Big Red Car here in the sunny and wonderful ATX. Ahhh, it’s good to be in Texas!
So The Boss was a professional soldier and is a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute. He commanded combat engineers both in the United States and overseas. He learned a bit about soldiering. Soldiering was his family’s business — his 96-year old father is retired from the military (infantry) and his late mother served in World War II (yes, his mother wore combat boots).
One of the things The Boss learned is that warfare is a scientific undertaking. It is the ultimate exercise in process and system. The combined arms — infantry, armor, artillery, combat engineers (just glorified infantry who know how to aid the mobility of the friendlies and impede the mobility of the enemy) — have to work together to fight and win.
All of these arms are deployed to the battlefield with the support of air power and, at times, naval power. The land, air, sea battlespace is part of the system and the process. Today it includes space and the Internet.
Only the infantry — the boots on the ground — is capable of taking and holding territory. Its mission is very easy to understand.
Find them. Fix them. Kill them.
When General Colin Powell was asked what the allies intended to do to the Iraqi army which had invaded Kuwait, he answered: “First we’re going to cut them off and then we’re going to kill them.” The clarity of mission was a key ingredient in the overall success of the operation.
The military is one of the most professional organizations on the planet. When they fail to perform at an acceptable level, people die. When they perform correctly, America’s enemies die.
An officer who wears the stars of a General will have likely been a graduate of West Point or VMI or the The Citadel, gone to his basic course, his advanced course, the Command & General Staff College, the Army War College, the Industrial College of the Armed Forces and received an advanced degree in an appropriate subject. He will also have served in the US and overseas and had a myriad of assignments including command, staff, educational, political and the Pentagon.
This General officer is a student of warfare and the American approach to war. He will know intimately our nation’s enemies and the geography of the threat. He will have exquisite intelligence on the enemy’s fighting capabilities.
He is a consummate professional and will have applied theory to reality under the most trying circumstances.
In many instances, he will be an awesome combat leader capable of inspiring his soldier (let’s get the Marines in here also) to fight and, if necessary die, for the nation. In tough situations, he can think on his feet, improvise and prevail when the bullets are flying. He is likely to be a courageous and fierce fighter personally.
He is also an adviser to Presidents when he wears four stars and is either a very senior staff officer (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs), Marine Commandant or a combatant commander of one of the theaters of war. He is the best of the best of the best. Only fourteen men wear four stars at any given time.
These men are the ones who provide advice on how to find, fix and kill America’s enemies. In the current situation with the latest crop of terrorists running amok in the Middle East, these men know the nature of the enemy, the battlespace, the capabilities of the enemy and what it will take to defeat them. This is their profession. This is why the nation has invested so much money, time and responsibility in them — to enable them to provide the best possible military advice to the commander in chief, the American President.
Our current President chooses not to follow this advice and has announced that we will “degrade and destroy” ISIS without putting boots on the ground. He really means combat troops as he has, in fact, already dispatched teams of advisers to the region just not organized combat units.
He has authorized the use of American air power to strike ISIS point targets. As any second lieutenant knows, you cannot defeat an army or hold ground with airplanes. In the last year of the second World War, the Germans produced more military equipment and arms than in any other year though the allies were bombing them day and night unmercifully. The air force took out all the power plants in Hanoi and it had no real impact on the conclusion of that war.
Air power is a powerful ingredient in the combined arms mix and it is a critical ingredient in supporting the infantry but it is not a realistic substitute for finding, fixing and killing ISIS. This strategy is not the product of the careful consideration of experienced and professional warriors. It is how community organizers see war. It is unrealistic.
The President has made a number of misjudgments such as announcing the end of wars rather than driving on to victory, pulling out troops before the indigenous forces are equal to the task, failing to negotiate a status of forces agreement which would have provided necessary support and now an unrealistic strategy for dealing with the current threat. In every instance, he has failed to follow the advice of military professionals who are the nation’s greatest resource when it comes to these matters.
This is a correctable error but one which will require an inflection point that may not be politically palatable to the President. It is folly nonetheless and it will not work. The number of retired and active duty Generals who have spoken out against it or who have questioned its wisdom is almost universal. This is not a close call. This is basic military science.
This President’s judgment on military matters — often in direct contravention to the advice from his senior military advisers — has been ghastly and will result in the loss of American and others’ lives. The final report card will be graded in blood.
While the focus of this post is the Middle East, understand that the recent grandstanding in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania — NATO countries whose safety is ensured unequivocally by American agreement to Article V of the Atlantic Charter — is even more serious. Will we fight for these countries? Can we fight for these countries, do we have the capabilities? Today America has not one single tank in all of Europe.
This President, in the face of increasing threats to our security, is reducing the size of the military to levels of pre-World War II. This is true of the Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force. This is not the time to be reducing our force structure particularly when it is based on the loss of company and field grade officers with combat experience. This is folly. In fact, we should be increasing the size of our military as the geographical breadth of the threat continues to grow.
This discussion would be broader and more tenuous were it not for the accumulated expertise available to the President, all of which questions and opposes his strategy. He has the right answers available at his fingertips. He chooses not to tap into it and follow it.
Stay tuned. This is going to get really dicey.
Pro tip: When choosing between the advice of exquisitely trained military professionals with over thirty years of experience and unaccomplished former community organizers, go with the pros.