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Few at SWJ on “Less is Often More?”

Major Michael Few had a short theoretical post that sparked an important discussion at SWJ Blog and other social networking sites. He’s wrestling with the military-tactical effects of diminishing returns. Well worth your time to read through:

Less is Often More?

This is a post that I never would have written while practicing the art in Iraq. On the ground level, every commander wants more forces. In fact, one of the unstated prerequisites for command is that you must conduct at least one daily bitching session where you emphatically describe how much more effective you could be if you were given another platoon, company, battalion, etc…

– More forces equal more villages and more neighborhoods you can clear and occupy.
– More forces equal more visible power and control.
– More resources equal more money to bribe your enemies.

But, sometimes more is actually less:

– More forces mean that you can act unilaterally and just ignore the impotent host nation security forces.
– More forces mean that you can coerce and bully the corrupt political leaders.
– More resources mean that you may waste money building elaborate schools and medical clinics and digging canals rather than repairing the existing suitable structures.

Sometimes with more, we merely attack the symptoms creating short-term visible gains rather than attacking the root problems. Doctrinally, we would call this creating maneuver space on the human and physical terrain.

Read the rest here.

2 Responses to “Few at SWJ on “Less is Often More?””

  1. J.ScottShipman Says:

    Major Few, You make a powerful case for consideration. You are certainly spot-on with "more, we merely attack the symptoms…" line of thought. We live in a sound-bite world, where more can deliver short-term results. The more I study our adventures in lieu of the Soviet experience, and the Brits of the 19th century, the more I’m inclined to believe we should be looking for alternatives…your ideas go towards that end, but the whole notion of wholesale nation building is nuts as practiced. To get "what" we think we want would require a level of violence and brutality foreign to our values. We should proceed from the reality that they are not like us and they don’t want to be like us. I believe the our political class has fallen so in love the notion of globalization and democracy that we’ve convinced ourselves of our virtue and moral superiority at the expense of reality. I’ve wandered from your thesis, and apologize in advance, but I wish our political leaders would apply the same intellectual curiosity to solving the problems they created as do our people in uniform. Thanks for your service!

  2. MikeF Says:

    No wandering J. Scott.  Instead, I think you’re wondering as we all are.  Ultimately, we need grand strategy- a measure to debate between our needs and our wants.  To get to that, we would have to be brutally honest with ourselves about our limits of control on other neighbors in this world.  I presented one economic lens with a specific "way."  There are many others all fraught with risks and assumptions.  My hope is to get people thinking.  For that entry, I think that I succeeded.

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