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On War #314: Can He Think Big?

William S. Lind
9 September 2009

An article in the August 28 New York Times described a recent epiphany on the part of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen. It seems that Admiral Mullen now “gets” a point Fourth Generation war theorists have made for years, namely that Information Operations are less what you say that what you do. The Times reported that

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has written a searing critique of government efforts at “strategic communications” with the Muslim world, saying that no amount of public relations will establish credibility if American behavior overseas is perceived as arrogant, uncaring or insulting…

“To put it simply, we need to worry a lot less about how to communicate our actions and much more about what our actions communicate,” Admiral Mullen wrote in the critique…

“I would argue that most strategic communication problems are not communication problems at all,” he wrote. “They are policy and execution problems…”

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Do we still need tanks?

Thoughts on the use of general purpose forces versus special operations forces and special forces in current and future conflicts. by Douglas Macgregor, PhD, COL, US Army, Retired.

Doug and I sometimes disagree on how much conventional force we still need.  In this PowerPoint (827 KB), delivered in April at the National Defense University in Washington, DC, he makes his case.

warriors_rage_coverCOL Macgregor is Lead Partner of The Potomac League, a decorated combat veteran, and author of several books, including most recently The Warrior’s Rage, The Great Tank Battle of 73 Easting.

http://www.amazon.com/Warriors-Rage-Great-Battle-Easting/dp/1591145058

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Max and Loggie Debate the War

[Editor’s note:  Two of our more frequent contributors recently engaged in some e-mail ping-pong, and they thought you might enjoy their exchange.  Loggie is a retired logistician, now consulting. Max grew up in Montreal, Canada, and was exposed to the French Quebec separatist movement and the terrorist FLQ activity of the early 1970s. This exposure at an early age gave him an innate sense and appreciation of 4th generation warfare. He is now a broadcast television systems electronics engineering consultant who lives alternately in Toronto, Canada and Vermont USA.]

Max:

In a speech linked on DNI, by Sven, by Ret. US Army Col. Andrew Bachavich, fielding a question at the end, is asked about the MICC and the role it plays in the current tribulation.

There he stressed his own opinion that one needs to look past the MICC, as a simplistic and convenient excuse for everything that’s perceptibly going poorly, overspending, procurement issues and waste, seemingly misguided protracted misadventures, and what many see as the MICC co-opted military expansionist cycle.

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On War # 313: War of Exhaustion or War of Maneuver?

William S. Lind
25 August 2009

The war in Afghanistan appears to have settled into the category Delbrueck called “wars of exhaustion.” If it remains there, the U.S. cannot win. The American people will become exhausted long before the Pashtun do.

In this respect America’s situation is similar to that Germany faced in World War I. Germany knew she could not win a war of exhaustion. She therefore sought to turn it into a war of maneuver, successfully on the eastern front and almost successfully in the west in the spring of 1918 and also at sea with the U-boat campaign. The ultimate failure of the latter two efforts, an operational failure on land and, worse, a grand strategic failure at sea, meant the war of exhaustion continued. Exhaustion finally caused the home front to collapse in November, 1918.

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Fabius crosses his Rubicon

Neutrality on the Afghan War is no longer an option:

Hawks usually give two justifications for the war:

  • to prevent another 9-11, and
  • to build a stable and “good” Afghanistan (good being defined in many ways — cherishing human rights, prosperous, democratic, etc).

The first is the Big Lie. …

That should give you the idea.  Join the debate, on whichever side you feel appropriate, at his blog.

The heat on this issue is rising.  As Juan Cole notes in his blog today:

The bad news for Obama is that liberals and Democrats are far more hostile to the Afghanistan War than are Republicans. The Democratic majority in the House and the Senate could, if these numbers keep going south, become sufficiently afraid of their constituents that they vote to stop funding the war. Some close observers of Washington think the president only has a year or two before that confrontation with Congress takes place.

Comments are welcome (although please register your opinions about Afghanistan on Fabius’s blog);  please observe our comment policy.

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Inside Obama Administration, a Tug of War Over Nuclear Warheads

by Elaine M. Grossman
August 18, 2009

Global Security Newswire

WASHINGTON — U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden in early June blocked a Defense Department bid to revive a defunct program aimed at fielding modern nuclear warheads across the strategic arsenal, according to those familiar with the episode (see GSN, June 24).

Defense Secretary Robert Gates raised the idea of reinstating the controversial Reliable Replacement Warhead effort during a secret “Principals’ Committee” meeting convened by the National Security Council, Global Security Newswire has learned.

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New 4GW Manuals

We’ve just posted a new version of FMFM 1-A, Fourth Generation Warfare, along with two new manuals:

  • FMFM 3-23 Air Cooperation
  • FMFM 3-25 How to Fight in a 4th Generation Insurgency

All of these are available from our 4GW Manuals page.

These manuals for the Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian Marine Corps were produced by the 4GW Seminar at Marine Base Quantico.

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On War #312: The Silence of the Sheep

William S. Lind
4 August 2009

In early July, U.S. Army Colonel Timothy Reese committed truth. According to a story by Michael Gordon in the New York Times (reprinted in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where I saw it), Colonel Reese wrote

… an unusually blunt memo (concluding) that Iraqi forces suffer from entrenched deficiencies but are now able to protect the Iraqi government and that it is time “for the U.S. to declare victory and go home.”

As the old saying goes, ‘Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days,’” Reese wrote. “Since the signing of the 2009 Security Agreement, we are guests in Iraq, and after six years in Iraq, we now smell bad to the Iraqi nose.”

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Capabilities Needed for the Army Future Force, 2030 & Beyond – A Tale of Two Wars

David A. Shunk
28 July 2009

Click here to download (628 KB PDF)

[CR note: As readers of this blog know, I don’t see much possibility of conventional war between nuclear-armed powers.  This doesn’t rule out some occasional sparring, like the P-3 incident that occurred near Hainan Island in April 2001, but I don’t understand how a nation that has nuclear weapons would let itself be conquered by conventional weapons.  One suspects that Saddam wouldn’t have.  So I certainly agree with Sir Rupert Smith that “real” war — the “province of life or death” — has disappeared among the major powers.

Still, the possibility of confrontation — sparring — remains.  How serious could it be?  Lots of healthy disagreement on that point.  In this post, Dave Shunk, an analyst who works for the Army at Ft. Monroe, VA, poses a scenario for consideration.  Frankly, I think it comes in at the high end of what might be possible, but not outside the realm of possibility.  So even though I think the scenario described here is unlikely, none of us has an infallible crystal ball, and future opponents will find ways around those scenarios we most expect.

Colonel Shunk (USAF, Ret.) contributed a piece to DNI back in January, “Lessons learned from Afghanistan.”]

Comments are welcome; please observe our comment policy.

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