America’s ‘strategic learning disability’

America’s ‘strategic learning disability’

Via one of the most reliable conduits of truth about the Army — the mysterious stick figure known only as Doctrine Man — here’s a very interesting writeup: Retired Army Lt. Gen. James Dubik has a piece in this month’s Army magazine called ‘A National Strategic Learning Disability?’ in which he wonders whether the United States has what it takes at the top leadership level in order to prosecute its national goals.

“Our national strategies and policies have dragged out operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, costing more in lives, sacrifices, money and political will than was necessary,” Dubik writes. The U.S. did not finish key jobs in Iraq or Afghanistan, he argues, because it mistakenly thought it had accomplished goals it hadn’t and didn’t have a full understanding of what it wanted. This leads him to ask four key questions: “Do we have the ability to construct and execute a coherent national strategy? Have we lost the ability to use force decisively? Do we confuse ending a war with an ‘exit strategy’ to leave a war? Do we lack strategic imagination?” Quick answers: Yes; yes; no; yes.

Still there? All right. If you want to keep reading, here’s much more elaboration: Dubik’s assessment about the American ability to contemplate and execute a master strategy is succinct but devastating, and it’s worth quoting in its entirety:

With respect to the war against al Qaeda, we have been out of balance from the start by not really deciding whether to treat al Qaeda as a war enemy or international criminals (it has elements of both) and overmilitarizing, at least initially, the strategy that we did execute. Finally, we have been out of balance from the start in that we have never figured out a way to pay for our operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and against al Qaeda—a key element of any national strategy.

In sum, for a decade our national strategy has been ineffective. Two strategically important results have emerged. First, American military forces have been at war, but for much of this period neither the government nor the nation has been at war. Second, we have spent blood, money and national reputation to not accomplish our strategic aims.

Nearly 10 years later, nobody remembers the voices after Sept. 11 that argued you can’t have a ‘war on terrorism,’ i.e., a tactic, and that cited examples in Europe and elsewhere where terrorists were treated as criminals, with a reactive, law enforcement-style approach, as opposed to an aggressive military campaign. But Americans were in payback mode and wanted revenge, so they did not want to just sit idle and settle for trying evildoers in court. (Many still don’t.) So the U.S. may have chosen the wrong strategy, but it can still build and execute one. Then again, there’s a case to be made that the current strategy of eliminating the threat posed by radical, anti-American Islam is flawed because it requires the impossible: eliminating an idea. At least in the Cold War, ‘containment’ was achievable. In fact, the West fared pretty well, even if there are a few stragglers here and there.

As for force, Dubik argues the U.S. has fallen into a trap of using the least amount possible, requiring commanders to re-learn the painful lesson that doing so doesn’t actually save you anything. “This apparent economy protracts war because it yields the strategic initiative to the enemy. They get to choose whether to ‘up the ante.’ In war, force should be applied in ways that reduce the options of one’s enemies and increase one’s own.” Presidents Bush and Obama eventually had no choice but to resort to “surges,” which appeared to help turn the tide in their respective wars.

This is the critical point: Wars are started by politicians, and the more troops in harm’s way, the more of a political risk to them. Sending more troops means there’s more of a chance average Americans might pay attention to what’s happening, also increasing the risk they might decide they oppose it. It’s just more effective politically to use the least you can of a comparatively small, volunteer force, especially when people ‘support the troops’ no matter what — just so long as they don’t have to do anything else, including sacrifice or serve.

As to Dubik’s next question, it’s difficult to confuse an ‘exit strategy’ with a legitimate end to a war. To return to his first point, the U.S. began its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan without a specific, achievable end state in mind — a flawed strategy. Compare the state of Iraq today to 1991, when President George H.W. Bush set a discrete goal — eject Iraqi forces from Kuwait and eliminate them as a threat to their neighbors — and accomplished it deftly. It meant he endured slings and arrows from neoconservatives who wanted Saddam deposed, but in retrospect we can see its elegance: Iraq remained a stable, if hollow, version of its former self and a check on Iranian adventurism.

