My Photo

« Jimmy Nada Is A Dead Man | Main | Steve Gilliard, 1966-2007 »

June 02, 2007

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d834515c2369e200df351cda668833

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Tough month:

Comments

Anyway, I thought I'd get this out in the open.

I, for one, appreciated it.

[C]ollectively, the American people were willing to accept those sacrifices. Not so the current conflict.

Because the current conflict isn't WWII, nor WWIII. Despite tireless efforts to paint the Iraq War/Occupation as a titanic clash with Western Civilization at stake, Americans recognize that it is no such thing, and therefore not worth the blood and gold it's cost already, much less any more of either.

If the US leaves now, there will horrendous suffering as the civil war continues.

If the US leaves five years from now, there will be horrendous suffering as the civil war continues.

Meanwhile, the military is buckling, the National Guard is unable to do its necessary work here at home, and Generals past and present are saying we just can't keep doing this.

It's time to swallow pride, give up illusions, and start withdrawing our troops in an orderly fashion... before even that option is closed off.

Did you think Iraq/Saddam had "large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons" in early 2003 when the UN inspectors were running around the country, pretty much unobstructed, and not finding any of them?

I can see how someone might believe in the reported intelligence pre-2003, that there were WMDs. But not after Hans Blix took over.

What was your thinking on the WMD issue in, say, early March of 2003?

Good post, Charles, in a number of ways.

I have to ask about this, though: "Removing Saddam would've been okay by me anytime after he violated the first of the dozen or so binding UNSC resolutions."

It's not my impression that you believe that the U.S. government and/or a coalition, or a UN force, should invade and overthrow the government of every nation thaat violates a UN Security Council resolution, or even when a government has violated a number. (I'll run through a list of governments I've not noticed you declaring should be overthrown, if you like, to see if this is correct.)

So if you could clarify a bit more specifically what your criteria are for invasion and overthrowing, that might give considerably more insight into your thinking.

"In retrospect, when Bush 41 launched his coalition-building efforts in the run-up to the Gulf War, he should have pushed for Saddam's removal as one of the primary objectives. But it was a tough call to weigh the risk of fewer coalition members and a removed Saddam, or more coalition members and Saddam still in power. Looking back on it, the former choice may have been better long-term."

As I understand it, it seems fairly close to a sure thing that this would have lost us the support of Saudi Arabia, and the other Arab states. Which would have made the invasion impossible, of course, unless we were going to fight Saudi Arabia, as well.

I might be over-estimating the degree of their opposition, perhaps.

"That Iraq turned the corner. Not long before the four contractors were murdered in Fallujah in April 2004±, I wrote at Tacitus that Iraq had turned the corner. Boy, was I wrong."

It's good that you can write this, and I'm glad you did, as well as many of your other admissions of error. The more easily any and all of us can relax ourselves about admitting error, the better off we all are.

We all make errors, being human, and we are all served by learning from our errors -- which we can't begin to do without the first step, which is recognizing the error.

So there's never any shame in error, per se. The problem arises with the degree of how stupid we may appear, or fear we may appear, depending on the degree of the error, and then is compounded by the next stage: how invested we've become by the degree of vehemence we've put into defending our error.

This degree of vehemence tends to be as much affected by pride, and emotion, and who is challenging us, and how they are challenging us, and our emotional reaction if we feel offended or insulted or angry or prideful, and through all the other emotional parts of our response as it does our rational consideration of how sure and our point really is.

That's also part of being human.

So most of us tend to feel some degree -- often an extremely high, or sometimes even overwhelmingly high, degree of resistance to admitting error, or sometimes, perhaps, even to reconsidering our views.

And, of course, our views always seem eminently defensible and sensible to us -- but less so to others, who don't have the same knowledge sets, and information input points, and set of emotional filters, and background context, and so on and so forth. Not to mention that we understand what we meant by our words perfectly well, but may not put them down on the screen in a way that is perfectly clear to every reader.

So good for you for admitting a bunch of errors.

But now a few specific points. ;-)

"Chastened by that, in subsequent posts I have purposely refrained from phrases such as 'we are winning' or 'we've turned the corner', etc. I've tried to temper my posts by acknowledging that there are plenty of challenges out there."

A key point behind much of the remaining friction between you and some others here, on Iraq, however, has been that while on some matters, you've been uncontroversial, on others you've been careful to refrain from certain phrases, but have still held to the attitudes and beliefs behind the phrases, which is to say that you've still, at times -- though less as time has worn on -- written about Iraq as if turning points may have been reached, or are about to be reached, or are what your present position is, as I understand it -- that it's entirely plausible that the turning point at least might be reached in another few months, and so we must support the effort to test out whether we'll get there in just another few months.

In the old days, we called this "seeing light at the end of the tunnel." You still see light at the end of the tunnel. Or at least you think it's plausible that real soon now, that light might come into view, so walking down that tunnel is still the right way to go.

Others have been trying to pull the train into reverse for some time now, some only recently, some less recently, and some back to before the war (of whom I was not one), with more credit to those than any.

Anyway, that's been a continuing source of friction, though doubtless that's already clear to you. My point was that just being careful about a few phrases -- while a wise step -- only gets you so far.

I'll leave addressing other stuff for later, because now my toothache on the right really is acting up, and I can't focus. Owwie.

Good stuff.

I also think the '03 WMD question is very important.


A quibble:
"I was baffled by Bremer's decision to fire the Iraqi army."

I think this is on the WH.

"This sentence. "Improvements to our strategy and tactics can surely be made, but success ultimately depends on our will to prevail, nothing more" (cite). I bring it up because I'm sure someone else would have done so if I didn't. I still agree with the sentence. With sufficient commitment to victory, the leaders will find a way to prevail, and do what it takes to make it so."

This remains a huge problem. What makes you think that your last sentence is true?

Haven't lots of utterly committed leaders of nations, innumerable ones throughout history, lost wars, or found themselves unable to impose their will over a conquered land? Is there something unique about American that prevents this from happening to America, and its leaders? Has it never happened to America before? Or was that just because we, and everyone else with great material power, didn't have enough will and commitment to win?

Or what?

Did [GODWIN] not have enough "will to prevail"?

Thanks for explaining your perspective Charles.

Yes, I thought Saddam had large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons

There's something I don't get. Let's say Iraq did have large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. Why would that bother you?

Chemical weapons are not especially effective. If the wind isn't right, they are as likely to kill you as the enemy. Mostly though, they just disperse. In any event, they are very dangerous to synthesize and deploy. In terms of dollar cost, they're less effective than conventional munitions. So why are they such a big deal to you? Why are they any worse than fuel air bombs or cluster bombs?

Have you noticed that the Aum Shinri Kyo subway attack in Japan killed shockingly few people given the time, money, and expertise that went into it?

Biological weapons are even worse. Smart armies and terrorists don't field bio weapons. They're expensive and unpredictable. What precisely is the bio weapon scenario that made you though Iraq was especially dangerous? Did you really think that Iraq could ever deploy a highly infectious organism without suffering from its effects?


Also, for me, WMDs weren't casus belli.

Then why would you ever talk about them? His mustache probably wasn't a casus belli either...

Removing Saddam would've been okay by me anytime after he violated the first of the dozen or so binding UNSC resolutions.

Interesting. I was unaware of your fondness for the UNSC. How many UNSC resolutions would Israel have to violate before we should have to overthrow the Israeli government? I ask in all seriousness.

In my view, he himself was a weapon of mass destruction, and he provably demonstrated that he was not a person who could be trusted.

This is rather strange view. I deal with people who have demonstrated that they cannot be trusted all the time; that's why I sign contracts with them when I do business. If I knew I could trust them, I wouldn't need the force of law backing up my commercial dealings. Do you believe that the US can only work with "trustworthy" politicians abroad?


There were workable plans for rebuilding Iraq, but the administration (from Bush on down) didn't put them into practice.

What plans were they? Can you point to any of them? Did you know the contents of the plans when the war started? Or did you only decide much later that the plans were "workable"?

CB, before I go into my questions or disagreements, let me first state that I really appreciate this post. It is not easy to admit errors in judgement.

My major disagreement is that you abviously still believe that the actual going into Iraq was okay, well I have always been against it. And so that you don;t think I am just some pacifist nutcake or AQ sympathizer, I was fully behind the Afgah mission. In fact, that is one (though to some degrees the least) of the reasons I was against going into Iraq.

It was obvious to me that we had not finished the job and were (to some degree illegally) pullng support out of Afghanistan to go after Saddam.

I felt at the time that Saddam was a toothless tiger and even if he did have WMDs (and I thought he might have a limited supply) he was no threat to anyone outside the borders of Iraq. I also believed, as I have found out others have come to the conclusion, that he was actually a stabilizing influence in the ME and by goin in we were stirring up a hornet's nest we weren't equipped to handle.

Although there has been plenty of incompetence, this cannot all be placed on that fact. The mission was virtually impossible from the start, if part of the goal was a western-style democracy. Especially if trying to institute it at the point of a gun. That doesn't work.

And Afghanistan is not an appropriate example, since 1) we have never held a gun at the head of Karzai and 2) the prognosis at this moment is very guarded.

Also, and CaseyL pointed this out already, WWII is not an appropriate comparison either. In that situation we were actually fighting people that attacked us and that not had global domination in their minds, but also a actual possibility of achieving it. Saddam had neither and AQ lacks the latter.

But these are criticisms of concepts and approaches, not of you. I appreciate that you have avoided all the trigger phrases that have upset people in the past. Although I do believe Bush has turned into the best firend AQ ever had, I would not accuse you of being the same just because you did support him and/or his objectives for a long time. I have never doubted your sincerity.


I thought I'd get this out in the open.

These misjudgements have been out in the open.

What I and others here appreciate is your stepping up to take responsibility for them; it can't be easy. Thanks.

