The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Military Effectiveness: ISIS, Taliban, Hezbollah

I think it’s worth emphasizing that what we’ve seen over the past 30 years is a revolution in military affairs.  New model militaries have arisen which are capable of fighting Western armies to a draw in irregular warfare, or even defeating them on the battlefield (Hezbollah v. Israel.)  It’s not that guerrilla warfare wasn’t effective before (ask the Americans in Vietnam), it’s how stunningly cheap it has become and how brutally effective at area denial and attrition warfare.

People completely underestimate the importance of the IED.  With IEDs the cost for occupation soars, and entire areas of a country can be  made no-go zones except for large groups of troops.

But just as bad is the cost-effectiveness.  Western militaries are brutally costly.  Islamic “militias” are cheap.  The Taliban runs on blackmail and drugs, ISIS runs, to a large extent, on donations from rich Muslims along with some state support.  These armies cost peanuts compared to the US or British or Israeli military.  Nothing.  And they are capable, at the least, of tying down Western militaries for years, bleeding them white and eventually winning.  Hezbollah is capable of defeating, in battle, what was (before Hezbollah proved otherwise) widely considered one of the most effective militaries in the world.

Next we have the “won’t take casualties” issue.  Americans just cannot get this, nor can most Western countries. If you are occupation troops, your lives do not come first.  It is better to lose a few troops than kill innocent people in tribal societies. You kill one innocent, and a whole pile of people now hate your guts. Even if they don’t do anything personally, the provide the support the insurgents need to operate.

It is also true that in many military operations the willingness to take losses makes you more effective. Again, Americans just do not get this.  They’re all focused on “making the other guy die for his country.”  It doesn’t always work like that.

The rise of blanket surveillance is a direct response to the last fifteen years.  It also is working less and less well.  ISIS just does not use phones or the internet.  Hezbollah built its own comm network to avoid interception.  This issue is one that solves itself very quickly: people who use phone or the internet get dead.

This has led, most particularly in the case of Hezbollah, to the rise of the secret state: where members of Hezbollah’s military don’t even tell their family members.  If Israel doesn’t know you’re in the military, they can’t assassinate you. More importantly, they can’t drop a bomb on your family and kill your kids, parents and wife.

The willingness to die is complimented by recruitment.  Americans keep thinking they can assassinate their way to victory.  They can’t.  In any actual effective organization, lower level people can fill the slot above them, and the slot above that.  A strong ideology, and strong doctrine means that leaders are replaceable.  Western leaders don’t believe that because as a class they are narcissists, who think that leaders are something super-special.  Almost no leaders are actually geniuses, for every Steve Jobs or Rommel, there are a hundred CEOS or Generals who are just effective drones.  They don’t matter.  Any reasonably bright person with a bit of experience could run their company or army corp just as well and almost certainly better.  (Canadian troops were amongst the most effective in WWI in part because they weren’t professionals. So they did what worked.)

Western societies are hard to run  precisely because we refuse to actually fix our problems.  Temporizing, “managing” is hard.  Fixing problems is a lot easier.  I know, again, that most people don’t believe this, because they don’t remember ever living in a country that actually tried to fix problems, and have never worked for a company that wasn’t dysfunctional, but it is so true.

So the West uses assassination and highly expensive troops who don’t want to die and extensive surveillance.  And the various Islamic militias, on budgets that aren’t even shoestring, survive and grow stronger.  They are evolving: getting smarter all the time.  They are Darwinian organizations: if you screw up, you die.

A military doctrine which is hundreds of times more expensive than its main competitor has problems.  In general, in military affairs, effectiveness is more important than efficiency.  But if your effectiveness doesn’t actually let you win, in the sense of making it so your enemies stop fighting, then efficiency will start to run against you.

The West is not unaware of this: drones are cheaper than planes, for example.  Ground combat robots, which the army is working on hard, may be effectively cheaper than troops, as well as having the advantage of requiring fewer troops, meaning less danger to the elites and more likely to fire in the case of a revolution.

Finally, I note again, that I do not expect drones and the new ground combat robots (about 10 years out) to remain tools of the powerful for all that long.  Competent technicians will be able to make home brew models fairly effectively and quickly.

