Blueprint for Failure: On Mismatched Strategies and Objectives

Discussion in 'Politics' started by AAAintheBeltway, Jun 25, 2006.

  1. I submit that most reasonable people would agree the Iraq campaign has not turned out as we would have liked. How did we come to this point and how can we avoid similar debacles in the future? Let us begin by examining the strategies available in modern conflicts.

    A nation contemplating the use of military force has three basic strategies for large scale, ie non-guerilla, combat.

    Type I conflicts involve the use of force to coerce the opponent to take or refrain from taking some particular action. Typically the offensive will take the form of air strikes designed to impose unacceptable costs on the opponent. A classic example was Clinton's war on the former Yugoslavia. While the goals, eg regime change and establishment of a Muslim state in Kosovo, may be problematic, the strategy was well-matched to the objective. In Type I conflicts, the offensive force is not concerned with anything but achieving a limited objective. Occupation and subjugation of the population are not required.

    Type II conflicts are a step up and are designed to destroy most or all of the opponent's military assets. The objective is to render the opponent unable to project offensive force. The first Gulf war, while nominally a Type I conflict, actually was more of a Type II, as the coalition forces ended up destroying most of Iraq's military and rendering it toothless as an offensive power in the region. Type II conflicts are serious affairs, as the attacked country typically has significant ability to counterattack, unlike the Type I situation. For example, in the run-up to WW II, the allies faced a classic situation requiring a Type II response. Nazi Germany had violated treaty obligations by building a significant military force. The only practical response was to try to destroy those forces before they reached the point of being stronger than those opposing them.

    The final paradigm of conflict is Type III. This is warfare designed to achieve one result, unconditional surrender. Examples are WW II and the American Civil War, at least from the Northern perspective. Type III conflicts typically produce significant civilian deaths and untold suffering in the affected region. One distinguishing feature of a Type III conflict is that the losing country is invariably occupied by foreign forces following surrender. In Type I or II conflicts, such occupation is either unnecessary or impractical, although "peace keeping " forces from a neutral third party may be inserted for a time.

    Looking back on military history, we see that a mismatch in objectives and strategy often precedes failure. Vietnam is an obvious example. We fought that conflict as a Type I encounter, believing that the gradual escalation of military force on North Vietnam would inevitably coerce that country to abandon its aggression on the South. The North Vietnamese treated it as a Type III war, with conquest and annexation of the South as its goals. In effect, they went "all in" and we folded.

    Similarly, the humiliating withdrawal from Somalia reflected another mismatch. We were not even prosecuting a Type I conflict, while the opposing forces saw our presence as a Type III threat to them. To occupy a country, you have to have defeated it first. We hadn't, we weren't prepared to do what was required, so we left.

    Turning to Iraq, we see a confusion of objectives in the run-up to that war. The administration had evidence to perhaps justify a Type I conflict(eg, regime change), they used rhetoric appropriate for a Type II conflict ("destroy WMD before they became an imminent threat"), but they utilized a form of Type III-lite strategy. They invaded and occupied a country that had not really been defeated sufficiently to pacify. They achieved a Type I result, regime change, but treated it as a Type III victory. They might have pulled it off if they had insisted on a Type III unconditional surrender and treated the Iraqis as vanquished foes who had no right to do anything.

    Instead, we morphed overnight from Type III victors into a peacekeeping and nationbuilding force, there to assist the grateful Iraqis. Only they weren't grateful. Many, like the Somali warlords, could see that we weren't prepared to act like Type III victors. They saw the very real possibility of reacquiring the power they held under Saddam, if only they could drive us out.

    Where did we go wrong?

    I suggest a Type I conflict would have produced adequate results. We could have achieved it by a bombing campaign similar to the Yugoslavian conflict. Even better, we could have gained tremendous leverage by attacking and seizing the southern oilfields in Basra, thus denying Saddam the resources to pursue WMD. We could have used return of the oilfields as a bargaining lever with whatever post-Saddam government emerged.

    We now face situations in North Korea and Iran that are obvious candidates for a Type II response. Regime change is inadequate and we can't trust them to dismantle their nuclear programs. Only destruction of them will suffice. As with Hitler however, the diplomatic costs of such a response are enormous and there is always an outside chance that things will work out if we defer.
  2. I've voiced my strenuous objections to some of your posts in the past, but I will admit that this is a very good one, especially if you wrote it.

    I have also said that a Type I solution, clean and efficient, would have produced adequate results.

    I also agree that Iran poses as much if not more of a threat to the West directly than Iraq ever did. I do however believe that continued Type I attacks are the only supportable ones, unless Iran shows clearly that it is preparing nuclear weapons. Ahmadenijad or whatever his name is could be taken out tomorrow and it wouldn't be too soon for me. Is it possible for the U.S. to determine how close Iran is to actually preparing nuclear weapons for actual use, instead of working on their theory? My only comment would be - with $100 billion dollars? I would have to think they could.

    Isn't it kind of stupid to wait until a country is on the verge of using nuclear weapons before destroying their capability to do so?

    Believe it or not, some of us who are left of you guys (but not crackpot libs, much as you might want to believe we are) are struggling with the idea, since we have always believed that pre-emptive war is illegal and unethical.