What was your thinking on the WMD issue in, say, early March of 2003?

I thought Saddam had them somewhere, Quiddity, mostly because there was so much unaccounted for. After the war, when the group that was searching for WMDs came up empty, the evidence looked pretty clear that large stockpiles did not exist, and then David Kay put the whole matter to rest.

It's not my impression that you believe that the U.S. government and/or a coalition, or a UN force, should invade and overthrow the government of every nation thaat violates a UN Security Council resolution...

True, Gary, but in the case of Iraq, the Gulf War never really ended, at least that's how I see it.* After the war, you had the same untrustworthy character in Saddam who invaded two neighboring countries and had a history of developing and using weapons of mass destruction. An Iraq without Saddam (and therefore without sanctions) could very well have been a better place for Iraqis, the Middle East and the rest of the world, but of course we'll never know for sure. And of course, any toppling of the dictator would mean that the topplers competently usher in a new government that is favorable to Iraqi, American and world interests.

You still see light at the end of the tunnel.

I don't know if I've said it here, but I range from mildly optimistic to mildly pessimistic that the current plan will help turn things around. I fear that it's been implemented too late.

This remains a huge problem. What makes you think that your last sentence is true?

We have the firepower for one thing which, except for Vietnam, helped us to prevail in every one of our past conflicts. With that advantage and assuming our leaders have that indomitable will, then they will find ways to turn the situation around. The sports analogy is probably an imperfect one, but I spent a dozen years watching Michael Jordan will his way to victory, time and time again. Quite frankly, I don't see that mindset in the Bush administration. If it existed, said administration would have found ways to be ahead of the curve in the Information War and would have been more willing to test and try new strategies instead of "stay the course". A president who really had the will to prevail would have made victory a higher priority than personal or political loyalty, and hence would have fired people such as Rumsfeld et al. for not getting the job done. A president who really thirsted for success would have been more involved, getting in faces, demanding results. I saw little evidence of that actually happening.

* Korea may be the next closest simile, but the situation has been stable for decades, and there is always Red China to think about if we were to get militant with NK.

BTW, get well on that toothache thingy. A healthy Gary is a good thing.

How many UNSC resolutions would Israel have to violate before we should have to overthrow the Israeli government? I ask in all seriousness.

Please point out the binding UNSC resolutions that Israel has violated, Turb. From what I see, the UNSC resolutions taking Israel to task are not under Section 7 of the UN Charter (cite).

I deal with people who have demonstrated that they cannot be trusted all the time; that's why I sign contracts with them when I do business.

Saddam breached his contract early on when he violated the terms of the ceasefire.

"We have the firepower for one thing which, except for Vietnam, helped us to prevail in every one of our past conflicts. With that advantage and assuming our leaders have that indomitable will, then they will find ways to turn the situation around."

I'm not up to more than the shortest of responses at the moment, but how do you see firepower as being the controlling factor in a counter-insurgency war or in a civil war? How do you see American firepower changing the political conditions of Iraq for the better?

"BTW, get well on that toothache thingy."

Thanks. Bad now, even after three hydrocodones, but this sort of thing does tend to pass after some hours. Or days. Anyway, the dental clinic that-doesn't-use-nitrous is open again on Monday, but not before. Meanwhile: distractions!

I don't know if Slarti is reading this, but if/when he does: bases plans. (You can read it, too, Jes, even though it's me pointing it out. I promise I've left no cooties!)

I don't think thhat it is moral to stay in a fighht in order to prevail. That's putting vanity ahead of hhuman life.

I realize that Charles didnn't say thhat we had to prevail for no other reason than simply to prevail, but but he didnn't give nnay purpose to remain inn Iraq othher than winning for winning's sake. Maybe I missed it?
I don't wannt to start a fighht with Charles because I , too, appreciate the couurage iit takes to write a post like this one.
I cann think of reasons to stay inn Iraq but the desire to prevail isnn't one of them. I'd like to cleann up our mmess. I'd like to save Iraqi lives. I'd like the refugees to be able to come home. I'd like Iraq to have a good government.
I'm just not sure it is withhin our power to achieve that.
Miitary power isnn't the power that mmatters inn this situation. There's a quote form thhe mayor of Baghdad on Joe Kienn's section of Swamplannd that is something to thhe efffect thhat the iraqis will work things out faster if we get out, our presence being a source of aggravvation.
So I'm concerned thhat Bushh actually has the will to prevail because his personnal vanityis at stake. He can't allow a defeat. His problem is that will without wisdom doesnn't accomplishh the inntended goal.
So I don't think we need will. I think we need wisdom.,

Charles,

Do you have any response to my chem/bio weapon questions?

You mentioned before that SH had used chemical weapons and I still don't see why that matters. Could you explain? I know that SH killed lots of Kurds using chemical weapons, however, armies generally have no trouble annihilating civilian populations whether they've got chemical weapons or not. Civilian populations fare poorly against aerial bombardment in general.

Also, I'm still curious about these "workable plans" you spoke of earlier.

Also, I second Gary's questions about the utility of our firepower in this conflict.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems most of our arsenal is worthless. We cannot use nuclear weapons, and we cannot use large scale aerial bombardment. We cannot use naval bombardment or in general bring our warships too close for fear of missile attacks. We cannot use artillery to provide counterbattery fire because insurgents often place their artillery in the midst of civilians. Our use of attack helicopters has been greatly limited because of innovative Iraqi air defense tactics developed before the war. Our tanks are of limited use inside Iraqi cities with their narrow streets; in any event, there is no armor for them to engage. So what firepower advantage is left? Is there anything besides greatly improved machine guns, sniper rifles, and RPGs?

The firepower comment is so jarring coming from you, or, anyone who has read the counterinsurgency manual. Counterinsurgencies are not won with firepower. You don't need to be Gen. Petraus to realize that.

I don't get it. We have high casualties in the same month that dems vote against the war? DOesn't make sense!

Heh.

Charles,

We have the firepower for one thing which, except for Vietnam, helped us to prevail in every one of our past conflicts. With that advantage and assuming our leaders have that indomitable will, then they will find ways to turn the situation around.

I think you're overstating the role of leadership and will, and I say that as someone who roughly agrees with you as to the rationales behind the war.

If we pretend that we had it to do all over again, and we assume that the Bush administration will completely neglect post-invasion planning, it's my suspicion that had they exhibited complete agnosticism as to what was the proper course of action in the occupation, and merely listened to the troops on the ground as to what was working and what was not, and then supported the winning strategies with funding and material support, I believe that we would be looking at a far better situation in Iraq than we do now.*

I don't think this is a matter of leadership and will, I think this is a simple matter of managerial competence, of being able to discsern what works and what doesn't by trial and error and adapt. The troops are trying their damndest to do just that; meanwhile, the civilian and military leadership seem to be content to push their theories, formed in a vacuum, all the way down.**

* Although I doubt any of us in my parallel universe would be anywhere near satisfied with it, quite frankly.

** And yeah, I guess this is the Hayekian critique of the war effort.

Charles, may I suggest this? Please do some reading on the WW1-era French belief in the doctrine of elan, and how it related to their strategies, and their losses, in World War 1.

My thanks if you'll make this effort.

Since I see a pile-on brewing in the future, all I'll say for the moment is that I appreciate this post.

Jonas, it's my sense that there was no planning for the post-war and no reaction when things started going bad in large part because the Bush admin didn't have the will to commit the political capital and make the ideological sacrifices (in taxes, smaller govt., cooperation with Europe, ...) that would have been necessary to try [hopelessly, in my view] to reach an acceptable outcome. It's not one thing or the other, it's just one thing.

Charles, may I suggest this? Please do some reading on the WW1-era French belief in the doctrine of elan, and how it related to their strategies, and their losses, in World War 1.

To be fair, Gary, I just looked it up, and it seems that rather analogous the concept of morale, as we understand it. And while it's more than reasonable to critique relying on morale or "elan" as your stategy, it would be completely foolish to dismiss it as a significant factor of military success.

At risk of putting you off doing more reading on your own -- which I really do hope you'll do -- the nutshell version is that the French spent most of the Great War working with precisely the belief you hold: that the key to winning wars and battles is "indomitable will," and that military units, soldiers, and armies, can, like "Michael Jordan will [their] way to victory."

What this resulted in was year after year of this:

The French plan called for a vigorous offensive into Lorraine and Alsace to recover the lost provinces for France. The French First army attacked to seize Mulhouse in Alsace and the Second Army to seize Metz in Lorraine. These attacks were a severe test of the French tactical system, a system which relied upon the offence a outrance, that is, the infantry assault would win the battle and the army with the most elan and vigor would carry the day with the bayonet charge!

Unfortunately, high explosive and shrapnel shell, and the machine gun, made this a costly way of war in spite of the bravura of the French. These attacks, while initially successful, were driven back to the French frontier by 20-Aug, with heavy casualties.

The first encounters with modern war, while shocking, did not deter the French Commander in Chief, General Joffre, from ordering the massive offensive by the three northern French Armies to begin on 23-Aug.

And so on. Rinse, cycle, repeat. It turned out that elan was no use against machine guns massed with barb wire, no matter how much artillery you used, or infantry you used, or how much elan everyone had.

This doctrine not incidentally included the subdoctrinal necessity of occasionally executing soldiers who showed insuffient elan, or worse, undermining the elan of others, by, you know, loser-defeatist type talk that maybe elan wasn't going to do the trick by itself, and that maybe these massed infantry charges into machine gun fire, month after month, year after year, wasn't actually going to win the war.

But as I said, please look into this on your own. I have to assure you that it really isn't true that willpower alone can win wars, and that the single topmost key factor in winning wars is having enough of the stuff.

I don't think you'll find many military officers who would argue this point.

