Monday, September 15, 2008

Total War

The death of William Tecumseh Sherman. . .
is an event that will
bring sorrow to the heart
of every patriotic citizen.
No living American was so loved and venerated as he

--Benjamin Harrison

I kick arse for the lord

--Dead Alive (1992)

Regarding Harrison: everyone is entitled to his opinion.

Still reflecting upon the Civil War, the concept of Total War introduced by Grant, Sheridan and Sherman has been in Ranger's mind. Prior to those men, combat operations were generally conventional in nature.

Their new idea, total war, implies the application of technology and the aiming of destructive forces at the enemy's citizenry, extending the fight beyond the confines of the battlefield. It took war from the artificial construction of fighting over plots of ground, and made it personal and societal in scope.
Sherman and Grant destroyed a civilian infrastructure to separate the conventional Army from civilian support, as well as to destroy both the military's and the civilian's will to fight.

This concept of total war that evolved is offered by way of example to show that COIN is actually a distorted innovation of the method, which is now aimed totally at the civilian population's will to fight, after their army has been militarily crushed. Unlike previous conventional wars, the U.S. death toll in current hostilities indicates that the civilian population has not lost their will to fight. It is like putting the cart before the horse, except there is no horse, and we are fighting the cart.

uring the conventional phase, Shock and Awe was aimed at both the civilian population as well as the military structure. However, even that full-on attack did not achieve its objective. Though it achieved the military end (sort of), it did not destroy the civilian will to resist.

Today, the U.S. military conducts nation-building and COIN operations that target purely civilian populations. What the U.S. calls COIN actually consists of battling elements of foreign civilian populations hostile to our occupation. This is a form of Total War, sans war.

In Iraq and Afghanistan there are no enemy armies, there is no enemy country, and yet we fight.

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Blogger FDChief said...

I would opine, rather, that Bill Sherman wrenched war back out of the dainty white-gloves of the professionals and steered it back to where it had been during Roman times, or in the Thirty Years' War: a savage bloodletting of all against all, a reaving and hrrowing of the land so as to render it too sterile to grow a Cadmus-crop of warriors.

The element of true terror, of fire and rape and sack as a punishment for resistence, has always been ONE of the elements of war. But for a couple of hundred years it was largely forgotten by the European kings and marshals maneuvering their little toy armies around Bohemia and Saxony. Sherman's genius was his understanding that Johnston's army wasn't important. He didn't need to fight and kill it; if he killed the land that supported it and the people who trusted it the Army would die, too.

Grant had the mirror revelation: Richmond was a chimera. It was Lee's Army that had to be pinned down and ground down and finally destroyed.

But the process also needed a total commitment to the economics of war and to a knowledge of and pursuit of a well-defined goal. Instead we have none of the above, a nebulous hobby-war that is only life-and-death for those fighting it out in the scruffy, poorly-lit parts of the Third World, where ignorant armies and hapless civilians clash by night.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008 at 2:03:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Thank you for your analysis. Jim is an American Studies guy, and like every specialist, can benefit by those who bring a different perspective. You and MB do that admirably.

[As an aside: This is why the old Intel-dump was such a fine forum. What a collection of expansive experiences and thinkers!

I considered that to be true democracy in action. I did not have much to offer, but I learned much by listening to your voice, and those of many others.]

Tuesday, September 16, 2008 at 8:32:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

sherman's model for his march was epaminondas.

371 bce epaminondas and his thebans exploited their brilliant victory over the spartans at luectra by invading laconia itself. it was epaminondas that demonstrated how to invade, and break, a slave economy. attack the plantations, free the slaves. the spartan army refused during his march to come out and face him. they were far more concerned with the growing mob of freed slaves who were rising up all over the pelopponiese. epaminondas laid waste to the spartan economy and system to such an extent that later, when alexander was taking all of greece he viewed the spartans as inconsequential.

from epaminondas sherman learned the policy of sending the word ahead that any farms and stores which were laid waste in front of his advance would be returned by a burning of cities. one of sherman's ideas, which was later rescinded, that was also straight out of the theban's playbook was the breaking up of the large estates into smaller parcels of freeholds owned by the former slaves. it was sherman who instituted the "40 acres and a mule" system which was later taken down by the supreme court. his model for that was the way that epaminondas had finally gathered up the messinian helots and rebuilt, then fortified their home city of messinia. during that time his army would venture from their strong points to lay waste to any attempts by the spartans to reinstitute their system of large landholding collectives worked by slaves. his policy was simple, anything over 100 acres was ruined.

