22 March 2007

Geopolitics, spoiling attack, and missing the point

My thanks to Jules Crittenden for his work and pointing out the article by George Friedman as he has put forth an interesting essay at Stratfor on Geopolitics and the U. S. Spoiling Attack, 20 MAR 2007. Here he reviews the history of US involvement in warfare and conflicts and looks to see if conclusions can be drawn from past conflicts to this current war against terrorism and the fighting in Iraq. And with his opening paragraph I already have some problems with the outlook being offered, as the terms of the view are far too limited in scope and breadth. (Bolding mine throughout)

The United States has now spent four years fighting in Iraq. Those who planned the conflict never expected this outcome. Indeed, it could be argued that this outcome represents not only miscalculation but also a strategic defeat for the United States. The best that can be said about the war at the moment is that it is a strategic stalemate, which is an undesired outcome for the Americans. The worst that can be said is that the United States has failed to meet its strategic objectives and that failure represents defeat.
Four years, as these things go, is trivial on a counter-insurgency campaign against a committed foe. While I do agree that those who planned the war did not expect the outcome we are at in the present, neither did the naysayers expect this outcome nor anything like it. The absolute inability of the Elite political class to actually have some basis for historical scope and knowledge of how wars and conflicts are fought and what these modern foes have as outlook and scope means that *anything* that is done, even *nothing*, is not done upon a basis of actually trying to understand the problem and solve it. We are left with haphazard trouble-shooting, which is great for shooting the trouble but not so good at addressing the long-term basis of the conflict we now encounter.

Thus any action, I argue, that does not address the underlying factors of the type of enemy, the strategic outlook he has, the multifaceted tactics used, and the generalized goals that are the point of those things, has no chance of long-term success. The basis for the actual war and anti-war sentiment are *both* wrongly founded and misplaced and *both* are lethal to the long-term functioning of the Republic. Make no mistake about it the conflict in Iraq must lead to something better than what was there, give more freedom and liberty to the people there, and also give them the capability to defend themselves. That may or may not break the 'old order' of the Middle East, but it will put every despot and tyrant in the area on notice that they are no longer the sole holders of the keys to National power.

Here the 20th century 'Realists' in Foreign Policy have so neglected what Nation States are and what they mean to the People within them, that we are left without the mental tools to even begin addressing the current conflict that neither starts nor ends in Iraq. The absolute short-sightedness of limiting outlook TO the 20th century for solutions in post-war concepts not only is misguided, but in concentrating on the latter half of that bloody century ignores the complete failure of the early part of the century by powerful Nations. There has been no ability by the political, military, economic or foreign policy elite structure in the US to do this, instead adhering to late 20th century dogma that has no solutions to this current predicament.

Victory, as I have examined earlier, is something that is built and maintained continually, not created once and then shoved into a corner. When we cannot recognize that a civil society has been so degraded by authoritarian regimes as to not exist in a way that we understand in the US, then we have an extreme problem in even telling ourselves that the world can be so horrific as to do that to a People. Using *just* the putting down of the Moro insurgency in the Philippines after the war ended there in 1901 and the next decade of hard, bitter and horrific fighting that went on points to the fact that trying to put a definite time-frame on victory against insurgencies is not only difficult but near impossible. That is not a reason to go hide under a bed, but a fact of warfare and commitment to ideals that must be dealt with and recognized. Throw in a society that has been completely abused so that the tribe or even the extended family is the most trustworthy basis of government, and you have something that was not even *examined* before going into Iraq. And even worse is the inability of those doing the look at counter-insurgency and Nation Building at the US failure in Haiti 1915-34. But these things require dropping this idea that the latter half of the 20th century is the ONLY place to look for solutions to our modern problems, and that, apparently, is just not *done*.

My own personal estimates for how long it would take to get something like a democratic situation *going* in Iraq was in the 8-15 year timeframe, and I considered anyone who was looking at less to be pushing a fantasy. The Citizen Soldiers of the United States have achieved far, far more than I had ever thought them capable of doing and have so totally inverted all previous thinking on counter-insurgency that had left failing paradigms as the ONLY ones, that the enemies we have cannot properly counter them. Four years is only *not* a long time for that, but the breadth and depth of changes to actually get a society knitting itself back together in Iraq is something nearing on the fantastical. And this is failure?

