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Taras Bulba
Thursday, April 22nd, 2004, 04:28 PM
http://www.antiwar.com/lind/?articleid=2361

Why We Get It Wrong

by William S. Lind

One of the few consistencies of the war in Iraq is America's ability to make the wrong choices. From starting the war in the first place through outlawing the Ba'ath and sending the Iraqi army home to assaulting Fallujah and declaring war on Shiite militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr, we repeatedly get it wrong. Such consistency raises a question: can we identify a single factor that consistently leads us in the wrong direction?

I think we can. That is not to say other factors are not also in play. But one wrong notion does appear to underlie many of our blunders. That is the belief that in this war, the U.S. military is the strongest player.

We hear this at every level from the rifle squad to the White House. In Fallujah, Marine privates and sergeants want to finish the job of taking the city, with no doubt whatsoever that they can. In Baghdad, spokesmen for the CPA regularly trumpet the line that no Iraqi fighters can hope to stand up to the US military. Washington casts a broader net, boasting that the American military can defeat any enemy, anywhere. The bragging and self-congratulation reach the point where, as Oscar Wilde might have said, it is worse than untrue; it is in bad taste.

In fact, in Iraq and in Fourth Generation war elsewhere, we are the weaker party. The most important reason this is so is time.

For every other party, the distinguishing characteristic of the American intervention force is that it, and it alone, will go away. At some point, sooner or later, we will go home. Everyone else stays, because they live there.

This has many implications, none of them good from our perspective. Local allies know they will at some time face their local enemies without us there to support them. French collaborators with the Germans, and there were many, can tell us what happens then. Local enemies know they can outlast us. Neutrals make their calculations on the same basis; as my neighbor back in Cleveland said, one of Arabs' few military virtues is that they are always on the winning side.

All our technology, all our training, all our superiority in techniques (like being able to hit what we shoot at) put together are less powerful than the fact that time is against us. More, we tend to accelerate the time disadvantage. American election cycles play a role here; clearly, that is what lies behind the June 30 deadline for handing Iraq over to some kind of Iraqi government. So does a central feature of American culture, the desire for quick results and "closure." Whether we are talking about wars or diets, Americans want action now and results fast. In places like Fallujah, that leads us to prefer assaults to talks. Our opponents, in contrast, have all the time in the world and in the next world for that matter.

Time is not the only factor that renders us the weaker party. So does our lack of understanding of local cultures and languages. So also do our reliance on massive firepower, our dependence on a secure logistics train (we are now experiencing that vulnerability in Iraq, where our supply lines are being cut), our insistence on living apart from and much better than the local population. But time still overshadows all of these. Worse, we can do nothing about it, unless, like the Romans, we plan to stay for three hundred years.

Until we accept the counterintuitive fact that in Fourth Generation interventions we are and always will be the weaker party, our decisions will continue to be consistently wrong. The decisions will be wrong because the assumption that lies behind them is wrong. We will remain trapped by our own false pride.

What if we do come to understand our own inherent weakness in places like Iraq? Might we then come up with some more productive approaches? Well, the Byzantines might have something to teach us on that score. Greek fire notwithstanding, what kept the Eastern Roman Empire alive for a thousand years after Rome fell was knowing how to play weak hands brilliantly.

William Lind is Director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism at the Free Congress Foundation. He is a former Congressional Aide and the author
of many books and articles on military strategy and war.

Mac Seafraidh
Thursday, April 22nd, 2004, 04:54 PM
Yes I believe the modern American society does not know a damn thing about warfare. Our military is just a joke now. You join now and the recruiters I have noticed do not guide people properly as well in America today. They fool with minds just to get their own promotion, thus you are stuck in a position at a young age not knowing what is going on and possibly having to go to war. Many of the soldiers are probably only a few years into whatever armed force that may be.

Taras Bulba
Thursday, April 22nd, 2004, 06:01 PM
Yes I believe the modern American society does not know a damn thing about warfare. Our military is just a joke now. You join now and the recruiters I have noticed do not guide people properly as well in America today. They fool with minds just to get their own promotion, thus you are stuck in a position at a young age not knowing what is going on and possibly having to go to war. Many of the soldiers are probably only a few years into whatever armed force that may be.
I agree 120%. I believe in a militarization of society much like what occured in Sparta, Prussia, Switzerland, Russia, etc. Enough of this hippie bullshit that have dominated our society's values for the past 40 years!

The US military is indeed a joke. I read many of their reports and they're such garbage. Especially if you compare them to those written by the British, Russian, and other European militaries.

Vestmannr
Friday, April 23rd, 2004, 10:23 PM
Remember, the present American military does not reflect on Americans (us Old Americans especially), or the American military tradition. Much of what William Lind refers to comes from new Neo-Con attitudes, which are the result of recent immigrant populations with no military history of their own: but a strong hawkish tendency.

