Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Strategic Amnesia

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 hostilities.

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.

Fourth, alliance 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.