Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Long Warfare Theory

“No nation ever profited from a long war.”

- Sun Tzu
Sun Tzu’s immortal The Art of War translates into a shade over 10,000 words of American English, roughly 40 pages of aphoristic wisdom presented in language that probably 75 percent of public-school third-graders could understand. One hundred percent of our military officers should understand it, but they don’t, partly because fewer than 10 percent of them have read it.
The single-mantra version of Sun Tzu’s philosophy is “charge downhill, not uphill.”* You’d think that even cadets at West Point and Annapolis and Colorado Springs who graduate at the bottoms of their classes could retain such a short and sweet maxim and comprehend its gist. Yet the history of war is choked with case studies of generals who paid the consequences of attacking uphill when they had every opportunity in the world not to. Perhaps the most celebrated example of this was the Battle of Gettysburg, where Robert E. Lee insisted, despite the strong objection of his deputy James Longstreet, on attacking up not just one hill, but three of them (Little Round Top, Culp’s Hill, and Cemetery Hill).
The drubbing Lee invited on himself at Gettysburg was the turning point of the Civil War and the beginning of the end of the Confederacy. That Lee continues to be our most revered and respected general despite having lost both a war and a country by violating the most common gem of military wisdom should tell us something about the kind of reverence and respect we show generals, especially the Long War hooligans we have now.
A comparison between Lee and David Petraeus is as unavoidable as it is ludicrous. If we rate Lee, his singular lack of judgment at Gettysburg and all, as a 10, Petraeus weighs in somewhere to the right of the decimal point, and maybe to the right of zero.
Petraeus is a bull-feather merchant who gained primacy in the U.S. officer corps through sheer genius for self-promotion and wizardry at public relations. Though he is celebrated as our “best general” and enjoys a reputation as the military genius who “wrote the book” on counterinsurgency, he has in fact been singularly and purposefully responsible for entangling us in a long war that he himself admits cannot be won but that we will likely continue to fight for at least another generation.
Bob Woodward’s latest book-length spin surgery, titled Obama’s War, quotes Petraeus as saying “I don’t think you win this war. I think you keep fighting. … This is the kind of fight we’re in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids’ lives.” Petraeus supposedly blurted this and other uncomfortable revelations to Woodward “after a glass of wine on an airplane.” If Petraeus’s tongue can be yanked that loose with a single glass of wine, the guy’s as much of a drinker as he is a general. Maybe that explains a few things, like how the 190,000 AK-47s he handed out to Iraqi security force recruits vanished like a wallet on a New York City sidewalk and wound up in the hands of militants.
If, as prominent warmonger Lindsey Graham suggests, King David Petraeus is “our best hope,” our ship of state is already on a bow-first vector for the ocean floor. Lamentably, the state of American military wisdom is so pitiable that Petraeus may in fact be the sharpest utensil in a drawer otherwise inhabited by spoons.
This is, in part, because of a lack of intellectual integrity in our so-called war college system, the most prestigious icon of which is the U.S. Naval War College (NWC) in Newport, R.I. NWC is home of the annual Global War Game, the template from which all other U.S. military warfare simulations are modeled. Lamentably, NWC war gaming hasn’t been a legitimate test bench for actual war since the 1930s, when the likes of Chester Nimitz and Ray Spruance devised War Plan Orange to defeat the Japanese in the Pacific. During the Cold War, the Global game was rigged to “prove” that the U.S. Navy would only lose a handful of aircraft carriers in a toe-to-toe slugfest with the Russkies. After the Berlin Wall went Humpty Dumpty, the Global game turned into a venue for validating whatever cockamamie doctrines and weapons systems the three-star in charge of the college wanted to verify.
Arthur Cebrowski, president of NWC from 1998 to 2001, used the Global game – and every other war game he could influence – to promote his pet “littoral combat ship” project, a key component of his project to transform the Navy into a worldwide Coast Guard. After retiring from active duty, Cebrowski became his pal Don Rumsfeld’s czar of military transformation, a platform from which he propelled his network-centric warfare concept past everyone’s tonsils. NCW (not to be confused with NWC, mind you) became the new truth among the defense intelligentsia. Cebrowski declared it to be “an entirely new theory of warfare,” one that involved a “system of systems” and that turned “complexity” into a decisive principle of warfare. Cebrowski himself confessed that NCW itself was too complex to define, but that whatever it was, it made all previous thought about the art of war obsolete.
NCW critics correctly guessed that Cebrowski was displaying symptoms of a decades-old dose of the bends. Indeed, NCW has never panned out to be anything more than net-eccentric rapture designed to help a good-old-boy network of networks sell pricey hardware like the littoral combat ship to Congress.
Harlan K. Ullman and James P. Wade of the National Defense University developed an NCW competitor doctrine now known far and wide as Shock and Awe. One can most accurately understand Shock and Awe by picturing John Candy and Joe Flaherty of the old Second City Television show sitting in front of a flickering TV screen and chortling, “That Baghdad blowed up good, blowed up real good.” Shock and Awe looked real good on cable news until we discovered Operation Iraqi Freedom hadn’t given us anything but sticker shock and buyer’s remorse.
But the most virulent warfare theory to infest our New American Century to date has been the Army and Marine Corps’ “new” counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine, as manifested in “the book,” Field Manual 3-24. Contrary to the details of his manufactured legend, the only part of FM 3-24 that Petraeus actually wrote was his signature on the cover page. Maybe he did that so everybody would have an autographed copy. The book’s real authors were a team from the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., who plagiarized much of its material from older doctrines like the ones that worked out so ducky in Vietnam.
COIN doctrine suffers from a fatal internal fallacy. A successful counterinsurgency, the field manual insists, requires a legitimate host government that is in control of an effective security force. But major insurgencies do not occur in states that have a legitimate government and a functional security apparatus. Attempting to create those two entities in a country where they don’t already exist but an insurgency already does is futile, as proven by our experiences in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
America’s finest military minds (heh) have committed the best-trained, best-equipped armed force in history to an unending, ruinous war against an enemy that doesn’t have a single tank or airplane or ship and is led by a handful of cave dwellers who don’t even have a fort to fart in.
We have to give Lee credit for one thing: in charging uphill at Gettysburg, he was at least trying to gain a decisive victory because he knew his country didn’t have the strategic depth to fight a long war. Petraeus and his extended entourage in academia and defense think tank-dom not only want to charge straight up every hill they encounter, they want to make absolutely certain that their Long War lasts long enough to accomplish what Lee could not: the collapse of the Union.
*The Lionel Giles translation reads, “It is a military axiom not to advance uphill against the enemy, nor to oppose him when he comes downhill.”
Originally posted @ Antiwar.com


