Small Wars Journal

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Thu, 03/31/2016 - 9:00am

Parameters, Winter 2015-16, Vol. 45 No. 4

Special Commentary

Rethinking America's Grand Strategy: Insights from the Cold War  by Hal Brands

The Efficacy of Landpower

Landpower and American Credibility by Michael Allen Hunzeker and Alexander Lanoszka

To Win Wars, Correct the Army's Political Blind Spot by Joseph Roger Clark

Professionalism and the Volunteer Military

Will Army 2025 be a Military Profession? by Don M. Snider

America's All Volunteer Force: A Success? by Louis G. Yuengert

Putin's Way of War

The 'War' in Russia's 'Hybrid Warfare' by Andrew Monaghan

Of Note

On Strategic Leadership An Interview with David H. Petraeus, General (USA Retired)

Review Essay

The Utility of Nuclear Weapons Today: Two Views by José de Arimatéia da Cruz


From the Editor

Commentaries and Replies

Book Reviews






Sat, 04/02/2016 - 4:30pm

In reply to by Bill C.

I find your thesis interesting, and very plausible. I would still argue that, factually the Westernization of the world is not possible. The reason for this is because values are not universal, they are conditional. Where resources allow, liberalization is possible. Where resources are scarce, Liberalization is unsustainable and autocracy, in one of its various forms (theocracy, monarchy, ethnocracy, or simple dictatorship.)

You need to write on your ideas.

BTW, as a historical note, the reason "Modernization Theory" is call that, and not "Westernization Theory" was because of a book written shortly before Lipset's article "Some Requsites of Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy" was published. The book, "The Passing of Traditional Society: Modernizing the Middle East" was by Daniel Lerner. Lipset refers to it in his article. In the book, the author discusses the way Arab states were becoming Westernized. But what he saw happening was going to result in a Modern State different from the West's. Therefore, he abandoned the term "Westernization" for Modernization. Funny that the person who coined the phrase was trying to demonstrate that there could be modern societies that did not need to follow the Western model.

Bill C.

Fri, 04/01/2016 - 7:38pm

In reply to by TheCurmudgeon

The political objective -- of transforming outlying states and societies more along modern western political, economic and social lines -- will never to considered to be unachievable.

Rather, this such political objective will consistently be viewed as being:

a. More difficult (but not complicated) to achieve; this, in a political environment which finds the U.S./the West facing an expansionist great power bent on spreading its appealing alternative (non-western) ideology, system of government, way of life, etc. (Think: the political context of the Cold War; wherein, re: these such rivals, we adopted a strategy of containment and roll back.) And

b. Less difficult (but also not complicated) to achieve; this, in a political environment absent such a great power rival and absent such an appealing alternative (non-western) ideology, system of government, etc. (Think: the political context of the post-Cold War; wherein, re: our way of life, our way of governance, etc., we have adopted a strategy of expansion.)

The primary problem that we have had, post-the Cold War, would seem to be in briefly operating under the assumption (see "universal values," etc. in my comment above) that we would encounter NO great nation rival and NO alternative (non-western) ideology, system of government, etc., in this endeavor. (i.e., in the "apolitical" context referred to by our author here?)

Thus, the job of the war-fighter today (and re: expansion) would seem to be to stand against those that would resist the transformation of their states and societies more along modern western political, economic and social lines.

This, I believe, is what GEN Votel and his men have been doing in such places as, for example, Somalia; wherein, we find GEN Votel defining "success" in "political objective" terms dramatically similar to my own above:


It is Somalia and they’ve had a lot of challenges for a lot of years. But, today, they’ve got an elected president. They’ve got a parliament. They’ve got a constitution. They are now establishing a national army. And those are all good and positive things."



Fri, 04/01/2016 - 2:16pm

In reply to by Bill C.

I was with you right up to the point that you stated that overcoming our "Cold War belief that we will always be the liberators of a people who are oppressed and simply want to live like us" (paraphrased) was not going to make things more complicated. It will make them far more complicated - logarithmically more complicated.

Up until very recently the warfighter did not need to understand political psychology or sociology to do their job. Now, to fully appreciate the Operating Environment, they need to understand both, along with local history and cultural norms and the differing party’s motivations. They need to be able to see how and when the differing party’s motivations are accepted as legitimate by the local population. We have to learn to use tools of persuasion other than coercion. We can’t simply say ‘that’s the civilian’s job.” If we are the Land Component Commander we need to understand human motivation and human nature far better than we do.

