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Archive for October, 2008

by Andrew J. Bacevich

A week ago, I had a long conversation with a four-star U.S. military officer who, until his recent retirement, had played a central role in directing the global war on terror. I asked him: what exactly is the strategy that guides the Bush administration’s conduct of this war? His dismaying, if not exactly surprising, answer: there is none.

President Bush will bequeath to his successor the ultimate self-licking ice cream cone. To defense contractors, lobbyists, think-tankers, ambitious military officers, the hosts of Sunday morning talk shows, and the Douglas Feith-like creatures who maneuver to become players in the ultimate power game, the Global War on Terror is a boon, an enterprise redolent with opportunity and promising to extend decades into the future.

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For nine years, since my chapter “Culture Wars” has come out in Bob Bateman’s Digital Wars in the Frontlines, I have been touting this same theme with ample evidence. It is always nice when others echo what one believes, especially as prominent as Bob Goldich, who I interviewed for Path to Victory back in 1998.

A View from the Generation at the Tip of the Spear by Robert Goldich, Small Wars Journal Five junior officers, all veterans of combat, recently came together for a day-long dialogue with current and former senior manpower and personnel officials from the Department of Defense. Their major assessment was that an “industrial age” personnel system is being used to fight an “information age” war.

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We have changed the date for the release to November 19th, 2008.

On Wednesday, Nov. 19, the Center for Defense Information will release a new anthology. It is titled “America’s Defense Meltdown: Pentagon Reform for the New President and Congress.” The authors are 13 non-partisan Pentagon insiders, retired military officers, and other defense specialists, including myself. The book is edited by Winslow Wheeler, who as always, has done an excellent job overseeing the project and bringing together a great group of heretics.

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Jay Soloman and Siobhan Gorman have an interesting piece in today’s WSJ entitled, “Financial Crisis May Diminish American Sway.” 

Your first reaction might be “Ya think?”  followed by “What can we do about it?” I think a better reaction might be “So what?”  Being the world’s only remaining superpower — and $3.75 — will get you a grande latte at most Starbucks nowadays. 

Or put another way, a defense budget the size of the rest of the world’s put together (a point they make) and $3 – 5 trillion (Bilmes – Stiglitz estimate) get you a debacle in the Middle East.  Why is this good for the average US citizen, not to mention those of the rest of the world?

Of course the timing of the Defense reform anthology edited by Mr. Winslow Wheeler of the Straus Reform Project could not be timed better (release on November 12, 2008). Please go back and read the article linked above from the Wall Street Journal. If you have not read Limits of Power by Andy Bacevich, it is worth a trip to Amazon.com to pick it up, but if you don’t like the truth, don’t buy it.

Don

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This is Nir Rosen’s new article on Afghanistan.  It relates his trip with the Taliban south of Kabul.  It is rather depressing reading but a unique view of the other side — obtained at great personal risk.  Barnett Rubin and Ahmed Rashin also have a thought provoking article in the Nov/Dec Foreign Affairs but I don’t have the electrons.    It validates what William S. Lind has been saying for years, but also recently in his weekly columns about our 2GW military taking on a 4th GW enemy. We cannot win this type of war, and are spending ourselves into ruin trying to change a culture of tribal rule into a democracy. No way! This column also validates what Andy Bacevich says in his recent book Limits of Power regarding our foolhearty attempt to fight the “long war.”
Don

http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/23612315/how_we_lost_the_war_we_won

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On Wednesday, Nov. 12, the Center for Defense Information will release a new anthology. It is titled “America’s Defense Meltdown: Pentagon Reform for the New President and Congress.” The authors are 13 non-partisan Pentagon insiders, retired military officers, and other defense specialists, including myself. The book is edited by Winslow Wheeler, who as always, has done an excellent job overseeing the project and bringing together a great group of heretics.

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In Maneuver Warfare or a culture of 3rd Generation Warfare, one of the principles is to reinforce success vice what many 2nd Generation militaries do, which is reinforce failure. The old adage is using the reserve to avoid defeat by attacking enemy success head on. A commander in a maneuver warfare force views warfare as biology instead of a engineering project.  His plan is prepared to deal with unexpected changes while always looking for ways to reinforce success by pushing reserves to his subordinates that are being success based on the commander’s intent three levels up.

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