Failure of outlook, yes. When one examines what is happening and when what you expect is not happening you look, revise and adjust to those circumstances and try crafting something new to go forward. The Elites of the West have failed utterly in not only the pre-war times, but in adjusting to warfare and its changing outlook in this modern era. If the outlook itself is not properly based, then the defeat of it is a given. And that has happened across-the-board with the modern Elite structure and its outlook on warfare and society. The harsh reality of the situation in Iraq is that full-spectrum failure of the polarized political class in the US and the West. It is, most pointedly, NOT a failure of the warfighter to figure out and execute a winning tactical regime nor to put in place a longer term structural foundation for a future Iraq that is NOT a dictatorship. What has failed is the Elite of the West to accept that these are worthy goals worth achieving and supporting for the long-term.

Now looking at what Mr. Friedman uses for conceptions of US Foreign Policy of the 20th century, he, too, concentrates on the latter half of that century and restricts his overview to that of the Republic that had grown mighty into a Cold War superpower. Needless to say the non-successful ventures that he cites are then further restricted to the paradigms of thought of the era involved, instead of looking to the full capability of the Nation State and asking why no other means were employed.

From a Jacksonian viewpoint Korea and Vietnam were not *won* because the US was unwilling to actually risk pissing off the USSR or China. That said the limitations on outlook in both of those areas is obvious as, in the first instance, China actually entered the Korean War on the side of Korea and faced the US with a de facto declaration of war there. The US quavered at flexing its military might and in that doing forced a stalemate there because of that lack of resolve. And in the Vietnam war the absolute inability of the US to actually put forward this lovely idea of *taking and holding enemy territory* so as to DEFEAT THEM led to a loss of resolve. And as Jacksonians see seriousness in warfare as paramount and primary to securing the Nation, by not actually doing those things to get a victory in either of those conflicts led to a mistrust by that segment of the population with the political parties and their Elites. You do not start fighting unless you are serious enough to see it through to victory, come hell or high water.

In Cuba the inability of the Kennedy Administration to actually provide the massive airpower that was an inherent part of the Bay of Pigs invasion doomed it to failure. It would have been wiser for the Kennedy Administration not to waffle on warfare there as that would lead to no good in the long run as is noted. The grand idealism of the Kennedy Administration was already being cashed out with that, even taking the Cuban Missile Crisis into account. And that breaking of faith, then, engendered a greater divide as the political Elites could not manage the war in Vietnam and led to an isolationist, leftist view taking hold in the Nation.

When looking at Iran and the idea of 'containment' I find that the proposal has no rational basis because 'containment' requires a rational Nation State basis to operate. Lee Harris goes over this for al Qaeda, and their fantasy ideology, but that of the regime in Iran is no less fantastical in outlook or conception and does not adhere to the basis of the Nation State as something useful to its long term outlook. Here, again, the failure of the Elite power structure in the US is evident by the inability to actually see that Iran has goals and objectives that are not driven by Nation State paradigms, but by religious imperial ones. To that end Iran creates Islamic Foreign Legions like Hezbollah and the Mahdi Army, amongst others, and spreads those across the globe so as to put into place a long-term architecture to undermine Nation States even if Iran is overthrown. The inability of Iran to maintain what, to Western eyes, is the obvious and vast revenue source of oil sales and, instead, to slowly and systematically neglect it so as to create a long term societal problem in Iran points to a lack of contact with this real world of Nation States and economics and a more fantastical view of things unassociated with them driving their goals and policies. Strangely I don't hear much from anyone in the Elite political structure much of anywhere on the planet willing to address this.

To point to these places and say they are 'strategic reversals' when they are, in point of fact, lack of will to address the problems at hand is a misreading of what is being reversed against. The more traditional view of fighting wars to *win* and defeat enemies hasn't failed because it has never been applied. The replacement to them HAVE failed and repeatedly and to no good ends at all. That is, indeed, a 'strategic reversal', but one against an outlook that does not adhere to the seriousness of warfare and the implications of not fighting to a victory or peace with an honorable foe that will stand by their agreements. Apparently this 'something else' that we have been applying doesn't work all that well.

