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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Why Western troops can't win

Martin van Creveld, the author of The Transformation of War, Technology and War, and the newly published Castalia House books A History of Strategy: From Sun Tzu to William S. Lind and Equality: The Impossible Quest, explains how the technological transformation of war has ruined the effectiveness of modern Western militiaries despite their massive technological advantages over their opponents. From his essay entitled "Pussycats":
For several decades now, Western armed forces—which keep preening themselves as the best-trained, best organized, best equipped best led, in history—have been turned into pussycats. Being pussycats, they went from one defeat to the next. True, in 1999 they did succeed in imposing their will on Serbia. But only because the opponent was a small, weak state (at the time, the Serb armed forces, exhausted by a prolonged civil war, were rated 35th in the world); and even then only because that state was practically defenseless in the air. The same applies to Libya in 2011. Over there, indigenous bands on the ground did most of the fighting and took all the casualties. In both cases, when it came to engaging in ground combat, man against man, the West, with the U.S at its head, simply did not have what it takes.

On other occasions things were worse still. Western armies tried to create order in Somalia and were kicked out by the “Skinnies,” as they called their lean but mean opponents. They tried to beat the Taliban in Afghanistan, and were kicked out. They tried to impose democracy (and get their hands on oil) in Iraq, and ended up leaving with their tails between their legs. The cost of these foolish adventures to the U.S alone is said to have been around 1 trillion—1,000,000,000,000—dollars. With one defeat following another, is it any wonder that, when those forces were called upon to put an end to the civil war in Syria, they and the societies they serve preferred to let the atrocities go on?

By far the most important single reason behind the repeated failures is the fact that, one and all, these were luxury wars. With nuclear weapons deterring large-scale attack, for seven decades now no Western country has waged anything like a serious, let alone existential, struggle against a more or less equal opponent. As the troops took on opponents much weaker than themselves—often in places they had never heard about, often for reasons nobody but a few politicians understood—they saw no reason why they should get themselves killed. Given the circumstances, indeed, doing so would have been the height of stupidity on their part. Yet from the time the Persians at Marathon in 490 B.C were defeated by the outnumbered Greeks right down to the present, troops whose primary concern is not to get themselves killed have never be able to fight, let alone win.
Thanks to many of you, A History of Strategy: From Sun Tzu to William S. Lind is the #1 bestseller in History>Military>Strategy. The reviews are excellent; even the single 3-star review concludes: "Belongs of the shelf of every person who is interested in the theory and practice of warfare." 

Another review says: "A History of Strategy: From Sun Tzu to William S. Lind earned five stars from me for being so readable and packed with content, despite being so brief. This is the first book of Martin van Creveld's I have read and I look forward to delving into his catalog. In addition to being a good read, Martin van Creveld's svelte A History of Strategy: From Sun Tzu to William S. Lind is a wonderful way for those not well read in military strategy to begin their self-directed study. Martin van Creveld discusses all the notable war theoretician authors more or less in accord with their significance as well as some of the war artisan authors. Creveld also provides a "Further Readings" section to aid those so inclined. Given the limitations imposed on him (low page count) Creveld does a fine job covering the material."

I'm in the middle of reading van Creveld's Technology and War myself, and I can say with confidence that the reviewer will find delving into that catalog more than worthwhile. As for the "Pussycats" essay, the observation by a military historian should cause some serious strategic rethinking on the part of those who insist on repeatedly sending unmotivated troops unsupported by popular enthusiasm into unwinnable military conflicts. It won't, but it should.

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117 Comments:

Anonymous Gary March 31, 2015 5:46 AM  

My first thought is that the US Military is so bound by ridiculous rules of engagement and feckless political meddling that how could there be any other outcome?

A recipe for disaster.

Anonymous PhillipGeorge(c)2015 March 31, 2015 5:58 AM  

I sat talking to an American tank instructor in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia after Gulf War 1 and was impressed by what he couldn't tell me about being an American. If he were trying to sell the idea of forsaking any or every other place to come and live in America I don't think he could have won anyone over. There was no commitment to mom's home baked apple pie goodness. What he couldn't say was "come and join us, we are decent fair honest hard working people with the world's best moral code to offer".
I'll maintain every single one of these pages is about God. When Elijah did ultimate life and death battle at Mount Carmel the only real stripped naked question that mattered to life and death was "which God is it to be, or not to be"?
When Australians took the wells of BeerSheba in one of the world's very last cavalry charges, God, King, and Country - was in that order. Sophistry has all but obliterated the real history of the Western World.

Blogger ScuzzaMan March 31, 2015 6:09 AM  

the problem of unmotivated troops is what the drones are for.

This is the problem we face: the military and political architects of Vietnam didn't learn the obvious lessons of that immense crime; they learned to better control the press narrative, to "embed" reporters with troops, and to run a full court press of propaganda, around the globe, around the clock.

They haven't learned that it is foolish - ergo, dangerous - to send unmotivated troops to fight luxury wars in far flung satrapies. No, they've learned to build machines who dont disobey orders, dont think for themselves, dont suffer PTSD, dont have a conscience or inconvenient moral teachings.

they really do seem to believe that they can create their own realities...

Anonymous The Spy March 31, 2015 6:10 AM  

Our military exemplifies the absurd.

Homosexuals, pagans and Transgenders now openly operate as "warriors", so what does that tell you?

Anonymous Smokey March 31, 2015 6:12 AM  

In other words, the Western military has no clear goal in mind, which is why they lose.

Seems logical.

Anonymous aero March 31, 2015 6:20 AM  

When politics prevent a superior force from fighting they most likely will lose the war. Bounce hard and fast. Do not stop so the enemy can recover. Do not draw lines or respect borders that prevent the superior force from fighting. The best propaganda against the enemy is victory.

It doesn't matter if there wearing glasses or a dress you kick the shit out of them. Also kick the shit out of all those that say it was wrong for you to kick the shit out those that wear glasses and dresses.

Blogger praetorian March 31, 2015 6:34 AM  

Also kick the shit out of all those that say it was wrong for you to kick the shit out those that wear glasses and dresses.

That might (might) work tactically, but if you aren't winning at the moral level then your victories are unsustainable and pyrrhic. It may be satisfying to type, but it isn't good strategy.

Anonymous Titus Didius Tacitus March 31, 2015 6:36 AM  

As always, good in general, maybe as good as possible within limits imposed by interest and social taboos.

I think he doesn't correctly address the issue of "who benefits," pointing at paid drones rather than decision-makers, but then he can't.

He also ignores the point that modern-Western-style warriors are not serving their ethnic genetic interests. Though he could say that is covered by his other points that's not really true; pleasures like a can of beer are good, but not to be compared to the difference in orientation between someone who is fighting for his collective future and someone who has a pension but not a purpose, that is someone who may save his life but is losing his land and nation to invaders he is not permitted to oppose. But again, this is impossible to address adequately within permitted thought.

I'm pleased this great military scholar who has considered every allowable angle points to no objection to my general conclusion that the teched-up mercenaries who are policing our decline into a demographic hell can be outclassed by warriors who are genetically equal (especially re: Y chromosome) but better motivated.

Anonymous Titus Didius Tacitus March 31, 2015 6:43 AM  

ScuzzaMan: "the problem of unmotivated troops is what the drones are for."

An excellent solution, assuming you can't indulge the ethnic genetic interests of the troops because you are radically opposed to them and unwilling to compromise.

I've always respected President Dronestrike for playing his best card hard and often.

Anonymous Appeal to Authority March 31, 2015 7:18 AM  

I question this analysis. I remember the war in Southeast Asia. Our military wasn't defeated on the battlefield, it was defeated in Congress, by the same party of unicorn thinkers who now have pulled us out of the Middle East. Had we abandoned Germany and Japan two years after WW II, would the result have been the same? It seems to me less a question of America lacking military power and more a problem of lacking the political will to stay the course once begun.

Blogger praetorian March 31, 2015 7:35 AM  

Vietnam lasted 20 years, depending how you count. The current adventures have been going on for 13. WWII lasted five years. Within 15, Germany and Japan were major trading partners.

Something is different, but it isn't a lack of course staying.

Anonymous aero March 31, 2015 7:43 AM  

When you go to war there are no morals. Innocent people will always be killed.Victory will decide what morals we will live by.

The most immoral thing you can do is prolong a war for moral reason. It will do more to destroy the will to fight. This strategy will always play in favor of the enemy.

