Small Wars Journal

These Men are Our Warriors

These Men are Our Warriors by Major General Bob Scales, U.S. Army, Retired, Proceedings

After 14 years of war the ground services, the Army and Marine Corps remain starved of new, cutting-edge, lifesaving matériel, while the Department of Defense and its big defense company allies continue to spend generously on profitable big-ticket programs like planes, ships, missiles, and computers.

Soldiers’ and Marines’ “stuff” today is more Popular Mechanics than Star Wars . . . . [The latter would have been better] in Afghanistan had the nation spent a bit more to give [our forces] an overwhelming, in fact dominant, technological edge over the enemy.

After suffering almost 7,000 dead Soldiers and Marines, the nation still cannot offer an advantage to those who do most of the dying. Our Soldiers and Marines should have gone into Iraq and Afghanistan ready for an unfair fight—that is, unfair in their own favor—at the squad level . . . More Soldiers and Marines might have been saved had . . . body armor been provided before they started on the march to Baghdad in 2003. Too many Soldiers and Marines died from primitive roadside bombs, “improvised explosive devices,” or IEDs, during the early days in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Pentagon weapons-buying bureaucracy was too slow in supplying the troops with explosive-resistant vehicles to protect against IEDs.

Army and Marine Corps infantry squads were outgunned in Vietnam by the North Vietnamese Army’s superior AK-47 assault rifles. One would think that maybe, 50 years later, infantry Soldiers and Marines would be able to fire a bullet costing about 30 cents that did not disintegrate in the air. A $200 aiming device developed for hunters would provide the precision needed to hit a distant enemy target with the same relative precision as that of the rifles used by the Taliban. The Army has yet to buy it.

For more than two-thirds of a century, this country has preferred to crush its enemies by exploiting its superiority in the air and on the seas. Unfortunately, these efforts to win with firepower over manpower have failed to consider the fact that the enemy has a vote. From Mao Zedong to Ho Chi Minh to Osama bin Laden, all our enemies have recognized that our vulnerable strategic center of gravity is dead Americans. It is no surprise that the tactic common to them all has been to kill Americans, not as a means to an end but as an end in itself. Every enemy has ceded us those domains where we are dominant—the air and the sea. They challenge us instead where we are weak: small units, on ground unfamiliar to us but familiar to them.

Memories fade fast. Already the process of denial has begun again, even as smoke still obscures battlefields in the Middle East and South Asia. Politicians on both ends of the political spectrum have called for cutting the ground-force budget as a means of paying down the national debt. The experiences of . . . [the] gallant men should remind lawmakers of their unpaid debt to those who do the dirty business of intimate killing. . . . Our leaders should be asking why the richest nation on Earth could not have done more to help these small infantry units prevail on the tactical battlefield. . . . Please: no more fair fights…

Read on.

Comments

RantCorp

Sat, 09/10/2016 - 9:42am

It is refreshing to read an artillery General doing the dump on the MIC.

However, as he points out, if the folks getting shot at can’t fill FedEx Field and the REMF et al would fill Houston you kinda understand our enemies in the Grey Zone - both foreign and domestic – have considerable political and economic firepower. Furthermore, they will attack Gen Scale - and all other’s with a similar beef, from every direction, under every guise imaginable, all day, every day – and that’s just within the United States.

IMHO our failure to answer CvC first, foremost and supreme question - regards the OE at the lethal end – defines the problem faced by those in the General’s hypothetical “FedEx Field” and gifts comfort and aid to the massed ranks ‘chilling in Houston’ if you will.

Vietnam rightly traumatized our military intelligentsia. Our failure to empathize with the Vietnamese revolutionary and resistance energy (failure to answer CvC ‘s first, foremost and supreme question) sealed our fate.

Unfortunately, the PTSD inflicted upon our military’s intelligentsia has inflicted a deep wound that hamstrings our efforts to overcome our current enemies – wherever they might reside- in the present day. The VN experience has left us with a psychological reflex that arbitrates; if we are failing, it must be because of our violation of revolutionary and resistance energies (ala VN) and not a political or military dynamic of a completely different nature
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Whether it be the ambition of a stoned VBIED driver, Kathmandu Journalist, Lockheed Martin test-pilot etc., the ghost from Vietnam imposes itself upon a very long list of reasons/excuse as to why we are losing. The narrative trotted out by such a colorful cast of characters runs along the lines of – ‘if the trigger-pullers only respected the legitimacy of the OE’s revolutionary and resistance energies shaping the battle-ecosystem, our opponent in the Gray Zone would not be forced to make hillbilly bombs, write bogus media articles or demand $200 million apiece for thousands of pointy-nosed aircraft.’

It is my experience that within the OE these very powerful energies contribute very little significant weight to the forces that shape the Ways, Means, Ends of our enemies actions within the OE. Certainly they have a presence – but it is only to characterize the veneer that conspires with our ‘ghost of Vietnams past’ and our other hang-ups in our wild-goose pursuit of answers to the wrong questions.

I spent many moons over many years observing the ‘Jihadi’ in their unguarded moments and the notion that they are called to arms, fueled by politically legitimate energies, is as bogus as their oft cited religious zealotry.

I too was much haunted by the ghost of VN and it took me years of constant denial, despite the closest of observations of ‘Jihadi’ comings and goings, before I came to accept that in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan we are not combating massed violence shaped by religious and political conviction but by hard-right militancy driven by a conventional fascist approach to acquiring political and economic power thru the traditional fascist Operational mixture of conventional armed forces, militias and organized criminal networks.

So what?

