"Over By Christmas": Campaigning,
Delusions and Force Requirements
Campaigning and the Shapes of Time
There is a natural inclination to look back
with the benefit of hindsight to find fresh patterns in history.
Thus, for example, the period 1870-1990 can be viewed as Europe's
"Hundred- Year Civil War," a perception not necessarily
obvious to those engaged in that "war" at any particular
time; and the Japanese have seen the Second World War from their
viewpoint as variously a part of a "Hundred Years War,"1
a "Seventy-Five Year War," a "Great Pacific War"
and a "Great East Asian War." More recent operations against
Islamic extremists have been seen by some on both sides in an even
broader context, as further iterations of a war spanning more than
one thousand years and stretching from Tours to Acre, Lepanto, Khartoum,
and now to New York and Bali.
While such revisionism may be fundamental to
mankind's learning process, the evidence of the past hundred years
seems to be that we have an incorrigible reluctance and/or inability
to make accurate assessments as to the likely length, meaning and
outcome of military operations and what is or has been required
to succeed in them. We have been poor judges of time and its patterns
when it comes to military matters, or more specifically to campaigning,
erring on the side of lethal optimism and wishful thinking in the
face of the readily available facts. This suspension of critical
faculties has led to serious distortions in preparing armed forces
for the challenges that face them. It seems that Clausewitz's urging-"The
first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgement that
the statesman and commander have to make is to establish . . . the
kind of war upon which they are embarking"2-has
been in vain.
The contention of this paper is that over the
past hundred years military establishments, encouraged and directed
by their political masters, have persistently underestimated the
length and costs of their campaigns and have frequently had little
idea of the actual nature of their undertakings. A common factor
in this appears to be the desire that campaigns should be short,
decisive and cheap; and therefore with less risk but a greater likelihood
of popular support-to be "home by Christmas." This delusion
has often been reached irrespective of the historical evidence and
the analysis of current capabilities to the contrary. The desire
and conviction that campaigns should, ought and in fact will be
so, has often led to the creation of forces to fight on terms other
than those which prove optimal in the event. The result is that
those seeking a short, decisive and cheap campaign have very often
laid the foundations for the opposite. Their unpreparedness and
delusions have abetted costly attrition; and the resulting bill
in international calamity, casualties and materiel has been shocking.
There are some exceptions, and these may prove instructive models
for our own future conduct.
Politically-tainted overoptimism has often
led to fundamental misappreciation of the nature of a military undertaking.
This deficit in imagination and understanding is then, with some
resentment, often blamed on "mission creep," or explained
away with cliche_s masquerading as alibis, asserting that plans
"never survive the first contact" or that readily predictable
consequences could not have been known in advance. Many wars have
ended up with objectives and rationales very different from those
the belligerents began with, and events have indeed unfolded in
unexpected ways; but forces are less able to deal with this unsurprising
phenomenon if their own powers of anticipation have been neglected.
A negative spiral of bad decisions and inappropriate action or denial
may result from this negligence.
We should do better, and a more rigorous objectivity
and self-analysis, perhaps beyond what hierarchy and the military
culture of deference can muster, should be turned to shape and inform
our armed forces. On the other hand, if this contention has substance,
some might conclude that the serial misbehaviour of which defense
establishments and their political masters have been guilty is so
apparently irrational and foolish that it may in some way be endemic
to the civil-military condition, and not amenable to correction
by better training, education or more assiduous staff work. It is
perhaps but a minor act in "the Human Comedy"-in short,
we may be deep into "Norman Dixon country"3
or that dangerous, manic world of overconfidence described more
recently by Dominic Johnson.4 Understanding
our tendency to this condition may prevent us from being its victims,
but we should certainly encourage our opponents to continue along
this path of dysfunction.
Delusions and Decisionmaking
Overconfidence seems to be especially common
when strategic decisions are made by unaccountable leaders, or by
democratically elected leaders who are able to operate in a small
group without rigorous and critical scrutiny. It may be feared that
larger, more open groups would hamper decisionmaking; and when decisions
are made, those on the periphery of this inner group may fear that
any criticisms they make might be viewed as unpatriotic, and move
them even further from the center of power. This can lead to self-
censorship, removing an important check on this "small-group
On the other hand, effective leaders typically
accept heavy responsibility and risks, withstand setbacks and criticism
and still believe they are right. The confidence of a leader is
vital to confidence in him by others, and in matters of war, these
qualities come to the fore. As John Maynard Keynes observed more
than 60 years ago, "In the case of the Prime Minister, this
blindness is an essential element in his strength. If he could see
even a little, if he became even faintly cognisant of the turmoil
of ideas and projects and schemes to save the country which are
tormenting the rest of us, his superbly brazen self-confidence would
be fatally impaired."5
Hitler wanted generals "like butchers'
dogs" who wanted to attack anyone they saw, but he did not
expect them to challenge him or to cast doubt on his grand designs.
The visions and convictions of Alexander, Napoleon, Hitler and Mao
changed the world; but professional soldiers seldom see that as
their life's purpose-in a sense they are merely "military artisans."
The challenges of civil-military relations in Western societies
have been eloquently analysed by Eliot Cohen in Supreme Command,6
and it is rare good fortune if a state can combine excellence in
both its political and military leadership. Generals often offer
flawed judgments, but they are nevertheless a unique and indispensable
source of specialist advice about their profession. Their views
deserve attention if not necessarily acceptance, and in democracies
they often get that attention. The military are often prisoners
of their own limited perspectives, which can make their advice lethal
when taken out of a more sophisticated strategic context; but the
military judgment of the soldier is also often distorted by acquiescence
in the face of political pressures. Equally, sound professional
advice has frequently been overruled by the conviction of those
uneducated in warfare but sure of their ideology and their ultimate
political power of decision.
The Evidence: The Prosecution
The history of the past hundred years suggests
that campaigns have tended to be longer than initially imagined
and allowed for. This has often proven disastrous; although where
combat has not been intense, forces have had the benefit of time
to adapt, and have often done so successfully.
Exhibit A: The Russo-Japanese War and the
Pathology of Lessons Learned
By 1905 it was clear that the prevailing technology
of firepower in defense would dominate offensive maneuver. The evidence
of this was rejected.
At the end of the 19th century, some such as
Jan Bloch had noted the likely length and punishing cost of a future
war in Europe. His case seemed so disturbing that he was attacked
for even making such suggestions.7 The
experience of the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 made it clear that
the technology of indirect firing artillery, machine-guns and high-velocity
magazine rifles in defense, let alone when reinforced by wire and
trenches, would eliminate any likelihood of success by infantry
maneuvering in the open.
This was widely recorded at the time, and in
the immediate aftermath of the war was scarcely controversial. Yet
these lessons of the war did not fit the strategic imperatives of
the day and were distorted or discarded, with the result that what
we now see as clear auguries of the future of warfare, a_ la 1914-18,
generally went unheeded. On 10 September 1904, Colonel Charles Repington,
the military correspondent of The Times of London made "A Plea
After being duly registered and indexed . .
. the best of these reports start on a silent circular tour and
pass round . . . to a number of permanent officials and political
personages, mostly too busy to read them carefully and seldom troubling
to do more than scratch an initial, or to write the words "very
interesting," if it finds them in exceptionally expansive mood.