Because they wear glasses and dresses doesn't make them more moral. they are BABY KILLERS too.



Blogger Vox March 31, 2015 7:56 AM  

I question this analysis. I remember the war in Southeast Asia. Our military wasn't defeated on the battlefield, it was defeated in Congress.

That is a deeply and profoundly ignorant statement. It's like claiming you won the game because you had more rushing and passing yards, it's just that the other team outscored you. "Our players weren't defeated on the playing field, we lost the game on the sidelines because we were outcoached."

It is an ignorant questioning of the analysis because it betrays a complete unfamiliarity with literally 2500 years of military thinking. The battlefield is only one aspect of war, and as Lind and van Creveld, among others, have demonstrated, it is seldom even the most important part.

Anonymous aero March 31, 2015 8:06 AM  

You can not have a lasting victory if you allow others to compromise your principles. A compromise means you are retreating from your beliefs. It is hard to follow and defend an individual or country that wants to compromise its self.

Blogger Vox March 31, 2015 8:10 AM  

That came off a bit harsh, so let me explain by asking a question. When, after a series of Roman defeats at the hands of Hannibal, Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus Cunctator was given charge of the Roman armies, what was his very first priority?

a) change the tactics
b) change the strategy
c) return to Rome and offer public sacrifices

Explain your answer and how it helped him defeat Hannibal.

Blogger Salt March 31, 2015 8:11 AM  

often in places they had never heard about, often for reasons nobody but a few politicians understood

That, right there. We were warned about entangling alliances; what but a few politicians understand. They're politicial, resultant of policy to some end. Soldiers go where told, but how much heart do they have in the fight? I think the private has to have a damn good reason to put it on the line on foreign soil. When it's home turf, that's reason enough.

The Russians right next door yet Afghanistan prevailed. Vietnam was more of a civil war than two competing nations.

Anonymous aero March 31, 2015 8:22 AM  

C
He returned to Rome. went to the bath house and got all pretty and told his men to do the same. They got all there uniforms cleaned and armor was very shiny. They got the very best french perfume and soak them self's in it. They put on the little armored mine skits and went to war. the rest is history

Anonymous Troll March 31, 2015 8:24 AM  

While I agree that that the battle field is only one aspect of the war, I think you guys are talking out of both sides of your mouth. The troops did not lose in Somalia or Afghanistan because they were unmotivated or their opponents fought better. If they had a Roman General or Sherman was in charge, victory would have been a simple matter of massacring into pacification.

It does not matter how well trained, motivated, or alpha male your soldiers are. They can't fix things, they can only brake things. The politicians stated goal in all recent wars was to fix things (make Iraq into a democracy, stop the starving in Somalia and make it into a regular state and so on and so forth) . All the military managed to do was brake things.

Anonymous Too-Soon-ami March 31, 2015 8:24 AM  

"Homosexuals, pagans and Transgenders now openly operate as "warriors", so what does that tell you? "

That the 'pussycats' should be called 'chickswithdickscats'.

Anonymous ZhukovG March 31, 2015 8:27 AM  

@Appeal to Authority

War is ultimately a political act. Success or failure often hinge on how realistic the political expectations are.

@aero

War is also a cultural act. If you violate your cultural norms, you may do more damage to your own national foundation than you do to the enemy.

Christian culture is best served by peace, but when war must be fought it should be limited to a clear objective and then ended by treaty. Compare our mess in Iraq to the UK's war against Argentina over the Falklands. UK had a bare fraction of our power and yet they scored a complete victory by keeping their objectives realistic.

Blogger Nate March 31, 2015 8:44 AM  

Since 1999?

That's simply not accurate in the least. There were countless ground battles in Iraq and Afghanistan that the western men won out right. The taliban got evicted. That didn't happen through air power.

Saddam got killed and his government destroyed.

The air force didn't do that either.

Long term failure doesn't say a damn thing about the effectiveness of the lightning war on the ground.

Anonymous aero March 31, 2015 8:47 AM  

ZhukovG

War is not a cultural act it's an abnormal behavioral act for any cultural to do. The is no such thing as a nice fair and balance war. There is no on off switch on the troops to be moral. once engaged in combat they are killers.

Blogger David March 31, 2015 8:50 AM  

This is why I can't stomach fiction where the protagonist is some current or ex-Spec Force/spook/super-soldier whose government-trained kung fu is better than the kung fu of his (or worse, her) antagonists.

History is written about the "notables," but reality is about masses of ordinary people delivering extraordinary performances when extraordinary times require it for survival.

I've been insulted as a pussy because I think signing up for the military is like volunteering for a massive, centrally-planned S&M orgy, and I get sick of those who endured time in the .mil gauntlet who think those who didn't "serve" are beneath them. I don't respect the Emperor (any Emperor) and I pity those who are deluded by the Pentagram's multi-billion-dollar advertizing budget into selling off irreplaceable years of their lives serving the Deep State's masters. Only those who get to play with the taxpayer-funded toys (the fighter/bomber jets are way cool) strike me as making a fair trade, and they must accept a role as collateral murderers in that bargain.

You can call me a fool all you want, but if it's an existential fight I'll be there in the thick of it. If it's just a boutique war serving the interests of Royal Dutch Shell, Monsanto and the Likud Party, count me (and mine) out.

OpenID cailcorishev March 31, 2015 8:53 AM  

That is a deeply and profoundly ignorant statement.

And yet it's a pretty good summary of what my generation was taught about Vietnam from the conservative side (as opposed to the liberals that simply opposed it because communism). It's basically a humble-brag: we could have won all these scrimmages against lightweight opponents, but our highly-developed moral senses got in the way. We're just too nice to win wars anymore, but we're still the biggest and baddest. Just ask us.

Anonymous Appeal to Authority March 31, 2015 9:01 AM  

I remain unpersuaded, Vox. The quote says nothing about losing on the home front; the quote says American fighting men, man-for-man, are not as good as Serbs, Libyans or skinnies but are instead pussycats. The quote asserts we got kicked out, not pulled out, that we lost militarily, not politically.

Blogger Jourdan March 31, 2015 9:04 AM  

I find it humorous that, given the SF focus of much of the discussion here, the learned doctor is unaware of the origin of the nickname "Skinnies" given by U.S. forces to Somalians.

Blogger Josh March 31, 2015 9:04 AM  

It's basically a humble-brag: we could have won all these scrimmages against lightweight opponents, but our highly-developed moral senses got in the way. We're just too nice to win wars anymore, but we're still the biggest and baddest. Just ask us.

Is it just me, or does this "I coulda been a contender" mentality look a lot like the self delusion bubble from those graduating gamma posts?

Blogger David March 31, 2015 9:06 AM  

Despite clear evidence that Lincoln got the Confederacy to fire the first shot and FDR did the same with Japan, the narrative of "we were attacked first" won out and the Union and USA (respectively) deeply embraced the sense of moral entitlement to warfare, which included essentially total war.

No war in which the USA has participated has enjoyed such a clear-cut morality narrative, despite US government-purchased, Madison Avenue mastery in controlling the same (recall the "terrified student nurse in Kuwait" who tearfully recounted in Congressional testimony how Saddam's troops dumped babies from incubators at a Kuwaiti hospital, who turned out to be a daughter of Kuwaiti royalty whose testimony had been entirely scripted by a PR firm in NYC.)

The moral component of war will ALWAYS be missing from boutique wars undertaken to serve the interests of the Deep State. They will try everything to confuse the facts (how often was juxtaposition used to confuse people into thinking Saddam was behind 9/11?) but facts do end up being difficult things to entirely conceal, except when the people can be convinced the issue is "existential."

This is why Colin Powell testified about Saddam's nonexistent nukes creating a "mushroom cloud over the city of New York." It was a blatant attempt to get the MPAI brigade to see their Iraq adventure as existential.

It failed miserably in time, but for a while the MPAI brigade clearly didn't mind someone's hand rammed elbow-deep so the Deep State's PR flacks could work them like sock-puppets.

Blogger Jourdan March 31, 2015 9:07 AM  

The problem with this sort of analysis, and most of the 4th Gen analysis, is that it assumes that the debased liberal state's methods of waging war is war writ large.

Of course that state is incapable of winning a war. Just as its history departments don't produce actual history or its administrative oversight of health care programs is woefully inadequate, the liberal state, having raised a broken and wrong ideology to its organizing principle, has the opposite Midas touch: everything it touches turns to dust.

