I have been following with interest the recent debate in Small Wars Journal in reaction to Andrew Bacevich's now-famous Atlantic article about the differing intellectual factions within the Army. In his article, Bacevich constructs a rather simplistic duality between groups he dubs "Crusaders" and "Conservatives." Crusaders are COIN/Irregular Warfare specialists who believe in re-orienting elements
of national power to fight a Long War againt radicalized elements of
the Muslim world while Conservatives fret over the damage to conventional capabilities and worry that open-ended wars of occupation would weaken America as other powers (China, Russia, India) continue to rise.
The chief problem with this debate is the duality itself, which is inherently unstable. There are many "Conservatives" who support COIN capabilities without believing in the Long War frame. Ironically, the person who COIN crusaders loathe the most, Air Force Gen. Chartles Dunlap Jr., has written enthusiastically about fighting counterinsurgencies–although his air and bomber centric method for doing so has aroused much indignation. Likewise, there are many COIN enthusiasts, especially on the SWC discussion board, who have voiced traditionally liberatarian or paleoconservatives arguments against intervention abroad. Lastly, as Shawn Brimley wrote, it is possible to take the "Crusader" position of building COIN capabilities while retaining a "Conservative" position of grand strategy.
I do share, however, Bacevich's concern over the ironic reality that matters of grand strategy are only being freely discussed in the military community. There is little to no public debate over the wider course of US grand strategy beyond the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan–especially in light of our greatly diminisheed financial position. Instead, there is only a mass of popular pieties that may soon be violently dispelled.
"Good and Evil advance together, as part of the same movement. …[Good] does not conquer evil, nor indeed does the reverse happen; they are at once irreducible to each other and inextricably interrelated."
That's it man, game over man, game over! What the fuck are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do?
Maybe we could build a fire, sing a couple of songs, huh? Why don't we try that?"
Following up another doom-laden (but sadly accurate) post by John Robb, the third post in this series will examine one possible method of hollowing of the state by criminal insurgents. This will focus on operational methods criminal insurgents may employ–as well as a possible future: the growth of a global criminal order. This is only one of many possible outcomes.
Crossposted at The Anti-Library.
I am finally getting around to reviewing the stack of review copies sent to me from various publishers on security topics. One book I have been especially remiss in reviewing has been Dr. Thomas R. Mockaitis' book The "New" Terrorism: Myths and Realities.
An accomplished historian and expert on low-intensity warfare, Mockaitis sets about by defining the myriad terminology of terrorism and insurgency and explaining the tactical and operational interplay between the terrorist and counterterrorist. As such Mockaitis is intent on placing terrorism within the greater spectrum of low-intensity warfare. This is enormously useful for those who can't tell their VBIEDs from their 4GWs.
For those of you looking to bone up on your Anti-Libraries, I have started a group blog of the same name. It will focus on reviews of books, film, and discussions about the art–and–science of reading. We already have a varied–and excellent–stable of contributors, including Strategist, Shloky, Historyguy99 of HG's World, Lexington Green of Chicago Boyz, Pacer 521 of political blog Culture Decoded, and other authors from the non-blog world. We have others who may be coming on board. Anyone else who may be interested in contributing shoot me an email.
"In a culture such as ours…it is sometimes a bit of a shock to be reminded that….the medium is the message."
"I'm at the fountain, with my troops/I start screamin at em like Patton, we gattin at you fools!"
The first part of this series looked at the financial crisis and the problem of the government's mind-body divide. This post will examine the problem of Grand Strategy.
The chaos on the global markets, the re-assertion of Russian power, and
the continuing power struggles in Iraq and Afghanistan will undoubtedly
give rise to Washington’s most popular parlor game—coming up with
immaculately constructed foreign policies. These unitary theories of
political, military, and economic power are rooted in their supposed
lack of partisan content. If politics are the debased day-to-day
reality of the world of senses, grand strategy is the Platonic form
that bipartisan foreign policy thinkers aspire to.
I haven't read Martin Van Creveld's new book yet, so I'm not going to review it. However, the looks of this review from Kings of War is not encouraging. It seems that Van Creveld is engaging in Clausewitz-bashing. I enjoyed reading The Transformation of War, but one thing that I didn't like about it was Creveld's dismissal of Clausewitz. While it may seem odd that a dead Prussian who lived and wrote during the Napoleonic conflicts would have much relevance today, Clausewitz does provide both a philosophy and strategy of war that has proved remarkably enduring.
Sam Liles has an excellent review of Nassim Nicholas Taleb's "The Black Swan" up at Selil.com. I wrote about "Black Swans" and super-empowered individuals for Defense and the National Interest a while back myself.