This Week at War: Losing Faith

My Foreign Policy column discusses the strategic implications of this week's massacre in Panjwai, Afghanistan.

 

Policymakers in Washington may be as tense as the U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan as they await the reaction to a nighttime shooting rampage on March 11 in Panjwai, near Kandahar, that left 16 Afghan civilians dead. The alleged shooter, a 38-year-old U.S. Army staff sergeant with three previous tours of duty in Iraq, has been flown to Kuwait, presumably to await a court martial.

This shocking crime follows last month's accidental burning of Qurans at a U.S. base in Afghanistan, an incident that resulted in nearly two weeks of riots and the murder of six U.S. trainers at the hands of their Afghan students. That followed the release of a video showing a group of Marines urinating on Taliban corpses.

In 1999, Gen. Charles Krulak, then Marine Corps commandant, coined the term "strategic corporal." Krulak was referring to modern conflict in a media age, where much responsibility is heaped on young and relatively inexperienced troops, who make decisions with far-reaching strategic consequences. In a 2007 monograph, Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles Dunlap catalogued controversies like the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and civilian deaths in Haditha that plagued the U.S. counterinsurgency mission in Iraq. Dunlap asserted that such incidents are inevitable when U.S. ground forces are on prolonged expeditions, a contention that has similarly played out in Afghanistan.

U.S. policymakers will now assess whether the Panjwai rampage will have any impact on their long-established timetable to gradually shift responsibility for security to the Afghan government over the next two years. Pentagon officials will wonder whether the recent incidents are a leading indicator of wider morale and discipline problems within the Army. Finally, strategists will ponder whether the massacre is one more example of the kinds of unavoidable strategic disasters that are bound to occur during prolonged stabilization campaigns, and that thus call into the question the very future of such missions.

The so-far subdued reaction to the murders by the Afghan population is a stark contrast from the prolonged rioting that occurred after last month's Quran-burning incident. To the extent that this contrast is a surprise, it only illustrates the vast cultural divide between Afghanistan and the United States and may explain why the U.S. strategy to stabilize the country has been so troubled.

But even if most Afghans are showing a muted response, President Hamid Karzai apparently is not. In a meeting in Kabul on March 14 with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Karzai demanded that NATO troops immediately pull out of rural areas, leaving local Afghan forces to protect villages in the countryside. He also demanded that NATO turn over security responsibility to Afghan forces in 2013, a year earlier than currently planned.

Karzai used the Panjwai killings as an opportunity to make his demands to Panetta. But even without such a pretext, Karzai may have presented the same request. The Panjwai murders are just the latest in a long string of similar grievances Karzai has expressed to U.S. officials. For years, Karzai has complained about NATO's use of air power, U.S. Special Operations nighttime raids against Taliban suspects, and U.S. efforts to build up local security forces that bypass Karzai's central government in Kabul. In this sense, the Panjwai killings by themselves are of minor strategic importance. They are a marginal subtraction from the already poor relationship between the U.S. and Afghan governments.

Is the rampage a leading indicator of morale and discipline problems inside the Army? Retired Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, a Vietnam combat veteran and a former commandant of the Army War College, argues in a Washington Post op-ed that U.S. ground forces have been understaffed and overused during the past decade. While not excusing the staff sergeant's alleged rampage, Scales asserts that the last decade's wars have fallen too heavily on the shoulders of a relatively few career infantrymen in the Army and Marine Corps, many of whom are now "emotionally exhausted and drained." If stress caused the staff sergeant to snap, Scales believes he can trace that stress back to a political decision to keep the Army smaller than it needs to be.

Michael Yon, a war correspondent and former Army Green Beret, believes the Army in Afghanistan faces a "discipline collapse," an unwelcome observation that last August prompted the Army to remove Yon from an embedded reporting assignment. According to Yon, many soldiers in Afghanistan have lost confidence in the military's strategy. With Afghan soldiers occasionally turning their guns on their allies, Yon has predicted a violent lack of restraint from a few now-cynical U.S. troops.

Scales's recommendation is to increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps in order to increase the time infantrymen have between deployments. This notion goes exactly counter to the Obama administration's latest defense budget, which will cut the Army and Marine Corps by about 82,000 troops over the next five years. The Obama administration's answer to Scales is that it ended the war in Iraq and is pulling out of Afghanistan as fast as it prudently can. Returning the troops to their U.S. bases should be the best solution to combat stress.

Obama's new defense guidance specifically states that "U.S. forces will no longer be sized to conduct large-scale, prolonged stability operations (italics in original)." That may be a relief to both Scales's overstressed infantrymen and Yon's soldier-cynics who have seemingly lost confidence in the counterinsurgency strategy passed down from their leaders.

However, as the ink dries on the defense budget, the situation in Syria continues to spiral out of control. In extremis, the need to secure Syria's large stockpiles of chemical munitions may provide yet another stressful and prolonged mission for U.S. ground forces. Nathan Freier, a retired Army officer and a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, warns that large-scale disorder, most often caused by state collapse, will continue to cause unavoidable challenges to U.S. interests that will require significant U.S. ground forces to fix. Obama's defense policy specifically assumes away such scenarios.

The Obama administration and air power advocates may point to last year's operation in Libya as an alternative and less risky approach to the potential problems Freier describes. The United States and its allies provided the air power while indigenous rebels, aided by special forces and clandestine service officers, provided the ground forces. This combination was apparently enough to secure Libya's chemical weapons and man-portable surface-to-air missiles, while avoiding the "strategic corporal" risk that attaches itself to any large and prolonged U.S. ground force deployment.

Pentagon strategists must plan for cases -- like Syria -- that will be more difficult than Libya was. That will mean accepting the likelihood of another large-scale ground mission. And with such a mission comes the unwelcome probability of "strategic corporal" moments that could put the mission at risk. With incidents like Abu Ghraib, the Quran burnings, and Panjwai in mind, planners will look for ways to either avoid or minimize the odds. But as long as humans and weapons are mixed together, the odds will always be there.

 

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Why? Why should that be a US mission? And "someone has to do it" is not a good answer, nor is "no one else is capable." Both are bad answers and untrue to boot (speaking of which I notice Max Boot is already at it for Syria...).

Couple of bits here really jumped out at me...

According to Yon, many soldiers in Afghanistan have lost confidence in the military's strategy.

