America’s strategic stupidity

Obama’s new foreign policy team must beware of generals bearing predictions

12 January 2013

9:00 AM

12 January 2013

9:00 AM

Every few months, America’s four-star admirals and generals gather at a military base not far from Washington to participate in what General Martin E. Dempsey, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, calls his ‘strategic seminar’. The aim is to foresee the future, anticipating security challenges that the United States will face in the coming years, thereby enabling the Pentagon to prepare itself accordingly. With that end in mind, Dempsey and his colleagues engage in what the New York Times has styled ‘a lethally earnest game of Risk’, participants striding across ‘a giant map of the world, larger than a basketball court’ as they posit various crises and speculate on the response each might entail.

The enterprise invites derision. The photo accompanying the Times story shows Dempsey, arms akimbo, apparently deep in thought. He is standing astride Central Asia. Surrounding him are aides, dressed in civvies and wearing plastic booties to protect the map, notepads at the ready. Your thoughts, boss? It’s a made-for-Kubrick set-up.

One ought to sympathise with General Dempsey. He is, after all, the principal military adviser to the president. In the formulation of basic national security policy, his voice counts. If the United States, maintaining far and away the world’s most powerful and expensive military establishment, can chart a course that not only protects its interests but also advances global peace and harmony, then Dempsey will deserve some measure of the credit. But unlike Dempsey’s map, the real world is not fixed. Contra Tom Friedman, it’s not flat. And it’s not small. At a Pentagon strategic seminar you might stroll from Quantico to Cape Town for a cup of coffee without the boss even noticing you’ve left your post. In the real world, the trip’s more difficult.

Yet Dempsey’s map hints at the dirty secret that members of the fraternity of strategists, civilian and military alike, are loath to acknowledge. The formulation of strategy begins by assuming away complexity, reducing reality to a convenient caricature. Strategic analysis is almost by definition dumbed-down analysis. To conjure up solutions, you start by simplifying the problem.


Granted, on odd occasions, simplification may yield outcomes that are at least partially useful. The Cold War era provides one example. After the second world war, the world did not divide neatly into opposing eastern and western camps. Bipolarity was a largely fraudulent construct, as Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser and India’s Jawaharal Nehru among others never ceased to point out. Yet bipolarity provided the United States with a made-to-order template for basic policy. The communists were the bad guys. The leaders of their camp were seemingly hell-bent on expanding; our camp was going to prevent that. Oversimplification yielded oddities (classifying Japan as western) and blunders (the Vietnam war being the largest), but by and large containment made sense.

Post-Cold War efforts to devise a strategy to replace containment have not made sense. The most important of those efforts occurred in the wake of 9/11. Once again, with George W. Bush at the helm, the United States sought to divide the world into two camps, with terrorism supplanting communism. As Bush famously put it, ‘Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.’ This time, however, Washington did not consider it sufficient merely to contain the threat. It was intent on entering the enemy camp, eliminating not only the terrorists but also the conditions giving rise to violent anti-Americanism. Confident that its military forces were unstoppable, the US waged preventive war and launched into the Global War on Terrorism.

Problems ensued. Not least among them was the fact that US forces turned out to be better at initiating hostilities than concluding them. Simply put, the troops proved unable to win, a shortcoming painfully evident in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet of far greater importance were developments away from the battlefields of the global war that Bush initiated and Barack Obama inherited. Post-9/11 bipolarity — ‘us’ against the terrorists with the world’s fate at stake — failed to account for what really mattered. Indeed, the Global War on Terrorism was irrelevant to the power shifts and re-alignments that were creating the international order of the 21st century. While the Americans were expending trillions of dollars in their futile effort to pacify Iraq and Afghanistan, the Arab Awakening was turning the Middle East upside down. China and India, along with Brazil and perhaps Turkey, were emerging as powers of the first rank. The global energy picture was being transformed (to America’s considerable advantage). And climate change was posing threats far beyond anything Osama bin Laden ever dreamed up.

I am not faulting Washington, preoccupied with the bugaboo of radical Islamist terrorism, for failing to devise a strategy that takes these matters into account. I am certainly not asking strategists for clever ideas on how the America can shape the future, whether by providing arms to Syrian rebels (who are, after all, terrorists) or by ‘pivoting’ toward East Asia in order to prevent China (America’s banker) from getting uppity.

Rather, I fault Washington for its unwillingness to acknowledge its persistent cluelessness in the face of all that has occurred since a prior US strategy purportedly ‘won’ the Cold War. What I am asking from strategists is this: fess up to your failures. Acknowledge the limits of your predictive abilities. Quit simplifying. Shut up.

In the present age, strategy as such has become a dangerous chimera. Strategy sustains the illusion that the United States can and should determine the course of world events, thereby keeping America in the global driver’s seat. Yet whatever is coming down the pike, you can count on one thing: it’s going to be something other than what General Dempsey anticipates as a result of his strategic seminars. Nor should we expect Secretary of State John Kerry (or Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, if he wins confirmation) to do any better. When it comes to looking round the bend, the civilians are no more adept than the soldiers. As always, the United States — like every other nation — will be left to cope as best it can.

The one thing that the US actually could do to secure its future is the one thing that it refuses to do: demonstrate a capacity to manage its own affairs; live within its means; set its own house in order. In Washington, talk about global strategy provides an excuse to avoid doing what needs to be done.

Andrew J. Bacevich is a visiting research fellow at Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.

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Show comments
  • AY

    what an unintelligible tosh.

    “visiting research fellow”, myass.

    • SirMortimerPosh

      Your eloquence leaves me in a state of awe.

  • pearlsandoysters

    There’s certain irony in the words “Strategic analysis is almost by definition dumbed-down analysis.” I really wonder where from the right honourable researcher extracted such a profound and by all means sophisticated definition. As far as it’s possible to glean from the academic books, strategy is about taking into account exactly the complexities and strategy starts from realistic assessment (if we are to believe guys from West Point and the like establishments). Many professional strategists would routinely complain that complexity involved in formulating strategy is exactly what is discarded by top military brass. Probably, the ultimate strategic aim of this article is just – military bashing and the right honourable researcher feels obliged, by virtue of his belief system (Peace Studies), to stage a verbal acrimonious attack on men in military uniform. I can humbly suggest that Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clauswitz volumes on War supplied with Michael Howard’s (historian) works would make a nice addition to his reading list. There’s a peace in every war, init?

  • Owen_Morgan

    Climate change is not a threat. The threat derives from the cynical response to the chimaera of “man-made global warming”.

    • SirMortimerPosh

      I am always amused at the idea that the most adaptable animal on the planet – homo sapiens, is going to be wiped out by a warming trend which over the last 150 years has seen a 0.8 degree rise in the mean global temperature. We will simply adapt our agricultural practices and learn to cope. That ability is hard wired into human beings which is why they were able to settle every scrap of habitable land from Saharan oases to the wilds of Lapland and the frozen north. People even manage to live in Newcastle.

      • http://twitter.com/tyklip Ty Klippenstein

        Yeah, but that adaptation might come on the heals of a worldwide disaster that could lead to millions of deaths. Not a bad idea to try to avoid

        • SirMortimerPosh

          Well good luck with convincing the Chinese to stop accelerating their c02 emissions. Last year alone, their INCREASE in co2 output was greater than the ENTIRE output of Germany, Spain, Greece and Peru. UK PLC outs out less than 2% of worldwide CO2 and the most important producers of the gas are resolutely intent on continuing on their current pathway. You can shut down as many coal fired power stations as you like, but while China is commissioning about five giant new ones every week we would be wasting our time and needlessly increasing the cost of our own power. This would also have the effect of transferring more of our industry abroad because power costs are a very big part of many products produced by smelting for example.

