Wednesday, November 2, 2016

"Insert pithy quote about war, here"

Empress Trudy

Bernie and the Bernouts were more than likely an astroturfed fake candidacy engineered by the DNC to 1) lend truth to the lie that there's a legitimate primary process with a choice and 2) give a platform to the fringe elements of the democratic party for things Hillary can't say. Almost all of them were never NOT going to vote for whomever the DNC choice was and there's always 6-9% of the voting public who vote or who claim to vote 3rd party. McMullin in Utah is an anomaly who might take Utah and Idaho but that's it. In fact given the air time Fox gives him they appear to have special interest in him.

In any case, I have yet to hear a direction for national strategic policy that interlocks with plans goals and objectives for the DoD from either Trump or Hillary. One is going to smash ISIS while the other is going to smash ISIS. But

And then what?

Whether we have a 250 ship navy or a 350 ship navy - what objectives will they be used to forward and if need be, aggressively prosecuted? If we modernize and build down our nuclear arsenal 50% by 2022 to ~3,500-3,600 warheads who or what will they be aimed at and what do we hope to accomplish with that nuclear posture? Is there a plan, posture, policy, goal, or set of success criteria? Do we even know what the difference between success and failure look like?

We seem very unclear and unsure who our friends, enemies, colleagues, allies, fair weather friends are. We seem unsophisticated almost ignorant about what their drivers are. We are mired in chaos where our policy, such as it is, is either non-existent or an even more troubling mess of goat rodeo of standing-around-ism.

For all his victory lapping, Obama has what is essentially a small to mid sized MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit) freely engaged in combat operations in Iraq and Syria, today. Right now. After 15 years of non stop operations we know how to avoid casualties but it translates into slow or no progress along the lines of objectives which are never cleanly articulated. If this is Non-War, then what does success look like? How do we know we're done?

14 years ago Max Boot published "The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power" which set out to define what it means to fight wars in the furtherance of American policy in war where the age of massive mechanized armies facing off each other is over. This thinking and the thinking of others lead directly to the US's obsessive reliance on special forces as the go-to tool. The problem with this approach is 5-fold.

1) it's not designed for protracted fights that drag on for decades,

2) it's only successful in the context of narrowly defined objectives lest it descend into tribal butchery,

3) it's just as taxing as large wars if taken on a global scale. It takes time, training, money to develop special forces,

4) it negates one massive advantage the US has in prosecuting any large war - the vast economic capacity to churn out limitless numbers of tanks, planes, guns, bombs that the US has been able to use since 1865 to defeat anyone anywhere and

5) it hides the brutish core of conflict. Civilians are more outraged not less with mounting casualties and more incensed with collateral damage It's sold as a clean surgical solution but it's anything but.

Those are tactics and logistics. The key is why you are fighting in the first place. Why are we ‘advising’ the Iraqi army? What American interests are bolstered? In Syria, if we don’t know who the good guys and the bad guys are then what are we doing there? We’re fighting against Iranian proxies in Yemen but alongside Russians and Iranians in Syria. And Syrians and the people we’re aiding in Yemen are opposed to each other. Meanwhile in Africa we have a very murky deployment related to South Sudan. The US had a large role in creating South Sudan, the country and Obama extolled it as another victory for his legacy. Now we’re calling them war criminals for doing what we helped them to do. The French army is deployed in the C.A.R. protecting people we call insurgents and terrorists who massacre people in the Congo in order to maintain French control over Coltan deposits. But our ‘advisers’ work with some of the same people in Mali to help the Muslims there throw out the even more horrible Muslims of al Qadea of Africa so that a third group, the Tuaregs can continue fighting a century long separatist movement against the French and the Mali central government. We helped overthrow the popular president of Nigeria to replace him with an Islamist who we call a moderate but who is now running a scorched earth program against Boko Haram. We have close relations with Kenya – who in the past few years/elections actively massacred all political opponents and waged ethnic cleansing against them...for reasons we’re not sure of. We support albeit reluctantly, Ethiopia because it has one of the largest standing armies in Africa so it’s supposed to maintain order which it does, when it likes, except when it’s helping Somali pirates and Sudanese al Qaeda terrorists.

In the grandfather of all American conflicts of the 21st century so far, on year 15 of ‘Afghanistan’ we’re no closer to figuring out why to stay there and why we should leave let alone a plan to get there. Our coalition partners have mostly gone home, there’s still no conventional central government there. The Taliban seem to be un-conquer-able, the opium still flows and the sole reason we haven’t admitted complete failure and the disintegration of the nation is because it was never much of a coherent nation at all since 1979. Let’s not forget for a moment that except for 1941 – the British army occupied Iraq from 1917 to 1954 through de jure independence and several coups all for no result or stability. Is the US prepared to put another 20 years into Afghanistan before we admit it’s hopeless?

I have to chalk all this up to willful naivete or intentional cynical idiocy. What does either Trump or Clinton offer us to proceed? What IS pacifism in the age of not calling war a war? I suppose one out is to proclaim a War On-. A war on terror, a war on drugs, a war on misogyny, a war on global warming. We can fight these amorphous boogey men forever. Trump proclaims he will kick ISIS ass. Ok, how, where and then what? They kill far more of each other than they do us. What if we just ignore then and let the chips fall where they may? Hillary for her part says the same thing except her version is to say Trump is too nice to Russia - - - who her boss is working WITH, today and who she herself tried to create a Nixon Goes to China Moment with. I can’t see a way forward unless we cut our losses, radically narrow our objectives, reign in our tactics and timetables and deploy force in a way that makes sense. We lost the theme of why and how you wage small wars. It’s not enough to employ as small a force as you can politically defend and excuse, you also have to deploy the largest force you need to get the job done as ruthlessly and as quickly as possible. And then when you’re done you have to be able to leave as rapidly as possible in a way that doesn’t force you to return. Unless you can do all of that then you have no business getting involved at all.

1 comment:

  1. Well, I'm pretty sure that Sanders was not a fake candidacy, but other than that this is an exceedingly interesting piece.

    I do not know if you are correct in all the details, but I think that your view of the United States as a lost child in a foreign policy house of mirrors is accurate. You did not use that imagery specifically, of course, but that’s certainly what I took away from it.

    And, indeed, why not drop out?

    The US clearly has no clue what it is doing because it seems to have no actual national goals. It’s rather difficult to achieve national goals if no one really has any clue just what they might be.

    I have to say, tho, I am becoming more and more enamored of Pat Condell’s view of the campaign as one between a traditional American political culture (and I suppose Trump comes close enough to fit the bill) versus a European-style political culture that empowers foreign elites over local populations and that flings the dice on their own cultures via mass Muslim immigration.

    It seems to me that Obama’s most genuine legacy will be in moving US political culture a good distance down that road and Hillary will make the process damn near unstoppable.

    We shall see.