Of course they have. Why would anyone retain confidence in something that's so obviously not working? The solution to that isn't more money, more soldiers, and longer breaks between deployments, the solution is recognition that remaking Afghanistan in our image was never a feasible or appropriate goal in the first place. Just as tactics without a viable strategy are useless, strategy without a practical, concrete, achievable policy goal is useless. We shot ourselves in the foot the moment we decided that we have to "fix" Afghanistan. We reap what we sowed.

Nathan Freier, a retired Army officer and a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, warns that large-scale disorder, most often caused by state collapse, will continue to cause unavoidable challenges to U.S. interests that will require significant U.S. ground forces to fix. Obama's defense policy specifically assumes away such scenarios.

This just seems wrong on multiple levels. None of our recent engagements were unavoidable, and none required major US deployments. None involved existential threats or monumentally significant interests. All were wars of choice, not necessity. Any imaginable deployment in Syria would be a matter of choice, not necessity. I see no point in claiming that we need to maintain enough force to support such choices, even if we can't afford them... maybe we just need to make better choices, like not deluding ourselves into thinking major US deployments are going to "fix" these problems.

The idea that the Pentagon develops strategy and Congress budgets for it is backwards: Congress decides what's affordable and the Pentagon develops strategy within those constraints. If we can't afford these wars of choice and can't afford to send massive military forces to "fix" faraway lands in which we've little real interest, we'll just have to refrain from doing that. I don't see how that leaves us any worse off.

If faith is blind, better to lose it and start over from a more open-eyed perspective.

Dayuhan, without excusing what Bales did, answer me this as to who had the better excuse for snapping and committing murder.

Daniel Sickles was a politician and womanizer who decided that his young wife's indiscretions with Francis Scott Key's son were unacceptable. He killed Scott at point blank range in public and got away with it based on the first documented case of temporary insanity. He went on to lead a Corps at Gettysburg and got thousands killed/wounded by disobeying orders.

Then consider the "rational" orders of General Sherman. How many deaths was he responsible for through his march to the sea? How about Army officers indirectly committing murder by destroying the Buffalo supply to exterminate Indians, or forcing the trail of tears?

How about the firebombing of Tokyo and Germany?

Finally, surmise that an IED went off next to those innocent family houses taking the leg of a friend. Would an already damaged mind potentially snap and commit murder knowing the families in those houses must have known about the IED or planted it? Pure speculation on my part but a better "excuse" than Sickles had.

My comment had nothing to do with Bales, and I certainly didn't mean to suggest that anyone, anywhere, has an excuse to "snap and commit murder".

Move Forward:

This statement "Dayuhan, without excusing what Bales did, answer me this as to who had the better excuse for snapping and committing murder." is an attempt to have it both ways. You say you are not excusing the murders but frame the question in such a way as to do so.

If you think the murders were ok, or not that bad, just say so.

IMHO, a Soldier with multiple commendations, past acknowledgement of American Soldier vs others doing right and wrong, praised by former platoon leaders/neighbors/acquaintances is not the kind to commit mass murder unless they snapped for some reason. Psychopaths commit serial murder over time and attempt to hide it. Others that snap, do it and then put the gun in their mouth.

Bales made no attempt to hide it and may have realized he really screwed up after performing the murders...when he returned to his senses. This is no weird guy killing fellow students. There is no evidence of groupthink Soldier-slaughter of civilians or trying to cover it up.

If a guy of this caliber screwed up this bad, he must of snapped in my untrained, unscientific opinion. My example is that many of much higher rank have gotten away with directly/indirectly killing lots of civilians in the name of total war...and they did not snap.

People don't snap. That is a fiction constructed by defense attorneys (an understandable part of their job) and apologists for criminals. There is almost always a history of something or other. Right now we are only hearing the good things because that is what people are comfortable saying. The bad things are being uncovered by official investigators and they will keep their mouths shut to avoid ruining the case.

What it sounds like to me is a criminal decided to get some but wanted to keep on living. The criminal carefully concealed the exit from the base and put on a disguise. Then it selected victims it was fairly certain couldn't fight back. Then when the desire to kill was sated it went back to a place of refuge where it knew its life would be protected. Then a criminal being a criminal, it immediately lawyered up to make prosecution for the crime as difficult as possible and gaining the best chance for an acquittal or a short sentence.

That is not so weird. It is perfectly rational behavior for an evil creature that wanted to kill and kill and kill and get away with it.

I don't care what anybody else of whatever rank did whenever or wherever else. Raising that is an attempt to distract from the crime being considered. What was done in this case by this criminal? That is the only thing that matters.

If Soldiers don't snap, please compare Soldier vs Airman suicides, domestic disturbances, and criminal activity at bases like Lewis-McChord and Bragg-Pope. We like to equate the service of all servicemembers as equally difficult and valuable...equally worthy of honor. The reality is that an infantryman's life and death experiences are different. Equally true is a Soldier's deployment is longer than any other servicemember...in part a function of the lack of total force structure available to the Army.

Yeah, I believe that Soldiers can snap...especially infantrymen with PTSD and TBI. I will acknowledge that Michael Yon just posted a twitter link to a Bloomberg article that Bales may have committed fraud. This guy, like most Soldiers, is no saint...but alleged fraud, if true, is a far cry from alleged mass murder.

Like I said, people don't snap. There is almost always a history, especially with criminal behavior. Mr. Upstanding citizen doesn't go from that status to mass murderer in one day. There is a transition, little or big cumulative slips and slides. The investigators will find them. There will almost certainly be other things besides fraud.

If you believe anybody can go from good person to evil creature in an instant, that is close to believing the broken soldier or the crazy vet myth. There are broken soldiers and crazy vets, individual broken soldiers and individual crazy vets. They almost always show signs. To believe that of everyone is to do a grave disservice to people who have seen and suffered far more than this criminal and didn't murder defenseless people to make themselves feel better.

I just checked the Bloomberg article. You can change "may have committed fraud" to "committed fraud", six figures worth. There is almost always a history. But that raises another question. That record would preclude passing a police background check, why didn't the Army catch that or if they did, why didn't they care?

Is it a loss of faith or the dawning of an understanding? Perhaps it is no longer within our capability to keep oil prices at an even keel via our traditional Mid East (read Saudi and Gulf monarchies) relationships and we will always be blackmailed on the "we won't go nuclear" line in that part of the world. As for securing weapons in that part of the world, isn't the genie kind of out of the bottle? What I mean is: are we going to do this everytime a similar situation comes up? Is there a better way to go about it? How can we afford it even if we enlarge our military? The technology moves on. Are large numbers of troops the only way to secure "loose technologies", so to speak?

