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Old 11-07-2011   #21
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One might well ask what form of military leverage Germany needs... and the answer would probably be not much, beyond defense of the homeland. Why would the Germans want to project armed force around the world?
I generally avoid responding to you (for good reason) but in this case I will.

Your point is invalid.

The bottom line is that Germany has no military leverage (the reason for which is immaterial).

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I'd say allowing Generals to decide when to make war is every bit as foolish as telling Generals how to make war.
Did I say that the generals should decide when to make war?

No I didn't.

But I do agree that once the Grand Strategy has been decided then the generals should be allowed to get on with it.

Once example of how ludicrous the situation has become is explained in the appointment of civilian oversight (political) of target selection in the recent Libyan debacle. Tell me if you will (or if you can) what qualifications these civilians had for this duty that trumps the 20-30 years experience of the military commanders on that operation?

The final wake up call should have come when a strategic raid (OBL) was micro managed by the White House and then hailed as the making of the presidency. (The US military is not in the clear on this however as there is a common thread running through US raids of this nature and that is helicopter crashes and other failures.)

It should dawn on you that at battalion level and below the US military continues to render outstanding service to their nation in time of need. Above that I'm not sure there is a kind word to be said.

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Determining policy objectives is not the competence or the business of the military.
Agreed. Good to see you know this.

The question is that given that you know this the US voter continues to elect Commanders-in-Chief who are barely competent to manage their personal bodily functions let alone to determine policy objectives.

Take Obama for example. He seems to have surrounded himself with all the village idiots. Some retired general staff too who are either not being listened to or are giving bad advice. There is more care (mostly) in selecting CEOs of major corporations than there is in selection a President of the US. Frightening.

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I'd agree with Fuchs that the great majority of American small wars since WW2 have been pointless and counterproductive from the start, evidence of policy failure, not miitary failure, and most would have been better avoided.
Better avoided... or conceived and conducted more competently? The Fuchs approach seems to be to do nothing (which is fine if you have been living under the protective umbrella of the US for all this time).

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How to stop doing that is another question. Clear, sensible assessments of interests, choice of practical, realistic, achievable goals, more awareness of potential for unintended consequences... that stuff helps, but it's like saying the antidote to stupidity is smartness. How to get some smartness into place is a bit of an issue. It's usually there, but it's all too often ignored.
Give the military the war aims and let them get on with it (watching out for McArthur and Patton type personalities which need to be 'managed'.

Smartness in the White House and in most of the worlds capitals is in short supply. It gets worse when the president surrounds himself with 'yes-men'. Anyone got an idea how sleeping in the White House for eight years qualifies one to be Secretary of State?
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Old 11-07-2011   #22
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I generally avoid responding to you (for good reason) but in this case I will.
I apologize insincerely for having caused you discomfort.

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Originally Posted by JMA View Post
The bottom line is that Germany has no military leverage (the reason for which is immaterial).
They have as much military leverage as they think they need. They may or may not be correct, but that's for them to determine, and not anyone else's business. If they see their military purely as a device to protect the homeland, so be it. Their call.

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Originally Posted by JMA View Post
But I do agree that once the Grand Strategy has been decided then the generals should be allowed to get on with it.

Once example of how ludicrous the situation has become is explained in the appointment of civilian oversight (political) of target selection in the recent Libyan debacle.
We agree on something, unusual. I also think the politicians should stay out of it, once they've laid down the basic guidelines... including, in this case, the specific provisions that the UK and France should lead to the greatest possible extent, no US ground forces should be committed, and US force should not remove MG. Those are all policy decisions, made for good reasons.

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It should dawn on you that at battalion level and below the US military continues to render outstanding service to their nation in time of need. Above that I'm not sure there is a kind word to be said.
I've never said otherwise. Bad policy is a serious problem, has been for a long time.

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Better avoided... or conceived and conducted more competently? The Fuchs approach seems to be to do nothing (which is fine if you have been living under the protective umbrella of the US for all this time).
If there's no compelling need to be involved, and no clear, practical objective that's achievable with the time and resources you're willing to commit, why be involved at all? Both of those qualities have been rather lacking from American involvements for some time.