To view that in the military context and to thus conclude that Western armies are losers is like concluding that we are incapable of writing proper history or managing government programs again.

The problem is the ideology, not some new kind of warfare.

To quote the beginning of the best game of all time:

"War. War Never Changes"

Blogger Derrick Bonsell March 31, 2015 9:13 AM  

If our objective is to break things and leave we can do that, no opponent is as capable at that as the US. If the goal is to keep our enemies from building their power we're helpless if they don't quickly surrender.

Blogger Derrick Bonsell March 31, 2015 9:13 AM  

If our objective is to break things and leave we can do that, no opponent is as capable at that as the US. If the goal is to keep our enemies from building their power we're helpless if they don't quickly surrender.

Blogger David March 31, 2015 9:15 AM  

Whenever I see someone regurgitate the current PR line (e.g., today's Iran-nuke "sky will fall" baloney, the al-queda/ISIS boogeyman or the anthropogenic "climate change" silliness) I want so badly to ask them if it hurts to have someone else's arm elbow-deep up their butt, working them like a sock-puppet?

MP-really-AI.

Anonymous aero March 31, 2015 9:15 AM  

We lost Vietnam because we drew a line called the DMZ. The VC did not obey. This prolong war cause the loss of more life's and wounded more on both sides. It should of never lasted more then a year. It was immoral of the USA to have a moral war

Blogger Derrick Bonsell March 31, 2015 9:18 AM  

And what if that didn't cause them to surrender? What if that caused China to enter the war?

Open invasion could have even brought the world to WW3.

Blogger David March 31, 2015 9:20 AM  

Jourdan, recall Etienne de la Boetie's irrefutable truth published 500 years ago. No political entity exists in the absence of popular consent.

Even Genghis Khan required a narrative that delivered such consent while his troops were slaughtering people en masse. Ditto Stalin and Mao when they set the records for body count.

This is the message of the "moral component." Yes, the West is fat, lazy and besotted with the trappings of past glories. Yes, such populations are poorly suited to commit to total warfare and the glories of conquest. What do such endeavors promise Joe Sixpack? Nothing. What possible narrative could generate consent to such adventures?

Blogger Derrick Bonsell March 31, 2015 9:21 AM  

It's kind of hard to claim you're merely defending another country when you move beyond its borders and invade its opponent.

Anonymous Titus Didius Tacitus March 31, 2015 9:28 AM  

Fabius' first act as dictator was neither strategic nor tactical but to re-perform religious duties that he claimed were performed incorrectly by Flaminius.

Why? I would say:

I. To win the favor of the gods of Rome, who alone would, could and did give victory.
II. Because the rites were performed incorrectly by Flaminius, which were the reason for the recent reverse. As an augur for sixty-two years, Fabius knew such things.
III. To rightly re-orient the Roman people, disturbed by recent defeats, to reassure them, and to strengthen their collective will, without which the war could not be won.
IV. Because Fabius' nature was dutiful, stolid, resistant to panic, and averse to neglecting tradition.
V. To show his men that something important was different, and that there was a reason to suppose that though Roman forces had been defeated, they would not be beaten like that any more.

Christians must consider some of that to be wrong, and it is fine to change the order of the items.

But I would resist any answer that suggests that Fabius was merely a religious skeptic who being a crafty fellow knew how to use the superstitions of the people to trick them into a more positive mood. Nothing in his career suggests that any part of that man was phony. In my opinion this was one of the finest specimens that European Man has produced, and this was one of his best moments.

I also think that what I would call "deep morale" is not such an easy thing to fake as our current elite of hostile mental manipulators are inclined to believe. I think a true believer whose spirit resonates in harmony with his society of fellow believers can call on more -- even just from the hearts of men -- than we think possible.

We are surrounded by demoralizing mass media falsity; Fabius was not. If we think of "morale raising" we might think of shamelessly dishonest Napoleonic bulletins, or Dutch courage, or the speech-making / rave-orgy scene from The Matrix: Reloaded. Or the steady, practically perpetual drunkenness that helped Soviet forces to keep rolling despite all casualties, or ice cream, or Japanese "comfort women". The solemn performance of ancient religious duties to gods that were in no way neutral but deeply interested in the fate of their people, and that were ready to be in harmony with each other and their people as they fought, provided things were done right, was something else entirely.

Rome went on to win that war in large part though an implacable will that was out of line with the usual standards of ancient cities at war. No matter how badly pressed, Rome was playing for all the marbles all the time -- no compromise. This tended to steal the initiative from mighty Hannibal, who could never translate successes in the field into a fracturing of the political solidarity of Rome, and who was always threatened with something, even if not very much, as the Romans just kept trying and trying. And the Latin cities, rightfully fearful of that implacable will, were simply not to be won as Punic allies.

Anonymous Mike M. March 31, 2015 9:36 AM  

I think Creveld is partly right.

Clausewitz wrote of limited versus total war. By which he was differentiating between objectives, NOT level of effort. A Clausewitzian total war is fought to overthrow the enemy - regime change. A Clausewitzian limited war is fought to gain some advantage, but not to overthrow the enemy.

This difference becomes important when the sides in a conflict have asymmetric objectives. Many of these conflicts were limited wars from the Western perspective, but total wars from the standpoint of the locals.

It doesn't help that the West tends to neglect persuading the public that a war is worth the sacrifice. Can anyone imagine a leader in the last twenty years saying "These are the times that try men's souls"? No! They tell the public to go shopping!

You don't win wars without sacrifice. Even if you are using airpower and seapower as your primary tools, there is a cost involved. Part of being a statesman is determining that the gain is worth the cost, and persuading the electorate that this is the case.

Unfortunately, we are short of statesmen these days.

OpenID bc64a9f8-765e-11e3-8683-000bcdcb2996 March 31, 2015 9:39 AM  

"...troops whose primary concern is not to get themselves killed have never be able to fight, let alone win."
"I don't wanna get drafted", Frank Zappa


"I question this analysis. I remember the war in Southeast Asia. Our military wasn't defeated on the battlefield, it was defeated in Congress.

That is a deeply and profoundly ignorant statement.?
I don't think so.
" It's like claiming you won the game because you had more rushing and passing yards,- it's just that...three parents had concerns of concussions, half of cheerleaders complained of "women's problems", and SOMEBODY forgot to bring enough sliced oranges/"trophys" for EVERYBODY, Olberman was smoking crack in the booth again,
so after a "phone call", the coach pulled the ENTIRE offensive line in the third quarter due to sportsmanlike "slaughter" rules.
Of course, that's just my interpretation.
CaptDMO

Anonymous Viking March 31, 2015 9:44 AM  

Vox, does Castalia have any plans to republish The Transformation of War and Technology and War as ebooks anytime soon?

Anonymous Athor Pel March 31, 2015 9:54 AM  

At a guess I would say the American pro-military estimation of the Vietnam war comes from US Army tactical doctrine, which was one of overwhelming firepower. And it worked when employed in that it rendered an engagement a tactical victory if for no other reason than the enemy ran away. Once America pulled out so did the overwhelming firepower. In that sense the tactical victory and strategic defeat point of view naturally follows with no mention of or resort to the morale or skill of individual soldiers.
_______________


Now,
A quote from van Creveld's article that looks like its thesis,

"Instead, far from honoring their troops or even showing them respect, Western societies have done the opposite. During training and in garrison, they are surrounded by a thousand regulations that prevent them from doing things every civilian can do as a matter of course."

Yeah, I saw that and other things.

From the perspective of someone that served in the USAF in the late 1980's, it did not cultivate a warrior culture, at least among the enlisted. I have no idea whether the line officers experienced the same.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about. When I was at Osan AB in Korea we were told that the building we worked in was a primary target, in that the North likely had multiple assets tasked with destroying it with one of those being parachute infantry armed with satchel charges. The building was literally a large multi-story concrete bunker.

No one in my unit was ever issued a weapon. Only the guards at the entry control point had weapons. We were also told that if it looked like the base was seriously threatened then our whole unit would be evacuated. Unofficially we were told that if we were somehow still on base as it was being overrun the guards had orders to kill us before we were captured.

I've been told that things overseas, in Afghanistan at least, are different now. That even AF remfs get issued an M-4 because there is no real rear echelon there.