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Many Sunnis are already returning to Mosul


Developments in Iraq


  1. Christopher Fay

    The Rumsfieldian Ratio

  2. To phrase what you are saying somewhat differently, Ian, we think we can win by killing leaders because we don not know what leadership is. We have no leaders, either in business or government, have not had in many years, and so we do not know how leadership works. If we did we would know that an effective leader builds an organization that can function without him, and develops subordinates who can replace him.

  3. markfromireland

    Yes to all of this but:

    In general, in military affairs, effectiveness is more important than efficiency. But if your effectiveness doesn’t actually let you win, in the sense of making it so your enemies stop fighting, then efficiency will start to run against you.

    Now this is very true. But it leaves out something that is at least as important and that is adaptability. The Taliban, The Hizb, and now Da’ish aren’t tied a doctrine, they expect their commanders down to fighting group level and up to supreme command to be able to alter actions to circumstances. All three groups have a lot of experience in fighting and in seeing what works and what doesn’t. (They also have long long memories and believe fervently in retribution).

    I know I’ve said this to you before but it bears repeating. “Surprise” is an incapacitating event that you cause to take place in the mind of an enemy commander. All of these groups use the Takbir (“Allahu Akhbar!”) as a war cry. But (sorry, third time in one comment is tedious I know) they could just as well shout “Surprise!”.

    Really Hizballah need a new battle flag the new version should still have the Green kufic script reaching up to the AK surmounted by the Quranic verse on a yellow background but underneath the text reading “The Islamic Resistance in Lebanon” they should add a third legend “مفاجأة!”. It would probably look pretty good flying triumphantly over the steeple of Kafr Birim but they’ll never do it because the important ingredient in surprising people is not letting them know what you’re up to.


  4. pond

    Another way to look at this is to say it is not new at all. Basically: it is cheaper to defend your home than send armies 1000’s of kilometers away to conquer somebody else’s home, and then to rule it from afar. The USA ought to know this as it is how the country gained independence in the first place.

    Foreign soldiers stand out in an alien culture. The US soldiers did not speak Arabic, did not dress like Iraqis, did not believe in the ruling religion or understand its culture. To the occupying forces, the natives were all the enemy, and to the natives, the occupying forces came to be seen as the enemy.

    There are a few models for imperial rule of colonies. The only model that has succeeded over the past century is to colonize through immigrants. So, European nations lost their African and Asian colonies, but the Jews have so far succeeded in colonizing Palestine, and the Chinese are succeeding in colonizing Tibet. It is also how the US succeeded in colonizing most of the lower 48 states, Texas, and Hawaii.

    The Bush and Blair administrations would have been well advised to ship tens of thousands of Mormons and other emigrants to Iraq. Conquering Iraq was a 3-week affair, and President Bush was quite correct when in May 2003 he announced that ‘major combat operations in Iraq have ended.’ But ruling the conquered land was another matter.

    It might also be said that, rather than independence becoming cheaper, warfare for the advanced nations has become exponentially more costly. And yet, for purely defensive struggles, the US could probably eliminate its armies and navies and air forces entirely, and depend on the NRA to defend the homeland at a very low cost.

  5. JustPlainDave

    One thing that bears some thinking about is that the absolute costs of effective guerrilla warfare have also increased. Yes, the cost of fielding western forces has skyrocketed and far outpaced the costs of irregular forces, but the costs of mounting effective resistance have also increased very significantly. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the effective resistance movements cited as examples here are also at the high end of the irregular warfare cost/capacity spectrum.

  6. thepanzer

    I think what amazes me the most is the fact that everything Ian wrote is known/taught/accepted by US military leaders but they’re completely incapable of behaving any differently. I had the opportunity to attend a critical thinking and analysis course with some DOD people a few years ago. I was shocked with how heavily they’d bought into drones, Special Ops/COIN as the solution to the above problems. Especially drones though. Even though they know what they should be doing the solution set is always “make the rubble bounce.” During that same course there was a scenario that examined a military conflict with Iran. The team that made the Iran actions intentionally picked strategies that minimized target sets available to the DOD to strike on. The DOD team members on the “US” side REFUSED to play once it was obvious the Iranian’s weren’t giving them things to shoot at. They literally refused to participate as it wasn’t “realistic enough.” The lead for the US team was an Air Force Major and RAND doctoral graduate. It blew my mind.