The current American withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan is about cutting losses and crossing fingers — both countries could devolve into violent anarchy within six months of the pullouts. But America is sick of war, broke and becoming resigned to the reality that after a decade and some $4 trillion, Iraq and Afghanistan are as good as they’re going to get. What stops insurgents from just hiding out until American troops are gone? How will both countries afford and maintain their U.S.-trained militaries over the long term? That would require perpetual commitments in both places, which some people support, but most Americans don’t.

Dubik’s final point is that commanders’ lack of ‘strategic imagination’ has continued to trip up military campaigns over the past decade, and will keep doing so unless the brass overcomes it. He writes:

Ten years of evidence that war has more than one form seems to have been insufficient to prompt adequate adaptation—domestically or internationally. Current discussions often find adherents claiming that the conflict in Libya isn’t a war, for example, or that war cannot be waged in cyberspace. Without adequate strategic imagination, America perpetually risks not only applying a strategy that does not match the specific enemy and situation of a given case, but also having a set of institutions and procedures equivalent to attempting to fit a round peg into a square hole. Thus we risk more examples of spending our strategic capital— lives, sacrifice, money and will—in not attaining our strategic aims.

This might be the toughest point of all — can you change culture? And can you change it quickly enough to respond to all of today’s threats?

What do you think?


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America’s leaders have an inability to estimate resource requirements because they have an inability to envision a desired future state and understand the steps to get us there. Writer John Allen Paulos wrote a book called “Innumeracy” describing how the root problem of quantitative illiteracy causes all kinds of problems. We have politicians with predominantely law school backgrounds and generals with predominantly operational backgrounds making strategic decisions involving heavy doses of quantitative information, uncertainty and risk. They are woefully inadequate and unprepared, resulting in short term political gain being the primary driver of decision making. We need a big change and a new generation & set of leaders.. hopefully 2012 is the starting point! Go Mitt Go!!!

The solution was articulated already, but Neocons wanted to reinvent the wheel: Weinberger doctrine or even Powel doctrine. Iraq and A’stan as fought (after ‘mission accomplished’) were classic politically unpalatable counter insurgencies with increased media presence. US citizens also hate to see billions given in aid to other countries while their own infrastructure crumbles ie Katrina.

HIS ARTICLE IS A WAIST OF PAPER — no one above 03 has any ideal what the heck our troops want, from 04 and up they feel its their entitlement to do the thinking for all regardless the outcome. It was all these dang generals and their brown nosing aides that gave us all the junk we have now and let congress decide what our jobs are rather than sticking up for us. They should just shoot any promoted above 04 and that would improve things greatly.

Good Afternoon Folks,

General Dubik himself is locked into “old think”. If he would pull his head out of his six and look around he will see that the Arab people are in revolt and although Americans are quite involved not are from the US military or the US Government. In 2001 three dictatorships have fallen and two are in their last gasp. Iran that was just two years ago five years away from a nuclear weapon no longer has a nuclear program, Syria Iran’s closest allie is in the process of changing it’s government.

All of this is happening and not a single American has died in combat, the total US investment is in the millions not the billions and democracy is coming to a part of the world that has not know self government sine the end of the 18th. Century.

The Arab Spring is taking war to a new level. US General like Dubik are as relevant to the 21st. Century as the kings and their knights on horseback of the 14th. Century. Old myths regarding Arab unity, the ability of a leaderless people to rise up and over throw governments that control large Armies and vast sums of money is not only possible but is being done. The role for the US is to say out until asked and then do only what is requested. When the fighting is over and the new countries are being formed keep out of it, don’t send money to a favored political side, trust the people.

There are other way of protecting America’s self interest then putting metal on target and boots on the beach. Its perhaps time for the Department of Defense to limit itself to that and let other countries and peoples work out their own problems.

General Dubikis just as wrong as those he is critical of.

