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Old 09-11-2013, 07:03   #1
Richard
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Approaching the Study of War and Warfare

The CDR MCOE's (former USAIS) thoughts on why context is so important when studying military history.

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Studying War and Warfare
MG HR McMaster, 11 Sep 2013
Part 1 of 2

I would like to thank Nate Finney for extending an opportunity to participate in this forum. I value and admire the significant contributions that the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum offers our profession. DEF’s role in fostering innovation and creativity is important. I thought that I might offer a few thoughts on how we might improve our understanding of war and warfare.

Approaching the Study of War and Warfare

The best approach to studying war and warfare is found in historian Sir Michael Howard’s 1961 seminal essay on how military professionals should develop what Clausewitz described as their own “theory” of war. First, to study in width: To observe how warfare has developed over a long historical period. Next to study in depth: To study campaigns and explore them thoroughly, consulting original sources and applying various theories and interdisciplinary approaches. This is important, he observed, because as the “tidy outline dissolves,” we “catch a glimpse of the confusion and horror of real experience.” And lastly to study in context. Wars and warfare must be understood in context of their social, cultural, economic, human, moral, political, and psychological contexts because as Sir Michael observed “the roots of victory and defeat often have to be sought far from the battlefield.” And Professor Howard also reminded us that the purpose of such an approach to the study of military history and our profession ought not to focus on making “us cleverer for the next time,” but instead to help make us “wise forever.”

To develop understanding in “width, depth, and context,” we must be active learners dedicated to self-study and self-critique. Yet, increasing our understanding of war and our profession does not mean that we should read and think about our profession on our own. Discussion and debate with others will further our understanding of war and warfare by exposing us to different perspectives and interpretations. Discussing ideas with fellow officers and leaders will help us consider how what we learn applies to our responsibilities. This is why forums such as the DEF are important. We must debate key issues, challenge our assumptions, and refine our thinking.

Participative intellectual activity is critical to the “Self-Development Domain” of our Army’s leader development efforts. And the self-development domain is as important as the Operational Domain (unit training and operational experience) and the Institutional Domain (official Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps schools) in helping leaders prepare for the challenges of the 21st century. Guided self-study and lively debates help military professionals reflect on their experiences and place those experiences into context.

Understanding the Context—and the Continuities—of War

American military leaders—from George Washington, to Winfield Scott, to Alfred Thayer Mahan, to Dwight D. Eisenhower, to Matthew Ridgway, to Hamilton Howze, to Donn Starry, and to Frederick Franks—supplemented their formal learning through active reading, study, and reflection. In 1901, the father of the Army War College, Secretary of War Elihu Root, commented on “the great importance of a thorough and broad education for military officers,” due to the “rapid advance of military science; changes of tactics required by the changes in weapons; our own experience in the difficulty of working out problems of transportation, supply, and hygiene; the wide range of responsibilities which we have seen devolving upon officers charged with the civil government of occupied territory; the delicate relations which constantly arise between military and civil authority.” Thus, Root wrote, there was a “manifest necessity that the soldier, above all others, should be familiar with history.”[1]

Such historical and professional perspective (and debate) allows leaders to understand the character of a particular conflict, informs grounded projections of how armed conflict in general is likely to evolve, and helps leaders understand the complex interactions between military, political, and social factors that influence the situation in war. Because leaders cannot turn back time once war occurs; they must develop an understanding of war and warfare before they enter the field of battle. As nineteenth century Prussian philosopher of war, Carl von Clausewitz, observed, the study of war and warfare “is meant to educate the mind of the future commander, or, more accurately, to guide him in his self education, not to accompany him to the battlefield; just as a wise teacher guides and stimulates a young man’s intellectual development, but is careful not to lead him by the hand for the rest of his life.”[2] Clausewitz continued, that leaders should use their knowledge of war and warfare to “to analyze the constituent elements of war, to distinguish precisely what at first sight seems fused, to explain in full the properties of the means employed and to show their probable effects, to define clearly the nature of the ends in view, and to illuminate all phases of warfare in a thorough critical inquiry.”[3]