Seems to me that the default choice when it comes to interfering in messy affairs in faraway countries should be exactly what Fuchs suggests: don't. That default would reasonably be overridden if there's a sufficiently compelling interest, but it would need to be very compelling indeed to be sufficient, IMO.

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Give the military the war aims and let them get on with it (watching out for McArthur and Patton type personalities which need to be 'managed'.
MacArthur and Patton type personalities should certainly never be allowed to make policy... if that's "management", then it's called for. MacArthur was able to make policy for a very short while in the country where I live, and made a serious hash of it.

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Smartness in the White House and in most of the worlds capitals is in short supply.
Agreed.
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Old 11-08-2011   #23
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I apologize insincerely for having caused you discomfort.
No discomfort... just mild annoyance.

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They have as much military leverage as they think they need. They may or may not be correct, but that's for them to determine, and not anyone else's business. If they see their military purely as a device to protect the homeland, so be it. Their call.
... but what they think they need does not translate into any military deterent whatsoever.

Quote:
We agree on something, unusual. I also think the politicians should stay out of it, once they've laid down the basic guidelines... including, in this case, the specific provisions that the UK and France should lead to the greatest possible extent, no US ground forces should be committed, and US force should not remove MG. Those are all policy decisions, made for good reasons.
Progress

Quote:
little snip

Seems to me that the default choice when it comes to interfering in messy affairs in faraway countries should be exactly what Fuchs suggests: don't. That default would reasonably be overridden if there's a sufficiently compelling interest, but it would need to be very compelling indeed to be sufficient, IMO.
OK so you and Fuchs may agree on this. I disagree.

"when it comes to interfering in messy affairs in faraway countries" it should be done properly. You can't take the military option off the table because the political direction and the military execution have been poor. Fix the problem.

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MacArthur and Patton type personalities should certainly never be allowed to make policy... if that's "management", then it's called for. MacArthur was able to make policy for a very short while in the country where I live, and made a serious hash of it.
Yes keep them focussed on the war and don't let their egotism run wild.

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Agreed.
More progress
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Old 11-08-2011   #24
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JMA, keep in mind I am educated in economics. This means I have spent almost five years at a university and was indoctrinated with a huge aversion against wasteful behaviour AND the tools to do the analysis which option is more or less wasteful than the other.
I suspect this is the huge difference between us. You appear to be more guided by sentiments than cost/benefit consideration.

Quote:
"when it comes to interfering in messy affairs in faraway countries" it should be done properly. You can't take the military option off the table because the political direction and the military execution have been poor. Fix the problem.
(1) The advantages offered by a widely recognised and respected international law system are so strong - especially for the smaller countries - that nuisances far away do not justify damaging the IL system.
An intervention should thus only happen if
a) it's legal in IL (= allowed by UNSC or due to formal alliance obligations)
or
b) morally necessary (intervention against well-proved genocide; ethnic cleansing does not suffice)

(2) The decision pro or contra once (1) is met should be guided by national interest.
This means that the nation should be better off with the intervention (in math speak: I mean the expectation value) than without.

This is extremely difficult, for even the best philosophers have no real clue how to determine a exchange rates between a citizen's (soldier's) life, money, reputation and a foreigner's life. It's thus impossible to sum up costs and benefits.

This should not keep us from understanding (and applying) that intervention has to be better than non-intervention to be justified.

After all, military action means a lot harm - which is undesirable by default and requires a specific justification.


About "being on the table": I don't subscribe to it as totally excluded or as being only a tool of last resort. I have (as mentioned) my reasoning for its use or non-use.


edit: Notice the difference between war and intervention when I write. I attempt to stay clear and conscious in my choice of these words.

Last edited by Fuchs; 11-08-2011 at 05:55 PM.
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Old 11-10-2011   #25
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JMA, keep in mind I am educated in economics.
I concede the point that the German military budget is and has been constrained by the intelligent application of sound economic principles.

That said, however, the end result is that for this and other reasons the German military is merely a token force.

