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Old 03-29-2017   #1
AmericanPride
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Hello all,

I'd like to start a discussion on the sophistication of warfare; I don't mean the development of new technologies (essentially the spear and the rifle are the same weapon insofar they occupy the same space and serve the same purpose), but instead the expanding comprehensiveness of what's considered "warfare" - and, as a subset of that, the emergence of legal norms of what defines acceptable and unacceptable forms of warfare. If war is essentially a political act, then the sophistication of warfare follows the sophistication of political systems. War, in essence, reflects the political system from which it emerges.

If that is the case, I think it's important then that theorists also understand the political superstructure underlying the system of warfare in which they're engaged. The levee en masse is perhaps the most defining example of political revolution leading to military revolution. The destruction of the ancien regime and its replacement by a (nominal) people's government resulted in the mass mobilization of the French population. On the battlefield, this resulted in larger armies and decisive victories for France. It was only sustainable by a burgeoning bureaucracy reinforced by a revolutionary zeal. That nation-state system is still largely in place today, although the changing nature of interstate relations, global urbanization, and the growing international bourgeois lends towards smaller, professional, highly technical armies.

So, even as the political nature of warfare remains constant within this context, the actual political objects and variables that drive warfare change fairly often as a historical process. Clausewitz called war a "wrestling match". Wrestling is defined first by its type, separating it in kind from, say, hockey or baseball, but there are also different ways of wrestling.

People who argue that the nature of war doesn't change must then also accept that the political does not change. But the political does change, and so war must change with it. A pro-active military approach should therefore consider (1) how war changes based on the political but also (2) how the military act can also usher in desired or targeted political change.

In this case, instead of only reactively targeting armies, militias, or terrorists, which are essentially temporary and subjective variables controlled by the political object (that is the totality of political conditions that give to their rise), the military should aim to target the permanent, objective, material political relations that bind the enemy structure together. This is less 'nation-building' than it is 'political-destroying', that is destroying the enemy's political strength. This occurred in the aftermath of World War II when the Allies imposed upon a Japan commitment to peace and deprived it of any offensive military capabilities; the security apparatus was reduced in form to less than what exists in other states. Other political objects could be elites, landowners, technical experts, etc. Targeting them does not necessarily have to be lethal (though it could be) nor collective (though it could be that also). They could be targeted by changing the norms around landownership or legal rights, for example, which may deprive one class of strength and empower another. Warfare therefore is not just the engagement of armies, but the totality of compelling actions that can be undertaken against another. The difficult the U.S. faces in places like Afghanistan, in my view, is not because some elusive nature of terrorism or insurgency, but because it is not just an engagement of arms, but also a clash of political systems that the U.S. military finds difficult to navigate. We do it accidentally and haphazardly instead of deliberately. This is in part because our war studies focuses almost exclusively on the tactical and operational, and very rarely on how those things engage with the political. In state warfare, the political decision precedes the military act but in counter-insurgency, every military decision is a political act. But it's also in part because the political system underlying insurgency often is fluid and in disarray, making it difficult for a conventional military apparatus to identify and target an enemy and its political strength to compel it to cease fighting since the conventional military is looking for a target that looks like its own political master (i.e. another state).

This necessarily aims to create an insidious advantage since the adversary tailors their armed forces to defeat the standing forces of another state. We build aircraft carriers, so the Chinese build ship-killer missiles. Asymmetric warfare is akin to one wrestler knowing the weakness of the other wrestler but still aiming to 'wrestle', and therefore adopting a strategy or technique to target that weakness. Meta warfare would be one opponent, recognizing the adversary as a wrestler, deciding to not wrestle at all, and instead disarms their opponent before the match ever starts. This is possible only because of the sophistication of warfare as a means of political engagement where all of society's means - economic, political, cultural, military, technical, etc - can be leveraged as a compelling force by a complex and fairly centralized political system. This simultaneously pushes warfare to the lowest levels (i.e. social media campaigns) and to its most far-reaching. This has consequences for the most junior soldiers and officers, the actions of whom will continue to be more substantial than their predecessors. Accompanying this capability must be an ethic and philosophy that places them within the proper (read: effective) context of their actions.