I couldn't find any unifying logic in this article. Who exactly is losing faith, and in what? What I did see in this article were a number of quotes from individuals using the most recent crime (far from the only one) in Afghanistan to justify pet agendas, or worse to say, "I told you so."

It is probable when you send U.S. troops (or troops from any other nation) to a foreign land with a foreign culture that some of the soldiers will commit crimes. These troops are often unworldly and view these foreigners as less than human, that is just the way it is. To claim as Yon and Dunlap did that this was predictable is like saying the stock market will go up and it will it go down. Eventually both predictions will be correct. Yon is probably right that frustrations are increasing in the ranks, but frustations don't cause 99.9% of the force to become murderers.

While I'm not necessarily opposed to Scale's argument about the need for more land forces. He is probably correct IF we are going to continue to pursue nation building and stability operations as part of our national strategy, but again that appears to have little to do with the reason that this crime happened. Dunlap's arguments as usual are irrational and nothing more a promotion for air power, as though collateral damage from bombs dropped the sky are somehow superior than a man on the ground engaging in close in combat at a personal level. He fails to explain how those targets would be identified without the man on the ground, and clearly misses the strategic impact of commiting troops to the fight. We have Marines on Okinawa and their presence demonstrates our commitment to defending the region, but occassionally a bad actor marine will commit a henious crime on Okinawa. It creates a stir, there are a few calls to move them off island, but overall people realize the greater good they provide at the strategic level. Flying a jet above Okinawa wouldn't provide the same effect, and that applies to the ground forces in Europe during the Cold War. Even in Libya air power enabled, but ground forces were decisive.

I have no idea why this SSG decided to murder 16 Afghan civilians (if he even did, but I'll assume for now he did). Why did other soldiers and marines murder Iraqi and Afghan civilians? Some them had less than one tour under their belt, so it wasn't repeated tours. In all liklihood it was the confluence of several factors impacting his life that pushed him to this. All we really know is that a crime was commited.

Furthermore, at least from a strategic perspective, we seem to be making a bigger deal out of it than the Afghans. No doubt Yon is right, the Afghans will get their revenge and then the war will continue. Karsai will also exploit the incident, but Yon's comments (see link to Yon's post) about Karsai appear to be based on emotion more than reason. Yon implies that Karsai should appear to be puppet of the U.S. when these things happen instead of voicing opinions that reflect the frustration of his people. Not that Karzai is all that well loved now by his people, I still can't see how apologizing to the U.S. for Afghan crimes would help him gain credibility (which in turn would help us with our current strategy, since we tied our success to his success).

I can definitely understand the frustration most of us feel when an Afghan soldier or police officer kills an ISAF member that is there to assist them. This is the essence of the problem. We are well intentioned, but perceived by those we're attempting to help to be rude, arrogant, and less than helpful. That is also undertandable since we dismis civilian deaths in Afghanistan as collateral damage (year after year), we reenforce a government that is not popular, and yet that same government we claim to support believes (rightfully so in my view) that many of our actions undermines them. It comes back to the old argument that we don't have a coherent strategy for winning at this time, and yes that leads to frustration, but it doesn't lead to murder.

It also doesn't mean that the recent dumb mistakes (Koran burning and the urination video on Utube) and the recent crimes (Kill Team and now the SSG) have led to loss of faith. The loss of faith was manifest in many ways before these events. Sadly, but understandably, incidents like these in any combat zone are more common than we like to admit, regardless of whether soldiers believe in the strategy or not. These innocents are irrelevant to losing faith, but they are very public topics that lead back to the discussion about the strategy in general.

We didn't understand Afghanistan when we invaded, so it understandable that we would make mistakes based off bad assumptions, but what isn't understandable is the continued promotion and support of an incoherent strategy. It shouldn't be a matter of staying the course or losing, but a matter of adjusting the strategy to achieve an acceptable end. Right now it seems we're focused on making the current strategy work, and if it doesn't? We have the potential to better than this.

SSG Bales is a symptom of a larger problem we will face if the U.S. too rapidly discards its experienced land component force structure. Some U.S. ingratitude will lead to suicide, joblessness, domestic disturbance, and other acts of hopelessness. Other ex-Soldiers/Marines will harm other innocents. IMHO, SSG Bales PTSD resulting from four deployments, coupled with a night of drinking, many friend’s deaths/dismemberments, troubles at home, financial problems, and little hope for a future in his chosen field led to this all around tragedy for both his victims and himself. He enlisted following 9/11, yet in a about one more year he would be shown the door...after being thought good enough to lead troops in combat when they sent him to Afghanistan in December.

MG Scales had it right. Our overworked ground force will be downsized to the point where an initial surge is impossible. The Navy and USAF will cut means of deployment and resupply to the point that such an initial surge is impossible to fathom. The Army will damage its own cause by procuring a tank-size GCV that drinks tank-like quantities of fuel, further exacerbating the Army deployment/resupply challenge. The result will be future wars where the far fewer remaining light/medium ground Soldiers and Marines deploy repeatedly. Meanwhile, USAF Reaper operators will homestead near Las Vegas. Sailors will continue to show the flag abroad without actually experiencing close combat...unless SEALS, corpsmen, EOD, or PRT owners...essentially Soldiers/Marines in a different uniform.

LTC Tom Cooper has a guest coumn at Tom Ricks’ Foreign Policy blog where he described an author’s story about how SAC forces dealt with its A2/AD challenge during the Cold War getting airborne in well under 30 minutes.

http://ricks.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/03/14/15_minutes_a_look_at_the...

CSAR (more Soldiers in different uniforms) and MEDEVAC units get airborne in 6-10 minutes. F-15 jocks did it in minutes on Zulu alert in Europe during the Cold War. Forward-deployed Soldiers could get to their armored vehicles and bunkers in similar timeframes. Why, is this along with BMD not a viable response to A2AD for forward deployed forces? China will not launch a Pearl Harbor missile attack against multiple trading partners out of the blue. If it does, it will experience a crippling follow-on response. It also would face the daunting challenge of crossing the Taiwan Straits and subsequently retaining any South or East China Sea gains. Imagine the simultaneous challenges of holding Taiwan or South China Sea islands against insurgents/SOF/airborne/air attacks/air assaults/amphibious forces while its resupply/surface/subs are sunk, aircraft are shot down, and missiles deplete.