  7. markfromireland

    @ thepanzer June 16, 2014

    I’ve had the same experience but coming from the other side. In which it was explained to me that particular policies were the only options available. Thatcher’s dictum “there is no alternative” was quoted to me ad nauseam. It is quite alarming how completely those at top of political/policy arc and the political/military arc in The Americas and Europe believe their own nonsense. I have had policy level economists explain to me in deathly earnest that something I’d reported couldn’t be true because it didn’t ‘fit the model’. What is important now is not to be right but to be wrong in the right way. It’s quite Tuchmannian,


  8. oldskeptic

    Greta article Ian. Bill Lind has been also talking about this for decades now. Plus how the US military is incapable of learning and changing.

    His argument is that that the US Army hasn’t even got to the level of Wehrmacht ‘manoeuvre warfare’ and ‘mission command’ that the Germans mastered in WW2, let alone being able being able to do (what he and others) call 4GW.

    The only thing I’d quibble about is using that horrible term term ‘IED’ which I hate, they are ‘mines’. The use of mines has long been a staple of militaries. For example, no one was better at using mines than Rommel.

    And the (in particular) the British Army (who were no slouches at mining themselves) learned how to deal with them…. fast forward to 2014 and we are struggling with them today? WTF.

    I think about the 8th Army, who had to deal with hundreds of thousands of them….. where every inch of the way (and everything) was mined and booby trapped… much for military progress.

  9. drone attackz

    Drone and robots are the final evolution in warfare. The USA has both and is now unstoppable. Drones inflict maximum casualty with the lowest risk possible (0 human life). Can you really equate that with “indoctrinated ideology that produces offspring of those that die” or “guerilla warfare where people are trying to stay off the grid.” Come on.

    “And the various Islamic militias, on budgets that aren’t even shoestring, survive and grow stronger.. They are evolving: getting smarter all the time. They are Darwinian organizations: if you screw up, you die.” – Ian Welsh.

    The above can be applied to the Navy Seals. In fact, Isalmic militants have an ideology that screwups which lead to death get you into heaven with 72 virgins. The fear of death isn’t a motivating factor to “evolving, as you portray” In-fact, they are more dumb and don’t have a long term strategy. Just one that involves one off attacks with a device in their underwear

  10. oldskeptic

    Well I am totally skeptical about robots… I think after an hour or two some smart cookie will take them over and send them right back…..the other side will have its Physics PhDs too.

    Typical western military always looking for an insanely expensive (with mega profits for some) ‘answer’… that doesn’t work (except against civilians of course).

    Things like this (and drones) are not military weapons, they are terror weapons. They are the modern equivalent of the British Terror bombing in WW2. They can only exist in an environment where there is no technical opposition (eg a Mk 1 Spitfire could shoot any drone in existence today out of the air).

    Armed drones are almost exclusively used as terror weapons (eg the infamous ‘double tap’, hitting rescuers) to force a population to keep its heads down and do what they are told.

    Plus, and here is the rub, they are insanely expensive. The purchase and running costs for something like a ‘global hawk’ (and similar) are higher than that for a U-2…. Not only are they expensive to make (and run) they require a massive communication infrastructure to be operated. If you spread that capital cost across each drone you would probably be in the F-22 cost level…

  11. Ian Welsh

    Blow out the comms and drones are junk. They also are not as good as planes, even if cheaper: piloted planes kill drones in dogfights every single time. A lot of their effectiveness has come from the fact that the Russians have not done what the US did to them in Afghanistan: they haven’t flooded the region with cheap man-portable SAMs. If the US keeps pissing them off, this is one thing that Russia and Putin can do to really wreck the west’s day.

    I don’t think robots will be as big a deal as people think. Three are billions of people in the world. They will figure out how to kill robots or take them over, and, again, they are willing to die to do so.

