This Week at War: Does the Pottery Barn Rule Still Apply?

Here is the latest edition of my column at Foreign Policy:

Topics include:

1) Could "repetitive raiding" replace counterinsurgency?

2) A painful decade has improved civil-military relations.

Could "repetitive raiding" replace counterinsurgency?

After the last decade's costly experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, future U.S. leaders will very likely wish to avoid another nation-building effort that requires the suppression of a stubborn insurgency.

But wishing rarely makes problems go away. There might, hypothetically, be another occasion when a "rogue" regime needs to be removed in the interests of either regional stability or basic human rights. Is there an alternative to post-removal counterinsurgency and nation-building? And what about Colin Powell's "Pottery Barn rule" -- "you break it, you own it" -- referring to the United States' moral obligations to Iraq after the 2003 invasion?

Writing in Armed Forces Journal, Bernard Finel, a senior fellow at the American Security Project, rejects the Pottery Barn rule and offers an alternative to counterinsurgency, namely "repetitive raiding." Finel explains his proposal this way:

[T]he vast majority of goals can be accomplished through quick, decisive military operations. Not all political goals are achievable this way, but most are and those that cannot be achieved through conventional operations likely cannot be achieved by the application of even the most sophisticated counterinsurgency doctrine either.

As a consequence, I believe the U.S. should adopt a national military strategy that heavily leverages the core capability to break states and target and destroy fixed assets, iteratively if necessary. Such a strategy -- which might loosely be termed "repetitive raiding" -- could defeat and disrupt most potential threats the U.S. faces. While America's adversaries may prefer to engage the U.S. using asymmetric strategies, there is no reason that the U.S. should agree to fight on these terms.

After explaining why the United States should fight on its own terms rather than those that favor the adversary, Finel then applies the economic concept of marginal benefit versus marginal cost to discuss the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan. Finel argues that in both cases, the United States achieved most of its war objectives very early on. Cumulative costs at those points in the campaigns were trivial compared with what they would eventually become. In both wars, the United States stayed on in an attempt to achieve the remaining war objectives, paying massive marginal costs for the last few marginal benefits.

It seems easy to dismiss Finel's argument by noting the risks and costs the United States would have borne had it left Iraq and Afghanistan as broken and chaotic places. Finel explains how these risks and costs were minor, unlikely, or could have been mitigated without open-ended military occupations.

But Finel is right to bring up the point about marginal benefits versus marginal costs. The United States will leave Iraq and Afghanistan at some point. When it does, there will still be some degree of trouble and uncertainty about the future in both places. Even then, no one will be able to say that all the broken dishes were repaired. Accepting that, Finel's argument for "repetitive raiding" as an alternative to counterinsurgency may find some appeal.

A painful decade has improved civil-military relations

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have forced civil-military relations in the United States to grow up and leave behind a naive adolescence that prevailed at the start of the last decade. Before the wars began, the "normal" theory of civil-military relations, (described in Eliot Cohen's book Supreme Command) still ruled. Under the "normal" theory, civilian leadership determines war policy and then leaves the generals and admirals alone to run the war. Thankfully those days are gone; hardly a month passes without the secretary of defense or some other senior figure heading out to the field, questioning not just generals, but also colonels and sergeants about their tactics. Likewise, soldiers now deeply immerse themselves in questions about the connections between policy objectives and military strategy, the evidence for which can be found every day at websites such as Small Wars Journal. By dropping the normal theory and letting policymakers and military officers into each other's "lanes," the result has been a generally smarter use of military power.

Although U.S. civil-military relations are more mature, Mackubin Owens, a professor at the Naval War College and editor of Orbis, thinks further improvement is needed. In an essay written for the Foreign Policy Research Institute, Owens argues that several persistent problems are inhibiting the country's ability to formulate better strategy.

First, Owens thinks that residual traces of the normal theory live on, and not without good reason. The theory's exclusion of the military leadership from policy formulation was designed to maintain civilian control over the military and keep the military out of politics. Likewise, military officers viewed the execution of war plans as closely resembling an engineering project, to be performed only by highly trained professionals -- civilian amateurs should not meddle. But the theory created barriers between policy objectives and the military actions that should be designed to achieve those objectives.