And then Mr. Friedman goes on to cite the schools of thought that grew up and the outlooks they have. Remember that is present tense: people *still* adhere to these things, even after they have failed. I will do my best to summarize these schools of thought that he cites:

1) "U.S. power does not rest on these politico-military involvements but derives from other factors, such as economic power."

Here he does not address what this school of thought believes that US power rests upon. Yes! Put forth an idea that is in its negative form and do not give the positive of it so we can know the entire outlook. The full force of this is the quaint notion that liberal economies get liberal societies and democracy. In point of fact the US was founded as a liberal society *first* that gained economic competence via democracy and then gained in power because it is based upon democracy NOT upon economics. This has had serious consequences in not recognizing that money is not freedom: freedom is freedom. A man free to make his way will work hard to avoid starvation and then find better ways to do things so as to earn more with less work. Handing that in a top-down way offers no society nor social structure, just the artifacts from those who have been inventive and hard working. This outlook is one that is contrary to the American experience but is used to open up markets rather than to open up minds.

2) "The United States has been extraordinarily fortunate that, despite its inability to use politico-military power effectively and its being drawn consistently into stalemate or defeat, exogenous forces have saved the United States from its own weakness. In the long run, this good fortune should not be viewed as strategy, but as disaster waiting to happen."

The paradigm that the USSR learned was that the way to defeat the US was via proxy war and civil apathy. Vietnam showed that the US was unwilling to actually *fight* a real war and that caused political dissolution within the Nation which was then exploited by the USSR on a global scale to press the US and the West hard. Those pushing this ideal are still serving that end, of defeating the Nation, but no longer have outlook towards their original goal of Communism, instead putting Transnational Progressivism in its place. Here the diminution of the State's ability to actually tend to its needs via military means is being attacked so as to remove it as a legitimate component of the Nation State and make warfare open to *anyone*. That is having a high global death toll attached to it as a mode of thought. Again, Mr. Friedman wishes to ignore the assertive positive and only present the abstracted negative.

3) "The wars mentioned previously were never as significant as they appeared to be -- public sentiment and government rhetoric notwithstanding. These conflicts drew on only a small fraction of potential U.S. power, and they always were seen as peripheral to fundamental national interests."

Yet again, the actual assertive school of thought underlying this is not presented. These are the ideas that the true measure of the Nation is in its economy which is only true in the instance of Total War. The conflicts that Mr. Friedman presents were *never* backed as Total War concepts, even when sold as protecting an Ally in the region or asserting the freedom of States in the Western Hemisphere to be free from outside influence. When he discounts the 'rhetoric' used to get involved in these conflicts, Mr. Friedman puts forward that the rhetoric was disingenuous to START WITH and that the US had no intention of actually following through on its word given to Friends and Allies.

Now for the recap of the schools of thought:

1) Hamiltonian in conception. By asserting that money is liberty, the attempt to ignore the fact that liberty is liberty and allows one to work for a better life is ignored. Hamiltonians are great at building up expensive 'arsenals of democracy' that never get used at high profit to corporations. We do forget that the business of America is small business, not huge corporations, and that the vitality of liberty is expressed through the small business community of the Nation that is built upon freedom and democratic ideals.

2) Wilsonian in conception: The US as only one Nation has to adhere to what all other Nations put forth so that there can be an external order that will guide the US. Whenever the US tries to use power outside of that framework it is doomed to failure.

3) Jeffersonian in conception: The wars that the US has gotten into are minor in contrast to the expansiveness of human liberty. The fundamental National Interest is to safeguard our own liberty, first, and support it elsewhere. So sorry if you are a Friend or Ally that actually believes that the US will HELP YOU in a minor tussle in which you will end up dead but does not put at peril our liberty. Yours doesn't matter to us.