    • Paul Browne

      “Climate change is not a threat.” Ha, ha, ha!! Same old stuff. What about “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people”?

  • Augustus

    “America’s strategic stupidity”

    You mean ” Post-Vietnam demoralisation syndrome – the deeply pessimistic belief that America cannot and should not fight to defend its security and values anywhere in the world; that if bad people are defeated in war only worse people will ever take their place; and that therefore the best strategy for America is to buy them all off, pull up the drawbridge and retreat into a self-delusional isolation.”
    -Melanie Philips

    • SirMortimerPosh

      He didn’t say that. He pointed out that many of the decisions that have been made have been clueless. What you describe as ‘Post-Vietnam demoralisation syndrome’ does not exist, or at least if it exists somewhere, it has had no effect on US foreign policy – especially in the Middle East where horrible blunders have been made and vast fortunes have been expended.

      • Augustus

        Judging from numerous past statements, Hagel clearly
        believes that the key to ensuring global and regional stability is adopting a
        soft policy towards any radical entity working to fundamentally change the rules
        of the game and threaten the prevailing world order, including Iran. According
        to him, the Tehran regime’s moderation is contingent upon shelving the military option
        as a viable alternative in neutralizing the Iranian nuclear threat. The strategy of appeasement is a precondition for attaining stability. If and
        when this sought-after stability is attained, then the American hegemon can
        realize its dream of hunkering down in its own isolationism, just as the
        designate secretary of defense will have planned it. This would enable the U.S. to relieve itself of the arduous burden that comes
        with managing the complexities inherent in the international system. One can only hope that enough efforts will succeed in thwarting his appointment and that Chuck Hagel’s dream of isolationist-driven appeasement will quickly subside
        into oblivion.

        • http://twitter.com/tyklip Ty Klippenstein

          Yes, we should continue to have over a 1000 bases overseas and fight conflicts that ultimately lead us to fighting more conflicts in ever-increasing number of countries. In so doing, we’ll bankrupt our country, overextend and overburden our armed forces. Got it. Yeah, “isolationism” is bad.

          • 1406

            The world would be a safer, better place if those blasted Americans left it alone and went back home to stuff up their country even more than they already have. The world does NOT need you, get it?

      • obmed1

        It is not clear that Iraq was a blunder. On the other hand leaving Iraq after we had won a stunning victory and putting 100 thousand NATO troops into Afghanistan was certainly a monumental blunder. The cockpit of history at the moment is in Syria. Similar mayhem would certainly have spread to Iraq if we had not invaded. Thus we have averted a catastrophe. But why are we not protecting out investment? Why are our forces 4000 miles to the east? Even 2 brigades in Mosul would swing the battle in Syria towards the western forces. We could replicate the success of Iraq in Syria. As it is we sit and wring our hands and hope that the turmoil in Syria does not blow back into Iraq and Jordan and the Gulf. We face the real prospect of an Al Qaeda run terror state smack in the middle of the worlds main oil resource. So much for the “cut and run” strategy.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=695229082 Mohammed Noori

          Are you kidding me? The war in Iraq was an absolute disaster. For you to say it’s not “clear” exposes you as a moron.

          • obmed1

            If you consider it a disaster, then it was a stunning success.

        • http://profiles.google.com/amallulla2000 Jaime Galarza

          What stunning victory?

          • obmed1

            Well to understand what was accomplished lets see just consider what actually happened in the Iraq war. First we conquered Mesopotamia from Basra to Mosul inside of a few weeks at the cost of less than 200 american lives. Then we removed the old government and we occupied it for 8 years at the cost of less than 500 lives per year (on average). This, by the way, is a totally insignificant number of causalities It is about half the number killed in swimming pool drowning accidents during the same period. During our occupation we installed a new democratic government defining a new basic dispensation for peaceful power sharing between the three main sectarian communities of that ancient region. This alone totally shocked and revolutionized the Arab world and is of truly historic significance. Nothing of such cultural significance has been accomplished by military means, at such low cost, since the days of Alexander. I would also point out that Iraq was essential for the ultimate defeat of bin Laden and his movement. He chose to hide in Afghanistan and expected us to attack him in that place even though the base of his support was among the Arab masses thousands of miles distant. He did this because he recognized that Afghanistan would serve as a trap for our forces just as it had previously done when the Russians and British invaded. Afghanistan is good from him and bad for us because that country in landlocked, remote, has few roads and is covered with exceedingly rugged mountains. In addition the population is primitive illiterate, very religious and harbors an instinctive hatred of all foreigners. Bush recognized the trap and decided that we needed to open a second front in a place of our own choosing. Iraq was ideal for this strategy. We lured Al Qaeda into a killing zone where the population was cosmopolitan and did not share his fanatical religion and where the terrain was suitable for mechanized warfare. The rest is obvious.

          • http://profiles.google.com/amallulla2000 Jaime Galarza

            Ok, I am doing in haste too because I have to go to work. None of the objectives the US set for itself were accomplished. Unless making a social, economic and political mess of a country was the goal. Or did did the US want for Iran to have such great influence on Iraq? Or did the US expect to spend almost a trillion dollars (without considering related expenses)? I am wondering if you are serious when you write about installing a democratic government. You mean the almost dictatorial Maliki? And you continue with the same old foolishness of Iraq and Osama Bin Laden. What the Iraq war produced was the exponential growth of Bin Laden’s militants in a land that never had them. Peaceful sharing? How peaceful is Iraq now? Don’t you read the news? The only truly historical significant phenomenon here is what several US generals said about Iraq being one of the greatest American blunders in its entire history. You, bunch of pusillanimous arrogant criminals, dare compare yourselves with Alexander? So Bush recognized that and decided to open a second front? Lol. Sure, keep on fantasizing; that way, you feel happy but don’t expect reality to conform. Obvious? What’s obvious is your complete ignorance about everything from history to military strategy.

          • obmed1

            You are totally wrong. Your first problem is that you confuse stated objectives with real objectives. The real objective was never to destroy WMD/s . This was simply a convenient pretext. People who harp of WMD and complain about being “lied to”, are a bunch of childish dweebs. They are not worth serious consideration. The real purpose of the war was to destroy Al Qaeda and change the mindset of the Arab masses. This in the final analysis is the only thing that can assure our security. We needed to change their ideology just as we changed the communist ideology, and the Nazi ideology, and the Japanese Imperialist ideology, and the racist ideology of the southern slaveholders. This takes time and you cannot do it without destroying the core of the old system. This frequently means leveling the major cities where the educated cultural elite are living. You need to Burn Down Atlanta and bomb Berlin and Tokyo. In other words you need to break the belief system and the will to resist.

          • http://profiles.google.com/amallulla2000 Jaime Galarza

            Real objectives not conforming to the stated ones is what people know as failure. Or you establish an objective in order not to fulfill it? Of course the real objective was not to destroy WMDs because that was a canard used to fool the sheeple (a “pretext” as you call it although I am sure you did believe it at the time). The real purpose was to destroy Al Qaeda by invading a country where there was not one militant? Rather than changing the mindset of the Arab masses, the real objective has been regime change (The Clean Break Report). You don’t need to burn down any city, fool. What you need to do is to mind your own business. What recruitment and funding was there in Iraq before, during and immediately after the war? Of course none because Al Qaeda had never had any insurgency cells there. It was as a result of USA invasion that this group arrived and flourished in Iraq for some time. The US failed to capitalize on its victory in Iraq? Lol. America was kicked out of Iraq (read the SOFA) despite your wanting to stay there. If new groups are springing up in other parts of the ME is because of blowback, or you think people can be grateful that you invade, plunder and assassinate them en masse. So Afghanistan has zero strategic importance? This shows you must be a 16-year-old school kid. Besides the fact that Afghanistan is adjacent to ME countries that are rich in oil and gas (it borders both Iran and Turkmenistan, countries with the second and third largest natural gas reserves in the world), there are geopolitical reasons. Both the US and Israel have had Iran in their sights for some time already. Additionally, there is a competition for pipelines between Russia, China and Iran on the one hand and the US and its western and eastern puppets on the other. In this sense Afghanistan is a very important strategic piece of real state in the geopolitical struggle for power and dominance in the region, Yes, but as you, a modern American Clausewitz, has said, Afghanistan is a “…a place that has zero strategic importance”. Well, I grew tired o enlightening you. Stop wasting my time.

