Sunday, June 14, 2015

Why Has America Stopped Winning Wars? #2

Pointing out the author's mistakes can take a long time, but there is one thought in the article which, should it have been published alone, without the rest of author's frivolous interpretation of military history and warfare, would be a worthy observation. 

"It’s limited war for Americans, and total war for those fighting Americans. The United States has more power; its foes have more willpower."(c)  

This is it, and arriving to this correct conclusion, strangely, happened not thanks but despite most of author's arguments. This single phrase encapsulates, however crudely, the essence of American modern (XX-XXI centuries) military history--US political and military elites are simply not conditioned by the Continental Warfare, while most of the rest of the word IS. In fact, many nations became nations in large degree due to the Continental Warfare. On the other hand, in the last 200 years, not a single American serviceman died actually defending the United States proper. All those Margaret Mitchel's references, in her immortal Gone With The Wind, to two different "nations" are plain simple wrong--American Civil War was not a war of two different nations and the only foreign contingents present on both sides were volunteers from other nations. The only foreign power which was present, without directly participating in the hostilities, if anyone forgot, were two Russian naval squadrons  stationed in San-Francisco (Admiral Popov) and New York (Admiral Lesovsky). Both were friendly to Union.  

This question, of why has America stopped winning wars, evidently bothers not only Mr. Tierny. The publisher of The American Conservative, Jon Basil Utlеy, also tries to rationalize this American manifest failure to achieve any political objectives (that is win) of the wars the United States started in the last 15 or so years. 

12 Reasons America Doesn’t Win Its Wars 

One may agree or disagree with Utley's rationalization but that is not the point, what is important is recent appearance of number of similar pieces precisely on this issue--why there are no victories or, at least, some tangible positive results in American wars. This is symptomatic. Reducing the explanation of this phenomenon, as Utley does, to mere economic determinants does not provide full answer. In the end, war is a cultural act, Continental Warfare is a national act--one either surrenders to the mercy, or lack thereof, of the victor or fights to the last man for the benefit of his people. United States simply has no such culture, no matter how one tries to rationalize it, no American soldier died defending Chicago from panzer assault, Denver was never bombed, and had thousands of its inhabitants killed as a result, by enemy's air force. No death camps, no acts of genocide committed against US population (I omit here a very sensitive issue of Native Americans) ever. NO combined arms warfare, with all its horrors, on the territory of the US, period. As a result--no necessity to be driven, as Chesterton succinctly put it, by the love of what is behind soldier's back, as opposed to hatred toward what is in front. 

US naval operations of the WW II are the largest ever attempted in the naval history, they also saw magnificent manifestations of the American naval leadership and courage but, yet again, NO real danger to the United States proper existed then. And no matter how we are going to be circling around this issue, the bottom line is simple--US loses its wars because no danger exists for the American people and their realm. Neither American elites nor US military are conditioned by the realities of Continental Warfare. Since American Civil War they knew and still know that US will not fight any combined arms war on its territory, period. The tragedy of 9-11, which was one off, however spectacular in the worst meaning of this word, act of the non-state actor merely supports this conclusion. US responded with the bungled "War On Terror" effort, invaded and destroyed innocent nation and, in the last 15 years, failed to achieve any serious political aims, which were stated in terms of the, detached from the reality, ideologems. Americans "lose" interest in these wars (as Utlеy states) because no danger exists for them and, when it exists, such as Russian nuclear triad, the enemy is a rational player and does not desire any war, precisely for the reasons of being conditioned by it. As Michael Lind states clearly:

"The possibility of military defeat and invasion are usually left out of the United states and Britain. The United States, if one discounts Pearl Harbor has not suffered a serious invasion from 1812; Britain, though it has been bombed from the air in the (20th century), has been free from foreign invasion even longer....Elsewhere in the world, political elites cannot as easily separate foreign policy and economics."(c)

 Sand castle geopolitics II  

Until the United States understands this simple truth, that it is not a Continental Warfare power and, in fact, is not culturally conditioned to fight it, the world will be presented with, one after another, American expeditionary campaigns, which will have little to do with US military security and safety of the US proper. If, however, in some near future (I hope so, but don't hold my breath) this point of view will find its place in American geopolitical thinking, this will be the largest victory United States would ever achieve. Meanwhile, until any expeditionary war will remain for the US another "Good War", as Studs Terkel once observed in his classic book, no changes could be expected--US will start and will lose many more. Meanwhile, contemplating the circumstances under which the vicious circle of American global warfare could be broken is too scary of an affair, albeit James Schlesinger's "prescription" could be a good start. That, or sending US elites' sons and daughters into combat to Afghanistan's US Army's FOBs to ponder the questions of war and peace and what they are ready to die for.



  1. I see USA as Cartage went wild and lacking own Rome. Until there is power that is capable to defeat US at sea and actually move forces across seas to US territory America will continue doing all this. Another good point to apply pressure is US$ and the whole US financial system. Once USD is no longer reserve currency US military will no longer present any danger to anybody else except own population. You remember our army downfall came quickly. With lack of funding US military downfall will be equally swift.

  2. I also think not every country or nation even one familiar with what you call continental warfare can win those. Many plainly are not cut for this. say Italy, Poland or even France. US considering national character is clearly unsuitable for this kind of warfare even if pressed hard and having to defend home.

    It takes very specific kind of national character.


    nice article directly related to your article

  4. Well if you believe that the corporations are the ones who really run Washington, then the answer is simple....peacetime is simply bad for business. Perpetual wars however, are very good for business as they mean a constant stream of new contracts to support the current war effort, to build new capabilities and to replace everything that has been worn out. So why not have decades of limited conflicts, War on Drugs, The War on Terrorism, The War on Crime or a pivot to contain this or that "pick your country of the week", or basically whatever lame ass framework they want to use to justify skirting Congress to go to war. Politicians continue to be fat dumb and happy, contractors buy off the general officers as they know they'll move right into cushy executive jobs, or on the board of directors or be hired as advisors after retirement and the military industrial complex keeps on rolling…………………………..

    That’s the cynical viewpoint of course

    Having served in the last 20 years, I have to agree with the author it's complete lack of political will to get our allies to commit to complete total warfare like we did in World War 2. There is simply no reason, we should be in the mess we’re currently in across the Middle East…..none…….. We have no one to blame except the last 4 administrations in Washington. They’ve done far more damage to this country that the PC helicopter parents that think every kid needs a trophy..

    We seemed to have forgotten that combat operations while might be step 1 are just one small part of the effort and that you need to commit to a long term occupation and rebuilding period to bring about any real change.

  5. I use in my method, whenever I write on such issue, a symbiotic approach, that is considerations of not just economic interest. While interest is in the foundation it also breeds culture, which at some point stops being derivative and takes on the life of its own and, in fact, begins to influence economic interest. I agree on the occupation point you make.

  6. Indeed, very strange. But I would ask, was it worth it at all, I mean going to Iraq and Afghanistan. Otherwise agree.

  7. I don't think it was worth it at all, sure we can claim we killed some who may or may not have been involved in the attack against the US in 2001, however at what cost.
    We've wasted Trillions, countless lives in our military and our allies, plus all the collateral damage and civilain deaths. We haven't helped the people in either country in the long run and all we have really done is destablelize the region even further.
    So no I don't think it was worth it at all. We could have carried out counter terrorism operations the same way we had previous via covert action, nobody would have known about it and we probably would have had the same impact and without invading two countries and messing up the entire middle east.

  8. Yes, i agree. the whole 9/11 should have been dealt with special operations units and intelligence agencies. What was done is like hunting flies with howitzer.