Thursday, December 27, 2012

2013: Time For US Strategy To Get Real

AOL Defense
December 27, 2012
Strategy & Policy

2013: Time For US Strategy To Get Real

By Doug Macgregor

As the old year dies, AOL Defense has asked its expert Board of Contributors to look ahead at the next (click here for the whole 2013 forecast series: ). Today we hear from Col. (retired) Douglas Macgregor, a decorated combat veteran of the first Gulf War, prolific author, and a passionate skeptic of conventional strategic wisdom.

In his book Only the Paranoid Survive, Andrew Grove describes a strategic inflection point as a point in time when the balance of forces shifts from the old structure and the old ways of competing to ones. As Grove writes, successful business structures adapt and thrive. Archaic structures that fail to adapt, decline and die.

What Grove describes is precisely what the incoming Secretary of Defense and his (or her) team must do in the opening months of 2013: Recognize we've passed a strategic inflection point and adapt the armed forces to new realities, fiscal and military, while extracting real $ savings in the process. After all, if businesses can do it, so can the American defense establishment, right? Actually, it's not so easy.

Hindsight tells us that machine guns and artillery would kill millions of infantrymen during World War I and that command of the airspace would be vital to the outcome of battles on land and sea. Frankly, it never required much imagination to figure out that the Arab Spring would soon turn to winter with the replacement of a secular dictator like Mubarak with a Sunni Arab Islamist like Morsi.

Today, it seems incomprehensible that anyone in or out of uniform could miss these realities. Why, Americans ask, could hindsight not have been foresight if viewed through a better, more focused lens? Yet, since the end of World War II, the political and military leaders of the United States have established a record of recurrent misjudgment and misperception of strategic reality from Saigon to Baghdad.

To be fair, the human ability to see into the future is always limited, but foresight of any kind is impossible if the lens cannot focus. Whenever the rich record of human cultural, historical and economic experience is dismissed in favor of wishful thinking, a world comes into view that does not really exist; the kind of world described in 1992 by the late Secretary of Defense, Les Aspin, where the US Armed Forces are employed to "punish evil doers."

Inside the Beltway, the lens of wishful thinking is further deformed by the unending struggle on Capitol Hill with the myth that only generals and admirals can or should formulate the concepts governing the application of American military power or military doctrine. In the last four years, this myth has transformed the president, as well as the current Secretary of Defense, into door mats for the four-stars. It's why many Americans in and out of uniform think the United States is doomed to experience a military disaster on the scale of Pearl Harbor, or the Communist attack on South Korea in June 1950, before the post-9/11 paradigm of neo-Wilsonian nation building and counterinsurgency are tossed onto the "trash-heap of history." The skeptics have a point.

On the Hill, the cocktail level of familiarity with real warfare, informed by an unhealthy dose of nostalgia for a post-World War II world order that is crumbling fast, is certainly not helpful. Combine these problems with the unreasoning fears of dysfunctional, backward Muslim societies that have no scientific-industrial capacity; with the grossly exaggerated dread of China, a country riddled with corruption and a ruling class obsessed with keeping the lid on unrest amongst 1.3 billion people; and the picture worsens.

However, like it or not, the incoming Secretary of Defense has no choice but to project technology and conditions into the future while they develop armed forces today that will be used a decade or more after their conception. The question for 2013 is whether the incoming defense team will chart a new course in defense?

Will the new team simply reinforce the pursuit of global dominance with the use of military power to control and shape development inside other peoples' societies? Will the new defense team devise a military strategy that does less with less, while concealing as much as possible our trimmed down military posture from the American public?

Or will the new team begin framing a new national military strategy, one tied to realistic, attainable political and military goals? Will the new defense team treat the American military establishment as a hedge against wars we don't want to fight? Will it foster a military establishment designed to maintain our market-oriented, English-speaking Republic, a Republic that upholds the rule of law, respects the cultures and traditions of people different from ourselves and trades freely with all nations, but protects its commerce, its vital strategic interests, and its citizens?

Put another way, will the incoming defense team admit that it is truly a matter of strategic indifference to the American people which Asian nation controls the Spratlys in the South China Sea, so long as our freedom of navigation, our ability to pursue commerce, is not limited or obstructed?

Whatever actions the new Secretary of Defense and his team undertake, it will not be easy to align the structure and capabilities of American military power with strategic reality, but it is still essential they start doing so in 2013.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Building a Smarter, Smaller Military

National Security

Building a Smarter, Smaller Military

By Douglas A. Macgregor

Read more:

Fact: The fiscal crisis will compel reductions in defense spending. More important fact: How do we do it in ways that make sense?

Economists argue that economic crises do nations a service by clearing the way for innovation, more-efficient production, and faster growth. If that’s true, crises also compel us to see with brutal clarity, what tasks and capabilities are critical and what is simply “nice to do.”

With these points in mind, when it comes to cutting defense, there are really three options:

Option 1. Let the Pentagon’s military bureaucracies drive outcomes. The division of effort among the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines compels its uniformed leaders to view all national policies, even conflict itself, in terms of what the policies attain or fail to attain for the specific Service. As a result, the uniformed military leadership is inclined to reject any serious appraisal of alternatives that changes the military status quo (little if any money saved).

Option 2. Politicians can tinker on the margins of the military status quo. Congress avoided confrontation with the four stars in the aftermath of Desert Storm and made the old industrial age force smaller, while retaining a bloated command overhead. Senior military leaders paid for expensive, often failed modernization programs by downsizing soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, leaving intact the enormous bureaucratic command overhead with its Cold War legacy of numerous single-Service headquarters (modest money saved).

Option 3. Politicians can leverage the fiscal crisis to reduce redundant bureaucratic overhead, streamline defense investment and, ultimately, cultivate greater war-fighting capability. These measures mean fewer regional unified commands, fewer four-star headquarters and more capability integration across Service lines. In 1947, General of the Army, Dwight David Eisenhower made the salient point: “Separate ground, sea, and air warfare is gone forever.”

Ike was right then…and now.

Eisenhower was right. Sixty-five years later, it’s time to get on with the job and harvest the major financial savings generated by a smart retooling of the U.S. military.

Option 3 is the only option that allows us to see with brutal clarity what’s required and it promises both savings and increased capability. Given that “Jointness” and the unity of effort it is supposed to deliver is largely an illusion, a national reset of defense policy and national military strategy is vital.

This reset must produce an efficient and effective organization of military power for the optimum use of increasingly constrained resources.

Put another way, lawmakers and the White House should view defense cuts as a once-in-a-century opportunity to harmonize defense investments with the evolutionary trends in military technology, organization and command structures, as well as, the nation’s need for fiscal discipline.

It’s time to craft a new military strategy and a new force designed for the post-industrial age.

The top priority in U.S. military strategy is economic prosperity and the technological superiority that economic strength creates. Conflict avoidance is vital to this outcome.

President Eisenhower’s military strategy led him to invest in capabilities that would make American involvement in wars less likely, conserving America’s military, economic and political reserves of strength in the process. In this regard, open-ended missions to install liberal democracy inside failed or backward societies, missions that are prohibitively expensive and likely to fail, must be discarded in favor of U.S. foreign and defense policies that promote both solvency and security.

Constrained budgets demand armed forces that fight together, creating real unity of effort, and its corollary: American military power that is disproportionate to the actual size of the armed forces employed. This statement describes a force designed to maximize war-fighting capability, a force organized around Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (ISR), Strike, Maneuver and Sustainment.

In an operational military context, economy is about integrating existing and future capabilities within an agile operational framework guided by human understanding. It’s about combining ground maneuver forces with ISR, Strike and Sustainment capabilities from all the Services.

The question is how to do it?

Here are some thoughts:

– Reduce redundant command-and-control overhead and establish Joint Force Commands.

Standing up permanent Joint Force Commands (JFC) in a reduced number of regional combatant commands bring together the aerospace, naval and land warfare expertise from the four functional areas – ISR, Strike, Maneuver and Sustainment — in one Command within a relatively flat, joint command structure inside the regional unified commands.


Defense Secretary Leon Panetta meets Dec. 5 with combatant commanders over breakfast at the Pentagon.

Sir Winston Churchill told his wartime cabinet, “Failure in war is most often the absence of one directing mind and commanding will.” Perhaps, Churchill’s point explains why from March 1942 to April 1945 when there were 15 million men in the Army and Army Air Corps the U.S. had only four four-star generals to command them: Marshall, MacArthur, Eisenhower and Arnold. Today, the U.S. employs 23 four stars to command a combined Army and Air Force of roughly 879,000 soldiers and airmen. The situation inside the Navy and Marines during World War II was similar.

When there were roughly 4.2 million men in the Navy the U.S. had four four-star admirals to command them: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King, and, until March 1945, 485,000 Marines were led by a three-star named Vandegrift. Today, the U.S. has 10 four-star admirals and five four-star Marine generals for a combined force of roughly 500,000. The small number of commanders elevated to four stars during the Second World War reflected the understanding that no subordinate in an organization should report to more than one boss, that lines of command authority must be clear and uncontested.