          • obmed1

            To state an objective while actually pursuing a different goal, is called “deception”. In war one does not want the enemy to understand the true objective of your operations because then it will be easier for him to react and defeat you. I thought this was well understood but apparently you are a simpleton.

          • http://profiles.google.com/amallulla2000 Jaime Galarza

            Actually you, a fool, telling me I am a simpleton is like receiving a medal. Why don’t you address the other points?

          • obmed1

            Quite frankly most of your post is so badly written that it is not worth answering. If you don’t have the time to write a well constructed sentence then I don’t have the time to respond. It is a common courtesy.

          • http://profiles.google.com/amallulla2000 Jaime Galarza

            “IF we still had troops in Iraq we could decisively influence what is happening in Syria.” After an adverbial clause (conditional clause), you should use a comma. “…then you must be some sort of christian moralist…” You should have capitalized Christian because religions are capitalized. “Then we removed the old government and we occupied it for 8 years at the cost of less than 500 lives per year (on average).” Two independent clauses linked with a coordinating conjunction -and- should have a comma in between. So if you had the time and wrote such badly constructed sentences, I don’t want to imagine what you would have written if you had done it in haste. BTW, surely my English has lots to improve. After all, my native language is Spanish. What’s your excuse? Your ad hominem attacks reflect how you prefer not to face your opponent directly but attack him in a cowardly way.

          • obmed1

            I am sorry if you are insulted by my reply. I did not mean to criticize your sentence structure but the logic. You do not seem to grasp strategy. For a peripheral naval power like the united states to fight a war in Afghanistan (or any land locked nation) is total folly. We have simply ended up paying exorbitant bribes to the Pakistanis, Russians and Tajiks for transit and base rights. They hold us hostage to the extent that we cannot afford to offend them even when they provide sanctuaries for the Taliban. Even so the cost of a putting a gallon of gas into a humvee at the main Bagram airbase is over 100 dollars per gallon. Keeping a typical trooper (one man) supplied with his ration of food, cloths and ammo for a single tour is over a million dollars. Who can we possibly prevail given such logistical costs. This is before we even begin to consider the hostile culture of the people and the difficulty of the terrain. It is insanity for us to fight an insurgency in such a place. Yet it is an idea place for Al Qaeda to find sanctuary. Bush was a genius to open a second front in Iraq and to avoid getting sucked into Afghanistan. Why let the enemy choose the time and place of battle? Obama on the other hand has fallen for the Afghan trap, hook line and sinker. He has also squandered our partial success in Iraq. That is why we are unable to do anything in Syria and it is why we find ourselves helpless as Iran goes nuclear and as Al Qaeda and the muslim brotherhood spread their anti-wester poison throughout the Islamic Maghreb. The latest hostage situation is just the beginning. In a few years the Muslim world will be a no-go zone for any person with white skin.

          • obmed1

            I would also add that the aftermath of the war did not see any exponential growth of Bin Laden’s movement contrary to what you say. He lost his funding and his recruitment dried up. The Arab population turned against him. After that his circle of contacts and influence got smaller and smaller and is was only a matter of time till he himself was killed. Unfortunately Obama has failed to capitalize on our victory in Iraq. He failed to keep a significant garrison in Iraq and he let Iran meddle. He is allowing new groups similar to Al Qaeda to spring up in places like Somalia and Yemen and Libya and Mali and Syria and Egypt. Meanwhile he put 100 thousand NATO troops into Afghanistan. A place that has zero strategic importance. IF we still had troops in Iraq we could decisively influence what is happening in Syria. We could block the Islamic radicals and replicate the success in Iraq. We could promote a similar democratic regime in Syria. If you do not see this and instead you obsess about irrelevancies like WMD and Iran, then you must be some sort of christian moralist with no real understanding of how to use power. It were best for you to stay out of foreign affairs.

          • Paul Browne

            Don’t bother trying to reason with this joker. According to him Bush was a strategic genius and Obama is throwing all Bush’s “successes” away! It’s all a long term plan, but whisper it, otherwise all the invisible killer squirrels will find out! Ssssshhh!

        • Paul Browne

          “The success of Iraq”, now that’s a phrase I haven’t heard for a while. Iraq was a success? Really? What does a complete FUBAR look like then?
          If you think Iraq was costly get involved in Syria or, God forbid, Iran!
          Iran would make Vietnam look like tea and cakes at the Vicarage!!

          • obmed1

            See reply to Galarza above. Written in hast I am afraid, but my thesis is clear enough.

          • Paul Browne

            Oh, I understand now. When Bush invaded Iraq, even though it had no WMD or links to Al Qaeda, it wasn’t the action of a bumbling moron, Bush was outwitting Bin Laden. You’ve made things so much clearer, and all for the outrageously cheap price of less than 500 lives per year. You’ve never served in the Military I presume?

          • obmed1

            Bush did indeed outwit Ben Laden. Of course Liberals will not realize this for a few years. They are dumbfounded just as they were about the success of the Reagan strategy against the USSR. You need to understand that over the course of the Iraq war, approval of Al Qaeda in Gulf Arab countries went from of over 90% to less than 10%. Bin Laden’s recruitment ability and funding dried up and the large center of the Arab opinion turned against him. This is the essential strategic victory when fighting a religious movement like Al Qaeda (or like Communism). One must to destroy the intellectual basis for the movement. One must destroy the plausibility or the “vision” that it offers to adherents. Killing individual fighters is needed but is futile if the idea of the movement survives. Bush accomplished the streategic ideological victory by means of the Iraq war and if it only cost a trillion then it was money well spent. After all most of the money acted as a Keynesian fiscal stimulus and helped keep down unemployment and it is only a small fraction of our budget. As wars go, it was a big bargain.

          • Paul Browne

            You’re Dick Cheney. aren’t you?

          • obmed1

            Dwatted wabbit, my cover is blown. Oh well

          • obmed1

            Yes you are correct. Bush would have invaded Iraq even if he knew it had no WMD’s. The claim that such weapons existed was never anything but a pretext for the invasion. On the other hand Bush understood that the true base of support of Al Qaeda was among the Arabs and that many of the young generation were attracted to its ideology. Thus to defeat Al Qaeda it is useless to fight a war in Afghanistan which is a primitive place far from the Arab population centers. To attack and destroy an Arab political movement one must go into the Arab heartland and destroy its support in the minds of the Arab cultural elite. Iraq was and is the obvious place for such an attack.

          • obmed1

            Grant lost 20,000 men in two hours during the morning of the first battle of the wilderness. That is 5 times the number killed in the whole 8 years of Iraq. So don’t whine about 500 a year. If a nation cannot take such minuscule causality levels then it is not long for existence. Any professional military person will tell you this. So it is you who have obviously never served.

          • Paul Browne

            I spent 12 years in the military, which going by your posts is probably your age. You say “Any professional military person will tell you this….”. Any professional military person would punch your lights out for disrespecting the service people who’ve died, so a wanker like you can talk shit. If you like war so much, join up!