Byron Skinner

If you bring in accountability then you would find that the leaders learn real fast. You reward and then resource and build programs with the folks who succeed.
Not the way we do it now, which is promote the incompetent, give them a big budget and when they fail miserably promote them to a bigger and more expensive program.
Our nation now lacks leaders because we do not assess a person by what they do. We assess them by their pretty words or snappy bumper stickers. We will punish our workforce, teachers and soldiers before we hold our piss poor leaders accountable.

What is all the complaining? We won the war –al Qaeda is ineffective, essentially out of business. Osama and Saddam are dead. Iraq has a chance. Afghanistan is now a rich corrupt country instead of a poor one. We getting out of Iraq. And if we stop promising to stay for ever, we can get out of Afghanistan. We developed a strategy–COIN– and learned it was a stupid idea. Just hope that we don’t have to relearn the lesson.

It’s collectively all our faults for electing the partisan dullards that we do. We don’t vote for people who tell the truth, we vote for people who tell us what we want to hear. So we end up with idiots like W and used car salesmen like Obama in the White House. Look at the straw poll in Iowa, Bachman won. My dog has a better understanding of economics than that brain dead twit, two dollar a gallon gas, she is a blue ribbon idiot. That really gets to the root of it though, we aren’t electing smart people. Obama talks a good game but he has absolutely zero background doing pretty much anything so he is stuck in perpetual make it up as you go mode. Until we select better leadership I wouldn’t expect us to fare any better in military operations. We will the tactical level, but our leadership just isn’t bright enough at the strategic level anymore.

Great article! Kudos to the general! As a military professional myself, I’m pleased to say I’m in 100% agreement with him. It’s good to see someone with more credibility me sharing and expressing these views!

To answer the two questions posed by Mr Ewing there at the end: yes, I do believe you can change a culture, but it’s next to impossible to do “overnight.” Therefore, unfortunately, I do not believe it can be markedly changed in time for “all of today’s threats”, but I do believe that with the right attention, dedication and process it *can* be fixed in time for the majority of the threats of the not-too-distant future.

Changing a culture, particularly one with a structure based on following the lead, is very difficult. Consider Lincoln’s problems with changing the culture of the military at the start of the Civil War! The men that turned out to be his best generals were for the most part “outcasts” in the estabslished bureaucracy.

On the other hand, you have to implement change with just a bit of caution. There are still some “truisms” in military thinking based on long standing lessons learned and unfortunately all too often relearned. Even in this most enlightned, educated, and progressive (LOL!) era its still possible to “toss out the baby with the bathwater”.

al Qaeda certain has seen its better days, but… the whole concept of asymmetrical warfare is doing things differently. I suspect that just as armed combat was redefined when boxcutters became weapons of mass destruction and hijaked airliners became cruise missiles, victory and defeat may have slightly different meanings these days.

If we refuse to recognize COIN as a mode of warfare, we only highlight the tactic of choice for our enemies. Unfortunately, I fear that they are intelligent enough to recognize it without our help.

Well, what would Saddam be doing now? What focus on Iran would be possible with the Iraq-Iran conflict clouding the WMD picture? Would Russia cut off contracts to Saddam anymore than they are willing to cut off Assad now? The idea of a hollowed out Saddam keeping Iran in check seems a hollowed out speculation.

Many points however make sense, but then where is the greatest lesson to be found? It seems omitted. The first thing Reagan did was to start building up assets and advancing a superior grail for military technology. And there was even a book called WW3 August 4th, 1985 that came out before the Fall that depicted where the tension in Cold War Europe was racing. Reagan was pressing with a stick and Russia picked option B that places them in a far better position that depicted in the outcome of WW3 August 1985. Our stick to Iran? MOABS and F-35s?

We need the capability to destroy deeply buried facilities without resorting to nuclear weapons. There seems to be a self-imposed moratorium on assembling the available ingredients in such a devise that neither requires orbital platforms or ballistic trajectories. We need the capability to destroy missile swarms. The DOD needs mini-reactors, fuel cells and platforms to field the DEW it has on the drawing board. The energy grails needed would also help the domestic economy that is indeed the limiter for military budgets.

