Sunday, April 26, 2015


I like Metz's work, and I certainly agree that we need to understand what our enemies fear in order to better defeat them, I'm not on board the notion that we need to reduce our casualties in order to make our enemies know we will fight as long as it takes to win; nor do I agree that Russia's so-called "hybrid" war has been fought at a level too low for us to react.

I'm fine with the idea that we need to understand enemy weaknesses. But other than that, I can't say I think much of the supporting ideas.

This, for one:

Others, like Russia and China today, have kept their aggression below the threshold of an American response, hoping that once they’ve established a position in, say, Ukraine or the South China Sea, the U.S. will not pay the price to throw them out.

I think he has a point about China and their efforts to absorb nearby sea areas.

But I don't think that Russia is waging a "subliminal" war to keep their intervention at a level too low for us to react to.

Their intervention is large enough for us to understand that Russia has directly conquered Crimea and parts of the Donbas region of Ukraine, and we are reacting.

One, I think Russia is fighting this way not to muddy the waters and prevent us from having a clear reason to intervene, but because Russia is incapable of invading and imposing their will rapidly.

Does anybody think that Russia would not have just sent in the heavy brigades and paratroopers to seize the region from Kharkov to Mariupol if they had the military capacity? Do it fast, like Hungary or Czechoslovakia or Georgia, and the world gets over the affront fairly easily, no?

Two, Ukraine is far from our relevant combat power (ground forces) and not a member of NATO. We simply would not have intervened on Ukraine's side even if Russia openly invaded in force--especially if the Russians wrapped up the major combat operations in two weeks.

By all means, figure out how to resist this type of Russian aggression, but don't make the mistake of thinking Russia did this out of fear of our potential intervention if Moscow had openly sent in the tanks to march in under their own flag.

The second concept I have problems with is this one:

America’s potential enemies must believe that the U.S. can sustain military operations as long as necessary without losing national will or public support. Part of the solution is technological: Networks of autonomous systems can augment or even substitute for U.S. troops. That means the U.S. could sustain military control over an area, even if most American forces were out of harm’s way. Imagine today’s drone campaigns, but with a combination of ground- and air-based sensor networks and robots able to function autonomously for months or years.

To further assure that potential enemies believe that the U.S. can sustain military operations as long as necessary, American leaders should develop concepts and plans for national mobilization, to include methods for expanding the military, rebuilding the defense industrial base and paying for wars by some means other than putting them on the national credit card. Certainly no one wants a full-scale national mobilization for war, but potential enemies should know that the U.S. could do it if necessary. If the U.S. is incapable of fighting a long war, that is precisely what enemies will try to do.

There are several things for me to take issue with.

First, while saving troops' lives is a good thing both for the individuals involved and for our military which trains expensive troops, I don't think that saving troop lives will extend our will to keep fighting a war.

We stayed in Iraq for over 8 years. And are back in Iraq since late 2014. Heck, if you believe President Obama (and I don't), there would not have been a nearly 3-year-long gap if Iraq hadn't stubbornly resisted his efforts to get a status of forces agreement.

We are still in Afghanistan after over 13 years.

Yes, our will to fight weakened. But there was never enough pressure to keep us from fighting long enough to see withdrawal as a result of battlefield victory rather than as a retreat.

Heck, Bush escalated the war in Iraq during the high point of Congressional resistance and public protests during the fourth year of the war.

Obama escalated twice in the eighth year of the war in Afghanistan.

Remember, we left Iraq and are leaving Afghanistan long after our casualties were heavy enough to really impact public will to win.

Remember, too, that we stayed in Vietnam fighting for about a decade with nearly ten times as many casualties as in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.

Casualties are not the problem with our will. What is more of a problem is lack of light at the end of the tunnel. If our people don't think we are making sufficient progress toward winning, our people will grow tired of the burden of war even if it is the burden of paying for expensive robots rather than our troops dying.

Second, expanding the military when needed is surely a good thing to do.

But we have hundreds of thousands of reserves that can be mobilized. It would be better to increase their readiness so we can do this with less time needed to train and equip them up to active standards.

And we managed to increase our Army active maneuver brigade count by nearly fifty percent during the Iraq War in response to the need for more units to rotate through CENTCOM.

What, do we need to have active programs for a draft? That just produces cannon fodder and not the highly trained soldiers that our Army has found it really likes to have.

I just don't think this is a problem that entices our enemies to fight us.

Enemies may think they can beat us, but I sincerely doubt that any would start a war thinking that if only they can fight us for a decade or more and kill 50,000 American troops (while losing up to 500,000 in the process) that they will "win" the war.

They may be able to do that once the war is begun, but if they start a war, they will have reasons to believe that victory will be achieved much quicker and much more cheaply than that.

Third, while paying for wars is important, we've always borrowed money for wars. I think this is inside baseball territory for our enemies. Who really believes that our enemies think they have us on the ropes if the JDAM that kills them was paid for by credit and not by cash?

In some ways, it is unfair to make the current generation pay for a war just because they are earning income while the war is being fought when generations after presumably will benefit from winning that war. That's one reason states bond for lots of capital improvements: future taxpayers will benefit from such construction projects and not just the taxpayers in existence at the time the project is conceived.

Or do you imagine that in wartime we'll reduce non-war expenditures to pay for war? Hah! While we fought in Iraq, the only "sacrifice" war opponents suggested was increasing taxes. No social program no matter how obscure (like federal cowboy poetry) was ever at risk.

Also, increasing the financial burden--whether by taxation or reducing spending on them--on our people while the war is being waged will lower our will to keep fighting a war by directly taking money from our people and from lowering economic activity by moving money from a more productive private sector and moving it to war use. Borrowing for the war is really a way to extend our will to fight.

So there you go. A fine premise for an article. But I don't think the solutions address the problem at all.