          • obmed1

            “wanker” gee such a British term. I would not expect that from an american soldier. And in fact I am in my 60’s but you are correct to surmise that I have never been in uniform. However I have spent most of my life working as an analyst for other security agencies of the government. As for our noble cannon fodder that serve in the ranks of our armed forces; I salute them and love them as much as the next person. However they had better stop being such a bunch of pussies when it comes to casualties Taking causalities is what you get paid And you had better and learn that 500 casualties a year is nothing. In Vietnam we had that many in a typical week and it went on like that for year after year. And if you can’t handle it then stay out of the army.

    • mlnw

      If you mischaracterize your alternatives you will be bound to box yourself into a mistaken solution- it’s not a choice between hunting with the wolves or running with the sheep, as so many here seem to think. Bacevich is asking for more realistic and less simplistic appraisal of the world we live in by the planners, and a more nuanced understanding of the means- and the limitations of those means- at our disposal. Unfortunately, that seems to be taboo or offensive to the majority of the commentators of this article, who seem as clueless about the present cold war as they are of the last one.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jon.fresno.5 Jon Fresno

      Melanie Philips? A neocon? A fake, fraud and phony that is not the least bit conservative? SHe’s just a leftist interventionist par disgrace. Def. not a REAL conservative.

  • http://www.facebook.com/archibald.bomwitz Archibald Bomwitz

    If the USA would do what comrade Bacevich suggests in the four last lines of his article then comrade Bacevich would among the very first to accuse Americans as selfish and interested only in their own prosperity on the costs of others suffering!

  • Sailor25

    Is it just me or does this article make very little sense?

    The author seems to be saying that strategising is of little or no use but if that is the case then why does every single successful military and corporation in the world engage in it?

    The author even goes so far as to tell the US top brass “Quit simplifying. Shut up.” This is of course a pretty silly thing to say particularly as the people he is telling to shut up in such a blasé fashion have spent their entire careers studying and producing strategic plans and are doubtless capable of producing strategy to a level of complexity the author would be incapable of comprehending.

    Lets consider those generals standing for a moment on that map at Singapore and considering the effect of a war between Malaysia and Indonesia. They could ask questions like, is such a war likely? would such a war close the Malacca Straits? What effect would closing the straits have on our interests? What resources would we require to re open the straits if it became necessary? You could ask those questions.

    Or of course they could do as the author suggests and quite over simplifying.

    • http://twitter.com/tyklip Ty Klippenstein

      Yeah, those same people he’s telling to shut up, continue to get things wrong. That’s his point.

      • Sailor25

        The thing is if you read the article that’s not his point he seems to be making, he seems to be ridiculing the very idea of having a global strategy at all.

        It is is easy to stand behind someone making
        strategies and then point out after the event the parts of the strategy that did not work. That is not a good argument against the strategy unless you can prove that the strategy actually made the situation worse rather than better.

        Just because not all strategies 100% predict the future doesn’t mean strategists should “shut up”.
        Subject: [spectatorwww] Re: America’s strategic stupidity

  • Resistance2013

    The author ridicules American military strategists and planners for trying to anticipate future threats — just because the world is a complicated place. Of course, it is. But the United States, just like any other nation, has to take a good look at what’s going on in the world, what threats to it exist, and develop a plan and strategy for how to address those. Following that, verify and update those notions.
    What is Bacevich’s alternative — have the US just sit back, not plan, and hope for the best? In 1982, most US military planners viewed the most likely threat to be the Soviet Union, and they proceeded accordingly. In 1990-1991, the Cold War was ended, and the US ended up fighting its first major war — not against the Soviets, but against Saddam Hussein in Mesopotamia.
    Was all that planning in the 1980s wasted? No. By having a strategic plan, the United States created a military force with the capabilities it needed for the 1990s.
    I also have to take issue with Bacevich’s simple-minded assertion that the United States “initiated” hostilities in Afghanistan, and, therefore, was wrong to intervene there. The United States was attacked on 9/11 by forces supplied, trained, and armed by terrorist groups being allowed to flourish in Afghanistan with impunity.
    If Bacevich were in charge in 2001-2002, what would he have done? Just allowed al-Qaeda to keep on living on in peace?
    I agree with his ultimate conclusion about the United States to live within its means and set its own house in order. But he seems to feel that contingency planning is not part of that, enticing the United States into military interventions with which are none of its business.
    However, that is not the fault of U.S. military strategists — going to war is a decision made by the President and civilian political leadeship. The job of Gen. Dempsey and his subordinate commanders is to be ready —- to anticipate problems, and to give the Commander-in-Chief options based on what is available.
    Globals strategy does not provide an excuse for avoiding necessary action — it provides a framework that the nation can use to guide its strategic planning, and force and weapons structures.

  • bubble burster

    This article is ridiculous. All plans concocted anywhere and at any time simplify reality. As the author states, some simplifications (containment) were useful and some not. Yet he concludes that we should basically stop strategizing. What prey tell should we replace it with. Reactivity?

    All powerful countries shape the world and are shaped by it. Inaction as well as action has consequences. Would Bacevich really advocate not trying to anticipate those consequences?

    He seems to have shifted from criticizer the content of strategy to criticizing the act of startegizing.

    So I am trying to think what things would be like if the author’s recommendations were followed.

    President: Does a rising China present any security challenge to the US?

    Adviser: Well sir it may, or it may not. it is complex question.

    President: So what action should we take? Should we economically engage and hope China liberalize and embeds itself in a cooperative global economy or should we keep in place political relationships and military capacities that might be needed in the future?

    Adviser: Well sir, that would require assessing of the future and implementing a plan based upon that assessment. But the past has shown how dangerous strategizing like that can be, so we recommend just ignoring it and focusing on domestic issues.

    President: But wont that give Chin a free hand? Will the not take that as a sign that they can impose their will on East Asia

    Adviser: We don’t know sir. All we know is that if we try to think our way through this and come up with a plan we will probably screw it up. In the face of uncertainty we recommend doing nothing. In fact, we will all shut up now.

    So in abandoning the debate of good versus poor strategy and embracing an argument of strategy versus no strategy I think you have rally jumped the shark Andy.

    • disqus_MXvdZr3AF7

      It seems to me that Bacevich states that expecting specific results based on strategic military analysis is self-delusional. In the end there is no good vs. poor strategic analysis as the fate of the Third Reich has demonstrated. Nations are not puppets and it has been overwhelmingly demonstrated that we are not the world’s puppeteer. That is what I take from his analysis.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Newland/100001693231551 David Newland

    The usual hyper-critical silliness from a typical leftist flake appearing in a typical leftist publication and God only knows why RCW regards it as meaningful.

    So many negative assumptions are made about the US and its military that one wonders how this bumbling bunch have managed to do anything right. Oh, that right they haven’t. Why bother, then, to pay any attention to them. Oh, that’s right, they start nasty, unwinnable wars that wise foreigners and the UN somehow–and very secretly–fix for us.

    RCW should should be ashamed of itself for putting this PC silliness on its website.

    • http://twitter.com/tyklip Ty Klippenstein

      Your ignorance is impressive. PS: you clearly have no idea who Bacevich is. How about read one of his books, or heck, read a wikipedia article on him.

  • AD_Rtr_OS

    I’m reminded of what is probably an apocryphal quote attributed to Calvin Coolidge, that when you see ten problems coming down the road, just wait, as nine of them will veer off into the ditch before reaching you, leaving you to deal with just one.
    Our problem is we fail to wait, because we have to be seen as “doing something”.

    • Theodore Svedberg

      That is good advice. Old Calvin was on to something. I once read that Ike would often tell aids: “don’t just do something, stand there”.