I think my 11:53 comment answers the élan issue.

It turned out that elan was no use against machine guns massed with barb wire, no matter how much artillery you used, or infantry you used, or how much elan everyone had.

Sort of like the Children's Crusade, really.

"And while it's more than reasonable to critique relying on morale or 'elan' as your stategy, it would be completely foolish to dismiss it as a significant factor of military success."

Certainly morale matters, Jonas: of course.

But it's not the controlling factor in a war, which is what Charles is saying it is, unless one side, including the civilian population, simply lacks general popular support, which is a different order of magnitude of a situation.

Factors that can and do outweigh morale much of the time include numbers, logistical ability, amount of logistical support, firepower, position, situation, strategic approach, tactics across-the-board, speed of maneuver, faster decision loops, better communications, better intelligence, technology, political situation, weather, season, alliances made or broken, type of battle/war, and on and on, though of course, which might be the dominant factor depends.

But most of the time willpower alone isn't going to overcome one or more of these things, whether it's in a battle, or in a war overall.

rilkefan,

Jonas, it's my sense that there was no planning for the post-war and no reaction when things started going bad in large part because the Bush admin didn't have the will to commit the political capital and make the ideological sacrifices (in taxes, smaller govt., cooperation with Europe, ...) that would have been necessary to try [hopelessly, in my view] to reach an acceptable outcome. It's not one thing or the other, it's just one thing.

I agree with you in part, at least. I don't think it takes the back-breaking, WWII-style effort that some seem oddly nostalgic for, but it definitely takes more money, more diplomacy, and more managerial skill than the Bush Administration has demonstrated so far.

Part of my previous point was, and feel free to disabuse me of it, was that I think with identical levels of money and diplomacy, and merely smart management, something like the turning point of the bombing of the shrine in Feb '06 could have been avoided.

That's not to say that is adequate or acceptable at all, merely it would be a quite better world than the one we both share today.

I'll take this opportunity to share my apparently unique critique of the Neocons. I think that the formative event of their mindsets, after twenty some-odd years of in the Cold War, was its collapse, and how easy and cheap that was, as far as the US was concerned. It was some loans, some diplomacy, support the new leader, and that was the end of that. Looking at Russia and former Soviet Republics today you can clearly see the myopia of this strategy, but it was the one they brought with them to Iraq. I don't think it was a matter of not wanting to risk making the commitment; I think they honestly believe the commitment is wholly unnecessary.

"Sort of like the Children's Crusade, really."

I didn't think that involved any actual fighting.

Gary,

But most of the time willpower alone isn't going to overcome one or more of these things, whether it's in a battle, or in a war overall.

I think we're in agreement. I'm going to ask out of curiousity and not conviction - do you think that willpower is foundational to military efforts? That the "logistical support, firepower, position, situation, strategic approach, tactics across-the-board, speed of maneuver, faster decision loops, better communications, better intelligence, technology, political situation, weather, season, alliances made or broken, type of battle/war" success depends mostly on this factor? I suspect it does, hence the abandoned but still relevant Powell doctrine, but I am most certainly open to the possibility of my error.

"feel free to disabuse me of it"

Well, I'm not informed or smart enough to do so. It does seem pretty clear to me that the degree of effort available from the country was not sufficient to the task of achieving a positive result - reason #7 why I opposed the war.

In the end, I've noticed that most of those still supporting the war tend to come from one of two closely related places. Deep down, there's a fundamental belief in one of two things:

US exceptionalism or US infallibility.

At this point, it seems to be either a belief that we're a magic and blessed nation and that if we just wish hard enough we'll get what we want, or a belief that we can't possibly be wrong -- we've sunk too much time, effort, blood, money, and thought into this and being wrong is not an option.

There's probably a third category out there, the "Oh god, oh god, it's a mess -- we have to fix it, we have to fix it!" -- but I'm not sure that's so much 'war support' as 'guilt'.

rilkefan,

Well, I'm not informed or smart enough to do so.

I'm not informed or smart enough to truly believe it. So it remains a hunch.

It does seem pretty clear to me that the degree of effort available from the country was not sufficient to the task of achieving a positive result - reason #7 why I opposed the war.

I think that whatever might have been adequate, at that period of time (2002-2003) would have been available. Again, another loosey-goosey suspicion on my part. I don't perceive it to be very deabilitating as far as war efforts go. And ironically, far more brief that than what we're enduring now - how does the saying go, buy it today or pay tomorrow?

Not meaning to dump another fox in the henhouse, but I'm wondering if there's any reconsidering of the Lancet study among folks around here and why/why not.

Morat20,

There's probably a third category out there, the "Oh god, oh god, it's a mess -- we have to fix it, we have to fix it!" -- but I'm not sure that's so much 'war support' as 'guilt'.

No, I'm not sure it's guilt, so much as wanting another option between Bush's more-of-the-same and the oppositions let's just go home. Both of which seem to have a reasonably equivelent level of humanitarian horror.

I'm going to ask out of curiousity and not conviction - do you think that willpower is foundational to military efforts?

I'm not Gary, but I'll say for myself that I think the relevant phrase here is "necessary but not sufficient". But what most discussions of willpower in this context, particularly with regard to the situation in Iraq, is the extent to which willpower and morale are part of a circle with all the other things you mentioned. Whether it's a vicious or a virtuous circle often depends on things beyond the military's direct control.

I have to assure you that what I'm saying about the French doctrine of elan is ultra conventional analyses:

The first chapter by Eugenia Kielsing, opens in France in the interwar years. Readers will understand more about why France was caught surprised and then defeated by the Germans in the spring of 1940. French military leaders were confident in how the Germans were defeated in World War I and invested heavily in a civilian army. The Third Republic feared a standing professional army, and there was hostility between politicians and army leaders over reform of the military. A few dissenters argued for mechanized armor like General Maurice Gamelin and a young Major Charles De Gaulle, but politicians refused, deciding to side with theorists of elan, that willpower would defeat any army. In essence, coming out of World War I a victor and not analyzing the dreadful cost of victory led to France's defeat in World War II.
That's your theory.

The French theory that willpower is the key factor in war wasn't origional to WWI, or the pre-war era. It's a long French military tradition:

We need not pause long to examine the situation in France, since it paralleled the British experience in so many ways. One gains the impression, however, that anti-intellectualism among the French military never reached the depths of calculated dilettantism seen in the British. Still, Paddy Griffith in his detailed study Military Thought in the French Army, 1815-51 (1989) had to concede that "excessive intellectualism might be as much a qualification for premature retirement as illness, madness, or sloth." Moreover, one notes the French predilection for stirring martial catchphrases which served as substitutes for penetrating tactical and strategic analysis; witness the celebrated cry of "Elan, Elan!" during the time of Louis XIII and later, and the clarion emphasis on an audacious offensive spirit toward the end of the 19th century: "L'audace, l'audace, toujours l'audace!"

In closing the book on the French experience, we should recall the pregnant words of Marshal Marie E. P. Maurice de MacMahon, who was later to lead the disastrous French "defense" at Sedan in 1870: "I eliminate from the promotion list any officer whose name I have read on the cover of a book." It is an irony of ironies that during the German invasion of France in 1940, a full 70 years later, the fall of Sedan again figured so disastrously. In discussing the French doctrinal preparation for defense against the anticipated invasion, Robert Doughty in The Seeds of Disaster: The Development of French Army Doctrine, 1919-1939 (1985) states that "the army thus implicitly accepted doctrine as a substitute for thinking and an alternative to creative, imaginative actions. ... Few soldiers questioned the verities uttered in lecture halls or published in field manuals or official journals."

The base doctrine being the doctrine that having more elan, willpower, than the enemy, was the key to victory.

Again:

In February 1916 Marshal Petain was given command. He instituted a conveyor-belt system of rotating units up to the front for short stints. Unimaginative and stolid as he was, and relieved of his command before the German campaign faltered to a close at the end of 1916, he nonetheless acquired a reputation as "the victor of Verdun."

How were the French able to delude themselves into the belief that Verdun had to be held at all costs, and that bloodletting on this appalling scale was heroism rather than idiocy? In a lengthy section at the heart of his book, Ousby skillfully illuminates the interplay of ideas and politics that decided the fate of the nation. Hitherto having fought only colonial wars, the generals had no conception of the changes technology had brought to modern warfare. They held that "elan" -- the foolish doctrine, propounded by Henri Bergson, that spirit counted for more than matter -- would be decisive. They had only to attack.

This theory of yours, that "success ultimately depends on our will to prevail, nothing more" -- a doctrine you apparently was unaware was French (;-)) -- has been decisively proven wrong, I'm afraid.

And it's a terribly important point. Absolutely crucial, to understand that the idea is a terrible fallacy.

Oh, and I really was serious when I pointed out that it was also Hitler's theory. German willpower would overcome the subhuman east and the decadent west.

Again: not a theory that worked out in practice.

Oh, and I really was serious when I pointed out that it was also Hitler's theory. German willpower would overcome the subhuman east and the decadent west.

Again: not a theory that worked out in practice. But not for lack of German willpower, not by the German soldier, or civilian, or leadership.

"I think that the formative event of their mindsets, after twenty some-odd years of in the Cold War, was its collapse, and how easy and cheap that was, as far as the US was concerned."

There's probably something to that, as a factor, though, of course, it's pretty stupid reasoning, since the collapse of Soviet communism was a process that took a little over 80 years, and didn't just happen in the last few years, or because of things done only in the last few years -- it was the long series of events over the decades playing out that took the toll.

Give us a magical ability to wait 80 years for results in Iraq, and I'll be vastly less pessimistic.

Josh,

I'm not Gary, but I'll say for myself that I think the relevant phrase here is "necessary but not sufficient".

I agree with you on this, 100%.

"I'm going to ask out of curiousity and not conviction - do you think that willpower is foundational to military efforts?"