right before the fall of atlanta johnston, who was planning a fabian strategy against sherman, was replaced by john bell hood, the kentucky born texan. sherman knew hood very well from their service together in mexico and in the southern theater before the war. he knew that hood was primarily a maneuver and offensive minded commander. that when sherman went east to the sea, hood would attack thomas in western tennessee and would likely break himself and his army on "the rock of chickamauga" thomas. that's exactly what happened. johnston continued to keep his army in the field but was never able to get himself in a position to do more than irritate sherman.

this strategy though, really has no application in today's arenas. had the initial push into iraq been one of absolute destruction of the sunni dominance, even unto sunni culture while at the same time fortifying and developing the regions of shiite and kurdish control, that would have been far too simplistic for the complex region.

already we have seen the destruction of the christian communities, jewish, and turkomen cultures which had been in place there since the time of cyrus the great.

the real genius of a sherman, or an epaminondas is that they enter the field with a plan in play to rebuild that same society and structure they are attacking. our jumps into afghanistan and iraq were done with such haste that the victorious commanders were as lost as a dog who actually does catch the car he was chasing. the stupid "what do we do now?" looks on the faces of franks, rumsfeld, and powell just about said everything i needed to know about how ill advised both of those operations were.

we are still paying the heavy price in blood and treasure for our acting in violence and haste.

we ignored the vital wisdom our founders tried so hard to pass along to us. by streamlining and easing the path into war as an instrument of statecraft, or even as a substitution for it, we have most certainly ensured that peace in our time is something that will almost never be seen.

a caesarian approach to the afghans and iraqis, or even an old school british colonial approach of simply taking the port of basra and kurdistan (which before the invasion was damned near a fact) would have certainly, and easily controlled the region by controlling the main production and transhippment points of the oil.

without the ability to face the american army, without the ability to exert any control over the only source of revenue, saddam would have been reduced to silly irrelevance.

the afghans would have probably responded to a caesarian strategy the same way as the gauls did. the hostile tribes, seeing their ancient enemies and neighbors prospering under a protected economic umbrella might have come in on their own

we'll never know, our dumb ass pitbulls are still trying to figure what the fuck to do with that car they caught in the street.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008 at 10:50:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous sheerahkahn said...

Though a Roman approach to warfare succeeded bringing in recaltriant tribes interested in furthering their lot, not all peoples were game for Roman social hegemony.
The main thing about the Roman methodology of warfare, at their height, was the ability to grind away at the opposing military, and then, with no military to protect them, force the civilian population to submit, or be enslaved.
However, if the civilian population refused...well, Jerusalem 70 AD is a classic example of civilian resistance to Roman determination.
But our current methodology is far more complicated because of instant communication, and video processing.
Americans like fireworks, hoo-ahh techonological wonders doing something or another, but thank you for not showing us the aftermath, and esstentially anything that panders to the "we are champions!" Monday night football imagery that all Americans really have of warfare.
But show an American the results of all our know-how...oh yeah, queasy stomachs anyone?
No, Americans love war, love the smell of victory in the morning, but goddamn the sob that shows them what the costs of that victory are...just show the American populace the head on the plate, so we can get back to our Monday Night Football!
No, Roman methodology of warfare and American sensibilities will never mix...but hey, COIN, there you go, the sterile method of Roman warfare for the American public. All the same results, while not making us feel bad.
I likey!
G-d help us all.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008 at 11:15:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

i just gave ya'll a big ol' linky shout over to GNB.

more folks drawn into rational discussion, bolstered by historical research might be something that can save us.

at times like this sheerahkhan, i try to leave no gods uncalled upon and entreated. i'll chain pray to all of them, then offer up a "to whom this might concern" prayer.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008 at 12:52:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous CTuttle said...

Ranger, This is just insane...

The Army's Totally Serious Mind-Control Project

Soldiers barking orders at each other is so 20th Century. That's why the U.S. Army has just awarded a $4 million contract to begin developing "thought helmets" that would harness silent brain waves for secure communication among troops. Ultimately, the Army hopes the project will "lead to direct mental control of military systems by thought alone."