Second, Owens asserts that the enduring culture of the normal theory has created organizational cultures in each of the military services that resist interference and calls for change from civilian political leaders. Yet when those civilian political leaders formulate a national security policy that requires military force, who will be held responsible for ensuring that the proper military tools are ready to implement the policy? If the "normal" theory walls off the institutional military from close political supervision, the country may find itself unprepared for new eras of conflict (as happened at the start of the last decade).

Finally, Owens blames the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986 for further raising the wall between policy formulation and military strategy. The disastrous attempt in 1980 to rescue U.S. Embassy employees from Tehran and the 1983 invasion of Grenada revealed serious problems in interservice cooperation. The solution was Goldwater-Nichols, which reduced the authority of the Washington-based service chiefs and increased the power of regional field commanders, who are responsible for executing joint-service military operations. Many have applauded the act for improving interservice military efficiency. But Owens claims the price has been the creation of further distance between civilian policymakers and warfighters, resulting in a greater disconnection between policy objectives and military strategy.

The solution, according to Owens, is twofold. First, military leaders must reassert a voice in strategy and, presumably, engage their civilian masters on the integration of military actions with policy objectives. On the other side, civilian leaders should closely probe and supervise the services' plans for force structure, acquisition programs, training, and doctrine to ensure that the services are creating military capabilities that will support national policies. On these measures, civil-military relations have improved. But it has taken a decade of painful wars to bring about this improvement.

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The prime difficulty for the present and/or near-term presidental administrations, re: being able to move (back?) to a "management" approach, is that "management," it is believed, is not a good fit for our present pressing circumstances.

In this regard, consider two primary factors:

a. The Central 21st Century Problem and

b. The Central 21st Century Goal

The Central 21st Century Problem is that we now have huge new populations (in China, Russia, India, etc) who are -- and will be -- massively stressing the supporting international infrastructure system.

The Central 21st Century Goal is to maintain, build upon and profit from the current great power peace.

Thus, in order to (1) adequately deal with the Central 21st Century Problem and, thereby, (2) achieve the 21st Century Goal, the supporting international infrastrature will need to be rapidly expanded, updated and modernized. In addition, outstanding problems with these regions will, now, need to be dealt with more aggressively.

These are the new international dynamics which seem to FORCE our national leaders to move away from "management" approaches, and to cause these leaders to adopt, instead, more dangerous and more costly "sense of urgency" methods (regime change, nation-building, societial transformation, COIN/WOG, development).

Critical Questions:

a. Are we, for the reasons I have outlined above, in such a short-fuse TINA (there is no alternative) moment -- which causes to take the more dangerous and more decisive actions outlined above?

b. Or do we actually have a significant amount of time; wherein, we can use approaches (such as management) -- with much more leisure and with much less cost -- to deal with our problems and achieve our goals?

Sorry for the double post. My bad.

Ken:

I get the distinction you make with regard to raiding, and I understand and basically agree with your reasoning behind a strategic approach emphasizing raids and "management." My only caveat is that American political and military culture probably would not allow for such an approach, deeply enamored as it is with decisive results and the notion that there is "no substitute for victory." This is especially so following so devastating a cassus belli as the 9-11 attacks. You and I have discussed before Americas inherent difficulties thinking and planning coherently in strategic terms. My guess is that until UBL dies or is killed, or the American public overwhelmingly withdraws it support for the war effort, it will be very difficult politically for the U.S. to adopt an alternative to an expeditionary strategy.

Ken:

I get the distinction you make with regard to raiding, and I understand and basically agree with your reasoning behind a strategic approach emphasizing raids and "management." My only caveat is that American political and military culture probably would not allow for such an approach, deeply enamored as it is with decisive results and the notion that there is "no substitute for victory." This is especially so following so devastating a cassus belli as the 9-11 attacks. You and I have discussed before Americas inherent difficulties thinking and planning coherently in strategic terms. My guess is that until UBL dies or is killed, or the American public overwhelmingly withdraws it support for the war effort, it will be very difficult politically for the U.S. to adopt a strategic alternative to an expeditionary strategy.