Then if luck has prevented the report from becoming lost, mislaid,
or forgotten . . . it returns to the office of origin, and it is
solemnly buried and pompously forgotten. The small and restricted
governing class receive a hazy impression of something having been
written somewhere by somebody; there is nothing done.8
As Sir Ian Hamilton noted in despair, "On
the actual day of battle naked truths may be picked up for the asking;
by the following morning they have already begun to get into their
At the turn of the century, Jan Bloch had claimed
support for the view that future wars would be long and costly from
the memoirs of Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke. Moltke opined that
"when millions of men array themselves opposite each other,
and engage in a desperate struggle for their national existence,
it is difficult to assume that the question will be settled by a
few victories."10 Bloch also quoted
the German General (Baron) Colmar von der Goltz, who maintained
that, "The economic resources will dry up before the armed
forces are exhausted."11 He believed
that operational deadlock would lead to unprecedented slaughter
on devastated battlefields, with increasing strain on the industrial
resources of the combatants and the crushing of civilian populations.
He predicted famine, bankruptcy and social collapse; and he cited
civilian stamina and the propensity for revolution as the decisive
elements in modern war. The prescience of Bloch is now clear, whereas
at the time his ideas were acknowledged but had little effect upon
Nevertheless, in a paradoxical and latent acknowledgement
of Bloch's thinking, there was recognition that the slaughter and
national damage of a long war would be unacceptable. All parties
prior to 1914 therefore planned for a short war of rapid and decisive
maneuver, making war more acceptable and thereby possible in their
estimation. In the face of lethal new technologies, armies decided
that there was no option but to endure and thereby prevail. Often
they reached for spiritual solutions,13
and some hoped to manipulate human nature rather than to understand
and address the emerging technologies and tactical possibilities
The more telling the evidence that new fundamentals
would make any war long and costly, the greater the necessary political
and military insistence that it must not be-and by perverse logic
that it could not be, because neither side had the means to fight
such a war. "Getting the drop" on the enemy with a slick
but also unstoppable mobilization plan and rapid, precisely- executed
offensive action seemed essential. In the opening battles of 1914,
the French army lost as many men in its rapid, attritional maneuvering
over open terrain as it did two years later in the Battles of Verdun
and the Somme combined.15
Exhibit B: Blitzkrieg: The New "Cult
of the Offensive" and Ideological Imperatives Lead to Materialschlacht-Again
In the 1930s, Germany planned a "rematch"
of the First World War. Acknowledging that this would have to be
fought on other terms, obviating a Materialschlacht (material battle),
it adopted another "cult of the offensive." Invasions
of Germany's neighbors proceeded against mainstream military advice
and proved disastrously successful. The political powers of the
day, imbued with ideological certainty and with the advantage of
the strategic initiative, asserted the wisdom of their superior
judgment and the necessity for decisive offensive action. Successes
led to the idea and formulation of Blitzkrieg after the event.16
This proved to be a catastrophic liability that died on the Soviet
steppe, in a Materialschlacht. Blitzkrieg had sought and failed
to frustrate the prevailing dynamics of firepower and maneuver in
time and space.17
The German leadership had seen the Soviet Union
as a "colossus of clay without a head"; and it had been
Hitler's calculation on launching Operation BARBAROSSA that by "kicking
in the door," the "whole rotten edifice" would collapse.
The problem of German intelligence was not
really the paucity of intelligence sources, nor even the quality
of information available, and the structural inefficiency of the
service, the problem was one of attitude.18
BARBAROSSA, which is often spoken of as some
brilliant operation, was more a metaphysical plan than a military
one, and the product of an article of political faith rather than
dispassionate operational analysis.19
As a result of an equal misreading of their opponent's mentality,20
the Japanese were to suffer a fate similar to the Germans', in a
prolonged war of attrition in which their opponent had the materiel
advantage-an advantage of which they had always been keenly aware
and which they intended to circumvent through speed and surprise.21
In the case of the Japanese government and command, the likely failure
of their war on the United States was well appreciated at the time;
but it seemed to them that speed and precision in attack offered
at least some possibility of success, while the alternative certainly
Convinced that the Soviet Union would collapse
in the face of a rapid armored maneuver, in 1940-41 Hitler prepared
for Operation BARBAROSSA by stripping the Wehrmacht of much of its
firepower.22 In his mind it would not
be required, for the war was to be won by him by December 1941,
on other terms. Any assumption that firepower and vast quantities
of materiel would be required after that date would be, in essence,
an assumption that his premise was wrong. This would challenge the
entire enterprise, but more important the ideological tenets that
From 22 June to 26 August 1941 the Wehrmacht
"maneuvered" its head into the Soviet noose. It suffered
440,000 casualties, a rate seldom seen in the First World War, and
by December it had lost 830,000, more men than Germany had in the
Battles of Verdun and the Somme combined, although the size of the
killing ground and the "glamour" of the maneuvers, well-publicized
by the Nazi propaganda machine, even today persuade some that it
was an exemplar of operational planning and maneuver at its finest.23
Hitler's war, which by his own calculations should now have been
won, had almost another four years to run, and millions were yet
to die. After 1942, much of the fighting on the Eastern Front degenerated
to a primitive, low-technology, static warfare typical of the middle
years of the First World War, which the Germans had sought to avoid
and for which the Soviets had planned and were well-suited.24
Exhibit C: The Cold War and Its Proxies
After the Second World War, few expected that
U.S. forces would remain in Europe25
and Japan 60 years later; but they do remain for many reasons, and
despite a successful, if unpredicted, outcome to the Cold War in
Europe after a "campaign" of extraordinary financial cost
and length. In the Cold War, nuclear deterrence reinforced the Blochian
notion that war would be unthinkably destructive26
and increased the incidence of limited war, revolutionary struggles
and insurgency in which full conventional military means could not
be applied. These wars were often fought by proxies for the true
contestants. With hindsight, we now see that the Cold War was itself
a limited war on a massive scale, as much as any of the "small
wars" it entailed. This limited war was conducted in the context
of ideological struggle and was also waged by political means.
War was fought not merely on the battlefield
but also in parallel at "peace talks." Thus the Korean
War dragged on, was not decisive, and continues in novel menacing
forms 50 years later. It may yet have a nuclear phase. The United
States also found in its excruciating Vietnam War that the "peace
talks" in Paris, television screens, newsprint and college
campuses were as much "battle fronts" as were the Mekong
Delta or Hue_. The factors that brought about the demise of the
French, so well articulated in the United States after 1945, remained
essentially valid for the subsequent U.S. experience. The war was
long, decisive in the wrong sense from an American viewpoint, and
very expensive. With hindsight, the war of Vietnamese national independence
started well before 1945 and probably ended only with the repulse
of the Chinese invasion of 1979.
Exhibit D: Israel and Her Neighbors-No
End in Sight
Israel persisted in the misleading idea that
quick battlefield victories, such as those in 1967 and 1973, constituted
successes in some fundamental sense. True, Israel survived, and
any single defeat for Israel has a meaning different from that of
a defeat for its neighbors; but there was also the idea that it
had defeated its opponents in some decisive way, as opposed to merely
preempted or temporarily held their attack. This psychology, and
the military structures and training that resulted, left Israel
grievously ill-prepared to face the Intifada in all its rapidly
evolving forms. Early episodes of the Intifada broadcast on television
showed untrained members of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) staging
what amounted to counter-riots against stone- throwing crowds, attracting
worldwide opprobrium. Israel failed to see that battlefield successes
were but intense and vivid moments in a campaign that would last
more than 50 years, and continues without end in sight. In turn,
it may now, however, be only by continuing a drawn-out campaign
that Israel can achieve its own long-term, national, demographic
and territorial objectives; and that the Intifadas have been but
wild episodes that it seeks to weather in this "biblical"
epic, with a more distant ending than that which suits the Palestinians.