The military would therefore do well step outside of its own uniform and assess the conditions in which it exists, and ask itself if it is prepared to meet emerging challenges to security. A small, professional, highly technical army works in today's political context (for the most part). But will it work in the next? And what is that next context? And when will it arrive?
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Old 03-30-2017   #2
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I believe you are right, particularly when you say that, while the nature of war may not have change, the nature of politics has. I have been playing with this same concept for some time, and have considered writing on it, although I have not thought through how this actually alters strategy. That would be my interest.

What are you planning on doing with this? How can we help?
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Old 03-30-2017   #3
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I'm not really sure where this train of thought is going yet. I am approaching the dissertation phase of my education, and the closer I get, the less sure I am about which idea/research to pursue. I wonder about the paradigm shift in military-political theory recognized by Clausewitz, and if we are still trapped within that frame of thinking when thinking about warfare. And if we are in the intellectual trap, how do we recognize it and prevent surprise when the paradigm shifts again?
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Old 03-31-2017   #4
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For what it is worth, I believe you are right. I plan to write a short piece on it in the future. But I do believe it deserves a more complete academic review of the topic.
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Old 04-17-2017   #5
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Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
I'm not really sure where this train of thought is going yet. I am approaching the dissertation phase of my education, and the closer I get, the less sure I am about which idea/research to pursue. I wonder about the paradigm shift in military-political theory recognized by Clausewitz, and if we are still trapped within that frame of thinking when thinking about warfare. And if we are in the intellectual trap, how do we recognize it and prevent surprise when the paradigm shifts again?
AP, just letting you know I am going to write something on this. I think our thought patterns are far enough apart for me not to be plagiarizing your idea. I will post an outline when I have one to let you see it.

Good luck on your research.
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Old 04-18-2017   #6
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AP, just letting you know I am going to write something on this. I think our thought patterns are far enough apart for me not to be plagiarizing your idea. I will post an outline when I have one to let you see it.

Good luck on your research.
Sounds good. Looking forward to seeing what you write.
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Old 04-22-2017   #7
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Sounds good. Looking forward to seeing what you write.
Here is the introduction. It lays out the paper

Intro

The purpose of this paper is to explore how defining an enemy’s political center of gravity can help build a strategy to defeat the enemy. The point it to identify primary and supporting elements of our enemy’s political power in order to allow us to better target those power centers. If war is truly an extension of politics by other means, then the source of our enemy’s political power is a valid, if not critical, target. Therefore, accurately identifying that target, and understanding how to eliminate, preempt, or co-opt its power, is a critical part of any strategy.

The paper is laid out in four sections. The first is assumptions and definitions. Terms like “political warfare” and “hybrid warfare” may not have the same meaning to everyone, and it is always useful to explain any assumptions. Second is the idea of a political center of gravity. I explore three primary centers as well as several supporting elements that can reinforce the political center. Next is a short section on the strengths and weaknesses of each political center of gravity. Finally, I will conclude with some thoughts on the offensive and defensive applications of the ideas presented here.
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Old 03-31-2017   #8
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I believe you are right, particularly when you say that, while the nature of war may not have change, the nature of politics has. I have been playing with this same concept for some time, and have considered writing on it, although I have not thought through how this actually alters strategy. That would be my interest.

What are you planning on doing with this? How can we help?
Concur, and this is what I'm struggling with in the Strategy in the 21st Century forum section I'm working on occasionally. Will definitely update it in late April when I have some time based on recent insights gained from a number of readings and discussions, but most prominently the book "Connectography," which I just posted a short review of in the what are you reading section. Globalization is changing governance more than local issues in my view, and that change in governance and priorities has implications for strategy. Our current strategy is inept, we're squandering our wealth via military operations that give us little in return. When they don't work we double down and give it another go. If we're not careful we'll find ourselves in a similar situation that the USSR found itself in at the end of the Cold War.

I realize you and AP are playing it safe, because the dogmatic ones who tend to dominate the military education systems love to promote that the nature of war doesn't change, only its character. However, being a little more iconoclastic, I think the very nature of war is changing. Fortunately there are ongoing studies led by non-U.S. academics (thankfully) to honestly explore this argument.