In short, given the generalizations regarding politicians and war with its attendant apprehension over long deployments and potential risks, there is far more weight falling on superior technology and brighter strategic planning. Since I am not privy to what the DOD has up their sleeves, I can only hope they have procured “solutions”. I wouldn’t bet on it however.….

Fanned and Faved, unfortunately the electorate will probably select the idiot Rick Perry because of his hair.

An excellent article by Retired Lt. General Dubik. Not much to disagree with in his assessment.

It’s also worth pointing out that Lincoln’s most successful general were the ones who were willing to kill everyone they got their hands on and tag all the corpses with “rebel” or “rebel supporter”.

Since I can document one relative who was executed in Andersonville for choosing the Union over his state; and two others, first cousins of the first, who died of cholera in Camp Douglas, a Union POW camp in Chicago, I can suggest that that Lincoln’s war was a dirty one on both sides.

Sherman said, “War is hell!” and the American Civil War was just a bit more hellish than most.

Getting to the top is very competitive. I order to keep that goal you promote people that are not better than you. What happens then, is you tend to get people that are risk adverse and unimaginative. That is why you now have a dearth of people that do not know what they are doing at the top, because they have been promoted by a system that does not guarantee the best people get to the top.

The promotion system for Majors and above needs to change.

The General is right on. All of his coments are correct.

Getting tired of this. They are no different than politicians. Step 1, invent a problem. Step 2, inform public about problem to create fear. Step 3, request additional money to fix invented problem.

My ezacr rhoughts on ths very same subject, and my VERY CLEAR reply is NoO we no longer have leadership at the top to accomplish the objectives, and responsibilities. It has been proven since the Korean War, up to today’s involvements world-wide.….My pweaonaL opinion is all due to the fact of who we, as a nation, have allowed to influence our decision making capabilities, which I’m sorry to say, doesn’t put the US first, and foremost. We have scarificed lives and treasury as a result of these continual blunderings, by the unqualified, and agenda driven fools, our travels throughut this wolrld have become suspect, and very lonely, by what friends we may hae left????

If we want to get serious about improving our strategic thinking, I suggest we start studying and applying John Boyd’s theories and commit ourselves to winning the strategic game of interaction and isolation. We need to unify ourselves around ideals such as Integrity First, such as the USAF has, however poor it has been of living up to it. When we fail to live up to our ideals, we introduce disharmony, mistrust, and friction, resulting in internal and external isolation. This is where our investment strategy and lack of integrity in the acquisition system has cost us even more than what can be measured in billions and decades lost on failed programs. http://​www​.dnipogo​.org/​f​c​s​/​b​o​y​d​_​g​r​a​n​d​_​s​t​r​a​t​e​g​y​.ht

Neither national nor internatoonal goals that favor our country, with an administration singularly focused on statism and reducing the US to the lowest common denomenator so we will be equal to the rest of the world. The educators of our president have taught him that the best hope for the world’s people is for everyone to be equal instead of the US providing an example and incentive to be to great, and he believes that crap.

We will not get leaders at the top who understand National Strategy because that is not a priority of the general public. Those of us in the military, and many of our friends that we influence daily, are painfully aware of the shortcomings at the national level. Unfortunately the avarage voter, uneducated in basic American civics, let alone accurate world history and political science, vote mainly on local, domestic issues (economy, jobs, etc) and couldn’t name 5 countries on the globe, let alone accurately articulate our relationship with any of them.

The lack of understanding of issues is the root of the problem — and GREED. Wars have contributed to the pockets of the defense industry and created wealth for a few. Mostly retired military –
Thoughtful article and good comments.