They're coming in Broken and Stupid... F*cking incredible!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008 at 5:07:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Ghost Dansing said...

some sick theosophy involved with war, fer sher...... Roland

Tuesday, September 16, 2008 at 6:04:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


Where would anybody in the Army find a usable brain wave, especially among the officer corps?

Someone is making $4 million for nothing. Another very thoughtful contracting project.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008 at 7:49:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Ghost dansing,

One of my favorite tunes, besides "Lawyers, Gun and Money." When I'm at functions and wish to go ingonito, I put "Roland Gunnar" on the name tag! (I used to play with Tommy guns in my day.)

Technically, COIN is not war. War is between nations, and we are warring on people of defeated nations.

We kill to make our living. . .
but "dying ain't much of a living" (Outlaw Josey Wales).


Tuesday, September 16, 2008 at 7:59:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


It is unlikely that many Iraqis or Afghanis outside of government are furthering their lot. They can ask the Reagan question and arrive at a negative: "Are you better off now than you were five years ago."

One Roman technique is their chronic, long-term hostage taking, an action today banned by the Geneva and Hague Conventions. Hostage-taking definitely tamps down the will to resist when done methodically.

However, it is possible to view the open-ended incarcerations in Gitmo and other in theatre American prisons as a form of hostage-taking.

This could take us full-circle, and we may in fact be Legionnaires. Something to consider. The Romans could force submission or enslavement, but there was an alternative: to run and hide in unsecured provinces. We see the same thing with 4 million displaced Iraqis, and untold numbers of Afghanis.

As for the fireworks so beloved by the American public, they are useless without solid targeting data and intelligence.

COIN is not really antiseptic. The U.S. people are fed tidy precision bombing tales, and minimal collateral damage tales. And we are always courteous and apologetic when these nasty things happen, and ready to peel off a few bills to alleviate the unfortunates' suffering. It's all a lie.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008 at 8:21:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


I defer to your classical knowledge. My simple point is that the Civil War targeted technology, whereas the Romans slaughtered people. In Roman times, the people were the infrastructure.

I still think total war as exhibited by Sherman, Grant, et. al., was in fact an innovation, since it was applied in an industrial, systematic mode.

The objective of total war was to destroy the technological basis of the Confederacy: her ports, telegraphs, railroad systems and manufacturing. Atlanta was not the target, but the rail junctions were. At the Battle of Olustee, no one cared about Lake City, it again was the rail junction.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008 at 8:43:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Thank you, that was very kind of you to make the link shout out. I believe you are right: informed and engaged dialog, with the benefit of the broadest historicity, goes a long way toward achieving salvation, or at least, rectification.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008 at 8:54:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous sheerahkahn said...

"It's all a lie."

Well, I was alluding to that, but I yield to your directness.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008 at 9:16:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger BadTux said...

The problem with counter-insurgency ops in Afghanistan and Iraq is that our commanders have not learned the lessons of Sherman and Grant. When Grant sent Sheridan to ravage the Shenandoah Valley and remove that dagger pointing at Washington D.C. from the field of play, there was nothing left to be used to make war. The only way to win a counter-insurgency with armed force is by actions little removed from genocide -- destroy everything, level everything, have the pitiful inhabitants of the countryside too busy trying to survive or actually dying to make war against you.

Short of that, what you do is what Stalin did once the Red Army proved inadequate to put down insurrections in the Ukraine and Estonia -- he withdrew the Red Army and sent in the NKVD. By the time the UPA was finished, if three partisans met to plan an action, two of them were NKVD agents (or whatever they were called by then -- in the post WWII era, the NKVD was renamed, split, and re-combined several times). In other words, you do what John Kerry suggested and was laughed out of the 2004 presidential race for suggesting -- you rely on police, not soldiers, to end the insurgency.

What the United States is currently doing in Iraq and Afghanistan is a farce. Sherman understood exactly what he had to do -- the only way to end the bloodletting via military force was to win, and the only way to win was to break the will of the South to fight. He succeeded so well that guerilla action against Union soldiers was virtually unknown after the final surrenders of the war -- nobody wanted to see Sherman let loose upon them once more. You cannot use military force half-way and expect good results. What Sherman understood is that you must either use military force all the way, or not at all. All that half-measures did was extend the war, extend the killing, extend the violence. Sadly, half-measures appear to be the order of the day, which merely ends up with more dead bodies, more hatred, more killing...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008 at 11:26:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Publius said...

