25 November 2013

The Myth of "No Easy War"

Foreign Policy has an interesting article by Scott Gerber called No More Easy Wars that opens with a compelling question.

Why is the myth of easy war so appealing to American strategists?

Now, the article has a variety of good answers, but I ask you, gentle reader - what's your answer? Tell us before you go read the article, and then tell us how well your idea compares to what he said.

We'll come back to my answer another day. (Someone remind me; I might forget to come back to it)

By: Brant


Jack Nastyface said...

A few things, in no particular order...
1) When you have a hammer, every problem tends to look like a nail. Admittedly, the US military has a formidable array of stand-off and precision weapons...better, I daresay, than any other military in the world. And those weapons do produce small and decided "victories" in so far as they are frequently used with much success to kill high-value targets. So how could the US military strategists be expected to say "You know all that money and time and effort we've been throughing into drones and GPS-guided precision, etc? Well, it's mostly barmy if we get into another scrap against small or non-state actors."
2. These same strategists are be planning (hoping?) that the next war will be the kind of war where these tools having immediate value. To wit: A shock-and-awe strike against a well-organized military (like Iran?) is going to have a telling effect (just as a well-organized shock-and-awe strike AGAINST the US, Britain, etc would have a telling effect). So by choosing the tool in advance of the task (a hammer, if you will), you are basically guiding military and political action towards those kinds of engagements. So it would military and politically unadvisable to go to war in Mali or Sierre Leone, but Iran and N. Korea remain valid conflicts.
c) Memory is short. No one wanted another Vietnam, so we prepared for High-value target warfare. When we won in Grenada and Gulf Storm, it proved that our planning was accurate. Then along came Iraq and Afghanistan where we started to remember Vietnam. But no one really wants another Vietnam/Afghanistan...so we better start preparing for those other kinds of wars that we are good at.

Quare: Can the tail wag the K9 unit? Does preparing for a "certain type" of war preclude US engagement in those "other types" of war that are so difficult to win?


Jack Nastyface

Brant said...

Interesting thoughts; thanks!

With regards to (c) - is the legacy that we 'won' Grenada / Panama / Gulf I? Or that we successfully deterred the Red Menace from rolling the Fulda Gap?

Brian said...

Okay, before I go read the article, as you requested...

No one wants a difficult war. I would think the myth of an easy war appeals to strategists of all nationalities.

Schlieffen knew it would be complicated, but he still expected to reach Paris in good time.

Not much to add beyond what Jack said... though certainly, preparing for one kind of war does not at all stop the military from being sent into another kind of war it is quite ill-equipped or trained to fight. Good piece on this the other day in the Economist, which Brant posted a couple of days ago.