Monday, July 21, 2008

Very Interesting.

Good piece here from the LA Times.

I don't know if I ever explicitly stated this, so I'll do it now. For the last year, while on the Island, I was getting my MA with a number of military personnel doing the same thing. These were officers who had "been there and done that" and their respective branches sent them to school for some PME to advance their careers.

Now that I've been outed on, I figure I have no reason to be super-secretive about it anymore, although I'm definitely not giving any identifying information about any of the other students in my classes.

One of the classes that has been the most useful was a COIN class I took this last spring. In this class were a couple of SF officers, a logistician, a former NG member, an (I think) regular Army artillery guy and the list goes on. There were also civilians like myself. All but the NG guy were officers.

I say this all not to laundry list my contacts from class, but to show the range of viewpoints that existed there. The topic of this article came up multiple times in that class (as well as in other classes, to differing degrees). Granted this was a COIN class so our focus was definitely in that direction- but while we agreed that ignoring the possibility of a conventional war was not wise, reverting to post-Vietnam when the US decided that we weren't going to engage in any more COIN operations was equally unwise. There are compelling arguments for future conflicts being both directions- and really- should we forget that we are actually fighting insurgents? Knowing that young American men and women are getting on planes every day to go fight the insurgents, don't we want to equip and train them the absolute best that we can in helping them to come back to their families?

My thoughts are these:
Yes, there are conventional threats. No doubt about it. But we also have numerical and equipment superiority over any of those threats. That means that they won't come to fruition any time soon.

There are unconventional threats right now. Ignoring AQ, hezbollah and hamas is, as far as I'm concerned, tantamount to letting the enemy fight the "War of National Survival" that is talked about in the article without responding.

Those who would fight a conventional war are not doing so because they are actors with a degree of rationality- i.e., survival is a priority for them.

For other organizations such as those mentioned above, rationality is (granted, from our prospective) more um... fluid. Survival may be an overarching end goal- but it is not a priority. If everything is destroyed in the attempt to wipe out the infidel then the virgins just come faster for the martyrs. Fighting an enemy who does not fear death and does not value life in the same way we do is really scary and it can't be overlooked as a national security goal.

So what do I think about the article? Assuming that the research wasn't biased- I think they did a decent job covering both sides of the issue, although I'm not convinced that the bias isn't more pronounced than it should be. Meaning, I'm not convinced that the majority of officers really feel this way. But I could be wrong. I sometimes am.

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