Anonymous aero March 31, 2015 10:04 AM  

The ugliness of war. If you can't afford to feed or give aid to a prisoner of war. You use them for propaganda. Cutting your enemy's head off can send a message to those who do not follow or support you. or you put them in a big hole and shoot them. after a battle you pile their dead, then dig a hole and push them in with a bulldozer.

Blogger David March 31, 2015 10:04 AM  

When JFK visited Germany, it is my understanding that every military asset "in range" had their weapons deactivated (bolts removed, etc.) in the presence of the POTUS, despite the proximity of hostile forces.

Ever since then, as I understand it, no one but Secret Service (assigned, mind you, by the CIA) is allowed to have operational firearms near the POTUS.

When a political entity has become so estranged from the society it rules that even its own soldiers cannot be trusted to be armed anywhere near the head politicians, you know the rot, the cancer and the sclerosis are already deeply and irreversibly embedded.

I find it ironic that among the most disarmed, least-trusted populations on Earth is US servicemen on their own military bases. What more do you need to know?

OpenID simplytimothy March 31, 2015 10:04 AM  

I also think that what I would call "deep morale" is not such an easy thing to fake as our current elite of hostile mental manipulators are inclined to believe. I think a true believer whose spirit resonates in harmony with his society of fellow believers can call on more -- even just from the hearts of men -- than we think possible.

I agree; America is full of such men and women.


Rome went on to win that war in large part though an implacable will that was out of line with the usual standards of ancient cities at war. No matter how badly pressed, Rome was playing for all the marbles all the time -- no compromise. This tended to steal the initiative from mighty Hannibal, who could never translate successes in the field into a fracturing of the political solidarity of Rome, and who was always threatened with something, even if not very much, as the Romans just kept trying and trying. And the Latin cities, rightfully fearful of that implacable will,

This is how we will win this war.

"Operation Implacable Will" has a nice ring, don't you think?

Blogger David March 31, 2015 10:11 AM  

Yes, aero, the ugliness of war.
Then, give it a couple decades and previously hostile forces are forming joint business ventures. Hanoi has a stock exchange.

Wars come, wars go, and history simply rolls forward. Had the US let Stalin and Hitler annihilate each other's forces would today necessarily be different? The rage, anger and distrust that animated the war runs its course. Peace returns and the actions of the "bad guys" (despite being no different from those of the "good guys") are enshrined in movie and pop culture.

Wars of extermination have been unknown for a long, long time. Battles of extermination are common, but wars? When was the last war when the outcome was the slaughter of every single male and the enslavement of every single female?

Goering was right all along in the Modern Era.

Blogger kennymac March 31, 2015 10:19 AM  

No you won't. You'll be hiding while real men do the fighting.

Anonymous Titus Didius Tacitus March 31, 2015 10:31 AM  

simplytimothy: "I agree; America is full of such men and women."

I don't know what's been happening to aggregate religiosity in America in the decade 2005-2015, so I don't know if that's right or not.

Blogger Nate March 31, 2015 10:35 AM  

"We're just too nice to win wars anymore, but we're still the biggest and baddest. Just ask us."

Winning a war and winning an occupation are not the same thing.

We won the wars.

We lost the occupations.

Because our military was not designed to be an occupation force.

Its like criticizing a hammer because its not good at torquing bolts.

It isn't a wrench. It isn't a ratchet. its a hammer.

Anonymous Anonymous March 31, 2015 10:39 AM  

Vox, do you believe that battlefield troops should be subject to 'Rules of Engagement'?

Blogger darkdoc March 31, 2015 10:57 AM  

Much the same with police departments. The MOST IMPORTANT thing is to go home every night. Old style policing, neighborhood watch, discretion and wisdom are all pretty much historical. Everything infected with this thinking.

While I get it, dying for politicians is pointless whether a soldier or a cop, like with soldering, policing is now much less effective, and justice is an afterthought

Anonymous ZhukovG March 31, 2015 10:58 AM  

Nate is correct.

In WWII Germany had to expend a lot of resources occupying hostile territory. Even Nazi ruthlessness was unable to suppress resistance.

Russia has had greater success with Chechnya since the Chechens themselves are divided over the issue.

Also going back to the cultural nature of war, the attack on the Beslan elementary school caused a tremendous moral shock to the Chechen people, causing many to no longer feel their own cause had moral legitimacy.

Anonymous BigGaySteve March 31, 2015 11:08 AM  

"That is a deeply and profoundly ignorant statement."

Bath House Barry ties the hands of US soldiers to the point they cant shoot back unless one of them has been hit in the name of fairness


"believe that battlefield troops should be subject to 'Rules of Engagement'?"

There should be a limit to how many orders of magnitude difference from the enemy. When the Japanese abused the surrender flag in WWII the rules of engagement changed. When moslems store rockets in hospitals and daycares they should be inviting doom. The US was willing to burn kids alive at Waco, despite the history rewriting mentioning Waco on Madame Secretary this past week, why not do the same to savage moslems? I was not watching the revisionist history of the Clintons but heard it in the background.

Blogger Vox March 31, 2015 11:10 AM  

Vox, does Castalia have any plans to republish The Transformation of War and Technology and War as ebooks anytime soon?

We don't have the rights. We will if we can obtain them eventually.

Anonymous Frank Brady March 31, 2015 11:14 AM  

@Nate, if you lose in the long run, winning the lightning war on the ground is immaterial.

Anonymous Frank Brady March 31, 2015 11:19 AM  

If one side is fighting for a transcendental cause and the other side is fighting for a "way of life" defined by satiated materialism, the winner isn't hard to project.

Blogger Mike Wallens March 31, 2015 11:27 AM  

I am still amazed that there are people posting on this site that think we won because Saddam Hussein was removed and killed. In light of the rise of ISIS and of the rise of the Iranian regime, this is a completely irrational, willfully ignorant viewpoint.

Rumsfeld, as dumb as he was militarily, came up with a good line about "dead enders". It is obvious there are still dead ender Murikans who think the Iraq was anything better than the complete disaster it actually was.

Anonymous Appeal to Authority March 31, 2015 11:29 AM  

Nate, you're making the same argument I made - that US military forces won the battle but lost the politics - an argument Vox calls profoundly ignorant and which is directly contrary to Van Creveld's quote above implying Rangers and Marines were pussies who wouldn't fight which is why they got their asses handed to them by goat-herders, skinnies and camel jockeys.

Anonymous Just Mark March 31, 2015 11:33 AM  

Can we back up a step here please.

This is like playing an entire ASL scenario and being declared the loser without even knowing what the victory conditions were.

1. What were the political objectives of Afghanistan? What did they morph into?

2. What were the political objectives of Gulf war II? What did they morph into?

3. Can you be confident that the stated objectives of the government of the United States were the real objectives?

----------------------------------------------
Here is what I see, I see Persians killing Arabs and vice versa. I see Shia killing Suni and vice versa. If we strip away the morality of it and attack the problem from the perspective of game theorey that would seem to be a good thing for the United States and the world.

Anonymous aero March 31, 2015 11:46 AM  

When Jesus returns What generation of warfare will he use? Will he compromise? Will he have compassion for those who are evil? What kind of media campaign?

I believe the generation of warfare he will use was written about 2000 years ago. Its probably the best method to use in war.

Blogger Nate March 31, 2015 11:52 AM  

"@Nate, if you lose in the long run, winning the lightning war on the ground is immaterial."

False.

The failure has nothing to do with military and everything to do with the job the military was asked to do in the first place.

Concluding that the military is weak based on this... is frankly stupid.

Blogger Nate March 31, 2015 11:53 AM  

"Nate, you're making the same argument I made - that US military forces won the battle but lost the politics"

No.

I'm saying the military did everything it was designed to do... and only failed when it was given a task it was never designed to do in the first place.

If you want to occupy a place... you need to build a military that is designed for that and trained for that and equipped for that.

That is not our military. That doesn't make our military weak.

That makes our strategy folks stupid.

Blogger Vox March 31, 2015 11:56 AM  

Vox, do you believe that battlefield troops should be subject to 'Rules of Engagement'?

Yes. But there are stupid RoE and smart RoE. You don't want your troops committing massacres and creating 10x the motivated enemies they just killed.