    The old joke was that Russia couldn’t run out of infantry. That’s less true than it used to be, but there are plenty of countries today with a pile of excess young men.

  12. JustPlainDave

    It’s important to keep in mind what drones are currently for. At present, saying that they aren’t better than CF-18s at dogfighting is akin to condemning a CP-140 for its inferior turn rate. Beyond that, I’m not sure that we in the unclass world have any significant insight into what the upcoming generation of UCAVs are going to be capable of. (As an aside, I’m far from certain that flooding the zone with MANPADs would actually work – things like Reaper tend to operate well above the ceiling of most systems unless there are some relatively uncommon operational demands. That said, they can be quite vulnerable to current mobile and fixed systems, and survivability is probably going to get worse.) Personally, I would tend to agree that at the end of the day cost is going to be as big a barrier as any – as cheap as an inflation adjusted fourth gen fighter isn’t really all that cheap!

    The interesting thing with terrestrial robotic systems may well be the extent to which they level the playing field. I could easily see a situation where they end up being quite effective against armoured and soft-skin vehicles, leading to an increased role for light infantry.

  13. drone attackz

    ” They also are not as good as planes, even if cheaper: piloted planes kill drones in dogfights every single time”- ian Welsh

    Ok but we are not talking about this, nor are we talking about a Russian military against US. Your post is about Islamic radical groups against western fire power. If you want to change the narrative to include military assistance or proxy wars by two major powers, that’s a different story.

  14. Ian Welsh

    I’m guessing, that as this is not an assigned essay, I’ll write out tangents if I please.

  15. Celsius 233

    @ Ian
    I’m guessing, that as this is not an assigned essay, I’ll write out tangents if I please.

    Har, har, har; that was hilariously spot on…

  16. Spinoza

    So, is the only effective method of containing or defeating a guerrilla force the classic imperialist options? As in either 1) Kill everyone, expel populations, and play ethnic groups against each other, 2) outright colonization with jobs, infrastructure, schools, and new legal regime, or 3) Some combination of the two?

    I concur with Mr. Welsh. The US should just get the hell out. However, as a thought experiment, how exactly could the Empire “win”?

  17. No to all of it. It all depends on the objective. If the objective were to invade, occupy and ultimately annex Iraq in Third Reich fashion, it could have worked. Considering the backlash of criticism in hindsight, I would think the lesson learned from it, if official reasoning for the invasion and occupation is to be believed (I don’t believe it), is to completely and mercilessly crush any form of resistance and potential insurgency to include mass executions of potential combatants to include males who have already been indoctrinated into an insurgent mindset regardless of age. I’m not saying I condone that, btw. Quite the contrary, but critics are just begging for it with their ceaseless chastisement. At some point, you’ll have something to really complain about, and of course, at that moment, the critical words will be your rope.

    Half measures don’t work. The objective was effectively a half-measure or even a quarter-measure for reasons that don’t get, and will never get, airtime except at my blog.

    But, what do I know? I’m just
    White Trash
    like all the rest of us.

  18. JustPlainDave

    “So, is the only effective method of containing or defeating a guerrilla force the classic imperialist options?”

    Not really. Much depends on how capable the irregular forces are. In my view, it would be a mistake to generalize uncritically from the examples of these three very capable groups/movements (which all have quite particular historical contexts) to irregular forces as a whole. There’s a very broad spectrum of capability.

  19. ks

    @Cold N. Holefield,

    Maybe the lesson they should learn is not to invade other countries under false pretenses? Also, the backlash of criticism wasn’t in hindsight. The critics of the invasion were quite ahead of the curve in real time and mostly right.

    The notion that because of the now larger backlash, due to the obviousness of our Iraq failure, means that plotters who plan simlar actions in the future should take away the lesson to behave even worse seems kind of ridiculous. A sort of petulant doubling down on failure and evil.

  20. atcooper

    Regarding drones tangentially:

    They stink of PR moves with little substance. I’d been concerned about google’s robot cars till I learned a bit more about how they’re actually being implemented. It turns out it’s heavily software and big data:

    I realized I’d assumed the cars would be much more autonomous, but they require a tremendous amount of infrastructure – far, far more than a light rail.