Ranger, this very good post of yours kind of set me to thinking about total war and viewing it through the prism of the Army's infatuation with COIN.

One good thing—and I use the word "good" advisedly—about "total war" as practiced since the Enlightenment is that it tends to be a very sobering experience for both victor and vanquished. After the Civil War, Americans wanted nothing more to do with total war. The price was too high. Euros were a little slower: they needed some more big wars, culminating with WW2, to learn the lesson. Note also that Euros, with minor exceptions, haven't really embraced wars of any kind since.

To me, "total war" means all actors pay a terrible price. So even Korea and Vietnam are only fence straddlers—because with the exception of a lot of troops killed and maimed and financial impacts, there was no death and destruction on the U.S. home front. Desert Storm certainly was not "total war." It was shooting fish in a barrel. I wouldn't view even this current adventure in Iraq in the early stages as total war.

So now we have a generation of Army officers embracing COIN and rejecting the idea of total war. I've got more to say on this topic, but for now, I'll just say that I'm getting the impression that a lot of field graders and above are kind of getting into the groove with these dandy little wars. From their perspective, what's not to like? The senior guys are virtually immune to casualties; even the casualties among the company graders and enlisted folk are in manageable numbers. Meanwhile, they get valuable live fire experience and a warm and fuzzy from saving poor heathens around the world. Killing a bunch of those heathens is just a cost of doing business. Just write 'em off as terrists.

From their perspective, the U.S. has unlimited resources to do these things, and besides, what's money and a few casualties when we're doing this important missionary work?

My broad brush is undoubtedly unfair to a lot of military folks. But it just seems to me that our military isn't giving a lot of thought to what they're doing, but are instead only continually trying to build a better mousetrap. It's understood that their mission is to execute the strategy of their civilian masters, but I tire of their "hooah" and warrior horseshit. I guess I'd like to see a little more war weariness and a little less exultation about firing up a bunch of irregulars.

And the U.S. "homefront?" Every time I see a well-nourished civilian cheerleading for war, the first thing I ask is, "ever been in one?" The answer is almost invariably "no." I may disagree with a lot of the active military, but I respect what they've gone through. These "patriotic" bedwetters? Nah.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008 at 11:47:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger BadTux said...

Erm, Publius, after the Civil War, the United States executed total war at least once more -- against the Plains Indians. Just ask any of'em about General Phil Sheridan and you get the same response as you get from a South Carolinian about Sherman -- they literally spit at the name. Sheridan never said "the only good Indian is a dead Indian", but he came close to it, and he excecuted it, making war on their livelihood (the buffalo), making war on their women and children, making war on their horses, he just about exterminated them to the last man, woman, and child.

It wasn't until the post-WWII era that America moved away from total war as a philosophy for destroying the will of enemies to fight, and at first that was only because total war in the atomic era invariably meant nuclear weapons, and nobody was crazy enough for that. But this recent nastiness in Iraq and Afghanistan... it's military nonsense. Just utter nonsense. It's what happened when you have a buncha goddamned politicians calling the shots and ordering troops into a situation for political reasons. It's bullshit. Sorry, I have trouble staying polite here...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 at 1:24:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Stormcrow said...

badtux wrote ...

The only way to win a counter-insurgency with armed force is by actions little removed from genocide..

Not always true.

Successful counterinsurgencies include campaigns like the one Ramon Magsaysay operated against the Hukbalahap guerrillas between 1950 and 1954. Far from being genocidal, it featured extremely astute psychological warfare combined with systematic expansion of the government's base among the civilians in the affected area, at the expense of the guerrillas. Captured guerrillas were not tortured or summarily executed, and this sometimes yielded defections. Defections were also encouraged by a host of other highly inventive means, running the gamut from simple graphic propaganda to play-acting. Magsaysay's people weren't above "dirty tricks" either, such as publicly congratulating waverers for their "aid", in order to force their allegiance.

There's a short history of this available on the 'Net: THE HUKBALAHAP INSURRECTION: A Case Study of a Successful Anti-Insurgency Operation in the Philippines, 1946-1955.