Joint Force Commands address this requirement by consolidating the numerous two-, three- and four-star single-service commands into three-star Joint command centers that capitalize on the vast array of strike forces networked with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. However, permanent three-star Joint Force Commands are not a gimmick to justify massive new investments in technology.

The brass-to-grunt ratio is out of whack.

Joint Force Commands are really intellectual constructs with technological infrastructure, the lynchpin in the shift to a 21st Century force centered on integrated operations and Joint military command structures. The faster that command structures can accurately assess a situation, make “good enough” decisions on what to do about it, and act decisively to deal with it, the more lethal and agile the force becomes.

In future conflicts and crises involving capable opponents, there won’t be time in future conflicts for the “pick-up game” that cobbles Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine headquarters together, the approach we used in Iraq and Afghanistan where there were no opposing armies, air forces, air defenses or naval forces. In a confrontation with a great power like China, by the time the U.S. gets its operational construct and “command and control” act in order, one or more great powers will defeat or delay attacking U.S. forces and achieve their own strategic aims. In this strategic setting, competing single-Service commands and ad hoc Joint Task Forces are burdens, not assets when the size of general-purpose combat forces and the fiscal resources to support them is diminishing.

– Build mission focused capability packages for Joint employment.

The fiscal crisis in defense spending creates the opportunity to both economize and expand the Nation’s range of strategic options while reducing costs by constructing a 21st-century scalable, “Lego-like” force design, and a design structured for warfare inside an integrated ISR-Strike-Maneuver-Sustainment Framework.

The future points towards smaller, but more lethal force packages under one-star officers designed for missions of limited duration and scope, not mass armies created for territorial conquest and occupation. Building mission-focused force packages designed to deploy and fight under one star command or the military equivalent of “Legos” that can be assembled into larger joint operational forces is something aerospace and naval forces can do now, but the ground force cannot. Maneuver, Strike, ISR and Sustainment formations become clusters of joint combat power under brigadier generals or rear admirals (lower half).

Future wars require lighter, more agile forces

Generals in the Army and Marines are resistant to Joint Command structures that do not ensure their forces operate under Army or Marine Command Headquarters. But in a world where the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction makes future operations by large concentrations of ground troops dangerous, especially operations from large, expensive fixed installations like those in Iraq and Afghanistan, the deployment of large, unwieldy headquarters ashore to manage WW II troop formations is a liability. Instead, the ground force can make virtue of necessity and create battle groups under one-stars organized around ISR, Strike, Maneuver and Sustainment ashore, formations that operate like ships at sea, mobile, self-contained, and capable of independent operations under Joint Command.

Organizing forces to deploy and fight under Joint Command is the next logical step in the evolution of warfare beyond the ad hoc coordination of Federal Agencies or combined arms, air-ground cooperation, air-sea battle, amphibious and special operations. Eliminating the colonel or captain level of command also offers additional advantages. Not only does the one-star/three-star command structure allow more time for officers to become educated and qualified for Joint operations – something current Service career patterns obstruct – it can also speed promotion to one-star rank.

– Create a predictable revenue stream and job creation inside America’s defense industries through Joint Optimized Defense Investments.

There is plenty of evidence that functionally organized military establishments that integrate capabilities across Service lines while simultaneously eliminating unneeded overhead are not only less expensive to operate and maintain, they also reduce duplication of effort with the potential to create sustainable profitability inside America’s defense industries.

The topline in defense investments is going down in real terms, and the pressure to reduce costs will drive government clients to squeeze profits as well. What is needed is a new business model that stabilizes investments, increasing capability returns while offering sustainable profitability. The new business model is intertwined with the implementation of the ISR-Strike-Maneuver-Sustainment Framework.

America’s defense establishment desperately needs stability in modernization programs along with clarity in technology forecasting, the kind of forecasting that promotes a real and substantial return on research and development. Aligning defense investments with evolutionary trends in technology, organization and command structures is an essential feature of creating sustainable profitability. Applying the ISR-Strike-Maneuver-Sustainment Framework as a methodology for investment planning and programming to support informed choices as constrained budgets compel force optimization is an important part of this process.

Thirty years passed between the outbreak of World War I and the dropping of the atomic bomb in 1945. Americans should expect at least as much change in defense technology over the next 30 years. As a result, binding military modernization efforts through massive programs intended to stamp out hundreds or thousands of ideal designs over two decades of production runs is the road to ruin as seen in programs like the Future Combat System.

The Future Combat System: A road to ruin

The point is simple. What works now must triumph over “unobtainium.” Industry can deliver what’s required, but the military leadership must establish attainable requirements.

The Bottom Line

Welding American military power into a coherent operational framework is essential to save money and rationalize modernization, as well as extract greater capability from the existing force.

Action to achieve this outcome, however, requires tough, courageous decisions from lawmakers and the White House, and this won’t be easy.

As Benjamin Disraeli quipped over a hundred years ago: “Courage is the rarest of all qualities to be found in public life.”

Yet, shrinking resources always means a destructive inter-Service fight inside a fragmented defense policymaking process. Numerous active and retired four-stars, along with their political allies on Capitol Hill, will argue furiously against any change in the way the armed forces are commanded, funded or developed. They will always insist that critical capability gaps could emerge with unknown consequences for American national security.

This form of resistance springs from the natural instinct to protect one’s Service, one’s self, and more especially, the business model and war-fighting status quo one knows.

Mahan: Military services can’t reform themselves

Such behavior validates Alfred Thayer Mahan’s view that “No Service can or should be expected to reform itself.” Still, the risk of doing nothing, of living in the past and extending the life of structures and thinking the nation no longer needs, is far greater and, prohibitively expensive.

In the hundred years after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, Britain fought many small conflicts against weak enemies within its overseas empire, actions that did nothing to prepare the British armed forces for the great power wars of the early and mid-20th Century. As H.G. Wells recorded laconically, “I think that in the decades before 1914 not only I but most of my generation – in the British Empire, America, France, and indeed throughout most of the civilized world – thought that war was dying out…”

When the British entered World War I, they discovered what it meant to fight a determined enemy with capable armed forces.

Americans should not fall victim to similar illusions.

Building effective military power takes time, resources and imagination.

To be ready for the world that will emerge in the aftermath of today’s global economic crisis requires change in defense to begin now, not in 10 or 15 years. By then, Americans will be confronting powers that opted to exploit the coming “inter-war” period and wisely adjusted to the evolutionary trends in armed conflict.

Read more:

Friday, December 7, 2012

Armed Aerial Scout Helicopter: To Be Or Not To Be?

AOL Defense
December 5, 2012
Armed Aerial Scout Helicopter: To Be Or Not To Be?

By Richard Whittle

WASHINGTON: Reports that the Army has finally figured out whether the Hamlet of aircraft programs, Armed Aerial Scout, should be or not be are greatly exaggerated. Army aviation acquisition officials have looked at what birds in hand industry can offer to replace the service's aging OH-58D Kiowa Warrior scout helicopters and have decided they'd prefer to go after a bird in the bush. They're still trying to decide, though, whether they can actually afford one.

The Army has been struggling for more than 20 years to come up with an aircraft to replace the Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. OH-58, which first went into service in 1969 and has been upgraded several times. Rumors were reported last week that a decision had been made to buy a new Armed Aerial Scout after a Pentagon meeting. At that session, Army aviation officials briefed the service's assistant secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, Heidi Shyu, on the results of flight demonstrations of helicopters manufacturers could offer for the armed scout role. They also presented options and a recommendation, but no decisions were reached.

On December 18, aviation officials are to present their findings and the recommendation they decide they can afford to the vice chief of staff of the Army, Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III. Sometime in January, they are to take an official Army request to Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall.

"A decision will be made next year," said Army spokesman Dov Schwartz, declining futher comment.

In the flight demonstrations, conducted last summer and fall, five manufacturers flew prescribed maneuvers with helicopters they might offer if the Army were to replace the OH-58D. Some participants were certain their aircraft impressed Army observers sufficiently to inspire a new start, but AOL Defense can report that what Army officials saw left them unenthusiastic about buying existing helicopters for the armed scout mission. Even if outfitted with additional combat gear, the aircraft left Army officialsunconvinced they should invest the $10 million to $15 million apiece they have estimated it might cost to buy 425 new Armed Aerial Scouts.

As a result, aviation officers are studying whether the service should develop a more advanced version of some existing aircraft and thus get a scout able to fly faster and farther and hover with efficiency at higher altitudes, among other attributes. The answer depends partly on how much that would cost, how it might affect the helicopter industrial base, and how it might mesh with the Pentagon's joint Future Vertical Lift (FVL) initiative.