We need to know these things so that we can tell our civilian leadership what is, and is not, possible in any given situation. To wait until your waist deep in a fight it too late to decide that maybe the original political objectives were never achievable.

An additional item in this Winter's "Parameters" is "To Win Wars, Correct the Army's Political Blind Spot" by Joseph Roger Clark.

Herein, the author explains this "blind spot" as follows:

"The problem is not how the Army fights nor how it learns to fight. The problem is how the Army understands the fight. Often, it does not. Too often, the Army fails to consider and develop a tailored understanding of the political context, that is, specific political conditions, the range of desired ends sought by actual or potential belligerents or other strategic foreign audiences, associated with a given conflict. This failure makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the Army to effectively apply its doctrine in pursuit of victory. This blind spot springs from an apolitical approach to warfare. It leaves the Army unable to appreciate the political conditions in which conflicts occur."

We understand now, of course, how this "blind spot" -- this "apolitical approach" to warfare -- became manifest. This was via such post-Cold War U.S./Western beliefs and ideas as are associated with "universal values," "the overwhelming appeal of our way of life" and "the end of history" (the western version of such concepts).

Via these such ideas and beliefs, we came to believe that the "political context" -- within which we, post-the Cold War, would always operate -- would always be the same, to wit:

a. Oppressive state rulers,

b. Bent on denying the population their hearts desire; which was

c. To organize, orient and order their lives more along modern western political, economic and social lines.

Thus, our always job, post-the Cold War, would always be to simply:

a. Liberate these "pining to be like the west" populations from their oppressive regimes and

b. Give these populations a decent "hand up." (This, to help them, as per their uniform desires, to more easily, more quickly and more effectively organize, order and orient their states and societies more along modern western political, economic and social lines.)

As we soon learned however (and this the very hard way) that the actual "desired ends" sought by the various and sundry individuals and groups within these various populations (thus liberated); these would (a) be amazingly diverse and, indeed, (b) often inconsistent with, shall we say, "westernization."

But does this diverse range of contrary ends, desired by these various and sundry individuals and groups within various populations (these often NOT being consistent with our desired ends); do these such opposite ends actually (a) "drive the train" and, thus, (b) make our operations in the twenty-first century (as so many folks contend) "more complex?" I suggest that they do not.


Because the "political context" that (a) actually "drives our train" and that, thus, (b) actually controls our operations (this, regardless of the diverse wishes and desires of various individuals and groups in various populations); this is always the same, to wit: our determination to:

a. Transform outlying states and societies more along modern western political, economic and social lines. And to

b. Incorporate these "transformed" states and societies more into a western-led and oriented "international community," and more into the western-led and oriented "global economy."

Thus, to accomplish this mission (see "a" and "b" immediately above) we need only shift our "worldview" to embrace the idea that our such desires (and, accordingly, our operations) will often occur in a "contested" environment; this, rather than in a "welcoming" environment as per now debunked and defunct "universal values," etc., concepts and ideas.

Edited and added to a bit:

The lead article in this past Winter's issue of "Parameters" is "Rethinking America’s Grand Strategy: Insights from the Cold War" by Hal Brands.

Herein, the author looks to the history of the Old Cold War of yesterday to help us evaluate whether calls for "retrenchment" and “offshore balancing,” today, might be warranted -- or not.

But might there be a problem here?

In the Old Cold War of yesterday, I believe that such things as "retrenchment" were viewed more in the context of "containment" -- of the spread of the alternative way of life, the alternative way of governance, etc., of an existential enemy (that of the Soviets/the communists).

Whereas, in the New/Reverse Cold War of today, and in sharp contrast to the above, I believe that such things as "retrenchment" today are viewed more through the lens of "expansion," to wit: the spreading of our way of life, our way of governance, etc.; this, within a context that is actually devoid of any existential threat/any existential enemy.

Thus, the potential "bad" ramifications of "retrenchment" -- in the New/Reverse Cold War of today -- versus the potential "bad" ramifications of "retrenchment" in Old Cold War of yesterday -- being much considered (vis-a-vis their dramatically different strategic context) to be much less today?

This providing that "retrenchment" might be more-favorably considered, and might be more-easily adopted, in very different New/Reverse Cold War strategic context of today?