The enduring complexities and uncertainties of war demand that military professionals must make a special effort to develop our expertise and understanding through study, discussion and debate. For example, many of the recent difficulties we have encountered in strategic decision-making, operational planning, and force development have stemmed, at least in part, from the neglect of the neglect of historical perspective and the enduring nature of war or critical continuities in war and warfare. If we neglect the nature of war, we neglect what Clausewitz identified as “the first of all strategic questions,” regarding war as “something autonomous” rather than “an instrument of policy,” misunderstanding “the kind of war on which we are embarking,” and trying to turn war into “something that is alien to its nature.”[4]

Military professionals, through their study of war and warfare in width, depth, and context as well as through discussion and debate in a variety of forums can help underscore important continuities that must be a part of our thinking about war and warfare:

First, war is political. As von Clausewitz observed, “war should never be thought of as something autonomous but always as an instrument of policy.” In the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War, defense thinking was hijacked by a fantastical theory that considered military operations as ends in and of themselves rather than just one of several instruments of power that must be aligned to achieve sustainable strategic goals. Advocates of the “Revolution in Military Affairs” (RMA) predicted that advances in surveillance, communications and information technologies, along with precision strike weapons, would overwhelm any opponent. When we look at the complications we experienced in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is apparent at how wrong such thinking was. In fact, professionals must be skeptical of ideas and concepts that divorce war from its political nature. And skepticism is particularly appropriate concerning theories that promise fast, cheap, and efficient victories through the application of advanced military technologies.

Second, war is human. People fight today for the same fundamental reasons that the Greek historian Thucydides identified nearly 2500 years ago: fear, honor, and interest. The orthodoxy of defense transformation, however, dehumanized the nature of war. In Iraq and Afghanistan, gaining an appreciation of the fears, interests, and sense of honor among their internal communities was critical to move those communities toward political accommodations. In fact, the cultural, social, economic, religious, and historical considerations that comprise the human dimension of war must inform wartime planning as well as our preparation for future armed conflict.

Third, war is an uncertain contest of wills. War’s political and human nature place armed conflict squarely in the realm of uncertainty. The dominant assumption of the RMA, however, was that that knowledge would be the key to victory in future war. Near-perfect intelligence would enable precise military operations within a realm of certainty. In Afghanistan and Iraq, planning based on linear projections did not account for enemy adaptations or the evolution of those conflicts in ways that were difficult to predict at the outset. In fact, war remains fundamentally uncertain due to factors that lie outside the reach of information and surveillance technologies. Moreover, war’s uncertainly and non-linearity are results of war’s political and human dimensions as well as the continuous interaction with determined, adaptive enemies. In addition, all wars are contests of wills that unleash unpredictable psychological dynamics.
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Old 09-11-2013, 07:04   #2
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Studying War and Warfare
MG HR McMaster, 11 Sep 2013
Part 2 of 2

Conclusion

As military professionals, we share a moral and professional obligation to seek criticism and refine our thinking—in an entrepreneurial spirit—through rigorous debate. Engaging in forums and conferences such as the DEF is critical to developing our best military thinking. Intellectual participation helps military professionals develop the expertise that is a pillar of our profession. Debates and discussions help junior leaders develop an appreciation for leadership at the operational, joint, and strategic levels so they can place the actions of small units in context of war aims as well as develop their ability to provide analysis and advice to senior military and civilian leaders on matters of policy and strategy. As General Albert C. Wedemeyer noted while a student at the German staff college between the World Wars of the twentieth century, “An indomitable will and broad military knowledge, combined with a strong character, are attributes of the successful leader. He must have a clear conception of tactical principles and their application. Only by continual study of military history and of the conduct of war with careful attention to current developments can the officer acquire the above stated attributes of leadership.”[5]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[1] Elihu Root, General Correspondence to the United States Congress, 1901 (Manuscript Division, Library of Congress), Washington D.C., 2011, available at http://www.loc.gov/rr/mss/address.html

[2]Carl Von Clausewitz, On War, Edited and Translated by Michael Howard and Peter Paret, Princeton University Press, 1989. pg. 141

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., 88-89.

[5] GEN Albert C. Wedemeyer Wedemeyer on War and Peace, Edited by Keith E. Eiler, Hoover Press, 1987, 5.

http://def2013.com/studying-war-and-warfare/
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Old 09-12-2013, 06:44   #3
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Good read. Gives exactly enough insight on how a professional creates a learned mind through study of war. I'll be reflecting on this for a while as I finish up reading Max Boot's "Invisible Armies".