FVL is a science and technology program to develop four classes of advanced aircraft – light, medium, heavy and ultra -- that can take off and land vertically. Under existing plans, the first of the four to be developed would be a medium-lift aircraft known as the Joint Multirole, a vehicle that could be adapted for various missions.

"What they want to do is kind of hold what they've got and go for the next generation capability," an industry source who follows the Armed Aerial Scout issue closely said of Army aviation leaders.

Within the past eight years, two previous Army programs to develop a Kiowa Warrior replacement were cancelled for cost and other issues. The low-observable, futuristic RAH-66 Comanche was killed in 2004 after about 22 years and $7 billion of development. The ARH-70A Arapaho, an attempt to militarize Bell's successful 407 Ranger, was scrapped in 2008 after its costs soared. After the ARH-70A was cancelled, the Army studied its alternatives and decided the only way to meet its future armed scout helicopter needs would be to develop a new manned aircraft because an unmanned vehicle couldn't fly close air support missions. Army aviation leaders, however, decided they couldn't afford such a new start.

Instead, they decided on a plan that Maj. Gen. Timothy Crosby, program executive officer for aviation, described publicly as an "appetite suppressant." They would upgrade their OH-58Ds to an OH-58F model so those wouldn't become obsolete, conduct a service life extension program (SLEP) on the Kiowa Warriors later to keep them flying, and wait for the FVL to provide technology for a new Armed Aerial Scout. Now, however, following the flight demonstrations, Army officials are studying whether a wiser course would be to pursue a more advanced aircraft sooner.

"They'll look for a dramatic improvement in capability," the industry source predicted.

Theoretically, that might mean a compound helicopter based on Sikorsky Aircraft Corp.'s X2 Technology Demonstrator or on Eurocopter's equally futuristic X3 hybrid. Both combine rotors with propellers to fly about twice as fast as an OH-58D can, and both have proven their configuration works, at least on a demonstrator. A helicopter-airplane hybrid tiltrotor able to take off and land vertically and fly like a fixed-wing plane by swiveling rotors up or forward, as the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey does, might be an equally speedy option.

What the Army might need to spend to get a more advanced aircraft is unclear, though the answer would certainly be in the billions. Asking for commitments like that when the sword of sequestration is hanging over the Pentagon budget's neck may sound awfully optimistic, but spending on aircraft development programs tends to start relatively low and rise to significant levels only years later.

In the meantime, the service is committed to its OH-58D upgrade, under which Bell is providing 15 new cabins while the Army replaces the Kiowa Warrior's distinctive mast-mounted sight with a nose-mounted Raytheon Common Sensor Payload sensor ball, also used by the Army's MQ-1C Gray Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle, a Predator derivative. Putting the sensor ball on the nose requires replacing the OH-58D's landing skids with a set that keeps the aircraft higher off the ground when at rest. With color cockpit displays to replace existing monochrome ones and a number of other technical changes, the OH-58Ds become OH-58Fs.

If senior Army or Pentagon leaders were to decide to replace the OH-58 with another conventional helicopter after all, Bell has proposed a Block II version of the OH-58F, followed by a Block III. The block upgrades would give the Kiowa Warrior a new engine, rotor blades, transmission, tail rotor and, in the end, a new cabin and airframe. Bell flew a Block II during its demonstration for the Army.

The U.S. arm of European defense giant EADS demonstrated both an "Armed Aerial Scout 72X" derived from the UH-72A Lakota light utility helicopter the company has built for the Army in Columbus, Miss., as well as an "Armed Aerial Scout 72X+" based on EADS subsidiary Eurocopter's civilian EC-145.

Boeing Co. flew an enhanced version of its AH-6, colloquially but not officially known as the "Little Bird." Anglo-Italian company AgustaWestland flew its AW139, while MD Helicopters Inc. of Mesa, Ariz., offered its 540F, a new helicopter that in profile resembles the Little Bird.

Sikorsky didn't fly anything but briefed Army officials on its S-97 Raider, a compound helicopter concept based on its X2 demonstrator. The X2, which made 23 flights between 2008-2011, used coaxial rotors and a pusher propeller to reach speeds as high as 290 miles per hour in level flight. The S-97 isn't flying yet but Sikorsky plans to have two prototypes in the air in 2014.

If the Army does go after after an advanced rather than an existing helicopter to replace the OH-58, it would come as little surprise. Crosby told the Association of the United States Army's 2012 Aviation Symposium last January that while the Army would look at existing helicopters, it was unlikely to buy one under current budget conditions. "Who thinks that's affordable?" he asked.

Another key official, meanwhile, Lt., principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, told an American Helicopter Society dinner just a few weeks ago that it was "time for the Army to look forward and do something dramatic in aviation."

Douglas Macgregor responds:

The root problem of the problem is here: "the Army studied its alternatives and decided the only way to meet its future armed scout helicopter needs would be to develop a new manned aircraft because an unmanned vehicle couldn't fly close air support missions. "

Says who?

If we can pass control of Predators and Reapers back and forth between local controllers for take-off/landing to mission operators 10,000 miles away in Nevada or Wyoming, why can't we do the same with battalion-level fire support officers or NCOs who would take control of the RPA when it is actively covering a mission, and employ its missiles to engage targets in support of their unit or use what they are seeing to call for fixed wing air support from USAF, USN, or allied/partner Air Forces? In the foreseeable future, there is no requirement for any rotor driven aircraft to fly armed reconnaissance missions beyond the Apache Longbow. Unmanned aircraft can augment, supplement and frequently replace manned aircraft for these Army missions.

ANSWER: We cannot because we have no Strike Coordinators, only fire support officers.

The Army also doesn't necessarily need VTOL at all.

The Helicopter mafia is really pumping these hybrid/compound helos, but this is nothing new. They tried one of those BEFORE the Apache... the XAH-56 CHEYENNE. It was a colossally costly failure, too. The Mil-24 also applied a compound helo approach, and while far faster than most conventional helos, it has virtually no hover capability out of ground effect and is useless over 12,000 feet. I am told heard that the wonderous Sikorsky X2, if it were fully militarized and stripped down for speed test bed, it would be as heavy and costly as a V-22. Absurd.

No, it definitely is NOT "time for the Army to look forward and do something dramatic in aviation." It's time for the Army to learn how to play in the joint arena as a supporting force, leave air power to the AF and Navy, and focus on developing a 20-years-overdue, lighter/more compact, more fuel-efficient, tracked medium armored family that can self-deploy on land, has lethality and survivability against the probable threats, and can be procured in sufficient quantities and variants to replace both our Cold War armored fleet AND the underwhelming Strykers.

Some will ask, “Why not all threats?” The answer is just as it is impossible to build an unsinkable ship, it’s also impossible to build an impregnable armored vehicle. This is why armored vehicles are a balance of armored protection, firepower, mobility and human tactical competence. All of these determine the fighting power and survivability of armored forces.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

USMC Enlistedman Claims Macgregor is Prejudiced--While Posting Korean War Myths

The USMC refused to stay in formation during the march to the Yalu river during the Korean war and began to "bug-out" (run) by building evacuation air strips, opening a gap for the enemy to infiltrate in behind American lines.

Here is what the man said:

Subject: Marine Article
Date: Tuesday, December 4, 2012, 3:07 PM

Mr. Macgregor,

I read your article in Time magazine yesterday concerning your feelings towards the United States Marine Corps. Maybe you should spend some time researching your topic prior to putting pen to paper so to speak. The Marine Corps is a time honored institution that fulfills many roles for our armed forces. One of the topics that you seem to have left out is the men that the Marine Corps produced and that are part of a strong backbone of American heritage.

More often than you would even care to admit through out American history the Marine Corps has stood up to the enemy, has defeated the enemy and has done so with the army in full retreat. Mr. Macgregor you are an army officer with a defined prejudice towards the Marines. I can only imagine somewhere along the way a Marine put you in your place or you are just embarrassed that your service doesn't transcend the values, principles and courage that my beloved Marine Corps represents.

You have your own opinion and it's noted. But it's as dumb of an opinion as they come. You could run for political office as you live in a reality that doesn't exist.


The response to my comments on the light infantry as currently equipped and organized in both the Army and the Marines provides a useful glimpse into the mentality that legislators must confront as they consider reductions in defense spending. In this case, the man is a Marine, but his delusional thinking resonates with far too many in the Army’s light infantry circles.

The notion that Marines want to justify force structure on the grounds that they "the best placed units to provide aid to disaster victims," should raise real concerns about what is being done with the Armed Forces. This may be exactly what Samuel Nicholas always hoped the Marines would become, but I doubt seriously that Generals Lem Shepherd or David Shoup would have considered such a rationale. In addition, it’s also a very expensive way for the American tax payer to deliver humanitarian aid and assistance.

