Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Missing Phase IV

American forces are good at decisive military operations. But the end of major combat operations isn't the end of the fight. Phase IV, conducted after what we think of as "the war" to stabilize and reconstruct the region we fought for, is needed to cement our military gains.

Not that I reject the idea that a simple punitive expedition to punish an enemy by bouncing the rubble and leaving can be appropriate on occasion, but when we go to war we need to do more than that.

Victor Hanson writes:

As a general rule over the last 100 years, any time the U.S. has bombed or intervened and then abruptly left the targeted country, chaos has followed. But when America has followed up its use of force with unpopular peacekeeping, sometimes American interventions have led to something better. ...

The choices are all awful. But the idea that America can bomb a rogue regime, leave, and expect something better is pure fantasy.

This is pretty accurate. And building something better for the future was what I was describing in my defense of the Iraq War against the charge it was a mistake.

Indeed, you can go back to pre-TDR days for my defense of boots on the ground to cement a victory in war, in my article "Landpower Needed for Decisive Victory," Army Magazine, April 1998 (not online, but synopsis still here), which drew lessons from the Tripolitan War.

If we don't want to defend what we gained by force of arms, we just have a "we came, we saw, he died" military doctrine--the Hillary Doctrine?--instead of warfighting. We might as well scrap authorizations to use military force (AUMF) prior to going to war with ABFUs (authorization to blow the ef out of you).

Is that what our military is to be? Something between going through a kill list for drone strikes and just liking to bomb brown people?

When you start to take Vienna, take Vienna--and then stay through Phase IV.

[In a pre-publish update, Strategypage has related thoughts.]