    • Resistance2013

      The world is a much different place than it was during the Roaring Twenties under Coolidge. There was no widespread dependence upon satellite, communications, and information technology. There was no high speed transportation. There was no airplanes nor missiles nor WMD capable of hitting the United States or abruptly cutting its sea lanes.

      The world was a bigger place then — separated on both its West and East coasts by two vast oceans, the United States was comparatively secure in its isolation. Now, WW2, the Cold War, and 9/11 and many other events have shown — threats DO exist where lack of strategic planning to address them can prove catastrophic.

  • Scruplesrx

    Post 9-11 issued in war in Afghanistan which sole purpose was to revenge the death of thousands of civilians working quietly in the twin towers. It was clearly identified who were the culprits were and we clearly had a focused enemy. The problem was that the use of force should have been overwhelming and with a clear end strategy. That strategy should also include total devastation of the Taliban. No political strategy. Just as in WWII and earlier, clear victory. Quick and decisive. It was not quick and we took our eye off the ball with Iraq.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Eileen-Kuch/1255873681 Eileen Kuch

      One huge problem with that: Afghanistan is a backward, Dark Ages-era country, with a hostile, rugged, mountainous terrain; and, is inhabited mainly by diverse, often warring tribes led by warlords. This, alone, has made it unconquerable.

      Alexander the Great and Ghengis Khan – both fierce warriors and Empire builders, were wise enough not to make any attempts at conquering Afghanistan, once they saw how formidable a task that would be; and, instead, bypassed the territory and targeted those regions that were much less formidable. Their reasoning: Why waste time, energy, and, most of all, lives invading territory that was not only hostile, but also populated by various warring tribes who would just launch ambushes from unseen spots and quickly vanish, before they could even react? Too bad the Brits, the Soviets, and the current array of US and NATO invaders did not read their ancient history; otherwise, they would’ve avoided this quagmire.

  • http://twitter.com/btt1943 Boon Tee Tan

    Why talk about foreign strategy when the US cannot take care of or solve its domestic problems? Is the coming new administration not beating a retreating drum worldwide?
    (mtd1943, vzc1943)

  • Curnonsky

    Graduate student drivel. From an adult – no surprise that he is an Obama groupie. Reading Bacevich’s biography, he is another victim of Vietnam Syndrome, whereby Americans who served there and were vilified by popular culture for it resolve to oppose the use of military force under any circumstances. Chuck Hagel, case in point.

    And US strategy “purportedly “won” the Cold War”? There are some Poles, Czechs, Estonians Lithuanians, Latvians, Bulgarians Slovaks Romanians and Ukrainians who might disagree with that sneer.

    • cg

      At least graduate student drivel would beat your comprehensive classroom (infomed by fox News) analysis.

      • Curnonsky

        My, aren’t leftists ferocious snobs.

    • popsiq

      What those ‘syndrome softies’ needed was some o’ that there hippie spit on their class ‘A’s. Then they’d have knowed which end the bayonet was sharpened on.

    • http://twitter.com/tyklip Ty Klippenstein

      Yeah, so he is not an Obama groupie. If you would read one of his books you would know that. But being blissfully unaware puts you right in with online commenters. You fit right in, but yeah, his article is graduate student drivel.

      Your comment, in all its blatant ignorance, must relatively speaking, then be pre-school student doodles.

    • Bertharina Rina


      “What this country needs is to protect the people’s hard earned wealth of creating ways to find employment for hundreds of whom are generally unemployed on low level qualifications. We are creating a class of parasites that are milking the working people out of their productive earnings through developing s parasitic clime of artificial, but unproductive element that depends on some federal handout called federal emergency programs that have taken over the flight industry in our nation.

      It is inconceiveable that a hand full of terrorist have crippled our national commercial flight industry through the commie controlled news industry with their daily inflated minor news issues being bloated to the point that the general public
      runs back and forth through fear that our airlines will be eventually shut down

      America needs to tell Uncle Sam to get off of its haunches and get rid of all parasitic bums and leaches and let these dead beats find more productive work. It seems that nation wide laws enforcement has taken preference over a people’s ability to think straight. Law enforcement is an unproductive force that protect the great slum masters and loan sharks and political hounds of whom steal from every strong box in the nation’s capital. This country is going under from a form of liberalism that plays along with aimless parasitic laboring organizations that will aid in creating parasitic industries that are nothing but well organized drones on the backs of hard working and decent tax paying citizens.

      All in all, national home Land Security is a front for liberalized political whorewdom
      and its makeshift method to bleed productive America to the last fathering of honorable citizens. We need to get rid of SWAT and FEMA. as mere tools of an in an ever approaching incipient socialism designed to appease bums and dead beats working in all parasitic ares of federal and state governments. We do not need to wreck and cripple any national private industry by the artificial increments of ridiculous legal obstructions being subtly used to further an approaching socialists programing of digging the brains out of the public’s twisted intellect that Uncle Sam will not let the people down. We should level down national security in giving each state the right to guard the people’s security to the proper level of individual responsibility. The present encroaching police state under the cover of Home Land Security is nothing less than a pro Marxist scheme to further incipient Bolshevism in causing the state to wither away, in replacing capitalism with the ever creeping of Oriental religious philosophies into the American republic.


  • Theodore Svedberg

    The suggestions in this article are a good antidote to the mess that US FP has become in the last 20 years. I think denigrating strategic thinking is not helpful, however.

    We need better strategic thinking. We should begin with how we view the US role in the world. First we cannot and should stop trying to micromanage the interactions between other nations. Before we engage in committing our military overseas we should ask basic questions about what US interests are really involved. This is just common sense practical advice. If we think about it we could have avoided the wars in Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Serbia. The ten year war in Afghanistan was also a mistake though it was clear we should have attacked in 2002, removed the Taliban from power and then withdraw after 6 months with a warning to the various Afghan factions we would return if the Taliban returned.

    This strategy would not require the large US military that we have today. We can defend our borders with a fraction of the forces we have today. We could learn from the Chinese. They have a very firm policy of nonintervention in the internal affairs of other nations. They have commercial relations with most of the world but when political events change to their commercial disadvantage they adjust to the changed circumstances without recourse to military intervention. They will engage in war if their borders are threatened.

    I think Bacevich’s views are that the American military empire (what is it today, some 700 or so military bases around the world) have become an end in themselves. That is, too many in the US define preserving that military empire as protecting US national interests. That is where stupid strategic thinking begins. Those military strategists that he rightfully criticizes are devising strategies whose only goal is to justify the unneeded and bloated empire.

    • Curnonsky

      China has a “firm policy of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other nations”? Tibet, for example?

      • Theodore Svedberg

        Tibet is recognized as a province of China. This was internationally acknowledged by the UN at its founding and all countries with diplomatic to China accept this also.

        • Curnonsky

          Pity the Tibetan people were never consulted.

          • Theodore Svedberg

            I agree. It is sad, But the rest of the world have accepted that Tibet is part of China. Too bad. China’s foreign policy remains non intervention in the the affairs of other nations. Too bad the US cannot do the same.

          • Curnonsky

            China is currently in the midst of a breakneck military expansion, including building an aircraft carrier, and is trying to make the South China Sea a Chinese lake. It has provoked clashes with Japan, S. Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines over tiny islands far from its shore. Chinese “non-interventionism” has up to now been due to lack of military and economic resources; now they have both. The world would do well to consider the sad fate of Tibet and prepare for further Chinese aggression.

          • mlnw

            China in the midst of a breakneck military expansion? They have ONE aircraft carrier! As for the rest of it, they have been threatened and harassed by the U.S., and lost many foreign investments to U.S. military action. It is not wrong for them to see the need to upgrade their military, but their expenditures are still a fraction of what we spend.

