Archive for the ‘Grand Strategy’ Category

Bin Laden’s Legacy

May 4, 2011 Leave a comment

So, Osama bin Laden was, by any measure, a murderous son of a bitch who got exactly what was coming to him.  Although the thought of incinerating him with a missile strike is attractive in a eye-for-and-eye kind of way, the thought of him cowering in the dark as vengeance in the form of Navy SEALs methodically hunted him room by room is oddly satisfying.  I enjoy knowing that the last moments of his pitiful life were filled with fear.

So it is done.  Now what?

Aside from the strategic implications, to which I may devote a future entry, there has been some discussion on bin Laden’s legacy.  Specifically, does he take his place among the most influential strategists/theorists of history?  Did he invent/perfect/introduce a “Jihadist” way of war? Read more…


Be Careful What You Wish For: The Perils of Multilateralism

March 29, 2011 Leave a comment

The President has taken his lumps from both the left and the right on the Libya intervention.  The right accuses him of not doing enough, or alternatively, of not articulating a clear mission and end state for our military actions in Libya.  Of course, this is par for the course – the right is opposed to Obama’s actions simply because they are Obama’s actions – itself a commentary on the madness of our political dynamics.  The best example of the madness on the right has to be Newt Gingrich’s flip-flop – he was for the Libya no fly zone before he was against it… Read more…

Victory: SECDEF Robert Gates

February 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Defense Secretary Robert Gates waves to West Point graduates on Friday.FOR THINKING CLEARLY ABOUT GRAND STRATEGY.

At least someone in the federal government is thinking about Grand Strategy.  Amid calls by some to put US troops in to Libya and other places in the Middle East and Africa, Secretary Gates bluntly responded, “Any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as Gen. MacArthur so delicately put it,” (Read the entire article at

If only we had Robert Gates around back in 2001 instead of that other guy….

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Strategic Thoughts Before Hiatus

February 16, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ll be off the net for a few days while I soak in some sun at an undisclosed, strategically insignificant location in the Caribbean.

Here are the strategic questions I’ll be pondering when not in a mai tai induced coma:

U.S. Grand Strategy.

  • After nearly almost a decade of “small wars,” the biggest question in U.S. grand strategy is not really whether we can, rather it is whether we shouldAfghanistan and Iraq have been long, bloody, and expensive.  Yet so far, there is relatively little to show in terms of strategic gains.  This should lead us to get beyond asking ourselves whether we can do small wars, guerilla wars, counter-insurgency, etc…  We have proven that with enough time, blood, and money we can do these operations.  We should now ask whether they are beneficial.  Are we getting enough back?

Safe Havens

  • Is territory, i.e. “safe havens,” really necessary for terrorism?  Is the primary battlefield cognitive?  Is this a war of ideas?  If so, what is the utility in trying to establish governance in ungoverned spaces which may serve as safe haven for terrorists.

More Safe Havens

  • Would it actually be better for terrorists to congregate in ungoverned spaces since airstrikes in those spaces would be less likely to arouse protests on the part of a sovereign state?

Reduced Budgets

  • How will the U.S. military, in what are sure to be leaner times ahead, balance the ends and ways of military strategy with reduced means?

The Next War

  • Does the U.S. military train for the next war to be a counter-insurgency type limited war?  Or, does it train toward a conventional war with a near peer?  Can it do both?  Is this choice a false dichotomy?

Middle East

  • What does the push for change in Egypt and the greater Middle East mean for the U.S.?  What if a country democratically elects a terrorist party/organization (ala Hamas)?  Do we REALLY support democracy?
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The (Not So) New Military-Industrial Complex

January 31, 2011 Leave a comment

Long-time defense reform advocate Franklin Spinney has authored a new article, “The Domestic Roots of Perpetual War” which examines the military-industrial complex in the context of the post-9/11 environment.  Here are the salient points:

  • Despite huge defense expenditures, we (Americans) don’t feel that much more safe.
  • Budgetary and debt pressures will soon bring the defense spending issue to a crisis point.
  • Our troops are stressed out by repeated deployments and our equipment is getting older rather than newer, even as we spend nearly three quarter of a trillion (with a T) on defense.
  • Continuous small wars serve the corporate strategies of defense contractors, who have failed to diversify following the Cold War.
  • Greater weapons system complexity is increasing rather than decreasing friction on the battlefield.
  • The Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) process is broken.
    While Spinney does not make specific recommendations on a way forward vis a vis ends-ways-means, he does provide a good context for a wholesale strategic review of the defense budget.  His conclusions suggest that the U.S. should drop most of our complex weapons systems in favor of investments in our most important resource – people.

Afghanistan Strategic Review: “We Are Making Progress”…..toward?

December 17, 2010 Leave a comment

The strategic review of the Afghanistan war is in.  This time around the review attracted considerably fewer protests than the strategic review of the Iraq surge.  I could be coy and feign ignorance, or I could simply state the truth that many of those who protested GEN Petraeus at the Iraq review did so because they hated President George W. Bush.  Now that they have a President they like, they are far less inclined to protest.  In short, they are blazing hypocrites.  However, I digress.

A summary of the review can be found at the New York Times  Anderson Cooper also had a segment on the review last night, which featured a montage of President Obama’s remarks on Afghanistan:

As usual, the politicians and pundits alike are focusing on whether we are winning or not.  The larger and more important question is whether we need to win at all.  Going back to my previous post, it doesn’t do you a whole lot of good to “win” when you are bidding $5.50 for a one dollar bill.

In the President’s defense, he did address this question in his December 2009 speech at West Point where he announced the 30,000 troop surge.  “As Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.”  I’m heartened by the fact that he is using the proper test for not only escalating, but continuing the Afghanistan war at all.  What is less clear is if he was or is correct about our vital national interests in Afghanistan.  I’ve yet to hear this argument clearly articulated.  There is a direct relationship between our national interests and desired strategic end state, which also explains why officials have difficulty articulating end state as well.

Update to Budget and Strategy

November 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Add Michael O’Hanlon to the list of people who see that defense cuts must be linked to a sound strategy.

On the list so far: Robert Haddick, Mullah Omar, Steven Metz, and Yours Truly.

Yet to be Added: U.S. Congress and Debt Commission.