What is it about the unlikely Taiwan PACOM scenario (3rd string behind Korea and alliance with allies in priority) that is deemed worthy of diverting massive military resources to Naval and Airpower at the expense of 80,000 future hand grenades tossed back into society as unwanted has-beens? If we want to retreat all our forces to Guam, Australia, and the U.S., more Naval and USAF aviators could be in the National Guard to exploit their combat hours and airline experience at a fraction of the expense of an active airmen. Seems like an air guardsmen would welcome a “vacation” to Guam or Australia for a 6-month tour. Operating Reapers from a nearby Guard base is another no-brainer, while active duty Army Gray Eagle operators deploy with the BCTs and division elements they support at about the same expense as the Guard officer Reaper pilot.

If we will spend a fortune on VA benefits, and welcome back troops at airports, why can’t we let our combat heroes spend the rest of their career training future warfighters on what they already experienced? Is it that much more expensive to let an E-6 stay to a 15 year retirement? We have means testing on the amount you pay at military daycares. Why can’t our annual $60K military LTC retirees pick-up a larger share of their retirement medical care to allow combat veteran E-5s/E-6s to continue their military career to a 15 year retirement?

Move Forward:

"Some U.S. ingratitude will lead to suicide, joblessness, domestic disturbance, and other acts of hopelessness. Other ex-Soldiers/Marines will harm other innocents. IMHO, SSG Bales PTSD resulting from four deployments, coupled with a night of drinking, many friend’s deaths/dismemberments, troubles at home, financial problems, and little hope for a future in his chosen field led to this all around tragedy for both his victims and himself."

That sounds a lot like the "all the Vietnam vets are crazy" attitude that prevailed in American popular culture in the 70s and 80s.

It is hard for me to include the thing under arrest for the crime in an "all around tragedy" associated with this incident. It deprived other people of their children by murder, not the other way 'round.

What fascinates me is the ease with which so many people are willing to spend money the United States does not have. What precisely is the U.S. interest in Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria? To spend far more money than the country can ever possibly recover in the name of some mystical "security"? Our successful Generals/Presidents - Washington, Grant, Eisenhower - were mindful of how horribly expensive bureaucracies and military establishments are and always will be. They wanted as much tooth and as little tail as possible; and their sympathies were always with the common soldiers, not the people who were so far removed - either by distance or age - from the sharp end that they could afford to be extravagant in language and comfortable in their billets. Washington, Grant and Eisenhower would have court-martialed Sergeant Bales and hanged him in a matter of weeks; but they would not have maligned him. They would also not have indulged in any discussions of strategy that neither identified the names and unit sizes of the enemy nor described what victory would look like. They would also have sacked or demoted all the senior officers in command and replaced them with someone who had actually studied and agreed with what General Abrams did when he took over in Viet-Nam. If you can't reduce the mission to something a 2nd grader can understand, you will lose the soldiers and then the voters - not because they are "stupid" but precisely because they are smart enough to recognize more than the usual level of B.S.

Let's be careful how much credit we attach to these gentlemen. Eisenhower's policies gave us the "military-industrial complex" and also saddled us with other very bad habits. Grant had good intentions to be sure, but his Peace Policy wasn't exactly a success on the Frontier (although for that he must share some 'credit' with a Congress that wasn't interested and a citizenry in some regions that was more interested with provoking conflict than reaching accord or understanding).

Eisenhower was actually a very political general. I doubt that he would have sacked anyone, although he might have made noise about it. He also oversaw the growth of SAC in particular and the Air Force in general...to the point that by the mid-1950s they were soaking up about 50% of the entire defense budget. Most of that was going to what you might classify as "tail" elements. He also oversaw, or at least stood by, while the Army was gutted and reoriented toward a mythical atomic land combat scenario. Not one of his more astute moments.

Of all the leaders you mentioned, only Grant had passing experience with what we'd now call counterinsurgency. His response was erratic, combining some ill-advised orders with delegation down to subordinates such as Sherman and Sheridan (who had their own distinct approaches to the subject). Grant also didn't aggressively pursue prosecution of the perpetrators of the Camp Grant Massacre, and he actively protected MAJ Eugene Baker, whose actions along the Marias River effectively ended any chance that the military would take the lead role in Indian policy (which had been one of Grant's objectives). So they're all a mixed bag.

Eisenhower and Marshall both understood that there was absolutely no hope that the U.S. could match the Soviets on the ground in Europe. Without the threat of nuclear weapons in missile submarines and already airborne bombers, the U.S. had no effective deterrents against the Soviets massive superiority in tanks and mobile artillery and their clear superiority in heavy launch capability. Eisenhower gave his warning about the military-industrial complex precisely because he saw his strategic plans being set aside in favor of pork barrel procurement - weapons programs were being designed to match the needs of Congressional districts, not the requirements of the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who would be doing the fighting. Eisenhower can hardly be blamed for the country's adopting the very policies he warned against. On the contrary, he should be praised for showing the proper skepticism about the capacity of the U.S. military (or any military) to do successful counter-insurgency. His other warning - about becoming involved in ground wars in Asia - has been ignored at a terrible cost. In 1960 he knew that "counter-insurgency" had already proved a dismal failure. The U.S. was, by his count, 0 for 3: in the Southern Philippines, in Haiti and in Honduras. Had he lived another half century, he would have seen us strike out again: in the Central Highlands, Iraq (excluding the initial conventional success) and now Afghanistan.
Grant had the same shrewd understanding of what was necessary in war and what the political pitfalls were. His Frontier policy remains our only successful counter-insurgency. As President Grant allowed the Army to fight without allowing either the Quakers, the land-grabbers or Sheridan to have their wishes come true. Grant succeeded in disappointing them all and in keeping the broad citizenry from forcing Congress into a policy of annihilating "the savages", even after Custer's defeat. The Sioux were defeated but neither they nor the Blackfeet nor any of the other Plains tribes suffered the absolute genocide that the Mariposa, Monache and Snake had a decade earlier. The Army did so well that, within a decade, they had to add gardening to their duties; they become directly responsible for our first national Park - Yellowstone. Thanks largely to Grant the United States has the enviable record of having its populations of native Indians and former slaves become full citizens without their having to deny or abandon their heritage; that has happened in no other "civilized" (sic) country - not Brazil, not Mexico, not Australia, not New Zealand, not Canada. Yet, somehow, the very accomplishment that no other country in the world has managed to achieve within its own borders is one we modern Americans think we can successfully export to countries that have neither our faith nor our tolerance. In my earlier post I mentioned our 3rd great President/General - Washington. His observations - as a soldier whose only defeats came in counter-insurgency operations - deserve the last word: "There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion, which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard."

