Patrick Porter takes on Admiral Mullen’s classification of Kandahar as the enemy “center of gravity” in anticipation of the upcoming offensive there:
Is Kandahar the centre? Does the Taliban even have a centre that we can meaningfully disrupt within time? The critical condition for most violent insurgencies is external and usually international support. If that applies to this case, the Taliban’s centre may not be its sway in Kandahar, but its relationship with Pakistan, both the state and powerbrokers within it.
This isn’t the first time a major operation has been launched to strike at an enemy “center of gravity.” In fact, it happened fairly recently, and as I then pointed out, the military’s insistence on a) clinging to the term and b) if applicable, attacking that center of gravity is just irresponsible.
But more generally, this seems to be a movement lacking any important centers of gravity. That’s the whole problem with counterinsurgency; there’s no decisive point at which to apply pressure. It’s trying to tighten your grip on a handful of sand. Obviously I’m not saying give up the ghost, but I am suggesting that perhaps the whole concept of a large offensive whilst fighting an insurgency is an anachronism.
Kandahar probably is where we need to be, but if we’re doing so for these Clausewitzian theories… then we’re just missing the point.
Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
I’ve meant to talk about it sooner, but it wasn’t until I saw some particularly egregious arguments that I was spurred to action. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell absolutely needs to be repealed. First announced at the State of the Union address, Defense Secretary Bob Gates and JCS Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen continued to call for it at a press conference later that week. Admiral Mullen’s comments – declaring the current policy as detrimental to the military’s integrity – are particularly noteworthy:
No matter how I look at this issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me, it comes down to integrity — theirs as individuals and ours as an institution. I also believe that the great young men and women of our military can and would accommodate such a change. I never underestimate their ability to adapt.
We would also do well to remember that this is not an issue for the military leadership to decide [emphasis mine].
Charlie Wilson died today. From my limited knowledge (basically a book and a film), I’ve developed a deep admiration for the man. To some extent his death is part of the passing of an era, for better or for worse. But this country will surely miss him. Bob Gates writes a fitting farewell. We’re still picking up the pieces, as Charlie always wanted.
I had the unforgettable experience of knowing Congressman Wilson when I was at CIA and he was working tirelessly on behalf of the Afghan resistance fighting the Soviets. As the world now knows, his efforts and exploits helped repel an invader, liberate a people, and bring the Cold War to a close. After the Soviets left, Charlie kept fighting for the Afghan people and warned against abandoning that traumatized country to its fate — a warning we should have heeded then, and should remember today.
America has lost an extraordinary patriot whose life showed, once more, that one brave and determined person can alter the course of history.
Amen, Mr. Secretary. Good-Time Charlie, we hardly knew you.
Maj. General Rick Nash tries his hand at camel riding during a visit to the Sa’adoun tribe confederation land.
Last month, the zenpundit (Mark Safranski) came up with a startling idea: “The Post-COIN Era is Here.” The idea, while revelatory, is definitely worth consideration. The modern timescale for adopting and conceiving new doctrine has shrunk from the decades it used to take to only a few short years – both a blessing and a curse. On the plus side is the ability to shift rapidly from a failed strategy to one which stands a chance of succeeding, saving time and lives that would otherwise be wasted. At the same time, an untested new idea runs the risk of failing, in perhaps even more spectacular fashion.
It was fairly clear, then, that something would have to give way after the abyss into which Iraq plunged the first few years after invasion. Safranski lays down three main reasons for the initial adoption of COIN:
1) The ”Big Army, fire the artillery, fly B-52’s and Search & Destroy=counterinsurgency” approach proved to be tactically and strategically bankrupt in Iraq. It failed in Mesopotamia as it failed in the Mekong Delta under Westmoreland – except worse and faster. Period.
2) The loudest other alternative to COIN at the time, the antiwar demand, mostly from Leftwing extremists, of immediately bugging-out of Iraq, damn the consequences, was not politically palatable even for moderately liberal Democrats, to say nothing of Republicans.
3) The 2006 election results were a political earthquake that forced the Bush administration to change policy in Iraq for its’ own sheer political survival. COIN was accepted only because it represented a life preserver for the Bush administration.
The DoD’s Quadrennial Defense Review is out, and its prognosis for America’s military future is quite interesting indeed. Overall funding levels have remained virtually identical; all Gates requested was a 2% increase, about $159.3 billion. Specific increases are called for in the areas of rotary-wing assets, manned and unmanned aircraft, and special forces assets.
For the most part, the strategy remains the same: using a mix of diplomatic, intelligence, and military solutions, keep America safe. Be ready to operate abroad. And be flexible: the military needs the capability to adapt to conventional war, COIN, stabilization, and any other kind of mission that might come up. Below are some key points from the topsheet.