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Old 03-15-2009   #1
William F. Owen
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Default War Adjectives

Completely missed this!

Yes, yes and yes!

Use the wrong word and you'll see the wrong problem.

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Leaders should and, in fact must, listen to these researchers and academics but they must also consider the agendas of pundits who often have the loudest voices as they push their concepts and terminology. Rarely do any of these pundits call for a reduction and simplification of terminology, doctrine, and concepts. The “new ideas” they push are frequently recycled from past doctrine or accepted historical theories and simply repackaged – Counterinsurgency doctrine being a case in point.
This fellow Maxwell is now on my "Natalie Portman and Swarfega" list of good things - as I have constantly cautioned against the "agenda monkeys" and said we should get as simple as it is useful to get! Now I don't care who gets the credit for saying it, as long as it gets said.

I don't agree with all he says, but this is a major step forward. Bravo Maxwell!
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Old 03-15-2009   #2
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Default Best sentence

'The real challenge is how to harness these professionals and benefit from their knowledge and experience' (pg.4 first paragraph).

Col. Maxwell writes on the US experience, I have doubts - as an outsider - that the military tolerate and encourage what maybe seen as dissident thought. In wartime that should be different, looking at the UK in WW2 some of the developments required external political support, scientific discovery and removal of obstactles. Plus in-service realisation that old methods had failed.

Today the USA is at war, so dissident / new thought can be heard and listened to. I've not read much on the Iraqi campaign, unlike many here, but it appears to be a combination of factors that led to the changes. Interestingly we appear to see now in the Afghan policy sphere a re-think on the strategy and aims.

Hopefully Col. Maxwell's test will be passed. Now back to my armchair.

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Old 03-15-2009   #3
Ron Humphrey
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Question I really liked this piece too

The one slight disagreement or probably better stated concern I had with it is the fact that a key component of what those outside "Think Tanks" bring to the party that that military can't or at least do to perception shouldn't.

The bully pulpit. Institutions in the civilian sector which focus on "thinking" about issues have the opportunity to bring diverse opinions to bare in the public forum not to mention the fact that they spend inordinate amounts of money sending their members to various areas in order to gather information and perspective.

Let's say that instead we stuck to uniformed thinkers doing the heavy lifting and developing strategies.

1- Where or how should they go about proselytizing what they've discerned. Won't be conferences sponsored by Think Tanks because remember we don't need them. So are we left with media appearances. If we do that how long before public perception is that their being propagandized vs informed.

I may have mis-read the paper but this was what occurred to me during my reading.
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Old 03-16-2009   #4
George L. Singleton
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Default Voice of America is an excellent medium...

..to do out loud thinking, reasoning, and have information put out there for thoughtful consideration by others, worldwide, as now via computuers (e-mail),live radio and TV, yes you can have call in VOA radio and TV programs in critical areas of the world as well as in sophisticated, well educated parts of the world.

Civilians run VOA, and while technically government employees, can be about as "free" in stimulating discussion as Public Radio and Public TV.

*I used to dislike Public TV and radio coverage of US politics until I recognized that with the change of admnistration, for now at least, Pubic Radio and TV now bring on more conservative guests to counterbalance the new liberalism in power in DC. Public Radio & TV of course did the exact opposite when Pres. Bush was in office.

Converse or reverse psychology to assure all views are thought about is good, healthy in my view. What think you?
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Old 03-16-2009   #5
Bill Moore
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Default Mixed thoughts

While I agreed with many aspects of this article, I have strong reservations about what I perceived COL Maxwell's bottom line to be.

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Making the current security environment even more complex has been the introduction and adoption of many new, often overlapping and even redundant concepts and terminology.
I'm in agreement with this, but I don't think the issue is always the "new" term. The Special Forces community can't agree to a definition on unconventional warfare, and I am not sure anyone can define conventional warfare well enough to clearly delineate the diference between the two. If we can't even reasonably agree on these "old' definitions are they really that useful? I agree we need to make it simple, but simple doesn't necessarily mean clinging to Cold War terminology just because it is familiar. Too many instances of pushing a square peg through a round hole.