Eisenhower, however, was deeply concerned about Laos, and left Kennedy with that legacy. His defense policies also bore little resemblance to what would actually be needed (TAC was almost done away with during his administration, and the impractical idea of massive retaliation also gained massive traction on his watch). Eisenhower's policies created an environment that allowed pork belly practices to continue (and if you think this wasn't a problem before Eisenhower, I'd invite you to read about procurement during the Civil War).

Your evaluation of the Frontier Army is also sadly inaccurate (the Army was "gardening", as you put it, well before the Civil War in a misguided attempt to supplement their poor rations...an attempt that failed in most places). Grant didn't always allow the Army to fight, and he experienced great difficulty working with the Quakers and others during the heyday of the Peace Policy. He also did little to correct the endemic corruption within the Indian Bureau.

Complaining that Eisenhower left Kennedy "Laos" is like complaining that Dulles left Kennedy "The Bay of Pigs"; you are right, but the responsibility for escalation has to lie with the person who decides that the inherited policy was "weak" - as Kennedy did. Procurement in all wars is always on the verge of being stupid and corrupt, but I think you make a very poor case if you want to want to put our present logistical follies up against the record of Secretary Stanton and Daniel McCallam.
I promise never again to use any irony, Steve. The comment about "gardening" was a snark on the fact that the regular Army those hateful bloodthirsty people in the eyes of the Quakers and unregenerate believers in slavery) became the custodian for the country's first national park. Of course, Grant didn't "always" allow the Army to fight; he also didn't allow the Quakers to pretend that the Indians were not also "hostiles". Those difficulties were the proof of his policy's success; he left everyone equally pissed off because they could not impose their totalitarian solution. As for the corruption of the Indian Bureau, I would put Grant's record up against the looting of the Reservation Trust Funds that has continued unabated until this day or the performance of FEMA in Louisiana and Mississippi, for that matter.

Irony isn't often clear in online postings, especially when it's framed in a serious response. I'd actually suggest that in future you try to avoid historical analogies. Kennedy was by his own admission weak in foreign policy, and he considered Eisenhower to be quite wise in that regard. Hence, when Eisenhower told him to hold Laos he took it quite seriously. And yes, I would put our logistical follies against those of the Civil War. The term "shoddy" came to rise for a reason...and lack of judgement and padding of nests led to US forces using some of the same Civil War equipment as late as the Spanish-American War. And our total inability to provide adequate rations for our military during that period (both the Civil War and up through the end of the Spanish-American period) should also be an indicator.

As for Grant...the conclusion that his policy was somehow successful because "everyone [was] equally pissed off" is quite interesting. The Indian Bureau continued to operate unabated, and their corruption at that time was certainly the equal of what we've seen today. I'd suggest you broaden your reading on the topic instead of trying to draw political parallels with current events. Grant's failure to meaningfully punish Baker or act against those who orchestrated the Camp Grant Massacre are two very clear failings, as the former caused his first Indian policy to fail and the second had a strong hand in prolonging the conflict in Arizona.

Former slaves didn't become full citizens, at least in the South, until well into the 20th Century. Jim Crow was constructed by white Southerners for black Southerners and imposed upon them. It wasn't full citizenship.

Washington had plenty of experience with defeat. His record defending New York and Long Island wasn't so stellar for a start.

Yes, Carl, former slaves didn't even begin to become full citizens - in either the South or the North - until Eisenhower sent the Army to Little Rock High School. And, yes, Washington had plenty of experience with defeat; but - to the end of his days - he considered Braddock's march into the wilds of western Pennsylvania his greatest humiliation as a soldier. I should have made that clearer. I don't see how any of this undermines Washington's point: namely, that our country cannot expect other people and cultures to love us or think of our wealth and power as anything but opportunities for their own advancement. The failure of counterinsurgency as a doctrine is that it is, at its heart, a Quaker policy. The outrage expressed on these pages over a soldier's doing something nasty, brutish and irrevocably awful is drawn from the bottomless well of self-righteousness that informed both the Abolitionists and the Race Theorists like Carlyle. They were both incapable of appreciating the wisdom of Washington's caution about involving the American Army in fights it cannot possibly win. "(N)othing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded." Those words should be chiseled over the doors of every military and diplomatic outpost of our country. That they are largely forgotten is itself the basic strategic problem we will continue to face as a nation.

No, the outrage expressed on these pages about mass murder doesn't have anything to do with a "bottomless well of self-righteousness that informed both the Abolitionists and the Race Theorists". It has to do with simple revulsion and anger at a cowardly, vicious, sadistic criminal act. Pretty basic.

Outrage on pages is a humorous thought if you give it a second.

Self righteousness is about as basic as one can get...

What on earth do you mean by those sibylline statements? You lost me.

Nothing oracle like about them, they're just statements of fact.

Outrage expressed on pages is funny. Inconsequential, does little to no good but funny...

The self righteous always propose simple, basic solutions to complex problems they do not fully understand. World would be okay if everyone would just do things their way. That's pretty basic. Wrong but basic...

Ok, fair enough. I now know what your opinion is concerning outrage expressed on pages.

But I still don't see how your opinion of the self-righteous fits in.

Read the last paragraph of the 12:20 PM Post by LetUsHavePeace and then your 3:30 PM response to that. I think he had it right and you do not. Regardless, the self righteous want the world to operate as they wish it. That's pretty basic -- but it's not ever going to happen.

The simple, nasty truth about winning a "counterinsurgency" is that the locals have to fear the good guys even more than they do the bad guys. That is the lesson that Staff Sgt. Robert Bales learned. His "rampage" was, from his point of view, a final act of loyalty to his fellow soldiers. He knew that what he was doing would leave his comrades in relative peace for the next few months because - for once - the locals would be worried that some other guy might just do the same thing if they looked at him cross-eyed. No one - least of all a general officer - will dare say this; but it is a truth that ought to be acknowledged. If you took a secret ballot tomorrow of all the soldiers in Bales' unit, the Sheridan ticket would win by a landslide.