We have impacted the world little since the end of the Cold War, the world has changed, and we don't know how to wield our power to achieve desired ends anymore. Our political system is in shambles, and we're no longer the shinning light on the hill for much of the world. What does it mean? Will we actually evolve, or relying on blind faith, ride our outdated world view until it spins out of control into its death spiral?

The following article is sad, but true. Our government will not fix itself, and electing populists like Trump may seem appealing because he is from outside the system, this approach never works. He isn't a professional in policy any more than the lawyers in Congress. Even if he was a visionary, our system doesn't allow visionaries to make progress. Our system is flawed by design to ensure we have a relatively weak government, well that worked, but a weak government can't address our challenges domestically or internationally.

https://medium.com/@paragkhanna/5-wa...s-dccaa2ce1d0a

5 Ways America’s Government is Much Worse than Other Countries

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Donald Trump just won the ultimate reality show: American politics. Since Trump’s shocking election victory, people around the world have been wondering how such a great democracy could so easily come off the rails. Many citizens of foreign countries are even taking pride in how much better their systems are than America’s. Based on my new book Technocracy in America, here are five ways other political systems are more effective than America’s.
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(1) Unelected electors indirectly elect our president
(2) The Cabinet is stacked with friends of the president
(3) The government is full of political hacks rather than professional experts
(4) We have two useless chambers of Congress instead of just one
(5) We don’t amend the Constitution even though it is desperately needed
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Old 03-31-2017   #9
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I realize you and AP are playing it safe, because the dogmatic ones who tend to dominate the military education systems love to promote that the nature of war doesn't change, only its character.
I don't believe I am playing it safe. I believe that Clausewitzian "war" is all about politics and the political realm, where natural war is a natural state of human affairs that never changes.

" I define natural war as non-spontaneous, organized, lethal violence committed by one identifiable group of people against another identifiable group of people, executed by warriors and morally sanctioned by the entire group, for some purpose other than the violence itself. There are seven elements to this definition:
1.war is not a spontaneous act of violence like a riot;
2.war is organized—even simple raids by one group against another require planning and preparation;
3.from the onset, the probability of the violence leading to death on either or both sides is understood;
4.the fighting involves two groups that have a distinguishable identity based in anything from familial relationships (hunter-gatherer bands), to ethnic identity, religious identity, national identity, or ideological identity;
5.war is generally executed by a subpart of the group, the warriors;
6.the killing is morally sanctioned by the rest of the group—the warriors are not viewed as criminals; and
7.it is for a purpose other than simply violence, such as to gain resources, eliminate competition for resources, or to retaliate for attacks or territorial incursions."

"There Is Only War, But War Isn’t Always Political"

In that same paper I argue that our ideas about what war is and how it should be fought have transitioned in the last five centuries or so from "natural war" to "political war," which has a number of rules about legitimate targets and proportionality. So I truly believe that war has always been the same, but our political frame of reference both expands war into areas that are not lethal (like cyber warfare) and limits war by constricting legitimate targets (surrounding a city and starving out the population is now not war, but a crime).

In today's modern, political society, everything is defined by the frame of reference we surround ourselves with, including war. As that frame of reference changes, so do our ideas about war. What I think AP is saying is that, not everyone agrees with our ideas about what a government should look like. Because of that, their definition of "war" is different from ours. As a result of that, how it is fought and, most important, what it takes to win (or lose) is different than ours. We can fight till we are blue in the face, but we are, in essence, not fighting against each other but fighting past each other. I believe that is the crux of the problem both AP and I are thinking about.

Thanks for clarifying my thoughts, I know what my next paper will be about.
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Old 03-31-2017   #10
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Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon
In today's modern, political society, everything is defined by the frame of reference we surround ourselves with, including war. As that frame of reference changes, so do our ideas about war. What I think AP is saying is that, not everyone agrees with our ideas about what a government should look like. Because of that, their definition of "war" is different from ours. As a result of that, how it is fought and, most important, what it takes to win (or lose) is different than ours. We can fight till we are blue in the face, but we are, in essence, not fighting against each other but fighting past each other. I believe that is the crux of the problem both AP and I are thinking about.
I more or less agree with this statement in principle. I would add that I see it in two layers: first, a superficial layer, and second, a core or base layer. In the first, we have different governments like the U.S., Russia, China, et al. Their respective histories, values, and bureaucracies produce different approaches to warfare. But these are all fundamentally similar insofar they are all derived from a similar source: a modern nation-state with a more or less market economy. Each of them have extensive state apparatuses to maintain a large, uniform, more or less highly technical and professional standing army. They arrive at similar conclusions about the conduct and nature of warfare for this reason.