Somewhere in all the mix of politics and military there lie small grains of truth that can lead to a solution. The intelligent can find those grains; the truly superior intelligent will find them and start the implementation of the solution. To mind comes Gen. Marshall, he the lead proponent of what became the Marshall Plan. A military officer created a political solution to prevent another world war. Pres. Reagan, an actor and governor, created what was called Star Wars. It was a military solution created by a politician. Even when it was shown not to be technically feasible, he had the wisdom to play one of the USSR’s common ploys, subterfuge. Star Wars scared the crap out of the USSR and it was played into believing that the systems were actually working. The general’s article above says we need more people who can “see” the grand strategy and work with it, rather than focus on the current, next hour, next minute, tactical plan. Forget the instant gratification that seems to be America’s goal today. Forget political expediency of the moment. Do the right thing that ensures our national, long term goals.

This so called “war on terror” was doomed from the start, if you start out wrong, you will ultimately finish wrong, Thats what the General is trying to say. First off, we had no clear enemy(fighting military force), only a name, second, we had no fighting strategy, bush just deployed the troops and let the chips fall where they may, and third, the last administration had no exit strategy, thet tells me the last President never intended to end this on his watch. Colin Powell faught the first gulf “war” correctly, We knew who the enemy was, we had a plan of attack for destroying that enemy, and we had an ende game, and exit strategy, there was a reason why we held up short of Berlin (WWII), and Baghdad(Gulf #10. When the General tried to tell dummie rummie how this war should be faught, he fired him and put some knuckle head in charge that had no idea how to fight a ground war.

Part II
You can’t change objective mid fight, that’s exactly what Bush and the dummie did, we practically disengaged from Afghanistan when things were not going well(because they had no plan), and engaged Iraq, instead of changing tactics, the last administration changed directions.…hence the mess we have now. I disagree with the notion that we have no real Military Strategists, that’s what your Generals are for, the civilian leadership(Congress) give the go ahead to war, not the President.

Finally, someone with the courage to say what needs to be said! I don’t know how we came to confuse ‘war’ with ‘fighting organized mobsters and criminals’, but it has come to that. And, if history is any kind of a lesson, we are not fighting a real war, it’s fighting criminal elements. If it were truly a war, the military would not be the only people making the sacrifices, the civilians would be too. But, American civilians are NOT making sacrifices; they live day to day focused on reality TV, etc, worried about how the government can give them more. It is not war for them. And these are the kinds of people who are electing our civilian leadership. There are significant changes occurring in our society, culture, and country, adversely affecting the economy, the mood of the country and the good will of Americans. We have divisive ranks of millions of civilians in our society who virtually hate each other because of politics and distorted religious views. The current civilian leadership is failing America for not addressing these issues, and ultimately failing to effectively put an end to the Muslim threat to America.

The General is right on .…and dangerously close to a National issue in performance failure. When we had a Universal Draft, all men served for 3 years. Those years were not merely time spent dealing with starch and helmets. They were 3 years of LEADERSHIP training. The Prussians had a similar system. After those 3 yeaars were up we offered a man trained in executing orders, giving orders and LEADERSHIP — for free. Today, we have an industrial base composed primarily of self-absorbed morons who cannot process the simple idea of “Make Your MIssion”. We are paying for this degraded, patronage based, industrial system DEARLY.

I find it ironic that the insight offered by the General is most available to us now that he is no longer a part of the institution that he might have had a hand in reinforcing. Perhaps he worked diligently behind the scenes to challenge the status quo without effect but he will move to retirement and probably exploit his prior experience to re-brand himself for the lecture circuit. If he can make better headway in changing the system from his new vantage point, my hat’s off to him. I’m afraid to those of us who operate within the DoD monolith it would appear he has a firm grasp of the obvious. Now what?

Bush had a reason for going into Iraq, and it had nothing to do with 9/11 because everybody involved was of Saudi descent, we knew that a week after the event. We knew that bin laden was in Afghanistan at the time, and we also knew we had a chance to get him and pulled back, any military man would know you don’t do that unless it’s political. I try hard not to speculate about stuff like this, but this article dredged up a lot of bad taste I had in my mouth about that whole episode. The actions of the last administration lead us to where we are today, the only thing is, I don’t know if it was done on purpose and he(the last President)knew what he was doing, or he just surounded himself with a bunch of people that had no idea exactly what they were dealing with, either way, we are paying for that mistake now, and we will be paying for it for years to come. But I hope I’am proved wrong.

