What this article describes are several asymmetries and a handful of truisms that defense intellectuals ignore at our peril. By advocating more soft power and smarter counterinsurgency—by, essentially, pushing to outfit us for soft war—those who would re-orient our military are making two sets of errors. First, they misread 21st century realities. Second, they misread human nature...If you want to win, you must always have the ability to hit, hit hard, and keep on hitting until the other guy says "uncle". That is how you win wars. Try anything else and you can still win, but it'll take a lot more time and will cost inordinately more--and not just in dollars.
If, meanwhile, we were to ask why so many leaders are still so willing to use force against their own populations, the cheap answer would be they must do so because they think violence works. The more discomfiting response is that it often does.
This brings us to Reality #3. For those who believe it can secure them an edge, decisive armed force will always trump finesse, and will always tempt those who don’t expect to be deterred by greater counter-force...
Not only does COIN’s (counterinsurgency's) own history reflect the need for a stunning amount of brutality, but the fact that in campaign after campaign commanders have found themselves desperate to be able to apply decisive force reveals what every generation ends up (re)discovering the hard way: soft approaches don’t impel enough people to change their ways fast enough...
In other words, despite what COIN doctrine itself suggests the status pyramid should look like, which in a population-centric warfare world would mean Psychological Operations and Civil Affairs units have the most prestige and shooter-killer teams the least, the status pyramid remains the same as it has always been. Nor is anyone seriously talking about inverting it. Though even if they did, and even if such a change could be successfully legislated, it is not clear it could ever be made to stick. That is because, as the long sweep of human history suggests, being able to inflict visibly decisive pain still beats any and everything else.
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Big War vs. Little War
I never liked Donald Rumsfeld's plan to cut the major combat power in the army--the heavy divisions--and transition to lighter, more nimble units. It struck me as very short-sighted, and I'm glad to have found an essay that agrees with me!