            As for the East and South China Seas, most experts agree that Japan’s legal claim to the Daiyou Islands is weak and China’s should prevail. The South China Seas EEZ is also seen by the Chinese as historically justified, (and without the two thousand year hiatus of Israel’s biblical claim to Palestine), but it is still in the process of being negotiated with its neighbors. This is both a combination of their historic claims and an analogue to our “Monroe Doctrine”. How it all plays out in the context of UNCLOS is still an open question.

            Where have we seen Chinese aggression outside its backyard?

            Raising the fear of aggression by China, where we are the ones who are involved in over 30 wars or conflicts of aggression is ludicrous. It is nothing more than a cynical effort to drum up support for more bloated and ill-conceived military procurement.

          • popsiq

            Sort of like how the people inhabiting of the Gadsden Purchase (the Philippines, Louisiana or Alaska et al) were ‘consulted’ before they became US territory.

          • mlnw

            And pity the Palestinians who were not only not consulted but were, and continue to be dispossessed of their land.

  • Ivan Terrible

    This time, however, Washington did not consider it sufficient merely to contain the threat. It was intent on entering the enemy camp, eliminating not only the terrorists but also the conditions giving rise to violent anti-Americanism.
    Maybe it is because USSR or other communist countries never engaged in a direct attack on US soil? Eh? Cold war vs Hot war a little?

    Not least among them was the fact that US forces turned out to be better at initiating hostilities than concluding them. Simply put, the troops proved unable to win, a

    What a load of BS. US troops won in Iraq within 2 weeks. The regime was finished. What was messy and yes, violent, is the period after the war. Unfortunately, US cannot follow efficient techniques of Stalin in the occupied countries. US is a one trick pony when it comes to the defeated countries: build the Democracy. Worked well with Germany and Japan for a number of reasons. Among them – much better generals, as opposed to Pentagon bureaucrats (except Patreus) that ran the show.
    Would you like it if US immediately sent a couple of millions to the concentration camps, shot some 30,000 and appoint a head of the black for each block in Baghdad who and whose family would have been held responsible for the order on the block? That would bring the order right away. But that’s not the way US is doing things

    • popsiq

      It was bureaucrats who rebuilt Europe and Japan. Had it been generals, the military would have been ‘rebuilt’ first.
      George Marshall may have been the head of the US military but his famous ‘plan’ didn’t come out of the Pentagon.

  • Ivan Terrible

    The one thing that the US actually could do to secure its future is the one thing that it refuses to do: demonstrate a capacity to manage its own affairs; live within its means; set its own house in order. In Washington, talk about global strategy provides an excuse to avoid doing what needs to be done.


    That will immediately stop Jihadist mass murders in Pakistan, Thailand, Somalia and Mali. Right. What a moron

    • popsiq

      You mean like the mass murders we ‘stopped’ the communists from carrying-out?

    • http://twitter.com/tyklip Ty Klippenstein

      Yes, you’re right we should continue to over extend ourselves across the globe to fight small threats while our country sinks into bankruptcy while at the same time increasing the number of global enemies we have. Meanwhile, our armed forces will continue to experience serious mental and physical health issues (how many committed suicide last year?). Yeah, HE’S the moron. It’s certainly not you. Really. I’m not being sarcastic at all.

  • http://twitter.com/CodyAFitch1 Cody A. Fitch

    There is no war on terroror it is a cold war that the leftist in the USA do not want to talk about anymore so their brothers in the fascist mindset of extremist leftism can win. The Communist Chinese have admitted to creating proxy warriors to attack the USA to force us to take out loans from them to pay them major interest and force our full old cold war pyramid of economic implosion to start to look just directly at proxy warriors which used to be just part of the economic implosion directive. But today the main issue in the agencies directives are not economic implosions or what Communist State Business are funding or helping and what characters in those business are creating the proxy warriors. Today it is just find the proxy warriors. Instead of the first cold war rootology. It is not a terrorist war. It is a proxy war. To different things. Terrorist do not exist. They have to come from some tree and some nurshment of a grid that watches them. In a grid where everybody who reads or thinks online or in books or at churches is watched. There is no such thing as a terrorist only proxy warriors.


  • http://twitter.com/CodyAFitch1 Cody A. Fitch

    During the cold war the US right made sure this was known so the proxy warrior masters of our enemy could not use them to take over our markets. Today though the right is to embedded in their proxy crusade war against their own brothers in the third temple to be able to turn them against the Communist lands. If you look at the French issue today. The Communist Chinese PLA are directing the Al Queada proxy units to attack free market and Democracy areas. Instead of doing what Charlie Wilson did and directing mercantilism of souls that just like to kill for their beliefs against the Communist atheist markets.

  • RodCl

    For heaven’s sake post these thing on a white background. the damn thing is just about invisible against a gray background !

  • Luv

    “The one thing that the US actually could do to secure its future is the one thing that it refuses to do: demonstrate a capacity to manage its own affairs; live within its means; set its own house in order. In Washington, talk about global strategy provides an excuse to avoid doing what needs to be done.”
    Such a profound change in American acculturation would have to begin at the top, and would be generational in scope.

  • CoolNameBro

    “Quit Simplifying. Shut up.”

    That is pretty Bush-League conclusion to come to considering your education. If the Generals do not simplify at the Strategic level, this summit would last for the rest of the month with them just talking through the movement of units and supporting units and the capabilities. Any plan, no matter how incomplete or simple, is better than no plan at all.

    • popsiq

      There was a time after the last world war when most military, especially the losers, had learned the lesson that having a plan, and not being willing to use it was best practice.
      That lesson has been forgotten and we find ourselves working back toward another August 1914, when ‘the plan’ was all-important, and using it first led the world into a profound change.

  • paulus

    Any strategy that descends to armed conflict is by definition a defeat even if victory ensues.

    The cold war was not won by generals but by American labour and denim jeans.The trouble with military strategists is, they are limited by military strategy.

    The world is now moving to conflict and confrontation only if those with foresight choose a different path can it be averted.

  • Jebediah

    Complex adaptive systems are fundamentally unpredictable: The 2008 economic meltdown was missed by 99.9% of the world’s economists and financiers. The Arab spring was missed by 99.9% of the world’s politicians and strategists.
    All you can do in the face of massive events being missed is ensure you are sound, robust. In other words don’t run a deficit in a boom (Labour UK and others), don’t assume fragile political structures will remain intact (Middle East). In other words, be strong, watchful and ready, but don’t meddle in complex systems. No matter what you think you know the outcome will be otherwise.

    • popsiq

      Climate change will play an increasingly notable part in thwarting the grand strategies of the ‘imperially minded’. An annual disaster on the scale of a Katrina or a Sandy, or even a sustained tornado season like that we’ve been seeing recently,could ‘trim the sails’ of the best.

      An earthquake on the west coast or even Yellowstone going ‘pop’, could send America back into that ‘stone age’ into which she has been so fond of bombing others.

  • Nick

    When I hear the words American foreign policy,I automatically think……..Oh no.Another American war coming up.
    The yanks blunder around the world killing people and then wonder people fly aircraft into their buildings.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=695229082 Mohammed Noori

    For the chicken-hawks blasting this article as leftist propaganda, the author is a Vietnam veteran, a Catholic conservative and had a son who died in Iraq.

    So, go back to playing Call of Duty.

  • popsiq

    The generals should have representatives of corporate America at the RISK venue. After all most of US foreign policy is driven by the ‘needs’ or actions of BIG business. Or maybe they’re running that ‘show’ too.

  • promotis2

    And meanwhile the roads are crumbling, the bridges are falling, the electric grid is just hanging on, as the United States depends on the charity of others to sustain its economy. But what a picture you paint–an American general striding and prancing about the world as if he really can determint the destiny of that world, and of all mankind.. It’s madness.