Exhibit E: "The New World Order"-No
Since the end of the Cold War, the pattern
of military operations in the so-called "New World Order"
has seemed clear and the requirements unsurprising. There have been
many varieties of "peace operations" around the world
from the Balkans to Rwanda, from Afghanistan to East Timor. Some
have been tempted to attribute success in many of these operations
to the critical role of airpower, which is said to have led to triumph
in short and decisive campaigns. Up to a point they would be right,
for air operations have indeed proven an important factor in the
early warfighting phases of many of these joint campaigns. These
intense phases have generally proven to be short, relatively inexpensive
and highly telegenic; but success in them has far from constituted
success in the overall campaign. They have, more realistically,
been merely preliminary enabling operations for the main and decisive
phases of operations, the nation-building and peacekeeping that
followed them-for these were central to the purpose, the ends of
the campaign, rather than merely its ways and means. After all,
if these subsequent phases were not the most important phases, what
was the purpose of the preliminary warfighting activities? Stopping
immediate criminal acts was indeed often an immediate and beneficial
consequence of intervention, but disengagement after a short warfighting
phase would not have prevented on-going bloodshed-on the contrary,
it might well have made it worse.
Although the Bosnian crisis was settled at
Dayton, thousands of troops remain in Bosnia and the campaign is
not over. In that sense, the idea of a modern aerial Blitzkrieg,
so much in vogue for a while and linked to the unrealistic chimera
of information superiority and the transparent battlefield, has
proved an illusion in which many military establishments have been
complicit. The campaign in Bosnia also taught the need to review
much of the military doctrine upon which armies had trained, although
much of the "new" doctrine for "Peace Operations"
turned out not to be new at all.
In Kosovo, six years after the Kosovo Force
(KFOR) entered that province of Serbia, there has still been no
political settlement and the outcome of the campaign remains unclear.
It did, however, highlight the shortcomings of airpower against
forces in the field27 and it provided
invaluable lessons in exactly what was required when, having removed
a regime, one wishes to insert a new government in toto. The rebuilding
of Afghanistan-"nation-building" seems too ambitious a
term to apply to this disparate state-would seem to be a very perilous
and long- term project. Nevertheless, in a broad perspective, the
mission of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is
probably as important in preventing future terrorism as the concurrent
combat operations conducted under other auspices. That said, optimism
as to its outcome may be misplaced.
Exhibit F: "The Gulf War"
The Gulf War of 1991 appeared to be a stunning
success-as in many respects it was; but it was more Cannae than
Tannenberg. It did not lead to the fall of Saddam Hussein any more
than Rome fell in 216 BC, or did Moscow after the "Cannaes"
of 1941. That said, it was only land, warfighting operations that
fell dormant in Iraq as the focus of the campaign moved on to another
fronts, such as the United Nations headquarters in New York. Meanwhile,
air operations continued over Iraq for another 12 years and land
operations took on disparate forms in the Kurdish north. Thus the
Gulf campaign-for perhaps there has only been one since 1991- was
not as short as it at first seemed, nor is it yet complete.
Worryingly, it may have been the appearance
that victory in 1991 had indeed been rapid, decisive, technologically
brilliant and cheap, at least in terms of casualties, that encouraged
the initial conviction that it must indeed in some sense be over,
when that was in essence far from the case. Even when it was clear
that it was not, this initial interpretation seems to have encouraged
the belief that a "rematch," based in similar style on
a technological mismatch, would end the matter, on conditions and
in conditions defined by the coalition. It was not, however, clear
whether this operation would merely topple Saddam Hussein "the
rogue" or be the means of reinventing Iraq to solve greater
strategic problems in the region. To some it seemed as if the two
were synonymous and that the chosen military instrument was somehow
one of universal application with a socket to fit all "nuts."
The determination to fight Saddam Hussein again,
with a preemptive attack on coalition terms if Saddam himself would
not oblige, seemed to ensure that Saddam could not evade his fate.
He would have to fight First World forces on First World terms and
would not be able to hide above that threshold with his weapons
of mass destruction (WMD) or below it with terrorism. Once that
fight had been conducted, it seemed persuasive to believe that this
was indeed the end of major combat operations, for surely the regime
would collapse once the "door had been kicked in" and
the population "liberated." If the intent of operations
in Iraq in 2003 was merely "regime destruction," which
it was not, then the short, decisive warfighting operation of March
and April 2003 might in itself have constituted success. In all
other respects it might have been counterproductive, given the uncertain
and destabilizing consequences for an already unstable region of
merely unseating a secular Saddam Hussein, who apparently had no
weapons of mass destruction. It will only have been worthwhile if
subsequent operations shape the emergence of Iraq as a strong and
stable nation, befitting its large and educated population and oil
wealth-the outcome will not be clear for many years. "Phase
4" was all along the decisive phase, but was not recognized
as such prior to the coalition's ground operation against Iraq in
NATO's intent in entering Kosovo in 1999 was
"regime change" for humanitarian reasons. As a result,
by 2003 very vivid, precise and recent experience was available,
making clear exactly what is required when a government is replaced
by force of arms-from security and currency reform to social reconstruction
and the restoration of economic infrastructure. Hindsight was not
required to note the nation-building task that followed "major
combat operations," for it was described in many thoughtful
public analyses and by many campaign-planners themselves.
The moment troops cross the "line of departure"
they create, with every pace, a rear area of complex character,
requiring all forms of security, peacekeeping and nation-building,
and it entails all the legal responsibilities of an occupying power.
The requirement for nation-building in Afghanistan after the demise
of the Taliban had also been clear and been instructive-indeed the
failure to attend to this activity after the withdrawal of the Soviet
Union may have led, in large part, to the Taliban's rise to power.
While warfighting may be decisive in its own terms, it may not be
so in terms of broader strategic objectives in "the war on
terror," which also seeks to address the causes of terrorism,
as the United Kingdom's "New Chapter" to its Strategic
Defence Review emphasised in 2002. There seems to have been little
appreciation that a long campaign in Iraq would be so "attritional":
demand so many troops, so much heavy armor and ammunition; incur
such financial costs, so many casualties, at such a political price;
and cause so much ill-feeling in international affairs; and yet
this was understood by many.28 Perhaps
more worrying was the inclination to deny, even in October 2003,
that the coalition faced an insurgency, for this would have challenged
some of the premises of the campaign. If Iraq had been "liberated,"
why would there be resistance; and if large numbers of troops were
indeed required to counter some insurgency, and if Iraqi oil could
not finance Iraq's reconstruction, then the prospectus upon which
the campaign was mounted might be seen to be questionable.
Ironically, while forces may have been specifically
designed for rapid deployment and employment, this failure to understand
how they should reconfigure and be employed was in fact a manifestation
of a lack of strategic readiness and a sign of inflexibility. Forces
built to achieve rapid decision had neither the means nor the orders
to reach one in the novel but not unforeseen circumstances that
unfolded from summer 2003. The initiative was surrendered with perhaps
costly consequences, as "Clausewitzian tilt" seemed to
favor an enemy, now "morphed" into an insurgent guerrilla-a
morphing that had already begun before Saddam's regime fell.
The doctrinal premise of information superiority
or even dominance, of speed, fire-superiority and the avoidance
of attrition had itself become a party to creating the conditions
which those forces had been designed to avoid or render irrelevant.
There is a need to challenge some of the fundamental tenets of our
concepts and doctrine. For example, the notion that we might enjoy
information superiority in the decisive operations in which we are
currently engaged in Iraq, or information dominance on some future
"transparent battlefield"-a term still commonly bandied
about-does seem rather unreflective and self-serving. It is a grand
and seductive idea that may have as much chance of success in contemporary
complex operations as another such idea, Blitzkrieg, had on the
steppes of the Soviet Union. Ironically, it would be better if our
working assumption was more modestly one of our own information
inferiority, and if we viewed our challenge to be to minimize that
disadvantage. For example, our opponents in Iraq today undoubtedly
hold information superiority over us: They are better able to identify
our personnel and what they are doing than vice versa-after all,
we wear especially procured distinctive dress, camouflaged military
uniform. Expensive high-tech camouflage paint ensures that our vehicles
are conspicuous, and these move routinely in large groups between
well- identified bases, along predictable and well-observed routes.