think about Korea„ Viet Nam„ Kosovo„ and now the middle east„ all fought with the same program„

It would be nice if all that we ever got from the Arab Spring was a new way to let people have there own future but I can guarantee you that if we let the Islamo Fascists run with the ball they will load it on a plane and drive it into every figure of US power they can. I think that the General’s article is the correct course to have followed for the Stans and IQ but what we really should have done after ejecting the Taliban was go straight into Iran and then the “Arab Spring” would really count for something. Mark my words here the so called ASpring is just a reconstituting effort for the Sharia Law mongers to begin again the quest for a crescent in their day. If we do not stand against it the Islamic collective will be chanting “Allah wu Akhbar, resistence is futile.”

I disagree. The General know all too well what he talking about. He is talking about military strategy and Military leadership, both of which we need to adjust. If we go into the next war without a clear plan of attack and a clear objective and end game, we will be where we are now, quagmired in nucertainty.…thats what he is talking about.

As in NCO, I was the most happiest as an E6 Medic. I had my squad, we did our missions, I counseled guided and mentored and got to play with the boys. Why is that relevant to this discussion? As an E7 Medical Platoon Sergeant, emphasis changed to management and some leadership. But what really changed was having to deal with the uninspiring and absolutely dismissal officer corps. Everything from O3 and above, was absolutely laughable in their ability to critically think. Again, how is that relevant to this discussion? There is no will to change the culture. There is no will to think outside the box. There is no will to fundamentally challenge leadership at most levels to embrace the war fighter concept. Its more about how to make the NCOER/OER sing and attain the next level. Until we can change our culture, think outside the box freely and not be branded as a maverick, be leaders — true leaders to our subordinates and press the fight not just on the battle field but in the 5 Sided Puzzle Palace, we will not be able to change our culture to win and support our national goals. The Puzzle Palace has got to listen to what’s being said in the field, to those who are out there every day, doing the job that needs to be done. When you have officers and senior NCO’s with no combat patch or very little meaningful deployment time, trying to make decisions for those who are humping the rucks and face shooting smelly bearded men, its not an equation that works. We have to change the culture. If we can’t change to support our national strategic goals and lead, not just manage, our troops, we are doomed to fail. Change is good, if led and managed. We need to take a hold of change, recognize that its a good thing and use it to our advantage and to the advantage of those who we have sworn to protect.

Don’t agree with the Go Mitt Go, but bravo on one of the most cogent and coherent responses I’ve seen on these message boards.

Shooting is probably a bit harsh, but can’t say I disagree. You have people in the Pentagon arguing they can’t focus on the 2 wars we’re fighting because it’s more important to plan for the war that hasn’t happened.…..the war the REALLY want to fight.

Actually I think (and hope) you’re wrong. The hardcore Islamists weren’t behind ANY of the revolutions, and people noticed their absence in the squares and on the marches. Many in the Middle East do not regard Iran as a positive example, and if nothing else it has served as a reminder that whether you’re governed by a military junta or a theocracy, you’re not free.

Look at Egypt as an example, the Muslim Brotherhood has been fractured by freedom, not united. The only unity the brotherhood had was their solidarity of faith under a brutal and repressive dictatorship which many viewed as illegitimate. With that dictatorship gone the divisions within the brotherhood are causing major tears only religious and political lines. Similarly many brotherhood members and supports have withdrawn their attention and support now that their “struggle” is over. More Egyptians are focused on reform, jobs and the greater economy than are focused on religion.

Iran doesn’t havea nuke program? Only those on the left are foolish enough to believe that. Iran stil says they do and there’s nothing to disprove that. “Democracy” is coming to a part of the world via these uprisings? The Muslim Brotherhood” isn’t “democracy” by any stretch of the imagination. They’re the “one world caliphate” and hard core sharia. Look at where Egypt is now, talking of banning bikini’s in Alexandria, closing the tourist attractions, keeping the Christians in dhimmitude and if necessary, killing them and blowing up the churches. You need to lay off the Ganja and Daily Kos, dude. .