Bill C:

You may be correct, time will tell. Hopefully someone will realize that our track record in doing what you suggest -- and I acknowledge many others agree -- is abysmal. Possibly we should try a different approach.

The really neat thing about this country is that we get a chance to change management's outlook every 2, 4, 6 and 8 years...

Ken White:

Thanks.

Its not that I agree with or advocate this position; its simply that I see this as (1) the way things are actually going and (2) the claimed reason(s) why.

So when we start talking about such potentially good/great ideas as "repetitive raiding," for instance, then I think that we can only logically do this within the context of "where we are actually going and why."

In this regard, it is hard to properly discuss "repetitive raiding" today because the ordering/organizing principle on which it seems to be based (to wit: "management") is

a. Not in force and

b. Not likely to be adopted.

This, because of the current belief by national leaders that only a more aggressive approach (needed to bring about a more-rapid and more-fundamental "international infrastructure" change) can adequately provide for the United States security and prosperity needs today and going forward.

Should this belief change, then the idea of "management" -- and of "repetitive raiding" -- might find much more fertile ground.

Bill C:

It seems our reasoning and arguments differ, thus my concerns and cautions.

More people would likely agree with your postulations than with mine however, I believe the approach you and they advocate is not so much fraught with danger as it is simply not at all likely to succeed -- ergo, why waste the effort (and people)?

Further, such transformation not only should under optimum conditions be allowed to occur voluntarily and over a longer period of time it will do exactly that regardless of the effort we and other 'powers' decide to expend.

You may be correct in stating the US national leadership sees a failure of 'great power peace' (a silly myth if ever one existed) without more immediate infrastructure improvements as a much greater danger and the more pressing concern and is inclined to act accordingly. If so, we're not as smart as we think we are...

Forcing others to behave as you wish them to never works for long. Never. We have been bullying, bribing and blustering our way around the world for much of the last 100 years. It has rarely been successful and has done us and others little good.

When one is in a hole and shouldn't be, the best advice is "Stop digging..."

Ken White:

I agree wholeheartedly with all your reasoning, arguments, concerns and cautions.

What I have tried to do is cause us to acknowledge and reflect upon -- first and foremost -- the context within which our recent and future SMALL WARS have and will be undertaken.

This context (as can easily be discerned by reviewing countless documents and numerous speeches -- from virtually all post-Cold War presidents and from key figures in their administrations -- and from reviewing the hard actions of these presidents) is:

a. The concept of a "new international order,"

b. Which is organized around a new "international community" (the strong and rising powers).

c. This new international community is led by the United States (thus, we cannot and do not play a minor role).

d. This new international community's sees its primary purpose in the 21st Century as

e. Needing to "update and modernize" the weaker/ill-configured areas of the "community's" infrastructure (example: rogue, weak, failed states; aberrant cultures)

f. This, so as to make these peoples and places become (1) less of a problem and (2) more "open" and more available for use by the international community.

g. This task is considered most essential to providing for the needs of the rapidly expanding international community (3 billion new capitalists) -- both today -- and going forward.

h. The ability to maintain the current great power peace is thought to largely depend upon whether these infrastructure improvements can and will be made.

g. Thus, a grand strategy which requires the significant employment of military forces -- and other instruments of "community" power -- (examples: diplomacy and development)

h. Exactly toward the requirement of "nation-building" and "societal transformation."

i. Military forces will specifically be needed to train up and beef up "host nation" military and police forces (a primary focus of the international community's military force and police use today), such that these host nations can:

(1) Work for us in bringing about the desired governmental and societal changes and

(2) Adequately deal with the resistance and rebellion that has and will come from this wrenching process.

I agree that this process is fraught with danger.

And I agree that such transformation should, under more optimum conditions, be allowed to occur voluntarily and over a longer and more appropriate period of time.

But the national leadership seems the see the failure of the current great power peace (without more immediate infrastructure improvements) as the much greater danger -- and the more pressing concern -- and has acted accordingly.

Bill:

-- I assume BillC as opposed to Bill Moore? --

b. The "international community" will need to invest in, modernize and update the "international community infrastructure" so-to-speak.


This requires military forces designed and deployed -- along with other instruments of national and international power -- to...

