“WHY THE U.S. LOSES SMALL WARS”
HNN has a great review of the history of Small Wars thought by Larry Kahaner, author of AK-47:The Weapon that Changed The Face of War. An excerpt that will sound a familiar refrain to many readers:
“The other, and much bigger obstacle to winning small wars, brings a moral dilemma. According to Callwell, to win small wars, mere victory isn’t enough, the enemy must be thoroughly and utterly destroyed to the last man, woman, and child – which means enormous civilian casualties. For citizens of most modern democracies, this is an unacceptable stance. The level of violence and barbarism it would take to beat an insurgent force — torture, wholesale executions, leveling of towns — is a place where most democracies refuse to go. This keeps victory out of reach.
….If Callwell got military scholars to think more clearly about small wars, a group of Marine Corps officers in the 1930s took it to the next level with production of the Small Wars Manual based on US experiences in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. While building on Callwell’s work, this landmark book published in 1940, points to what some say is one of the most important aspects of winning small wars – understanding the role of indigenous religion, ideology and tribal relationships. The manual not only talks about the military aspects of winning small wars – and yes, they can be brutal – but of more importance is a deep understanding of a society’s language, culture, religion, history, economic structures and mores. The manual is a hot seller from a much-clicked website, The Small Wars Center of Excellence, run by the Marine Corps, which advocates the use of simpler weapons and more complex soldiers in small wars – the opposite of current conventional wisdom. This is not the only take-away message from the manual, but it is a vital one.”
Read the whole thing here.