Do The Freakin Math

Liberals and conservatives alike frequently rely on limited evidence, personal experience, religious beliefs or gut emotions to determine solutions for complex problems. From immigration to global warming - taxes to terrorism - or health care to free trade - analytical study is rare. Science based policy making isn’t the way of Washington. And the consequences are catastrophic. Change is urgently needed. Just do the freakin’ math.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Tactic or strategy? McCain blows it.

One of the most significant mistakes Senator McCain made in his first debate with Senator Obama was insisting that the “surge” was a “strategy” and “not a tactic”. For someone who prides themselves in military knowledge and whose supposed strength is national security …this was a strategic political error.
While there may be endless debate both within and outside of the military about where a tactic ends and a strategy begins the United States Army Field Manual 3-0 makes the difference recognizably clear. According to Wikipedia the Field Manual offers the ffollowing definition of tactics: "Tactics – (Department Of Defense) 1. The employment of units in combat. 2. The ordered arrangement and maneuver of units in relation to each other and/or to the enemy in order to use their full potentialities. (Army) The employment of units in combat. It includes the ordered arrangement and maneuver of units in relation to each other, the terrain, and the enemy in order to translate potential combat power into victorious battles and engagements. (FM 3-0)."
So, technically a tactic is method --- such as a siege or a surge. A conceptual action used by a military unit to achieve a specific objective. In this case the objective was a decrease in violence -- to allow political progress and meaningful nation reconstruction.
US commanders in Iraq have made it clear that we could not “kill our way to victory”. They say that victory in Iraq will require soft power. A surge of troops alone cannot achieve a sustainable and favorable political end to violence. The surge was a risky but apparently successful tactic -- luckily timed with the ‘Sunni awakening” – that is helping to achieve that goal. And progress in Iraq will hopeful prove an example for other Muslim governments in the region to emulate or to fear.
Military tactics are at once both a science and an art…and, at heart, tactics are a shifting amalgam of psychology, physics, and statistics. Thus, Shock and Awe, Rapid Deployment, Pre-emptive strikes, Sieges and surges are all essentially tactics.
So, what’s going on in Iraq is at best a series of battles designed to achieve a less violent occupation of a foreign country. A country that was mistakenly invaded. An invasion that ultimately fed the ranks of global jihadists and empowered another nation that supposedly sponsors global terrorism. So, Iraq is essentially a battle ground not a war. Just one battle ground in a much larger tactical war against jihadist terrorism. What we are still lacking is a strategic response to terrorism that reserves military power for kinetic needs and uses the tactics of soft power (diplomacy, development and legal justice) to defeat Al Qaeda instead of war. In this greater sense ‘war’ is itself a tactic. A tactic to achieve a political end.
If one defines “strategy” as a long term plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal like "winning” then any strategy to defeat Al Qaeda should not include the concept of war. Strategies should be used to make the problem easier to understand and solve. But viewing the “surge” as a strategy doesn’t make the war on terrorism easier to understand or solve. And if the ‘surge’ mentality of ‘victory’ is applied to Afghanistan, Pakistan and/or Iran…both our economic and national security problems will get progressively worse.
The father of modern strategic study, Carl von Clausewitz, defined military strategy as "the employment of battles to gain the end of war." Making more kinetic battle grounds against terrorism will on sustain this global war. Liddell Hart's definition put less emphasis on battles, defining strategy as "the art of distributing and applying military means to fulfill the ends of policy" Arguably, both war experts give the pre-eminence to political aims over military goals, thus ensuring civilian control of the military.
Wikipedia claims “Military strategy is a ‘national defense policy’ implemented by military organizations to pursue desired strategic goals. So even the invasion of Iraq was a initially a tactic. A pre-emptive strike to reduce the threat of a particular type of weapon (WMD) from being used against the United States. While there has been no WMD attack on the US since the invasion and occupation of Iraq that is not evidence that this invasive tactic has succeeded. Our invasion and fumbled occupation actually increased Iran’s regional power and it may well be working to develop nuclear WMD. There is also mounting evidence that the ‘Iraq war’ having inflamed Jihadists globally, may have even accelerated the likelihood of a WMD (biological or nuclear) being used against Americans on or above American soil.
Unfortunately the US never found any WMD that it could claim as a legitimate threat to the United States. Saddam certainly had some at some time…But he may have had enough advance warning to move or effectively hide any WMD stocks he certainly had. Most evidence however suggests Saddam’s WMDs were destroyed earlier and in some cases may have never even existed even when he believed they did. So after failing to find any real WMD the Bush Administration was forced to reframe its use o f military force from a “pre-emptive’ tactic to a more long term strategy for bringing freedom to the Iraqi’s in the form of a western style democracy. Some may even consider this a tactic within the greater context of changing political dynamics for the entire Muslim world. With, of course, the ultimate global strategy of eliminating the roots of Al Qaeda.
Fortunately, a grand strategy for the elimination of terrorism in general is now taken shape. It originated in the Bush Administration with it’s “3-D strategy “ “defense, diplomacy and development” for defeating terrorism. In reality, this ‘strategy’ has actually existed since the terror of war and genocide and particularly the terror of nuclear WMD emerged in the closing months of World War II. That world adopted a new strategy to replace war as a means of solving problems. It was believed the global rule of law that holds the protection of human rights superior to that of nation’s rights could yield a more peaceful world. Unfortunately, the victor nations of WW II were unwilling to give their global creation, the United Nations, any teeth to implement such a preventive strategy. They kept uncontrollable ‘national sovereignty ‘the supreme law of the world. A receipt for future chaos. The chaos threatening our very civilization today.


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