Thank you, Sir.
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Old 09-12-2013, 19:47   #4
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Very, very good post Bro!

In light of the history of our failings in the Middle East, I have been meaning to re-read von Clausewitz On War. It has been nagging at me that we have misaligned military objectives with the intrinsic nature of war to affect policy.

MG McMaster said as much. He also calls into question the thinking behind the use of drones and cruise missiles as a strategic weapons. You can throw in limited air strikes into that category too. Now, where have I heard that proposed recently?

The other point I found interesting is the emphasis on the human domain. This was recently discussed elsewhere and is a point of emphasis for the SOF mission as being defined by ADM McRaven.

Good stuff right there Richard!
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Old 09-13-2013, 05:47   #5
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Originally Posted by Brush Okie View Post
Great post Richard!

I would like to see more posts related to this type of thing from you.

If you don't think it is off topic in light of these lessons I would like to discuss the application of this theory in the modern world since it is very relevant today. The relationship between the politics of war and the warfighters ie the application of military force.

While there is no definite right answer for every issue, how do you feel we could better integrate our political arm, economic power and potential with our military to bring our country back up to where we should be?

Also while isolationism is not possible in today's world, do you believe we should continue to take the lead in being the world police or let some other countries take the lead at times and focus on more on domestic affairs even if it means loss of some influence on the world politics?

Last but not least, do you believe that we have over reached with our military like the Romans did to the point that it has actually weakened our security instead of making it stronger?

While we may disagree on issues at times I find your point of view interesting and it makes me think my points of view through more.
Richard already started this. So, let us (I mean all of us) continue the dialog. BO, you posed some good questions - what is your opinion on those questions?

1. Is there misalignment of political, economic policy and the use of military force?

2. Are we over-reaching and if so what are the consequences?

3. Could we actually take a more "isolationist" approach? I like the word restrained instead of isolationist.

I would be very interested to read your thinking on these question. Richard already did the heavy lifting here. Your turn
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Old 09-13-2013, 07:05   #6
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I know you directed the questions to Richard but in the spirit of Trapper's encouragement to continue the discussion, I have a few thoughts that may or may not be worth the pixels.....

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Originally Posted by Brush Okie View Post
........ how do you feel we could better integrate our political arm, economic power and potential with our military to bring our country back up to where we should be?
The idea of integrating politics with the military strikes an image of Soviet political officers in military units. I don't see integrating politics into the military as a good thing at all.

By integrating economic power and potential, do you mean to spend more on defense?
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Old 09-14-2013, 04:21   #7
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Quote:
Sir Michael Howard’s 1961 seminal essay ....
The essay mentioned in the OP is:

Michael Howard, "The Use and Abuse of Military History," Royal United Services Institute Journal, 107:625 (1962). This version is behind a paywall and is available here.

The essay was originally given as a lecture of that same title at the RUSI on 18 October 1961. AFAIK, it has been reprinted twice. First, in the March 1981 issue of Parameters. This version is available here. Second, in Michael Howard, The Causes of Wars and other essays (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983), pp. 188-197.

An aside. While MG McMaster uses the last several pages of Professor Howard's essay as the spring board to his own piece, I think the preceeding sections of the essay are of equal, if not greater, importance. The earlier portions of Howard's essay address the continuing tension among (a) the study of professional academic history, (b) the study of military history, and (c) the practice of the art of warfare. While (b) and (c) push towards a utilitarian approach to the past that allows for "lessons learned," historiographical developments in (a) raise enduring questions about the sustainability of a "lessons of history" approach to the past.
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The idea of integrating politics with the military strikes an image of Soviet political officers in military units. I don't see integrating politics into the military as a good thing at all.
I would suggest that the integration of politics with military operations is unavoidable in the era of modern warfare. Countries simply cannot consider the military effectiveness of a proposed course of action without balancing the political consequences of that path. This consideration is necessary because modern warfare requires significant contributions from the combatants' civilian populations. If these populations do not endorse a proposed course of action and political and military leaders insist, disaster may follow.