[QUOTE]The argument is often made that the existing concepts are insufficient for today’s security environment and therefore new concepts are required, despite the fact that in the case of SFA and FID probably 95% of the concepts are the same. If these new concepts are required then why do all these traditional security activities still exist? No one has identified these concepts as obsolete and directed that they be stricken from the doctrine and lexicon.[/QUOTE]

In a classified forum I could go on endlessly where we have failed to achieve our objectives or desired effects with our current FID doctrine and SFA authorities and processes. During a recent discussion on our drug war strategy for a particular location, I asked the briefer for his assessment on our progress. The answer, as expected, was that it is getting much worse.
The same can be said about other security related problems that would fall under the realm of FID. We have been throwing money and so called "time tested" concepts at these problems for years, and often to no avail. I'm sure we would all agree whoever wins the terminology debate is less important than who wins the war/conflict. Why do we continue to do the same thing, even though we don't achieve our desired effects? We have similiar shortcomings around the globe and the common denominators to all these problems is our terminology (it shapes how we view and define the problem, and as WILF stated if you define the problem incorrectly you will come up with the wrong solution), doctrine, and current authorities (which IMHO is a fundamental reason we do not do FID effectively, thus the SECDEF's push for SFA to transform this process).

I'm confident that WILF and COL Maxwell will respond that it isn't the terminology or doctrine that created these problems, but the incorrect application of the existing doctrine. Maybe, but the recurring challenge is how do we prepare our military to win these irregular conflicts. War is war is not a helpful answer, doing more of the same is not helpful, something is broke and that implies we need to change to fix it.

In response to the excerpt I pasted above from COL Maxwell's great article is that I would argue that some of these older terms and concepts may be invalid, and we do them simply because it is they way we have always done business. It takes a dynamic leader to force change on the military, it always has.

This debate should center on how we get better at fighting war, specifically irregular warfare. I think all agree that IW is poorly defined, but regardless of what we call it we don't have a good track record for wrestling with this beast.

Last edited by Bill Moore; 03-16-2009 at 03:38 AM.
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Old 03-16-2009   #6
Ken White
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Default Wrestling with a pig...

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The Special Forces community can't agree to a definition on unconventional warfare, and I am not sure anyone can define conventional warfare well enough to clearly delineate the diference between the two.
Not to be a smart ass but could that mean that war is indeed war? As for a difference between the two, is that really important? For discussion, I mean -- as for the conduct of either type, I think most folks know it when they see it and, depending on their training, knowledge and experience levels, adapt to do the best they can with the hand they been given. Not that such is any way to run a railroad...
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We have been throwing money and so called "time tested" concepts at these problems for years, and often to no avail. I'm sure we would all agree whoever wins the terminology debate is less important than who wins the war/conflict. Why do we continue to do the same thing, even though we don't achieve our desired effects?
First, I submit our problem is that we have too much money and are too ready to throw it at any problem we see -- it usually is not the answer. Secondly, I'm unsure of which time tested concepts you speak but I am real sure that we have too often stuck our nose into someone else's business and that in my observation and experience, that habit raises two problems that merit consideration; most people in the world resent our interference and 'help.' Strongly. We do not do it at all well because the Armed Forces get to be the lead agents and, unfortunately, many people in the Armed Forces have an over developed "I am in charge. Here. Now." attitude that exacerbates the first condition. We're, as a group, too arrogant and ego centric and inclined to under rate our potential problem.

That is why I contend that those who say we, the Armed forces do it by default or it won't get done are missing the point -- while that's true, it's a default setting and that needs to be changed.
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Maybe, but the recurring challenge is how do we prepare our military to win these irregular conflicts. War is war is not a helpful answer, doing more of the same is not helpful, something is broke and that implies we need to change to fix it.
I suggest that one is not going to 'win' an irregular conflict so that idea needs to banished from the lexicon. You can, sometimes but not always, achieve an acceptable outcome. I also suggest that 'win' mentality is what creates the problem you cited above -- why do we keep doing the same thing. We keep trying to do something that generally cannot be done. nobody wants to lose and a bunch of highly competitive folks certainly don't want to. Put those highly competitive types to a FID situation and they will try to win -- even if that's really not the goal.

Thus, I suggest the real issue is not how do we get better at fighting a war; we can do that and we adapt pretty well -- the issue is what wars we get into and what the goals are. If the goals are not achievable...

Or known...
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It takes a dynamic leader to force change on the military, it always has.
True. I agree. How do you get a dynamic leader to the true upper levels given a system that is determined to weed out such leaders before they reach those upper echelons lest they damage the institution?
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This debate should center on how we get better at fighting war, specifically irregular warfare. I think all agree that IW is poorly defined, but regardless of what we call it we don't have a good track record for wrestling with this beast.
See all the above. No, we don't. Nor is the prognosis good for improvement at this point. It may get better, we'll see -- but I suggest that the best thing for the US is to avoid interfering in the squabbles of other after its too late to address it by pre conflict methods.