Our CJCS Adm. Mullins says that we can’t handle the Somali pirates “because they have sophisticated weapons”. When you have people like that at the top, what chance do the guys at the bottom have? And when people like this brave admiral are making the choices about who moves up, where does that leave the actual warriors? We’re toast.…

I agree — and Mitt is a pitiful choice, but may be all we got in the end. Now Congressman from Idaho Raúl Labrador — there is a leader I could get excited about!!

I emphasize the word LEADER!

We sent smarter politicians to Washington, and what did it get us? This is what the electorate will be asking. It is a dangerous environment — the kind of environment that can get a new Hitler elected. Hopefully the electoral college will save us from that specter, just as it was constitutionally designed to.

Kill them all and let God sort them out, is still in use today.

We definately need adjustments, thing is the ones in charge have no ideal what those adjustments are. COIN works and works cheap, did it hrough the 80’s and early 90’s with good outcomes. We would go into an area and hook up with freedom fighters or govt troops depending on where we were at the time, give them training and go on missions with them. We gave them food — first aid — ammo — sometimes clothing, but we never gave them equipment or built schools and hospitals or roads. In our current situation when coin started it was reverted back to NAM philosiphy (which didnt work then) with building — equiping and paying thier govt. No one would listen to a bunch of guys that had been doing it — the brass had to go buy a standard and the only ones avail to them was NAM. Thus is why we are in the pickle(DoD war budget) we now are.

Do not expect rational conversation or arguments from the likes of Mr. Skinner. In all fairness, General Dubik’s sound Clausewitzian principles are not sancrosanct. He made some really good points in his article, but there is and needs to be a higher level conversation about American Grand Strategy. And the only place you will find that conversation going on these days is not on DoD Buzz, not in the halls of power in Washington, and certainly not in the think tanks. It is, however, being waged in the halls of academia, who are unsparing in their criticisms and generally on target. People like John Lewis Gaddis and Walter Russell Mead are worth listening to — they also are dedicated to upholding the classics of grand strategy, Thucydides and Clausewitz and Machiavelli and all the rest. These people have a broader perspective and no political or institutional axe to grind. Listen to them, and then come back and try to convince the mob that they are heading for a cliff…what is sad is how the “realist” faction has been cheering them on…leaping lemmings.

The problem is not that COIN is irrelevant. The problem is that COIN has become an obsession in certain circles. Overlay service rivalry over that theostrategic world view, and you end up with real problems. Dubik was just trying to be helpful, even though — IMHO — what he wrote missed the mark. The problem is not just execution and political will. The problem is that we need a grand strategy that the average person understands and will support. Too much of the strategic “dialogue” consists of unsopported opinions based on gross approximations and unstated assumptions. Hence our dilemma.

truth weather or not anyone wants to believe it is Osama did not bring about 9–11 ( I will accept what the brainwashed wishers wish us to say no matter how hard they try and elaborate the scheme.) We were attack by a different force. One that walks amongst us and points to others. The reason there is no exit strategy / end to the war is simple it is a choice of the PTB They want the Gold and gas from Afghanistan, oil from Iraq and any ancient goodies they can collect along the way. PTB will only give up if the people en mass stop them or they such both countries dry. The attack brought about what it wanted to here at least a little bit. The weakening of Constitutional rule and the establishment of Big brother. Oh yeh by the way if you don’t agree with them {(PTB). dark ones, Illuminati, bankers + politicians,& Satan; + some ahole bankers on top along with the numerous multinational corporations. } We are not out because it is not politically expedient thats that!


The general pretty much nails it except that he doesn’t address the mental malaise of “The Sheeple” who are no longer patriotic Americans hell bent on excellence and achievement but rather a gang of self-pitying whiners looking for “Massa Liberal” to cut them a check!