Our strategic and operational objectives and our tactical operations
are probably better known to the enemy than are his to us. Our opponents'
identities, appearance, means of transport and movements are, by
comparison, harder to ascertain and to understand.
The flawed political-military psychology of
the 20th century confronts us as a cautionary tale, and evidence
of recent experience is far from ambiguous. Yet what we do know
is that when confronted by obvious but culturally unpalatable conclusions,
many armies will seek refuge in more attractive alternatives, however
dysfunctional. These usually feature the delusion that campaigns
can indeed be short, decisive, high-tech and cheap; and that such
campaigns require armies designed and trained to fight these, rather
than the more obvious and likely, but unpalatable, alternatives.
Ironically, this conviction is often the very result of armies'
own extensive experience to the contrary; but that experience has
been so unpleasant that military establishments have determined
that they will not engage in them again-sadly, the choice has not
been theirs to make, and they do relive these experiences, but now
on disadvantageous terms.
And Yet: The Case for the Defense
Exhibit A: The British Empire-Campaigning
There have been examples in history where nations
expected protracted campaigns and trained successfully to fight
wars, but also to keep the peace and build nations. This may be
difficult to achieve, but it was essentially the British Army's
imperial mission, as both conqueror and "policeman" for
hundreds of years. The tension between "continental" warfighting,
expeditionary operations and "imperial/global policing"
is not new, and it did create problems. In 1815, 1918 and 1945,
after long continental wars, the British Army was forced by events
to concentrate on imperial policing operations. The maintenance
of a full warfighting capability seemed by comparison to be wasteful,
and merely an unimaginative hankering to refight the last war. This
imperial bias left the British Army ill-placed to fight in continental
wars in 1914 and 1939, albeit the outcomes of such strategic gambles
were eventually successful. By analogy, the U.S. experience in building
its own continental North American empire, taking on the British,
French, Spanish, Russian and native empires in the process, coincided
with a reluctance to conduct full-blown military operations elsewhere.
Even after the frontier had closed and the Far East had become the
United States' Far West, its forces, though experienced in the Philippine
insurgency, were ill-prepared for their conventional role in the
First World War. The same was true of the day in December 1941 when
the United States' "Monroe Doctrine" met that of Japan,29
just as it met the "Monroe Doctrine" of the new Caliphate
on 11 September 2001.
During the Cold War, it was necessary for the
United Kingdom to mount expeditionary campaigns in the Falkland
Islands and to conduct internal security duties against what was,
but could not for political reasons be called, an insurgency on
its "northwest frontier," Northern Ireland. This led some
to suggest that the British Army really only came to terms with
large- scale armored warfare in the late 1980s, as the Soviet threat
was fading. Yet over centuries, despite these difficulties, the
British Army managed to find a successful accommodation, albeit
one with penalties, between these two potentially contrasting demands,
when simply focusing on one or the other, as some would apparently
have recommended, would have been disastrous, constituting overall
If a deep and enduring commitment to a national
strategic imperative exists, delusional thinking about short, decisive
outcomes may be avoided; but the price is a willingness to train
for and engage in a wide variety of campaigns that do not entail
exit strategies and that are premised on nation-building and the
use of force to enable it. The successful marshalling of the national
will for such a grand project may be elusive in a democracy, and
especially in one whose national identity and self-image are rooted
Exhibit B: Northern Ireland
A subaltern in the British Army on his first
tour of duty in Northern Ireland in 1969 might indeed have been
surprised to know that, in the year he retired, 34 years later,
his Army would still be conducting operational tours in the province.
Yet in 1976, British military doctrine confirmed that there could
be no military solution to the problem; it could merely help to
set the conditions for a political solution in what had been a British
possession for more than 800 years. A withdrawal from Northern Ireland
like that from Kenya or Aden was highly unlikely. "Holding
the ring," limiting terrorism to an "acceptable level
of violence" and waiting for the strategic scenery to change
pending political progress-however long that took-was the prescribed
way ahead.30 There was never any expectation
of a short, decisive and cheap campaign; and in difficult circumstances,
the British Army has been well-structured, trained and equipped
to deal with the situation.
Success in this limited sense has been dependent
upon taking the long view; and of developing and maintaining high
standards of training in counterinsurgency operations alongside
mainstream warfighting skills. Conducting military operations and
taking casualties in prolonged operations, when soldiers are offered
no inspiring concept of heroic victory, requires the development
of a particular self-sustaining military ethos and culture.
Exhibit C: The American Empire-Campaigning
Since 1945 the "American Empire"
has inherited many security responsibilities in regions that seem
unsurprisingly congruent with those of the old British Empire in
the Levant, Mesopotamia, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and the Far
East. It has carried out these responsibilities with much success,
a proud awareness of its unique power and a sense that this position
will be unchallenged by any peer for many decades.
The necessary paradox of the "American
Empire," given that its North American conquests had already
been assimilated into a single nation state, was that it was not
a territorial one, and that it occupied territory only by consent.
While this consent was certainly forthcoming in many parts of the
world, and the United States seemed prepared for prolonged military
global engagement, it hoped that any actual combat operations would
be short and decisive, won by overwhelming force, supported by superior
Confidence in American power was high. Robert
McNamara boasted, "We have the power to knock any society out
of the Twentieth Century."31 After
the Cold War, the United States was in the supreme military position
and had an instinct for global leadership.
The drive to inflict American leadership upon
the world . . . reflects a definition of U.S. interests that is
a tapestry of ideological, security and economic factors. To remove
one thread would unravel the entire fabric.32
Madeleine Albright asserted, "If we have
to use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensable
nation. We stand tall. We see farther into the future."33
In 1998, enjoying this supremacy, and before the United States had
embarked on its "Global War on Terrorism," Ralph Peters
described the growing wealth of the United States in the Information
Age, by which its empire would enjoy an even greater advantage over
impoverished masses elsewhere. "We are not Trojans. We are
mightier. We rule the skies and seas and possess the power to rule
the land when we are sufficiently roused."34
He noted that this power would cause envy in those who would ultimately
attack a compla- cent West, and those future enemies were the "perfect
embodiment of all the evil potential that lies at the heart of man."
They would be let loose on the children of the West who in turn
would be "sent out to fight the legions of darkness.35
. . . Man, not space, is the last frontier"36
Peters, often cast as the wayward radical, had anticipated the new
orthodoxy of American strategic thought that was to dominate the
Even before the 11 September 2001 terrorist
attacks on the U.S. homeland, it was clear that the enemies of the
United States were changing At the end of 2000, the Chairman of
the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Henry H. Shelton, astutely
As the diversity of threats and non-state
actors increases, so too will the complexity of our military tasks.
Future adversaries may try and stay below the threshold of clear
aggression, further complicating appropriate response options.
We can expect more failed states as people struggle for independence,
for political legitimacy, economic and resource advantage, all
done in climates of violence, repression and deprivation.37
Others noted that this was hardly new. One
Chinese analyst maintained,
All strong countries make rules, while all
rising ones break them and exploit loopholes. Barbarians always
rise by breaking the rules of civilized and developed countries,
which is what human history is all about.38
Chinese views on warfare reflect a recognition
of the growing complexity of military operations.