What are the fallout from these three main streams of US political thought from their activities? Mr. Friedman gives us those, too, which I will break out a bit.
Put somewhat differently, there is the liberal view that the Soviet Union was not defeated by the United States in the Cold War, but that it collapsed itself, and the military conflicts of the Cold War were unnecessary. There is the conservative view that the United States won the Cold War in spite of a fundamental flaw in the American character -- an unwillingness to bear the burden of war -- and that this flaw ultimately will prove disastrous for the United States. Finally, there is the non-ideological, non-political view that the United States won the Cold War in spite of defeats and stalemates because these wars were never as important as either the liberals or conservatives made them out to be, however necessary they might have been seen to be at the time.
Ah, the old dichotomy with those that are non-ideological as a backstop! Such lovely support of dichotomous politics and pragmatism, that one can't help but wonder how so many point to it and yet so few actually understand it. Lets dispose of these three bits.

Liberal views that thought that the USSR would collapse upon itself economically. This is the Hamiltonian view with a bit of Jeffersonian added in to leaven the anti-democratic paradigm a bit. It is also wrong. Without showing any ability to defend Friends and Allies anywhere, the US would not have demonstrated that such people as that ARE our Friends and Allies are worth supporting. As the key area of Communist failure was in the Eastern European Nations that specifically looked to the US as the great bulwark against Communism, what would have been the message being sent if we did not: Fight to save North Korea, Fight to keep South Vietnam whole, go after Cuba repeatedly and require the removal of nuclear tipped short range ballistic missiles from it, and done nothing against Iran. Ok, scratch the last as we haven't done much of anything against Iran beyond some low cost economic embargoes. Would Solidarity in Poland have even FORMED if there was no feeling that the US would offer hope and liberty if the Poles *did something*? As they were critical to undermine the USSR and all of European Communism, the willpower shown by the US was a fundamental underpinning to establishing that the Friends and Allies of liberty and freedom were worth fighting for, even if we are a flawed people in that doing. As a devoutly religious people, the Poles understand human flaws and yet still see the outlook and the will to help and that was enough. Let Friends and Allies fall because they 'are not worth the trouble' and you soon have NO Friends or Allies.

The conservative view of being unwilling to fight the hard fights has a large element of truth in it. It is a view of Nationalism, that is supporting the order of Nation States of which the United States is one and has its own outlook and goals. The criticality in standard conservatism is in NOT stating what is necessary to win. Social conservatives may do so, but tend to make it religiously oriented while the Nation must reason on non-religious concepts for survival especially with regards to religion. Having been founded so as to remove the concept of Holy War from the possibility of the Republic, the Republic cannot use that as a basis for fighting. But the larger criticism of Americans being unwilling to burden warfare and its costs is true, and the majority of the Nation's time has only had a Volunteer military. The cost and burden in lives are taken up by those willing to protect the rest of the People, while the financial portion is shared amongst everyone who is protected. That only works if the rest of the population holds to the commonality of the compact of the Constitution and supports its own survival.

Then the non-ideological view is the one of things just not being as important as they are said to be! Isn't that wonderful? You can get away with apathy any time with this view as *nothing* is ever important to anyone unless they hold it dear. Unfortunately, in this Republic, we DO hold our responsibilities in common and have said so via the Constitution. By abdicating the importance of the Nation and adhering to no support of it in the actions it takes, those that espouse this non-ideological view are basically saying: 'I gots mine, don't bother me anything else because everything will work out ok'. Yes the call to apathy and sitting on the barcalounger with a beer and peanuts at hand. The Nation isn't important, always been there and always will... and what, exactly, was it before 1775?

Thus the outcomes, as Mr. Friedman sees it, are these three areas come out as:
The first says that the Iraq war is unnecessary and even harmful in the context of the U.S.-jihadist confrontation -- and that, regardless of outcome, it should not be fought. The second says that the war is essential -- and that, while defeat or stalemate in this conflict perhaps would not be catastrophic to the United States, there is a possibility that it would be catastrophic. And at any rate, this argument continues, the United States' ongoing inability to impose its will in conflicts of this class ultimately will destroy it. Finally, there is the view that Iraq is simply a small piece of a bigger war and that the outcome of this particular conflict will not be decisive, although the war might be necessary. The heated rhetoric surrounding the Iraq conflict stems from the traditional American inability to hold things in perspective.
But then he goes on to one of the most dangerous paragraphs I have ever seen for a strategic analyst:
There is a reasonable case to be made for any of these three views. Any Stratfor reader knows that our sympathies gravitate toward the third view. However, that view makes no sense unless it is expanded. It must also take into consideration the view that the Soviet Union's fall was hardwired into history regardless of U.S. politico-military action, along with the notion that a consistent willingness to accept stalemate and defeat represents a significant threat to the United States in the long term.
Why yes, indeed, if we would have just let the USSR merrily expand and export Communist revolution across the globe and not countered it anywhere and made no stand anywhere for any Friends and Allies, well gosh and golly-gee it would have just plumb tuckered out and imploded anyways! Or impoverished more people, put them out into other Nations with weapons and guidance and brought further calamity on a global scale as democracy would then be seen as a *losing* proposition as it would not stand up *for* anything. It is no *wonder* that the Elites have a problem: they are still stuck with predestinationism for world affairs even AFTER the US Revolution puts man forward as his own actor to set his own goals. And for that matter, the goals of Nations.