  • johnproblem

    I’m sorry to attack ‘ad hominem’ but this man’s views are so ill considered that one is obliged to point out that the institute where he works is a kroc.

  • disqus_MXvdZr3AF7

    Next year it will be 100 years ago when a war started that replaced
    Great Britain by our USA as eventually the most powerful economic and military nation on Earth. It also started the concept of “Pax Americana” first of the Wilsonian variety which was a complete failure. Then of the FDR variety which has not been a huge success either.
    As von Clausewitz has so clearly stated, war itself is a political act. It is always preceded by political maneuvering. Hence strategic planning is primarily political and diplomatic planning and not military planning.
    Some years ago the FDR variety of Pax Americana was replaced by let’s say the Reagan variety even though that name is somewhat misleading. Its stated aim was to promote democracy around the globe. If that continues to be the aim of the new Pax Americana then one must compare aims with results. Thus far the results have not been terribly encouraging. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and even Egypt are hardly democracies and so are many states in Africa. Pakistan
    teeters on the brink of another military dictatorship. If Bacevitch posits that this is at least in part due to dumb assumptions of strategic military and political planning in Washington he may well be correct and it behooves his critics to rationally prove that he is wrong. Throwing epithets at him proves nothing but only demonstrates one’s poverty of thinking.

    • hogorina


      So much bureaucratic riff-raft in regard to watering down both

      sides of the welfare hordes in both America and Russia, until an updated

      politically loaded metamorphism takes hold addressed as gratuities. No

      doubt, Moscow and its subsidiaries are experiencing this ideal situation of

      economic trolling. This is a small world, so let us correlate allied

      nations, as global hunger is to be dealt with. No nation is an island now.

      Russia saved the West during WW11, especially England and its providence,


      Since the political ramifications of pervading hunger is reverting from the

      Oriental world down through eastern Europe, we must examine America’s

      plight, as emanating from illicit investors in control of the

      New York Stock Exchange. Too, through the issue of fiat monies by the

      Federal Reserve.

      The sane approach to economic consistency is to keep a borderline residue

      of surplus labor on hand nationwide, as a guardian of industrial freedom.

      Over production through less pay and longer hours have increased nationwide

      industrial serfdom through the weils of fascism. This economic disaster has

      increashed millions of workers to unacceptable poverty–a corrupt congress

      in alliance with PAC influences, along with Wall Street insiders, has

      crippled the nation’s labor supply. And now, the mob mentality becomes a

      threat as politically devised paupers.

      Of course, the key to unraveling this not-so-outrageous, but well

      comprehended quagmire, is to recognize this give away nourisment ( food ),

      is a major blight of political prostitution, in fronting for well-nested

      governmental gangsters that hold a menacing grip over helpless souls, of

      our nation. But then again, could the nation’s society co-exist between an

      upper level society vs growing pauperism, and a fraudulent interest

      system.No! Indeed, as open robbery of all productive wealth continues to

      furnish a feeding trough, and siphoned off in order to feed a professional

      parasitic class of leeches, breeding from exploited productive labor.

      Pauperism will continue to abound as labor is exploited, being palmed off

      at inflationary scams, as produce fall into economic control through

      criminals, in the echelons of national government.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ikram-Ghouri/100001284771243 Ikram Ghouri

    I don,t believe generals who are by birth fools and kill people for thwir sardistic nature.

  • http://www.facebook.com/johnstoj John Stoj

    I am in complete agreement with the last paragraph. The USA still has the capacity to be the most powerful nation on earth (for good or ill – mostly for good, but with plenty of ill thrown in, I think), and as such stands mainly in its own way.

  • http://www.facebook.com/SyG21 Simon Gothard

    I cannot agree that the Vietnam campaign was a blunder. It provided enough of a deterrent at the time to the Soviet Union. I also think that Communist China and it’s current bedfellows look long and hard at the slaughter of 50 years ago in South East Asia and it prevents some of their more potentially belligerent actions.

  • Jim Boswell

    “Quit symplifiying. Shut up.”…. one would think that strategists are forced to simplify, the art of course is choosing how and when and why. Otherwise the complexity of most strategic problems becomes unwieldy at the low end to incomprehensible at the high end. As far as “shut up”, what is this guy six years old?

    What he doesn’t do is talk about where we would be now, potentially, without our strategic forecasting and the corresponding decision sets that followed. For instance, if the U.S. had ignored Al Qaeda after 9/11 and left Afghanistan to itself? Where would we be? How many more 9/11 scale events would the U.S. have suffered through before adopting the same strategy? Unknowable of course, but clearly Al Qaeda had demonstrated the capacity for long term, complex and effective operational planning.

    If we had refused to intervene in Vietnam where would SE Asia be? Probably unknowable, but if PRC and USSR had had free hands their leadership may have made more extensive and successful investments in creating a bloc of SE Asia communist nations. Hard to say, but there are obviously potential outcomes that could make the post-Vietnam chaos and misery of SE Asia look like better choices for the U.S..

    Despite the flaws of U.S. Cold War strategy, so clear in hindsight with access to previously classified material from both sides, it was effective and eventually led to the downfall of the Communist party and the USSR. Yet the author, with access to the newly available insights, fails to explain what if anything the U.S. should have done differently. Why would embracing a multi-polar world for instance have been a better choice for the United States? The bi-polar model forced many potential fence-sitters to choose sides and choose ideology, a good outcome for U.S. strategists.

    On Iraq, is the author arguing that we “lost” in Iraq? I would argue that victory or defeat in Iraq is not clear at this point, unarguably the U.S. has accomplished many of its goals in Iraq successfully. Not as quickly or as easily as we or, apparently armchair strategists, would have liked but to the extent required. Iraq has a democratically elected government, Iraq does not have WMD or the capacity to produce WMD, and for the time being at least the major power blocs within Iraq have achieved stability and power-sharing.

    On the point of forecasting and strategy that the author seems to miss is the value of “vision”, it isn’t that leadership can “know” where we will be in say 10 or 20 years, but leadership must know where they want us to be. Even if we never get there, setting those goals and generating a shared vision of the future is absolutely invaluable. Think back to the beginning of the space race and JFK’s 1962 vision for America, was he right in all respects, did he fully comprehend what the space race would mean for America? NO, he didn’t, and that didn’t matter a whit, innumerable aspects of the current U.S. technological dominance can be traced back to him, to his vision for America.

    Probably the most egregious part of this article is that it tries to hang complete responsibility for U.S. strategy on military flag officers. Since when do Admirals and Generals make national political decisions? The fact that they offer advice, doesn’t mean that it is taken, ultimately U.S. strategic blunders and successes must be laid at the feet of our civilian leadership. Regardless of who is to blame, U.S. strategy would be much less satisfactory without the perspective and analysis provided by active duty military leadership.
    One doesn’t have to dig very deep to find numerous instances where U.S. political leadership makes it’s own strategic choices often against the advice of leading generals and admirals. On the Iraq war, how many men did the Army Chief of staff say we would need? In Kosovo who decided what the target would be and how we would use our military, who made the strategic decisions? In Vietnam who was choosing the pace of escalation, in fact choosing the targets personally? Political leadership of course in each and every case made the vital and sometimes troublesome choices.
    The point is that military leadership simply gives their best advice, it is often ignored, sometimes wisely, but sometimes not. Ultimately however, in the U.S. at least, responsibility lays with the political masters and their decisions.