Another example of non-genocidal CI would be the British campaign against the IRA, from the mid 1970s, when, for reasons I don't yet know, they changed tactics, through 1997. According to one of Bill Lind's essays, the British Army lost more men KIA during this period than the IRA did. But the story isn't in the numbers, because the IRA finally quit fighting, in favor of political action.

Genocidal CI is both common and infamous. But special circumstances and/or unusually high quality leadership can produce success with other approaches.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 at 7:33:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


"The utter helplessness of a conquered people is perhaps the most tragic feature of a civil war or any other sort of war." (Rebecca Latimer Felton) And yet, without that brutal domination of the stronger against the weaker, war can end up being a slow, excruciating dissipation of all forces.

Were Sherman and Grant, "cruel to be kind"?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 at 7:38:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Storm Crow,

You add a fine point but I'd like to comment and clarify Bad Tux's position, if I may be so bold.

We must make distinctions about COIN operations that are legitimate government opns versus those that are externally imposed on the civil population.

The Huks were suppressed because the government was legitimate and acted accordingly and to the benefit of the larger society.
The COIN that is discussed by BT is actually aggressive war being packaged AS coin. If there is no legitimacy, there is no success in COIN.

Your comments are accurate and interpreted properly. Thanks for your thoughtful input.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008 at 8:12:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


Your comments re. Euros turning away from war is generally true, BUT the U.S. is doing everything in its power to re-militarize them and make them fight aggressive wars again, for whatever reason. Panzer grenadiers in Bosnia do not warm my heart.

The problem with COIN is that it is based upon a lie: the U.S. is spreading democracy. Re. the evolution of that lie. . .

It is based upon the lie that we were defending the world with our MAD policy. We were willing to destroy Europe in a nuclear war, in order to defend it from the spectre of Communism. COIN is simply an extension of that policy.

Re. Desert Storm: in our training, this would be a classic example of the air-land battle, certainly not Total War.

It is appropriate for either of us to use a broad brush since all of the lies handed to us re. the PWOT are even a grosser application than a broad brush.

Why do we need to be specific when they thrive on generalities and feel-good propositions not reality-based? By extension, you say you have no feel for today's Army -- may I suggest that we both have the same attitude, which clearly extends to the whole country. We cannot relate to America, because that construction is purely propaganda.

I never thought I would arrive at the day where I would feel ashamed of my country. When you say, "well-nourished civilian cheerleading for war," would you be saying, "fat-assed, dumbass American"? I wonder how they can heft themselves out of their barcoloungers to lead the cheer.

Like badtux, I find it hard to be polite anymore. Since you're a friend here, you may have seen the evolution in my courtesy level. When I began, I insisted upon courtesy and respect toward the office of president and the man. I know know otherwise.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 at 9:45:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...


re: the respect for the office thing.

i still try, for the most part, to adhere to that. i've counted on it myself too many times. a couple months ago i had a run-in with a young sailor, in BDUs at the gate of the NAF where i do a lot of my shopping. the young man was paying more attention to the pretty little 3rd class he was on gate duty with and not a whole lot of attention to me and my car. anyway, i guess i might have jumped the signal, or mistaken what he intended to be a "stop" as a wave through. as i was trying to get myself a wave through our conversation finally descended to this, as i was about to finally drive away i heard him mutter "asshole" under his breath. that's when i went off:

see that sticker? (pointing to the base sticker) see that anchor? that fucking anchor means that even when i'm the biggest asshole on the planet it makes me "chief petty officer" asshole to the likes of you lad. even when i'm not deserving of any respect, you better hong kong respect the fuck out of that anchor and anyone who has earned the right to wear it. give plain old military goddamned courtesy a try. who knows? if you show enough of that they might even let you start dressing like a sailor instead of a fucking grunt. even when jarheads used to pull this duty they made them wear their charlies.

sometimes, we have to address the uniform, or the office, and not the man. it might be the only thing standing between us and anarchy.

besides, there've been too many times when i didn't live up to my insignia. sometimes a modicum of respect and deference given unearned was the reminder that i needed.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 at 11:25:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous sheerahkahn said...

" I insisted upon courtesy and respect toward the office of president and the man. I know know otherwise."