The first statement is possibly correct, it also could be less than correct. In any event, you do stipulate "the international community." Assuming said community can agree on anything and if they agree on that one assumes that it will thus be a combined effort in which we might play a minor part if it is in our national interest.

The second item is at best questionable. Military forces could often be counterproductive but I grant the other instruments of national power aspect.

I'm unsure how the national power and international community relate in this effort -- and I'm unsure that:

a. In order to preserve, provide for, expand upon and profit from the "new international order" (great power peace, current and future advances of globalization, needs and demands of 3 billion new capitalists and hundreds of millions of new middle class consumers).

is as necessary or even as good an idea as many seem to think. Our historical record of success in imposing our beliefs on others -- as opposed to allowing them to hew to those beliefs at their own speed and with their own modifications is, umm, not good...


This rather sweeping statement:

...the ways-of-life of various peoples, groups, nations and cultures will need to be altered to adequately accommodate the new international order's needs).

would seem to entail someone -- us? -- making decisions for a whole lot of other people who are perfectly capable of deciding for themselves how they wish to engage the rest of the world. Seems rather officious and arrogant to me. Also seems to an exceedingly dicey proposition with potentially bad outcomes that usurp the rights of those whose ways of life we intend to modify.

In short, it's not our job.

The answer to your question is that repetitive raiding cannot become a substitute for COIN-like efforts:

...considering that "dynamic change" -- not maintaining the "status quo" -- is what this "infrastructure modernizing and updating" process is actually required to do?

It, OTOH, can be a far cheaper and a very effective alternative to undertaking a 'process' that "infrastructure modernizing and updating" is tedious, quite expensive in many ways and rarely at all effective in achieving the nominal goals for which it aims. Not to mention that it is very autocratic, downright presumptuous and virtually guaranteed to do more harm than good.

As John D. MacDonald once wrote 'rich Americans forget there's not enough oil to make a pair of water skis for every family in the world..."

Yeah, he wrote fiction but that quote is reality. Thinking we can rewire the world is also fiction...

I guess one could frame the question this way:

The need for "nation-building," as we call it, seems to stem from the belief that:

a. In order to preserve, provide for, expand upon and profit from the "new international order" (great power peace, current and future advances of globalization, needs and demands of 3 billion new capitalists and hundreds of millions of new middle class consumers),

b. The "international community" will need to invest in, modernize and update the "international community infrastructure" so-to-speak.

This requires military forces designed and deployed -- along with other instruments of national and international power -- to:

(1) Bring about these required "infrastructure" changes and

(2) Deal with the problems that will be encountered in this new initiative (rebellions, as, the ways-of-life of various peoples, groups, nations and cultures will need to be altered to adequately accommodate the new international order's needs).

This seems to be the current rational, reasoning and game-plan (thus, "defense, diplomacy and development," as noted in my earlier comment above).

If I have this right, then, within the current understanding, how can "repetitive raiding/management" become an adequate substitute for or reasonable compliment to "COIN/WOG; considering that "dynamic change" -- not maintaining the "status quo" -- is what this "infrastructure modernizing and updating" process is actually required to do?

Bernard Finel:

Are you referring to Candidate Bush's speech at the Citadel on September 23, 1999, entitled "A Period of Consequences," wherein he stated:

"In the late 1930's, as Britain failed to adapt to the new realities of war, Winston Churchill observed: 'The era of procastination, of half measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. In its place, we are entering a period of consequences.'

Our nation and our military are entering another period of consequences -- a time of rapid change and momentous choices.

As president, I will begin an immediate and comprehensive review of our military -- the structure of its forces, the state of its strategy, the priorities of its procurement -- conducted by a leadership team under the Secretary of Defense. I will give the Secretary a broad mandate -- to challenge the status quo ..."

From Candidate Bush's speech, one might suggest that he, also, saw the near-term as a period of significant change (although he saw this change differently) and, likewise, believed that a Status Quo Approach was to be questioned and challenged. Events, of course, would alter his initial view of what the true challenges were.

From another perspective, would you consider the change from great power war to great power peace -- and the corresponding potential and problems presented by 3 billion new capitalists and hundreds of millions of new middle class consumers (in Russia, China, India, etc) -- as a dramatic change from the old status quo; one which presents new and unique security challenges and requirements?