We don't have a good track record for wrestling because we've tried to box against wrestlers, judokas and karatekas.

The problem is not that we can't do good stuff -- the problem is that we clumsily create problems and don't intervene until it's too late and the problems have become unbelievably complex and not totally conducive to a military solution.
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Old 03-16-2009   #7
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Not to be a smart ass but could that mean that war is indeed war? As for a difference between the two, is that really important?
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We don't have a good track record for wrestling because we've tried to box against wrestlers, judokas and karatekas.

The problem is not that we can't do good stuff -- the problem is that we clumsily create problems and don't intervene until it's too late and the problems have become unbelievably complex and not totally conducive to a military solution.
We have to up our game and branch out from 'traditional schools of thought' about war and warfare. Wars always push those involved to innovate or die; we are still alive and so I have hope...

Been looking for a good, accessible, Ecology book to share and am still looking however they all boil down to competition for resources between individual/systems. My Microbiology books and Water/Wastewater Treatment books can be summed up as how to define/quantify nutrient/waste cycling in controlled/wild bacterial systems. Some of my Geotechnical Engineering books are great about mapping and understanding the engineering properties of heterogeneous foundations upon which we hope to build. Bouquet's book The Scientific Way of Warfare does a good job of covering how we are trying to move things along from art to science in the application of warfare (I see warfare as methods of waging war...the adjectives preceding warfare are thus descriptive and needed...akin to eskimos and their words for snow). McNamara's failures & successes are pretty interesting...he was building on concepts from the 30's and 40's. German Economic History has been very interesting as well...

Found no answers to bet the farm on but still searching

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Thus, I suggest the real issue is not how do we get better at fighting a war; we can do that and we adapt pretty well -- the issue is what wars we get into and what the goals are. If the goals are not achievable...
So I am reading you correctly here Ken, the Powell Doctrine is a good thing?



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Old 03-16-2009   #8
Ken White
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Default No, a bad thing

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So I am reading you correctly here Ken, the Powell Doctrine is a good thing?
as it was an attempt to take the Weinberger Doctrine which preceded it and expand it into a slightly more sensible form but both were an effort by DoD to dictate policy and were too inflexible to cope with the realities of international geopolitics in a globalized world. They were an effort to make life easy for the Armed Forces by precluding harmful deployments -- they didn't work (under four Presidents from two parties) and something like them will not work in the future. If the Prez says go, the Services are going and they really need to be ready to go regardless of the scope of the job.

All that's required is the civilian leadership realize it has to bow with respect to what can be achieved to the military knowledge resident in DoD and said militarily knowledgeable folks must give their best and honest advice (something that I do not believe has happened all too often and thus credibility has been harmed). That entails knowing the perils and pitfall of intervening, FID and such and not believing that it's a dirty nasty job we shouldn't do -- we may not have a choice and trying to skew the rules patently did not work.

What I was really pointing at was the urgent need to get DoD out of being the lead agency in international relations and activities. Not their job and with all respect to many CinCs who have done a good job, I have to point out that there have been a few who did not do a good job. The competitive military environment is not conducive to raising thoughtful and patient diplomatic individuals with deep knowledge of the nations and cultures in their AO and it does not lead many of those folks to accept the advice of the occasional sharp MAJ or LTC FAO. Arrogance and egos.

Not that State or the Intel community are a whole lot better...

There's nothing wrong with trying to make the art of war into a more 'scientific' activity -- you won't succeed simply because people and their decision processes (see all the above...) are involved but there's certainly nothing wrong with trying. I've watched a large number of efforts over the years attempt that; none successful so far but one can always hope...
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Old 03-16-2009   #9
Bill Moore
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Not to be a smart ass but could that mean that war is indeed war?
Yes

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most people in the world resent our interference and 'help.' Strongly.
Frequently the reality to the host nation is that we're bullying our way in, we're assaulting their culture, and we're condescending. Determining how we assist to avoid these perceptions is as important as the amount of assistance we provide.

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Thus, I suggest the real issue is not how do we get better at fighting a war; we can do that and we adapt pretty well -- the issue is what wars we get into and what the goals are.
The quote above doesn't nest with the quote below. I agree we adjust to the "fighting" piece pretty quickly, but borrowing GEN Giap's message to us, it doesn't matter if we won every battle we still lost. Our troops on the tip of the spear will generally out adapt the enemy in the tactical fight, but our operational and strategic adaptability is often left wanting. When we say war is war, we mean destroying the enemy directly in combat. It should be that simple, but unfortunately it isn't.

