Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Why Has America Stopped Winning Wars? #1

Why Has America Stopped Winning Wars? This is not me sitting here inventing topics for the next post--it is the title of the June 2 2015 article in The  Atlantic. 

Why Has America Stopped Winning Wars? 

It is a good question to ponder but the Atlantic's article, written by Associate Professor of Political Science (sigh, of course, what else) Dominic Tierny, who is also The Atlantic's contributing editor, while dismally failing to coherently answer the question it asks, does, in some bizarre way, by the virtue of what it doesn't talk about and by whom it is written,  answers it perfectly. Yes, paradox, I know. But, before I start discussing the issue, I want to forestall some inevitable protestations and point out, that the United States certainly does have a significant military history, some of which is glorious, some of which is without parallels in human history, considering the scale and scope of US Navy's Pacific War operations, which dwarfs anything in the history of naval warfare. US did produce some outstanding military leaders such as George C. Marshall, Dwight Eisenhower, Omar Bradley, Admirals Nimitz and Burke, to name a few. American soldier is a good soldier--he is smart, courageous and resourceful. But that, of course, doesn't answer main question, which Tierny tries, unsuccessfully, to answer and here is why.

Knowing history by itself, at least one of its versions, doesn't mean that much in itself, unless a proper apparatus is used in understanding why and how something is happening in relation to other things. Tierny's opening salvo in the article kills any possibility of any coherent competent answer. But when one doesn't know history at all, that is what one writes:

 Since 1945, the United States has experienced little except military stalemate and loss—precisely because it’s a superpower in a more peaceful world.(c)

This Tierny's statement is so absurd that it is even difficult to comment on it--it is akin to explaining to one of the oncological center's patients that he (or she) is dying because he or she is absolutely healthy and cancer free and nothing could be done about it. I don't remember any occasion on which any person died (other than of age or being killed) from being absolutely healthy. It is one of the two--either this person was killed and died a violent death, or this person wasn't healthy at all. When people die, while looking healthy, they die from, and you've guessed it, a serious health issue which wasn't diagnosed or was overlooked. If the United States, being a military superpower, can not win a single serious war since 1945 it means only two things--US is either NOT a military superpower or something is really-really wrong with the definition of military superpower itself.  No other explanation is possible here and I can not dwell on this for too long since the logic (rather lack thereof) behind this statement is incomprehensible and Tierny tries to rationalize this wowser of the strategic "wisdom" further in his article and comes up with yet another wowser:

Why does the United States struggle in war? How can it resolve a failing conflict? Can America return to victory? Today, these are critical questions because we live in an age of unwinnable conflicts, where decisive triumph has proved to be a pipe dream.(c)

Here, one has to ask a question--under what stone did Mr. Tierny spend last decade in order to come up with such sweeping and, I may add, totally ignorant conclusion. Obviously, for the associate professor of political "science" it may come as a surprise but military science, which is an actual, valid science, gives very clear and universal definition of the victory and loss. Any first year cadet of any military academy in the world, as well as serious military history aficionados, know that victory in the war is achieving its political objectives. Or, as good ole Clausewitz stated in his military charts topping hit Vom Kriege--it is "to compel the enemy to do our will"(c). Well, even the brief review of the warfare in the last 15 or so years shows that not only conflicts are winnable but many of them were won and some of them--decisively. Recalling the ill-fated adventure of the American stooge and psychopath Michel Saakashvilli into South Ossetia on 08-08-2008 comes to mind immediately. The conflict was basically over in 120 hours and it ended with Georgian Armed Forces' disintegration in a face of numerically inferior Russian units of the 58th Army, the ultimate rout of the remaining Georgian forces and final partition of Georgia herself. All political objectives of that war were achieved by Russia and those included preventing Saakashvilli from further killing of innocent Ossetian civilians, from ever attacking Russian peacekeepers there and, in the end, spelled doom to Saakashvili's regime itself, with petty former Georgian dictator currently serving as Odessa Region's governor in doomed Ukraine. Voila', here is a good example of winnable conflict. I can continue with this list for a long time but let me add here a very strange blast from the past.  In the words of the US Army's Lieutenant Colonel Lester Grau, the foremost US authority on the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan of 1979-1989, from Grau's US Army's Staff College in Fort Leavenworth's Treatise:

"There is a literature and a common perception that the Soviets were defeated and driven from Afghanistan. This is not true. When the Soviets left Afghanistan in 1989, they did so in a coordinated, deliberate, professional manner, leaving behind a functioning government, an improved military and an advisory and economic effort insuring the continued viability of the government. The withdrawal was based on a coordinated diplomatic, economic and military plan permitting Soviet forces to withdraw in good order and the Afghan government to survive. The Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA)managed to hold on despite the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Only then, with the loss of Soviet support and the increased efforts by the Mujahideen (holy warriors) and Pakistan, did the DRA slide toward defeat in April 1992. The Soviet effort to withdraw in good order was well executed and can serve as a model for other disengagements from similar nations."