So yes lack of threat to homeland, economic realities etc etc all all good reasons for this but lets not for one moment consider the German military capable of anything other parades and demonstrations. This is sad but true.
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Old 11-10-2011   #26
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... but what they think they need does not translate into any military deterent whatsoever.
They've little enough to fear from the Dutch, the Belgians, the French and the Poles. Apparently they see no reason to develop the ability to project power overseas, and they may fear (with some justification) that if they have that ability somebody might be tempted to use it.

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"when it comes to interfering in messy affairs in faraway countries" it should be done properly. You can't take the military option off the table because the political direction and the military execution have been poor. Fix the problem.
I said nothing about taking military options off the table. I said they shouldn't be used unless absolutely necessary. One of the reasons that so many interventions have been so badly handled is that there was no really compelling reason to be in them in the first place, a situation that tends to produce weak public support and all manner of political restrictions and interference. It's difficult to muster the commitment to do things right if there's no real reason to be doing them at all. As Ken often points out, Americans don't tend to take things seriously or really commit to them unless there's some perceived existential threat in place. If you're not going to be fully in it, better not to be in it at all.

There's no point in even talking about doing something right if we can't start with a clear and compelling national interest and defined, practical, achievable goals. How can you doi something right if you don't even know what you're doing, or why you're doing it?
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Old 11-10-2011   #27
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They've little enough to fear from the Dutch, the Belgians, the French and the Poles. Apparently they see no reason to develop the ability to project power overseas, and they may fear (with some justification) that if they have that ability somebody might be tempted to use it.
Whatever. The bottom line is, for whatever reason the Germans have no military deterrent. If you don't have it you can't use it so hence the tendency to play down the need for one and/or the additional options such a deterrent provides a nation.
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Old 11-10-2011   #28
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There's no point in even talking about doing something right if we can't start with a clear and compelling national interest and defined, practical, achievable goals. How can you doi something right if you don't even know what you're doing, or why you're doing it?
We are back to this national interest thing again (which is really boring). If the elected President of the US believes something is in the national interest then your differing personal opinion is irrelevant.
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Old 11-10-2011   #29
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We are back to this national interest thing again (which is really boring). If the elected President of the US believes something is in the national interest then your differing personal opinion is irrelevant.
Just as irrelevant as your personal opinion of Germany's military deterrent capacity and its impact on Germany's national interests.

The topic of the thread is the avoidance of small wars. I stated that my personal opinion is that we'd avoid a lot of small wars, and an enormous amount of expense and trouble, if we applied a much more rigorous standard of evaluating national interest and avoided commitment in cases where that interest is anything less than clear and compelling and where our goals are not clear, practical, and achievable.

Of course that's only my opinion, and of course it means absolutely nothing: nobody asked my opinion or listened to it before they went about trying to install governments in Iraq and Afghanistan, and nobody's going to ask my opinion if any subsequent exercise is contemplated. If we only posted about matters where our opinions make a difference we'd be doing threads like "what shall I have for dinner".

I have no doubt whatsoever that the US will continue to do stupid things. My personal opinion is that not doing stupid things is better than trying to do stupid things better... but that opinion, like my other ones and like most opinions expressed here, has no bearing whatsoever on what actually happens.
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Old 11-10-2011   #30
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As a means of trying to organize the discussion going on in this thread, I think that the discussions about interventions flows along three separate, but perhaps related paths. That is, the issue of whether to intervene in some affair in a “God-forsaken hell hole half way around the globe” may be viewed from at least three perspectives: practicality, legality, and morality.

1. The question of practicality is little more than the economic cost-benefit analysis that Fuchs has been pushing. In other words, the following question must be answered affirmatively by a government before it pushes the execute button on the intervention op plan: “Does intervention by my country’s armed forces yield an adequate positive return on the investment of the nation’s blood and treasure? The hard parts here are defining what counts as value to the nation, determining what an adequate ROI would be and deciding how soon that ROI must realized. Of course, national leadership can always “cook the books” when assessing the values and ROI. That comes with the territory of any representative form of government. I think we are all aware of the failure of the checks and balances most countries have in place to rein in their leaders.