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We don't have a good track record for wrestling because we've tried to box against wrestlers, judokas and karatekas.
Quote:
the problem is that we clumsily create problems and don't intervene until it's too late and the problems have become unbelievably complex and not totally conducive to a military solution.
We don't have a political culture that encourages preventative action. We'll talk about it, we'll write about it, but it is a different story when it comes to resourcing it. Why spend money and dedicate resources to prevent a problem when we have a problem we need to solve? Our resources are finite, so it is hard to counter this logic.

A hard sell, but I agree we have to pick our fights very carefully, some simply are not winable. Assuming we get drawn into less fights in the future, we could focus more effort on isolating the trouble spots by focusing on preventative efforts on the periphery.

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So I am reading you correctly here Ken, the Powell Doctrine is a good thing?
IMHO GEN Powell had good intentions (it is called the Powell doctrine, but several Vietnam Vets contributed to its development), but a doctrine that ignores reality is simply not functional. Despite howls of protest from the military we got involves in Bosnia and Kosavo, Somalia, stayed in Afghanistan after routing the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and the list goes on. How can the Powell doctrine be considered feasible as a guiding light for our military?
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Old 03-16-2009   #10
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Default Adaptability, the opportunity to learn from others....

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Frequently the reality to the host nation is that we're bullying our way in, we're assaulting their culture, and we're condescending. Determining how we assist to avoid these perceptions is as important as the amount of assistance we provide.
I would agree, it certainly adds to the frictions we face and does not help with accomplishing our objectives (short or long term).

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When we say war is war, we mean destroying the enemy directly in combat. It should be that simple, but unfortunately it isn't.
My biology teachers taught me about some of the slow motion wars conducted by plants which have influenced my thinking. Use of shade, alkaloids in the soils to limit others, rapid growth, different types of photosynthesis, etc. evolved over long periods of time and allow different communities to obtain sufficient resources for their distinct systems while ensuring that other systems do not limit their needs...extinction does occur but there is a lot of living that goes on before that happens and I think there are many parallels to what we see...

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IMHO GEN Powell had good intentions (it is called the Powell doctrine, but several Vietnam Vets contributed to its development), but a doctrine that ignores reality is simply not functional. Despite howls of protest from the military we got involves in Bosnia and Kosavo, Somalia, stayed in Afghanistan after routing the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and the list goes on. How can the Powell doctrine be considered feasible as a guiding light for our military?
SF, CA, FAO, GPF, and the many different interagency types are testament to the fact that although the Powell/? doctrine is sometimes desired, it does not fully address the realities of a very complex world.

There are alot of sharp people out there with good networks and insights
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Old 03-16-2009   #11
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IF working with terminology and wording has the direct effect of better focusing practical, down to earth goals and objectives despite "how it used to be done in other warare in the good old days"...which era I come from...they wordsmithing and terminology are a huge benefit and sorely needed.

I would like to be hearing now from our Aussie PhD Sociologist on this topic and about Colonel Maxwell's remarks, as well as the two Generals remarks "against" high faluting words.

As an old school type, I am somewhat stuck with General Nathan Bedford Forrest's comment about how to win a battle and a war: "You get there firstest with the mostest."

Forrest, and Mosby, were in their day pretty good "irregular warfare" fighters. But, the didn't have to deal with terrorists using mosques as forts, suicide bombers, including the use of children for suicide missions, and all the gory process and mess the Taliban and al Qaida are using today in Paksitan, Afghanistan, and in Iraq.

Colin Powell... who may never have studied or read Forrest or Mosby (Powell is an ROTC product, whereas both Forrest and Mosby are taught I believe at West Point)... believed in overwhelming force. I was in Desert Storm I, remember, on this side running the whole airlift as the Assistant Deputy Commander for same, and know how many troops and support equipment, including tanks, we airlifted on C-5s.

And, since Powell, who led the first President Bush into an early armistace to get out of Kuwait and Iraq War # 1, perhaps rightly fearing that the various Arab nations military participants would fall apart quickly if we persisted too long...here again we are into the Sunni governance systems vs. the Shia governance systems, this topic is unavoidable...then neither Powell or anyone else had a tie it down and settle it "plan" and we ended up with the long running UN Resolutions and sanctions against Iraq, which failed miserably. Now that was somewhat regular warfare.