Breaking contact without leaving chaos: the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. Lester W. Grau.

And while Grau is somewhat generous here, for obvious reasons, in the end, if not for the collapse of the Soviet Union, the likely outcome in Afghanistan would have been a more or less stable government, which Najibulla was able to maintain for three years after Russians left and we might not have heard about Al Qaeda that much and wouldn't have witnessed the tragedy of 9-11. I would also point out, since Tierny (wrongly) uses American Civil War as an example, a very successful Russian campaign in Chechnya which ended with comprehensive pacification of the restive region and, in fact, produced a serious bulwark against Islamic terrorism and fundamentalism in the South Caucasus. Call it whatever you want, but by all metrics it is called a successful resolution of the conflict. In fact, I am pretty sure that very many, if not the majority of Chechens, are quite happy with the arrangement and so is Russia.

Grozny in 2001

Grozny today

So, what are the bases for Tierny's generalizations is beyond me. But his article is a gift which keeps on giving, he goes on and makes another stunning "revelation":

 World War II ensured the survival of liberal democracy in Western Europe. For Americans, golden-age conflicts became the model of what war ought to look like.(c)

For a guy who uses Patton as a repository of the military wisdom such a ridiculous statement seems only natural. Obviously, Tierny is so ignorant that he never heard of the WW II as a war of annihilation, granted the nature of Nazi regime and of Japanese Imperialism, and, evidently, doesn't understand that this war was NOT about any liberal democracy (however lofty language of Atlantic Charter claimed this to be the case) but was in essence a conflict for survival of civilization, Western one too. It was about survival of humanity, which the staggering numbers of Nazi atrocities against Slavs, Jews and other minorities testify to. Tierny is obviously oblivious to the fate of millions of Chinese killed, raped, enslaved by Imperial Japan. The fact that the so called "liberal democracy" (an abused meme, a simulacra) was one of the reasons for the misery of the WW II, as well as is a reason for contemporary misery and chaos in Middle East, Ukraine and other numerous hot spots--courtesy of the "military theorists" from the "political science" field--doesn't seem to bother the author. And how could it, tens of millions dead, the carnage of European battlefields,  concentration camps, sadistic medical experiments, genocide on the industrial scale--I am sure soldiers at Stalingrad or in Kursk Battle were going on the attack not to annihilate the enemy who raped and pillaged their country, their nation, not to avenge deaths of their wives and children but for the "values" of "liberal democracy", me being sarcastic, of course. WW II ensured the annihilation of the worst evil in human history and for those who accomplished this task the "liberal democracy" was last in their thoughts. In fact, they fought for the values which contradict every single tenet of contemporary "liberal democracy" which resembles more and more totalitarian ideology, destroying every single tenet on which humanity was able to survive for thousands of years. My thinking here goes along the lines that Mr. Tierny should have concentrated more on the issues which his "political science" ilk are more prepared to discuss--how about Transgender studies or some East Coast elitist mambo jumbo. Survival of this "liberal democracy" was not "ensured"--it came as accidental benefit at the expense of those who didn't give a rat's ass about its survival.   They didn't fight at Kursk and Omaha Beach for this.

This is the face of "Liberal Democracy"


But I will continue later.........



  2. Thank you for this post.

  3. I note that wars USA won , she won as a part of coalition and where US contribution was not paramount neither in WWI nor WWII.
    Creating war objectives that are unrealistic is creating unwinnable wars. Just like making Iraq and Afghanistan liberal democracy.
    I also note US has constantly changing objectives. That's something hard to hit like moving targets.

    While I have serious doubts about USA in current state being able to win major land war with major Eurasian power but she still has it to put Third world nations in line. So, failures to achieve war objectives against those third world powers has something to do with what US wants. Probably should how to put it be more realistic in their war objectives.

  4. Also, Smoothie, I always enjoy your style. But that picture...
    Smoothies, I just had a dinner. have mercy ;)

  5. In 20th century it is largely true. In both WW I and WW II on European Theaters (Pacific was a different issue)--part of a coalition which does the dying and very late into the war.

  6. I do not think Japan should have been any issue to USA.

    Industrial output and resources wise Japanese never had a chance.

    They could not make good any losses they had and it was only a matter of time they would lose. Even in case of a win at sea in the beginning they would have lost anyway. In both WWs US was like that wise monkey who was sitting on the mountain top watching tigers fighting to death below to later come and skin the one that lost. However, monkey got dumber and started behaving just like tigers did.
    I think it is time for Russia to wise up and become that wise monkey.
    Putin imho is doing just that.

  7. Keep on, Smoothie! Davai tovarisch!
    P.S. Hi Krieger, nice to meet you :-)