  21. oldskeptic

    Cold, “in Third Reich fashion”…..hmmm. The trouble is we get so little about what happened in WW2 in the other theatres that the west was not directly involved in.

    Because of the brutality an insurgent movement very quickly sprung up in the eastern theatre (plus Yugoslavia, et al). It was very effective tying down multiple Germans divisions just to protect their supply lines.

    We can never know, but you have to speculate about whether the Reich could have held all that territory it captured initially over the following years. or whether or not it would have bl;ed white over time, just like the US, with vastly greater resources available, was in Vietnam (etc).

    I see that as a pervasive myth by too many westerners, that all our losses were because we ‘weren’t tough enough’ (too ‘nice’ in fact). I see little evidence of that. We have been and are plenty ‘tough enough’ and I’ve never seen any lack of will on our part at Reich type tactics. Death squads (check), mass killing (check), Warsaw like surround and kill everyone in there (check), mass torture (check), mass incarcerations (check), mass extermination programs (check)……..

    I don’t think we can hang our heads in shame at being thought of as ‘weak’ or ‘too nice’ compared to the Reich (or anyone else for that matter).

  22. oldskeptic

    Just read this at MoA and it reminded me of when I was following the US invasion and rule of the Iraq disaster. I remember thinking at the time that this looks very deliberate.

    In fact a page out of the German occupation of Poland and their plans for the rest of the East. And I always wonder who authorised it (obviously it came from the US occupation forces and/or administration, but what part), obviously using paid death squads.

    Straightforward societal decapitation, Reich 101…. See Cold we can do Third Reich real well.

    “According to the Christian Science Monitor, by June 2006 already 2500 academics were killed, kidnapped or driven out of the country. Nobody knows how many have been murdered until today. We do know that thousands have been threatened – often by envelopes containing bullets – and fled. Alongside the academics also media professionals, doctors, engineers and spiritual leaders have been targets of intimidation, kidnapping and murder. It is important to know that, in the case of academics, it’s not about sectarian murders, because statistics show that there is no pattern in the murders. Professors in leading positions have especially been targeted, and not just Baathists.

    These murders have never being investigated, the culprits never found let alone prosecuted. How come? Perhaps because both the occupiers and the new rulers in Iraq thought it was not important. Or maybe because death squads are part of their strategy, like formerly in El Salvador. That is what the book claims: the murder of academics was and is part of the “Salvador Option”.

    Conclusion of the authors? The goal was to liquidate the intellectual class, which would naturally be the basis for a new democratic state. ”

    I agree….

  23. Conclusion of the authors? The goal was to liquidate the intellectual class, which would naturally be the basis for a new democratic state. ”

    I agree with the authors. It was clearly the handiwork of Iran who would want to eradicate an intellectual class that was not subordinate to the Clerics and ultimately The Guardian Council.

    What the West did in Iraq was choir boy connivance compared to the Third Reich. It was never the intent to create a democratic state in Iraq by both the official invaders and the unofficial invaders.

    What you describe is precisely what Putin’s done, and is doing, in Russia with the intellectual class. It’s why it’s amazing to see Western intellectuals defend the hoodlum when he executes their Russian counterparts in back alleys as he and his Russian mafia state have done to a number of pesky journalists.

    To live in such states, is to be a beholden (I got it right this time, Q. Shtik) bitch.

  24. oldskeptic

    Anyone else like to respond to this … I am just too gobsmacked…..

  25. jcapan

    Someone is channeling Morocco Bama

  26. Celsius 233

    jcapan PERMALINK
    June 17, 2014
    Someone is channeling Morocco Bama

    My thoughts exactly…

  27. markfromireland

    @ oldskeptic June 17, 2014

    Dear Mr. Oldskeptic,

    Further to your recent enquiry about our defenestration service. We shall be delighted to assist you once your cheque made out to:

    Messrs. William Goat Gruff & Brothers LlP,

    has cleared. We also offer a very reasonably priced under bridge clearance service should the occasion arise. In the meantime we suggest that you and your colleagues refrain from feeding the creature.