  • hogorina


    Comment on Demonizing Alex Jones, CNN Urges ‘Move to the Middle’ on Gun

    Control by Hogorina (@Hogorita)Saturday, January 12, 2013 5:38 PMAMERICA


    WOW; An international syndicate of social engineering financial

    racketeers have finally accomplished a natural and long depressed

    disposition to drag the civilization of our Republic into the corrupted

    fangs of an international octopus, slivering amongst pre bought

    presidential panhandlers, scheming behind an inbred psycologically

    self-implanted nature, in concealing just what money is and its origin.

    Theoretically, currency expressed through paper, silver or coupons,

    credit cards or gold is worthless other than commercial use. However,

    for thousands of years gold was the most precious in controlling various

    nations and societies. In fact. the power of currency as to fueling the

    movement of goods and services world-wide is unique in that world

    nations can be controlled through financial marketeers, of whom

    collaborate with the some what newly established International Monetary

    Fund, in conniving various international exchange rates weekly, sit, in

    pricing gold, as professional swindlers, by being governed by several

    financial agents, being subjected to agents of the Bank of England and

    the U.S. Federal Reserve.

    This vast one-eyed banktster co-oporation keeps helpless nations in

    prevailing poverty via the interest ( USURY ) or ( INTEREST ) form of

    vice. These professional loan sharks, through cashiering productive

    states, plunder and rob unconsciously,with an absolute artificial

    conterfeit species. America is being crucified upon a literal cross of (

    GOLD ). These certified barbarians of lusting on others labors holds

    nations in financial bondage. Of course, our Republic is now run on (

    FIAT ) money.

    Reiterating that fiat moneys have no precious metal value at all, the

    conclusion demonstart American Primarily, the globe’s gold supply,

    over all, rests in peace at Fort Knox, KN. Gold backs up the American

    and British empire, in renting out their military deployment world

    wide. All countries accept goods and services in trading with various

    nations. Fiat moneys originated with our Congress and Britain’s

    Parliament. Gold is being hoarded in both America and England via the

    Rothschild banking networks. Together, both civilized nations have

    turned to imperialism. Rothschild is a pseudo paternal name. For sure,

    these collective revenue scavengers consider the above average

    individual, not in the house of their blood-sucking covey. to be

    nothing less that ( cattle ). In cahoots with these consciencelens

    financeers ( usurers ), all America is driven like one vast horde

    of wild animals under stress, to pay through the interest system,

    Organized usury.The banking system originated to control progressive

    civilizations through specific self-serving sycophants, in the field of

    political whoredom.

    Still, we are unable to establish when gold took over the ancient

    bartering nations of past millennials. But it is obvious ( FIAT ) moneys

    must be backed up. IT IS ! because citizens own homes and other

    property. Believe it or not, your fixed and fluid wealth is being stolen

    through outrageous taxation. This ownership is stolen from criminal

    taxation. It doesn’t take a robber to take property dishonestly, for tax

    collections are running them out of business. Any nation not falling in

    line with fiat currency is invaded and starved into submission.

    America has become a sewer for the globe’s humanoidistic revolutionary

    driftwood and from the pale of eastern Europe. The banking

    intelligentsia brings up the rear, in formatting ethnic dissenion and

    community solvency, through control of all and any press, or news

    outlet. We might say that the gold owners are forerunners of universal


    This ancient pseudo religious movement basis its

    inelluctable determination to sit

    up a so called ONE WORLD government. In essence, gold is only a means

    to an end. Absolutely, money lenders correlate metropolitics as the a

    network for financial entrenchment, in setting up the so-called city and


    manager organization. Here citizens are merely mobs, ( CATTLE ), in the

    hands of socializing specific areas of America, in furthering incipient

    socialism, by bringing into poverty well established middle-class

    productive elements via taxes, with inflationary funds to keep such

    subservients to gradually drag any elevated class into a state that has

    ties to international finance.

    The unlawful to tax is the power to destroy a nation. Gleaning back

    into the latter eighteen hundreds, we discover that the globe’s chief

    banksters met in Vienna, Austria. Here these agents of universal finance

    of global significance decided to bring Europe under the scope, in

    buying up France, Germany, the Netherlands and colonial assets of the

    British empire, in congealing the world’s gold supply.This gang brought

    America under its wings in the latter eighteen hundreds. And today, over

    taxed Americans have their heads in the ground, by supporting usury in a

    mad rush to finally wind up in a future that heralds a home-made


  • Julian Saramago

    Andrew makes some profound points in his article, and the discussions that ensued afterwards are often disjointed and passionate, but valuable. I would like to add that I disagree with Andrew’s “assertion” that somehow devising strategy or having a strategy (what Dempsey and others attempt to do) is somehow irrelevant. In the military, specifically, we must “simplify” the challenge to be able to manage it. Your statement “What I am asking from strategists is this: fess up to your failures.
    Acknowledge the limits of your predictive abilities. Quit simplifying.
    Shut up” is both inaccurate and shortsighted. Strategists/planners do fess up and acknowledge indeed that any strategy or plan is only good until the “first shot is fired”. There, we have acknowledged it.

    On the other hand, if we don’t make certain assumptions and simplify the challenge, we would be continuously in the reactive mode. That would be disastrous for the US and the global peace and security so many claim to want. It would be too late for America to do what is has been doing for about a century – to be the world’s peacemaker, even if though war.

    Strategy (good or bad) allows us to buy, manufacture, research, etc., the toys, capabilities, systems-of-systems, processes, etc., that we think we are going to need in order to address that challenge whenever it raises its ugly head. Is it perfect? No, it will never be, but I would venture most would agree that in most instances it gives as the necessary edge to overcome the challenge.

    Andrew, thanks for sharing your thoughts in this matter and generating a lot of good (and sometimes not so good) discussion.


  • hogorina


  • hogorina

    This is a spiritual
    war between ancient Esau the ( Red ), and his twin brother Jacob. God
    named Jacob ( Israel ). This spiritual struggle was revealed in the
    Garden of Eden. The serpent, Lucifer, in agreement with Eve, that this
    earthly struggle would be between his, (satins’ ) seed line and Eve’s.
    Please notice that conversation via Adam and the serpent was not
    Up until the present all sworn in presidents were compelled
    to lay their left hand upon the Old Testament, while holding their
    right hand into the air, while taking an oath. This actually gives a
    very subtle warning that Christ is left out. To day since the enemy has
    full control it is not necessary to mention any specific religion, since
    the ancient gods Moloch and Baal rule our national government.
    has become a melting pot for pseudo religious movements, of Oriental
    fundamentalism’s in an attempt to destroy whats left of christian
    Western civilization. Our Republic is now in the hands and influence of
    Idumea. This nation is of the roots of ancient Esau, the Red, Red
    Russia, –Bolshevism, is locked with horns between Obama and Premier
    Putin. Putin is attempting to stay away from pseudo democracy, as being
    spread world-wide by the loans to Third- World nations through the
    International Monetary Fund. This machine is a tool of the United
    Nations Organization.
    So we learn that we are in a spiritual war, not
    materialist conception. War and political whoredom are methods to carry
    on ancient Esau’s determination to make war upon any nation or
    religious promulgation, that brings to light God’s worst enemy. God
    says: I loved Jacob, but I have hated Esau! In the last days God implies
    that this gang of satanic misgivings with be burned as a stubble!
    says that his seed line is of Shem, oldest son of Noah–He, God, knows
    His children, and no one cannot pluck them from his hands. The United
    Nations Organizations is an opponent of God. All is huff and bluff, when
    mud people, globalized financial gangsters, in the spirit of looting
    the world’s helpless populations, seek revelation from the depths of
    hell in order to grind down God’s people in carrying on a spirit of
    hatred, for taking a stand in order to drag the globe’s inarticulate
    herds down a global road of darkness, right into the arms of
    international socialism!