US warfare, war, War strategy, strategy for war, US Army, US military, David Petraeus, US generals, US government, Barack Obama

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The US Has a New Strategy for War

The generals in the US are getting high on their intense new strategies of warfare. The Daily Devil’s Dictionary explains.

The news cycle thrives on suspense. It starts with the ongoing drama pitting nation against region (Brexit), moves on to newly-elected presidents opposing dissent but in favor of torture and mass killing (Brazil), and ends with white supremacists against invading Spanish-speaking hordes (US).

After all these unresolved dramas tracked with various degrees of attention by international media, Yahoo News informs us about a new subject of suspense: What style of war the US military is intending to spread across the world in its next generation of warfare.

Few will deny that the US has taken seriously its role as the last principal purveyor of war between nations in the modern world (rather than just insurgency and counter-insurgency), which is emulated only by Saudi Arabia. Conflicts break out between peoples and ethnic groups; civil wars erupt within some countries; but the great nation-state wars of history have clearly become a thing of the past. That was the basic reason for creating and consolidating the European Union, which is now under threat from within.

Sean D. Naylor, the author of the article, mentions that the US military is “preparing for high-intensity conflict against major nation-state threats like Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.” Can nostalgia alone explain this compulsion to revive the tradition and turn this into the trend of the future? Naylor doesn’t tell us whether politicians agree with this new orientation. But politicians change and, as Vietnam and Iraq proved, they tend to adapt to the capacities that the generals have defined — even those, like Barack Obama, who came into office after criticizing the work of the generals and of their predecessors.

What we do learn is that there is one aspect often considered the very aim of warfare that has become anathema: peacemaking. “Today’s colonels and generals made their careers conducting counterinsurgency campaigns,” Naylor says, “but the Army has always been more comfortable preparing for high-intensity, artillery-intensive warfare than for the dirty, messy business of putting down insurgencies, not to mention peacekeeping (now almost officially a dirty word in the service).”

Here is today’s 3D definition: 

Peacekeeping:

A boring, time-consuming activity that brings little profit to the military-industrial complex and probably never works anyway, meaning that perpetual wars will keep up the demand for more investment in the evolving tools of warfare.

Contextual note

We learn some key vocabulary from the article. For example, warfare is classified along a “spectrum of conflict” and, quoting retired Lieutenant General Guy Swan, Naylor tells us that “If you’re an army that’s expected to fight and win the nation’s wars, I think you have to lean towards the higher end of the spectrum.”

But we also learn a valuable lesson that has become evident elsewhere, as per retired General David Petraeus: “Army officers simply have a greater comfort level with conventional wars,” he said, and ‘it’s about getting resources … And big wars get you big resources.’”

The Gordon Gekko law of capitalism applies everywhere: “Greed is good.” Everything that happens, including the type and frequency of wars, originates in the obsession with amassing resources and ensuring that there will always be more in the future. Even if your business is destruction and killing, think big. It will get you resources.

We may find it reassuring to know that planning for “big wars” doesn’t automatically translate into launching those wars. But as Donald Trump once said about nuclear weapons: Why are we making them if we’re not going to use them? When you have them, the temptation grows to use them, and often it’s seen as the key to getting more. But nobody really wants to take the risk of using nuclear weapons, so it’s logical to go for the next best thing: “big wars” of the kind we used to routinely enjoy.

Historical note

In an article at the Council on Foreign Relations, we learn from the inside that “The U.S. military is currently at war with itself” and that secretary of the army, Mark Esper “reportedly objects to having an Army organization with ‘peacekeeping’ in its title, as the Army is a place for warriors.”

The Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute was created in 1993, at a time when political and military thinkers were influenced by Francis Fukuyama’s now-treated-as-absurd thesis of the “End of History” and the inevitable triumph of Western liberal democracy. The Bush years subsequently taught us that it wasn’t as liberal as it was made out to be and that history hadn’t quite decided to close its books.

One absurdity that emerges from the article on Yahoo News is the emphasis on the role of a new institution, the Security Force Assistance Brigade, focusing on advising and training local troops. Afghanistan and Iraq seem to have erased the military’s memory of Vietnam, which, before anyone dared to call it a war, was a permanent operation of advising and training, before “escalating” into the tragedy it became.

*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.