Unless human flesh and bone has been converted to titanium alloy, dismounted men with rifles are the softest and the easiest targets to maim and kill on the battlefield. Tanks are not soft targets as Marine Armor officers will attest. In 2003 after Marine infantry had fought Iraqi paramilitaries in An Nasiryah for three hours taking casualties in the process, a platoon of Marine Tanks showed up and crushed the Iraqi fighters in minutes.

In subsequent actions in Fallujah where the Marines employed large numbers of dismounted infantry, the Marines took serious and unnecessary casualties. The two Army Armored Task Forces had fewer than a dozen casualties. The Marine determination to expose flesh and bone to fire was repeated over and over again with horrible consequences for Marines, dismounted or mounted in wheeled vehicles, or tracked Amphibs.

Alex Berenson of the The New York Times noted the obvious drawbacks to the light infantry-centric Marine formations on 29 August 2004 writing:

“… in Najaf, two battalions of the Army’s tanks did what a lighter marine battalion could not, inflicting huge casualties on Mr. Sadr’s insurgents while taking almost none of their own. The 70-ton tanks and 25-ton Bradleys pushed to the gates of the Imam Ali shrine at the center of the old city. Meanwhile, the marines spent most of the fight raiding buildings far from the old city. Even so, seven marines died, and at least 30 were seriously wounded, according to commanders here, while only two soldiers died and a handful were injured.” Perhaps these comments help to explain why General Colin Powell expressed the concern in 1990 during the run up to Desert Storm that “the Marines are really interested in building another monument to more dead Marines.” Mass plus athleticism does not equal warfighting capability. Delusional thinking of this kind fills body bags, but it is no way to fight a war.

Finally, a person who saw more blood and destruction in his lifetime than any man alive, Sir Winston Churchill, lamented the readiness of British generals to hurl human beings into fire. His words were about the criticality of armor and the failure to exploit it in WW I, but the words are no less true today.

"Accusing as I do without exception all the great Allied offensives in 1914, 1916 and 1917, as needless and wrongly conceived operations of infinite cost, I am bound to reply to the question -- what else could be done? And I answer it, pointing to the battle of Cambrai (where tanks were first used), 'this could have been done'. This in many variants, this in larger and better forms ought to have been done, and would have been done if only the generals had not been content to fight machine gun bullets with the breasts of gallant men, and think that that was waging war."

Saturday, December 1, 2012

USMC: Under-utilized Superfluous Military Capability

By Douglas A. Macgregor


Marines practice an amphibious assault aboard an LCAC in California in September.

Marine Commandant James Amos’ recent remarks on the future of the corps can be summed up as: nothing new.

In shorthand, “Rah, rah, the Marine Corps is awesome, and all we have to do is make sure they have the equipment & training & facilities they need so they can always be awesome Marines, rah, rah!”


The Marines as currently organized and equipped are about as relevant as the Army’s horse cavalry in the 1930s and the Marines are not alone. They have company in the Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps.

But, first, let’s examine the Marines.

In truth, the Marines have a low-end warfare niche, but a very small one for extremely limited and unusual types of operations.

The only amphibious craft they really need are the next-gen LCACs and LCUs. The only wet-well ships they need are LSD 41s — and those need to be kept in production to gradually replace older LSDs and the troublesome LPDs.

No one will set out to establish a defended beachhead because U.S. aircraft from the Air Force and the Navy will easily target and destroy the defenses.

Today, enemy forces will mine approaches from the sea, and rely on stand-off attack to drive surface fleets away from coastlines. They’ll employ their ground forces, particularly mobile armored forces, inland, away from the coast. These mobile reserves will attack within the range of the defending forces’ own artillery and airpower to destroy elements that attempt to come ashore whether over the beach or through ports.

Most of today’s Marine force consists of airmobile light infantry. This Marine force is designed for use in the developing world against incapable opponents from Haiti to Fiji, but not much else.

The use of Marines to assault Iraq’s southern coast during Desert Storm was dismissed out of hand as too dangerous, particularly when Navy surface combatants struck sea mines in the Persian Gulf. Subsequently, in 1991 Marines were used ashore to augment the Army where Marines followed an Army armor brigade from Fort Hood, Texas, all the way to Kuwait City.

The point is simple.

The capability to come ashore where the enemy is not present, then, move quickly with sustainable combat power great distances over land to operational objectives in the interior, is essential. The Marines cannot do it in any strategic setting where the opponent is capable (neither can the XVIII Airborne Corps!).

The Marines cannot confront or defeat armored forces or heavy weapons in the hands of capable opponents. Nor can the Marines hold any contested battle space for more than a very short amount of time, after which the Marine raid or short stay ashore is completed.

Adding vertical-and/or-short-takeoff-landing (V/STOL) aircraft like the F-35B, to compensate for the lack of staying power and mobility on the ground is not an answer, particularly given the severe limitations of VSTOL aircraft, and the proliferation of tactical and operational air defense technology in places that count.

The real question is how much Marine Corps do Americans need? The answer is not the 200,000 Marines we have today.

Many of the same observations apply to the Army’s vaunted XVIII Airborne Corps. The Army’s airmobile infantry in the 101st have been used sparingly for similar reasons. Airmobile forces were used in 1991, but most of its value resided in its attack-helicopter force, not in its air-mobile infantry.

Proposals to use Army airborne forces to seize Tallil air field in An Nassiryah during Desert Storm were dismissed out of hand given the threat of Iraqi air defenses. A similar assault planned for Haiti was cancelled in 1994, and the large-scale use of airborne forces in Iraq and Afghanistan was also ruled out in 2001 and, again, in 2003.

There are several reasons for this:

– First, like the Marines ashore, Army airmobile and airborne forces are “soft targets,” extremely vulnerable to long-range air and missile attack, as well as heavy weapons in the form of self-propelled artillery, mortars and auto-cannon.

– Second, the Army’s airmobile division, the 101st, is extremely slow to deploy. Moving it requires as much cubic space as an entire armored/mechanized division. Its performance in Iraq in March-April 2003 was poor. Its alleged combat potential was never put to the test for the reasons already cited.

– Third, the rotary-wing aircraft in the Army are very maintenance-intensive with often-poor readiness rates. The airmobile force in the 101st is also a major consumer of fuel and requires enormous support, as well as expensive contractor help. Their rotary-wing aircraft are also susceptible to detection and vulnerable to widely-dispersed small arms and MANPADS, potentially resulting in substantial casualties and equipment losses even before the airmobile force is ready to engage the enemy on the ground.

None of these attributes make the force attractive for employment against any enemy with a modicum of capability in its armed forces.

In sum, we need airmobile forces from the sea for limited operations, but we can do this job with far fewer Marines than we have now, or even the 182,000 slated to be on active duty on 2017. We also need far fewer airborne/air assault infantry than the 80,000 in the Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps for equally-limited and unusual operations.

Clinging to the misguided, wasteful and self-defeating policies of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan as justification for no change in the Army and Marine forces is not an argument. The policies, strategy and tactics were flawed, if not disastrous. Reenacting these operations is about as stupid as reenacting Tarawa, Market Garden or the airborne assault on Crete.

In 110 days of fighting the German army in France during 1918, the U.S. Army Expeditionary Force sustained 318,000 casualties, including 110,000 killed in action. That’s the kind of lethality waiting for U.S. forces in a future war with real armies, air forces, air defenses and naval power.

Ignoring this reality is the road to future defeats and American decline. It’s time to look beyond the stirring images of infantrymen storming machine-gun nests created by Hollywood and to see war for what it is and will be in the future: the ruthless extermination of the enemy with accurate, devastating firepower from the sea, from the air, from space and from mobile, armored firepower on land.

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Defense Forum Washington 2012

The Fiscal Cliff: What Does This Mean for Defense and National Security?

5 December 2012

U.S. Navy Memorial

Conference Schedule

Preparing for the Fiscal Cliff: How Does This Affect the Military?

COL Douglas Macgregor, USA (Ret.), Ph.D., Executive Vice President, Burke-Macgregor, LLC and Author, Warrior’s Rage: The Great Tank Battle of 73 Easting (Confirmed)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Epitaph for a Four Star

NOVEMBER 14, 2012

The Petraeus Saga

Epitaph for a Four Star


When Major General David H. Petraeus, commander of the 101st Airborne Division met Lieutenant General William Wallace, commander of the U.S. Army’s V Corps on 27 March 2003 at a site near Najaf, only five days after American forces began the attack to Baghdad Petraeus and Wallace were deeply pessimistic. They concluded, “The war was in dismal shape.”8 Petraeus, an officer who had risen to Major General and Division Command with no previous combat experience, was deeply worried about the level of Iraqi resistance.

The fact that 3rd Infantry Division (mechanized), an armored force of hundreds of tanks and armored fighting vehicles was already 50 miles south of Baghdad and poised to attack the city did not seem to matter. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. would have flown into a rage and fired them on the spot. Yet both men went on to four stars.

