Small Wars Journal

Army Lessons Observed… But Not Learned

Army Lessons Observed… But Not Learned by

Genghis Khan allegedly advised his sons that “occupations turn soldiers into jailers.” Whether or not the great Mongol general said these words is hard to confirm, but he definitely practiced what he preached. Genghis Khan conquered and controlled more of the world’s landmass than any man in human history — and he did it without tying down his armies in costly occupations...


Vitesse et Puissance

Fri, 03/22/2013 - 2:33pm

In reply to by major.rod

MacGregor probably deserves an Andy award (e.g. Andrew Bacevich) for outstanding contributions to American strategic diffidence. Not confining his rhetoric to subjects on which he has a firm grip, MacGregor manages to turn K Street conventional wisdom into a personal attack on those with whom he disagrees. But - what the hey - let's do the numbers.

In his book, "Warrior's Rage", Macgregor rages against the higher ups for stopping VII Corps, rather than finishing the job, and in the meantime, subjecting the Shiite revolt in Basrah to the vengeance of the remnants of Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard. Conversely, he converts a very complicated situation in which tens of thousands of civilians are threatened into a Manichean conflict between jihadists and totalitarians. No doubt, as Emerson put it, a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, but the Old Macgregor should explain to the New MacGregor that it is wrong to assume that the US Army screws up everything it touches, so much so that the only role and mission the Army has is to watch the Air Force and Navy lob cruise missile strikes over the horizon.

Between Nagel and McMaster on the one hand, and MacGregor and Bacevich on the other, I am one very unhappy tanker. A plague on both their houses. Speed and Power.


Fri, 03/22/2013 - 8:30am

In reply to by major.rod

I agree with you, although I can always spare five minutes these days.

The author would be prudent to understand his ABCs on historic geo-politics as his assertions are all over the dart board and are incorrect to include his statement that N. Korea is a failed state, which it is not.

Nor is he correct in stating that President Wilson's wishful thinking guaranteed a second world war. Rather, that came about due to Britain and France politically outmaneuvering Wilson's proposals and the blame lays squarely with those two countries.

As for the author's premise on occupation, he should have included that the U.S. Army of WW II recognized early-on, however reluctantly, that it would be needed for post occupation and began planning for that early, as opposed to showing-up in Berlin and wondering what now, as per Baghdad.


Thu, 03/21/2013 - 8:01pm

I'm pretty shocked if this is MacGregor's work. What a waste! I want my five minutes back.

Making the case that we shouldn't consider occupation as a tool of foreign policy because of a supposed Ghengis Khan quote, or inappropriat comparisons between WWI & II to Iraq demonstrates no intellectual rigor.

Granted, we shouldn't get in wars we aren't committed to winning to include occupation and know what winning looks like before we start but Macgregor is very confused here comparing apples and oranges. WWI? We never occupied and yes we DID go back 20 years later. The positive or negative correlation was never made. Bad example.

WWII? First we put millions of men under arms in Europe. Second, occupation forces GOVERNED immediately upon occupying. Both of these charecteristics were missing in Iraq. Apples and oranges.

Finally the oft repeated use of the discredited label "neocon" just makes Macgregor sound like so much other liberal BS out there rather than real analysis. Unless LTG Walker and those that agree that we must be able to occupy in the future are championing the installation of democracy in the world through the use of American power they aren't "neocons". Just call him a fascist if you want to make up for the weakness in your argument with emotion.

If this is where Macgregor has sunk I'll be reading a lot less of what he has to say.

Vitesse et Puissance

Fri, 03/22/2013 - 2:35pm

In reply to by Martin Doyle

The other feature of the Mongols is that they didn't leave much remaining in their path. No need to occupy a destroyed city.

Martin Doyle

Thu, 03/21/2013 - 7:50pm

The author is correct that the exact words are hard to confirm. However, the Cleaves translation of The Secret History of the Mongols comes closer to this exact wording than does the more popular abridged translation by de Rachewiltz. Either way the reader sees later evidence presented in the Institutes of Teymur and later, Babur, both lending credit to the Great Khan for its origin.
Today's sub cultural warfare habits of pastoral nomads and mobile pastoralists still inhabiting parts of central and south Asia follow this same mantra - hit hard, hit fast, move on. Their strength is in mobility rather than technology.