Friday, May 30, 2008


Capturing Moscow didn’t help Napoleon, and in fact, set him on a downhill slide that ended in Paris. Capturing Paris was a fleeting victory for Hitler. Capturing Philadelphia and New York didn’t help the British either. Certainly capturing Baghdad didn’t help us, and in fact was about as useful as stomping on a Texas ant hill. Battle may be like capture the flag, but war isn’t. Battle may have it’s odds like craps, or poker, but war is more like 52 pickup with three incomplete decks of cards from different games.

While battle is often waged not only to smash something, or grab something, it is also used to make a statement. The Thirteen Days in October 1962 recognized the notion of negotiating with displays of kinetic force, like a blockade and a saber rattle. The Alamo made a statement about Texian resolve. The Doolittle Raid made a similar statement about American resolve, and in fact prodded Admiral Yamamoto into losing four aircraft carriers. Bombing Ghaddafi’s home in the desert seems to have brought him into a reversal of his support of terrorism regardless of stripe.

Sometimes, however, the other side isn’t listening. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor to induce us into negotiations, which negotiations were completed on the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Hirohito listened and pulled a coup to overthrow military control of the Japanese government when faced with the real possibility of Soviet Occupation and American nuclear annihilation. Hitler didn’t listen at all, and died in his bunker. Ho Chi Minh didn’t listen either. It remains an interesting “if” if we had taken the Plain of Jars by 1968 and seen whether Ho Chi Minh would have let the Chinese come into Vietnam like the Chinese in Korea.

Occupying Richmond and defeating Robert E Lee ended the War Between the States, but only temporarily freed the slaves which slavery continued under other guises until Brown vs the Board of Education, and with Affirmative Action action. The resentment of the white Southerner to Reconstruction wrecked Reconstruction, and the resentment of the white Southerner to heavy handed Federal aka Yankee interference in local events still plays out in our elections.

It is probably useful to be able to establish some form of military doctrine about the non-kinetic effects of battle which itself has kinetic and non-kinetic means. Psychological Operations has a history of interesting effects of non-kinetic energy.

Operation Moolah in Korea was an offer of a payment of $30,000 to any Chinese or North Korean pilot that flew a Mig-15 to South Korea. While we did get a Mig, the real effects were the stripping of Communist air cover over North Korea for several weeks while the Communists grounded their planes for fear of the defection of any of their pilots. The Poles caused the Germans to lose one full day of war production by issuing a fake proclamation allegedly by Nazi headquarters giving Hitler’s birthday off for Polish war workers.

The analysis of this apparent anomaly leads us to make a serious change of how we define victory and how to get it. What separates a Hitler from a Hirohito? What separates the successful occupations of their lands from our attempts to Reconstruct the South or of Iraq? How do we know we have won?

I suggest we define victory or success in war is when the other side enforces our wishes with their own police and courts and other agencies of political, economic and social power. I suggest that victory comes when the other side sees a long term advantage in their own interests in cutting a deal.

Germany and Japan benefited from our occupation and were a non-belligerent ally in the Cold War. The South took over a century to recover from Reconstruction economically. In both those cases victory was dictated from the barrel of a gun. What would have happened if Lincoln had missed the play, and what would have happened if we had flooded Germany and Japan with Carpet Baggers and Scalawags?

The approach to a victory, then depends on the carrot and stick offered to those in the opposing side’s structure who have a dog in the game. Sometimes this isn’t the Boss, but someone willing to sell him out, or culling the Boss to cut and run. And it is often those closest to the Boss who are his weakest point. Himmler tried to pull off a coup and cut a deal with the Allies, Hitler wound up appointing Admiral Doenitz as Fuhrer, while Doenitz wasn’t hard core Nazi.

When it gets down to defeating the enemy, however defined, it is the informal structure of power, and the role of personality that counts.

Some leaders such as Hitler, Stalin, and Saddam were brilliant practitioners of the art of survival by divide and control within, but not so hot in managing combat forces. Each of these three applied the Law of Inverse Relevance by touting their military infallibility which, if a virtue, was the least of them. The confidence of nations under leadership of this nature is based on a lie.

Incurring defeatism and division in the enemy’s ranks is the most popular way to achieve non-kinetic victory. Accordingly, President Wilson took no chances with pro-German elements in America nor was he tolerant even of the slightest hint of defeatism. Wilson established the Committee of Public Information (CPI) under George Creel to operate as a de-facto ministry of Propaganda. Wilson’s Sedition Act banned “uttering … any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the United States government or the military” (this from Goldberg’s book ‘Liberal Fascism’). Breaking into this form of psychological control is a tough nut to crack.

The trick is to identify the segments of the other side who are willing to cut a deal and who are willing to implement our policies afterward.

These segments aren’t always the same bunch. We reduced Germany and Japan to smoking wreckage in hopes of inducing them to kick their leadership out for it was assumed that killing civilians would be a positive motivator for the civilians. That didn’t work in bringing down the regime in charge, but it certainly made a splendid motivator to keep out of the business of conquest afterward. Likewise, the Russians didn’t venture into hot wars until Afghanistan.

It is popular to demonize the demon in charge of the enemy as a snake. Cutting the head of the snake is also a popular sound bite in planning for victory, but sometimes you don’t have a snake, but a can of worms, or an ant hill … like in the Muddle East. It might have worked if Hitler had been killed on July 20, 1944. But killing Osama Bin Ladin isn’t likely to end Islamic terrorism as this movement grows heads as fast as they are cut off. Snake analogies don’t help when there is no snake.

Since Secretary of Defense Gates has taken charge, there is less of Rumsfeldian bombast, and a ripple of curtains behind which deals are being cut. In this current drama, fuss and fury are theatre. Helzbollah was suckered into dropping it’s cloak of invisibility and showed it’s hand as a meddler in Lebanese politics than a partisan of Palestinian liberation. Syria is talking to Israel about peace while calming the Iranians and Palestinians with promises not to be kept.

In short, I hope that it is the Gates paradigm that appears to be positively engaged in engaging the key players of the Muddle East with the traditional mix of jawing and warring at the same time. Call it Jaw Wars. It’s also as deeply engrained in Chinese government and politics as it is in the Muddle East, or in Chicago.