LetUsHavePeace: It is interesting to read the words of an advocate of the SS school of small war fighting. There aren't that many around here.

If the locals have to fear one group more than the other, I assume that means the contending groups will compete with each other to see who can inflict more pain and terror upon the unfortunate locals. Would you not agree? Now that the thing has killed a bunch of defenseless people in their beds, what do you think Taliban & Co. will do to top that? And then, what should we to top that in turn?

What the thing learned was to sneak out into the night and kill people who were close at hand and couldn't defend themselves. It didn't go after anyone who it perceived might be able to fight back. Then when it was done, it went back to its base because it was afraid to stay outside the wire and face the music. It seems to be a cowardly entity.

I don't know how much loyalty it showed to American soldiers since its actions will almost certainly result in the murder by an ANSF person of an ISAF soldier who wouldn't have otherwise died. But I doubt that it considered that when it committed mass murder. It was just pleasing itself then ran home for protection.

I would be very disappointed if its former unit was filled with cowardly thugs.

I have one last question. Have you ever heard of Hugh Thompson and what do you think of what he did?

I wasn't trying to predict the effects of Sergeant Bales' actions; I was only commenting on what the reaction of his fellow soldiers was likely to be. I am not an advocate of Sheridan's brutalism; but there is no point in all of us pretending that those are not exactly the sentiments of anyone who has spent any time in Indian country away from the TV monitors. That seems to me the very reason for the U.S. to avoid any future tribal wars; we have to be willing to accept the truth of our own history. Chivington was a fool and probably a coward; but it is arguable whether his massacre was really more brutal than Crooks' methodical application of a strategy whose message was that the Quaker policy would not be restored, even if the women and children starved to death.

If the United States' goal in Afghanistan was to "defeat the enemy", then the first step was to accept the fact that the majority of people would have no love for Americans, no matter how many schools we built and how many invitations their politicians received to come to address our Congress. Grant knew that it would take a generation for racialists to accept their defeat; he also knew that any compromise in the name of reconciliation would be taken as a sign of future withdrawal. He was right, of course. He believed - rightly - that the counter-insurgency by the KKK and others had to be absolutely suppressed, even if that required burning houses and destroying farms. Without that violence, the racialist minority among the defeated Southerners would become the political authority - as they did - and remained until the 101st Airborne landed in Little Rock.

Carl:

I don't think he was advocating the "SS school of small war fighting" whatever that is, I think he was referring to the fact that the American way of small wars is by its very nature hard on local populations. It is to paraphrase, not a feature but a bug. He can speak for himself but that's the way I took it. We do not do these things at all well, never have and never will...

Your cute little reference to the alleged or, in military parlance, accused -- no one's been convicted yet and information is a bit sparse -- killer as a 'thing' or 'it' is not necessary, beneficial or becoming IMO. Perhaps you know enough to arrive at that conclusion but it might not hurt to wait until there's more information.

Hooking this to My Lai is beyond a stretch. That was a command failure and involved several units, not individuals. This one so far as is now known, apparently was not. May turn out differently but unless you have more information than most of us it's difficult to see any linkage at this point.

Ken, I disagree. He was referring to and plainly said that effective small war fighting is an exercise in terror. What may very well have been pre-meditated mass murder isn't a bug of the system, it is a cowardly criminal act. For him to in any way justify it or defend it is shameful.

If the murders were not the result of some plainly obvious derangement or a brain tumor etc, what would you call the thing? One of the problems with how we treat mass murderers is we always call them by name. Everybody knows who they are. That pleases them. They have their name in lights. You can call it the accused. That's fine. I choose to call it, it. It accurately conveys my contempt.

I wasn't hooking this to My Lai. I asked about Hugh Thompson and his actions. He acted to stop mass murder. LetUsHavePeace defends mass murder, or at least that is what I read. So I am interested in his opinion of a man who appears, in a way, to be his opposite number.

Carl:

No, he did not write that. He wrote:"The simple, nasty truth about winning a "counterinsurgency" is that the locals have to fear the good guys even more than they do the bad guys." He did not attribute to design or accident. Having been to a couple of those, I'm pretty well convinced it is an accurate statement and that, in the case of the US, it is almost -- almost -- always an accident. No matter its not intended, it's reality to the locals. Think "We've got to destroy the village to save it." Consider H&I fires and free fire zones...

That's a critical and very important issue. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and our good intentions almost always hurt more folks than they help. One cannot erase that reality by saying "we mean well..."

Re the other unimportant item and off thread, I'd call whoever did it a person or persons. Your 'contempt' is bravely displayed on the internet. Up to you to figure out if dehumanizing is as bad or worse than using a name. Also up to you to decide if your pre-judgment on quite minimal facts available is merited. You keep at it, no more flak from me -- I try never to interfere with standing broad jumps... ;)

COIN and insurgency are not about "good guys" and "bad guys"; that is simply the context we find ourselves in when we intervene in (or cause) the insurgency of some other nation.

More accurately, if "the locals" are more satisfied with the governance they have than they believe they will be with the alternative governance the insurgent organizers offer, there is stability.

It is hard to assess these things accurately when one is a member of the military of some foreign power deployed into the middle of such a contest for the sole purpose of preserving the current regime. Sadly, that is what most of our experiences consist of, and that is also what most of the writings on the topic are based upon as well. I suspect the quote Ken offers and his assessment of it are accurate enough when one is on such a mission.

The real question is regarding the validity of such missions in the first place. These efforts worked reasonably well in the colonial era, but have been becoming more and more problematic for the intervening power, and less successful in producing cost effective results, for well over 100 years now.

It is time for a new game plan. Going about the world in military efforts designed to make "the locals" either like or fear their own government is a fool's errand. Better we consider how to make them respect us on our own account, and let them sort out their own issues of governance. We can always find a way to work with whomever ultimately rises to power, and whomever rises to power after them as well. We need to avoid becoming "strategically fixed" as it seriously limits our options for strategic maneuver. Becoming fixated on preserving any particular foreign government is the essence of becoming strategically fixed.

Ken:

After he wrote the sentence you quoted, he wrote this "That is the lesson that...(it, my parenthetical)...learned. His "rampage" was, from his point of view, a final act of loyalty to his fellow soldiers. He knew that what he was doing would leave his comrades in relative peace for the next few months because - for once - the locals would be worried that some other guy might just do the same thing if they looked at him cross-eyed."