Anonymous Mike M. March 31, 2015 12:05 PM  

Another factor that must be borne in mind is national personality. If you're an American statesman, you must ALWAYS remember that the electorate will support a war for 36 months, and no longer. After three years, they will demand to see either a victory within reach or a disengagement being attempted. If they see neither come Election Day, the party in power will become the party OUT of power.

This has held true for every conflict that ran over 36 months. Vietnam providing two examples - Johnson decided to avoid being crushed in a reelection campaign three years after major combat operations started, and Nixon got reelected largely because he was clearly trying to disengage.

You go to war with the country you have. And this will close some potential strategies, open some others.

Blogger David March 31, 2015 12:08 PM  

Vox, is it not a waste of time to try to explain the "moral level of war" to people whose thinking about warfare never gets deeper than "we kill them?"

Anonymous Appeal to Authority March 31, 2015 12:21 PM  

" . . . when it came to engaging in ground combat, man against man, the West, with the U.S at its head, simply did not have what it takes."

" . . . were kicked out by the “Skinnies” . . ."

" . . . they saw no reason why they should get themselves killed . . . troops whose primary concern is not to get themselves killed have never be able to fight, let alone win."

Vox and Nate, VanC is not leveling criticisms of occupation politics or Democrat politicians. He's not talking about the home front having lost the will to fight, causing a need to rally popular support.

He's saying individual Rangers and Marines lost the will to fight which is why we had to bring them home from Iraq with their tail between their legs. They were more concerned with saving their own lives than with performing the mission.

I'm trying to recall news accounts of lost battles, fragging, desertion, cowardice in combat, some evidence that VanC is correct to pin the blame on individual troops and not on politicians. Can you help me out?

Blogger Nate March 31, 2015 12:30 PM  

"He's saying individual Rangers and Marines lost the will to fight which is why we had to bring them home from Iraq with their tail between their legs. "

Yes.

And I'm saying that's bullshit and flatly incorrect. he's glossing over all the battles those rangers and marines won and focusing on the losses in the occupation.

Look at the surge.

Its like looking at the Tet Offensive and saying the US was weak... and ignoring the fact that the US took every inch ground back after that in a trivial amount of time.

Blogger Nate March 31, 2015 12:33 PM  

"Can you help me out?"

No.

I can't.

I have read and read and read on Iraq and afghanistan and I can't for the life of me figure out what he's talking about.

in direct confrontations.. the US military kicked the shit out of everyone that stuck their heads up. Plattoons here and there would get ambushed near the pakki boarder and would occasionally retreat... but more often than not to platoons would hold their ground and drive the ragheads off.

Blogger Vox March 31, 2015 1:03 PM  

Vox, is it not a waste of time to try to explain the "moral level of war" to people whose thinking about warfare never gets deeper than "we kill them?"

Pretty much.

"He's saying individual Rangers and Marines lost the will to fight which is why we had to bring them home from Iraq with their tail between their legs. "

Is an individual Ranger "the West"? English is van Creveld's fourth language. You need to be very careful about basing your reading of him on something that involves a detailed parsing. I don't see many references to individual soldiers, but I do see "Western armed forces" and "Western armies". Furthermore, van Creveld does not write at the tactical level, but at the strategic level.

In other words, you are misreading him.

Blogger praetorian March 31, 2015 1:13 PM  

"OK, so what's your goal here?"

"Murica!"

"Right. And how are you planning on accomplishing 'murica? In the long run, I mean."

"Killin' rag heads"

"Got it."

Blogger Derrick Bonsell March 31, 2015 1:17 PM  

Bit OT but somewhat related. Aidid's son was serving in Somalia as part of the USMC at the time. He was serving as a translator to assist in food deliveries.

Anonymous Grinder March 31, 2015 1:21 PM  

USA lost the wars in Vietnam Iraq and Afghanistan. You can keep saying your military is the greatest but it is not tough enough to take and hold the world because it relies on the sacrifices made on homefront to supply and support that military.

Anonymous Appeal to Authority March 31, 2015 1:26 PM  

I concede the language point, Vox.

If by "Western Armed Forces" VanC means "UN Peacekeepers," then sure, total cowards, got chased out of lots of places with their tail between their legs, totally agree with him.


That's a long way from the quoted text and rallying public support at home wouldn't solve the problem. Perhaps VanC needs a better translater?

Anonymous Grinder March 31, 2015 1:32 PM  

USA lost all those wars for which they were not equipped to win at the price that would have had to be paid. Ussr won ww2 and USA only got in late before it was all over to gain power and influence UK and France lost.

Blogger Nate March 31, 2015 1:47 PM  

" Furthermore, van Creveld does not write at the tactical level, but at the strategic level."

Which goes to my point about calling a hammer weak because it isn't a ratchet.

Blogger Nate March 31, 2015 1:48 PM  

"USA lost the wars in Vietnam Iraq and Afghanistan."

The USA lost occupations there. Because the US never bothered to build an army that was good at occupying.

What the US needs if its going to go around occupying... is a foreign legion.

Anonymous Clay March 31, 2015 1:52 PM  

Theromobaric bombs. We have been too damn nice. "War is Hell", as the great hero, Sherman, of the Federals said.

We seem to forget this....unless we are destroying our friends & countrymen.

Anonymous Curtis March 31, 2015 2:10 PM  

Caesar! Pompey! Antony! Brutus! Cassius! Dolabella! Octavian!

We can always start with a Foreign Legion made up of Mexicans.

Americans don't have what it takes to keep an American Foreign Legion in line and disciplined. Much less make one large enough to pop a pimple.

Blogger CarpeOro March 31, 2015 2:19 PM  

I think the term "luxury wars" is well coined. Despite all the rhetoric of "we need to fight them over there and have the damage occur to THEIR homes", there hasn't been a valid reason given for them being congruent with the national interests of the United States. The USA had the luxury of time and was able to convince a large number of other countries to provide troops for the first go around. There was little threat of devastating losses to the coalition forces in a conventional war setting. The officer corp hasn't had a renewal of quality from the crucible of war because those that have faced it have not advanced in the ranks to bring that understanding to the higher levels. Those levels have continued to be held by the political officers who haven't "seen the elephant". We have had the luxury of continuing to staff the military with them, but the conflicts of the last decade have shown they are unable to keep a victory in the end.

Anonymous A.B. Prosper March 31, 2015 2:33 PM  

The Spy, you are correct on the Transgender issue however Pagans can certainly fight. Rome and Sparta among others were Pagan and quite effective in their time frames . The open homosexual issue is an edge case, I'm not a solider but given that THIS IS NOT SPARTA and that are guys aren't Theban Sacred Banders , it might be incompatible with our current culture. Hard to say.

As far as the broader question, its amazing how many people don't get the very basic idea that we really don't have anything to gain with these fights.

We aren't keeping our own civilization safe from internal threats, there are no external military threats and there is no loot or land to be gained. Why fight? And yes I know neither Germany nor Japan were real threats in WW2 , they did threaten our civilization after a fashion and it was easy enough to convince ourselves they were a real threat. That is not the case from 1946 on. We never fought the USSSR directly or even tried so between timidity and Communist moles, the ended treated as a non threat which apparently worked.,

Its also why there is really no point in mass hyperbaric warfare as Clay suggest. Its kills people and smashes stuff but gains nothing for anyone. No is being liberated since the societies they have are the ones they want. And yeah I know Japan, we didn't do so hot there, Japan and Germany and any other nation we've touched is dying. Long term we screwed up big time.

Also as with a lot changes such as the pill, we can't cope with our technology. The nuke kettles us since one slip up and our civilization ends. Its almost happened several times already. Since culturally we are basically warmongers and heavily militarized, we go off looking for trouble in 3rd world places. Gotta keep the complex fed.

Its stupid but our leadership isn't our best and brightest anyway , never has been really.

In the end the proliferation of the bomb , Iran will have it, The Saudis will and maybe a few other powers might join in. will either force peace or utter destruction, Hard to tell. Either way the US hasn't got many places left to intervene and maybe the world, good, bad and ugly when Mordor on the Potomac is no longer feeling like "Helping"

You'd think people could figure it out, I managed it and don't have a fraction of Creveld's skill but as Sinclair Lewis once famously said (paraphrased) "You can't teach a man something his job depends on him not knowing"

Anonymous Ain March 31, 2015 2:44 PM  

aero: "The best propaganda against the enemy is victory."