I am going to give a hard glossing over to the next section on resource commitments and implications. I have covered those and why they arose, although I will point out that the argument that the 'Realists' were the ones instrumental in changing the Foreign Policy outlook from one that supported protection of National Interests, to one of trying to estimate the cost-value of protecting them and coming to the conclusion that nothing is much worth defending. This is the cost of presenting a 'guns or butter' dichotomy: the US was able to grow at a fast clip even with 8% or so of its GDP devoted to military expenditures throughout the Cold War. The USSR was spending 15% but for many, many long years had no return on investment in the way of new allies or resources added in to help bolster things. Having to equip four entire North Vietnamese armies completely was an exhausting experience for the USSR as was the loss of manufacturing needed to support China during the Korean war, and then further problems in expansionism in Afghanistan which continually ate up resources. At that level of expenditure, very few Nations can continue on at that clip for decades, and if they had not needed to put out as much in military hardware and gathered easy victories in Korea, Vietnam and elsewhere, the entire concept of what is worth fighting for or against changes. The US was, indeed, not serious about fighting, but *was* serious about expanding economic potential which has had the great boon of increasing military lethality and effectiveness. Playing the blocking game of containment against the USSR was a winning proposition as the cost would fall disproportionately on the USSR as its economy was, basically, a third world economy with nuclear weapons and vast size. The US leveraged productivity and economic expansion to increase the cost of going to war more for the USSR than for the US, but that can only take place in an atmosphere where that strategy is actually enforced and maintained.

From here we go to the 'spoiling attack' conception that Mr. Friedman is putting forth. He explains it thusly:
The concept of a spoiling attack is intimately bound up with the principle of economy of force. Military power, like all power, is finite. It must be husbanded. Even in a war in which no resources are spared, some operations do not justify a significant expenditure. Some attacks are always designed to succeed by failing. More precisely, the resources devoted to those operations are sufficient to disrupt enemy plans, to delay an enemy offensive, or to create an opportunity for political disruption of the enemy, rather than to defeat the enemy. For those tasked with carrying out the spoiling attack, it appears that they are being wasted in a hopeless effort. For those with a broader strategic or geopolitical perspective, it appears to be the proper application of the "economy of force" principle.
Now I don't particularly agree with that definition as it is a bit on the over-broad side and is reading much more into the attack type than is warranted. Coming from the Defense Technical Information Center is this dictionary which has this for a spoiling attack:
spoiling attack

(DOD) A tactical maneuver employed to seriously impair a hostile attack while the enemy is in the process of forming or assembling for an attack. Usually employed by armored units in defense by an attack on enemy assembly positions in front of a main line of resistance or battle position.
And from the FAS site in US Army DoD 101- An Introduction to the Military, FM 101-5-1 Operational Terms and Graphics, Chapter 1 we get this for economy of force:
economy of force - The allocation of minimum-essential combat capability or strength to secondary efforts so that forces may be concentrated in the area where a decision is sought. Economy of force is a principle of war and a condition of tactical operations. It is not used to describe a mission.
One must love the military: "It is not used to describe a mission." That is what I like, discrimination of terminology so as to properly apply the correct term to the objective. But we really haven't found what Mr. Friedman is getting at, have we? So now it is military terminology time! Let us try a few others from the FM-101-5:
delaying operation (JP 1-02, NATO) - An operation in which a force under pressure trades space for time by slowing down the enemy's momentum and inflicting maximum damage on the enemy without, in principle, becoming decisively engaged. (Army) - Usually conducted when the commander needs time to concentrate, preserve, or withdraw forces; to establish defenses in greater depth; to economize in an area; to cover a defending or withdrawing unit; to protect a friendly unit's flank; or to complete offensive actions elsewhere. In the delay, the destruction of the enemy force is secondary to slowing his advance to gain time.