Warfare is no longer an exclusively Imperial
garden where professional soldiers alone can mingle . . . it is
precisely the diversity of the means employed that has enlarged
the concept of warfare . . . warfare is the process of transcending
the domains of soldiers, military units and military affairs,
and is increasingly becoming a matter for politicians, scientists
and even bankers.39
The complexity of operations in this new environment
were described in 2001 by NATO's Deputy Supreme Allied Commander
Europe (DSACEUR), General Sir Rupert Smith, reflecting no doubt
his experiences in Bosnia and involvement in operations in Kosovo:
We are conducting operations now as though
we are on a stage . . . there are at least two producers . . .
each with their own idea of the script, are more often than not
mixed up with the stage hands, ticket collectors and ice cream
vendors, while a factional audience, its attention focused on
that part of the auditorium where it is noisiest, views and gains
an understanding of events by peering down [their] drinking straws.40
After the events of 11 September 2001, threats
to both the United States and the American "Empire of Ideas"
were treated with an appropriate "imperial" nonchalance
for timelines. The speech by President George W. Bush to Congress
on 20 September 2001 reflected the need to prepare his electorate
for a long campaign against those who had attacked the World Trade
Center and the Pentagon. It was rich in allusions to the need to
seize the "temporal initiative," in both the current and
historical senses. He warned Americans that they should "not
expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have
seen." He asserted that "this country will define our
times, not be defined by them" in "a task that does not
end"; and that they should be assured of "patient justice."41
Clearly the expectation was for a global campaign of unlimited duration,
characteristic of past imperial commitments. He envisaged no walking
away or possibility of isolationism. Equally, there seemed no prospect
of a quick decisive "victory," which would in any case
have been virtually impossible to identify.
The Global War on Terrorism was seen to be
"a long haul,"42 yet forces
were increasingly designed for short wars using highly deployable,
novel technologies. While the war in Iraq from 2003 was to be regarded
as an intrinsic part of the Global War on Terrorism, little was
done to prepare for the sort of protracted, attritional, low-intensity
operations of counterinsurgency and the nation-building that it
would entail. Alternatively, it was perhaps thought that neither
of these last two tasks would be required in operations in Iraq.
Such operations require: an interagency command
structure harnessing all departments of government; and concepts,
doctrine and equipment for guerrilla wars and nation-building, all
of which are manpower-intensive. Yet, despite disappointment that
operations in Iraq were proving more attritional than expected,
American self-confidence seemed evident:
The America military is now the strongest
the world has ever known . . . stronger than the Wehrmacht in
1940 . . . than the legions of Rome at the height of Roman power.
For years to come, no other nation is likely even to try to rival
This seems likely to be true. The issue, however,
is whether a clear understanding of the nature of the tasks given
the American military, preparation in the ways to execute them,
and the means to prevail at optimal cost were provided to match
the strategic endstate-if that itself was ever articulated. The
issue is also a matter of how power is measured: in terms of the
cost of inputs and explosive calories that can be delivered, or
in terms of what effects any absolute measure of power is able to
achieve in a complex strategic environment. Maybe the "military
currency" has been devalued in this respect, and high-denomination
"bills" may not buy the attractive items the "consumer"
imagines should be within his "budget."
After September 2001, comparisons between the
American Empire and Britain's long- defunct one seemed increasingly
valid, and these were analyzed in a flood of literature by historians
such as Niall Ferguson.44 However,
the issue remained whether the United States would adopt the long
perspective necessary for empires to prevail, if that perspective
would entail occupying territory without consent. Max Boot maintained
that when it came to protecting U.S. imperial interests and fighting
enemies all over the world, "There is no finer example of how
to do this cheaply and effectively than the British Empire."45
It is unclear, however, whether the United States, along with whatever
coalition/"posse" it can muster, does identify its operations
in this way or wishes to configure its forces accordingly. No doubt
this will shortly be reviewed.
The pathology of campaigning over the past
hundred years is that armies are prone to structure to fight the
sort of campaigns they would like to fight, whether these prove
apt for the campaigns that they have to fight-often they have not.
This is a caution to us to do better. If a nation's forces are designed
to win only short and decisive wars, there is a grave danger that
succumbing to this centennial delusion will gravely disable their
ability to conduct those phases of a campaign that can also be decisive
and that are likely to be primarily about nation-building, counterinsurgency
and peacekeeping, which have always been the imperial lot.
The Verdict: Matching Ends, Ways and Means
in a Complex Environment
The Dimensions of Battlespace
Some Western nations aspire to change regimes
and promote human rights and other Western values, if necessary
by force of arms. A. T. Mahan would no doubt have approved; especially
as this moral and legal validation is now seen by some to extend
to the right of nations to intervene unilaterally, and even sometimes
preemptively, in support of this higher good.46
The West's new "civilizing mission," sometimes endorsed
by the United Nations, sets the rights of individuals above those
of the governments of sovereign states who may be denying them their
Such military intervention has created unusual
ideological companions as the old polarities of the Cold War prove
inappropriate to the new dynamic. In caricature: the old left who
detest the assumption that "West is Best" denounce military
intervention, seeing it as incorrigible, serial misbehavior by those
who cannot let go of old imperial habits. They are joined in their
policy conclusions by members of the old right, of isolationist
or nationalist instincts, who believe it is not worth the bones
of their grenadiers or the gold of their treasuries to save those
who are incapable of ruling themselves, people who will at heart
resent any help they are given.
In opposition to this odd couple are the new
interventionists. They also come from the old left but are now transformed
into "Fabian Imperialists." David Livingstone took to
Africa "Christianity and Civilization," both of which
have become somewhat "politically incorrect" ideas, followed
by the soldier and the "Union Jack." These fundamentally
Judeo-Christian notions have been "repackaged" for a new
age and "rebranded" as Human Rights, supported by the
word of international law (if not the word of scripture) and enforced
by blue helmets (not pith helmets), under the UN (not national)
flag. These interventionists know that "up- river in the heart
of darkness" unspeakable things are being done, and that it
is their moral duty to put a stop to it, by force if necessary-for
their militaries are "a force for good." Their allies
come from the old imperial right, "Kipling's Men," who
are not surprised that other folk make a mess of their own affairs,
and believe that it falls to them to sort out the resultant horrors,
confident in their comparative advantage, built up from centuries
of global military experience.
Whatever the mission and its motives, campaign
planners find that the environment for their plans is changing rapidly.
Many of the most immediate threats to Western interests are no longer
perceived to be confined to specific regions of the world. Globalization
is as much a factor in military campaign planning as it is in cultural
and economic life; consequently, the three physical dimensions of
battlespace are, in a sense, expanding and space is an ever more
important domain in prosecuting terrestrial operations.
As the three physical dimensions of battlespace
expand, the fourth dimension-time-has contracted. The speed and
intensity of media coverage, combined with a sensitized, alert,
yet inconstant domestic and international opinion, have "compressed"
time, making it more valuable. Strategic decisionmakers now have
less time to act and achieve a desired outcome than they might have
had in the past. The longer a conflict lasts the greater is the
scope for objectives to change, along with the popular perceptions
of the conflict that sustain its continuation.48
Modern Western forces have largely been designed
to be "one-shot weapons." Equipment is often sophisticated
in order to avoid the need for masses of it, and to make it more
rapidly deployable. The great arsenals of the Industrial Age no
longer exist, and the great "smoke- stack" industries
which could be converted to wartime industrial production are no
longer geared to such eventualities-production lines for bullets
and track are few. Most armies today have ammunition stocks and
other equipment for a decisive campaign as short as that envisaged
in 1914, perhaps at one month of high intensity. They do not carry
stocks for years of attritional consumption, for either combat or
nation-building operations. It doesn't take long to fire a "one-shot
weapon" and so operations must be short-or so the reasoning
goes. Equally, believing that operations will thereby be short,
justifies the economy of maintaining a "light logistic tail."
Time is relative, has value, can be billed,
saved, budgeted for, won and consumed, but it is a non-renewable
resource. The great commanders always appreciated the importance
of time in their calculations. The draining passage of time has,
in a sense, become the "barren steppe" of space that faced
Napoleon and Hitler; and should be seen as a form of attrition.