Tactical victories can lose the war, or the war can be lost in spite of them, if the strategy is wrong. The moral ground is the most important to achieve victory, and in this case the more casualties inflicted the greater the moral victory for the enemy. According to William S. Lind, the reason the British were successful in Northern Ireland is because their military took many, many more casualties than they inflicted. Our own wars have been quite the opposite of this, and largely unsuccessful. One of the largest moral failures (from a 4GW standpoint) on our part is killing the enemy with bombs dropped by aircraft. It both seems cowardly to the enemy, and infuriates them. It had that same effect when Germany bombed Britain. Couple that with a culture in which blood feuds to avenge the death of family are obligatory, and the enemy turns into a hydra.

Anonymous And Stupid, Too March 31, 2015 3:23 PM  

I read the linked article again, just to make sure I wasn't missing something. VanC's overall point about how modern metrosexual, feminized, lawyer-laden society denigrates and demeans warriors rings true. It's his assertions about modern warriors themselves that jar.

"Kicked out," "preening," "pussycats," "man-to-man ... did not have what it takes" and "never been able to fight, let alone win" are harsh criticisms. They are not criticisms of politicians. They are criticisms of soldiers themselves.

Who are these losers? US Marines? British Paras? Aussies? Doesn't say. Doesn't provide any specific examples.

Vox, you say I'm profoundly ignorant of history thinking (true) and misreading the article because it's a translation (possibly true, I wouldn't know).

I say VanC provides no examples to support his scorn and it doesn't stand up to ordinary scrutiny. Surely there would be some reported incidents to support his conclusion?

Since you are not ignorant of military history, Vox, you do speak several languages and you defend VanC's conclusions, perhaps you could direct me to the incidents that support them: fragging, lost battles, desertion, cowardice in combat, incidents showing Western troops are unable to fight, let alone win?

Blogger Mr.MantraMan March 31, 2015 3:31 PM  

IMO the USA loses wars is because it can never leave the year 1945

Blogger Vox March 31, 2015 3:48 PM  

Which goes to my point about calling a hammer weak because it isn't a ratchet.

He's talking about the militaries. They are weak. Count the divisions, for crying out loud. They CANNOT do what they are being ordered to do.

Who are these losers? US Marines? British Paras? Aussies? Doesn't say. Doesn't provide any specific examples.

Yes, it does. "Western military forces". "Western armies".

I say VanC provides no examples to support his scorn and it doesn't stand up to ordinary scrutiny. Surely there would be some reported incidents to support his conclusion?

And I say you are stubbornly insisting on something that isn't there. Do you not understand the use of metaphor? If we can talk about the US military being "brave" or "honorable" as a whole, we can also talk about it being "preening" or a "pussycat" as a whole.

You don't seem to understand that Creveld travels around the world meeting with and speaking to officers from many different militaries. He sees the same thing that Lind describes and many people getting out of the military describe. Even the US forces are not really serious about fighting and winning wars.

Anonymous Frank Brady March 31, 2015 4:17 PM  

@Nate, you wrote: "Concluding that the military is weak based on this... is frankly stupid."

Well, frankly speaking, you're not paying attention. That's not what I said--nor is it remotely connected to what I said. I'm not talking about the individual Western soldier. I was a soldier once and have two sons who were career military (now retired). My minor point was, no matter how many battles are won in the field, if the war is lost in the long run it doesn't matter.

My main point is that the most skilled combat soldiers in the world will not prevail if the military institution to which they belong has become incompetent. David Hackworth used to write derisively about the "perfumed princes" of the American High Command. The description was apt.

Blogger Josh March 31, 2015 4:18 PM  

Fred Reed has made similar observations about the American military.

Anonymous cheddarman March 31, 2015 4:26 PM  

Pagans can certainly fight.- A.B. Prosper

A.B., I agree that European pagans from antiquity can fight. However, modern pagans dont have the virtues of the classical pagans. The modern pagans are for the most part a product of their culture, weak, cowardly, effeminate. I cant see modern pagans fighting like the Germans at the battle of Teutoburg Forrest where they wiped out several Roman Legions

Blogger CarpeOro March 31, 2015 4:41 PM  

Having good soldiers will only get you so far. As an example, Rome had excellent soldiers but mediocre officers before Hannibal fought them. They had defeated previous opponents with superior training and discipline. Hannibal forced the creation of better leaders. I doubt the current Western militaries would remain cohesive enough to undergo a similar transformation. As referenced in my earlier comment the warrior leaders don't rise to the top ranks at present, only the political soldiers do. If Israel wasn't on the knife's edge so much of the time, they would succumb just as fast, perhaps even faster. I suspect some of it may be creeping in there also as the warriors at the top are retiring or dying off. The incursions into Gaza and Lebanon are not the same as the Yom Kippur War.

Blogger Nate March 31, 2015 4:42 PM  

"Well, frankly speaking, you're not paying attention. That's not what I said--nor is it remotely connected to what I said"

I wasn't referring to anything you said. I was talking about the conclusions Mr Creveld reached. Not you.

Blogger CarpeOro March 31, 2015 4:46 PM  

BTW, The Theban Sacred Band wasn't a Spartan formation. It was Theban - the third city in ancient Greece after Athens and Sparta. They had a short day in the sun with a tactical innovation but were generally an also ran - the Sacred Band didn't have that big an impact.

Anonymous aero March 31, 2015 5:05 PM  

Victory is not a tactic or strategy of war it is the outcome you want to achieve.
Using the force necessary to crush the enemy is a tactic. The strategy is to make it so they never want to engage in warfare with you again.
The problem that any country will have during war is their own people will object to the amount of force used.and where it is used. When it comes to war MPAI including me
Every battle will require a different amount of force X to the power X to defeat.the enemy and its will to fight. Who will decide this force. The nut job you'll use to much or idiot that try's to win with inaction and pretty word.

Anonymous Unconvinced March 31, 2015 5:23 PM  

When I expressed skepticism, I got Appeal to Authority. When I quoted the article, I got Ad Hominem. When I asked for empirical evidence, I got another Appeal to Authority and an admission that empirical evidence does not exist.

I wouldn't accept logical fallacies in any other discussion. I won't accept them here.

I call bullshit.

If Western Forces have been unable to win since Clinton was in office because our troops have been personally unwilling to fight, our enemies would have trumpeted our mutinies, routs, desertions and cowardice in battle.

Extravagent assertions for which the proponents admit there is no empirical evidence inspire no credibility. I remain skeptical.

OpenID cailcorishev March 31, 2015 5:40 PM  

Who are these losers? US Marines?

USMC recruiting ads used to focus on being challenged as a man, with imagery like slaying dragons and standing on mountain peaks in victory.

I've seen two of their ads lately. One talked about tearing down walls so that people can come together and work out their differences. The other was about helping the needy. Depressing when both turned out to be USMC ads.

A related note on military ads: I've seen three ads lately featuring retired soldiers -- one about disabled vets, one about special insurance plans for vets and their families, and one about the VA. All three featured soldiers who were obviously from south of the border. While I'm not usually one to think there's a specific guiding hand behind these things, I couldn't help wondering if that's not part of the "immigrants are wonderful" meme that's being sold -- look, they even do our fighting for us, and are more patriotic for their new fatherland than those born here!

Blogger luagha March 31, 2015 6:05 PM  

"The moral ground is the most important to achieve victory, and in this case the more casualties inflicted the greater the moral victory for the enemy."

I disagree. I say that our problem is that we are not laughing at our enemy the way we used to, and we are not putting their heads on pikes the way we used to.

The middle-eastern, muslim, tribal mindset fears these actions. A head on a pike sends a message to the next fellow.
Apologizing for having to kill the terrorist says it's not so bad.

We need someone who can say, "Screw you, you put missiles in that mosque/hospital. Here's the footage, ass-wipe. It's not a mosque/hospital any more. If you don't like it, call the International Police."

If you can't hold your enemies to account for using human shields, how can you play the game?

Anonymous Frank Brady March 31, 2015 6:17 PM  

@chedderman wrote, "I cant see modern pagans fighting like the Germans at the battle of Teutoburg Forrest where they wiped out several Roman Legions"

Not to put too fine a point on it, but many members of today's U.S. military ARE pagans, literally.

Moreover, I've seen no one claim that individual members of the military aren't brave or skilled. The point is that the institution has become corrupt, politicized, and inept.

Blogger Emmanuel Mateo-Morales March 31, 2015 6:25 PM  

"Not to put too fine a point on it, but many members of today's U.S. military ARE pagans, literally."