Perhaps the danger from an intermixing of political calculations with military decision making does not stem from the practice itself, but rather the ideology of the practioners. For example, the Confederate States of America could not put into place plans to emanicpate and to arm enslaved Americas because a critical mass of Southerners believed that such a policy would undermine the central war aim: the preservation and perpetuation of slavery in North America.

Governor, Zebulon Vance (D-N.C.)--apparently unaware of the forthcoming decades of apologistic and revisionstic claims that the Civil War was simply about states' rights--clearly stated this commitment to slavery in his message to the General Assembly at the beginning of the 1864-1865 session.
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Under no circumstances would I consent to see them [slaves] armed, which I would regard not only dangerous in the extreme, but as less degrading only than their employment in this capacity by our enemies. . . . This course would, it seems to me, surrender the entire question which has ever seperated the North from the South, would stultify ourselves in the eyes of the world, and render our whole revolution nugatory. . . . Our independence I imagine is chiefly desirable for the preservation of our great political institutions the principal of which, is slavery; and it is only to be won by the blood of white freemen.*
In part because of CSA's commitment to a despotic caste system centered around race and gender, its manpower disadvantage became increasingly pronounced as the war progressed. Conversely, while the United States remained a slave society throughout the war, its leadership and a critical mass of Americans (free and unfree, in the North and in the South) could find ways to link the GOP's political goals to military strategy and operations.


__________________________________________
* Zebulon Vance, Governor's Message, n.d., document number 1, Session 1864-65, North Carolina Executive and Legislative Documents, 1864, 1865, 1866 (Raleigh: n.p., n.d.), page 12.
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Old 09-14-2013, 06:28   #8
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Sigaba - I was hoping you would post on this thread. Always a good and thoughtful read from you. I am on my way out of town, but I am going to read and think about this. Back to you later.

You might want to wander over to the thread Richard posted "War decisions rightfully belong to the civilian leadership..." A related topic.
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Old 09-14-2013, 08:21   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sigaba View Post
I would suggest that the integration of politics with military operations is unavoidable in the era of modern warfare. Countries simply cannot consider the military effectiveness of a proposed course of action without balancing the political consequences of that path. This consideration is necessary because modern warfare requires significant contributions from the combatants' civilian populations. If these populations do not endorse a proposed course of action and political and military leaders insist, disaster may follow.
I would also argue that it is of equal importance to consider both the political and military consequencs of any allied host nation populations, along with those of the intended target nation(s), as well. The Army does recognize this with its use of specialty-trained, regionally oriented Officers as PolMil advisors to senior joint and combined staffs (CMF 48 Foreign Area Officer ) as well as its SOF aligned Civil Affairs (CMF 38) Command.

There are three broad functional categories for Army officers:

1. Maneuver, Fires & Effects (MF&E)
2. Operations Support
3. Force Sustainment

In support of Army operations, CMF 38 is considered in the MF&E functional area and CMF 48 is in the the OpsSpt functional category.

Civil Affairs Officers act as a liaison between the Army and civilian authorities and populations in an effort to facilitate relationships between U.S. military forces and the people of the nation(s) in which those forces are operating.

Foreign Area Officers fill positions which require the application of foreign area expertise, political-military awareness, foreign language proficiency, and professional military knowledge and experience with military activities having an economic, social, cultural, or political impact - attaches; security assistance officers; political-military operations, plans, and policy officers; political-military intelligence staff officers; and liaison officers to foreign military organizations - and require graduate-level degrees in area studies and completion of overseas regional training.

It's a highly interactive global culture out there; always has been, but greater today and looks to be even more so in the future with, as Sig stated, the integration of politics with military operations remaining an unavoidable facet of policies where such operations are deemed useful or necessary.

In light of such thinking, something to be considered might be why is the Army the only service which has such a formalized program (CMF 48) and the Navy and Air Force do not?

Richard
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Old 09-16-2013, 06:21   #10
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Is Cyber War Really War?

An interesting question, IMO.

http://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/201...lsO/story.html

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One of the most alarming visions of modern warfare, and one high on the Pentagon’s list of worries, is a catastrophic digital attack. For all we know, it could be heading for us right now.
Also, in this same vein, consider the use of drone warfare. Does technology depersonalize war and warfare to the point of becoming a video game? What implications does this have; does technology make it far to easy to "wage war"? Is it war at all? If so, then would not economic sanctions be a tactic in "economic war"? Aren't economic sanctions the modern equivalent of laying siege? Have we evolved to the point that the use of military force only one tool for waging war?