Was General David Petraeus the heroic figure his press releases suggested or a piece of fiction created, packaged and presented to the American people by the Bush Administration and its Neocon allies in the media and academia as the poster boy for counterinsurgency? Was he simply a world class aid de camp, military assistant and speech writer, a slick briefer who successfully cultivated dozens of Army four stars and political appointees on the ladder to four stars? Or is Petraeus simply the victim of his own press releases?

Consider these points: The Shiite dominated government of Iraq is not only more corrupt today than its secular Baathist predecessor. It’s also among the most corrupt states in the world, far worse than North Korea or Russia. And, unlike Saddam Hussein’s Iraq it is unambiguously tied to and aligned with Iran. In Afghanistan, Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) continue to run from fights with pathetic Taliban in bed sheets and flip flops and more Afghan civilians died during the 18 months of Petraeus’s “Afghan Surge” than at any time in the previous ten years.[i] How did these things come about? Who is responsible for this debacle?

How many times have Americans read the flattering assessments of Petraeus on the editorial pages of The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal or heard Journalists repeat Petraeus’s assertions of “progress” and “success” on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC? Whenever Petraeus wanted to show that his alleged “counterinsurgency” strategy was delivering significant progress in Iraq or Afghanistan, the mainstream media offered unconditional support for whatever narrative Petraeus provided.[ii]

Vacuous statements removed from the facts were routinely treated like sermons on the mount, “It’s about being comfortable with a degree of chaos,” he [Petraeus] said in the interview. “And the whole point is that I am comfortable with that kind of situation. What you want to do is constantly push the envelope in every respect.”[iii] Huh???

When the Surge in Iraq began, no one in Washington was interested in explaining why the world’s most powerful military establishment led by Petraeus was buying off its Sunni Arab opponents with hundreds of millions of dollars, effectively supplanting counterinsurgency with cash-based cooptation.[iv] When the Surge in Iraq ended, no one in Washington wanted to discuss why Tehran’s Shiite allies in Baghdad restrained their fighters, and waited until the U.S. occupation ended before consolidating their control of Arab Iraq. In 2009, an Iraqi journalist described the outcome in terms no serious observer of the conflict could ignore:

“Observers not steeped in Iraqi history might be bemused to find that six years after the toppling of a dictator, after the death of several hundred thousand Iraqis, a brutal insurgency, trillions of wasted dollars and more than 4,000 dead US soldiers, the country is being rebuilt along very familiar lines: concentration of power, shadowy intelligence services and corruption.”[v]

A year later, Al-Qaida together with its Sunni Islamist affiliates in Iraq was also making a comeback recruiting scores of Sunni Muslim Arabs to rejoin the fight against the “crusaders and the Shiites” by paying them more than the monthly salary they received from the Maliki Government.[vi] Petraeus had brought the country back to where it started. Members of the House and the Senate privately acknowledged Iraq was a failure,[vii] but this tragic outcome did not obstruct the Petraeus proposal to repeat the folly of Iraq in Afghanistan.

On 7 October 2009 before the surge in Afghanistan began, Marc Sageman, a veteran intelligence officer with years of experience in Pakistan and the region warned the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “The proposed counter-insurgency strategy in Afghanistan is at present irrelevant to the goal of disrupting, dismantling and defeating al Qaeda, which is located in Pakistan. None of the plots in the West has any connection to any Afghan insurgent group, labeled under the umbrella name “Afghan Taliban.”[viii] Reason and facts took a back seat. Sageman was ignored.

A year later, when I asked a field grade officer in Washington, DC with experience in Afghanistan if the simultaneous departure of General Petraeus and Ambassador Eikenberry from their posts in Kabul at the start of the security transition and after two high-profile assassinations (Jan Mohammad and Ahmed Wali) would undermine the Afghan population’s confidence in the U.S. leadership, he answered, “Absolutely not! There is no public confidence to lose. Read the local media translated every day in The matter is absolutely irrelevant to the population-Uzbek, Tajik, Huzzara or Pashtun.”[ix]

Sadly, what happened in Afghanistan was also irrelevant to the American people. By now, Americans had figured out that large-scale U.S. military occupations of non-Western societies to transform them into images of the West inevitably provoke resentment and breed violence; even when the U.S. pays $25 million a month in hard cash to its enemies not to fight.

Why did these things happen?

The short answer involves the skillful use of data and information to create a false picture of military action in faraway places. It’s not a new practice,[x] but in Iraq, Petraeus elevated it to an art form. With the backing of the Bush Administration, Petraeus created a narrative based on the illusion the he, David Petraeus, had “discovered” a military solution to Iraq’s societal misery in the form of counterinsurgency.

Secretary of State Dean Acheson said it best, “Americans are suckers for good news.” And P.T. Barnum insisted, “A sucker is born every minute.” Both were right.

However, in Afghanistan, Petraeus overestimated his ability to control the narrative even with a friendly U.S. press. True, the chronic absence of accountability for lost funds and failed nation building projects persisted as they did in Iraq,[xi] but when Marjah, the alleged test case for the Afghan Surge faltered badly, IED strikes multiplied and U.S. casualties rose, the Afghan narrative fell apart.[xii] Unfortunately for General Stanley McChrystal, he arrived in Kabul just in time to embrace Petraeus’s false counterinsurgency strategy and supporting narrative, an act that brought him down as much as any imprudent remarks he made under the influence.

When Petraeus finally left joined the CIA, a place from which he could direct black operations that are largely unmonitored and uncontrolled by the president and congress, Americans simply tuned out operations in Afghanistan that were going nowhere. If such disastrous leadership did not result in the pointless loss of American life in uniform,[xiii] undermine American strategic interests abroad, and empty the U.S. Treasury of its hard earned tax dollars,[xiv] it would almost be comedic.

Of course, these observations still don’t completely explain the meteoric rise of Dave Petraeus, or how his carefully crafted image swayed American public opinion. One reason is very that few Americans know much about the military. Most are conditioned to see generals through the prism of Hollywood films. They are easily persuaded that today’s generals are indistinguishable from the battle-hardened leaders of the Second World War or the Korean conflict. Nothing could be more inaccurate.

Directing air strikes, raids and patrols from the safety of the Green Zone, a place that compares favorably with any number of elaborate shopping malls and motels in the United States, is not waging war. Suppressing hostile Muslim populations that resent Western occupation is not the same as confronting the Waffen SS in the Ardennes or hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops on the Korean Peninsula. In Iraq and Afghanistan, there are no opposing armies, air forces or air defenses.

In truth, only a fraction of the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who deploy, are ever under fire. Their courage and devotion are never in question, but confusing them with generals is tantamount to equating senators and Wall Street Bankers with American citizens struggling to survive the economic meltdown. In such an artificial war environment, sacred cows like Petraeus are never slain, they simply vanish.

In addition, Petraeus made a common mistake that is all too common in the Army’s four star ranks. He concluded he was the smartest guy in the room and he made sure everyone in the room knew it. Petraeus was always one of those guys who wanted to be a general for the sake of being a general and he was prepared to do anything to secure the stars,[xv] the product of extreme careerism coupled with the fa├žade of false humility. President Bush and the Neocons in his administration needed a “hero,” an alleged “great captain” to make the case for victory in Iraq when there was none.

Petraeus was eager to play the role and, the otherwise unknown Paula Broadwell, a former Army officer and West Point graduate, was anxious to tell Petraeus’s story. Broadwell and Petraeus were simply two people with converging agendas.

Petraeus wanted a biographer who would cultivate the myth he worked so hard to create, someone who would glorify him, his “surges” and legitimate the Neocon policy of occupation and nation building with which he identified himself. Broadwell wanted the fame and fortune that access to Petraeus and his narrative would bring. Both got what they wanted, at least, for a while.

However, given that amateur hour in Benghazi is taking center stage on Capitol Hill, there’s little reason for the Obama Administration to keep up appearances with its generals. The latest revelations cast doubt on General John Allen’s future.

It turns out that in two years Allen sent approximately 30,000 pages containing hundreds of emails to Jill Kelley, a volunteer social organizer at the MacDill Air Force Base, in Tampa, and a bit player in the Petraeus-Broadwell affair. How many emails a day is anyone’s guess, but how could Allen have any time left over to focus on operations in Afghanistan when he was sending so many messages to the magnetic Mrs. Kelley!!!

None of the generals’ peccadillos is newsworthy, but for its commentary on the generals. The affairs are genuinely irrelevant. But the events demonstrate that the readiness of four stars like David Petraeus and John Allen to enthusiastically push utterly foolish and self-defeating policies conceived in Washington, DC is not the result of individual failures, but the crisis of an entire institution.[xvi]

Americans must wake up. The contemporary American military is not led by a Roman or Prussian class of hardened professionals. On the contrary, for the most part, the senior leadership is really an overgrown bureaucracy committed to jobs for generals. But these bureaucrats in uniform have gone too far. They are now responsible for the extraordinary loss of American blood, treasure, as well as, strategic ground in Iraq and Afghanistan at a point in time when the American people just cannot afford it.