Yeah. That's the problem. They're pussies and statistically insignificant.

Anonymous A.B. Prosper March 31, 2015 6:43 PM  

cherddarman, there are quite a few modern Pagans in the military. I haven't heard if they can fight well or not, My suspicion is that the Asatru (Nordic guys) are probably as good as anyone else and probably motivated by a certain amount of religious fervor . Stephan McNallen who is the closest thing Asatru has to a religious leader was an officer and an Army Ranger in the Vietnam era

Wiccans also do decently well and I've known some who served with distinction though fewer of the later are motivated to serve.

The "New Age" pagans small p , don't have much of a theology and probably serve in well below average numbers

The real issue is with Pagans is caused by Evangelical Christians absolutely not wanting to serve with them or to convert them for various reasons that could be summed up simply as religious bigotry.

And yeah CarpeOro, appreciate the reply though I I know about the Sacred Band guys . It was probably confusion from my syntax

Anyway for most they are the "public face" of military gays though like many Greeks of that period they were probably opportunistically bisexual rather than actually gay

Anonymous Discard March 31, 2015 6:45 PM  

cailcorishev: I have recently seen a USMC recruiting ad blathering about how much they need "Hispanic values".

The narrative is "Mexicans are just as good as Americans, only better". The Marines' masters follow the narrative.

Anonymous Titus Didius Tacitus March 31, 2015 6:55 PM  

Mike M.: "Another factor that must be borne in mind is national personality. [...] You go to war with the country you have. And this will close some potential strategies, open some others."

So very true.

Among other things: if you don't impress your own people, it doesn't matter whether you can impress the enemy.

You don't have to be a good or believing man to understand this. Stalin understood it well. Public Christianity and motherland-loving patriotism were back in style in the Soviet Union after the opening bell for Operation Barbarossa, because Stalin understood that Russians were not going to die (in sufficient numbers) for International Socialism. Soviet strategy and tactics demanded insane sacrifices, in part because the Russians are a people who, properly solicited, would make them. Stalin ditched the idea of converging columns and the "cauldron battle" in favor of simple "cleaving blows," because, against Germans, Russians were never going to make the more sophisticated option come off. And so on.

Any honest public discussion of national characteristics is impossible of course, in our lying states. It would be a career-killer, and also critiqued to death, because nations come down to blood and heritable characteristics only supplemented by culture. But those discussions need to happen in private, or firm and correct understandings (such as Fabius had) need to be already in place, otherwise you are ignoring a source of victory and defeat.

Anonymous Frank Brady March 31, 2015 7:16 PM  

Although more than one definition exists, in my post about "pagans" I intended the classical definition, "In the 14th century, English borrowed the Latin paganus as pagan, and used it with the same meaning. In time both heathen and pagan also took on the meaning of 'a person having no religion.'"

But then I'm an old dude.

Anonymous Titus Didius Tacitus March 31, 2015 7:22 PM  

And Stupid, Too: "Who are these losers? US Marines? British Paras? Aussies?"

I know this doesn't count as a proper argument but... I've known Australian ex-soldiers I would absolutely trust my life to, but they could not prosper in an up-or-out career-polishing (and shrinking) military. They didn't have the mindset for that, which is why I would trust them with my life. It matters when you get rid of solid bricks like that, and make your military only of upwardly-mobile mortar.

When Australian military experts say we need women in the military because we could not get the job done with the men available, should I take them at their word? If so, that says something bad about our current military, however skilled the best-of-the-best sharp-end experts are. If not, they're liars, and that too would say something bad about our military now.

Apart from our special forces, the Australian military has not been used as a war-winning force for a long time now. The men are held back from being real warriors. It's been a source of contention and resentment. And the response from top officers has been dismissive and infantilizing: basically that the soldiers have been acting like babies, when they should have accepted that their role was humble and non-violent and that the Americans would do the fighting. That's not how you keep great armies great.

We don't fight for our own good any more. (At best we fight to pay Uncle Sam for our "alliance insurance".) I think the greatest armies fight for their own good. (In a broad sense, including their posterity.)

Are Australian forces still useful? Yes, of course. (For one thing: genes.) Are they the best they could be? Far from it, and by design.

Anonymous Titus Didius Tacitus March 31, 2015 7:26 PM  

A.B. Prosper:

** !! --> "As far as the broader question, its amazing how many people don't get the very basic idea that we really don't have anything to gain with these fights." <-- !! **

Blogger Tarrou March 31, 2015 9:12 PM  

Mr. Van Creveld vastly misstates the issue. In none of the conflicts he lists have the soldiers on the ground suffered anything but the most glancing and isolated defeats. I've been there, I've seen what it looks like when western soldiers fight third-world tribesmen. It's not pretty. And it is precisely the level of training which overrides the natural impulse to protect oneself that makes us so effective. When ambushed, you walk straight into it. Sounds daft until you see it in action. Face in, plates in front, front sight post up, and you walk in shooting. They can't match our discipline, our equipment nor our skills. In every skirmish I was ever in, the iraqis or the afghans would hang their AKs out over the wall, empty the mag blind, and then run for the hills or curl up in a ball.

Van Creveld mistakes or misstates the fact that it is the political leadership (officer corps included) which "loses" these wars after the soldiers win every objective. Or else the retards back home set ridiculous non-military objectives. How the fuck is any military supposed to make a third-world tribal shitshow into a modern representative democracy? It's not a reasonable objective. You want militants shot, we can do that. You want towns pacified, we do that too. We do not remake societies. And the fact that what the dipshits back home want and what we do differ wildly leads to these "losses". We win every battle and lose every war, because the war was impossible to win. It isn't against an opponent, no one will name a target. We're fighting ghosts and emotions. The "War on Terror" indeed.

OpenID cailcorishev March 31, 2015 9:32 PM  

You want militants shot, we can do that. You want towns pacified, we do that too. We do not remake societies.

But remaking the society is the only outcome that can qualify as "victory" for the US here. After all, (temporarily) pacifying an Iraqi town offers the US no gain, because Iraqi towns weren't any threat to us in the first place. (And to the extent that it breeds more jihad, it's a negative.) We can't gain anything there by achieving normal military objectives. And if we went old-school and killed all the men and sold the women and children into slavery, that would "work" in the sense that we could have the oil, but we wouldn't be able to live with that.

But if we could remake them as a Jeffersonian democracy, a reasonable, dependable ally in the region -- ah, that would be a victory we could be proud of, that at least some could argue was worth the blood and money. That's impossible, though, and anything short of it is bound to be a failure, so....

Anonymous Ain March 31, 2015 9:45 PM  

aero: "Victory is not a tactic or strategy of war it is the outcome you want to achieve. Using the force necessary to crush the enemy is a tactic. The strategy is to make it so they never want to engage in warfare with you again."

That's easier said than done against people that are already willing to die. And you don't engage the world's biggest super power without some resolution that you may be killed, possibly in the blink of an eye. In that regard, their vetting process has an advantage over ours.

To make them no longer want to fight is to know why they fight in the first place.


Every battle will require a different amount of force X to the power X to defeat the enemy and its will to fight. Who will decide this force. The nut job you'll use to much or idiot that try's to win with inaction and pretty word."

This reminds me of a method Lind suggested in his column Evaluating 4GW Missions, in which he connects the three traditional levels of war (tactical, operational, and strategic) with the three new levels of war (physical, mental, and moral). Higher levels dominate lower levels, meaning strategic trumps operational trumps tactical, and moral trumps mental trumps physical.

He arranges the levels of war in a 3x3 grid and uses the example of killing the enemy. Going across, it physically reduces threats to order, mentally may dissuade potential enemies from fighting us from fear, but morally has the Goliath effect and also fuels their blood feud culture. Going down, it counts as a win tactically, but fails strategically because every fight is an escalation that overbears the attrition. Since strategy dominates tactical, killing is evaluated as a loss. This is also why dissuading them from fighting on the mental level is negated by fueling their desire to fight on the moral level.

Anonymous The other robot April 01, 2015 12:20 AM  

I imagine that any war the Russians get into will be an existential one, not unlike 1812 or 1941 etc ...

And they won't have any rainbow coalition of fudge packers in the military as well.

Anonymous Titus Didius Tacitus April 01, 2015 12:45 AM  

The other robot: "I imagine that any war the Russians get into will be an existential one, not unlike 1812 or 1941 etc ..."