Well, generally speaking, you have to have your troops and NCOs and officers more than not have enough morale to be willing to attack, and not run when on the defense, and hold to the usual ratios of shots actually fired to kill, and generally do one's duty, and maintain enough discipline for functionality, of course.

How much morale is necessary beyond that kinda depends on what the specific strengths of the enemy are, and what your weaknesses are, and vice versa, and how important morale is to the specific element necessary for your victory, or at least to staving off your defeat.

For instance, it probably takes higher morale to run with a sword into an enemy spear line, but less -- while still a lot -- to man a machine gun nest against the same spearmen who are now attacking.

Then there's the necessity in a democracy in modern war for a sustained war to be supported by the populace over however long the war is putting a noticeable stress on the nation, particularly in terms of casualties, but that's something of a different order of business, as I said, although also entirely crucial as time passes.

It's important, although over a yet longer period of time, for non-democracies, as well. The Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan, after a decade of increasingly painful and increasingly unsuccessful effort, because the populace, for all that the USSR was still a reasonably totalitarian state, had become sufficiently intolerant of the war, and the casualties, when weighed against the invisible benefit, and clear necessity.

It became not worth the cost to the Kremlin in terms of the unrest it was generating across the Soviet Union, as well as not worth the cost of the military and economic drain it placed on the USSR, as well as the damage to the image of Soviet power.

Which was also the calculation that Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger made about another war.

Incidentally, Rome: Total War is a lot of fun, if you happen to like turn-based strategy, real time tactical battle, computer games.

For an entirely different sort of computer game fun, I've wasted a lot of time lately on The Movies.

If I'm not making any sense at any point, I blame the hydrocodone, which has finally helped.

Gary,

There's probably something to that, as a factor, though, of course, it's pretty stupid reasoning, since the collapse of Soviet communism was a process that took a little over 80 years, and didn't just happen in the last few years, or because of things done only in the last few years -- it was the long series of events over the decades playing out that took the toll.

To be clear, I'm not speaking of the effort to depose a regime, which did take 80 years in the case of the Soviets but a matter of months in the case of Iraq. I'm talking about the aftermath and how "painless" it was for us at the time. The Soviet Union was a hundred times bigger than Iraq yet would seem to have cheap in comparison to Iraq. Hell, we even made money, right?

Give us a magical ability to wait 80 years for results in Iraq, and I'll be vastly less pessimistic.

Oh, Gary, you're such a pessimist. No more than 50 years, tops.

"I'm not Gary, but I'll say for myself that I think the relevant phrase here is
'necessary but not sufficient'."

That, too.

Oh, and I really was serious when I pointed out that it was also Hitler's theory. German willpower would overcome the subhuman east and the decadent west.

The Triumph of the what again?

Gary,

For instance, it probably takes higher morale to run with a sword into an enemy spear line, but less -- while still a lot -- to man a machine gun nest against the same spearmen who are now attacking.

Not probably, even in my modest state, I'll say it takes far less morale with the machine gun.

Actually that's what I find odd about this conflict - I think that our forces could have had that kind of confidence had their been some cogniscence of the reality of the disorderly, chaotic guerrila warfare they were facing. But it seems we're at least partially stuck in the "traditional" war mindset, which I imagine is disconcerting.

Then there's the necessity in a democracy in modern war for a sustained war to be supported by the populace over however long the war is putting a noticeable stress on the nation, particularly in terms of casualties, but that's something of a different order of business, as I said, although also entirely crucial as time passes.

Keep in mind, I think this is what is at the core of the conservative argument about what they might call "loser-defeatists." So part of the problem here is that they're not seeing how opposition to the war helps when it's not a strategy for winning. That's not my position, but I suspect it's theirs, and one of many ways everyone is talking past each other in this situation.

The Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan, after a decade of increasingly painful and increasingly unsuccessful effort, because the populace, for all that the USSR was still a reasonably totalitarian state, had become sufficiently intolerant of the war, and the casualties, when weighed against the invisible benefit, and clear necessity.

Which puts the lie to the whole notion of media/academic/political undermining of the war. I don't think it helped the war any for certain; but good lord, even under the Soviet situation of totalitarian control, it didn't make a damn bit of difference.

Which was also the calculation that Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger made about another war.

Is there a wierd, contemporary redeeming of Nixon/Kissenger that I wasn't invited to? I kid, because I love.

Incidentally, Rome: Total War is a lot of fun, if you happen to like turn-based strategy, real time tactical battle, computer games.

I'm not sure about turn-based, but it does sound interesting. As a Macintosh user, I generally have to ignore such interesting advice.

If I'm not making any sense at any point, I blame the hydrocodone, which has finally helped.

And if I am not making any sense, I blame the wine, which means I lose the argument. You, at least, have a good excuse. Me? Not so much...

Anarch,

The Triumph of the what again?

This world is the will to power—and nothing besides! And you yourselves are also this will to power—and nothing besides!

"Actually that's what I find odd about this conflict - I think that our forces could have had that kind of confidence had their been some cogniscence of the reality of the disorderly, chaotic guerrila warfare they were facing."

Remember that for an amazingly long time, Don Rumsfeld -- with Bush backing him -- denied that there was any such thing going on: there was no insurgency he insisted, month after month after month. Hard for an army to do much about an insurgency that the boss insists isn't there.

"The Triumph of the what again?"

It really was exactly what Charles is saying, I'm afraid: German willpower makes Russian numbers, and geography, irrelevant! Germany has the willpower to win! Germany will declare war on America, because America is decadent, and it doesn't matter how large their industrial might is, compared to German willpower!

It didn't matter. And really, few peoples and leaders anywhere had more willpower, really, although the Japanese beat them out, I would say. But I can't think of many other contenders in the last couple of centuries, although I should emphasize that I still really can't focus for now.... :-)

"Keep in mind, I think this is what is at the core of the conservative argument about what they might call 'loser-defeatists.' So part of the problem here is that they're not seeing how opposition to the war helps when it's not a strategy for winning."

I need to address this when I'm not in pain and on painkillers, but they're failing to take into account that the need for public support has long been a part of military theory. It's, as you noted, inherent to the Powell/Weinberger Doctrines.

It's inherent to democracy, of course, is what it is. Failing to note that, in a democracy, public support isn't automatically granted to the government -- and this is as it should be, though in a war, the populace is apt to rally around when the government says there's a threat, and it's necessary to defend you, if the government hasn't already lost credibility in the eyes of the majority of the public.

Point being that ignoring this need, and simply declaring that The People Must Always Support Their Leaders Because That's The Only Way To Support The Troops is a declaration that you're willing to support any fool leadership, no matter what war they want, no matter who the leadership is. This isn't a position that, in fact, almost any conservative has ever actually taken.

And insofar as it comes close to any known political philosophy at all, unalterable and automatic support for the Leader and leadership, particular in military attacks, is, yes, most associated with fascism. Or, less specifically, at least militaristic authoritarianism.

"I don't think it helped the war any for certain; but good lord, even under the Soviet situation of totalitarian control, it didn't make a damn bit of difference."

You take my point.

"Is there a wierd, contemporary redeeming of Nixon/Kissenger that I wasn't invited to?"

No, but there's an endless redeeming of the idea that we really coulda and shoulda won Vietnam, if we'd just exercised that darn willpower like we should have. George W. Bush expressed this view of the Vietnam war when he visited Vietnam a year or so ago.

It's completely wrong, of course, and utterly against what there are endless tapes and memos of what Nixon and Kissinger said many many times, that the war couldn't be won militarily, and that all that could be done was get the U.S. out, with a decent interval before South Vietnam fell.

Jonas wrote: "I don't think it takes the back-breaking, WWII-style effort that some seem oddly nostalgic for"

The only reason anybody calls for that is that it would at least match the rhetoric of the hawks.

And I suppose if we'd made an effort of getting on a war footing, with a well-publicized effort to increase the size of the military, train them in Arabic and local culture, equip them, and generally make them ready for a ground war and occupation in the Middle East, the locals might well have been less likely to oppose us. Especially if the added language skills prevented many of the early civilian deaths.

The mere knowledge of our massive military output in WW2 surely had a significant effect on the morale of enemy officers. Had we tried to 'go to war with the army we had', rather than having the will to limit operations somewhat at first until we were ready, it would have been a huge morale boost for the Axis.

Jonas Cord writes: " I'm going to ask out of curiousity and not conviction - do you think that willpower is foundational to military efforts?"

Willpower isn't unidirectional.

Are you including the willpower to delay or avoid a war you really would like to have, and the willpower to cut losses and leave despite how bad that makes you look and/or feel?

Willpower only helps when put in service of wisdom.

The time for willpower was in 2002 when people were saying we had to invade Iraq *right then*.

Charles, I admire your willingness to acknowledge these mistakes. That takes guts and humility.

...but but he didnn't give nnay purpose to remain inn Iraq othher than winning for winning's sake. Maybe I missed it?

I didn't give a reason here, wonkie, but I have previously said that it's important for us to leave Iraq a better place than it was when we entered, and that I consider victory to be a free, peaceful, non-theocratic representative republic. I don't know why this information isn't more widely published, but I would accept those conditions as a measure of success.

Do you have any response to my chem/bio weapon questions?

Not much of one, Turb (and BTW, I shorten everyone's names here). Their existence would have further demonstrated Saddam's non-compliance with UNSC resolutions, but like I said, it wasn't casus belli for me.

Also, I'm still curious about these "workable plans" you spoke of earlier.

It's too far back in time for me to recall specifics, but I remember writing a post on the subject at Tacitus. There was an agency at DoD (or State?) responsible for post-war plans, and I looked up the information because there were quite a few who stated flatly that no post-war planning undertaken. There was.

So what firepower advantage is left?