Then you have a base layer; that is the defining political-economic structure underneath all of it. Prior to the modern nation-state, we had feudal political-economic systems. These were defined by personal obligations, small state bureaucracies, small landowning classes, and large dispossessed populations tied to manors. Professional armies, where they existed, were relatively small, and when larger armies were necessary, they were raised and used carefully and temporarily. This perhaps explains why in World War I, when the last of the old era was swept away, that the Austrian-Hungarian, Ottoman, and Russian empires failed so spectacularly. The leadership recognized the need for a modern, standing army but their political systems did not allow for it.

I would like to also note that large, professional armies are not necessarily a consequence of modern technology (as opposed to state sophistication). The Roman Army is an example of historical, professional standing army. The Roman state was much more sophisticated than its tribal, despotic, or nomadic neighbors.

So I guess we arrive at another question: is there a particular direction or trajectory of this process or is it haphazard? Will the modern nation-state, as presently conceived, continue to refine and better itself? Or will another political-economic system arise that will also give birth to a new form of warfare?
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Old 04-03-2017   #11
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So I guess we arrive at another question: is there a particular direction or trajectory of this process or is it haphazard? Will the modern nation-state, as presently conceived, continue to refine and better itself? Or will another political-economic system arise that will also give birth to a new form of warfare?
Your question goes far beyond what my small brain is capable of answering.

I will say this (if you believe that God created the earth about 5000 years ago you can stop reading now). Humans evolved with a finite set of psychological capacities that were designed to solve the problems of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. However, our problem solving capacity made the need to constantly hunt and gather food obsolete. We learned to grow crops and domesticate animals. Then we learned how to live that lifestyle. Then our brains solved other problems and we adjusted our lifestyle appropriately. We have learned a lot about how to remove all the problems we used to have. How to ensure we had food and shelter. How to extend our lives with medicine. How to pass on knowledge though the language and writing. But underneath all that, in our motivational and psychological minds, we are still just hunter-gatherers protecting our little space where we hunt and gather and fighting with other little bands to stay alive.

With that as my base assumption, there are only so many ways we can change. We can create new technology, but we can't change what motivates us (although we try like hell to self-medicate ourselves). I would suggest that you look at Professor Schwartz' ideas on universal human values. After years of study, he determined that there are a limited number of values that motivate people. If he is right, then there are a finite number of things that cause us to chose one social structure (including its political trappings) over another. This means that there are a limited number of political systems (even though you will see recurring themes).

My personal belief is that there are two basic themes: either the political system revers the Group as source of all political power or it revers the Individuals as the source of all political power. Variations of the Group include monarchies, theocracies, various autocracies, and communism. Variations of the Individual are Democracies, Republics, and ultimately anarchy. There are mixes, including Socialism, but these are the basic set of options. That is because these are the limits of what our value systems can support.

Is there something beyond this? Perhaps. Some new mix of values. Some way to balance the reverence with the Individual with the reverence for the group. Maybe something completely different.

Just remember, you asked.
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Old 04-05-2017   #12
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Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
I don't believe I am playing it safe. I believe that Clausewitzian "war" is all about politics and the political realm, where natural war is a natural state of human affairs that never changes.

" I define natural war as non-spontaneous, organized, lethal violence committed by one identifiable group of people against another identifiable group of people, executed by warriors and morally sanctioned by the entire group, for some purpose other than the violence itself. There are seven elements to this definition:
1.war is not a spontaneous act of violence like a riot;
2.war is organized—even simple raids by one group against another require planning and preparation;
3.from the onset, the probability of the violence leading to death on either or both sides is understood;
4.the fighting involves two groups that have a distinguishable identity based in anything from familial relationships (hunter-gatherer bands), to ethnic identity, religious identity, national identity, or ideological identity;
5.war is generally executed by a subpart of the group, the warriors;
6.the killing is morally sanctioned by the rest of the group—the warriors are not viewed as criminals; and
7.it is for a purpose other than simply violence, such as to gain resources, eliminate competition for resources, or to retaliate for attacks or territorial incursions."