I've often heard, "you salute the rank, not the man" and yet I cannot help but think that caveats exist for this advice.
Caveats of imperialness that can either inspire, or repel, and often I think that though the sentiment is true that it is the respect of rank I salute, I'm also confronted with the face-to-face reality of abuse of the rank by the man wearing the insignia.
My measly two months in the Marines taught me a lot about how to respect the rank, the unfortunate consequence of such limited exposure was to experience the abuse of that rank.
That wouldn't come till much later in my defense job, and thankfully, I didn't have to salute anyone then.
So now, I have a healthy disrespect for anyone of rank...sorry, I've seen too many pretenders hide behind their colors of office.
I've found its always good to have a healthy disrespect of anybody in a particular office or rank, because it's not the office or rank you are holding suspect, but rather the fool occupying it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 at 11:40:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

sometimes, the only proper response is a joke full of bad language

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 at 12:12:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


I had a situtaion at Ft. Benning perhaps 10 years ago. I was on my way to the officer's club when an E-4 MP stopped me and said I couldn't continue past a certain point. He assumed I was a demonstrator vs. the School of the Americas simply b/c I had a beard and long hair. I identified myself as an officer, retired, and he let me through and left.

I stopped him, told him to lock his heels and render a hand salute, as I had identified myself by showing i.d.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008 at 4:27:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


As always, your analogy to epaminondas is superlative and enlightening. Thank you.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 at 8:21:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous fnord said...

Publius, you write about the COIN crew: "From their perspective, the U.S. has unlimited resources to do these things, and besides, what's money and a few casualties when we're doing this important missionary work? "

I think this is a wee bit unfair. Since Intel-dump went down, Ive been haunting abu muqawama and a couple of other blogs, and the feeling I get from the reports of the folks actually in the field is much more that of a furious improvisation. By the acts of Rumsfeld, a whole generation of young professionals were dumped into deep deep water they had no frigging clue about, so they showed adaptability and ended up with F; 3-24 and the new COIN paradigm. Theirs is not to reason why, theirs is just to try to make a goddamn insane situation turn out as well as they can. And in that sense, I do not see them as Missionaries, rather as overworked underpaied craftsmen faced with a possible meltdown they somehow have to manage since everybody else is completely insane.

They are aware of the fact that its a suicide run, a holistic policy based on air and dreams and neocon insanity but they do not have the possibility of just saying "fuck it" and leaving. Because they feel fierce loyalty to the folks they have served with, and even in some cases, with the local civilians. COIN is the result of putting decent people in a untenable situation. Except in a few instances (Nagl), I dont see them as missionaries, rather as folks trying to make do with what theyve got. Theyre not enthusiastic, to put it that way.

Friday, September 19, 2008 at 2:02:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Publius said...

fnord, point taken about the folks grappling with the COIN problem. I don't disagree with you; in fact, I'll go so far as to say that if I were on active duty right now, I'd want to be involved in COIN development. Given my background and what talents I have, that's actually my natural place in the military scheme of things. I actually like you foreign devils and I've always enjoyed working closely with you.

I fundamentally have two issues with the COIN evangelists. The first is my overarching status as an American citizen, not as a military officer. Given the world as it is right now, I don't see a whole lot of places where I, as an American, particularly want my military to be deeply involved. I don't want my military to be assisting dictators and warlords in suppressing the freedoms of their own citizens. This is to me the crisis of conscience issue, the place where the just war discussions we used to have come firmly into focus. In sum, I don't want a colonial military.

Then there is the military issue. As a professional military man, I don't believe the time has come for the U.S. Army to become a small wars-centric force, a colonial force as it were. Maybe someday, but not yet. Too many uncertainties in this world, too many allies such as you relying on us to be a bulwark against darkness. COIN does not involve existential threats and I'm not convinced that either you in Europe or us in the U.S. have seen the end of such threats. We can "lose" a COIN war; we can't lose a big one. This is why, incidentally, I favor a robust nuclear deterrent.

One would be a fool to disagree with the premise that a strong COIN capability is a beneficial thing. And I'm not that big a fool. The issue really is the force mixture. It's my sense that many of the COIN advocates want to go too far, to the detriment of maintaining a robust conventional force. That's really all I'm saying.

