Generals Who Know How To Win Wars? Oh Wait, What?

By | December 8, 2021 | 0 Comments

So what did 20 years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq accomplish? No, I don’t mean geopolitically. I mean personally. What did it teach? What did it provide experience in.

On the grunt level, it gave a generation superb training in small-unit tactics. Those guys can clear a building as well as most big city SWAT teams. In fact, many SWAT teams are staffed by Army and Marine veterans. And on the company-grade officer level, we have thousands of young and middle-aged people with similarly excellent training.

But tactics are means to achieve strategic objectives. What about strategy? The word comes from the Greek for general. What did our current generals learn? What did the upcoming generation of generals learn? Small-unit tactics on steroids: how to clear not just a building but a city. But to what end? We got rid of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and left Iran unopposed. We got rid of the Taliban in Afghanistan and they came back in weeks. We got rid of Gaddafi in Libya and left chaos that killed our ambassador. We trained generals in small-unit tactics as if they still were lieutenants and captains, but we forgot about strategy.

We have generals who how to prolong a war but not how to win it. We haven’t really won a war since 1945. We hope that the bungled, rushed withdrawal from Afghanistan was forced on our generals by incompetents in the White House and State Department, though the generals didn’t put up much of a protest. But even worse, what if the generals didn’t foresee the chaos that resulted? What if they are as incompetent as their civilian masters?

And these are the leaders we expect to challenge the growing military threat of China on its doorstep? These are the leaders we expect to confront a powerful Russian military on its own turf? If we expect that, we need therapy, many years of therapy. What we do need is to rebuild an officer corps that knows how to win wars, not just how to prolong them in order to enrich defense contractors. That will take time. I hope we have it.

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