Now if you take those words as a whole, I read an advocacy or terror. You think it is not an advocacy of terror as a war fighting tool. We will have to disagree.

I never did understand why the statement "We've got to destroy the village to save it." is given so much reverence as telling comment on the futility of the Vietnam War. It seemed to me that it is just a comment on what happens to a built up area when it has to be taken from armed forces who resist with determination. The same thing could have been said about Manila, Caen, Stalingrad and many other places.

What should I consider about H&I fires? I know you think they are ill advised especially in a small war. I figure the same.

I am not being brave about anything. There is absolutely no danger from voicing my opinion on this or any other forum, in the US anyway. I ain't brave at all. (A girl who was flying with me once told me I was. What she didn't know was I paralyzed by fear into speechlessness.) I try to be as plain spoken as I can though.

I don't care if my contempt for the thing meets with your disapproval. Barring any plainly obvious derangement or brain tumor etc, it removed itself from the ranks of humanity when it made the head shots into the children. I am just recognizing the status it placed itself into.

Carl:

Now if you take those words as a whole, I read an advocacy or terror...

I read it as an erroneous statement, a musunderstanding of probablr Afghan reaction...

"I never did understand why the statement "We've got to destroy the village to save it." is given so much reverence as telling comment on the futility of the Vietnam War..."

I've never seen it accorded reverence. It's a ridiculous statment if indeed it was made at all.

"It seemed to me that it is just a comment on what happens to a built up area when it has to be taken from armed forces who resist with determination. The same thing could have been said about Manila, Caen, Stalingrad and many other places."

None of those were villages; all were harmed in a major war and not a 'small' war; none occurred because the 'friendly' force doing the burning was intentionally burning while theoretically helping the locals. No comparison.

What should I consider about H&I fires? I know you think they are ill advised especially in a small war. I figure the same."

Good for you. You should consider that they are a too often used feature of US 'assistance' to COIN efforts of others and the the fires will adversely impact the locals even though that is not the intent. Unintended consequences, just as free fire zones (and CAS to aid TIC...) and many other things adversely impact the the locals and that's why they have to fear the good guys even more than they do the bad guys.

That's why these expeditions are most always counterproductive. You can respond that this or that should be different -- but it will not be. That's reality.

Good COIN is simply Good Governance. Good governments do good COIN every day. Anyone who thinks good governance is a reign of terror misses the essence of why people revolt, and why they don't. One can neither buy nor force true stability. One must earn it by providing the form and performance of governance appropriate to the populaces involved.

It is believed that neither the interests of the United States and its allies -- nor the interests of the populaces concerned -- are best served by allowing states and societies to have the form and performance of governance which they might desire.

For the interests of the U.S. and its allies to be best served -- and for the interests of the various populaces to likewise be properly provided for -- the United States and its allies believe that they (the United States and its allies) must choose the form and performance of governance for all the populations of the world.

This is what the terms "American leadership" and "shaping the international environment" actually mean.

The way that this is to be achieved is noted in my comment below.

In this light, we must come to understand that "true stability" is not our short-term but rather our long-term goal and that we are prepared to deal with some degree of lesser stability today in order to achieve our long-term goal of much greater stability tomorrow.

Thus, the "large-scale disorders" noted by Nathan Frier? To be seen not -- from this perspective -- as a negative matter but, rather, as a positive development; boding well of both opportunity and of "progress."

We should consider the "large-scale disorders" scenerio offered by Nathan Frier from a somewhat different perspective, to wit: from the perspective of the goals and objectives of the United States.

The United States and its allies have adopted a two-pronged approach for achieving their strategic objectives for the 21st Century; these strategic objectives being: to transform (toward market-democracy) and fully incorporate (into the global economy) outlier states and societies. Herein, the two-pronged approach that the United States and its allies have employed is:

a. To work with friendly outlier state and societal governments (those who think like us) to (1) help modernize their states and societies along western lines and (2) to help overcome any resistance to this initiative -- which can come from inside and/or outside such countries. Lacking such friendly outlier state and societal governments we will:

b. Work with friendly outlier state and society population groups (those who wish to rid themselves of these obstructing governments and begin the process of modernizing their state and society.)

The military forces of the United States and its allies have been, and will continue to be, utilized to help achieve our 21st Century strategic objectives noted above.

In the scenerio offered at item "a" above (population considered to be the problem; government thought to be the solution), the United States and its allies will help friendly governments build the military, police and intelligence capabilities these governments need to overcome resistance to modernization -- which can come from both inside and/or outside the country.

In the scenerio offered at item "b" above (government considered to be the problem; population thought to be the solution), the military assistance offered by the United States and its allies will be designed to help overcome and/or overthrow these obstructing governments. What form this military assistance will take (to be decided on case-by-case basis?) is the only thing that has yet to be fully determined, carefully articulated and properly set out. (The COIN approach, however, appears to no longer be in favor.)

Everying else, however, as noted above, is pretty much understood, agreed upon and is already in-gear.

Thus, the question we must ask ourselves: Are not our significant efforts -- to transform and incorporate outlier states and societies -- are these such efforts not, in fact, the "root cause" of the "large-scale disorders" that we are now required to deal with?

That's a good article Robert, one of your best. I do not disagree with any of your positions on these issues but do have some thoughts on several.

"The so-far subdued reaction to the murders by the Afghan population is a stark contrast from the prolonged rioting that occurred after last month's Quran-burning incident. To the extent that this contrast is a surprise...

I strongly doubt it was much of a surprise to anyone who is vaguely familiar with the culture. Both reactions were perfectly predictable. Many muslims will virtually ignore their own religious precepts on an almost daily basis but woe betide the ferenghi who tries or even quite inadvertently does that. When death is a constant, a few more make little difference. All easily known, if the two reactions were a surprise it is an indicator that we have no business there.

"Is the rampage a leading indicator of morale and discipline problems inside the Army?"

Not really but I have little doubt those that place protecting the institution above mission and people will undoubtedly say it is and take steps that make everyone suffer...

"Retired Maj. Gen. Robert Scales...believes he can trace that stress back to a political decision to keep the Army smaller than it needs to be."

The General has been around long enough to know two things; that smallness due to political decisions is the way it's always been -- unlikely to change. He also knows to beat the drum for more spaces, protecting the institution.

What if we scaled missions to reduced troop strength and avoided dumb commitment that overstretch the force for no strategic value?