Superior firepower is still necessary to mount a successful COIN strategy. I didn't say anything specific about counterinsurgency doctrine in my response, but that was what I was getting at. Bush & Co. were wedded to a plan that was increasingly wrong as the insurgency gained momentum, and the higher-ups took way too long in recognizing it and addressing it. Where were Bush and Rumsfeld in this process? Why didn't they accurately assess the situation and call on their generals to make necessary adjustments? I think I know part of the answer, and it has do with Rumsfeld's treatment of people who dissented from his party line, as noted here. The Marines are better versed in COIN strategy and they have a decades-old Small War Manual to draw from. The assets and the doctrine were there to be utilized, but they were for the most part ignored.

Gary, at this late hour I'd rather not get into a what-came-first discussion regarding will, competence, strategy, etc. Also, if I gave the impression that will = "unyielding resistance to change tactics or to try new and creative strategies", then my apologies because that's not what I meant. At all.

I know I'm in basketball mode, but I watched Lebron & Co. defeat the Pistons earlier tonight. In game 5 last Thursday, LeBron put the team on this shoulders and scored 30 of the team's final 31 points, including the game-winner with two seconds left. In game 6, he was incessantly double-teamed so he quickly made adjustments, drawing fouls and dishing off to players who had the hot hand. In this series, he had the superior combination of will and firepower (in the form of outrageous talent) and enough smarts to devise a nimble and effective strategy for victory in the last two battles.

That's what I was driving at when I was talking about will, not the plodding unimaginative French who refused to change despite staggering losses. That's why I support the current COIN doctrine because it is smart and flexible, but underlying it must be the will to attrite the enemy, to kill or capture the unreconcilables and to help the others reenter society. Unfortunately, successful COINs take time and our representatives in DC are on a different timeline.

That said, I will read your links, but not tonight. I'm whipped.

Charles:

It's too far back in time for me to recall specifics, but I remember writing a post on the subject at Tacitus. There was an agency at DoD (or State?) responsible for post-war plans, and I looked up the information because there were quite a few who stated flatly that no post-war planning undertaken. There was.

Wasn't this the famous State Department document listing all the social conditions in Iraq, the different tribes, the religions, etc., that was over a thousand pages long?

And wasn't that the very same document which Don Rumsfeld expressly forbade DoD personnel to read, because it had been drawn up by the limp-wristed Arab-lovers in the State Department?

IMHO probably the best example of the err limitations of relying on will power as the route to victory was the Japanese experience in WW2. IIRC it was a British general who said roughly "Many armies talk about fighting to the last cartridge and/or man. The Imperial Japanese Army was the only one in history to do it on a regular basis". It still didn't do them a lot of good in the end.

On a different note, I think one of the things that tripped us up was a different variation on the collapse of the Soviet Union. The neo-cons may have thought, "We beat the Soviets, how hard could Iraq be?" This was the same attituide that led us to discount the guys in black pajamas in Vietnam. It is also a recurring problem with people experienced in conventional war, who see a counter insurgency as a small war. It is, but they do not realize that counter-insurgency is graduate level warfare. It is sort of like newtonian physicists with a thorough understanding of their topic, running into quantum mechanics for the first time. Counter insurgency is harder, because it needs to be constrained.

Though one might add that the Japanese belief in willpower was in part a reflection of their early successes in the war, most notably against the British, who vastly underestimated the Japanese fighting capability, and ended up surrendering Singapore to a force 1/3 their size. A number of ironies present themselves at Singapore, and two of them would be the Patrick Heenan, a british officer who spied for the Japanese and the fact that the Indians who surrendered to the Japanese in Singapore and Malaysia made up the core of the Indian National Army, which fought on the side of Japanese. Imperialism has a way of boomeranging.

My take on this is that Charles would do it all over again, just with better execution.

Which means that he has learned nothing from his misjudgments, since the poor execution excuse assumes that the overall strategy for this war was a wise thing, but just poorly implemented.

As for the counter-insurgancy and the continued commitment to the surge, just more evidence of inability to exercise good judgment. It is nice to acknowledge past errors in judgment, but it means nothing if the next day you are willing to go out and repeat those errors.

The biggest difficulty with the surge and counter-insurgency effort is not poor tactics, etc. It is because most of the people in the country hate us and want us gone. Successful counter-insurgency in such a situation is impossible.

Indeed, it is questionable to refer to it as counter-insurgency, as opposed to intervention on behalf of the Shia against the Sunni in the civil war. There is a reason why the Sadr militia has largely made itself scarce during the surge -- it is being fought for their tacit benefit, whether we like it or not.

It is maddening to see such stubborn adherance to bad ideas, while simultaneously acknowledging that past adherance to those ideas was a mistake.

That's what I was driving at when I was talking about will, not the plodding unimaginative French who refused to change despite staggering losses.

Unfortunately, your version of "will" still has the ring of "La Marseillaise."

Good post Charles.

IIRC the French got the elan infection from the Russians* as did almost everyone else. But the other nations were, unlike France (and maybe the US), in the end able to counter the infection.
Another anecdote: In the Russian-Japanese war of 1904/5 an officer was asked why he sent only troops without fighting experience against enemy machine guns. His answer was, that no soldier who ever faced MG fire would do so a second time.
Verdun might be the most perverse use of the doctrine. The German high command did not actually plan to take Verdun but to draw all French manpower into the bloodmill because Germany had a higher killing efficiency and more people to spend.
A British officer is quoted with something like: In the end one side will have one unit left and the other none. The first side wins. Rumsfeld was not that different (flypaper theory).

*The idea of the bayonet being wiser than the bullet became notorious through a Russian general.

Good post, Charles.

Saddam breached his contract early on when he violated the terms of the ceasefire.

The US violated its contract (via handshake and wink-and-a-nod) with Saddam when after April Gillespie, the then US ambassador to Iraq, told Saddam that what he did vis a vis Kuwait (and the UAE) was entirely a matter between them, including if Saddam were to attack Kuwait - yet after he did what we said was none of our concern, we attacked and invaded Iraq!

I served in Desert Storm and didn't know of the objective facts BEFORE that war. If I had, I would not have felt at all just in my dropping of bombs on the poor bastards on the ground in Iraq. C'mon, Saddam was FAR from the worst shit in the ME. The House of Saud is JUST as bad as Saddam yet we can't lick their anal sphincters enough.

Given that the above April interchange DID take place, that it WAS official US government communication to Saddam pre-Desert Storm, the subsequent attack on Saddam and ALL that follows from that is illegitimate and indefensible.

but I have previously said that it's important for us to leave Iraq a better place than it was when we entered, and that I consider victory to be a free, peaceful, non-theocratic representative republic.

Ah! Then you admit, just not directly, that it is lost, as most of us have been saying for a long time, and that there can be no point to our staying. The fact is that we will NOT leave Iraq in a better place than when we entered. Impossible. ...And a peaceful, non-theocratic republic? HAH! It IS already well along in that direction and the INSTANT the US inevitably pulls out (either with tail tucked tight against ass in full view or skulkily in the dark) the theocracy will begin in earnest in a precise model of the Iran government.

First: kudos to CB: this is an excellent post: hard as it must have been to compose.

Second: a minor quibble: the black bar on your first chart ("Civilians Killed") for February '06 - which was picked up from your source - represents the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra: it's a benchmark they use, but, unexplained, looks anomalous.

Third (and most important): while it is good to see that you (unlike many other pro-war bloggers) have some sort of actually quantifiable notion of "victory" - as compared to the simpleminded "We Win, They Lose" sloganeering which is all too prevalent - I can't help but wonder: just how close to (or far from) this goal are we? And isn't there an unspoken subtext to all this which should append the point "No US Casualties" to this list of the preferred outcome?

("Unrealistic utopian wishlist" of outcomes in my more-cynical estimations. It's a good thing, perhaps, that RedState's photo left off the "An ally in the War on Terror" bit at the bottom of the Admiral's placard: the goals outlined therein are straightforward and sensible enough without being disfigured by cheapjack slogans)

Gary, at this late hour I'd rather not get into a what-came-first discussion regarding will, competence, strategy, etc. Also, if I gave the impression that will = "unyielding resistance to change tactics or to try new and creative strategies", then my apologies because that's not what I meant. At all.
No, no, you misunderstand me. I didn't mean that willpower meant that. But believing that willpower is what determines success in war means that strategies and tactics aren't what determines success in war, that numbers aren't what determines success in war, that position doesn't determines success in war, that economics doesn't determine success in war, that technology doesn't determine success in war, that firepower doesn't determine success in war, that all those other factors mentioned don't determine success war, and so on.

This is the doctrine you assert, Charles, which I'm trying to convince you is dead wrong.

"Improvements to our strategy and tactics can surely be made, but success ultimately depends on our will to prevail, nothing more."

"Nothing more" means "nothing more. I'm hopeful that perhaps you're starting to see that this is simply wrong. Our success depends on nothing other than our will to prevail. No other factor matters. We could have no weapons, ten soldiers, and be attacking Atlantis undersea by holding our breath, but if we have enough will to prevail, we shall succeed against ten billion water-breathing nuclear robot soldiers!

That's the doctrine you are insisting is the correct one. French elan.

It's not a doctrine that reflects reality.

In point of fact, "will to prevail" is a relatively minor factor in modern warfare, and gets trumped by innumerable other factors most of the time. Sorry, but that's just the way it is.

"That's why I support the current COIN doctrine because it is smart and flexible,"

Yeah, but "will to prevail" is what success ultimately depends, nothing more, so smart and flexible is irrelevant. Or are you starting to agree that maybe success, in fact, does depend on more factors than simple "will to prevail," and that "nothing more" is, ah, wrong?

"...but underlying it must be the will to attrite the enemy, to kill or capture the unreconcilables and to help the others reenter society."