This concept of buying off the masses started with the donatives of Roman Emperors — nothing more than simple vote buying under the label of “bread and circuses” whiich marked the beginning of what Edward Gibbon spelled out when he wrote: “The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire”……

Interestingly enough, Gibbon wrote that prescient tome in 1776 — and it was his genius along with that of Edmund Burke that influenced the founders to design and execute our Constitution…….

Sources indicate that 8% of the US’s National worth has been spent prosecuting the Iraq and Afghan wars ($13,000 for every man, woman, and child). And according to multiple years of NIE’s, this “investment” severely compromised our national security (especially from 2003–2008). The invasion Iraq (whom our political leadership knew prior to invading was no threat to the US or its allies) never should’ve happened, and constitutes the worse case of criminal abuse of power (let alone defrauding congress, the American People, and our Allies), let alone the worst foreign policy disaster in US history. And those who conspired to go to war under these circusmstances should be prosecuted, stripped of their citizenship, and sentenced to the same fate as Saddam Hussien.

While our attention was focused on Afghanistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, et al, a real, hot war on our southern border rages. More Americans lose their lives on a daily basis than in all the others combined. That enemy has submersibles, heavy weaponry and most importantly MONEY. They smuggle a product(s) into our country that aids in the degradation of our society, they infiltrate every neighborhood in every city and the suburbs and what do we use to fight this war? Homeland Defense and LE. There are a lot of dedicated men and women but they are woefully unequipped and understaffed to fight this war. When is this war’s “surge” going to come? When are we going to put the same effort into sealing our borders as we put into the Af/Pak border? Put the resources of a CBG into the War on Drugs and see how many narco-subs are captured/sunk compared to the occasional P-3 spotting one and vectoring in a helio and cutter (my nephew just led the boarding party which made the largest narco-sub bust in USCG history so it’s not for lack of trying). Shouldn’t we “preserve” America along with “defending” it?

I would explain it, but that would stomp on the people’s ego’s that are in control. Then everything wouldn’t be easy and simple. The force shaping wouldn’t be acceptable and that makes the leaders wrong. So okay everybody can be educated and are equally intelligent. Race, sex and age are acceptable reasons to promote. Quotas are in place for a reason and that makes them right.

I learned in Command and General Staff College that the “military is just an extension of political will”. That has always stuck with me and is applicable now more than ever. Political will is only as good as the next election and things change only because it is forced upon the politicians like “ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq”. There were a lot of things wrong with the prosecution of both wars, but that would fill a book and one I am going to write. You can’t just throw people, resources, and political will at an enemy. You have to have a coherent strategy and one that answers, as one of my former bosses said “You have to answer the SO WHAT? question. If you win the war, so what? If you do this particular course of action, so what? If we pull out without things being good on the ground there, so what? Using just this simple step would significantly help the leadership in figuring out what they need to do. There are many lessons as to what we did and the outcome of the actions we took. Instead of using Vietnam as an example, Algeria would have been the way to go when the French fought insurgents there. It would not be an exact match, however, it would have been better than depending on Vietnam strategies and the missions done in support in the prosecution of the war. This type of strategy of answering the “SO WHAT?:” question will be in my book on how we lost the war in Afghanistan that I am slowly but surely writing. It is not hard to change the thinking of our leaders as long as they don’t focus on what will get them re-elected as it is all about the elections and nothing else. Shameful, but what are we going to do? How about voting all of them out of office regardless of party. Vote for the other person, party be damned, and get some new people in. Anything is better than what we have now for politicians.

The Athenians, being a democracy, struggled with the wages of demagogery. Virtually all of the Athenian writers who lived through the Peloponnesian War — Thucydides, Plato, Aristophanes — used the literary genre of choice — history, philosophy, drama — to attack the Athenian “politicians”, who after all, were the representatives of the Greek citizenry. War may be futile, or it may be unsuccessful, but it is not meaningless. The first step in recovering the lessons of the past is to discover the truth — what really happened, and how it happened. We are still too close to facts on the ground in Afghanistan — or Iraq for that matter — to render Olympian verdicts. It might behoove our soldiers to ask themselves, “What could I have done better ?”


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