Douglas Macgregor is a retired Army colonel, a decorated combat veteran, a PhD and the author of four books. His latest work, Warrior’s Rage from Naval Institute Press describes the generals’ failure in 1991 to exploit the victory in the Battle of 73 Easting and destroy the Iraqi Republican Guard.



See the first paragraph on page 1, then, look at the charts on page 7 showing the overall trends in violence. See the graphic on page 8 and note the information on RC-Southwest (and, in fact, all of the regional commands). Page 9 provides a province by province breakdown. Once again, Petraeus and his staff did not tell the truth.

[ii] David Wood, “Auditors Despair over Pentagon’s Books,” San Diego Union-Tribune, 21 July 2004, page 1.

[iii] Yochi J. Dreazen, “The General’s Playbook,” National Journal, 30 October 2010.

[iv] Michael Vlahos, “Fighting Identity: Why we are losing our wars.” Military Review, November-December 2007, 7.

[v] Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, “Six years after Saddam Hussein, Nouri al-Maliki tightens his grip on Iraq,” The Guardian, 30 April 2009.

[vi] Martin Chulov, “Fears of al–Qaida return in Iraq as US–backed fighters defect. American allies the Sons of Iraq being offered more money by al–Qaida to switch sides,” The Guardian, 10 August 2010, page 2.

[vii] Daniel Tencer, “GOP congressmen: Everyone agrees Iraq war a ‘horrible mistake,” The Raw Story, 19 March 2010.

[viii] Marc Sageman, M.D., Ph.D., Testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 7 October 2009, “Confronting al-Qaeda: Understanding the Threat in Afghanistan and Beyond.”

[ix] The officer declines to be identified for obvious reasons.

[x] Robert Maginnis, “Distrust Corroding The Military,” Washington Times, 2 March 200, page 11.

[xi] Marisa Taylor, “U.S. Spending In Afghanistan Plagued By Poor U.S. Oversight,” McClatchy Newspapers (, 15 January 2010.

[xii] Alex Strick van Linschoten, “Five things David Petraeus wants you to believe,” Current Intelligence, 22 November 2010.

[xiii] Pauline Jelinek, (AP), “Army’s Suicide Rate at 26-Year High,” Boston Globe, 16 August 2007, page 1. The failure to devise a more humane rotational system is a case in point. Jelinek writes: “In addition, there was a significant relationship between suicide attempts and number of days deployed’ in Iraq, Afghanistan, or nearby countries where troops are participating in the war effort, it said. The same pattern seemed to hold true for those who succeeded in killing themselves.”

[xiv] Paul B. Farrell, “America’s Outrageous War Economy! Pentagon can’t find $2.3 trillion, wasting trillions on ‘national defense,”MarketWatch, 28 August 2008, page 13.

[xv] Thom Shanker, “Concern Grows Over Top Military Officers’ Ethics,” New York Times, 13 November 2012, page 2. Also see:David Barstow, “One Man’s Military-Industrial-Media Complex,” New York Times, 30 November 2008, page 1.

[xvi] LTC Paul Yingling, “A Failure in Generalship,” Armed Forces Journal, May 2007, page 27.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Why Conservatives Hate War

November 6, 2012

Conflict erodes a nation’s cultural continuity as well as its finances.


One of the odder aspects of present-day politics is the assumption that if you are antiwar you are on the left, and if you are conservative you are “pro-war.” Like labelling conservative states red and liberal states blue, this is an inversion of historical practice.

The opposition to America’s entry into both World Wars was largely led by conservatives. Senator Robert A. Taft, the standard-bearer of postwar conservatism, opposed war unless the United States itself was attacked. Even Bismarck, after he had fought and won the three wars he needed to unify Germany, was staunchly antiwar. He once described preventive war, like the one America is being pressured to wage on Iran, as “committing suicide for fear of being killed.”

Conservatives’ detestation of war has no “touchy-feely” origins. It springs from conservatism’s roots, its most fundamental beliefs and objectives. Conservatism seeks above all social and cultural continuity, and nothing endangers that more than war.

In the 20th century, war brought about social and cultural revolutions in the United States, including a large-scale movement of women out of the home and into the workplace. Nineteenth-century reformers had labored successfully to make it possible for women (and children) to leave the dark satanic mills and devote their lives to home and family, supported by a male breadwinner. The Victorians rightly considered the home more important than the workplace. A man’s duties in the world of affairs were a burden he had to carry to provide for his household, not something women should envy.

This happy situation was overturned in both world wars as men were drafted by the millions while the demand for factory labor to support war production soared. Back into the mills went the women. The result was the weakening of the family, the institution most responsible for passing the culture on to the next generation.

The threat war poses to the cake of custom is exacerbated by one of its foremost characteristics: its results are unpredictable. Few countries go to war expecting to lose, but wars are seldom won by both sides. The effects of military defeat on social order can be revolutionary.

Russia’s involvement in World War I gave us Bolshevism. Germany’s defeat made Hitler possible. As the First World War shows, if a conflict is costly enough, the victors’ social order can suffer nearly as badly as that of the vanquished. Not only did the British Empire die in the mud of Flanders, but postwar Britain was a very different place from Edwardian Britain.

The plain fact is, conservatives loathe unpredictability. They also know that vast state expenditures and debts can destabilize a society, and no activity of the state is more expensive than war. America’s adventure in Iraq, driven in no small part by the quest for oil—which will now mostly go to China—has already cost a trillion dollars, with another trillion or two to come caring for crippled veterans. Even the peacetime cost of a large military can break a country, as it broke the Soviet Union. American conservatives used to be budget hawks, not warhawks.

If we look beyond dollars, francs, pounds, and marks, the toll of war grows endless. After World War I, there were no young men on the streets of Paris. As one British observer noted, the German casualty lists from the early battles in that war read like the Almanach de Gotha, the book that catalogued the German nobility. Most frighteningly to conservatives, wars like World War I can destroy a whole culture’s faith in itself. It may well be that European civilization’s last chance for survival was a German victory on the Marne in 1914.

One gain that comes out of war is as disturbing to conservatives as any of the losses: an aggrandizement of state power. The argument of “wartime necessity” runs roughshod over all checks and balances, civil liberties, and traditional constraints on government. In the 20th century, American progressives knew they could only create the powerful, centralizing federal government they sought by going to war. It was they, the left, who engineered America’s entry into World War I. Nearly a century later, 9/11 gave centralizers in the neocon Bush administration the cover they needed for the “Patriot Act,” legislation that would have left most of America’s original patriots rethinking the merits of King George. Just as nothing adds more to a state’s debt than war, so nothing more increases its power. Conservatives rue both.

When Edmund Burke, generally regarded as conservatism’s 18th-century founder, was faced in Parliament with a proposal for a war to ensure the river Scheldt in the Austrian Netherlands remained closed so Antwerp could not compete with London, his response was, “A war for the Scheldt? A war for a chamber pot!” That was a genuinely conservative reaction.

Real conservatives hate war. If that now sounds as strange as thinking of blue as the conservative color, we can thank a bunch of (ex?)-Trotskyites who stole our name, and a military-industrial-congressional complex that has bought right and left alike. If history is a guide, and it usually is, the price for the nationalist right’s love of militaries and war is likely to be higher than we can to imagine.

William S. Lind is director of the American Conservative Center for Public Transportation and author of the Maneuver Warfare Handbook.

Douglas Macgregor's comments are below:

Lind makes important points that deserve wider attention. Here are some additional points for consideration.

The great British conservative Edmund Burke warned, “Conciliate and we gain much, do not and we lose all.”

Clausewitz, the Prussian conservative advised, "The first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and commander have to make is to establish by that test the kind of war on which they are embarking; neither mistaking it for, nor trying to turn it into, something that is alien to it nature."

On War, Book 1:1:27, Carl von Clausewitz [Howard and Paret trans.]

War does not promise stability. On the contrary, the larger the conflict, the more chance it will change the status quo in a lasting way. Consider the 30 years’ War--the Habsburgs would have been far better served to have let the Bohemian German and Czech Protestants go their own way.

WW I is another case. The specter of Nicholas II arming to fight Austria in a cataclysmic war for the Balkans would have been regarded as insane by Bismarck, another conservative. Unfortunately, the German leadership misjudged the situation and put everything at risk over nothing of importance to them.

That said, historians have noted that Germany emerged from WW I relatively intact when compared to her Austrian and Turkish allies, as well as her enemies, Britain, France and Russia. After France occupied the Ruhr the Weimar politicians knew that all they had to do was exercise some patience. The campaigns of 1939-1940 proved them right. Unfortunately, for Germany and Europe, AH put all at risk yet again in Russia, a country Bismarck dismissed as having “No Gold and a population we do not want.” The unique conditions Bismarck was able to achieve in the 19th Century between 1861-1871 emerged for AH in Western Europe, but these conditions did not exist in the East. His failure to appreciate the difference led to catastrophe. In this sense, AH and the Neocons are very much alike as Lind implies at the end of his essay.