A strategy of attriting the enemy is how we lost the Vietnam War. We did everything in this sentence, and it was completely irrelevant.

"That said, I will read your links, but not tonight. I'm whipped."

Sure, I'm not insisting you do your homework over the weekend. :-)

Though there will be a pop quiz on Tuesday. ;-)

I do appreciate that when you write a post, and multiple people respond, it can become exhausting and confusing and somewhat bewildering trying to keep track of all the different points of view, and arguments, and points of fact, and cites, and so on. I appreciate your willingness to put some energy and time into responding, and into considering what people have to say. Thanks.

Donald Clarke:

IMHO probably the best example of the err limitations of relying on will power as the route to victory was the Japanese experience in WW2. IIRC it was a British general who said roughly "Many armies talk about fighting to the last cartridge and/or man. The Imperial Japanese Army was the only one in history to do it on a regular basis". It still didn't do them a lot of good in the end.
Just so. It's difficult to imagine a nation and a military -- Army and Navy both, as well as their air wings -- having more willpower than the Japanese Imperial Forces in WWII, as I said. Not only did relatively few soldiers surrender, often preferring to kill themselves, but, of course, they famously invented the kamikazi, to attempt to use willpower to overcome material lacks, and after the war, Japanese soldiers continued to be found in remote locales, hiding so as to continue the fight, for decades thereafter, continuing into the 1970s.

Willpower is not, in fact, what ultimately prevails in warfare, "nothing more."

Gary, at this late hour I'd rather not get into a what-came-first discussion regarding will, competence, strategy, etc. Also, if I gave the impression that will = "unyielding resistance to change tactics or to try new and creative strategies", then my apologies because that's not what I meant. At all.
No, no, you misunderstand me. I didn't mean that willpower meant that. But believing that willpower is what determines success in war means that strategies and tactics aren't what determines success in war, that numbers aren't what determines success in war, that position doesn't determines success in war, that economics doesn't determine success in war, that technology doesn't determine success in war, that firepower doesn't determine success in war, that all those other factors mentioned don't determine success war, and so on.

This is the doctrine you assert, Charles, which I'm trying to convince you is dead wrong.

"Improvements to our strategy and tactics can surely be made, but success ultimately depends on our will to prevail, nothing more."

"Nothing more" means "nothing more. I'm hopeful that perhaps you're starting to see that this is simply wrong. Our success depends on nothing other than our will to prevail. No other factor matters. We could have no weapons, ten soldiers, and be attacking Atlantis undersea by holding our breath, but if we have enough will to prevail, we shall succeed against ten billion water-breathing nuclear robot soldiers!

That's the doctrine you are insisting is the correct one. French elan.

It's not a doctrine that reflects reality.

In point of fact, "will to prevail" is a relatively minor factor in modern warfare, and gets trumped by innumerable other factors most of the time. Sorry, but that's just the way it is.

"That's why I support the current COIN doctrine because it is smart and flexible,"

Yeah, but "will to prevail" is what success ultimately depends, nothing more, so smart and flexible is irrelevant. Or are you starting to agree that maybe success, in fact, does depend on more factors than simple "will to prevail," and that "nothing more" is, ah, wrong?

"...but underlying it must be the will to attrite the enemy, to kill or capture the unreconcilables and to help the others reenter society."

A strategy of attriting the enemy is how we lost the Vietnam War. We did everything in this sentence, and it was completely irrelevant.

"That said, I will read your links, but not tonight. I'm whipped."

Sure, I'm not insisting you do your homework over the weekend. :-)

Though there will be a pop quiz on Tuesday. ;-)

I do appreciate that when you write a post, and multiple people respond, it can become exhausting and confusing and somewhat bewildering trying to keep track of all the different points of view, and arguments, and points of fact, and cites, and so on. I appreciate your willingness to put some energy and time into responding, and into considering what people have to say. Thanks.

Donald Clarke:

IMHO probably the best example of the err limitations of relying on will power as the route to victory was the Japanese experience in WW2. IIRC it was a British general who said roughly "Many armies talk about fighting to the last cartridge and/or man. The Imperial Japanese Army was the only one in history to do it on a regular basis". It still didn't do them a lot of good in the end.
Just so. It's difficult to imagine a nation and a military -- Army and Navy both, as well as their air wings -- having more willpower than the Japanese Imperial Forces in WWII, as I said. Not only did relatively few soldiers surrender, often preferring to kill themselves, but, of course, they famously invented the kamikazi, to attempt to use willpower to overcome material lacks, and after the war, Japanese soldiers continued to be found in remote locales, hiding so as to continue the fight, for decades thereafter, continuing into the 1970s.

Willpower is not, in fact, what ultimately prevails in warfare, "nothing more."

It's not basketball.

Gary: It really was exactly what Charles is saying, I'm afraid:

Yes, yes, I know. I've been saying it for years.

Charles: In this series, he had the superior combination of will and firepower (in the form of outrageous talent) and enough smarts to devise a nimble and effective strategy for victory in the last two battles.

This is why you fail.

I mean that in the nicest possible way in which one can quote Yoda. You've precisely summarized the strength of will meme from the right blogosphere and, in so doing, summarized precisely why it will almost necessarily fail.

Here, in no particular order, are some of the reasons why:

  • LeBron was playing the same game that everyone else was playing, with referees to distinguish between what was legal and what was illegal.
  • They were playing in a single theater, with a single, identical goal (put the ball in the net).
  • There were the same number of players on each side. Further, the number of players on each side was small enough that one man could make such a gigantic difference; the number of times you see an individual swing a game like this in football, for example, is vanishingly rare.

    [In fact, the only performances I can think like that are Vince Young in the two Rose Bowls; most other standout QB performances involved, at the very least, great linemen and at least one great receiver.]

  • LeBron wasn't trying to win the hearts and minds of the Pistons, or (for that matter) the people in the audience.
  • At the end of the day, no-one was going to live or die predicated on their performance. No-one's lives would, in a fundamental way, even be affected by it. This is sports, not war; what makes it great is its glorious triviality.

And, to me, the two most important points of all. Yes, LeBron had the game of a lifetime. There's a reason why they're called games of a lifetime. How many games has LeBron played where he hasn't accomplished that? How many games has he played where he made some shots, blew some shots, and ended with (for a Great Player) an undistinguished record? Why should our record be any different?

And finally: What on earth makes you think we're LeBron? What makes you think we have the right skillsets, the right combination of talent, training and ability, to say we're one of the greatest players of our generation? Not just good -- the greatest to ever play? That, in a nutshell, is American Exceptionalism at its worst.

It's actually worse than that: it's a sin. It's hubris of the highest kind, to say that we can accomplish anything with sufficient will; it is saying that we are like unto the gods, with all the calamity that that entails. That, right there, is the reason that you, and we, fail: in failing to recognize our limits, we've taken on a task that we cannot accomplish. We're not wise enough. We're not good enough. We're not strong enough. This isn't a slight on our capabilities for good, nor a slight on our previous accomplishments, it's an acknowledgement of the difficulty -- if not impossibility -- of the task that President Bush laid out before us. And like all self-fulfilling prophecies, our very lack of acknowledgement of our limitations has made them worse. Our very lack of wisdom -- of knowing ourselves -- has given us the clusterf*** we now see in Iraq, and has taken from us any hope of success.

I've taken long enough that this is probably a pile-on by now, but please: take what I wrote to heart. It's pretty much our only chance at an optimal -- which, by now, is nowhere close to good -- solution.

In point of fact, "will to prevail" is a relatively minor factor in modern warfare, and gets trumped by innumerable other factors most of the time. Sorry, but that's just the way it is.

Anyone remember the Alamo?

Jonas:
No, I'm not sure it's guilt, so much as wanting another option between Bush's more-of-the-same and the oppositions let's just go home. Both of which seem to have a reasonably equivelent level of humanitarian horror.

Wanting another option doesn't make it exist.

The "Oh God, Oh God, we broke it, we have to fix it!" crowd's problem -- and I'm speaking loosely here, not specifically at any one person -- is that they too believe in exceptionalism.

Some problems can't be fixed by anyone. Other problems might theoretically be fixable, but that fix not be within the means of anyone interested or in a position to fix it.

Such is it with Iraq. The "It's time to leave crowd" contains a very large number of people who do, in fact, seriously and deeply wish that we could fix the mess we made in Iraq. Nonetheless, we recognize that the capacity to break something does not always grant one the capacity to repair it afterwords.

Deluding oneself into thinking America has the capacity to fix Iraq -- especially under present leadership -- isn't any better than deluding oneself into thinking we can "win" in Iraq. Neither are within the realm of possibility.

I don't see any substantive difference between Charles' (loosely paraphrased) "If we're dedicated enough and just keep trying sooner or later we'll win" and "If we're dedicated enough and just keep trying sooner or later we'll unbreak the egg".

The situation is -- and has been for a very long time -- outside of US control. Probably since the very beginning. 150,000 troops, 200,000 troops -- we'd need to flood the country with three or four times that number just to make a dent and we don't have that many soldiers.

We don't have a leadership willing to acquire them -- either through the draft of consensus building afar -- and it becomes simply a matter of numbers.

We don't have enough manpower. All the willpower, or guilt for that matter, in the world doesn't turn 200k troops into 3 times that number.

This has been a good discussion. Thank you, Charles.

I think it is essential righht now for us Americanns to consider the possiblity tht we can't influence events inn Iraq posiitively over time not because we lack sufficient will, but simply becausse we are outsiders.
. i know we can get some seductive winns here and there--Annbar, for isnnstance--but even in thhe places where we are in fact helpinng to restore community-supporteed government and realtively peaceful daily life, the Iraqis think we should get out and get out soon. If the locals see our presences as a problem, evenn inn thhe areas wherre some success has been achieved, thhen maybe our preswennce is inndeed a problem!
One of the fundamental errors in our approach to this war has been thhe unwillinness of American decisionnmakers to understand the Iraqi purspective. The need some Americans have to demonstrate that Americanns have the will to win inn order to create good government as Charles definnes it is an American goal, not an Iraqi one. As long as we are there to fight for our goal, we are at cross purposes withh the Iraqis.

LJ: "...most notably against the British, who vastly underestimated the Japanese fighting capability, and ended up surrendering Singapore to a force 1/3 their size."

Largely due to the fact that Singapore's large fixed guns all pointed to the sea, as did their entire defensive infrastructure. The British made the classic military blunder of never considering that the enemy might land further up the peninsula and take Singapore from the rear, by land, and thus, with amazing stupidity, left themselves helpless in that event.

Of course, the Turks did the same thing at Aqaba, leading Lawrence to do the same thing, but the Turks had more of an excuse in doubting anyone would cross the desert, then the British did at Singapore.

"April Gillespie, the then US ambassador to Iraq"

April Glaspie.

Also, "including if Saddam were to attack Kuwait" isn't something that was said. It would be damning if she'd said that, but neither of the two transcripts include this piece of false information.

Reality:

[...] It was in this context that Glaspie had her first meeting with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz on July 25, 1990. At least two transcripts of the meeting have been published. The State Department has not confirmed the accuracy of these transcripts, but Glaspie's cable has been released at the Bush Library and placed online by the Margaret Thatcher Foundation.[1]

One version of the transcript has Glaspie saying: "We can see that you have deployed massive numbers of troops in the south. Normally that would be none of our business, but when this happens in the context of your threats against Kuwait, then it would be reasonable for us to be concerned. For this reason, I have received an instruction to ask you, in the spirit of friendship - not confrontation - regarding your intentions: Why are your troops massed so very close to Kuwait's borders?"

Later the transcript has Glaspie saying: "We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait. Secretary Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction, first given to Iraq in the 1960s, that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America."

Another version of the transcript (the one published in the New York Times on 23 September 1990) has Glaspie saying: "But we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait. I was in the American Embassy in Kuwait during the late '60s. The instruction we had during this period was that we should express no opinion on this issue and that the issue is not associated with America. James Baker has directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this instruction. We hope you can solve this problem using any suitable methods via Klibi [Chadli Klibi, Secretary General of the Arab League] or via President Mubarak. All that we hope is that these issues are solved quickly."

There's plenty to criticize about Glaspie's instructions, but making up, or passing on, claims that she explicitly approved the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein is something which is unsupported by the record.

"The House of Saud is JUST as bad as Saddam yet we can't lick their"

Might want to note the posting rules, and the unstated concern for office software filters.

In any case, in point of fact, Saudi Arabia hasn't invaded anyone else, and hasn't killed hundreds of thousands of people, which Saddam Hussein did. The Iran-Iraq War, the Anfal campaign, and other large-scale military actions, both externally, and internally, do, in fact, make SH's regime worse than Saudi Arabia, until such time as Saudi Arabia begins an eight-year-long war that results in the deaths of hundreds of thousands.

"Given that the above April interchange DID take place, that it WAS official US government communication to Saddam pre-Desert Storm, the subsequent attack on Saddam and ALL that follows from that is illegitimate and indefensible."

That doesn't particularly logically follow. A person or a nation can make a mistake, and then not be forever locked into affirming the mistake.

That doesn't mean that therefore the defense of Saudi Arabia, or expulsion of Iraq from Kuwait was inherently right, but it does mean that they weren't inherently wrong.

I should, before I head out, that I've seen this "But we're LeBron" attitude played out in a different venue. There have been a lot of popular science books written about Ramanujan, the famous Indian mathematician, focusing on how he was an outsider with no formal training who nevertheless produced mathematics of exquisite beauty and unbelievable profundity. I will never forget the conversation I had with a friend, where he mentioned he could produce similarly great math.

I stared at him blankly.

Why not? he asked. After all, Ramanujan didn't have formal training, and look what he did! So it's possible!

And all I could say was: yes, but you're not Ramanujan.

I consider victory to be a free, peaceful, non-theocratic representative republic.

My interpretation of the information available is that a representative republic elected by the Iraqis of today will not install a non-theocratic government, at least not without US troops around to enforce it. It might not be Iran, but it wouldn't be Turkey either. That makes this a long-term occupation, for as long as US troops are required to enforce the necessary behavior on the population and their government.

With sufficient commitment to victory, the leaders will find a way to prevail, and do what it takes to make it so.

If the previous paragraph is accurate, the cost of that commitment and victory, in both direct military expenses as well as indirect costs such as the long-term care for large numbers of veterans, will be huge -- trillions of dollars. I myself am unwilling to accept the opportunity cost that goes with that expenditure. It often seems that the same people who would tell me that $3.5T for Iraq and its aftermath would be money well spent also tell me that $3.5T to make Social Security solvent forever (their figure, not mine) is so expensive as to be impossible. Respectfully, I must disagree with their priorities.

Insert various cuss words. The link works. It wasn't supposed to look like that, but it works.

It's not a myth, so much as fussing over precise wording.

Yes, the guns could fire to the North, but they were naval guns, designed and placed to fire AP (armor-piercing) shells and HE (high explosive) shells at naval targets. AP is pretty useless against infantry. The British simply weren't prepared for an attack down the penninsula, from the rear, by land, and that's no myth.

The bit about the guns turning is trivial, though you're entirely right to correct me that "fixed" was an erroneous choice of words by me, so thanks for that.

I think rilkefan, and Jon H (Willpower only helps when put in service of wisdom) cover my views of will pretty well.

And if we're going to use sports analogies let's talk about what the will to win really means there. It doesn't just mean showing up for the game and gritting your teeth and trying really really hard.

It means a lot of time and work and sacrifice practicing and getting in shape instead of going for beer and pizza. It means devoting effort to figuring out good strategies and what the opponents are likely to try do, their weaknesses, etc. (Coaches don't study all that film for nothing). It means having the self-discipline to assess the situation realistically when doing all this. Only then does in-game effort pay off.

"Will" is needed for the entire project, preparation and planning as well as execution.

"It means having the self-discipline to assess the situation realistically when doing all this. Only then does in-game effort pay off."

The outcome of a game is typically not, however, life or death. The stakes differ utterly from an existential war, just as the stakes of an existential war differ from those of an optional war.

All along the administration and most war supporters have presented Iraq as a vital, existential, war: there was no choice involved in launching this invasion.

All along, the behavior of the administration and most supporters have been inconsistent with the notion that conquering and remaking Iraq was a matter of existential survival for the United States.

Sometimes the "in-game effort pay off" only comes from by choosing not to attack, and thus not having damaged one's country and military. As Jon H. said last night: "The time for willpower was in 2002 when people were saying we had to invade Iraq *right then*."

Would that I would have seen that myself, rather than fence-sitting, as I did with rapidly-increasing skepticism, until I bailed completely with Abu Ghraib.

Yes, Gary, it was trivial, but it was a golden opportunity to correct you on some trivial fact, so I could hardly be expected to pass it up. It probably won't happen again for another six months, if that.

Anyway, it's apparently the sort of trivia that exercises military history buffs, because I know I've seen partisans of Singapore's coastal defenses leaping to defend the honor of their 15 inch guns.

I wonder what the armor-piercing ammo did when it hit ground? I assume it would still explode after penetrating much more deeply than the HE rounds would.

Gary beat me to what seems to me like a crucial factor: This war and occupation were never, at any time, treated seriously by the administration in practical terms. People who really thought that the fate of our civilization simply wouldn't have tolerated the well-documented problems with troop readiness, under-supply of crucial materiel, and on and on. I fully believe that if Charles, von, jrudkis, or anyone else here who sees the war and occupation as serious matters were in charge, those defects wouldn't have been tolerated...but they weren't in charge, Bush and Cheney are and neither of them has ever cared to support their rhetoric with attention to actual preparation.

Those of us who oppose the basic project tend not to dwell on this much, and those who support the basic project tend to regard the failings as the result of underlings ("if only the czar knew, he would put a stop to it"), so the matter kind of falls through the cracks. But it was discussed in 2002-3, with war supporters mostly dismissing every objection raised about practical readiness as the work of anti-war wimps and dupes. We were right, though: the US government wasn't prepared for the task it committed itself to and declared to be of supreme importance for us all.

"Yes, Gary, it was trivial, but it was a golden opportunity to correct you on some trivial fact, so I could hardly be expected to pass it up."

Indeed. Would it help if I started deliberately sprinkling my comments with One Trivial (But Obscure!) Error Each, so as to make for a Delightful Possibility with every comment?

Or should I just use a caramel center in the heart of each comment? Decisions, decisions.

"I wonder what the armor-piercing ammo did when it hit ground? I assume it would still explode after penetrating much more deeply than the HE rounds would."

I'd have to look up what sort of fuzes they used, but airburst HE slightly above ground/ship level is more deadly in many circumstances than a direct hit. I'm not under the impression that AP can be set to airburst, but this is where my not-being-an-expert runs into the need to do-some-more-reading in order to speak further to the topic.

Airburst charges tend to set off by either time-of-flight or radar proximity. I have no idea which was actually used, though.

A WWII era APHE round would likely burrow so deeply into the ground that the explosion would hardly cause a ripple on the surface.

Just out of curiosity, does anyone here subscribe to the theory that "success ultimately depends on our will to prevail, nothing more" besides Charles? I see a lot of detractors, but no supporters besides Charles on this site.

I wouldn’t go that far. I would say that will is a critical component. It won’t carry the day by itself but you certainly won’t win without it.

