Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Blog Heard Round the World

Alexander Hamilton, American Grand Strategist.

A few days back I posted a thought prevoking link A Brief on the Accidental Guerrilla by Zenpundit. Since Mark first posted his brief essay it has generated additional comments by such diverse bloggers as Information Dissemination - New Doctrines Without Strategic Foundations, Abu Muqawama - Dogs and cats, living together. Mass hysteria!, MountainRunner -Recommended Reading: Kilcullen Doctrine,The Strategist - Sunday reflection: on “The Accidental Guerrilla”,SWJ Blog - Weekend Reading and Listening Assignment and grand strategist, Thomas P.M. Barnett - Safranski on Nagl on Kilcullen.

Joining that list is this thought provoking analysis from Joseph Fouche of Committee of Public Safety. His post distills the position articulated by Dr. John Nagl.

….In direct opposition to the ideas that drove American intervention policy two decades ago, Kilcullen suggests ‘the anti -Powell doctrine’ for counter-insurgency campaigns.
First, planners should select the lightest, most indirect and least intrusive form of intervention that will achieve the necessary effect.
Second, policy-makers should work by, with, and through partnerships with local government administrators, civil society leaders, and local security forces whenever possible.
Third, whenever possible, civilian agencies are preferable to military intervention forces, local nationals to international forces, and long-term, low-profile engagement to short-term, high-profile intervention

He then adds Mark's critique.

Zen correctly criticizes this “doctrine” on three grounds:

1. “Kilcullen’s three principles are an operational and not a genuinely strategic doctrine.”

2. “[T]his operational doctrine requires a sound national strategy and grand strategy if it is to add real value and not merely be a national security fire extinguisher.”

Then he adds Galrahn's comments:

I am beginning to wonder where [COIN] becomes a priority towards national security, and how we get to the point this becomes national security as opposed to imperialism. Understanding a culture in COIN is a means by which we implement cultural influence, and potentially force cultural adaptation. Toward what strategic national objective in national security do we participate in this doctrine?

I ask this question because Zenpundit is on to something when he calls this “The Kilcullen Doctrine.” I think there is enormous potential here for positive and effective results, I’m just not sure I see the answer to the “why” question though…

Joseph then turns up the flame on this debate by posing this question.

I wonder if asking for a grand strategy is asking too much from the American system of government. There have been few epochal grand strategic thinkers in American history: Hamilton, Wilson, Kennan, perhaps Jackson, Mahan, FDR, or Kissenger. Hamilton was the greatest of all. Talleyrand, himself an epochal figure whose grand strategy of legitimism ruled Europe from 1814-1914, once wrote, “I consider Napoleon, Fox, and Hamilton the three greatest men of our epoch, and if I were forced to decide between the three, I would give without hesitation the first place to Hamilton”. Hamilton adopted a system outlined in three of the greatest grand strategic documents ever written (First Report on Public Credit, Second Report on Public Credit, Report on Manufactures) that was so potent that even his Jeffersonian opponents adopted it whole hog by 1815 and followed it, excepting a Jacksonian interlude between 1830-1861, with stunning success until 1945. The first grand strategic dilemma that the Hamiltonian grand strategy encountered was the spectacular and sudden elevation of American power during World War I. America went from playing the role of challenger and spoiler to the role of nascent hegemon. This was beyond even Hamilton’s seemingly premature and grandiose predictions of future American greatness:

"I shall briefly observe, that our situation invites, and our interests prompt us, to aim at an ascendant in the system of American affairs. The world may politically, as well as geographically, be divided into four parts, each having a distinct set of interests. Unhappily for the other three, Europe by her arms and by her negociations, by force and by fraud, has, in different degrees, extended her dominion over them all. Africa, Asia, and America have successively felt her domination. The superiority, she has long maintained, has tempted her to plume herself as the Mistress of the World, and to consider the rest of mankind as created for her benefit. Men admired as profound philosophers have, in direct terms, attributed to her inhabitants a physical superiority; and have gravely asserted that all animals, and with them the human species, degenerate in America–that even dogs cease to bark after having breathed a while in our atmosphere. Facts have too long supported these arrogant pretensions of the European. It belongs to us to vindicate the honor of the human race, and to teach that assuming brother moderation. Union will enable us to do it. Disunion will add another victim to his triumphs. Let Americans disdain to be the instruments of European greatness! Let the thirteen States, bound together in a strict and indissoluble union, concur in erecting one great American system, superior to the controul of all trans-atlantic force or influence, and able to dictate the terms of the connection between the old and the new world!"

Hamilton's words ring out across the ages reminding us that greatness flows from the pens of patriots whose motives are love of country, not personal gain and power.

Drawing on others who have tried to articulate a grand strategy, Joseph offers his own thoughts to carry this important dialogue to the next level.

In part he writes:

If we’re looking for a rationale behind the Kilcullen Doctrine, perhaps this would suffice. America expects a world of nations. In many parts of the world, there are no nations. America’s grand strategy should be to make a world of nations. This means that grand strategy should aim to establish a global dictatorship of law. Any law will do, as long as it keeps a nation’s citizen out of other nations’ hair. The maximal expression of this grand strategy can be American soldiers going into every nook and cranny of the ungoverned world and using COIN-fu to magically subject the riotous locals to the power of law or it could be the global minimum of collectively punishing a group of tribesmen who don’t think of themselves as a nation as if they were a nation. It certainly encouraged the indigenous inhabitants of this continent to develop a sense of nationhood.

I whole heartily recommend reading Joseph's post and the other's linked above. This is one of the most important topics facing our future. If we as a nation, by the very nature of our fluid form of governance, has a hard time formulating a grand strategy we citizens must join the debate with informed voices, un-encumbered by partisan politics and motivated by love of country.

No comments: