On Fabius Maximus’ warning concerning the Long War

Fabius Maximus asked me to respond to his Long War series. I’m responding in a hit-and-run fashion, picking out what I see as key themes in the article(s) as I read them and trying to respond in the most unaffected way in which I am capable.

Why choose war?

I sympathize with Fabius Maximus when he introduces America takes another step towards the “Long War”: Part I.

The flood of information and commentary available today can obscure events of the greatest significance. We see that today, as America takes another step towards the long war. Without thought or reflection, without debate by our elected officials, without our consent. In many ways just like the Cold War.

If the US starts a new long war, it is our war – for good or ill. Congress and the President are our agents no matter how they conduct our affairs. As bin Laden reminds us, following our leaders does not relieve us of responsibility.

Wars put all that we that we have, all that we are, on the table to be won or lost. Before we enlist ourselves and our children in a new war, let’s think. Is the wager worthwhile? Are the odds in our favor? Are there alternatives other than war?

I would counter with the observation that a country can find itself in a war without choosing it if another country (or non-governmental organization, for this is the age of 4GW) thrusts war upon it. At that point, the choices are to ignore the war, to ask for terms of surrender, or to fight back.

Yesterday was Death to America day in Iran, where 28 years ago the Iranian people under Ayatollah Khomeini declared war on the United States and the Westphalian system of nations that underlies American and European stability by occupying sovereign American territory and kidnapping our diplomatic personnel. This war has been fought ever since 1979 by means of terrorism and infiltration. The Iranian terrorist cat’s paw HizbAllah extracts American funds for its terror operations by running smuggling and other criminal operations in the United States. They are not merely a criminal organization, but an enemy that makes war upon the US by means other than massed battle: classic 4GW doctrine. The elite Qods Force manufactures and smuggles advanced land mines for both Sunni and Shiite terrorists that have been responsible for about 70% of American casualties in Iraq. Iranian spies have penetrated all throughout Iraq, and HizbAllah terror cells have had plenty of time to infiltrate all western countries, waiting for orders to start killing America and its allies.

Iran is running hard to make its own nuclear bomb. It is possible that Iran has already obtained nuclear bombs from Pakistan or North Korea. It is a sure bet that Iran has obtained bomb plans from Pakistan’s A. Q. Khan, who is no longer even in house arrest but has complete freedom of movement. It is certain that Iran is developing its own bomb, with the public program already having a series of 3000 centrifuges capable of refining U235 to sufficient quantities at 85-90% purity to provide fuel for a nuke in less than a year. Let me emphasize, this is only the public nuclear refining program. Iran has built multiple underground bunkers in all its known nuclear locations. Who knows what might be going on underground or in a disguised, secret research lab?

What argues against war with Iran? The most obvious argument against it is that Putin’s Russia appears to be operating behind the scenes to cheer Iran in its belligerence towards the US, in what appears to be payback for the USSR’s embarrassment in Afghanistan. This game is dangerous, however, for Russia as well as Iran. If the US decided to punish Iran and destroy its nuclear and military facilities without occupying or assisting it afterwards, Russia could end up with a crushed client state on its hands and no help from the west. Russia also could (should) be expelled from the G8, for it is no democratic state, and replaced with India.

In addition to Iran’s game with Russia, it is also in cahoots with certain groups in Pakistan over the attempts to destabilize Afghanistan and drive NATO forces out. This is not an argument against war with Iran, however.

And I could go into the 14 centuries of Muslim Jihad, that could very well be argued to be a continuous state of war against the whole world. Let’s leave that for someone else, like Andrew G. Bostom.

We have ignored these wars for either 28 years or 1400. There is a strong case that ignoring the wars against the US has been tried long enough. Surrender is not an option for people who love their daughters and do not want them to become chattel. War is the only choice left.

The long war is defined in an unclear and unconventional way

Fabius Maximus argues that the objectives of the Long War as articulated in the Quadrennial Defense Review are unclear and not very much like conventional war.

The enemies in this war are not traditional conventional military forces but rather dispersed, global terrorist networks that exploit Islam to advance radical political aims.

The QDR mentions Islam only four times, plus two brief quotes by Ayman al-Zawahiri. Al Qaeda is mentioned only six times.


How does the QDR define victory in this long war?

Victory in this war comes when the enemy’s extremist ideologies are discredited in the eyes of their host populations and tacit supporters, becoming unfashionable, and following other discredited creeds, such as Communism and Nazism, into oblivion.

How bizarre! These objectives have no obvious connection with “war”, nor is it clear how force can achieve them.

When the enemy is waging a 4GWar against the US, the 4GWar to counter it is not going to be conventional. This being a new thing for the US, and given the newness and heretofore undefined demands of 4G/5GWar, the language and definition of the enemy is going to be fuzzy, the concepts and actions are going to be obscured for operational reasons and out of actual confusion, the message at home is going to be contradictory on the surface and a long way down. It will be a mess.

“Hello?! What have we here, a mess?” Not a coincidence.

If the English speaking peoples and NATO are to oppose the Global Jihad’s 4GWar we have to start somewhere. A first step in the wrong direction is better than never taking that first step, for errors in direction can be reversed and corrected. The learning system that is the US and its military forces will prove itself effective in the long run, after it orients itself to the nature of the conflict and a path to victory. And the rest of the NATO allies aren’t that bad either.

When the US first encountered the Barbary Pirates, it was even weaker
than it is now, with no navy or armed forces, and faced very similar
opponents to the ones it faces today. And yet it was able to fight
against the Pirates and their state sponsors and win where no European
force had ever dared or managed to win, and in the process helped to
define categories of US and international law such as “enemies of
mankind” and the current law of the seas (not the UN’s horrible treaty,
but the generally accepted law of the seas enforced by the power of the
US leviathan).

Sidebar: What about letters of marque against Al Qaeda, by
the way? They are constitutional and the President can’t do anything
about them. Just saying, if Congress wants to get into the fun with
something less extreme than a declaration of war…

Fabius Maximus also asks, “What is Al Qaeda?”

My answer is that Al Qaeda (The Base) is a revolutionary vanguard of the Islamist movement to establish a totalitarian Sunni Caliphate, first in the traditionally Muslim countries and then everywhere in the world. Like the Soviet Communist Party established by Lenin and Trotsky, it is not open to everyone, but it spreads its public ideology far and wide and enforces cooperation by wielding its apparatus of Terror. It is not (yet) a powerful global terrorist conspiracy. It has been badly damaged by US attention to it. If it conquers a major Muslim state through stealth, trickery, or force, especially a major petroleum producer like Iraq or nuclear power like Pakistan, it will become a powerful global terrorist conspiracy. To prevent this sort of conquest would be a very good thing.

Al Qaeda is also a name of convenience for other Sunni insurgencies in Algeria, Sudan, Somalia, Mali, and the Philippines. They ally with the Al Qaeda vanguard for funding and operational and training support, and thereby serve to make Al Qaeda appear bigger than it is. This is not simple conflation on the part of Al Qaeda’s enemies, but a deliberate move on Al Qaeda’s part and the part of its allies.

Doom, Despair, Agony: Tidbits

I won’t go into the characterization of American ROE, tactics, and behavior in Iraq as too kinetic and emotionally driven, other than to respond that the article was written before the Petraeus COIN doctrine started producing irrefutable gains and the miserable failure of the British “softly, softly” doctrine in Basra became apparent to more people than just the widow of Steven Vincent.

Insurgencies against foreign occupiers usually succeed, when the foreign occupiers are Democracies, except in Malaysia. But what if the foreigners are running an insurgency to counter the insurgency led by a different group of foreigners? Within the framework of 4GWar there is no reason to stick to counterinsurgency when insurgency may be just the thing.

Plus I thought I’d mention that the US advised a very smart and successful counterinsurgency in El Salvador that was limited to 55 US advisers in country. 55… Food for thought.

The future of American sea power is large carrier groups and littoral amphibious docks that serve as highly mobile American sovereign territory with artillery and airpower. Soon it will not be necessary to occupy a country or even build FOBs to project American military power and civil affairs expertise. Will State Department-led PRTs be deployed on them? They should.

It is true that Germany innovated the 3GW tactics of maneuver that have become established doctrine in all the armies of the world, but lost two wars while being the most innovative combatant. In WW2 it fought a 3GWar paired with a self-destructive race war and lost to a 2GWar of airpower and attrition. This only goes to show that tactics are not the be-all and end-all of war. 2GW still works, and still trumps 3GW when applied ruthlessly. And it is so on up the line. 4GW can be crushed by maneuver warfare and by total warfare, not to mention mass extermination. All it takes is the will to kill in the conventionally stronger combatant. Once this will is awakened, the conclusion is inevitable.

Let us work so that when the will to engage fully in war is awakened, the conclusion will be no less decisive than a 1GW or 2GW war, but with less than the maximal amount of dead. See the Three Conjectures for more.

Kilcullen as Atlas, changing the course of the world

The Paradigm Changing Superman. How 5GW! Not that I necessarily buy into 5GW. But… cool!

Trackposted to The Virtuous Republic, The Pink Flamingo, Big Dog’s Weblog, Rosemary’s Thoughts, guerrilla radio, The Populist, and Gone Hollywood, thanks to Linkfest Haven Deluxe.

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8 responses to “On Fabius Maximus’ warning concerning the Long War

  1. Pingback: Rosemary's Thoughts

  2. Great post. It grabbed me, and I read the whole thing. Next time someone wants to how to define ‘Victory’, just say, “We win, they lose.” It could be no more obvious than this. lol. Have a wonderful day.

  3. The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the – Web Reconnaissance for 11/08/2007 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day…so check back often.

  4. Much of what became the tactic of Blitzkrieg is based on the strategies of B.H. Liddell Hart who based his strategy, in part, on the maneuver of 13th century Mongol armies. In essence, lighter tanks operating in a “detached” manner hold the advantage over amasses forces (artillary and armor.) This strategy was taken up by and further evolved under both the Soviets and finally the Germans. In fact the German scholar Erich Haenisch was the first Westerner to translate the Mongol “Secret History.” An effort designed to better understand the incredible feats the Mongols had accomplished on the battlefield and how they used the advantage of maneuver against mass.
    Hence my own skepticism regarding the xGW framework as the popularly accepted chronologically evolving phenomena.

    3GW wasn’t some nascent strategic framework of war under the Nazis. It wasn’t even new under Genghis Khan.

  5. Rosemary: Strategy must be stated specifically so that it can drive tactics. “We win, they lose” tells us nothing about what winning means. Nuke them? Occupy their land, kill the men, take their women and children as slaves? Force them to adopy our values? It’s too vague.

    Nor is it clear who we’re fighting. This is a prescription for a truly long war, which history shows seldom benefits either side. Who is “we”? Who is “they”?

    Consider the Apollo project. Tactical success, but little long-term benefit for America, perhaps because we formulated the goals incorrectly. We won the “race” — but did not conquer the frontier of space. It’s still out there, await someone to make it home and create long-term value for humanity.

    Subadei: Who claims that 4GW is new? Few things are (some are: nukes). 4GW is just another cycle in history, with roots going back to Sun Tzu and beyond. It’s an evolution in the modern age, but from a historical perspective just another turn of the wheel.

  6. Pingback: War with Iran « Fabius Maximus

  7. FM, I’m in complete agreement and view the framework in much the same light you describe.

    From what I’ve read, however, there are those that attribute 4GW to Mao, 3GW to the German blitze, 2GW to trench warfare (WWI) and 1GW to Napoleonic warfare while relegating anything prior to that of pre-modern.

  8. I have no problem with that perspective. 4GW is a conceptual tool, and simple views like you describe have great explanitory power — as long as keep in mind that there are larger historical cycles at work.

    4GW is useful only to the extent it helps us see and understand, and generate new insights. Doctrinal purity is a hinderance in these things!