I saw this over at Vox Day’s site this morning. Now I am disappointed I just ordered Van Creveld’s book. I felt like responding there, but it was just too much wrong to put all in one comment. So here it goes.
In summary, my basic criticism with the article is it’s treatment of the US military as a monolithic block of homogeneous quality, complexity and composition. It isn’t.
Being pussycats, they went from one defeat to the next.
Not true. The 1990 Gulf war was an unqualified success. We beat the 4th largest land army in the world, full of combat vets, modern equipment, modern industrial age supply systems, a professional officer corps, in record time. At the end of the Gulf war, the Iraqi commanders depended on the US commanders to tell them where the surviving Iraqi forces were. Then, we did it again in 2002.
In Afghanistan, with a handful of US troops and air support, we took down the Taliban and removed their government, driving them back into the hills from whence they came.
These are undeniable military victories. The same is true of Vietnam.
The fact that 10 or 15 years later the results are turning sour does not erase the facts that the military did fight winning campaigns.
Western armies tried to create order in Somalia and were kicked out by the “Skinnies,” as they called their lean but mean opponents.
No. That isn’t what happened at all. We weren’t “kicked out”. We defeated the Aidid forces with unqualified military success. We slaughtered them. They had nothing left. After the Black Hawk Down incident, they feared their own total annihilation because we had won so completely. We gave up politically because we didn’t go there to win military victories. We went there to FEED them. America had no interest in killing them, even though we were very good at it. It wasn’t our goal. So we left. The skinnies were not “lean but mean”, they were pop up targets. Their only competitive force would be women and children who were too weak to fight back because of malnutrition.
They tried to beat the Taliban in Afghanistan, and were kicked out.
No. We Smoked the Taliban. And we weren’t “kicked out”. Politically, we made a different choice, after 14 years. WE ARE STILL THERE. Leaving was always our plan to begin with. The resurgence of the Taliban today is not at all related to the HUGE victory we had over them 14 years ago.
They tried to impose democracy (and get their hands on oil) in Iraq, and ended up leaving with their tails between their legs.
No. That isn’t what happened. We totally defeated the Iraqi armed forces IN COMBAT. We took down their government and executed their leaders. Then we left it up to the Iraqis to rule themselves. Iraq’s failure to lead itself does not erase our military TOTAL victory in 2002. In the insurgency that followed, in pitched battle after pitched battle, American troops slaughtered the insurgent forces. We did it using tough, well trained infantry and marines on the ground, enduring severe hardships. Nothing “pussycat” about it. And we didn’t get any oil out of it. Not a single drop. The Iraqi government sold their own oil on the world market to whoever wanted to buy it, and they kept all the money.
With one defeat following another, is it any wonder that, when those forces were called upon to put an end to the civil war in Syria, they and the societies they serve preferred to let the atrocities go on?
One military victory after another, followed by one political choice after another. But our choice to not go into Syria is more related to internal American politics than an unwillingness by the military. it simply wasn’t our fight and we the People saw no reason to keep using our people and money to help other people who won’t help themselves.
Yet from the time the Persians at Marathon in 490 B.C were defeated by the outnumbered Greeks right down to the present, troops whose primary concern is not to get themselves killed have never be able to fight, let alone win.
And yet, America (and several allies) did field Armies of hard, tough soldiers who did risk their lives and won EVERY TIME in pitched military battles. In the wars in the past 14 years, America has lost 4000 men and women. All volunteers. Mostly volunteers during a time when service in the war theaters was a certainty. Undeniable evidence of our will to risk our lives.
And from the comments:
My first thought is that the US Military is so bound by ridiculous rules of engagement and feckless political meddling that how could there be any other outcome?
A recipe for disaster. –Gary
That’s not “meddling”. That is how war works. It is especially how it works when the war is over and the nation building is happening (stage 4). Rules of Engagement (ROE) are vital parts of the exercise of military power and always have been. It is how you ensure your military victories don’t erase your political victories. If you nuke the Emperor of Japan, who is left to sign the surrendur and make it stick? If you go to Somalia to deliver meals on wheels and end up burning Mogadishu to the ground, and salting the Earth around it, did you accomplish your purpose? In America, the politicians, elected by the American people, are in charge of the military. They have the authority to employ the military and to set limits on how much killing and breaking they do. It is a feature, not a bug. It is the difference between barbarians and disciplined troops.