Seizing and holding the initiative is to time as seizing and holding
vital ground is to maneuver. "Pegging" out the boundaries
of this battlespace and turning the attrition of time on an opponent
is an accomplishment of strategic command and operational art-but
a daunting task.
Yet paradoxically, while the need to deploy
more capable forces at short notice has increased, so too has the
requirement to maintain them in the field over longer periods. Holding
the initiative is not the same as guaranteeing that operations will
be short in absolute terms. Speed of decision, deployment, employment,
decisive effect and exploitation are required, but so are the abilities
to endure and prevail in longer operations where the balance of
advantage has already been bought by that rapid action and successes.
These types of operation may have very different characteristics.
The logistic demands of nation- building and counterinsurgency make
demands that are attritional in their own way, but seldom factored
into military procurement plans.
Those who would challenge the West may also
find refuge and advantage in the dimension of time. The key for
them will be to find means to avoid or prevent Western forces deploying
in the first place, or to ensure that they do and expend their energies
and political capital inappropriately. Adversaries will withdraw
into their hinterland of time, as they try to suck their enemy into
a protracted conflict of lower intensity, even seeking to win merely
by avoiding defeat, while Western will dissolves as costs mount.
There is also a Fifth Dimension, Cyberspace,
and at some future date there might be some new "Port Arthur/Pearl
Harbor" of the Information Age, perhaps a digital Blitzkrieg-a
cyber "torpedo attack" into the "hard drive"
of the "USS America."
There may be these five dimensions to warfare,
but ultimately war is a human endeavour and it is not easily contained
by simple formulae. It is as much about perceptions as concepts
and technology, and today's five dimensions of warfare are viewed
through the distorting lens of the media; and global and domestic
opinion is shaped by shifting views on ethics in different cultures,
and by changing legislation and evolving opinions on domestic and
international law. When operations are prolonged, it is especially
important to shape these perceptions. Fuel and ammunition were the
basic items of logistic constraint on fire and maneuver in "Industrial-Age
Warfare," and the supply of bandwidth is perhaps for now the
constraint on networked operations in the "Information Age."
By analogy, civil power supply is perhaps the vital logistic consideration
in nation-building, not least because of the perceptions it shapes
and the constraints those perceptions can impose. Equally, legality
and legitimacy may play the equivalent role of armor plate in promoting
An opponent may disperse and employ sophisticated
techniques of camouflage and deception to reduce rapid effects.
The inferior combatant is unlikely to challenge superior firepower
directly, but will protect himself against a superior force by denying
it a target, or turning it against itself through the generation
of hostile or at least negative perceptions engendered by "propaganda
of the deed."49 An ostensibly
weaker opponent perhaps needs to suffer conspicuously at the hands
of the stronger, while a more powerful one may not be able to endure
such suffering and consequent humiliation for reasons of "face."
For the insurgent, time, numbers, casualties, perceptions, legal
constraints and political pressures may be his allies, and these
constitute forms of "virtual maneuver" to avoid superior
Criteria for Success
The criteria for success in this complex battlespace
must be headed by an awareness of the strategic environment, an
understanding of the desired endstate and its clear articulation.
This is likely to require much greater interagency and departmental
cooperation than previously accomplished. Many of those who castigated
the armed forces for their lack of determination to engage more
fully in joint activity over recent decades may themselves be the
hardest to coral into disciplined cohesive action to ensure that
broad campaign objectives are met. Difficult issues of departmental
primacy will arise, and a clash of cultures seems inevitable. For
example, should national aid programs in a theater of operations
be directed primarily to secure campaign success, or to achieve
some more general moral imperative such as the alleviation of global
poverty? Such distinctions will be very real and controversial when
ordering priorities of expenditure.
Military technology focuses ever more keenly
on how to achieve strategic reach, gather information and deliver
precise munitions at the optimum time and place, and how to sustain
the warfighter with state-of-the-art logistics. A consequence of
this, for U.S. forces and their allies at least, is that warfighting
casualties have become, by any historical norm, astonishingly few
in number. This is money well spent. Unfortunately it has often
been at the expense of manpower, which is too often regarded as
a burdensome overhead, when in fact a well- trained and motivated
soldier is the key to any military capability. He or she cannot
be bought off-the-shelf by signing a check. Creating the capability
that soldier represents takes years of sustained effort and money.
Even then such a soldier is unlikely to prevail if not part of an
equally competent team, employed on a plan made by a well-trained
and educated staff, well- versed in an appropriate doctrine. The
good news is that, compared to equipment, thinking is very cheap.
This capability is likely to be found only in a military that is
highly motivated, one possessing a deep culture and military ethos,
at ease with and supported by its own society. Money spent on a
professional corps of officers and noncommissioned officers and
their education is likely to be a sound investment; but military
organisms are fragile and need to be tended carefully. It is also
far from clear that decisions on balance of investment adequately
reflect the need to equip the soldier and civilian agencies with
the means to succeed in campaigns whose endstates require success
in counterinsurgency and nation-building rather than a clear- cut
This is not to dismiss the importance of maintaining
robust conventional forces. It is, for example, the existence of
dominant U.S. conventional forces that reduces the chances of their
being needed. Diminishing a conventional capability is likely to
make its employment more likely as others see opportunities to challenge
successfully. Forces configured specifically for, say nation-building,
may be lethally ill-suited to conduct warfighting operations and
to meet the threat from a future peer competitor or even a medium
power. Given the training and education, any warfighting force should
be able to adapt to operations of a lesser intensity. The reverse
is harder to achieve, not least because equipment will prove inadequate.
The key is to maintain a "balanced force" in all senses,
given the wide range of operations it will be expected to undertake.
We need forces in which all troops can operate across the full spectrum
of conflict, transitioning readily through a continuum of operations.
Too great a bias toward one type of capability is rather like deciding
to read only those set books one likes, and by neglecting the half
that lack appeal, ensuring that one cannot answer half the questions
when sitting the exam.
Military establishments and their political
masters have often colluded in their self- deceptions and the fantasy
of short, decisive and cheap wars. Armies have been constructed
to succeed in the wars of a character which their masters would
wish to fight; and not for the wars which the evidence tells them
are nonetheless likely. The result has often been a particular mismatch
between what is required and what is available. It is the very plausibility
of the unwelcome predictions that has often caused armies and politicians
vehemently to resist those conclusions.
Highly competent warfighting forces may indeed
prove effective in "winning" in some phases of a campaign,
but may be ill-suited to succeed in operations which are defined
by various, more complex political, economic and social endstates,
not merely military destruction and victory. If during the peacekeeping
or nation-building phase a force finds itself warfighting, it is
likely to be a measure of failure, while the reverse is true the
sooner it can start to nation- build in a warfighting phase.
If there is a new "imperial mission,"
which has yet to be clarified but should be, it is clear that this
requires a "long view" and forces trained for all aspects
of "imperial policing." If this prospect is too daunting,
culturally unacceptable or morally repugnant, then it may well be
tempting to follow common historical precedent: Regret the nature
of current operations, determine not to undertake them on those
terms again, define the types of operations that would be preferred,
design, finance and equip a force to satisfy that craving and then
be surprised when that force is significantly ill-suited to what
transpires to be required of it in future operations.
We are after all but actors in a long-running
1. The Australian Russell Braddon
recalled his release from Japanese captivity in 1945. Passing a
defeated Japanese officer, he asked in elation and spite, "This
war last one hundred years?" "Ninety-six years to go,"
came the reply. Russell Braddon, The Other Hundred Years War: Japan's
Bid for Supremacy (London: Collins, 1983), p.129.
2. Carl von Clausewitz,
On War, Trans. and Ed. Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1976).
3. Norman F. Dixon,
On the Psychology of Military Incompetence (London: Cape, 1984).
