Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

What I'm Reading

I had a head cold over the long weekend, so I didn't get to do anything fun. But I did get a chance to get some reading done.

My other great interest, besides promoting Wal-Mart and getting wowed by CEOs, is military history.

I'm reading a couple of older books currently and was struck by how prophetic they both were.

In Marine: A Guided Tour of a Marine Expeditionary Unit, Tom Clancy detailed a hypothetical U.S. strike on an Iranian nuclear weapons facility...in late December 2006. The book was written in 1995. As you know, Iran failed to meet the UN's August 31 deadline to halt uranium enrichment that could give the country nuclear weapons capability.

I'm also reading Inside the Green Berets: The First Thirty Years by Charles M. Simpson III, published in 1983.

Some quotes:
"Among the things we have learned - or at least it is hoped we have learned - is that in such a situation, there are no quick and easy solutions. Technological advances and massive doses of modern material introduced into a near-primitive society do not guarantee progress, and are, in fact, counterproductive. A corollary lesson has begun to emerge: since "revolutionary war" is by definition of its most successful practitioners, a protracted war, so, unfortunately, must be counterinsurgency. Whether the endurance, commitment, and single-mindedness required for such an effort can logically be expected of a society as impatient, successful, and open as America is a question beyond the scope of this book."

"Another harsh lesson likely to find slow acceptance in the Western world is this: in a counterinsurgency effort, military leaders must either fully understand and accept the importance of all dimensions of such warfare, or they must be subordinated to someone who does. Counterguerilla operations, a military function, must not be allowed to overshadow the other, vital expressions of a counterinsurgency effort; the former is only a part of a much larger whole."

"Ideally, the objective of a counterguerilla program is not to kill or even capture the guerilla but to convince him to abandon a hopeless or worthless cause."

"It adds up to an unpleasant and difficult dilemma, one made even more painful by the emergence of another question about counterinsurgency: should the United States participate at all? Regardless of the soundness of operational concepts, regardless of how skillfully they might or might not be implemented, should the United States involve itself so deeply in the affairs of another people? Does the United States have the moral right to interfere? These are tough questions with massive implications for the future of this country and much of the rest of the world."
Simpson was talking about Vietnam, but it seems just as applicable to Iraq.

The U.S. public clearly does not seem to have have the "endurance, commitment, and single-mindedness" required for a counterinsurgency war, even after September 11.

Does the Pentagon have the know-how to wage asymmetric warfare, as counterinsurgency is being called these days? Did we really learn anything from Vietnam? At least we're not cutting and running yet as we did there.

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