Thanks.

yadernye:

Check the definition of 'raid.' See also William F. Owen's allusion to Chevauchée as a tactic. What you propose is a conventional campaign and not a raid.

A 'Decisive result' is generally a military myth. The Coup de Main exists mostly in legend and the DoD Dictionary, not in reality. Ray, above, is correct; it is a butcher and bolt but contrary to his thought, it was is and could be very much in the long term national interest. It also is emphatically not the launching of missiles from afar in a retaliatory strike -- those are indeed counterproductive, generally very ineffectual and should be totally avoided. Committing your young men and women to direct combat OTOH is an indication of determination that gives pause to would be troublemakers.

A strategic raid in response to the 9/11 attacks might have gone to Afghanistan but there would have been no air campaign, no deployment of XVIII Abn Corps and no attempt to capture or kill OBL (which would serve no military, political or strategic purpose). The highest ranking person on the ground should have been a Colonel or perhaps a BG at an absolute maximum.

What would have occurred is simply total destruction of all known AQ infrastructure and personnel groupings known or suspected in Afghanistan -- and possibly Pakistan as well -- followed by a rapid withdrawal of all surviving US personnel and equipment. Certainly a week or less on the ground.

The purpose of a raid is simply punishment and or disruption, not destruction or defeat. For that latter, a conventional campaign of sorts is always going to be necessary. The question should be "is it desirable?"

The word 'surviving' above indicates a necessary willingness to accept loss of equipment and possibly personnel who could not be recovered.

The reason such a raid was not conducted and Iraq was transmuted into a conventional operation is that the proper tools were not, are not and likely will not be available simply because of that political risk you cite.

Required are specialized, designed for purpose equipment and adequate training for troops -- using just so called SOF would not be an option as conventional forces can and should be adequately trained to do that (after the turf battle). The potential for possibly significant losses in casualties and equipment that might be abandoned is obviously present and thus a different mindset than we currently evince becomes necessary. The American people can and will accept that, 2/3 of them anyway. Whether the politicians can and will is a different matter...

That does not mean the technique is not viable, it is and quite so. It is politically risky and therefor is unlikely to be adopted. That is not at all the same thing as saying it should not be adopted.

It would be far cheaper in all respects including global acceptance than the current very flawed theology of COIN efforts to make so called failed or failing States and dangerous areas into presentable entities and falling on our faces while spending a Trillion dollars and not succeeding in the process...

Let me start by saying that I do not oppose the notion of strategic raids in principle. I think the idea has a lot of merit when applied in appropriate situations. But I also see problems with the concept in practice.

Let me pose this counterfactual: suppose Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001 had been staged as a raid rather than as an open-ended political commitment to supporting the anti-Taliban opposition. President Bush would have announced ahead of time that the U.S. goals in Afghanistan were to eliminate al Qaeda, after which all U.S. forces would withdraw.

An initial air campaign would have been followed by deployment of the XVIII Airborne Corps to establish a forward operating base in southern Afghanistan from which to carry out an extended counterterrorism operation against al Qaeda using SOF elements.

Suppose this OEF was successful in killing or capturing Usama bin Laden and his senior henchmen. Withdrawal of the raiding forces would be no problem and responsibility for rebuilding Afghanistan could be turned over to the U.N. and NGOs.

But what if the raid was not successful in eliminating al Qaeda? What if UBL and the senior leadership escaped to safe haven in Pakistan, as they are supposed to have done in actuality? I have a hard time seeing how the Bush administration would have been able to politically justify withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan, with the stated goals for the operation unfulfilled. I have a hard time seeing how U.S. involvement in Afghanistan in this counterfactual hypothetical ends up being materially different from the course of actual events.

Another consideration is the fact that a strategic raid on Afghanistan would have been politically possible only after a provocation on the scale of the 9-11 attack. Before that, the Clinton administration could not get the support of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for even limited tactical raids against al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

I would also point out that according to Douglas Feith, the original OEF concept proposed by General Franks bore a lot of resemblance to a strategic raid. This was the concept that Donald Rumsfeld told President Bush was "inadequate" because it did not appear to produce a decisive result. It was the prompting of Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz that the resulted in the OEF concept being changed to more direct support for the Northern Alliance through the UW campaign. Despite George Bushs avowed aversion to nation-building, he signed off on Rumsfelds desire to broaden the U.S. commitment to the Northern Alliances effort to topple the Taliban.