    Again, whether you believe it or not, a lot changed for a lot of libs after 9-11. It knocked a lot of us quite a ways to the right.
  3. Nik,

    As I understand it, taking out Iran's nuke capability would be anything but a walk in the park.

    All the reports I've read state that their programs are scattered across the country and deep underground. There isn't one central location we can hit that will remove their capability.
  4. Pekelo


    I must have missed the memo, so could you tell me again:

    What gives you the legal/moral right to take out ANYBODY's nuclear weapons???

    In other words, if country A has the right to have nukes, why country B has not???
  5. We went wrong by going into Iraq in the first place. As you said, a limited engagement to further cripple Saddam militarily would have sufficed if it were indeed the true objective to force him into compliance with UN weapons inspection. He would have only taken so much damage to his conventional forces before capitulation.

    We went wrong by steering away from the prime objective of combating terrorism. Afghanistan wasn't, and still isn't, secure and our objectives there are still not met. It's a classic military mistake to open 2 fronts to ANY war; much less to one where the enemy is elusive and mobile. Any officer worth his weight in medals could have told you that. Why none of them spoke out publicly BEFORE this disaster occurred is beyond me.

    This brings us to the point the IMHO defines the reality of why this administration brought us into Iraq. Iraqi oilfields is bargaining leverage for the entire world.

    Had the UN weapons inspection given Saddam a clean bill, the embargo would have been lifted and Iraqi oil would have gone back on to the open market. Since Saddam had already made arrangements to give preference to any company that was not American, this would have spelled disaster for US oil companies. Dubya and Dead-eye Cheney could not allow this to happen to their corporate buddies. All the talk about diplomatic solutions was meaningless. It was never meant to succeed nor was time going to be allotted for it to.

    The bulk majority of Iraqi oil is effectively still off the market and safe in the hands of US control for the time being. It doesn't matter how democratic this new Iraqi government is going to be. It will be useless to the US to have anything less than a Iraqi puppet that will remain oil friendly for many years to come.

    If Iraq actually had anything to do with the war on terrorism, none of the tactics employed there would be a smart move. There is nothing brilliant about providing convenient targets for your enemy. What the US is doing in Iraq is equivalent to looking for a gas leak with a Zippo.

    Every American needs to get used to the idea: the troops will not be coming home. They are entrenched there for political reasons tied to oil until someone diplomatically and/or militarily boots us out. There will never be a victory declared because the real objective is too publicly outrageous to admit and those in power require a boogie-man bargaining chip to stay in power.
  6. What makes you think Iran will actually use them? Nukes have been an invaluable bargaining chip until the end of the Cold War. The mere threat of using them has given more power to the nations that possess them than damn near any other political tactic ever employed. It's not their use that we fear. It's the fact that every oil field in the region will be held hostage to nuclear fallout. Why bother to nuke America when you can bring every gasoline burning engine in the US to a grinding halt?

    Therein lies the hypocrisy of American foreign policy. Not only does the country that has the most lethal nuclear stockpile in the world object to anyone else to possessing one, it isn't willing to completely eliminate it's own nor is it going to put pressure on it's political "friends" to do the same.
  7. US Foreign Policy:

    Nuke as WE say, not as we Nuke.
  8. Pekelo


    I am glad you mentioned it, so we can take a closer look. Once we did that, you will see that actually, there is more problem with it then solutions:

    An internationale agreement like the NPT would be moral and effective if:

    1. It would have existed BEFORE any of the countries had nukes
    It is very convenient for the HAVEs to control the HAVE NOTs, after they already got their toy, I mean Nukes...

    2. Every country should be able to sign it VOLUNTARILY. Several countries were strongarmed to sign the treaty.

    3. NPT only worths anything if EVERY country signs it and OBEY it.
    If there is only one country not playing by the rules, you can throw the agreement out.

    4. It is possible for a country to withdraw from the treaty, thus making it LESS effective.

    We have examples for all 4 points, thus it can be said that the NPT is neither a good or moral solution nor effective.

    By the way the very same website you gave proves that the US is violating the NPT by having its nukes in foreign countries, clear violation of Article I and II:

    "As of 2005, it is estimated that the United States still provides between 180 and 480 tactical B61 nuclear bombs for use by Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey under these NATO agreements .... Many states, and the Non-Aligned Movement, now argue this violates Articles I and II of the treaty, and are applying diplomatic pressure to terminate these agreements. "

    So again, what was the moral high ground/legal right to tell to anybody not to have nukes???

    Western analogy for NPT:

    Bad Jack arrives in a Wild West town with the very first revolver ca. 1841. He declares that nobody can have revolvers (specially not Indians) but him. White Harry arrives a bit later, also with a revolver. They become friends and they make the town's people sign an agreement (they make everybody to sign or leave town) that no resident of the town can have revolvers...

    You got the picture, I assume...
  9. Pekelo



    1. Which country is the most likely to use nukes?
    Well, Nixon wanted to use them in Vietnam, some US generals wanted to nuke the Russians before they got a hold on nukes, right after WW2. Wait a minute, I vaguely recall the name of a city, it has something to do with using nukes, it starts with an H......

    2. The Cold war stayed COLD, because of nukes.

    3. If Saddam had had nukes, 2500 US servicemen would be still alive.

    4. As much as I don't like nukes, it is safe to say, that because of them, much less people died in armed conflicts in the last 60 years all over the world...
    #10     Jun 25, 2006