.
  • The authors attribute high PTSD and suicide rates among veterans to a lack of victory parades; again, without any evidence.
  • The authors refer to Luttwak’s 1999 essay, “Give War a Chance”, without reflecting on its logical conclusion that, “nations would be part of a never-ending global conflict lasting for centuries until one nation prevailed above all others.”
  • Bolgiano and Taylor make “bizarre” claims that the Cold War was won entirely by the U.S. defeating the Soviet Union, despite many “competing theories as to why the Soviet Union collapsed”, and dismiss humanitarian missions as “new missions to justify force structure”, when in fact, “these types of missions have been a staple of the U.S. military” e.g. the Berlin Airlift.

Conclusion:

No, We Can’t Kill Our Way To Victory Despite What 2 Misguided Lieutenant Colonels Might ThinkTask & Purpose (December 8, 2017)

By Adam N. Weinstein, U.S. Marine Corps. (Reserves)

Source: http://taskandpurpose.com/no-cant-ki...s-might-think/

Introduction:

Key Points:


Conclusion:
I would have been surprised if there wasn't a self righteous backlash to the think again article. The think again article was partially flawed by comparing the war against Japan and Germany with the war on terror. Despite this error there were a lot of uncomfortable truths in their thought piece that didn't settle well with critics, yet the counter arguments they presented are not supportable. See follow on post for examples.
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