Just some questions that have been rattling around in the ol' noodle.
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Old 09-18-2013, 11:06   #11
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Cyber War and The World

As a Civilian now, I have an interesting job that crosses back and forth with Government Regulatory Agencies, Homeland Security, and Policy Makers. Part of our work involves identifying, auditing, and hardening of our locations. Included is the ever present, real time/ ongoing cyber-attacks to all of our networks.

Though my duties are specific to personnel security/ PSD work, I have an eye and ear on the "threat" scenarios. Of note is that the vast majority of government people involved in the analysis have no military experience. Those that do, only one or two have a combat arms background. Some of this is reflected in our top military leadership.

Significant is the way the government types view "War Fighting" and what roles the military will participate in. The "digital warrior" mentality is pervasive in everyone's thinking and planning.

Evident is the post-Gulf War (Desert Storm) train of thought that our military will be used to intervene in any conflict around the world. The idea that our military is our prime means of defense to these United States is missing.

Another alarming trend we will see is the US Military will be faced with Global Clean Up, or a Rapid Deployment Haz Mat operation. Look no further than Navy's advertisements : GLOBAL FORCE FOR GOOD. What is THAT?!?!

We have come a long way since facing off against the Nazis.

Our military is stretched way too thin. More alarming is the actual number of "men" in combat line units. When I joined in 1988, we had three full squads and a headquarters section in a line platoon, ,upwards of 35-40 men. Three line platoons per company, four line companies per battalion, etc. Today, that squad has nine men and only six are dismounts, if at full strength. There are only two line platoons, and the numbers overall are smaller.

The reliance on technology is insane. Boots on the ground. Men to carry the load.

The technology side is a huge push by the civilian leadership and the defense contractors, as our fighting forces can stay inside armored vehicles, farther away from the enemy forces. The risks they associate with men actually getting killed have diminished (in their view), so they are more likely to include the military in their planning for operations around the world, when they develop policy and courses of action. Same trends infect the increased use of drones. No one gets their hands dirty. Fly a drone, launch a missile or three, off to the D.C. bars to enjoy happy hour.

Sadly, our enemies still understand the reasons they fight. Ideological and political, they will continue on after the last toast at the club.
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Old 10-02-2013, 05:59   #12
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Although the article focuses on Syria - it arguably fits in with the two previous posts on cyber war.

A “S.E.A.-Change” in Military Contingency Planning
BY PAUL ROSENZWEIG
New Republic
SECURITY STATES
OCTOBER 1, 2013

Is America at risk from a counter-strike by Syria if it launched a military attack against Syria's chemical weapons? Yes—but not in the traditional way. A Syrian response would likely be of a different, asymmetric cyber form. And that’s a whole new way of thinking about war and contingencies.

For the past several weeks American leaders have been considering a military strike in Syria (a possibility that seems to have faded in recent days). Lurking behind the controversy and debate about whether that sort of strike would be good policy is a problem that must be driving military planners to distraction—America is no longer immune. Any decision to launch missiles at Syrian chemical weapons targets must incorporate an answer to the question—what will Syria do in response?

It used to be that when military planners considered questions like that, the answer was modest derision, at best. What, after all, could Syria (or most other countries) do to threaten America?

When, in 1998, the United States launched Tomahawk missiles into Sudan, it assuredly was worried about the diplomatic consequences of its actions. But that was all. Bombs in Sudan were not going to result in bombs falling on New York City. For that matter, even when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, Americans could be confident that military action would be limited to the Middle East. Iraq couldn’t strike at America directly.

Likewise, when Israeli warplanes destroyed an Iraqi nuclear plant in 1981, and when they destroyed a nascent Syrian reactor in 2007, the government no doubt had to consider a number of contingencies for reactions by Iraq, Syria, and the world. They might, for example, have worried that their ally, the United States, would take retaliatory diplomatic action against them. And they might have considered whether their military action would generate a terrorist response from Syria’s allies in Lebanon.