In war things almost never turn out as we wish them to. That is why conservatives, when they finally understand this lesson (and many of them learn the hard way), decide they do not like it as another tool in the toolkit for meaningful problem solving in foreign affairs. True Conservatives support the existence of a strong military to defend their country, but they do not use it unless war is forced upon them.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Quazi Nafis and U.S. sting operations

Affording the “Pacific Pivot”

By Douglas A. Macgregor


Former governor Mitt Romney’s drumbeat for $2 trillion in additional defense spending, together with President Obama’s Pacific pivot – the reallocation of American military resources to contain China – turned out to be a non-event in Monday night’s debate.

In fact, the kinder, gentler Romney went so far as to suggest that China doesn’t have to be an “adversary.”

Wearied by more than a decade of expensive, unrewarding military interventions, both candidates sensed that Americans are focused on the approaching fiscal cliff; an event the Congressional Research Service says may produce a return to economic recession in 2013.

In fact, if deeper recession lies ahead, the unspoken truth is that restoring American economic growth and prosperity may well demand austere, “inter-war period” levels of military spending.

So, assuming Romney’s defense buildup is at the very least unlikely is the Obama Administration’s Pacific pivot also a pipe dream the American taxpayer cannot afford?

The answer is: not necessarily. There are ways to concentrate American national military power in the Pacific region.

In the turbulent decade leading up to the outbreak of World War I, Winston Churchill, Britain’s First Lord of the Admiralty, urged Britain’s national leadership to concentrate British naval power in the Atlantic and the North Sea where Germany’s rapidly expanding high seas fleet seemed determined to challenge British naval supremacy. Churchill reasoned, “It would be very foolish to lose England in safeguarding Egypt. If we win the big battle in the decisive theater, we can put everything else straight afterwards. If we lose it, there will not be any afterwards.”

On the precipice of sequestration and with the survival of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid at stake, Churchill’s strategic rationale is instructive, particularly for leaders in Washington, D.C., who advocate a U.S. military buildup in the Pacific.

When Churchill made the case for concentrating the British fleet in the Atlantic, he was practicing economy of force, a time honored principle in British military affairs.

In 1902, in the midst of a financial crisis brought on, in part, by the Boer War, London had already turned to Japan for military assistance in blocking Russian expansion in the Far East. By 1911, the Russian threat had disappeared beneath the waters of the Tsushima Strait, but the Anglo-Japanese Treaty still allowed the withdrawal of British naval and ground forces from Asia, facilitating the concentration of British military power in the Atlantic. The result was a debilitating blockade Germany could not overcome throughout the First World War.

Like the British at the beginning of the 20th Century, Washington suffers from a case of “Imperial Overstretch.” Washington needs a new national security strategy, one designed to halt the dissipation of American military resources around the world and to concentrate it wherever it is needed. For the moment, the point of concentration is Asia, where China’s assertiveness opens the door to the kind of instability and potential for strategic miscalculation that is eerily similar to the crises and conflicts that preceded the outbreak of World War I in Europe.

The Pacific pivot was conceived with this point in mind. However, increased defense spending to expand and modernize military facilities from Alaska to Guam won’t make much sense to voters who fear the country is in a fiscal “free fall” — a race to economic crisis that bailouts can’t stop.

Moreover, there is no reason to assume lawmakers and the next President will cooperate at all after November. Whether anyone in Washington, D.C., is prepared to support the pivot by admitting that most of America’s current military commitments and priorities are legacies of Cold War deployments, as well as, misguided attempts to nation build inside the Muslim World is also an unknown.

As seen throughout Monday night’s debate, Washington’s determination to attack and destroy Islamist terrorism persists, but lawmakers are far more aware today than they were in 2001 that “Islamism” (the reordering of society and government with Islam) of the Sunni or Shiite variety will not create jobs, economic growth or the foundation for effective military power that can genuinely challenge the West.

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood cannot change the fact that Cairo’s population of 14 million lives on an infrastructure designed for 2 million. In other words, the Muslim world’s severe social, cultural and economic problems mean that 20 years from now, Africa and the Middle East are likely to lag as far behind the West as they do today.

However, unlike Churchill’s Japanese ally at the beginning of the 20th Century, America’s allies, as well as, our potential rivals for influence and power in Asia, Europe and Latin America, are all at the mercy of the same debt bubble that we are.

This unspoken reality explains in part the reluctance of the nations on China’s periphery, those that feel most threatened (Japan, the Republic of Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines and Vietnam) to actively cooperate with each other let alone invest in the military power necessary to effectively augment Washington’s proposed Pacific pivot.

The strategic goals and priorities the next President sets will decide what national security strategy America’s military executes. But setting specific goals is critical if the pivot is to happen.

When there is no coherent strategy, military action is shaped primarily by the military capability to act, not by attainable military and political objectives or the concrete interests that define them.

America’s weakened economic condition suggests this is no time for leaders in Washington, D.C., to make uninformed decisions regarding defense spending or the use of force in a dispute with a major power like China.

Britain’s strategic principle of economy of force must be applied.

Hopefully, people in both Presidential campaigns are examining ways to achieve strategic advantage in lean economic times, the way Britain did in the critical years before World War I.

Douglas Macgregor is executive vice president of Burke-Macgregor Group, LLC. He is also a retired Army colonel, decorated combat veteran and the author of four books on military affairs.

Read more:

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Consequences of Turkish Military Intervention in Syria

It’s time to think seriously about the consequences of Turkish military intervention in Syria. Ankara’s patience with Asad’s survival skills is running out. In addition, the Turkish Islamist government knows if Asad survives, the Turks will have a Syrian adversary on their Southern border more closely aligned with Tehran than ever; something the Sunni Muslim Islamist Turkish government does not want. The point is if and when the Turks intervene in Syria, a Sunni Muslim Islamist Government allied with Ankara will be established in Damascus.

This development effectively places Turkish military power on Israel’s border. Americans should not confuse weak Arab military performance with Turkish military power. The Turks are ferocious soldiers fanatically committed to the destruction of whatever enemy they confront. Their equipment is good, in some cases, excellent and the Turkish Forces – air, land and sea – know how to use the technology they have. For the Turks, a confrontation with Israel would be an all or nothing proposition. The Islamist regimes in Egypt, Syria and the peninsula will operate in support under Turkey’s Islamist leadership personified by PM Erdogan. Next year, Jordan is very likely to join the Islamist ranks. The Amman government is already on life support and won’t last too much longer. When Jordan falls into Islamist hands, the stage is set for a very dangerous future confrontation.

If and when the Islamist Turks establish themselves in Syria, they will begin building a regional Sunni Islamist Alliance with Saudi financial assistance, something many observers insist is already underway. With Turkish military access to Syria, Turkish military power is close enough to Israel for Turkish ground forces to “lean into” any WMD fire the Israelis initiate putting Israel towns and cities at risk of destruction by Israeli weapons of mass destruction. Since we in the US have not confronted a serious enemy that could put our forces in the field at risk since 1950 our journalists and “military analysts” have trouble imagining such a conflict, but it would be a serious mistake not to think about it, even plan for it.

As Quincy Wright wrote many, many years ago in his monumental work, A Study of War, “A single unexpected change in international relations, such as that of the Soviet-German pact in 1939, had an influence on many relations in a way which [conventional wisdom and quantitative analysis] could not foresee.” In 1939, conventional wisdom predicted an imminent war between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Conventional wisdom was wrong. War with the Western powers began first.

Today’s conventional wisdom treats Iran as the principle challenge to Israeli and Western interests, but this assertion, as Quincy Wright suggests, is misleading. Like Richard Nixon in 1973, we would have to intervene with US ground forces or turn millions of Israeli Jews over to the tender mercies of attacking Turkish forces. For those who do not appreciate what a Turkish offensive would entail, I suggest reading about the Red Army’s march in 1944-45 across Poland, Slovakia, Bohemia, Moravia, Romania, Hungary and Eastern Germany. The experience with the Turks would be similar.

In the future, think of Turkey, not Iran, as the greatest potential Islamist threat to Western and Israeli security. The Germans, Poles, Russians, Ukrainian and Balkan Slavs are well aware of this point. Erdogan is on the record preaching the Islamicization of Europe to his countrymen living in Central and Northern Europe.

Pretending the NATO alliance is truly meaningful in this strategic context would be a mistake. NATO, like all of the institutions created in the strategic vacuum after WW II are crumbling. In most ways, NATO is already “dead man walking.”

Iran is internally weak, socially divided and militarily insignificant. However, Iran is a State that given time could prove to be a useful partner since Israel, the West and Shiite Iran share the same adversaries in the East (Pakistan) and in the West (Middle East) - the Sunni Muslim Islamists. As Napoleon said, “A general who cannot think beyond the limits of his map board will never be a great commander.” It’s time to think beyond the present. After all, conventional wisdom is usually high on convention and low on wisdom.