4. Dominic D. P. Johnson,
Overconfidence in War (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press,
5. Quoted in Johnson,
Overconfidence in War, p.85.
6. Eliot Cohen, Supreme
Command (New York: Free Press, 2002).
7. His arguments were
blamed by Colonel Maude for failures in the Boer War. F.N. Maude,
"M. Bloch as a Prophet," National Review, No.37, March
1901. The French general Franc_ois de Negrier was condemned by Marshal
Joffre as a member of the intellectual elite that was undermining
the offensive spirit of the French Army by his pessimism in the
face of defensive firepower, and for propagating "a whole series
of false doctrines in the aftermath of the Anglo-Boer War."
Marshal Joffre, The Memoirs of Marshal Joffre, Vol.1 (London: Bles,
8. Quoted in Sebastian
Dobson, "Introduction," The Russo-Japanese War, Reports
from Officers Attached to the Japanese Forces in the Field (London,
1905-06) (London: Ganesha Publishing, 2000), p.10.
9. Sir Ian Hamilton,
A Staff Officer's Scrapbook, Vol. II (London: Edward Arnold, 1905),
Preface, p.v. Learning lessons and benefiting from them is not easy,
as even that astute formulator of lessons himself was to discover
10. Jan Bloch, "The
Wars of the Future," September 1901, reproduced in Jean de
Bloch: Selected Articles, Combat Studies Institute Reprint (Fort
Leavenworth, Kans.: U.S. Army Command and General Staff College,
July 1993), pp. 22-23. Bloch was also condemned by the likes of
Russian Generals Dragomirov and Puzyrevskii, who claimed that his
work was based more on "mathematical equation"' than military
experience. Carl van Dyke, Russian Imperial Military Doctrine and
Education, 1832-1914 (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1990), p.
11. Bloch "The
Wars of the Future," p. 23.
12. An analysis of
the contemporary debate as to the length of a future war in Europe
is offered in Hew Strachan, "Shell Shortage and the Short War
Illusion," Proceedings of the Royal Artillery Historical Society,
Vol. 8, No. 2, March 1999, pp.40-59.
13. "Life is
an accident which death atones for. . . . To the force which this
moral develops must be added that intense gratification, that under
all trying conditions, no matter what a man's social condition may
be, he will have no feeling of fear. It is for the man sure source
of consolation, of which decadent nations have deprived themselves,
because the materialism in which they wallow necessarily destroys
noble sentiments by the degradation of character." De Negrier,
"The Moral of Troops," reproduced in JRUSI, 1905, p. 1429.
In a vision which seems less fantastic today than it probably did
at the time, Colonel Maude predicted the day of the "automatic
regiment" in which the commander would be the sender of "waves"
and each private a "Marconi receiver," with an esprit
de corps impervious to suffering. T.H.E. Travers, "Technology,
Tactics and Morale: Jean de Bloch, the Boer War, and British Military
Theory, 1900-1914," Journal of Modern History, No.51, June
1979, p. 283. Modern ideas about how thoughts might be transmitted
between brains without wires are outlined in Carl Zimmer, "The
Ultimate Remote Control," Newsweek, 7-14 June 2004, p.73. Sony's
plans for a device that can transmit data directly into the brain
are described in Michael Horsnell, "Sony 3-D Cinema Directly
to the Brain," The Times, London, 7 April 2005, p. 15.
14. Brigadier General
Sir Richard C. B. Haking stressed the importance of willpower and
the offensive spirit to overcome man's weak inner nature, "the
little devil inside." Brigadier General R. C. B. Haking, Company
Training (London: Hugh Rees, 1913), p. 344.
15. The maneuvers
of 1914 and 1918 proved more costly than the apparently attritional,
static battles of 1916 and 1917. The Germans' famous yet catastrophic
maneuvers of Spring 1918, designed to break the deadlock on the
Western Front, merely broke the German Army, ensuring that it would
be defeated in 1918.
16. The term was invented
after the invasion of France in May 1940 by the Nazi propaganda
machine to explain retrospectively, in the most favorable light,
what had happened more by "Risiko und Wagnis" (risk and
venture) and "Miracles on the Meuse" than by any grand
design. See also Karl- Heinz Frieser, Blitzkrieg Legende, Militaergeschichtliches
Forschungsamt (Military History Research Institute) (Munich: Oldenbourg,
17. See J. B. A. Bailey,
Field Artillery and Firepower (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press,
2004), chapter 18.
18. Jurgen Fo_rster
and Evan Mawdsley, "Hitler and Stalin in Perspective: Secret
Speeches on the Eve of Barbarossa," War in History, 2004 11
(1), p. 68.
19. The distortion
of the Wehrmacht's structure prior to Summer 1941 showed a stunning
misunderstanding by political masters of the type of forces required
for the operations upon which they were about to embark. A cowed
military was entirely complicit in that, despite its own contrary
analyses of the requirement. From May to September 1940 in the Battles
of France and Britain, the Luftwaffe lost 3,064 aircraft, 65 percent
of its force. In September 1940, the month that Germany lost more
planes than it produced, Hitler ordered that planned aircraft production
be cut; that year British aircraft production outstripped Germany's.
Between July and December 1941, the Soviet Union produced 5,173
fighters and the Germans 1,619. Bailey, Field Artillery and Firepower,
20. The Japanese also
felt that the Americans had "misread" their resolve. In
their subsequent study of the Pearl Harbor operation, the Japanese
characterized the American belief that Japan would back down in
the crisis that led to war as an underestimation of Japanese determination
and strength, similar to that of the Russians prior to the Russo-Japanese
War. Donald M. Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon, The Pearl Harbor
Papers (Dulles, Va.: Brassey's, 2000), p. 281.
21. Japan miscalculated
the likely cost of the war. For example, the Japanese Navy estimated
that Japanese losses in the first year would be 1,000,000 tons of
shipping and 800,000 tons in each subsequent year. In fact, losses
in the first year were 1,250,000 tons, 2,560,000 tons in the second
and 3,480,000 tons in the third year, four times the estimate. Robert
J.C. Butow, Tojo and the Coming of War (Princeton: Princeton University
22. In July 1941 as
Operation BARBAROSSA was launched, a 70 percent cut in planned artillery
production was ordered, and between April and December 1941, funding
for artillery ammunition was reduced from RM69.1 million to RM15.7
million. John Ellis, Brute Force (London: A. Deutsch, 1990), pp.
46-8. By December 1941, artillery ammunition production was falling
fast. In December 1941 Germany produced 9,000 light howitzer shells
but consumed 1,260,000. See Joachim Engelmann, German Artillery
in World War II, 1939-1945 (Atglen, Pa.: Schiffer, 1995), p. 112.
23. This was also
an operational disaster of greater magnitude than Verdun, to which
General Fedor von Bock compared it on 30 November 1941. Ellis, Brute
Force, p. 72.
24. Omer Bartov, Hitler's
Army (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), chapter 1.
25. Henry Wallace,
former Vice President but now Secretary of Agriculture, condemned
Winston Churchill's "shocking" "Iron Curtain Speech"
at Fulton on 5 March 1946, on the grounds that, "It was not
a primary objective of the United States to save the British Empire,"
and that Britain was now trying to lure the United States into an
anti-Soviet alliance. John E. Moser, Twisting the Lion's Tail (London:
Macmillan, 1999), p. 184.
26. A study of the
relevance of Bloch's vision to the circumstances of the 1990s is
given in Christopher Bellamy, "Civilian Experts and Russian
Defence Thinking: The Renewed Relevance of Jan Bloch," Journal
of the Royal United Services Institute (JRUSI), April 1992, pp.
27. During NATO's
bombing campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999, battle damage assessment
(BDA) was massively skewed, perhaps because of the positive interpretation
placed on every possible success and the eagerness to report these
to a demanding chain of command. Had KFOR made a forced entry into
Yugoslavia on a plan based on the BDA briefings, it might have had
an unpleasant surprise.