    Billy Goat Gruff

  28. oldskeptic

    Thank you Mark, is used unmarked $20 notes ok? …lol.

  29. oldskeptic

    Interesting article by Don Vandergriff, on how the US Army is further away from ‘mission command’ than ever and that all the new ‘net centric’ stuff has made things worse….

    When you think that ‘mission command’ doctrine was developed in German in 1925….. you do wonder. It is at the heart of of 3GW or 4GW warfare. You can’t do either well unless you have it.

    It is simply impossible to do manoeuvre warfare (3GW) effectively if you still maintain the same doctrine and C&C systems as for static and/or attrition warfare (hence the myth of Patton in WW2 as some sort of master of it …is that… a myth… in reality he was, at best, a very mediocre commander) .

    Equally to reach the effectiveness of a Hezbollah (arguably the best light infantry, or even special forces, in the world) your doctrine has to be based on MC, it is the core you hang everything else around.

    So western militaries simply cannot match the effectiveness of these organisations (and the closer they are in doctrine to the US the worse they are ) no matter what they do unless they first re-create their entire doctrines, systems and people.

    I sometimes have the wicked thought that if you put the 1940 Wehrmacht, with 1940 equipment, up against NATO with its modern equipment, the war would be over before NATO HQ managed to do its first powerpoint presentation … and not in favour of NATO.

    The saying ‘dose of salts’ comes to mind.

  30. Ian Welsh

    Yeah, I’ve been thinking about writing about the problem of top-down command, as exacerbated by the telecom revolution.

  31. oldskeptic

    I have been re-reading things like Boyd, Guderain and a wonderful little book “The Path to Blitzkrieg” by Robert Citino

    Bu Stafford Beer in the 70’s working from Operations Research and Cybernetics laid down the basic theory of viable systems (in human organisations). His work showed that, done right, the ‘computer/comm’ revolution could enhance decision making massively. The work he did in Chile under Allende was, even by today’s standards .. amazing

    Unfortunately we all (inc out militaries) took the route of using it to create greater power and control from the top (the whole NSA thing is just a logical extension of that) … well that has worked so, so well…..

    You really have to checkout Beer’s work Ian if you want to do a study of that. Beer’s theories shows you exactly why that top down doesn’t work.

    Boyd, much later, independently came up with similar, but much more limited to just military systems OODA loop theories. I see his work as a good sub-set of the more general Beer work. But equally worth studying.

  32. oldskeptic

    Fundamentally it is all about dealing with uncertainty in time and space.. I’ll write you up something about Beers work a bit later and it is easy to see where Boyd’s work dovetails in more specific circumstances.

  33. Massinissa

    Oh. My God.

    Stop feeding Hat n Trollfield. Hes got to be doing this on purpose to annoy us the way he does at MoA

  34. markfromireland

    @ oldskeptic June 18, 2014 I’d prefer it in used €500 notes if you don’t mind. That’s what all the successful criminal masterminds demand payment in over here and I defer to their expert opinion 🙂


  35. markfromireland

    @ oldskeptic, Like you I’m doing a fair bit of reading and re-reading at present. Citino’s book is very good, I agree. I’ve also (going back a bit further) just finished re-reading:

    Inventing the Schlieffen Plan: German War Planning 1871-1914 —
    Terence Zuber, Oxford University Press

    Highly recommended if you haven’t read it.

    I’ve also just finished re-reading this one:

    Shadow of the Sultan’s Realm: The Destruction of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East — Daniel Allen Butler. Potomac Books

    Finally – Years ago I read with great admiration the late Ali Al-Wardi’s Iraq in Turmoil. It’s an eight volume Arabic work that cover’s Iraki history from an Iraki perspective. Youssef Aboul-Enein’s English language introductory edition is really rather good and can be picked up very cheaply.

    Iraq in Turmoil: Historical Perspectives of Dr. Ali al-Wardi, From the Ottoman Empire to King Feisal Hardcover — Youssef Aboul-Enein USN, Naval Institute Press


  36. Celsius 233

    Massinissa PERMALINK
    June 19, 2014
    Oh. My God.
    Stop feeding Hat n Trollfield. Hes got to be doing this on purpose to annoy us the way he does at MoA

    He’s infected Kunstler’s blog also and they run him off as irrelevant.