I don't know whether I agree or disagree. Certainly the will to prevail might be useless in the face of, for example, the discovery that our entire planet will be annihilated in two hours' time. The idea that one can prevail if one is sufficiently committed is an interesting one to consider, but there are ancillary requirements such as being as adaptive, resourceful, etc as is required. This happens a lot in books and movies; probably less often in real life.

Assuming the problem is a tractable one to begin with, I mean.

And certainly the reverse of the statement is true: one can lose if one has all the talent, resourcefulness, etc as is needed, only lacks the will. At some point, action is normally required. In real life, though, will is only part of the mix.

"Would it help if I started deliberately sprinkling my comments with One Trivial (But Obscure!) Error Each, so as to make for a Delightful Possibility with every comment?

Or should I just use a caramel center in the heart of each comment? Decisions, decisions."

Sprinkling with obscure but trivial errors would be sufficient--adding calories to them would only get in the way of my attempt to shed 5-10 lbs this summer. Slows down my running time.

Off to read OCSteve's link.

"It won’t carry the day by itself but you certainly won’t win without it."

But as I emphasized, someone with a very small amount of will, in a machine gun nest, is apt to win against the mostly highly motivated warrior charging the nest with a spear, almost every time, save for an amazingly lucky exception now and again, if the exercise is tried enough times.

The other specifics determine who will win in most cases.

And endlessly exhorting soldiers, or armies, or a nation, to keep sending their soldiers and army into a meat-grinder, because goldarn it, if we just just apply enough will, we'll finally win, is crazy. It's Pickett's charge. It's World War I strategy all over over again. It's "we can win Vietnam" by just trying hard enough.

Charles, have you ever seen Paths of Glory?

Alternatively, possibly I should have made an inquiry about another possibly relevant audio-visual entertainment involving WWI, in which the phrase "cunning scheme" comes up a lot.

Slarti and OCSteve,

Thanks for answering.

OCSteve, you mention that one can't win without will. Do you think that ever happens in real life? It seems like there is always some will, if nothing else, survival and loyalty to comrades often bolsters will.

It seems that will might be significant in contests between otherwise evenly matched armies, but that since disparities in will will be small in most cases, and most contests are not evenly matched, will isn't a very useful thing to talk about...

Gary: That would be to give artistic verissimilitude to an otherwise baldrick and unconvincing narrative?

I will only note the lack (AFAICT) of a corresponding entry at Bizarro World.

Digressing back to Iraq, I meant earlier today to note this piece, whose main point is properly in the lede:

As the U.S. military sends more troops into Baghdad for stays of 15 months or longer, some Iraqi army soldiers participating in the same counterinsurgency operation are serving under a rotation schedule officially lasting just three months, according to senior officers at the Pentagon and Multi-National Force-Iraq.
Does this seem like their heart is in it?

(Even if they were 3-year rotations, it still wouldn't matter, so long as there's no coherent and at least slightly popular, or at least generally considered to be effective and legitimate, government, but setting that aside for a moment.)

"OCSteve, you mention that one can't win without will. Do you think that ever happens in real life?"

Why do you think soldiers ever surrender? In a hopeless enough situation, most non-Japanese soldiers will, if they don't expect to be killed regardless, surrender, because the circumstances have given them reason to think that will alone is insufficient to win. That's a realistic appraisal in many circumstances.

"It seems that will might be significant in contests between otherwise evenly matched armies, but that since disparities in will will be small in most cases, and most contests are not evenly matched, will isn't a very useful thing to talk about..."

Modern armies not all entering a battlefield at once -- and there not being so many clear battlefields any more in modern warfare, much of the time -- it's still significant as regards individual units, and individuals, in action, up to a point. It's just not the One Thing That Will Determine The Outcome Above All Others, though few individuals running away tend to win.

Charles, thanks for this.

I'd like to make a comment on the "Bush doctrine" by following up on wonkie's comment:

As long as we are there to fight for our goal, we are at cross purposes withh the Iraqis.

Constitutional republican democracy as we practice it was hammered out, at great cost and effort, over the course of several hundred years. It emerged in the context of our particular political history, and of our particular social and economic institutions.

It works well for us, generally. But it's not the only possible form of just, equitable government.

There are 6.6 billion people on the planet. 300 million of them -- about 4.5% -- live in the US. The other 95.5% participate in their own political, social, economic, religious, and cultural traditions and institutions. They have their own history, and their own hopes and agendas for the future.

Islam, to take one example, has a rich and deep understanding of human community, equality, and justice. It's one that we here in the west could, in fact, learn from if we were so inclined.

Here is the long and short of it, IMO. Assuming that it is appropriate, that it is our mission, or even that it is possible to introduce western democracy to the rest of the world is folly. In the best case, it's well-meaning but naive. In the worst case, it's a thin veneer for pure self-interest. In the normal case, it's a mix of the two.

This has nothing to do with other people being "incapable" of western style democracy. It has everything to do with people needing to work out their own institutions, in accord with their own understanding of community, justice, social and economic equity, etc. That's what we did, and are still in the process of doing.

We cannot, and we have no place attempting to, impose our political, social, economic, or cultural institutions on others from without, whether it's via "blood and steel" or any other form of interference. IMO, it is the height of folly, in the fullest tradition of all that that word means, to think otherwise.

Thanks -

Am I the only one who finds a statement like "The troubling part is the EJKs" somewhat creepy? There is no earthly reason to make up an acronym for "extrajudicial killings", especially when you're only going to mention it twice.

That phrase itself doesn't seem particularly necessary either - unless you think that something like "civilian deaths" or "murders" would cause confusion by including judicial murders or accidental deaths - but if you must use it, at least forgo the acronym, unless you are trying to sound like some awful Vietnam war bureaucrat.

Sometimes the "in-game effort pay off" only comes from by choosing not to attack,

I agree.

But making that decision correctly also requires the will to look at objectives and choices realistically, rather than wishfully. That was really my point.

"Am I the only one who finds a statement like 'The troubling part is the EJKs' somewhat creepy?"

I was struck by the acronym, since I was equally unfamiliar with it. Any acronym or euphemism or jargon about killings is understandably apt to seem creepy, sure.

"There is no earthly reason to make up an acronym for 'extrajudicial killings', especially when you're only going to mention it twice."

Charles didn't make it up.

You can question his usage of it, rather than a blunter term, if you like, but he didn't make it up. He was following Army terminology.

"EJK" for "extra-judicial killings" is rare enough that it didn't show up in the first ten Google pages of results, out of the 273,000 uses of "EJK," but when the query is "ejk killings," one finds over 500 usages, all seeming to stem from the Army.

One might wonder if Charles was being a bit blithe in adopting this, but that's a rather fine point of style, and at a level at which few, if any of us, are consistently unquestionable. I'm certainly not. It's certainly an argument that can be made, but if it's worth making, I'll leave to someone else.

"Murder" tends to well describe many extra-judicial killings, but it's understandable that militaries tend to prefer to emphasize other categories of killings, and to emphasize the distinctions. What the implications are, and what best practices might be, I leave to others to discuss for now.

Mr. Baugh (now blogging here, true believers!): "Gary: That would be to give artistic verissimilitude to an otherwise baldrick and unconvincing narrative?"

M'lud, you have found the mot juste.

I should have noted that I do share this opinion, which I wouldn't, on the other hand, put forth as more than a suggestion (regarding using "EJKs"): "...but if you must use it, at least forgo the acronym, unless you are trying to sound like some awful Vietnam war bureaucrat."

Turb writes: "Do you think that ever happens in real life? It seems like there is always some will, if nothing else, survival and loyalty to comrades often bolsters will."

I'd guess that only comes up in expected combat engagements.

Lack of will would be particularly in evidence in slack discipline before combat is likely. If a lack of will manifests in guards sleeping on duty, then when the commandos land, a surge of will in combat in the interests of survival and loyalty is going to be too late.

Will is not the same as bravado in the fight.

Gary: But as I emphasized, someone with a very small amount of will, in a machine gun nest, is apt to win against the mostly highly motivated warrior charging the nest with a spear, almost every time, save for an amazingly lucky exception now and again, if the exercise is tried enough times.

You are right, of course. I was thinking more though in terms of when things really get rough, not mowing down spear throwing warriors with a machine gun. That really does not take much will IMO. I’m just saying that all other factors being equal, the side with the most will, will carry the day in most cases.


Turbulence: OCSteve, you mention that one can't win without will. Do you think that ever happens in real life? It seems like there is always some will, if nothing else, survival and loyalty to comrades often bolsters will.

I can agree with that. You don’t fight as much for “king and country” as for the poor schmuck beside you in the foxhole. I think most acts of heroism are more to protect your squad than save your country. So this is a very valid point.

"I can agree with that. You don’t fight as much for “king and country” as for the poor schmuck beside you in the foxhole. I think most acts of heroism are more to protect your squad than save your country. So this is a very valid point."

I would agree with that. Which is why I say that Bush and Cheney have wasted the lives of the troops, but the troops themselves did not. The troops were fighting for each other, Bush and Cheney are pursuing some crazy imperial scheme that was nuts in the 1990s, and nuts squared after 9/11.

"That really does not take much will IMO. I’m just saying that all other factors being equal, the side with the most will, will carry the day in most cases."

Sure. But the number of times in warfare that, in fact, all other factors are equal isn't quite zero, but it isn't a very large single digit, either.

And it can take only one other key factor -- supply, ease of supply, numbers, technology, position, strategy, type of weapon, type of defense, air power, sea power, type of war, organization, competence, whatever -- to conclusively carry the day.

I have to stop hanging out here. You all have me thinking more and more like a lefty. I used to be worried Rove would cancel my VRWC membership. Now I’m thinking he is going to contract a hit…

The comments to this entry are closed.

Whatnot


  • visitors since 3/2/2004

November 2014

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
            1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30            
Blog powered by Typepad

QuantCast