Monday, May 17, 2010

An evolutionary change in the role of the U.S military

From 1775–1783 thirteen British colonies fought the American War of Independence and gained their liberty form Great Britain. Great Britain at the time was the greatest military, economic, and imperial power in the world. Its soldiers were highly trained, disciplined, and experienced.

The colonists were not trained, did not have the leadership or manpower, nor did they have the discipline required for linear warfare. They instead utilized hit and run, ambush, and sniper tactics learned fighting in the wilderness. The British never adjusted to the asymmetric warfare of the colonists.

Consequently, the colonists, who initially lacked an army and navy, whose militiamen were lightly armed, nevertheless, were triumphant.

Regardless, Great Britain’s greatest error was not attending to nation building. If they had put as much effort into winning hearts and minds, meeting the needs of the colonists and partnering with them, instead of killing, domination and subordination, America would most likely be a dominion of the British today.

Like eighteenth-century Great Britain, America today is the greatest military, economic, and imperial power in the world. Because of this, there has been an enculturation that has evolved into an American hubris that enhances that same warrior and imperialist mindset.

Americans are warriors at heart. They too believe that killing, domination, and subordination are what win conflicts. They are under the mistaken belief that belligerence is the way to keep others at bay, and that military firepower is the only strategy that works. To win means to obliterate and conquer.

In Iraq and in Afghanistan, “Shock and Awe” was our strategy. The war propagandist new that that would garner the American imagination.

Like the British, we never reacted to the tactics of our foes in either country with effective countermeasures. It was only when General Petraeus took command of the Multi-National Force in Iraq and General McChrystal took command of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan that we adopted a new strategy to countermeasure the asymmetric warfare of the enemy.

Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, was “on point” when he told the House Armed Services Committee in 2008, “We can’t kill our way to victory.”

Admiral Mullen has also said, “The Muslim community is a subtle world we don’t fully – and don’t always – attempt to understand. Only through a shared appreciation of the people’s culture, needs, and hopes for the future can we hope ourselves to supplant the extremist narrative. We cannot capture hearts and minds. We must engage them; we must listen to them, one heart and one mind at a time.”

In “Stones into Schools,” Greg Mortenson writes of an email he received from Lieutenant Colonel Chris Kolenda that in part stated, “I am convinced that the long-term solution to terrorism in general and Afghanistan specifically is education. The conflict here will not be won with bombs but with tolerance, and prosperity. The thirst for education here is palpable. People are tired of war after 30 years and want a better future. Education will make the difference whether the next generation grows up to be educated patriots or illiterate fighters. The stakes could not be higher.”

In America, nation building has had a negative connotation. However, it is now a central part of U.S. strategy. In Afghanistan, nation building must take place with an emphasis on a coalition of tribal communities and less on central governance.

No matter where one looks, there is every indication that the role of the U.S military is changing in an evolution that George Will describes as “The ‘Civilization’ Of the U.S. Military.”

For America to fail in Afghanistan, as the British failed in Colonial America against a force significantly lacking in America’s armaments and manpower, would be a humiliating national and international setback. Regrettably, Americans will not persevere in what they perceive as not a winning strategy, which means the utilization of American firepower; but viewed as a wishy-washy strategy, which may be their view of nation building.