And a final note, once again from an American perspective. I fear that a large COIN-centric force might be too tempting for future presidents who might want to run off saving the world. I don't like splendid little wars. You know, some 80 years ago, the U.S. Marine Corps was off in Central America making the world safe for banana growers. Bananas or oil, it's all the same to me.

Friday, September 19, 2008 at 9:38:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous fnord said...

publius: We are in agreement on both points. Especially now that the "hearts and minds" section seems to be not-so-gently kicked out of the book to be replaced with ye old death squads in taking the honour for the sucess of the surge. I find it fascinating that the president and his friends now have a separate elite force operating in the Afghan territories wich do not fall in under the commandstructure of the US army at all and is only answerable to God. Reminds me structurally of Waffen SS, really, the Leaders own elite doing his will only and being able to tell any general to shove it, being answerable only to God. Negroponte is not one to give up easily.

A positive spin on the COIN-issue, however, would lead away from the whole black-op fixation of the republican jocks and into nationbuilding, using military force as a force-multiplier for soft power, and as more and more seen in the Afghan theatre, cooperation with the UN with US forces functioning as bluecaps. I know most of you folks are vehemently opposed to that idea, but from a scandinavian NATO pov it makes a lot of sense.

Theres a good post on intel-dump.com on the draught coming up this winter in AFghanistan. Interesting stuff.

Saturday, September 20, 2008 at 1:38:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

F Nord,

I wholeheartedly agree that blue helmet is a viable option IF the US were sincere in wishing to solve problems rather than create them. I stand 5 by behind the UN concept EXCEPT if needs redefined and tweaked as does Nato.The US seems to believe Nato is a strike arm of US policy.The Euros must get out of that groove and eventually they will.The UN peacekeepers as it stands are generally eye-wash

US forces should NEVER be peacekeepers or nation builders.(imho)

If JSOC ,and I say IF,is in theater w/o being under the theater commanders control then this violates the principle of UNITY of COMMAND and is another nail in our phoney COIN/PWOT structure.BTW-I've always considered the SOFers as Americas SS. It'd be wise to form them as the French Legion-Keeping them out of CONUS.My strategic fear is that these types will be used against our citizens rather than far flung strategic threats like peasants in shower shoes.COIN is one of the biggest lies ever told.

The SOFers like to run rampant and killing /assasinating b/c it's so cool but it all boils down to intel and exactly who the target is to be.It's like a lunch special of the day-we're real flexible in picking up and dumping friends.

I'd like to point out that Spec ops and the resultant Black ops were a Democratic Presidents love child. The present generation of special operators are nothing but careerists seeking stars.This was not true in the good old days.


Saturday, September 20, 2008 at 9:56:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


Some off the cuff replies prompted by your personal observations.

-- Why is the Army the tool of COIN? Why not the CIA or DOS? CIA does have paramilitary expertise and mission, right?

Remember when IDAD fell under the control of the Ambassador? IDAD And pop. resource control are basically the bones of the COIN body-why not look at the old systems that did work much better than what we see today?

-- You are absolutely correct in saying that we should never fight a war that we can afford to lose. At least I think that's what you mean. That's my mantra.

-- As for COIN the last few weeks indicate that these feel good wars are going to break the bank and we're following the footsteps of the USSR. That's a great thought since you'll lose your discretionary funds that allow you to hit the links.

Maybe I'm just a pessimistic guy, but the handwriting is on the wall. We need to attend to the business of America-Fuck COIN.



Saturday, September 20, 2008 at 10:16:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous fnord said...


The sad part is that in Afghanistan we really had a shot at it (may still do, to be positive.) What should have been done was to shower them with money and goodies and communal swimmingpools. At the cost of the Iraq war, every Afghan living could be a millionaire if we had chosen to apply COIN that way. Instead, now were giving the war-chest to the Wall street yuppies. Ach.

Monday, September 22, 2008 at 3:25:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

F Nord,
Buying swimming pools will not purchase legitimacy.Screw the Iraqis and Afghans- we could buy 6500 houses per day for Americans.That would be my idea of COIN.

If every Afghan were a millionaire how would that make America any safer or better off?

My country can't invade and regime change and then try to say we are implementing democracy.The cost of this folly is coming home to roost. jim

Monday, September 22, 2008 at 4:47:00 PM GMT-5  

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