In short, calling a military intervention a raid or something else may be a matter of semantics. In practicality, the political consequences may end up being the same.

Bernard Finel,

I really like your paper "An Alternative to COIN".

I have a hard time coming to grips with our current COIN strategy for all the typical reasons: its expensive in lives, time, and resources, we make ourselves targets, COIN is difficult because of cultural and language barriers, I do not like our military interfering in the daily lives of people, etc.

I do however believe that it is reasonable to support and work with the native population of the conflict, along the lines of something like Jim Gant advocates with his "One Tribe At a Time" paper. I would advocate that we work with groups of people who oppose our enemy, and want peace. So maybe in Iraq, that would have been the Kurds in the north, or maybe the Shiites in the south. In Afghanistan that was certainly the Northern Alliance in beginning, but there are many other groups that are opposed to the Taliban and Al Queda.

I also have the concern about our use of our powerful capability. I hope we use it sparingly and with careful justification. I would rather us take our time, justify our targets, follow proper checks and balances, etc. While I am not sure I agree with Ron Paul and his strong belief against foreign intervention, I do share many of his concerns, and I think we should take them seriously. Maybe always ask the question how would you like it if they did this in your country?

Bill:

Sorry, I refuse to accept the notion that 19 thugs with box cutters equals "Things Have Dramatically Changed."

I am no George Bush fan, but the national security doctrine he laid out at the Citadel before he was elected was sounder than what we have now.

--BF

Of course, if America's current and future national security and prosperity can be achieved simply by "managing" various aspects of foreign and domestic affairs, then "management," per se, as the method, would be just fine.

One might call this something of a Status Quo Approach.

If, however, significant, dramatic and dynamic new forces are at work (for example: globalization, rise of new capitalist/market great and small powers with huge new needs, rise of Al Qaeda and other "resisters" in response to these dynamic forces), then "fixing" methods may also need to be considered.

One might call this the Acknowledgement That Things Have Dramatically Changed Approach.

To provide for the United States' security and prosperity in the 21st Century, one will need to visit the question of whether Things Have Dramatically Changed -- or Not -- and, accordingly, decide if "management" or some significant degree of "fixing" will be required.

We must acknowledge that "nation-building," as we call it, remains a central feature of United States foreign policy and grand strategy for the 21st Century.

Consider Admiral Mullen's recent statement to this effect:

"We must not look upon the use of the military as only a last resort, but as potentially the best, first option when combined with other instruments of national and international power."

The other instruments of national and international power (as Sec. Clinton has made clear) are "diplomacy" and "development."

These (military, diplomacy and development) are, quite clearly, a portfolio of "nation-building" instruments -- that are to be applied to the overall goal of transforming certain societies (example: weak and failed states) such that they are made (1) less troublesome and (2) more compatible to the needs of the current great power peace.

Thus, we have not abandoned "nation-building" as the central feature of our foreign policy; we have simply determined to do it better.

Accordingly, if "repetitive raiding" is to be considered as a better tool, then it must be considered specifically with regard to it's utility re: "nation-building."

Well said, Rob.

Robert asked: Could "repetitive raiding" replace counterinsurgency?

The short answer is yes/no/sort of - "replace" indicates another either/or choice. To include it in our list of options requires a shift from the notion of seeking to "fix" all things and be able to recognize when something may be more condition than problem, something that must be managed as opposed to fixed.

There is a balance to be achieved wrt when, where and how. The trick would be to recognize when raiding is more appropriate then something that requires more permanence. Both should be conditional to our interests, and pas the FAS test.

Best, Rob

LongTabSigO:

I think you misunderstand William f. Owens. 'Raid' is not a bad word; there is nothing wrong with strategic raids properly conducted -- they are a far better use of force than our current technique of playing to our opponent's strengths using so-called COIN techniques.
We just do not currently have adequate capability to perform them because they bear risk and we are today an extremely risk averse society. Weren't always...