"There Is Only War, But War Isn’t Always Political"

In that same paper I argue that our ideas about what war is and how it should be fought have transitioned in the last five centuries or so from "natural war" to "political war," which has a number of rules about legitimate targets and proportionality. So I truly believe that war has always been the same, but our political frame of reference both expands war into areas that are not lethal (like cyber warfare) and limits war by constricting legitimate targets (surrounding a city and starving out the population is now not war, but a crime).

In today's modern, political society, everything is defined by the frame of reference we surround ourselves with, including war. As that frame of reference changes, so do our ideas about war. What I think AP is saying is that, not everyone agrees with our ideas about what a government should look like. Because of that, their definition of "war" is different from ours. As a result of that, how it is fought and, most important, what it takes to win (or lose) is different than ours. We can fight till we are blue in the face, but we are, in essence, not fighting against each other but fighting past each other. I believe that is the crux of the problem both AP and I are thinking about.

Thanks for clarifying my thoughts, I know what my next paper will be about.
Lt. Col.,

I mostly agree with your take on “terrorism”. Firstly, I have always been of the opinion that it is unconventional warfare. Secondly, states have always been worse terrorists than non-state actors, and invariably refer to their enemies (usually unarmed civilians and their own citizens) as terrorists. On the one hand, terrorism as a term has been rendered almost meaningless; on the other, it is used so often that it cannot be ignored, and tends to mean indiscriminate violence and/or violence against civilians by non-state actors.

Technology is an issue as well. The types of improvised explosive devices utilized by the NLF/NVA against American forces in Vietnam were not available to the resistance movements of World War II. Quite frankly, the insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq had an abundance of explosive and detonation devices unavailable to prior guerrilla/terrorist forces.

One question, I would have for you is the moral sanctioning of non-state actors. What "entire groups" are specifically sanctioning Al Qaeda, Daesh and their affiliates? The Taliban is very much a Pashtun movement, and Hezbollah is a Shia movement, so I've left them out...
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Old 04-05-2017   #13
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Default Is debate more difficult today?

I was struck by more this passage fits here:
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The reduction in the numbers of people buying high quality newspapers in Britain in recent decades has led to a diminution in the amount of first-class journalism available. Together with the digital revolution in accessing information, this has made serious minded media debate on issues like terrorism more difficult.
The author is Professor Richard English, based @ Queens University Belfast and the passage is within a comment on the Westminster attack, so covered in another thread.
Link:https://theconversation.com/the-media-must-respond-more-responsibly-to-terrorist-attacks-heres-how-75490?
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Old 04-05-2017   #14
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Thank you for your kind words. It is nice to know that I am not just crazy.

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Technology is an issue as well. The types of improvised explosive devices utilized by the NLF/NVA against American forces in Vietnam were not available to the resistance movements of World War II. Quite frankly, the insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq had an abundance of explosive and detonation devices unavailable to prior guerrilla/terrorist forces. ...
I have always viewed technological advances in warfare the same way I view science fiction. Good science fiction places humans in a world of fantasy or advanced technology, but what actually does is reveal a "truth" about the human condition. That despite all the changes in the world, people are still people. So is the same for warfare and technology. Technology makes new ways of warfare possible, but it does not fundamentally change human nature.

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One question, I would have for you is the moral sanctioning of non-state actors. What "entire groups" are specifically sanctioning Al Qaeda, Daesh and their affiliates? The Taliban is very much a Pashtun movement, and Hezbollah is a Shia movement, so I've left them out...
In the case of al Qaeda (and to a lesser extent, Daesh), I would argue that it is the Wahhabists of Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations. I am less sure about their support in Persian cultures. In the early days, that was the source of these groups funding. That is the community where their actions are most often morally sanctioned.