  37. oldskeptic

    Thanks mark … oh the price of “Inventing the Schlieffen Plan: German War Planning 1871-1914 “, which I would love to get … way out my price level.

    Might have to hunt around the 2nd hand bookshops for awhile till I get lucky.

    I’ll check out the others ones a little bit later.

    If you have any more reading suggestions , please pass them on.

    Actually Ian, this is an idea, what about us all working out a specific reading list? A list of basic ‘primers’ that are relevant to the current situations in the ME and Ukraine/Russia/etc.

    Between us all we should be able to come up with something useful. Plus maybe a basic blog/news list….like MoA and TVotS.. and so on.

  38. Rafe Husain

    according to a quote attributed to dr.k

    1. War crimes are for losers
    2. Only losers commit war crimes
    3. Therefore losing is a war crime

    I did’nt lose ergo I am not a war criminal”

    Saddam lost so he is clearly a war criminal while Wolfowitz and friends won so they clearly are not war criminals.

  39. Kia

    Western societies are hard to run precisely because we refuse to actually fix our problems. Temporizing, “managing” is hard. Fixing problems is a lot easier.

    This. Yes. But that makes it so much harder to steal everything.

  40. Nathanael

    In regard to warfare, the only doctrine I’ve studied carefully is that of William Tecumseh Sherman.

    He had a greater degree of operational independence than any Western military man or woman today. Special Field Order #120 has what I can only call *political* decisions in it.

    “As for horses, mules, wagons, &c., belonging to the inhabitants, the cavalry and artillery may appropriate freely and without limit, discriminating, however, between the rich, who are usually hostile, and the poor or industrious, usually neutral or friendly. ”

    But the guerillas who are beating the pants off the US have a similar degree of operational independence — including the ability to make political decisions. And those who make the right political decisions become more powerful. We’re going to see better and better guerilla warfare. And even mediocre guerilla warfare can beat the US military easily, because the US military is doctrinally rigid to the point of total incompetence.

    Drones as a response tactic to this? Don’t make me laugh. Iran’s already reverse-engineered US drones. Hobbyists all over the developed world are actively working on drones. They’ll be available to all guerillas quite soon.

    Thepanzer, markfromireland: this kind of doctrinaire idiocy has become standard not only in the US military, but also in large portions of both government and most businesses. It’s unbelievably destructive, *particularly* to the US military, which is currently a complete waste of resources.

    In the Nimitz speech by Thomas Ricks, he makes the point that the US used to have this “whatever works” attitude, and a Darwinian approach to success. Lincoln fired his generals regularly, until he landed upon Grant and Sherman. George Marshall preemptively retired every single general and admiral from World War I with one exception, just to avoid blinkered thinking.

    The US military will lose and lose and lose until we replace everyone at the top of it with people with Sherman’s attitude. The thing is, until the US is actually invaded, there’s not much incentive to fix the military. The US blows resources on the military because of military contractors wanting handouts, and because of macho lunatics who like military adventurism, not because the US needs a military at all. Which we don’t at this point, since nobody is likely to invade us. Who would even want to conquer this country? Net immigration is FROM the US TO Mexico at this point!

  41. Tom W Harris

    American wars are about looting, not winning. That’s why we lose.

  42. “Two thousand pounds of education / Drops to a ten-rupee jezail. / Strike hard who cares. / Shoot straight who can. / The odds are on the cheaper man.”–Kipling, quoted in “Story of the Malakand Field Force”, by Sir Winston S Churchill, history of fighting on the India / Afghanistan frontier (northwest territories of current Pakistan) in the 19th century.

    Personally, I think soldiers are obsolete and the future is all about drones. Yes, the terrorists can build drones, but can they build them as well and as cheaply as the developed countries? When the developed countries put their minds to it, they are ferociously efficient. Sure, some village gunsmith in Pakistan can put together a primitive rifle from raw steel stock. But can he really do so as cheaply as a highly automated Smith & Wesson factory? And is the quality even remotely comparable?

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