[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen”]
Top Billing! SWJ Blog ( BG HR McMaster) The Pipe Dream of Easy War and General James Mattis (USMC Ret) On Middle East Policy
….Our record of learning from previous experience is poor; one reason is that we apply history simplistically, or ignore it altogether, as a result of wishful thinking that makes the future appear easier and fundamentally different from the past.
We engaged in such thinking in the years before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001; many accepted the conceit that lightning victories could be achieved by small numbers of technologically sophisticated American forces capable of launching precision strikes against enemy targets from safe distances.
These defense theories, associated with the belief that new technology had ushered in a whole new era of war, were then applied to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; in both, they clouded our understanding of the conflicts and delayed the development of effective strategies.
Today, budget pressures and the desire to avoid new conflicts have resurrected arguments that emerging technologies — or geopolitical shifts — have ushered in a new era of warfare. Some defense theorists dismiss the difficulties we ran into in Afghanistan and Iraq as aberrations. But they were not aberrations. The best way to guard against a new version of wishful thinking is to understand three age-old truths about war and how our experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq validated their importance.
Information Dissemination ( Bryan McGrath) H.R. McMaster Sets His Sights On AirSea Battle
….If you think that I’m wrong, and that he’s not arguing against AirSea Battle, then it is not worth your time to read on. If you think he is or might be, then consider moving forward.
McMaster employs the straw-man technique of argument in this piece, defining for us “War” by three of its “age old truths” and by inference, pointing out the shortcomings of this shadowy approach that he does not name. Additionally, he creates a ridiculously high bar over which “defense concepts” must hurdle, one that lards the full weight of the conduct of war upon constituent pieces thereof. His first lesson: ” Be skeptical of concepts that divorce war from its political nature, particularly those that promise fast, cheap victory through technology.” So, we are to be skeptical of military concepts that do not take into consideration a full Clausewitzian approach to war? How hamstrung will that leave us? Why should concept development worry about the political nature of war? Isn’t this the purview of statesmen and politicians? Is it not the job of military thinkers and planners to put together a menu of possibilities for civilian leadership to choose among, one aspect of which would be the political fall-out therefrom? This line of operation is aimed squarely at the possibility that in a conflict with China, we might target mainland objectives. “There go those irresponsible fools in the Navy and the Air Force, talking about mainland strikes. Why this would lead to horrible escalation, probably nuclear war. Why would we even consider these things?” We consider them because they could be militarily useful, and because a commander might wish to utilize such an approach in an actual war, guided by the political instructions received from civilian leadership
….The Chinese thinking on psychological operations continues to advance and expand. In a recentbackgrounder, Dean Cheng notes, “Successful coercive psychological warfare is the realization of ends for which one is prepared to go to war without having to take that final step and engage in active, kinetic, destructive warfare. From the Chinese perspective, given the destructiveness of nuclear weapons and even conventional forces, there is also significant incentive to develop coercive psychological approaches in order to achieve strategic ends without having to resort to the use of force.”
….Is it possible to defend a nation against widespread psychological operations? The Chinese believe so. Cheng describes one of five broad tasks:
Implementing Psychological Defenses. Since psychological warfare can have such far-reaching impacts, in the Chinese view, it is assumed that an opponent will mount psychological attacks. Consequently, in addition to negating or neutralizing such attacks, it is necessary to expose them, both to defeat them and to demoralize an opponent by demonstrating the ineffectiveness of his efforts. Thus, not only must there be counter-propaganda activities, but one must also publicize enemy machinations and techniques, thereby exposing and highlighting their futility.
Defense News (Freier & Guy) – Future of Ground Forces:Planners Must Evolve Beyond Past Wars
If you like this short riff, it is drawn from a more comprehensive CSIS report
War on the Rocks (Frank Hoffman) – Forty Shades of Gray
Global Guerrillas – China: The Watermelon Revolution
Scholar’s Stage –Despots Near and Despots Far
Steven Pressfield Online –Art is Artifice, Part Two
WPR (Steve Metz) –Strategic Horizons: America’s Limited Leverage in Afghanistan
Slightly East of New –Temporary insanity