Revise US Military Strategy Now

by MAJ. GEN. PAUL E. VALLELY, US ARMY (RET) June 13, 2011
To date, government policy elitists in the United States have demonstrated almost complete ignorance towards revised, adaptive and 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 Generals, Admirals, and Defense and State Department and Intelligence political appointees. One only needs to observe the international scene and turmoil in Afghanistan and the Middle East. The time is now to change strategy and reposition our Forces for present and future operation.
Since the early 80s, the United States has been engaged in conflicts throughout the Middle East. From the Iranian hostage situation, to the Beirut bombing of our Marines in 1982, to Iraq and Afghanistan, we have witnessed one cultural diplomacy debacle after another with no apparent victories for the United States. Why do the United States and its military/political leaders and strategists still languish in failed strategies since the victories of World War II to the present? Before we commit our Armed Forces into any conflict, the policy must firmly ask the question:” is this enemy a threat to the United States and the American people?” We as a sovereign nation do not take edicts, mandates and direction from the United Nations or other international organizations.
Our nation simply does not have the human and financial resources to continue investing blood and treasure into nation building enterprises or foreign aid packages into the Middle East. Obama along with other broke, financially strapped European countries is now committing billions of new US dollars to new nation building to the Middle East.  All of these Islamic countries seem to be willing to protect terrorists/jihadists, rule by Sharia law in the guise of seeking democracy, and chastise America at every opportunity for their own selfish interests and hope of keeping U.S. money flowing into their coffers. How senseless is this? Oh, Treasury, keep printing money - no problem there! Maybe I am naïve, but I think we need to shore up America first and do it quickly.
There is no reason to order our Armed Forces into the Middle East and enemy territories that require large commitment of human and financial resources without the ‘Endgame” for the United States We can strike the enemy from any of our established friendly (domestic and overseas) and seaborne “Lily Pads” when intelligence dictates clear and present dangers to America, its people, its interests and its assets.
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. We have made great and innovative technological advances in weapons systems; in the air, sea and ground, communications, advanced intelligence systems, and command and control systems but we must have new and adaptive strategies. The tools at hand are not being properly applied because of the lack of these strategies, thus endangering the lives of our warriors irresponsibly.
Yes, we have operational war planners at all levels of command, senior policy, and politicos in the White House and Department of Defense, a National Security Team, and a multitude of military commands positioned around the globe to guide and lead us in national security. But where are the common sense and rational senior General and Admiral Strategists that we have trained and schooled to be innovative, aggressive and win our nation’s wars quickly and decisively. I rarely hear any of them talking about the valued Principles of War that successful combat leaders in the past have used to achieve success and victory. They cannot even talk in terms of victory, winning, and bringing the troops home. Or maybe, they do not want to for politically correct reasons at home. Billions of dollars and valued human resources have been consumed by a massive Middle East Sponge. And, I ask, for what?
Unfortunately, American leaders are increasingly trying to transform this magnificent force into one optimized for counterinsurgency and humanitarian missions (when, in fact, we are not, in my opinion, fighting insurgencies but Islamic Jihadist and a fomenting global Caliphate) using  conventional war strategies followed on by long-term military occupations. Track back if you will to Korea, Vietnam, and now Iraq, and Afghanistan. However, “victory” in war appears lost in the world of political correctness and appeasement.
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 between 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. The White House and the Pentagon 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 for national security, defending our country, and defeating our enemies before they bring havoc and harm to our citizens. Why do we not understand this fundamental fact? Why do we waste our resources, jeopardize our trained armed forces, across the globe in futile nation building operations when we should be leveraging them instead to counter threats to our country? When will we realize that you cannot “Nation-Build” in an area of conflict until the enemy is totally defeated? It is akin to repainting one room in a house while a fire rages in another room in the same house.
The world has literally never seen anything like our American military capability and power. A fundamental strategy for the use of this great asset is to show them first hand – in a quick, decisive, and devastating fashion. The U.S. today has military capabilities at least equal to the rest of the world combined, so why do we act in a manner that shows us to be a paper tiger?
There is virtually no spot on the globe that could not be targeted by American forces, and at most a small handful of countries that could thwart a determined U.S. effort at regime change — and some of those only by virtue of their possession of nuclear weapons. This is the driving point; 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.”
Failure to Understand the Enemy
While many believe the war in Afghanistan is solely fought inside the confines of the Afghan borders, they are sadly mistaken. The war in Afghanistan consists of operations throughout Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and elsewhere. Our enemies do not respect nor recognize borders.
Our enemy is fully aware and informed of our faulty and ill-advised Rules of Engagements (ROE’s). They understand that the United States will not advance into their harbored locations. They also realize that the countries in which they safely harbor are fully incompetent, corrupt, and oftentimes support their own cause and not the cause of the United States. Because of this fundamental knowledge amongst our current enemy, they have established bases of operations for regrouping, recovering, and reorganizing as needed.
The “Lily Pad” worked, and then they abandoned it.
Between the years of 2001 through early 2003, the war in Afghanistan was won by the United States. It was won because United States Special Operations Command was granted control over the country to incorporate plans of execution to rid Taliban from control of Afghanistan. The tactical and operational plans created by our Special Operatives were sound and executable proving success. They covertly struck hard from “lily pads”, overwhelming the enemy, without warning. Striking from a set base is easy to track, and the enemy is warned early, allowing them to ambush in proactive ways, rather than the previous need to react.
With time and signs of success on display in Afghanistan, conventional forces began to flood the country in 2002. They went into Afghanistan with no clear objective and still lack one today. Brigade commanders are often heard stating that their task and purpose during their tours of duty are to continuously “build and enhance their bases, hold them, and ensure their troops come home in one piece.” And yes, we are there to spread Democracy and Nation Build, while the house is still on fire; a nightmare.
The thought of “winning hearts and minds” is moot pertaining to tasks and purposes. One must understand that winning hearts and minds is a tactic. A tactic just like carpet bombing, internment camps, enhanced interrogations, and so forth. Tactics are not strategic plans. They are tools used to ensure that the 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 their desired end-state for Afghanistan. Without a clear end-state fully written out, a strategic plan cannot be written out, executed, and fulfilled.
For those who have ever been taught strategic planning in any formalized military school know that such planning should be accomplished through a systematic methodology of “reverse planning.” This means, prior to anything being written, an end-state must be identified. Once the end-state is identified, it is then and only then, where decision makers can make a determination and plan may be written to achieve the overall task. Then, the end-state can be accomplished through smaller operational and tactical objectives with sound benchmarks and timelines.
Our Special Operations team, the Navy Seals, terminated Osama and that was a real victory for all of us. Great intelligence, great planning AND GREAT EXECUTION and that is what this article is all about! 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.  Dr. Raymond Tanter is an Affiliate of Government Department, Georgetown University, Adjunct Scholar at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy and Professor Emeritus, University of Michigan. He is also President of the Iran Policy Committee.Thomas McInerney is a retired Lieutenant General from the United States Air Force, with experience of more than 4,100 flyinghours. He flew 407 combat missions in Vietnam and is now a contributor on Fox News. He is also a member of the Iran Policy Committee.

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