  1. I read the rest at Anti-War-dot-com.

    So.... my question is this:

    How the f**$ do we get off this sinking ship??

  2. I'm certainly not suggesting that anybody "throw" this commentary at POTUS.

    But.... it would be nice..... if it was somehow brought to his attention...


    We spend blood and treasure on endless war....
    and the Chinese...... outflank us.... everywhere.

    It's just sad.

  3. Long wars imply long rackets which imply big profits

    but only for the few

    the rest of us funnel upwards to them our money labor and flesh

    sport of kings

  4. Endless war for endless profits for the "too big to fail" crew.
    Smedley Butler is proved correct. War IS a Racket.
    semper fi

  5. This is a great post,which has a lot of readers.
    Such kind of post giving us various knowaledge,it worthy to read.It is so wonderful.

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  6. The best thing you have written yet.

  7. Thanks for the nice words, Andy.


  8. Unbelievable.

    Sats Spot 3 Miles of NATO Supply Trucks Bottlenecked in Pakistan

    Or maybe not, considering who's running things. Along with Pakistan's apparent pursuit of another generation of nukes, the great military traffic snarl is a sure sign of the deteriorating U.S position over there. Petreaus must be under a lot of pressure to “do something” about all this.

    Let's hope that whatever stroke of military genius they come up with isn't too stupid and/or reckless. (The fact that they're over there in the first place doesn't give one a lot of confidence in that regard).

  9. Dirty Little Secrets

    The hidden, awkward origins of World War 2


    The unexpected views of four key diplomats who were close to events:
    Just consider the following:

    • Joseph P. Kennedy, U.S. Ambassador to Britain during the years immediately preceding WW2 was the father of the famous American Kennedy dynasty. James Forrestal the first US Secretary of Defense (1947-1949) quotes him as saying "Chamberlain (the British Prime Minister) stated that America and the world Jews had forced England into the war". (The Forrestal Diaries ed. Millis, Cassell 1952 p129).

    • Count Jerzy Potocki, the Polish Ambassador in Washington, in a report to the Polish Foreign Office in January 1939, is quoted approvingly by the highly respected British military historian Major-General JFC Fuller. Concerning public opinion in America he says "Above all, propaganda here is entirely in Jewish hands…when bearing public ignorance in mind, their propaganda is so effective that people have no real knowledge of the true state of affairs in Europe… It is interesting to observe that in this carefully thought-out campaign… no reference at all is made to Soviet Russia. If that country is mentioned, it is referred to in a friendly manner and people are given the impression that Soviet Russia is part of the democratic group of countries… Jewry was able not only to establish a dangerous centre in the New World for the dissemination of hatred and enmity, but it also succeeded in dividing the world into two warlike camps…President Roosevelt has been given the power.. to create huge reserves in armaments for a future war which the Jews are deliberately heading for." (Fuller, JFC: The Decisive Battles of the Western World vol 3 pp 372-374.)

    • Hugh Wilson, the American Ambassador in Berlin until 1938, the year before the war broke out, found anti-Semitism in Germany ‘understandable’. This was because before the advent of the Nazis, "the stage, the press, medicine and law [were] crowded with Jews…among the few with money to splurge, a high proportion [were] Jews…the leaders of the Bolshevist movement in Russia, a movement desperately feared in Germany, were Jews. One could feel the spreading resentment and hatred." (Hugh Wilson: Diplomat between the Wars, Longmans 1941, quoted in Leonard Mosley, Lindbergh, Hodder 1976).

    • Sir Nevile Henderson, British Ambassador in Berlin ‘said further that the hostile attitude in Great Britain was the work of Jews and enemies of the Nazis, which was what Hitler thought himself’ (Taylor, AJP: The Origins of the Second World War Penguin 1965, 1987 etc p 324).

    etc etc etc