2. The question of legality is rather straightforward and aligns with much of Dayuhan's thinking/postings. But it is complicated by whether a given nation feels bound to live by the strictures of the UN or the World Court. Some countries may feel big enough that they can ignore the summons to appear. And of course we then can find ourselves in a spiral of interventions: Country X choose to intervene in Country Y illegally. Country X also chooses to ignore the UN demand to stop the intervention. So, Country Z now intervenes in Country X, Y, or both to enforce the UN demand.

3. On the moral plane, I would argue that interventions are not morally obligatory; they are at, at best, only morally permissible. That is, no country is required to intervene in the affairs of another country to right moral wrongs or prevent the continuation of moral wrongs in another country. The duty to intervene is what Immanuel Kant would describe as an imperfect duty to others. Whether a country chooses to intervene is not a moral issue, however when one does choose to do so, moral strictures apply as to when and how that intervention may happen. (I am here focusing on the distinction between justice of war (interventions may be morally justified) and justice in war (evaluation of the tactics, techniques, and procedures employed by the intervening forces.
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Old 11-11-2011   #31
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wm,

I posit that there is at least a fourth perspective in which small wars are the external outcome of internal (i.e. domestic) games/conflicts/contradictions. Dominant political groups make decisions within their government's particular framework in order to gain domestic advantages for their own private interests. Not only does this approach predict why nations enter small wars, but also why they choose particular strategies, including the selection of narrow interests for national universalization to promote the chosen strategy. This is not a purely rational process, nor is it always or fully concerned with legality and morality, which often are subordinated as instruments and themes.
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Old 11-12-2011   #32
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JMA, keep in mind I am educated in economics. This means I have spent almost five years at a university and was indoctrinated with a huge aversion against wasteful behaviour AND the tools to do the analysis which option is more or less wasteful than the other.
I suspect this is the huge difference between us. You appear to be more guided by sentiments than cost/benefit consideration.
Obviously if there is no means to wage and sustain a war no matter how small it would be folly to allow oneself to become embroiled in one. To bankrupt your country through fighting a war in a remote area of the world for dubious advantage is clearly insane.

You blog entry On national defence speaks to this.

Your following point is well made:

Quote:
What we're (Europe) lacking is not the capability to defend ourselves, it's the capability to launch punitive strikes and expeditions in U.S. fashion.
Quote:
About "being on the table": I don't subscribe to it as totally excluded or as being only a tool of last resort. I have (as mentioned) my reasoning for its use or non-use.

edit: Notice the difference between war and intervention when I write. I attempt to stay clear and conscious in my choice of these words.
Having been in a war I would tend to believe (and agree with you) that to start a war must surely only be an option of last resort or as you state:

Quote:
Violence is justified if it's the least terrible choice.
... to act in defence of your sovereign territory is another matter of course (which offers no choice).

However all the above said and done I do believe that the capacity of the US and Britain to project (and indeed use) military violence all across the globe is a valuable option to have and use to contain by deterrent or action those countries which threaten the world trade routes, remote trading partners and oil sources. (here I speak of intervention rather than war)

Countries which are unable to project military force to protect their means of survival are vulnerable to been cut off. To ignore the risk of this on the basis that free trade will prevail is quite frankly irresponsible.
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Old 11-12-2011   #33
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Just as irrelevant as your personal opinion of Germany's military deterrent capacity and its impact on Germany's national interests.
Silly reply. No the same at all.

That Germany has no military deterrent other than in the most limited local context is a fact... not a personal opinion.

Your personal opinion of what represents US National Interest where it differs from the stated or acted upon view of the current US president is irrelevant.
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Old 11-12-2011   #34
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Countries which are unable to project military force to protect their means of survival are vulnerable to been cut off.
Improvised empirical test:

Countries capable of projecting military force like that: 3-4 (4 if we count Russian paratroopers)

Countries "cut off" during the last decades: 0,
unless we count aggressors who were under a UN blockade


Another approach:
Japan:
* 2nd most powerful fleet in 1941
* biggest or 2nd biggest marine force in 1941
* 4th greatest air force in 1941
* still cut off from crude oil supplies (would not have happened with a more peaceful foreign policy)


Peaceful cooperation 2, big stick 0
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Old 11-13-2011   #35
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Default I for one am very interested in this...