Old Americans still have a martial culture that they maintain, pretty much independently of the present Military establishment (much like Cossacks in Russia.) In fact, their values and rules for warfare are not that different (the same proverbs I heard from my Russian immigrant friends about using the bayonet, are the same we were taught, for instance.) The problem, is that the events since WWII have pushed the Old Americans with a strong martial culture further and further away from serving. The days are long gone when our people served as officers. The typical recruit as well as the typical Officer Candidate has never touched a rifle in his life. Very unlike us Old Americans. What Lind is describing is 'Ugly Americans', this time invading with an Army. However, Ugly Americans have typically been not from amongst Old Americans, but from the new immigrant classes and their descendants.

wild_bill
Friday, April 23rd, 2004, 11:01 PM
Remember, the present American military does not reflect on Americans (us Old Americans especially), or the American military tradition. Much of what William Lind refers to comes from new Neo-Con attitudes, which are the result of recent immigrant populations with no military history of their own: but a strong hawkish tendency.


I think you are right. Even the demographics of the fighting troops refelcts the fact that elite and neo-con types conspicuously avoid service, while the actual fighting is done mostly by white troops from rural areas and small towns where traditional attitudes are still common.

Also I wouldn't go along with the claim that the military itself is degraded, but rather that the philosophy and situations of their use is what's flawed.

I don't think there's ever been a war in history where the ability of US troops wasn't degraded or scoffed at by Europeans and others. Yet, time after time, the supposed ineffective or incompetent American army proven its detractors wrong.

This is not to say that I support what's happening in Iraq. I don't. It was a foolish idea with serious ramifications, but one cannot really blame some naive 18 year-old guy who signs up for the service.

Vestmannr
Friday, April 23rd, 2004, 11:25 PM
I had a bit of a clue about that when we used to evaluate units back during and after the first Gulf War. Most often, the local National Guard units (mostly those same rural troops, more often native Americans or Old American stock, or 19th c. immigrants) were outperforming our regular units. This was not reported in the media, and was even covered up by some who 'balanced' the scoring. No way we were going to let anyone know that the Guard could/was outperforming the regulars. Of course, there were good reasons for this.

a) The regular Army had been drumming out the old veterans: ie, the experience. Many of these were just going to the Guard.

b) The Guard attracted sorts who wouldnt swear loyalty to the President, but would swear loyalty to their State goverment. (And yes, I knew many like that ... didnt make that one up.) Most of these were folks from the Old South and Old West ... but a couple of generations removed from Indian fighters, the Confederate militias, Jesse James, etc.

c) The Guard attracted more of the sort who had an education/getting an education/or already had a good start on a career. The Regular boys were generally criminals, couldnt do anything else, or had failed at everything else. Their officers had a little more quality, but were often less imaginative than Guard officers. I have never been so scared in my life as when having to trust my life to some of the low IQ fresh-out-of-juvie Hip-Hop 'OG's that I was paired with in the active Army. Guardsmen generally had far more intelligence and common sense.

Of course, I'm speaking anecdotally with all of this. I know there is no 'published' evidence, and it flies in the face of conventional wisdom and the pride of the Regulars (who tend to hate Guardsmen with a passion, and consider them 'unprofessional'.)

wild_bill
Friday, April 23rd, 2004, 11:46 PM
I had a bit of a clue about that when we used to evaluate units back during and after the first Gulf War. Most often, the local National Guard units (mostly those same rural troops, more often native Americans or Old American stock, or 19th c. immigrants) were outperforming our regular units. This was not reported in the media, and was even covered up by some who 'balanced' the scoring. No way we were going to let anyone know that the Guard could/was outperforming the regulars. Of course, there were good reasons for this.

I have no reason to doubt this. But the Guard Units that were involved the Gulf War signed up during peacetime. Back when the draft was in effect during Viet Nam, the Guard was where all the rich kids went who didn't have any other way out of going to Nam. Nobody else could get into the Guard. Of course, Nam was an unpopular war, so many people TRIED to get into the Guard, but the poor boys didn't have any luck.

Old man Bush probably knew that if W went to Canada or faked an injury to get out of serving, this wouldn't be good for any future political ambitions, so the Guard was a good way out. But the issue is that avoiding Nam service was obviously the goal. After all, George W. could have allowed himself to be drafted or even volunteered.

Dan Quail was another one who avoided Nam by using family connections to get into the Guard.

These warmongers are all hypocrites.

Vestmannr
Friday, April 23rd, 2004, 11:51 PM
Yeah, that all changed once they got rid of the draft. However, old attitudes die hard.

My Grandfather was in the 3rd Marines at Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal, Tarawa .. few other places. He was drafted, and when he answered the draft he almost got disowned. His father, grandfather, and uncles .. almost all the other relations were upset: they were Unreconstructed Southerners. To them, his answering the draft was tantamount to spitting on the South. It all worked out, and they didnt do so ... but if such an attitude survived from the 1870s til the 1940s, I dont suppose the bias against National Guardsmen will change until after 2040? (Though, I tend to be leaning back to the attitudes of my great-grandfather and the rest.)

Taras Bulba
Saturday, April 24th, 2004, 02:57 AM
Frontiersman brought up some real good points. I have nothing against the Old Americans, I see them as the last vesitages of culture in this country. What you said about the National Guard is very true, I see more decent people join that as opposed to the regular army. And of course the Guard are the ones who get screwed, because they're looked down upon by the regular army(well its leadership) and often Guard units were under-funded and under-equipped. A very good book to read on this topic is Gary Hart's "Minuteman, Restoring an Army of the People", in which he gives a good defense of the National Guard(indeed the whole citizen soldier/militia concept).