It isn’t the first time determined fascists have attempted to drape themselves in a cloak of political and religious legitimacy in order to execute massed violence to achieve their political Ways, Means and Ends. Both the German and Japanese leadership during WW2 used this very argument. The Axis powers justified their efforts to burn the world down barking a dogmatic responsibility to protect the Aryan and Asian peoples from a Jewish and Slavic menace, supposedly threatening the former, and the colonial powers enslaving the latter.

IMHO it is no exaggeration to frame how badly we are currently shaping CvC first question by imagining the outcome of WW2 if our strategists, standing on the CINCPAC balcony on the morning of 8 December 1941, were convinced our failure to address the Japanese desire to free the oppressed Asians of the Pacific was why 18 ships were currently sitting on the bottom of Pearl Harbor.

Likewise, imagine the outcome if our hypothetical strategists; standing in down-town Nanking or under the ‘Arbeit Macht Frie’ arched entrance to Auschwitz/Birkenau, entertained similar fascist inspired dogma and went on to shape our response to the opening attacks of WW2.

I imagine there are many reasons why we have got this all wrong. No doubt our obsession with imagery and the constant bombardment we endure of moving images purporting to illustrate ‘realities’ and 'desires' in all manner of circumstances and places has much to answer for.

However rather than the latest YouTube offering from the latest ‘Broadway Joe’ Messiah or deranged megalomaniac, it is my argument what is most telling is the military leadership within the KSA, Iran, Pakistan and increasingly Russia, are more intelligent than our own.

Needless to say being the smartest guy in the room doesn’t make you the best military strategist – McNamara personifies the sheer folly of that assumption – but unlike Western society the highly intelligent citizens of these countries do in fact go into the military; whereas in the West it’s banks, software, law, medicine that attract our best and brightest.

Like I said it shouldn’t necessary be a problem but the dish-dash, turbans, pajama pants, handle-bar mustaches, prostrating five times a day, constant religious utterances and lack of ‘hell-yeah’ MIC hardware tends to inflate our own sense of superiority and sophistication whilst conspiring to belittle our opponents apparent lack of sophistication and cognitive worldliness.

Underestimating the intellectual capacity 0f an opponent who is in fact considerably more intelligent than you, will never end well.

Furthermore they are more than capable of understanding how best to rouse the ‘ghost of Vietnams past’ and manipulate all our other Westernized liberal/democratic, religious sensitivities whilst masking their execution of a fascist inspired pursuit for political and economic dominance of their own citizenry as well as their regional neighbors.

IMHO this is exactly what has been happening for the last 15 years and until we rectify this mistake our trigger-pullers will continue to get it in the neck.

‘Never interrupt an opponent when he is making a mistake.’ Napoleon Bonaparte.

RC

Part One: The Enduring "Conflict Environment:"

First, it is important to note that the so-called "conflict environment" of one's infantry and other warriors, that MG Scales appears to refer to, is one which finds:

a. One group of great nations (the U.S./the West in the colonial period and again today; the Soviets/the communists back in the Old Cold War) on an "expansionist" bent. (And, thus, attempting to massively alter/eliminate the way of life, the independence, the status quo of untold numbers of lesser states, societies and civilizations.) And, more or less,

b. The Rest of the World (during the colonial period, during the Old Cold War and again today) fighting back in an effort to retain their preferred way of life, their independence, etc. (To wit: fighting back in an effort to retain their preferred status quo.)

It is against this enduring "conflict environment" that one finds, in the colonial period, during the Old Cold War of yesterday and, indeed, in the New/Reverse Cold War of today, these such "expansionist" entities being required to place their infantry, and other warriors, on the soil of much weaker states and societies; this, so as to achieve the significant way of life, way of governance, etc., changes -- in these much weaker states, societies and civilizations -- that the "expansionist" nations desire.

(The substantial human and other resources, contained within these much weaker states and societies; these simply cannot be effectively, and/or optimally, utilized/exploited by the "expansionist" entities minus these populations' substantial political, economic, social and values "transformation;" this, due to [as Schumpeter put it] their "cultural backwardness," which invariably gets in the way.)

Part II: The Tried and Proven Method by Which These Lesser States, Societies and Civilizations -- Targeted Thus for Transformation and Incorporation by the Much More Powerful "Expansionist" Entities -- Might Prevail:

Question: In this such "conflict environment," what can the much weaker states, societies and civilizations -- that are targeted for "fundamental and complete transformation" (and, thereby, more effective/optimal utilization and exploitation) -- do?

Answer: They can fight back in such a way (see "political attrition") as to alter -- unfavorably -- the cost/benefit analysis/calculations of their much more powerful "expansionist" enemy.

(If the costs incurred [in blood, political capital, other treasure] by the "expansionist" entities, re: these "transformative" enterprises, is thought to have become too high, then it is known that the "expansionist" nations will -- rather consistently -- simply "go home." This, much as the West did at the end of the colonial period, as the Soviets/the communists did re: Afghanistan in the Old Cold War and as the U.S./the West has done/is likely to do re: the Greater Middle East today.)

Part Three: How the "Expansionist" Nations Might Overcome This Negative Trend:

Find a way to defeat the much weaker states, societies and civilizations' "political attrition" strategy. (Thus, altering the "cost/benefit analysis/calculations" back in the "expansionist" nations' favor.)

This, to be accomplished by adopting ways/means (for example: use of primarily air and special forces as we are doing today; MG Scales' training and equipping our warriors such that they are much less likely to be killed or injured) which will prove to our own populations, to our friends, and indeed to our enemies, that we can stay on in the theater of operations and fight on there indefinitely; herein, incurring far fewer "costs"/"losses."

(In such favorable circumstances as these [to wit: the enemy's "political attrition" strategy has clearly been defeated], who then is most likely to "give up" and/or "go home?")