Today's irregular warfare is religiously driven by Sunni extremist/terrorist fanatics who are controlled only when they are dead...not rehabitable in my book, despite the retraining schools Saudis are using.

Irregular warfare needs lots of focus, terms, definitions, and that in turn may help speed up the what, where, when, how, and/or get out and leave it alone as best as it "could be done" process.

Comments all of you have made are much more sophisticated than this, but I am simple and never hide this fact.
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Old 03-16-2009   #12
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Default Need to identify and focus on Today's big picture as well

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The quote above doesn't nest with the quote below. I agree we adjust to the "fighting" piece pretty quickly, but borrowing GEN Giap's message to us, it doesn't matter if we won every battle we still lost. Our troops on the tip of the spear will generally out adapt the enemy in the tactical fight, but our operational and strategic adaptability is often left wanting. When we say war is war, we mean destroying the enemy directly in combat. It should be that simple, but unfortunately it isn't.
I was thinking about this famous post-Vietnam conflict quote the other day and a "deep thought" emerged:

Yes, just as it was irrelevant to the big picture of the conflict in Vietnam that we had arguably won every battle, but lost the war; a similar logic could be applied to the Cold War as a whole. We attained a "Tie" in Korea and a "Loss" in Vietnam, the two conflicts that accented the larger Cold War effort to contain the Soviet Union: a "Win." So the fact that we never won a Cold War conflict is equally unimportant to the fact that they continued us on a course to win the larger competition they were a part of.

So, the deep thought for today is what is the bigger competition that we are trying to win today (i.e., what is our new national Grand Strategy now that the Grand Strategies of Containment are 20 years in the rearview mirror); and how important are achieving "wins" in Iraq or Afghanistan to attaining that larger victory? If we don't define what that larger victory is first we'll never know the answer; but once we do, I suspect that we may find that commiting too much National credibility, blood and treasure to attaining "wins" in all of the intermediate objectives, may well hinder our chances of grasping the big prize.

Much of the definitional drama that Dave describes is due to this lack of strategic focus to guide our efforts, and the resultant clamoring among the masses of self-appointed experts (myself included) to attempt to describe what all of this post Cold War struggle is really all about, and how the tools of globalization have affected the time proven tactics of dealing with such struggles.

Lets get a strategic mark well out in front of us so that we can all give way together. Once we have that, I suspect much of the confusion will begin to sort out, and we will be able to assess proper priorities where we need to "win", and where a "tie" or "loss" will suffice.
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Old 03-16-2009   #13
William F. Owen
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When we say war is war, we mean destroying the enemy directly in combat. It should be that simple, but unfortunately it isn't.
I say war is war, but I mean it like Clausewitz did. It is violence for political purpose. Violence as an instrument of policy. What Giap was pointing out (if he actually said it, which I doubt) was that the US policy was defeated. In Vietnam, the US abandoned the fight, regardless of operational success.

Destroying the enemy (defeating the enemy) is only relevant to political objectives. It's rarely an end in itself. You only destroy armies to apply pain to the Government/Leadership and the people they represent. Once disarmed they are incapable of doing the same to you.
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Old 03-16-2009   #14
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Default Excellent point

Bob's World, most excellent point for consideration, one loss (Vietnam) and one draw (Korea), and we still won. However, looking at it from the Soviet perspective, they also had one loss (Afghanistan), so it was a tie militarily.

Wilf, I agree with your comment, but my underlying point is that we have a particular way of waging war, or a preferred way, which I suspect is largely shaped by our culture. Other nations and non-state actors may look at how they approach war entirely different. Regardless of how each opponent behaves and designs their strategy it is still war, but we generally tend to approach war in a threat centric manner, or using George's resurrected quote, get there the firstest with the mostest. I think the phrase spectrum of war is misleading, but it will have to do for now. We "tend" to have the same approach regardless of where we are in the spectrum of war (low intensity or high intensity).

I agree strongly with you and COL Maxwell's assertion that war is war, what I am wrestling with is what Selil hit on, the types of warfare. I believe there is some utility to categorize the types (conventional, irregular, unconventional, etc.), as long as one doesn't take himself too seriously. The type of training and strategy for fighting each one can be considerably different. Is there any disagreement with assertion? If so, please explain. I agree with Ken, we tend to try to wrestle with a boxer (bad analogy since the wrestler would normally win), thus my argument is not with the "war is war" argument, but over the types of warfare and how we organize, train and plan to fight them. In my opinion that is the so what of this discussion.
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