I think so too, but when they got into a war that was useless to them (in Afghanistan) they did as badly as anyone else. And their rainbow coalition of Soviet peoples didn't show a lot of solidarity.

If it was enough to be innately tough, if you didn't need to be fighting with the right orientation, for a real reward and with the right sort of leadership, the Russians would have been fine.

Anonymous Stilicho April 01, 2015 1:04 AM  

A to A is correct. There is no other reasonable interpretation of van c's words and he's dead fucking wrong. If it is a language barrier or translation problem, he should fix it or find a competent interpreter. Otherwise, perhaps the strategist should stick to writing about strategy.

As. For Fred Reed, his valid points tend to get lost in his whining about how every war is Vietnam. He sounds remarkably like john kerry when he does so. Typical boomer trying to blame what he thinks is a failure of his generation on a larger group in order to dodge responsibility.

Anonymous Stilicho April 01, 2015 2:34 AM  

The most charitable explanation for van c's hissy fit that I can see is either Vox's interpretation that he's really talking about the lack of political will to prosecute the war in a manner calculated to win along with a corresponding lack of will among the flag ranks (and possibly field grades) to take risks or he's simply projecting an end game level of morale onto the troops. Yet words have meaning and I cannot fully reconcile van c's words with either of those interpretations. Nor am I willing to accept a, shall we say calvinistic, position of "that's what he said, but what he really meant was..."

Van c's a very smart man. I expect he meant exactly what he said.

Anonymous Stilicho April 01, 2015 3:51 AM  

Ok, upon further reading and reflection, I retract my criticism of van c. The "man for man" comments most likely translate poorly given the fact that he correctly diagnoses the problem and places blame squarely where it belongs for failures of western militaries. I engaged in a knee jerk reaction even though I know better. Mea culpa.

Anonymous A.B. Prosper April 01, 2015 3:58 AM  

Frank, ah I get where you are coming from but the modern terms Atheist and Agnostic are clearer especially Also to note, Atheists do serve in numbers large enough that they warrant a tombstone sign of their own. Its an atomic symbol if anyone is wondering.

And Tacitus ** !! --> "As far as the broader question, its amazing how many people don't get the very basic idea that we really don't have anything to gain with these fights." <-- !! ** Was all that punctuation "I agree!." or "WtF is A.B. talking about" ?

Anonymous Titus Didius Tacitus April 01, 2015 4:25 AM  

A.B. Prosper: "Was all that punctuation "I agree!."

Sad to say, it was all just "I agree!" The equivalent of holding up a flashing neon sign saying: HE'S RIGHT! HE'S RIGHT! HE'S RIGHT! HE'S RIGHT!

I don't have anything to say against what Tarrou said. But I think there is a huge problem that flows downhill from the character of our ruling elites, their hostility to our nations and the ethnic interests of our armed servicemen, and the unwillingness of our leaders to do things for our fighters that should be done, starting with making sure that the wars they fight advance their real interests.

We are fighting wars that do not profit us at all, that are pointless. This fact has lots of consequences.

Very high level decisions like this filter down to the common fighting man, how his officers treat him and how he has to fight his war. For example, very high level decisions in Vietnam gradually filtered down to loss of initiative even at the village level. The option to seize the initiative by ignoring the opponent's threat and instead concentrating to impose one's own higher level threat eventually dissipates in a threatened chain of escalations that ends, "but then we'd have to invade North Vietnam, and this we cannot do". So higher level units have to back up, separate and go defensive, and this communicates itself gradually down to the digger who's screaming in terror under heavy fire again from the village he's helped out repeatedly.

Really fundamental decisions at the top, even if unspoken, lead to consequences in strategy, tactics, logistics, personnel, career paths, training, rules of engagement -- and in the end you get "pussycats" who could be heroes, but not with this leadership and not in this war.

Anonymous Asatru Heathen April 01, 2015 5:10 AM  

[/b]Homosexuals, pagans and Transgenders now openly operate as "warriors", so what does that tell you?[/b]

Homosexuality and paganism did not seem to prevent the Spartans from being effective warriors/soldiers, and pagan Roman legions were also a force to be reckoned with.

Anonymous RHJunior April 01, 2015 8:36 AM  

Drivel.
The goal of war, as any fool knows, is to make SOME OTHER bastard die for his country. Armies that wish to heroically fling themselves upon the swords of their enemies make for bloody grand reading by Monday-morning generals and history wonks sitting in their overstuffed armchairs, but they don't make for actual victories. The Charge of the Light Brigade was not noble or heroic, it was the act of dunderheads done on the word of bunglers, and all it did was deny them the use of the Light Brigade ever again.

Second, I would be loth to be in this man's shoes, should he ever meet any of the soldiers he has insulted by calling "pussycats." Some of them still have blood flecked on their boots, and are liable to get a few beers inside them, forget themselves, and fold him and his billowing ego up into a small enough package to mail back to his editor.

Third, anyone who burbles the blood-for-oil myth automatically loses any and all credibility. If America wanted oil, we could have saved billions and just signed a trade agreement with the bloodthirsty little bastard that ran Iraq--- and in a world where we had weeping, snuffling teddy-bear huggers who were willing to give themselves to the little shit as human shields, that wouldn't have been a hard sell. And even if we were just all a bunch of war-hungry chickenhawks, that's not what a war for oil looks like. IN a war for oil we would hav landed, beelined straight to the oil fields, and staked our claim with a few million tons of tanks and rocket launchers. That, however, expressly did not happen.

The reason America did not accomplish her goals in Iraq or Afghanistan (and did we not? Saddam and Osama, DEAD, hundreds of thousands of terrorists, DEAD, and women voting in afghanistan for the first time in recorded human history) is that America has leaders--- or rather RULERS--limpwristed men who do not have the tenacity or temerity to see anything through to conclusion, who despise this country and wish to never see it undermined and humbled before the world... and a populace with an attention span shorter than it takes to microwave a bag of popcorn that wants its wars won and ended in between commercial breaks.

The one thing that is NOT lacking is the skills, will and fighting spirit of our soldiers.

OpenID cailcorishev April 01, 2015 8:58 AM  

While I don't have a problem believing that our soldiers are still vastly superior to those of primitive tribes who would still be hacking at each other with sharp objects if not for our help, it seems naive to assume that our military men haven't softened at all. We're all certainly aware that the elites are trying to do that, so why would be be failing entirely?

We know that they've inserted women and homosexuals into the ranks and chain of command, which is bound to affect unit strength and efficiency. We know they've made an idol of "diversity" just like the rest of elite society has, basing promotions and objectives on attributes like skin color instead of cold facts. We know they've altered their recruiting (more recently with the USMC, but the Army and Navy went there long ago) to appeal less to young men who like to fight and more to those who want a head-start on a technical career or to play world-travelling police-person. We know they've been using the military for social engineering for decades -- they're so proud of racial integration in the military and how it dragged the rest of society along that they've made movies about it.

Is it really that likely that the men in the field have been unaffected by all these attempts to adjust their attitudes, soften their bodies, and gradually replace them with sort of an armed Peace Corps? If they still have massive military superiority and win every non-handcuffed exchange, that's kinda like saying you could cut 6 inches off Larry Bird's legs and he could still beat me in basketball -- it wouldn't mean he was still as good as before, or that he wouldn't now lose to others he used to beat.

Anonymous Barnabas April 01, 2015 10:42 AM  

It would be interesting to look at which cultures have been successfully defeated and colonized (the US Confederacy, Germany, Japan) and which apparently cannot be. I think that this has much less to do with tactics and more to do with an enemy with some baseline level of civilization. Those enemies will willingly deal with a political existence as a US protectorate if it means a return to some semblance of normal life. The Middle East or Africa would always have an insurgency since they have and inherently violent populace and little history of stability to long for.

Anonymous Heaviside April 01, 2015 11:41 AM  

>It would be interesting to look at which cultures have been successfully defeated and colonized (the US Confederacy, Germany, Japan) and which apparently cannot be. I think that this has much less to do with tactics and more to do with an enemy with some baseline level of civilization.

It also has to do with the willingness to kill millions of civilians.

Anonymous Titus Didius Tacitus April 01, 2015 7:06 PM  

cailcorishev April 01, 2015 8:58 AM, right. And this is a good thing.

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