disrupt - A tactical task or obstacle effect that integrates fire planning and obstacle effort to break apart an enemy's formation and tempo, interrupt the enemy's timetable, or cause premature commitment of enemy forces, or the piecemealing of his attack

diversion (JP 1-02) - 1. The act of drawing the attention and forces of an enemy from the point of the principal operation; an attack, alarm, or feint that diverts attention. 2. A change made in a prescribed route for operational or tactical reasons. A diversion order will not constitute a change of destination. 3. A rerouting of cargo or passengers to a new transshipment point or destination or on a different mode of transportation prior to arrival at ultimate destination.

harassing fire (JP 1-02, NATO) - Fire designed to disturb the rest of the enemy troops, to curtail movement, and, by threat of losses, to lower morale.

interdiction (JP 1-02) - An action to divert, disrupt, delay, or destroy enemy's surface military potential before it can be used effectively against friendly forces.

reconnaissance in force (JP 1-02, NATO) - An offensive operation designed to discover and/or test the enemy's strength or to obtain other information. (Army) - A form of reconnaissance operation designed to discover or test the enemy's strength or to obtain other information.
Then just a few more from the FM 100-20 glossary at Globalsecurity which deals with Military Operations in Low Intensity Conflicts :
indirect action: Military action in support of political, economic, and informational initiatives which are so dominant that they shape the form of the military action; military action through support of another party, such as security assistance to friendly foreign armed forces.

intimidation: The attempt to prevent an unwanted action by individuals, groups, or governments by the use of threats or by other means.

low intensity conflict: Political-military confrontation between contending states or groups below conventional war and above the routine, peaceful competition among states. It frequently involves protracted struggles of competing principles and ideologies. Low intensity conflict ranges from subversion to the use of armed force. It is waged by a combination of means, employing political, economic, informational, and military instruments. Low intensity conflicts are often localized, generally in the Third World, but contain certain regional and global security implications. Also called LIC. (JCS Pub 1-02)

political actions: Diplomacy; communication with a foreign government or group to persuade or compel it to support one's own policies, by means of argument, promises, and threats.

remote area operations: Government operations undertaken in contested areas to establish host nation strongholds. These areas may be populated by ethnic, religious, or other isolated minority groups; however, remote area operations may be conducted in areas devoid of civilian population and in which insurgent forces have established training areas, rest areas, logistical facilities, or command posts. The remote area tactical force should be composed mainly of personnel indigenous to the operational area.

unconventional warfare: A broad spectrum of military and paramilitary operations conducted in enemy-held, enemy-controlled or politically sensitive territory. Unconventional warfare includes, but is not limited to, the interrelated fields of guerrilla warfare, evasion and escape, subversion, sabotage, and other operations of a low visibility, covert, or clandestine nature. These interrelated aspects of unconventional warfare may be prosecuted singly or collectively by predominantly indigenous personnel, usually supported and directed in varying degrees by an external source or sources during all conditions of war or peace.
So what is Mr. Friedman actually trying to describe? In outlook economy of force is the disposition of the least number of troops to gain the greatest benefit. These are normally associated with a Low Intensity Conflict, in which forces are used to disrupt enemy activities, divert enemy concentration to deployed forces and away from critical areas, interdiction of areas either by air or with ground forces to deny enemy mobility, supply and ease of passage, all in coordination with indirect action, particularly political action. This can often move into very low personnel Unconventional Warfare in which harassing the enemy is paramount to slow their operations and further one's own.

