Monday, September 11, 2006

Finding Agility In The GWOT

Major Mike

Last week on the Hugh Hewitt Radio Program, during his show with Cyrus Nowraseth (writer/producer) and Prosanna Puwananrajah (actor), participants in the ABC series “The Path to 9/11,” Hugh asked a question…part a pondering, part a rhetorical question, and part a solicitation for an answer…

Why do we seem like a bunch of ineffectual suits stuck in a box fighting this war on terror?” …or words to that effect.

It is a question worth asking. And it is a question worth answering, for indeed, we often appear hamstrung, plodding, and mechanical in our approach to fighting the GWOT.

The first part of the answer lies in the difference in the level of how much humanity that each side is willing to acquiesce in the fighting of this war.

All wars are inhumane, although not inhuman. I believe we have demonstrated, our current level of social sophistication not withstanding, that the human race is a warring race, and that very few cultures within humanity are able to establish and sustain a peaceful existence within their own societies, and a peaceful co-existence with their neighbors. Truly, humans have been warring since the beginning.

Over time, our abject brutality has waned, and our penchant for warring without cause, has almost evaporated. Yet the inhumanity of war remains.

We have created international structural conventions that ineffectually hope to mitigate the inhumanity of war. These conventions almost invariably fail, even in modern times, as the cost of fighting a collateral-damage-free-war, or caring for prisoners, or for patiently extracting information from prisoners, becomes cost prohibitive or unsustainable for one party or the other…invariably leading to one side fulfilling its obligations under such treaties, and the other side invariably not. Typically, as the nation with the most resources, we find ourselves fighting under such arbitrary conventions while our enemies do not.

In the GWOT, not only do our enemies not possess the resources to follow such conventions, but following such conventions would directly conflict with their accepted methodologies and their ultimate objectives. The imparting of fear into their victims requires terrorists to achieve, in today’s day and age, a level of inhumanity unimagined by most civilized people. It is the depth of their inhumanity that facilitates their methodologies.

We fear their beheadings. They do not fear our prisons. They have freed themselves from the bonds of civility, and therefore, since their operations are often unimaginable to the rest of us…they appear more nimble, more agile…they aren’t, they are just operating outside of the range of our civil imaginations. They, as defined by their methodologies, are as inhumane and inhuman as possible. We restrict ourselves from plunging to their level, so necessarily, they have more weapons, and more tactical options open to them than we have, heretofore imagined.

To begin to gain ground with the hard core terrorists, we must cease fearing him, and open our mind further…seeing the “unimaginable scenario” as not only possible, but as likely. And then, we must have the will to take the steps necessary to defend ourselves against the “unimaginable scenario,” for if we fail to do so, we will certainly look slow, doltish, and indecisive.

Secondly our political class as a whole IS becoming feckless. They fear bad press. They cater to good feelings and the collegial nature of the institutions they serve. They follow polls like dogs follow a scent. They are wedded to their offices rather than to the good of the nation. The combination of these factors is logarithmic in its effect of slowing our government and paralyzing our options against a modern and ruthless foe.

A sloth moves at lightspeed compared to the ineffectual nature of our legislative branch.

Complimenting this degradation of our strategic and tactical efforts, is the never-ending stream of Congressional Hearings and Oversight Committee blatherings about the most nuanced mistakes in either the running of the war, or the state of our defenses.

This kind of micro-management, by self-serving and shortsighted political opportunists, would set any well meaning government servant, uniformed or not, on his/her heels and diminish our agility in spades. Second-guessing, back-biting, and scapegoating is enough to kill the earnest initiative required to fight this fight. We’re not un-nimble, but initiative is paralyzed by our fear of political backlash, party abandonment, and public character lynching.

Is it any wonder that we seem paralyzed when we are fighting against an enemy that has no such concerns?

Third, we are fighting within a framework that doesn’t apply to the enemy. Our Constitution, by design, slows our speed of action and limits our tactics. Our triangulation of power provides for a system of checks and balances that ensures civil liberties, but more importantly, ensures the longevity of our nation. Widely recognized as overwhelmingly good, these checks and balances, with their constant ebb and flow in play in the courts, strain our agility in a fast moving, multi-dimensional combat that requires both speed and imagination.

Publicly exposing, then bogging down the NSA international phone call surveillance program and the banking records analysis program in our courts, disarms some of our asymmetric warriors, and renders their fruitful programs ineffective out into the future. Once we begin to strip away the weapons from our warriors, in favor of extending or protecting non-existent rights to our enemies, of course we are going to look ineffectual an lethargic.

Remember, our enemy is bound by no such political constraints, and he is certainly not bound by any established governmental values or norms. Combine this with his inhuman nature, and he is fighting a completely unrestrained fight, while we are fighting with a considerable load of constraints and limitations.

A boxer will look oafish and ineffectual against a smaller, up-armored, martial arts expert who is free to use all of their weapons and skills, when the boxer must fight according to established boxing standards.

Lastly, sometimes we have the wrong people appointed to the wrong leadership positions in this country. Sadly, sometimes we are led by the weak and ineffectual. Sometimes our leaders grow into and mature with their jobs, and sadly, sometimes they don’t. Poor leadership will always result in indecisiveness amongst subordinates, and poor performance in the field.

A poorly lead, large force, can be made to look ridiculous by a smaller force for an extended period of time, but a coalesced unit (country) can absorb some attacks, and recover to deal a lethal blow.

Specifically, we must:

Have the will to fight a sustained war against an inhumane and ruthless enemy. This will take the grit and determination of all of our citizens.
Elect leaders worthy of our votes.
Reward risk taking and avoid blaming.
Allow our government to work secretly where required, and empowered by a Constitutional interpretation that adds agility to our fight, not detracts from it.
Unite as a country, even if on this one issue.
Use the Congressional affirmation process of key nominees, less as a political lynching, and more of a job interview; encouraging qualified leaders to enter governmental service, and avoiding feckless opportunists who seem to populate the ranks of these positions.
Keep victory on the horizon…it is achievable.

Going forward we must view the speed and agility of government as crucial weapons in the GWOT, for we are too easily outmaneuvered if we don’t. We must aggressively press our enemy on all fronts…public relations, financing, political, tactical engagement, strategic thinking, and active defense, in order to come to a day where we can live without fear.


This is a battle of good versus evil. It is a battle of the humane against the inhuman. It is a battle to determine what civilization will look like in fifty years. We, and our institutions, must be determined enough, and agile enough to win.

3 comments:

meander said...

I wish I were smarter so I could memorize every word you wrote in this excellent post and have it to spout off in discussions with the feckless. Why are things so obvious to some and impossible to grasp for others. This war against the Islamic extremists should be so much more important than party politics.

Major Mike said...

Thanks very much for the high praise. MM

Trickish Knave said...

Excellent and insightful essay, MM. I'm not the smartest guy in the world but I can plainly see the kinds of problems you talk about.

I am in the military but retire next year. I wonder where/who my children will be fighting.