"the situation in Syria continues to spiral out of control. In extremis, the need to secure Syria's large stockpiles of chemical munitions may provide yet another stressful and prolonged mission for U.S. ground forces."

Why? Why should that be a US mission? And "someone has to do it" is not a good answer, nor is "no one else is capable." Both are bad answers and untrue to boot (speaking of which I notice Max Boot is already at it for Syria...).

"Nathan Freier, a retired Army officer and a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, warns that large-scale disorder, most often caused by state collapse, will continue to cause unavoidable challenges to U.S. interests that will require significant U.S. ground forces to fix. Obama's defense policy specifically assumes away such scenarios."

I disagreed with his article, still do. The 'requirement' for significant US ground forces is budget and Flag Officer strength driven, it is not a real strategic imperative, far from it.

Your final paragraph states the common wisdom on the topic:

"Pentagon strategists must plan for cases -- like Syria -- that will be more difficult than Libya was. That will mean accepting the likelihood of another large-scale ground mission. And with such a mission comes the unwelcome probability of "strategic corporal" moments that could put the mission at risk. With incidents like Abu Ghraib, the Quran burnings, and Panjwai in mind, planners will look for ways to either avoid or minimize the odds. But as long as humans and weapons are mixed together, the odds will always be there."

I generally disagree with most things written by Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles Dunlap. However, when he cataloged controversies like the Abu Gharaib scandal and the Haditha incident and asserted that such incidents are inevitable when U.S. ground forces are on prolonged expeditions he was right on the money. Such missions are very occasionally necessary -- not one since World War II has been a necessity, they have all been undertaken even though not strategically sound or really necessary and they have done us no favors -- and we need to train for them while doing our best to avoid committing the GPF to such endeavors; they will never do them well nor should they. Dunlap is correct, such operations will always produce incidents that are quite harmful to our long term interests and will destroy lives and careers for no net benefit to the US. The strategic implication of the homicides in Panjwai is, simply, that they need not have happened had we been intelligently pursuing a strategic aim instead of floundering unnecessarily in the muck because we didn't know what else to do and we were ill equipped for and afraid to take other action.

A concurrence with Ken's comments on MG Scales' call for larger ground forces.

Scales is doing simple tactical math. To do the operations we are in the way we are doing them requires larger ground forces to reduce the strains of excessive OPTEMPO. Certainly. But it was having a large force on the books in excess of our geo-strategic requirements that led us there to begin with.

The geo-strategic reality of the US is that we simply do not require a large standing peacetime army. We sustained a large ground force during the Cold War peacetime era due to the fact that we adopted the geo-strategic reality of a continental European nation during that era. If you are a France or a Germany or a Russia you need a large army on the books at all times. If, on the otherhand, one is a maritive nation such as Japan or England or the US one only needs enough land forces to secure one's interests abroad and to form the core for a war fighting Army if that need should arise. Japan and England had empires, so required Emperial armies to keep their puppets in power. The US follows their model, but forgets: We are not an Empire and can work our deals with whomever is in power, with no need to sustain any particular regime over any other.

Having an excessively large Army on the books leads to the development of COAs that would otherwise be infeasible. Escalate Vietnam in 1965? Sorry sir, not an option but for the large army we have on the rolls to deter Soviet aggression into Western Europe. "Defeat" some military force someplace? No problem. With our advantages in strategic lift, ISR, C2, tactical platforms, etc it only really takes a few highly trained BCTs to deal with most situations. To occupy some country to force a US political solution? That COA demands a large ground force.

We have an Army sized for warfighting, so we employ it in that manner into situations that are not wars. Certainly not US wars. If we cut the Army today, we would depart Afghanistan soon after, and the nation would be at no greater risk, and probably lesser risk, than we are today.

At the turn of the 1800s President Jefferson built a Navy. Later, with the Monroe Doctrine, we cut an 80-year deal to enjoy the protection of the British Navy. At the turn of the 1900s President Roosevelt built a Navy. We had gone global and exceeded the British protection plan cut 80 years earlier.

Today at the turn of the 2000s we find ourselves once again back at our geo-strategic roots. We need more than a Navy. We need Space and Air. We need expeditionary forces such as the Marines provide. We need SOF to conduct surgical strikes in rare moments, and to persistently walk among the populaces and security forces of many nations to sustain a finger on the pulse of internal and external moods and to forge trusting relationships. But we do not need a large standing Army. History proves this point.

Those who argue that we have been unprepared with adequate ground forces at the start of major wars such as WWI and WWII prove my point. We were secure as a nation, avoided a sum of 7 years of pouring US blood into foreign conflicts, and were ultimately the decisive ground force and able to secure victories in each on our own terms. With large standing armies we would have likely rushed in early with very different results.

It is time to get back to our roots and rebalance our force for the type of peace the world enjoys today. The Army is a warfighting force. It is a good thing when the President has to go to the Congress and to the People and ask them to fund and build an Army before he can employ it on some Presidential whim. It is a very good thing. It gives one time to think, calm down, and explore a full range of options.

President Jefferson did not build a Navy; he wanted a coastal defense force with shore batteries and gunboats. He opposed the Federalists building of frigates; and, as a result, the U.S. had less of a Navy in the War of 1812 than it did during the Revolutionary War. The U.S. did not "cut an 80-year deal" with the British Navy to enjoy their protection; by the 1840s the Americans were exploring the Pacific and "opening" Japan. British politicians regularly used the "threat" of the U.S. Navy as an argument in favor of their own building programs. The development of ironclads by both sides in the U.S. civil war made the entire British Navy obsolete overnight; it was, from the point of view of British shipbuilding, an absolute godsend.
The "roots" of the most successful American military tradition - the one established by General Grant - are very straightforward: the U.S. should have a volunteer force that can move faster, with more force than any other military in the world and that force should only be committed under a formal declaration of war by Congress that identifies the specific enemy and seeks unconditional surrender. Any other policy/strategy/call it whatever buzzword you choose is folly.

LetUsHavePeace: You might want to reconsider your statement about US ironclads and the Royal Navy. Looking up HMS Warrior may be useful.

Your point is well taken, Carl. I should have restricted my remarks to the development of the revolving turret on the Monitors. I do think that development, more than iron cladding by itself, was the key to the military revolution that replaced ships of the line, whose design the Warrior still followed.

Sir, you are entitled to your opinion, but history does not support it. I am a career army officer, but a lifetime American. The latter is more important to me than the former.