The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Improving Our Accuracy: Laser-Like Focus

Posted on | December 8, 2011 | 10 Comments

by Smitty

Clausewitz and the Rule of Threes

Daily Pundit posted, and I respondedDaily Pundit replied, and we appear to be talking past each other. Unexpectedly. My Mudville Gazette link to Clauzewitzian Triangle did not refer to

Effects of the Clauswitzian tripod of Friction, Fog of War, and Point of Victory. . .

at all. Pardon my 0300 posting, which could have more clearly linked to the material of interest at Mudville Gazette. What I’m trying to get at, from the On War, with some formatting from me:

  • The first of these three aspects mainly concerns the people;
  • the second the commander and his army;
  • the third the government.

The passions that are to be kindled in war must already be inherent in the people; the scope which the play of courage and talent will enjoy in the realm of probability and chance depends on the particular character of the commander and the army; but the political aims are the business of government alone.

In other words, irrespective of the Army, or the whims of the Executive: the Army, Government, and people have to be kept in synch. The difficulty of maintaing the triangle is proportional to the duration of the action. Witness the brief foray into Pakistan to rub out Osama. Witness the decaying support for the recent Libyan action. Witness the general Constitutional queasiness triggered by both actions.

Codevilla is great, and comes at it from the policy perspective. Clausewitz gives you the strategic, i.e. military perspective. This is also called the Clausewitzian Trinity, but ‘trinity’ has religious baggage for some, and so we called it the Triangle in my Strategy and Policy class.

Bickering and Arguing Over ‘Oo Oversimplified ‘Oo

Bill Quick says:

Our military is designed to kill people and break things. Or it should be. It is not a missionary force, a religious force, a cultural force. It is a military force. If it had been used as police generally are, it would have begun to withdraw (or turn in the direction of Tehran) immediately after Bush made his famous “Mission Accomplished” speech.

Well, yeah, but more than a trifle over-simplified. See Austin Bay on Strategy Page for an important brief on DIME.

The acronym is “DIME” — a quick verbal coin for the four elements of national power: “Diplomatic,” “Information,” “Military” and “Economic” power.
When “policy is working,” diplomacy, economic interests, military power and information power (both the ability to communicate and to gather intelligence) complement one another. It’s a difficult ballet, but choreographing and directing this dance is the business of statesmen.

You can tweak my beard for invoking “Team America, World Police”, fine. But that seems precisely where you’re going with “Our military is designed to kill people and break things,” Bill. Remember that M is but a quarter of DIME, and using it singly leaves DIE.

Can we back up and ponder the broader scope of American history, in our Tea Party exuberance? If you read Six Frigates you discover that the debates haven’t changed much in 200 years. Prior to the National Security Act of 1947, we did not retain standing land forces between wars. Air, of course was new. You can point to the Great White Fleet, like the Six Frigates, as a sea example of peacetime navel force, sure: very Mahanian.

My argument here, call it the ‘soft Paul’ is that having a vast DoD is kinda problematic for the Tea Party purist. The excellent counter is “OK, if not U.S. hegemony, then who?” The answer is: why, no one. If there must needs be an 800 pound gorilla in the world, let it be us. Sure, the best defense is a good offense, and I play a mean white side on the chess board.


Coming full circle to the original question of “America can win any war it chooses to fight, quickly and permanently” I guess for managed values of {win, war, fight, quickly, permanently}, your point is spot on, Daily Pundit. Which of {Korea, Japan, Germany, Iraq, Afghanistan} do you feel apply? Gulf War I was certainly a victory; Kuwait was liberated. Yet what precise value of ‘permanent’ had us staging a drag race in Iraq during the next decade between the Marines and the Army?

You like the Osama raid? Libya? You do realize that these are Spec Ops intensive topics. More and more, Team America polices the world via “Dudes that to ‘bump’ in the night”. From a Tea Party perspective, should the decreasing relevance of the Constitutional protocol of having the POTUS request a Declaration of War from Congress be a problem, or should we just chock it up to technological drift? War is hell, and politics is a psychotic Ex-. The notion that we can win any war is arguably true in the abstract, and practically falls apart in extended real-world examples.

Update: I just caught up with Belvedere’s Pax Americana post.

