Home > Ends Ways and Means, Grand Strategy, Policy, Strategy > Strategy and the Defense Budget Part Deux

Strategy and the Defense Budget Part Deux

November 17, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

In a previous post I argued that any defense cuts proposed by the so-called “Debt Commission” should be part of a broader national grand strategy.  Although this imperative may be lost on our national leadership, it certainly isn’t lost on Taliban Leader Mullah Omar.

The following is an excerpt from an article entitled Attrition warfare in Afghanistan, financial warfare in Washington at Small Wars Journal:

  Few observers would compare the war in Afghanistan to the World War I Battle of Verdun. But it appears as if both Gen. David Petraeus and Mullah Mohammad Omar are explicitly using classic attrition warfare to compel a change in their adversary’s behavior. Similar to the Verdun “mincing machine,” each commander is hoping that unsustainable casualties, demoralization, or bankruptcy will force the other side into a settlement or withdrawal. For Omar, there is a direct line between his strategy and the budget crisis in Washington; he is counting on another financial crisis to help him win the war. A budget deal in Washington might do as much as air strikes and raids to convince the Taliban that their strategy won’t work.

But writing the government’s budget is a political exercise, not a procedure in logical optimization. Omar is hoping for political failure in Washington, with harsh punishment ensuing from the global bond market, upon which the U.S. Treasury depends for cash. He is counting on a collapse in the U.S. Treasury’s credit, leading to another financial crisis which would then result in a U.S. pullout from Afghanistan. No one knows how soon or distant such a crisis may be. But it may be Omar’s confidence in the scenario that keeps him from considering a settlement.

From this perspective, perhaps the best way to reinforce Petraeus’s efforts on the battlefield would be to reach a meaningful budget deal in Washington. Such a deal might remove a key pillar in Omar’s strategy, cause him to reexamine his assumptions, and give Petraeus a major advantage in the war of attrition. A budget deal won’t be easy. But knowing how much Omar is counting on political failure in Washington might make reaching an agreement a bit easier.

(Emphasis Added)


For more on grand strategy, I’d recommend viewing the video below by Dr. Steven Metz.  Dr. Metz essentially says that we are out of the habit of balancing ends, ways, and means.  Good strategy is not just effective, but efficient.  He uses Afghanistan as an example.  Although population-centric COIN and nation building is the most effective strategy, perhaps there are alternatives that, although slightly less effective, are vastly more affordable, and therefore more efficient.  If you don’t want to watch the entire video, watch from 25:30 to 30:12 for the effective/efficient discussion.

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