Strategic raids based on reasonable intelligence as an announced tactic with the concomitant acceptance of losses are far more likely to achieve US objectives than is the use of our armed forces in most 'operations other than war.' Other than those few in a purely humanitarian aid mode, they have rarely done us much good. In fact most have done a great deal of harm at significant cost over the past 60 or so years.

No one has addressed thus far this statement cited by Robert Haddick that:

"...blames the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986 for further raising the wall between policy formulation and military strategy."

A true statement. Goldwater-Nichols did as much harm as good, not least in the creation of the CoComs and their subsequent and unintended (hopefully...) usurping of Foreign Policy activities worldwide -- with the resultant penchant for interfering in the affairs of others, usually not to our benefit. Consider also the terrible, inflexible and really unnecessary bureaucracy those Commands impose between Washington and Theaters...

They are not particularly effective given a personnel policy of short term tours wherein incumbent Commanders are expected to accomplish one or more 'significant' actions while on watch. That's an invitation to be 'proactive' at any cost no matter the logic or lack thereof.

There are better ways to use those spaces.

Concurring with William F. Owen above - "raid" is such a bad word - even as a euphemism. "Repetitive Reconnaissance" would more appropriate if you had to use a martial reference.

I read a lot of the postings here from the lens of Africa (and with a view toward Central/South America) where no active gunfighting is really going on (not in the Iraq/Afghanistan sense, anyway). Seems to me that "DIME" (or whatever we call elements of national power these days) needs to be the base line for any of these discussions. I thought that was the whole idea of Phase Zero and Shaping.

In that way, "repetitive 'raiding'" (sic) might make a modicum of sense. But if all we're going to do is wait and let things fester, then there's no sense in even deploying forces before things "break out".

On a side note: I still think "counterinsurgency" is being used too broadly when the less-cool but more appropriate "Operations Other Than War" makes more sense.

"future U.S. leaders will very likely wish to avoid another nation-building effort that requires the suppression of a stubborn insurgency."

"There might, hypothetically, be another occasion when a "rogue" regime needs to be removed in the interests of either regional stability or basic human rights."

Keep this just between you and me, but...let the CIA do it, it is a lot cheaper.

Anyone ever heard of "La Grand Chavauche?"
Anyone read Archer Jones?
Anyone looked up the dictionary definition of "RAID?"

I've long called for the removal of our forces from Afghanistan. I haven't called for the removal of our right of decisive intervention. I'd concur that we've been magnificant at winning the wars and less so winning the peace by allowing our opponents to define the arena and dictate the means.

We've undergone massive changes in our civil-military approach to combat. In doing so, we've diminished our strengths to accentuate weaknesses. Were we to ascribe to Ray's description of "butcher and bolt" ala the Clintonian cruise missile strikes, he may have a point but nothing precludes us limiting the discussion to such pin-pricks. Certainly neither OIF nor OEF meet that definition.

Would we face more danger from a taliban-dominated Afghanistan with A.Q. provided safe haven again? Sure...if it came to past in that manner. Would the threat, however, be more visible and targetable than currently postured? Quite possibly. Meanwhile, would the long-term and equally unpredictable course of nation-building be undertaken at great expense and no certainty of success?

Nope.

We've an ANP that's illiterate and drug-addled yet we're determined to field a police force of such intended to protect the population over the next two years. Anybody feel we're going to see benefits from that? Just one small example of the Pandora's box of disappointments awaiting us.

Thanks,

Steve

The old term for "repetitive raiding" was "butcher and bolt." While emotionally satisfying to the people executing it, its long term benefit to the national interest was questionable.

In a different form, the cruise missile strikes against Al Qaeda in the 1990s, following each terrorist attack, was pretty much the same idea. Its effectiveness in deterring Al Qaeda was also questionable.

Rob's assessment is precisely what I was trying to argue.

"To include it in our list of options requires a shift from the notion of seeking to "fix" all things and be able to recognize when something may be more condition than problem, something that must be managed as opposed to fixed."

Yes, precisely. Though I would argue that one reason for that is that "fixing" is an illusion.