The proper form of Pax Americana is where The United States is able to project it’s military forces anywhere Tyranny threatens to expand itself or sow Chaos. Tyrannical governments will always exist, but they can be contained and prevented from disrupting or conquering other nations. When the situation requires America to act to preserve the peace, it should go in, crush the enemy, and leave, telling the peoples of the area as it exits: ‘We’ve solved the problem at hand; you’re on your own; straighten things out; don’t cause anymore trouble because, if you do, we’ll be back with even greater force this time’.
The Pax Americana must also take whatever actions are necessary to ensure that Weapons Of Mass Destruction be possessed only by The United States and it’s close Allies ? preferably restricted to just the nations of the Anglosphere.

Bob, I love you man, but the horses are already out of the toothpaste tube. Sorry.


10 Responses to “Improving Our Accuracy: Laser-Like Focus”

  1. htowt
    December 8th, 2011 @ 2:56 pm


    Thanks for throwing a little cold water on the romanticism of military combat.  Why is it that those whose lives are touched by war seem so circumspect in its application?  I guess when you are being shot at, you get a slightly more personal take on the issue than those who simply theorize.

  2. Anonymous
    December 8th, 2011 @ 3:10 pm

    Smitty, of the actions you list, only Germany and Japan count as “won”: the countries in question were removed as a threat for the last 60 years. Gulf War I was not a victory; the cause of the war was not removed, and the country in question did not consider itself beaten; thus the years of low level conflict culminating in a return trip.

    And it only falls apart when one side doesn’t have the political will to finish it.

  3. World Cop? Sure! World Missionary? Not So Much | Daily Pundit
    December 8th, 2011 @ 3:21 pm

    […] Improving Our Accuracy: Laser-Like Focus : The Other McCain Daily Pundit posted, and I responded. Daily Pundit replied, and we appear to be talking past each other. […]

  4. smitty
    December 8th, 2011 @ 3:22 pm

    Sure, proximity.
    But the real driver here is that our Constitution is about liberty, not Team America.
    Let’s keep the main thing the main thing.

  5. smitty
    December 8th, 2011 @ 3:24 pm

    I agree, but am trying to point out that the ‘will to finish it’ is difficult to sustain.

  6. K-Bob
    December 8th, 2011 @ 5:17 pm

    Ironically, the speed of communication today has slowed the actual prosecution of war to a crawl.

  7. Pathfinder
    December 8th, 2011 @ 6:03 pm

    As someone who has seen some of the truly sucktastic places of the world, and presently has children who are getting the full monty treatment from the world’s nether regions I think I have some authority to say this:

    I never wanted to be serving in the World Police because I never swore an oath to protect and serve the world.  I never wanted to be thrown from place to place to place with not much more of a reason than some politician’s re-election hopes or as a diversion for the populace to forget about their petty little concerns long  enough to remember to wrap themselves in the flag for a few months and elect those same politicians again, because I swore an oath to be fighting to defend the Constitution, the republic, and the people.
    And when I was used, I wanted it to be as a measure of last resort and then if it had to be, to be effective (and to have the people in this country backing me 110% because they understood/realized/cared enough to know  that the stakes were high and it was vitally important that we win — skin in the game if you will).
    Now I would like that for my children.

    Do you think that I’ve ever gotten my wishes on this?

  8. Steven
    December 9th, 2011 @ 3:13 am

    The central issue – which is never addressed – is that the Constitution provides a means for getting ourselves into war, (The President asks Congress to declare war.) and we haven’t made use of that means since just after Pearl Harbor.  That has a lot to do with why we haven’t had a solid win since WWII.  

    Fail to declare war, and you will fail to muster the will of the people to fight a war.  What you get instead is peacekeeping, MOOTW, Nation-building – whatever you want to call it.  And while everyone expects war to be hell, none of those other things is supposed to be, so when the going gets tough, the popular will crumbles.  Our enemies know this.  They see our unwillingness to declare war as a neon sign, proclaiming our unwillingness to get down to business.

    Declare war, fight brutally, press for unconditional surrender, and then nation-build if you want.  But you can’t omit any of those steps, and you can’t take them out of order.

  9. smitty
    December 9th, 2011 @ 7:38 am

    Well, the notion of keeping the fight overseas and maximizing our economic interests has driven so much of our policy.
    Which doesn’t refute your point in the slightest.

  10. smitty
    December 9th, 2011 @ 7:42 am

    I didn’t address it in this post, though I have fully agreed with your point elsewhere.
    In defense of the War Powers Resolution of 1973, the Constitution does not offer a specific template for what a Declaration of War looks like. So you could try to contend that anytime Congress approves funding for Presidential adventures, it is a de facto Declaration of War.
    That argument is mostly hooey, in my opinion, but I think that puddle of crap is the best argument our Progressives have to stand in/on for what has occurred since WWII.