Sunday, May 10, 2009

Wednesday's Brain Food

abu mugqawama has this from his Random Bits post from last Sunday.

Gian Gentile and Tom Ricks agree on something! Seriously, they both think that you should read this article by noted military historian Dick Kohn on the decline of the U.S. military.

Korn begins:

Nearly twenty years after the end of the Cold War, the American military, financed by more money than the entire rest of the world spends on its armed forces, failed to defeat insurgencies or fully suppress sectarian civil wars in two crucial countries, each with less than a tenth of the U.S. population, after overthrowing those nations’ governments in a matter of weeks. Evidence of overuse and understrength in the military abounds: the longest individual overseas deployments since World War II and repeated rotations into those deployments; the common and near-desperate use of bonuses to keep officers and enlisted soldiers from leaving. Nor is it only the ground forces that are experiencing the pinch. The U.S. Air Force has had to cut tens of thousands of people to buy the airplanes it believes it needs. The U.S. Navy faces such declining numbers of ships that it needs allies to accomplish the varied demands of power projection, sea control, and the protection of world commerce.

A worthy and thought provoking read that lists three factors.

One factor is that the threats currently facing the United States, many of them building for a generation or more, do not yield to the kind of conventional war that our military is designed to fight. The challenges to global stability are less from massed armies than from terrorism; economic and particularly financial instability; failed states; resource scarcity (particularly oil and potable water); pandemic disease; climate change; and international crime in the form of piracy, smuggling, narcotics trafficking, and other forms of organized lawlessness.

Another factor is the role the United States has assumed for itself as the world’s lone superpower—the guarantor of regional and global stability, champion of human rights, individual liberty, market capitalism, and political democracy, even though promoting those values may simultaneously undermine the nation’s security.

A third factor in the disjuncture between the needs of American security and the abilities of the military establishment is not much discussed: deficiencies in American military professionalism. This problem, hidden because our military regularly demonstrates its operational effectiveness in battle, is the focus of this essay.

A must read to help understand the challenges in the 21st century.

Catching up to some of the best posts of the week, finds Mark of Zenpundit getting double billing for these two posts.

The Pushtunistan War where Mark comments on a recent article by Former CIA Kabul Station Chief and NIC member Graham E. Fuller, who bitterly blasted the Obama administration for their Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy on Huffington Post. Mark adds incisive comments and links twelve blogs with more indepth comments about Af/Pak.

Marks next post offers a look back at Herman Kahn the most famous nuclear strategist during the early days of the Cold War,The Wrath of Kahn.

Don't forget to read the comments section for a great point counter point discussion of the merits of nuclear deterrence.

The Joint Warfighting Conference 2009 is taking place this week and several blogs are covering the proceedings. Some of the best comments are coming from Galrahn of Information Dissemination with this post, Joint Warfighting Conference 2009.

New York Times intrepid correspondent in Afghanistan, C. J. CHIVERS files this dispatch.

KORANGAL OUTPOST, Afghanistan — The helicopters landed in blackness before the moon rose. The infantry company rushed out and through waist-high vegetation and into forests on an Afghan ridge.

Over the next 40 hours, more than 100 soldiers from the First Battalion, 26th Infantry, swept Sautalu Sar, the mountain where members of the Navy Seals were surrounded in battle in 2005. They were looking for weapons caches and insurgents.

They labored uphill through snow until daybreak, when the company broke into smaller patrols above 9,200 feet. They descended the next night through gullies and shin-deep mud and staggered back to their outpost without having yet slept.

All the while, the insurgents watched. Why fight the Americans when the Americans were ready and strong?

Read more: In Bleak Afghan Outpost, Troops Slog On as Pentagon Alters Strategy.

This account could well have described American soldiers forty years ago in Vietnam, a century ago in the Philippines, or one of hundreds of patrols across the breadth of North America during our long period of Indian Wars. The weaker insurgent force watching and waiting for the Americans to let their guard down.

And now a few closing thought about the recent firing of General David McKiernan, commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan. His replacement, Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal brings a new prospective to the theatre that currently has slipped from thoughts of winning, as noted in article above, to just succeeding; An unanswerable question.

History although not repeatable, bears some similarities to our current attempts to change the game. During the Civil War, Lincoln fired several Generals before settling on Ulysses S. Grant to command his army. Grant brought a new focus and drive that understood the strategy needed to grind the Army of Northern Viginia down. Later, General William Tecumseh Sherman turned to unconventional warfare in the west to split the Confederacy and destroy their ability to supply the army with foodstuffs and ordnance by cutting a swath through Georgia and the Carolina's. The shock of bringing the war into the heart of Dixie, destroyed the will to continue the war. In the hindsight of history, Sherman's campaign is seen as a brilliant move that denied the South the ability to kill more Union soldiers and continue the war.

Let us hope that McChrystal is Petraeus's Sherman and can change the current strategy in Afghanistan to a winning plan.

1 comment:

mark said...

Gracias for the links!!