Thursday, May 5, 2011

Contemplate scale for the next military venture

An editorial piece in the Kansas City Star today asks us to contemplate reducing our role in Afghanistan. My recommendation is to consider scale as we posture for our next military venture.

In the cases of both Afghanistan and Iraq, as a former military planner and soldier, I winced at the overwhelming scale of our operations. Huge given, what to me were a good set of precise objectives. Since the Gulf War, we’ve gone in with guns blazing in an overwhelming way. We planned it that way. We rehearsed Gulf War II at places like Fort Leavenworth, Spring after Spring at the Staff College. We have a way of war which is to use all of our capabilities whether we need them or not.

Before the journalist-coined term “Powell Doctrine” there was the Weinberger Doctrine. Both doctrines consist of questions. Good ones, indeed. But along with the thought there’s the reality that we have a very healthy technical and industrial capacity to wage war. We have amazing tools at our disposal, and an impressive professional military force of talented trained people.

But should we always overwhelm? Is cunning a dead concept? Is secrecy no longer possible?

A governor on the engine of “overwhelming”, doing as we wish, kicking in doors, is the reality of nuclear weapons. Such is the reason we treat Pakistan so delicately, lest we forget…why we’re gentle with North Korea. Those who wish us harm know this. Those who wish us ill will watch as we repeat our military operational script in Libya.

We’re too hefty and too open. We’ve been building firebases for the last ten years. We never stay. We never intend to hold ground. So why occupy in the first place?

In the military I was trained to distill the murky into the clear and elegantly simple…and over the past ten years what was clear to me mission-wise was:

get Osama bin Laden
get Saddam Hussein
Over-simplification? Maybe…

Given what we haven’t learned yet, given that we’re leaning forward in our intellectual foxholes, given the ongoing battle simulations, wargames, rehearsals for the what ifs the military is tasked to prepare plans…we should consider the concept of scale and consider the scales we’ve tipped since the Gulf War. We should consider the art of cunning and the importance of secrecy.

And given all of this, America needs a more robust diplomatic corps to prevent conflict and engage with the world so we have fewer foreign military ventures.

Lean, secret, cunning…

1 comment:

  1. Lean, secret, cunning....certainly what I subscribe to, especially since reading about successful demonstrations of real time intelligence and smart tactical weaponry . But the media and about half the public, in my perception of the last three Presidential elections, want transparency more than progress in our "cool war" environment instead of keeping secrets. Cunning we have plenty of in our mix of military minds, but their cunning capacity is used up briefing the politicians and media on our secrets to maintain transparency. It is also certainly difficult to be lean while building up a temporarily redundant security forces in the Middle East. We mainly misjudged the time and cost involved in killing Sadam and Bin Laden in the first place.