U.S. Strategy – Or the Lack Thereof

By Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely US Army (Ret) | March 29, 2011


Paraphrasing General Of the Army Douglas MacArthur’s speech – West Point in 1962:
“Duty, Honor, Country: Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be …
They build your basic character. They mold you for your future roles as the custodians of the nation’s defense…
They teach you to be proud and unbending in honest failure, but humble and gentle in success; not to substitute words for action;…
to learn to stand up in the storm…
to master yourself before you seek to master others…
to reach into the future, yet never neglect the past; to be serious, yet never take yourself too seriously; to be modest so that you will remember the simplicity of true greatness; the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength.”
To date, government policy elitists in the United States have demonstrated an almost complete ignorance of history in matters of forward strategic planning. While virtually every military officer and many policy “wonks” have been taught strategic planning at some level, it is obvious many have thrown most of the lessons out the door upon graduating. This is demonstrated more than ever by our senior commanders and State Department political appointees. One only needs to observe the international scene and turmoil in Libya and the Middle East.
Since the 80s, we have been engaged in conflicts throughout the Middle East, from the Iranian hostage crisis, to the Beirut bombing of our Marines in 1982, to Iraq, and Afghanistan. We have witnessed one debacle after another. Why do our leaders and strategists still languish in failed strategies? Before we commit our military we must ask: “is this enemy a threat to the United States and the American people?” Never should this sovereign nation bow to edicts, mandates, and direction from the UN, the Arab League, or anyone else.
Yes, we have operational war planners at all levels of command, in the White House, and we have a National Security Team, supported by military commands across the globe to guide and lead us. But where are the common sense and rational senior command strategists; trained to be innovative and aggressive… positioned to win our nation’s wars quickly and decisively?
Rarely are the Principles of War, that successful combat leaders in the past have used to achieve success and victory, mentioned. They cannot even talk in terms of victory, winning, and bringing the troops home. Rather, they seem to eschew victory, possibly for political correctness at home. Billions of dollars and human resources have been consumed by this massive Middle East Sponge. Why are our leaders trying to transform our magnificent forces into one optimized for counterinsurgency and humanitarian missions using conventional war strategies followed by long-term military occupations? In my opinion, and supported in fact; we are not fighting insurgencies, rather, we are fighting Islamic Jihadists and a global Caliphate.
Track back to Korea, Vietnam, and now Iraq and Afghanistan. Victory in war appears lost in the world of political correctness and appeasement. Our military and policy wonks, which use words such as asymmetrical and kinetic, need a refresher course in military strategy and tactics. There is no reason to order our forces into enemy territories requiring large commitments of resources without the ‘Endgame” solely based on our interests. We can strike the enemy from any of our established “Lily Pads” when intelligence dictates a clear and present danger.
“Lily Pads” are established bases in safe areas where joint force operations can be launched at any time. Based on well-established human and technical intelligence operations, we can hit any enemy target globally; with precision, decisiveness, lethality, and assured success. However, these amazing tools are not being properly applied because of the lack of coherent strategies; irresponsibly endangering the lives of our warriors. The world has literally never seen anything like our capability and power; capabilities that are at least equal to the rest of the world combined. Why tie its hands?
Not all political goals are achievable this way, but most are, and those that cannot be achieved through conventional operations likely cannot be achieved by the application of even the most sophisticated counterinsurgency doctrine either. We seem incapable of discerning the differences in conventional and non-conventional warfare. The war against mainstream Islamic Jihadist forces and a sick ideology has been, and will continue to be one requiring unconventional solutions. Our leaders either do not understand this, or are in abject fear of calling this a war against a manifestly evil ideology, cloaked in the robes of a so-called religion.
Our military is, and should only be used for national security, defending our country and borders, and defeating our enemies before they bring havoc and harm to our citizens. When will we realize that you cannot “Nation-Build” in an area of conflict until the enemy is totally defeated? That is akin to repainting one room in a house while a fire rages in another in the same house.
The End-State vs. the Paper Tiger
Why are we so worried about what others think? Did these so-called allies not have to be bailed out numerous times for their failed thinking in the past? Will we ever learn from our own history, so we are not doomed to repeat failed thinking? Einstein’s definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Have we become a paper tiger?
The thought of “winning hearts and minds” is moot; we must understand that this is a tactic, just like carpet bombing, internment camps, enhanced interrogations; they are not strategic plans. Tactics are tools used to ensure that a strategic plan is completed. Once completed, the war has reached an end-state. Sadly, policy makers and military decision makers have proven their incompetence in determining the end-state for Afghanistan. Without a clear end-state, designed and set, a strategic plan cannot be created, executed, or fulfilled. Therefore, we are seen as a weak, directionless ship without a rudder.
Those who have ever been taught strategic planning in any formalized military school should know that such planning must be accomplished through a systematic methodology of “reverse planning,” and an end-state must be identified. Once identified, it is then and only then, that decision makers can make critical decisions with confidence, and be responsible leaders.
George Patton and Douglas McArthur, arguably two of the greatest war time leaders in our history, were men who accepted responsibility for their actions. Patton was publicly ridiculed by the Nazi’s due to inept U.S. leadership incapable of understanding his leadership style. He and McArthur ultimately paid the consequences when each was forced to relinquish command. They had very few regrets in their actions. Whether they were right, wrong, or indifferent, their actions obtained the praises of the men and women who followed them into battle.
America – Bring out our Warriors now and save our Country…It is time to stand tall in this battle to save America!

FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Paul E. Vallely, Major General (USA/Ret.) is an author, military strategist and Chairman of Stand Up America and Save Our Democracy Projects.

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