Douglas Macgregor, PhD

Monday, August 13, 2012

Date with History

Warrior’s Rage: The Great Tank Battle of 73 Easting Wednesday, September 5 7:30 pm

Doors open 6:45pm Free Parking and Admission For more information call: 630-260-8187

Experts warned Americans that U.S. forces would suffer heavy casualties at the hands of Iraqi forces who allegedly knew how to hold ground from years of fighting Iranians. But the “experts” were wrong.

Late in the afternoon of 26 February 1991, the lead cavalry troops of “Cougar Squadron,” the 2nd Squadron of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, charged out of a sandstorm and caught Iraq’s Republican Guard Corps in the open desert along the North-South grid line of a military map referred to as the “73 Easting.” Taken by surprise, the defending Iraqi armor brigade was rapidly swept away in salvos of American tank and missile fire in what became the largest tank battle in the history of the U.S. Army since World War II.

Warrior’s Rage. The Great Tank Battle of 73 Easting plunges the reader into the fight and its aftermath, explaining how a victory won decisively by soldiers on the battlefield was lost by a U.S. Army chain of command remote from the fighting, one that never appreciated the power of its own armored force or the enemy’s weakness.

Colonel Douglas A. Macgregor (Retired) served 28 years on active duty in the U.S. Army, beginning as a cadet at West Point. After the first Gulf War ended, he began to formalize the lessons he learned making the 2nd ACR such a self-reliant and efficient fighting force with all the combat arms of aircraft, artillery, resupply and intelligent command & control working together based on cross-country mobile, armored platforms as the maneuvering force. He began to write and innovate new formations and organizations so the entire U.S. Army could benefit from the Battle of 73 Easting. Over the years however, a thorough examination of this epic battle from an insider's perspective had not been written as the "safe" official account and video, along with some brief write-ups did not cover the geostrategic consequences and the importance of the battle for future defense understanding so sound decisions could be made. The disaster that has followed in Iraq ever since, has made it an urgent matter that he write this book to set the record straight.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Turkish military convoys deploy at Syrian border noted in the Chicago Tribune.

The Turkish General Staff (GS) has the plans, the prepositioned stocks, the equipment, the forces and the resolve to execute the intervention. In truth, many are anxious to do so. Prime Minister Erdogan has successfully populated the Turkish Army with Sunni Islamists who share his Ottoman aspirations to lead the Sunni Muslim Middle East and Central Asia.

However, Erdogan is clever and recognizes the criticality of exercising restraint and patience. He will not act in Syria directly if he can avoid it. Right now, he’s helping to orchestrate the rebellion and doing so very effectively. He has the unconditional support of the Peninsular Arabs who are inclined to trade U.S. protection for his against Iranian encroachment. To this point in time, the Turks have focused on crushing Kurdish rebels and insurgents, but, until recently, refrained from actively supporting Sunni Islamist rebellions.

The Sunni Islamist “awakening” in the region has changed that condition putting them into the fight through proxies in Syria. Given Assad’s deal with the Kurds to expand their autonomy and freedom of action, the Turks may yet decide it’s time to end the Assad regime once and for all creating a satellite state for themselves in Damascus the way Tehran has created one in Baghdad. Refugees in the region are an enormous problem. If they cannot go home, they are a burden to the host country. The Palestinians are the prime, but not the only example. Erdogan is acutely sensitive to this potential for instability.

Again, Erdogan understands it all, but he has no wish to put Turkish national cohesion and economic strength at risk in Syria if he can avoid doing so. Erogan does not want war with Iran, but he is interested in containing and emasculating Tehran, a Shiite regime he privately loathes as much as Riyadh does.

In this sense, Syria is a proving ground for various kinds of subversion conducted by Saudi Arabia and Turkey to achieve their strategic aims. For the Iranians, subversion comes naturally and has worked brilliantly in Iraq where a series of Army Four Stars created the conditions through the misuse of American lives and power for Iran’s success. The Saudis are not quite as good at subversion preferring to invest money in religious and social activities to cultivate Sunni Islamist thinking and behavior. For the moment, they are providing money and arms to Sunni Islamist forces in both Syria and Iraq. Even the arms flowing out of Turkey into Syria are largely funded by Riyadh.

To be blunt, Erdogan is the most impressive man to lead Turkey since Attaturk. His grasp of strategy and international politics is unsurpassed.

If the Turks do go into Syria, the Israelis will confront a very dangerous situation indeed, one they cannot easily master. This will not lead immediately to war with Israel, but Turkey is the regional military superpower with the national cohesion, economic strength and military power to dominate its “near abroad” including Syria. To be frank, it is the Turkish led Sunni Muslim alliance, not Iran, the Israelis should fear. Unfortunately, the Israelis have overplayed their hand on the Iranian issue; a grossly inflated threat none of the Europeans privately fear any more than the Russians do. As Admiral Fallon, former CENTCOM Commander said, “They (the Iranians) are ants. We can crush them anytime.” Fallon was and remains right. In contrast to the Turks, the Iranian military capacity to project any serious military power beyond its borders is nil.

Iran is weak, far weaker internally than Americans realize. It presents no tangible security threat, particularly given its fragile dependence on oil, 70 percent of which goes to China, Korea and Japan. The idea that the Iranians would willingly block the Strait of Hormuz is just not true. It would not only harm the world economy, it would destroy Iran’s economy and put the regime at real risk of collapse. Without oil revenues, Iran along with its Arab neighbors cannot import the food it needs to feed its population.

The Israeli civil and military leadership is understandably nervous and reinforcing security along its Northern Border, but Israeli military and intelligence leaders want nothing to do with direct military intervention in Syria. The IDF leadership knows the perils of involving themselves in neighboring squabbles. They intervened in Lebanon and were compelled to ignominiously withdraw leaving Hizbollah, a creature of Israeli occupation (much like al Qaeda in Iraq was a creature of US occupation) behind them.

We Americans should also stay out. We cannot shape the outcome in Syria. We simply cannot compete for influence in this Middle Eastern snake pit as we discovered in Iraq. In the end, these dysfunctional societies will struggle for decades internally and with each other. At some point, they will emerge under presumably Turkish rather than Iranian leadership. If and when they do, we can deal with them on terms that favor us, from a position of political, economic and military strength.

Meanwhile, the economic backwardness and enormous populations of the Muslim States leaves them little maneuver room in the world arena where, like it or not, to survive they must do business with the West. When they do, we hold all of the cards.

Cheers, Doug

Turkish military convoys deploy at Syrian border

Umit Bektas Reuters

11:35 a.m. CDT, July 30, 2012

KILIS, Turkey (Reuters) - Turkey sent at least four convoys of vehicles carrying troops and missile batteries to the border with Syria on Monday amid growing concern in Turkey about security on its southern frontier, witnesses and news reports said.

It was the latest in a series of deployments in the region in recent weeks. There is no indication that Turkish forces will cross the border, and the troop movements may be strictly precautionary in the face of spiraling violence in Syria.

Two separate convoys of about 30 vehicles left a base in Gaziantep province to head south to Kilis and were now stationed along a fenced-off section on the border with Syria, witnesses said.

"This is part of a training exercise," said a high-ranking officer in a second convoy of nine vehicles with armored personnel carriers, tanks and other military vehicles.

A second officer in the same convoy said the troops would remain on the Turkish side of the border.

The state-run Anatolian news agency said ammunition and military vehicles were brought by rail to the town of Islahiye in Gaziantep from the Mediterranean port of Iskenderun.

In a fourth troop movement, military vehicles, including tanks, were moved to Akcakale in Sanliurfa province, further east from Kilis and Gaziantep, and were now stationed at the Syrian border, Anatolian said.

Turkey, a member of NATO, has conducted in recent months a number of troop deployments along its 911-km (566 mile) border with Syria, which is in the throes of an insurgency seeking to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, a former Assad ally, is now among his most vocal critics, calling for him to step down from power amid the 16-month uprising that has killed thousands of Syrian civilians.

Tensions between the neighbors hit a peak on June 22, when Syrian forces shot down a Turkish military reconnaissance aircraft, killing two pilots.

Kilis houses a major refugee centre for Syrians fleeing the violence at home. About 44,000 refugees are in Turkey.

Erdogan last week warned the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), an armed militant group that has launched attacks inside Turkey, against setting up camps inside northern Syria.

That area, which has a large Kurdish population, has been spared much of the violence seen elsewhere in Syria, but Turkey is worried the PKK could exert influence there amid a power vacuum and threaten Turkish security at the border.

The PKK has waged a 27-year campaign for autonomy in Turkey's largely Kurdish southeast, and more than 40,000 people, mainly Kurds have died in the conflict.

(Writing by Ayla Jean Yackley; Editing by Diana Abdallah)

Copyright © 2012, Reuters