Do notice that I have shorn Mr. Friedman's language of its emotional overtones of 'hopeless effort' and such, as I find that sort of attitude a bit on the negative side. Those inside the Armed Forces recognize the utility of maintaining obscure objectives for the larger operation, although it does suck to be the one having to do so. But that is what Volunteering is all about! And more to the point, the Armed Forces prefer to keep that to a minimum, although in high volume conflicts, like a World War using Total War doctrine, there is a large number of such operations just due to the scales of forces involved. For a Volunteer military the amount of investment into each soldier is very high, so the value placed upon them is greater than in a Conscript or Draft based force. So, am I getting into being one of those with the 'broader strategic or geopolitical perspective' concept?

Tactically doing these things is necessary for larger operations. Moving into the realm of strategic force disposition, one does not like to reinforce a place, region or Nation that has no value to you on the military or political side. Often placement of lesser forces may indicate political support, with the now marginal 16,000 or so US forces in South Korea being indicative of that, but doing that on a larger scale with hundreds of thousands of troops is not only unwise but a way to quickly run down such forces if they are not kept properly supplied. This happened with two US Army Divisions in 1999 that had been so extended and overused in 'peace keeping' operations, that they fell to the lowest readiness seen in the US Armed Forces since Vietnam. There are, indeed, consequences to using large scale forces in such scenarios. Following from this, then, Mr. Friedman does try to implicate that the effects of the Korean War, Vietnam War, and Cuban problems as these 'economy of force spoiling attacks', and Iran as a sideshow once it did not align to the USSR.

The following paragraph sums up his argument:
However, there is a deep structure in U.S. foreign policy that becomes visible. The incongruities of stalemate and defeat on the one side and growing U.S. power on the other must be reconciled. The liberal and conservative arguments explain things only partially. But the idea that the United States rarely fights to win can be explained. It is not because of a lack of moral fiber, as conservatives would argue; nor a random and needless belligerence, as liberals would argue. Rather, it is the application of the principle of spoiling operations -- using limited resources not in order to defeat the enemy but to disrupt and confuse enemy operations.
Thus you can lose and still win!!

Except that one thing has changed in this era: the enemy is no Nation State and is not amenable to the standard forms of warfare used in the late 20th century. If they were we would not have them as enemies now, would we?

The adherence of the multiple Elite groups to desperately cling to the late 20th century in search of any salvation in the 21st is jarring. Apparently the will to actually have a Nation is taken for granted even though it is that will that is the direct target of terrorism and transnational progressivism. By deriding the Nation State and attempting to remove the legitimacy of warfare from the inside and the outside, the toxic memes that are generated are not attacking 'moral fiber' but are attacking the will to continue on with a Nation that supports Friends and Allies, come what may. Particularly disturbing in Mr. Friedman's analysis is the non-recognition of the significance of that and what it says about a Nation that cannot stick by its Friends and Allies in times of war when your own Nation is not threatened with immediate or even near term destruction. Actually finding the capability to be aggressive against an enemy and fight them so that they will lose heart and stop fighting appears to be out of the question in this current conflict for Mr. Friedman. What he is not offering with his analysis, even if correct, is the TARGET of this 'spoiling attack'. There is no Soviet Union nor Sino-Soviet diplomacy involved. There is no nearby neighbor looking to have Soviet weapons of mass destruction placed on their soil to target us. Who is the target in this case? He will not name them because to name them points to the fallacy of the argument itself.

Transnational Terrorism. Cross supporting organizations willing to use any host Nation that can support them as a means to further increasing the lethality of all terrorist organizations. The Islamofascistic sorts are but one type that we see the most of in Iraq, but on a global scale the number of groups that have performed things that would give legitimate casus belli against them if they were Nations is numerous. That is their way of declaring war on Nations: attacking them with the weapons and means of warfare but not adhering to any of the National standards of warfare. And even if Iraq and Iran turned into peaceful and thriving democracies *tomorrow* the threat would not be ended as the US is unwilling to actually assert her National Sovereignty to protect the Nation at large.

It is time to let go of the late 20th century concepts of warfare. They are getting us killed and defeated as a People by removing our ability to have a Nation in common amongst us. That is not 'moral fiber'. That is lack of backbone to stand up and defend the idea that a Nation is worth having and protecting, and that her enemies are worth addressing and defeating.

Because the spoiling attacks are taking place against us.

And they are succeeding.

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