I have read a study that indicated that there was wider support amongst the Muslim community in Morocco and a few other Arab Countries for the activities of al Qaeda. It was from Pew and it was on the public support for terrorists. I am cautious of this study, but it would provide support for the idea that the activities of al Qaeda are morally sanctioned by a much wider group than simply some Salafists in Saudi Arabia.
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Old 04-05-2017   #15
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The [i]levee en masse[i] is perhaps the most defining example of political revolution leading to military revolution. The destruction of the [i]ancien regime[i] and its replacement by a (nominal) people's government resulted in the mass mobilization of the French population. On the battlefield, this resulted in larger armies and decisive victories for France. It was only sustainable by a burgeoning bureaucracy reinforced by a revolutionary zeal. That nation-state system is still largely in place today, although the changing nature of interstate relations, global urbanization, and the growing international bourgeois lends towards smaller, professional, highly technical armies.
You may be misattributing to political development, what are consequences of technological development…

The size of professional militaries ebbs and flows. Over the past 75 years, the basic units of advanced militaries have gone from division to brigade to battalion, and quality has eclipsed quantity.

Gradual advancements in farming and weaponry during the Medieval and Early Modern periods enabled large armies to be formed by the 17th Century, albeit these were primarily of mercenaries. By the time of the 18th Century, muskets were relatively inexpensive and easy to use, compared to the advanced arms of prior centuries.

Given their experience of 18th Century warfare and in the context of seeking to avoid absolutist rule or mercenary hosts, the framers of the U.S. Constitution wisely recommended the establishment of a citizen’s militia rather than a professional standing army. Yet only a highly professional military can operate the weapons of today and create the effects that the politicians and generals demand.

Therefore, we are reverting to the Medieval period, when states relied upon relatively small groups of armored heavy cavalry, well-trained bowmen and pikemen or arquebusiers with nerves of steel…

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Originally Posted by AmericanPride
…the military should aim to target the permanent, objective, material political relations that bind the enemy structure together. This is less 'nation-building' than it is 'political-destroying', that is destroying the enemy's political strength. This occurred in the aftermath of World War II when the Allies imposed upon a Japan commitment to peace and deprived it of any offensive military capabilities; the security apparatus was reduced in form to less than what exists in other states.
Agreed. However, you are forgetting that the United States battered and bludgeoned the Confederates, Germans and Japanese into submission. The United States armed forces relied upon the “30% solution” of attrition. In the aftermath, the United States committed itself to reconstructing strong and friendly states, an undertaking that it never really attempted in Indochina, Afghanistan, Iraq or Libya.

When strong states are destroyed, non-state actors or other states fill the vacuum, which is what has happened in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya. But remember when the Taliban were sheltering Al Qaeda and Iraq, Syria and Libya were starting wars and developing WMDs?

Quote:
Originally Posted by AmericanPride
…The difficult the U.S. faces in places like Afghanistan, in my view, is not because some elusive nature of terrorism or insurgency, but because it is not just an engagement of arms, but also a clash of political systems that the U.S. military finds difficult to navigate.
Not at all. Look at the reconstruction efforts and engagement in the former Confederacy, Germany, Japan, Italy or American engagement with non-adversaries such as South Korea, Taiwan, Canada, Western Europe and now much of Eastern Europe. Look at the strongmen that the United States depended on in those countries where it wasn’t worth the bother…

Unfortunately, Americans want to have strong and friendly states in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, with the least amount of effort. It doesn’t work that way.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AmericanPride
The military would therefore do well step outside of its own uniform and assess the conditions in which it exists, and ask itself if it is prepared to meet emerging challenges to security. A small, professional, highly technical army works in today's political context (for the most part). But will it work in the next? And what is that next context? And when will it arrive?
It will depend upon technology. Automation and artificial intelligence indicate that we will require smaller militaries, or perhaps have more of the personnel operating unmanned platforms. As these systems are expensive, it is preferable to have as many people working in the private sector and paying taxes to support these developments rather than clinging to old military bureaucracies. Remember in 1968 when Soviet farm trucks were commandeered by the Warsaw Pact for the invasion of Czechoslovakia? That’s not what we want…
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