But in none of these cases did either Israel or America need to give significant consideration to the contingency of a military response from their opponents. The disparity in military strength (along, in the case of the US, with geographic distance) made a military counterattack essentially impossible. Both countries could, in effect, strike at military targets with near impunity.

That’s not true anymore.

As it plans strikes in Syria, the Administration has to consider whether groups like the Syrian Electronic Army (S.E.A.) can execute effective cyber counterstrikes here in the United States. The S.E.A. has been described as a “collective of pro-[Bashir al-]Assad hackers and online activists” who operate with the support of the Syrian regime (if not its actual connivance). It is easy to overstate the problem and speak apocalyptically of the capabilities of the S.E.A. But it would also be unwise to dismiss them as a non-existent threat.

When they first came on the scene, the S.E.A. hacked into Twitter and Facebook accounts, so that it could publish fake news about the conflict in Syria. And it sometimes engaged in DDoS attacks on the web pages of opponents of the Syrian government. [A DDoS attack is a Distributed Denial of Service attack—it involves an automated massive flooding of a website with malicious traffic. So much that legitimate traffic is crowded out and the website is, effectively, taken off line. It’s a bit like hitting a website with a fire hose ….]. While demonstrating some capability, most experts saw these as relatively unsophisticated attacks.

In recent months, however, the S.E.A. has seemed to get better—quite a bit better. In August 2013, for example, the S.E.A. hijacked the New York Times web page. How they did it is a lesson in the new asymmetry of conflict in cyberspace.

<snip>

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/1...gency-planning
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Old 03-30-2022, 07:22   #13
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ISW article 2010

An interesting broad stroke article concerning Centcom POV and political realities, assumptions, and assessments of the current state of affairs then.

Quote:
And that has enabled them to then expand their already considerable influence beyond just the security arena, but ever more greatly into the economic arena and even into the diplomatic arena. You know, in the middle of the battle with the militia in March and April of 2008, a message was conveyed to me by a very senior Iraqi leader from the head of the Qods Force, Kassim Suleimani, whose message went as follows.
He said, General Petraeus, you should know that I, Kassim Suleimani, control the policy for Iran with respect to Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza, and Afghanistan. And indeed, the ambassador in Baghdad is a Qods Force member. The individual who's going to replace him is a Qods Force member.
https://www.understandingwar.org/sit...TRANSCRIPT.pdf
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Old 04-04-2022, 17:45   #14
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If the Viet Nam war was the first war to enter the household, via the ubiquities’
of the then MSM, the evening news, which arguably created the opposition to the war in Viet Nam and the antiwar movement of the 1960’s, the war in Ukraine is the
first war, that has capitalized on the full spectrum of a matured worldwide
accessible social media platform.

The connectivity, whose roots are firmly entrenched in the successful mirrored 60’s opposition, is the genesis 50 years of uninterrupted innovation, and lodestone for Ukraine.

What we are experiencing now, in real time, is the death of war by choice. It may
not happen in the next decade, but there is a distinct qualifier that war can no
longer be a personal action, or a state action, arguing harm outside the world forum.

A case in point would be USA after 9/11. Whereas, Iraq, in hindsight, the WMD false
flag campaign, would face serious opposition in today’s MSM ability to factually
link cause to action.

The war will be a rich mine for researchers interested in everything from leadership
studies to resiliency in conflict, armament, logistics, and all that is the
human experience in difficult times.

But, make no mistake, war as we have known it, these past 100 years, executed as
Putin has, will not be part of our grandchildren’s future, the real timeliness of information and destruction at your fingertips, negates tyrants, who can only operate/function in the the non-exposed. That, no longer exist.

YMMV
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Old 04-04-2022, 18:50   #15
cbtengr
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Penn View Post

But, make no mistake, war as we have known it, these past 100 years, executed as
Putin has, will not be part of our grandchildren’s future, the real timeliness of information and destruction at your fingertips, negates tyrants, who can only operate/function in the the non-exposed. That, no longer exist.

YMMV
I so pray that you are correct, what is taking place in Ukraine is beyond comprehension to me. This is not about Putin's army whipping the other guys army. Does the world as a whole have what it takes to hold Putin and his military responsible for what has taken place?
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