Uh, say what now?
The study of military history teaches us valuable lessons that are
applicable to today’s most intractable strategic problems; yet, these
lessons are underappreciated in current American strategy formulation.
Throughout the history of American armed conflict, the United States has
discerned, at great cost, four critical lessons applicable to
containing and combating the Islamic State.
First, as war theorists Crispin Burke and Carl von Clausewitz noted, war is a
continuation of politics by other means; but resorting to war rarely
yields the ideal political solution envisioned at the start of
Second, the use of proxy forces to pursue American
geopolitical goals is rarely an investment worth making because proxies
tend to have goals misaligned with those of their American sponsors.
True control is an illusion. The corollary to this axiom is that
supporting inept and corrupt leaders with American power only invites
further dependency, does not solve political problems and usually
prolongs an inevitable defeat.
Third, conflating the security of a
foreign power with that of America leads to disproportionate resource
allocation and an apparent inability at the political level to pursue
policies of peace and successful war termination.
formation through lofty rhetorical positions imperils rational analysis
of geopolitical and military realities. Publicly staking out inviable
political end states invites a strategic mismatch between military
capabilities and political wishes, endangering the current enterprise as
well as future national credibility. America has paid for these lessons
in blood; our leaders ought to heed them.