28. In 1965, the Chairman
of the Joint Chiefs, General Earle G. Wheeler, told Robert McNamara
that winning, suppressing all insurgency and eliminating Communists
from South Vietnam would take 750,000 men and up to seven years.
Senior advice about the scale of resources that would likely be
required in Iraq during the occupation of the country was also available
before major combat operations were launched.
29. Tasker Bliss,
president of the U.S. Army War College from 1903 to 1905, cautioned
of American expansion in Southeast Asia, in a paper of 1904: "There
is no doubt that this will result in due time in the formulation
of a second line of foreign policy; we shall then have one policy
based on contact with, and another policy based on isolation from,
the rest of the world. We may yet find ourselves fighting for our
Monroe Doctrine on one side of the world, and fighting somebody
else's Monroe Doctrine on the other side of the world. However,
that time has not yet come." It came in 1941. Henry G. Gole,
The Road to Rainbow: Army Planning for Global War (Annapolis: Naval
Institute Press, 2003), p. 21.
30. The British Army
acknowledged that there could be no "military solution"
to the problems of Northern Ireland in its The Way Ahead of 1976.
31. Quoted in Chalmers
Johnson, Blowback (New York: Owl Books, 2004), p. 139.
32. Christopher Layne
and Benjamin Schwarz, "American Hegemony-Without an Enemy,"
Foreign Policy, No. 92, Fall 1993, p. 21.
33. Quoted in Johnson,
Blowback, p. 217.
34. Ralph Peters,
"Our Old New Enemies," in Challenging the United States
Symmetrically and Asymmetrically: Can America be Defeated, Ed. Lloyd
J. Matthews, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College
(Carlisle, Pa.: July 1998), p. 238.
35. Lloyd J. Matthews,
Introduction, "Part II: Threats," Challenging the United
States Symmetrically and Asymmetrically: Can America be Defeated,
Ed. Lloyd J. Matthews, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War
College (Carlisle, Pa.: July 1998), p. 115.
36. Peters, "Our
Old New Enemies," pp. 215-16.
37. Quoted in Daniel
Goure_, The Limits of Alliances (Arlington, Va.: Lexington Institute,
2004), p. 25.
38. Quoted in David
Harrison and Damien McElroy, "China's Military Plots 'Dirty
War' Against the West," The Sunday Telegraph, London, 17 October
39. Quoted in Bill
Gertz, The China Threat (Washington D.C.: Regnery, 2002), p. 16.
40. General Sir Rupert
Smith, quoted in Headquarters, Department of the Army, Army Field
Manual (FM) 3-06 (FM 90-10), Urban Operations, June 2003, p. 2-21.
41. Available online
42. U.S. Joint doctrine
notes the need for perseverance, defined as, "The measured,
protracted application of military capability in support of strategic
aims." Joint Publication 3-07, pp.II-4 to II-5. Frank Hoffman
has pointed out that national will and the capacity to endure and
succeed in protracted campaigns are characteristics beyond persistence.
Persistently misunderstanding the nature of the endeavour, and persistently
applying inappropriate tactics will be counter- productive. F. G.
Hoffman, "Principles for the Savage Wars of Peace," in
Rethinking the Principles of War: The Future of Warfare, Ed. Anthony
McIvor (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2005).
43. Russell P. Galeti,
Jr.,"Terrorism and Asymmetric Warfare," Landpower Essay
No. 04-3 (Arlington, Va.: Association of the United States Army,
October 2004), p. 3.
44. Niall Ferguson,
Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire (London: Allen
45. Boot noted that
Britain controlled a quarter of the globe with 331,000 servicemen
and spending just 2.4 percent of its GDP on defence. Max Boot, "The
Struggle to Transform the Military," Foreign Affairs, March/April
2005, p. 2. He advocated the creation by the United States of a
class of colonial administrators and agents similar to that of the
British Empire, and the use of large numbers of indigenous auxiliaries,
conducting nation-building by proxy and by stealth. Boot claimed
that what "Afghanistan and other troubled lands cry out for
is the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided
by self-confident Englishmen in jodhpurs and pith helmets."
Bernard Porter, "We Don't Do Empire," History Today, Vol.
55, March 2005, p. 32.
46. Mahan asserted
the right of people to be governed under their own arrangements,
but it should not be assumed that this meant that oppressive regimes
represented the interests of those they ruled. Regimes should therefore
be overthrown in the interests of their people. "There need
be no tenderness in dealing with them as institutions." Alfred
Thayer Mahan, The Problem of Asia (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction
Publishers, 2003), p. 104. "That rude and imperfect, but not
ignoble arbiter, force . . . which . . . still secures the greatest
triumphs of good" would have to be applied. Mahan, The Problem
of Asia, p. 18. After all, "Force has been the instrument by
which ideas have lifted the European world to the plane on which
it now is, and it still supports our political systems, national
and international, as well as our social organization." Mahan,
The Problem of Asia, p. 115.
47. In An Agenda for
Peace, the then Secretary-General of the UN, Boutros Boutros-Ghali,
wrote, "The time of absolute and exclusive sovereignty has
passe_." Boutros Boutros-Ghali, An Agenda for Peace, Report
of the Secretary-General pursuant to the statement adopted by the
Summit Meeting of the Security Council on 31 January 1992, A/47/277-S/24111,
17 June 1992. The first real expression of this new mood was seen
in Operation SAFE HAVEN in 1991 to protect the Kurds in Northern
Iraq. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, in his Ditchley Park 35th
Foundation Lecture, at Ditchley Park in the UK in June 1998, said,
"The [UN] Charter protects the sovereignty of peoples. It was
never meant as a licence for governments to trample on human rights
and human dignity. The fact that a conflict is 'internal' does not
give parties any right to disregard the most basic rules of human
conduct." This seemed to set the scene for future "Mahanian
intervention," albeit on an international mandate. In 1999,
at the UN General Assembly, Annan called on States to accept the
necessity for intervention wherever civilians are threatened by
war and mass slaughter. He invoked the principle of "rights
beyond borders" and called for unity to ensure that massive
and systematic violations of human rights-wherever they occur-should
not be allowed to stand. He accepted that intervention should always
be the last resort-but not to act when confronted with crimes against
humanity was to be complicit in them.
48. In some operations
of very low intensity, such as that of the United Nations Force
in Cyprus, it has proved possible to sustain missions for decades.
Whether this has prevented a settlement or laid the foundations
for a lasting one in due course is debateable.
49. In terms of the
British Army's Northern Ireland experiences, this is crystallized
in three notorious episodes: "The Falls Road Search" (3-5
July 1970), "Internment" (9 August 1971) and "Bloody
Sunday" (30 January 1972). The British Army reacted to an attack
upon it by the Provisional IRA by searching for firearms in the
Falls Road area of Belfast. Overnight a generally welcoming Roman
Catholic community became antagonistic to it and remained so for
decades, providing the PIRA with a "sea" in which to swim.
It is generally accepted that this was probably the purpose of the
PIRA in staging the original attack. The pressing advice in 1971
that the internment of suspects in special camps, without trial
and outside the normal legal process, was essential to save lives
and to gather intelligence on terrorists in the short term proved
a legal and public-relations disaster, not least for Britain in
the United States. Internment was ended in 1976 when these true
costs became apparent. Whatever the outcome of official and legal
enquiries into the events of "Bloody Sunday" in Londonderry
in 1972, the consequence was a public-relations disaster domestically
and internationally for the British government and the Army, which
appeared to have used excessive force against civilians. That perception
persists. A positive outcome of these three and other episodes has
been the shaping of British military culture to understand such
phenomena and be conscious of them when operating in, for example,
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