Thursday, July 29, 2021

Byron King On Wargames.

Last few days were excellent in terms of many people of repute, and who I, personally, keep in high regard professionally and writing-wise. First Commander Salamander went full broadside on the latest developments, now Byron King, eloquent as ever, wrote a superb piece on war-gaming and the issue of governance. It is my pleasure to let him talk. In his piece:

“It Failed Miserably” – What If the US Lost a War and Nobody Noticed? 

He makes some crucial observations which expand on what Sal wrote few days ago. And mind you, these people are not some YouTube fanboys who make videos heavy on military porn and light on knowledge. These are senior (serving and former) American naval officers who know what operational and strategic level of warfare looks like and how it manifests itself in military organization. Byron also opens with a broadside:

I have a friend who teaches at the university level — at a U.S. service academy, no less. The other day he was running a class and posed a short (but profound) question to a group of students. Namely, what was the most recent strategic disaster suffered by the U.S. military? “Blank expressions,” noted my friend. After a period of time, one student offered an answer… “Afghanistan?” (And yes, the student’s answer was in the form of a question.) Dutifully, my professor-friend led the students in a discussion of what happened in a war that began before they were born and whose outcomes will affect them for the rest of their lives. There’s a Whiskey tale to tell just based on this anecdote alone. But wait, there’s more! Because America’s loss in Afghanistan has already been overshadowed.

After that he meticulously lists factors which influence what he identifies as the main problem:

In this sense — that sense of reaching out to bomb people far from U.S. shores — America’s long wars are not just a military issue, easily dismissed by civilians as some sort of niche problem for the Pentagon. No, because closer to home, the long wars reveal seismic flaws in the very nature and character of U.S. governance. The long wars reveal a deep weakness in the American form of government itself. Indeed, we’re a long way from the sage advice of President John Quincy Adams, that “Americans should not go abroad to slay dragons they do not understand in the name of spreading democracy.” And look at it this way. It’s not as if the U.S. ever had a series of national referenda on 30 years of continuous warfare. In fact, the past three decades of war overseas were based on the geopolitical ideas of a relatively small, self-perpetuating cabal of elite elected players and policy wonks, in Washington and various brain-tanks. Many familiar names, to be sure.

The problem is political, it is on the level of governance. Recall Branislaw Malinowski's 1941 observation: "Another interesting point in the study of aggression is that, like charity, it begins at home." In general, read Byron's excellent piece, it is worth your time and that is why I bring it to your attention.  

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