I know that the journal Spectrum at the National Defense University is also very interested in something called "Phase Zero Warfare". I'm not sure if this is the same thing as this thread is talking about. I admit to being woefully uninformed about the topic.

As I integrate the elements of conflict into the framework of cyber-power I realized having met with the Spectrum editors that nobody had looked at pre-engagement and the elements of decision processes leading up to a conflict other than as contingency planning.

Sidebar: I contend that small wars is the only paradigm where hybrid warfare is fully ensconced as a principle of conflict. Other conflict proponents refer to "joint" warfare which is not the same as hybrid warfare. I think that the use of cyber-power is inherently a hybrid form of warfare similar to space and air (that ought to raise a few hackles).

So, I'd like to know what the structures and principles of this "before operations" begin likely are. How do you know you're pre-conflict unless you've already decided you're entering conflict (seems circular)? What are the operational steps? I've seen lots of operational plans but they are either assessments "blue sky" that are then "operational plans" but then that brings up the whole circular argument again. That leads to what it means to avoid something via military planning. If you're avoiding it doesn't that mean you've already approached it? I can talk about polar cases (political leadership, military leadership and their failures) but where the defining lines are and how deescalation works in the small wars spectrum works? In large scale conflict of nation state "large" war there is a significant literature but the mechanisms seem ill suited to small wars.

Well that's how it appears.
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Old 11-13-2011   #36
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It is really ridiculous at how fearful the Military community as a whole is of the "P-word"

(yes, the prospect of "Peace" leaves them quaking)

Due to this we have doctrine that:
1 Declares that insurgency and counterinsurgency are complex forms of warfare, when in clear fact they are largely continuous dynamics between a populace and its government, rising only occasionally to a level of violence and activity that resembles "warfare."

2. "Phase 0 operations" I'm sure someone earned a Joint Service medal of some sort for this silly little construct. It's peace. Don't be afraid, its ok to have peace. Peace doesn't make the military irrelevant, it merely means one doesn't need a warfighting sized military and can focus on deterrence and prevention for a while.

Oh I get it, "zero" is an incredibly important number, and it allows modern mathematics to function; but do we really need to consider all peace as a zero-phase of the last/next war? Probably easier to justify more Brigade Combat Teams necessary to wage phase zero that it is to justify the same to execute peace....
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Old 11-13-2011   #37
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2. "Phase 0 operations" I'm sure someone earned a Joint Service medal of some sort for this silly little construct. It's peace. Don't be afraid, its ok to have peace. Peace doesn't make the military irrelevant, it merely means one doesn't need a warfighting sized military and can focus on deterrence and prevention for a while.
Seconded.
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Old 11-13-2011   #38
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Phase 0 is focused on prevention, and it can be argued that it was and is our phase 0 concept (long before it was called phase 0) that has significantly increased peace around the globe. Deterrence (in the form of fleixible deterrence operations) if needed, comes after phase 0, so you have actually seriously mischaracterized phase 0. All States will conduct shaping operations in peace, and that is what we do, and our intention is to mitigate issues that may lead to conflict or war. Regardless of what phase we're in we continue to conduct contingency planning, which most people would consider prudent.

Since zero isn't a real number, it isn't a real phase, it was simply a means to describe how we strive to maintain the peace.
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Old 11-13-2011   #39
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What increased peace around the globe is the sense of rules and cooperation created with the UN in 1944.

I doubt that the U.S.'s invasions and foreign policy of the post-Cold War period have helped world peace in any way.
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Old 11-13-2011   #40
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That's a pretty bold statement from someone who hails from a land protected by the U.S. defense establishment and our policies to promote peace to include the Marshal Plan. With the exeception of the Bush Junior administration and its well known hubris and missteps in foreign affairs, the U.S. has promoted global peace unlike any other nation in the history of the world.
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