Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Inflection Point

FDChief's last thread introduced the latest Obama national strategy document to this blog, that being Sustaining US Global Leadership. The first paragraph of the introduction sets the tone for what is to follow:

The United States has played a leading role in transforming the international system over the past sixty-five years. Working with like-minded nations, the United States has created a safer, more stable, and more prosperous world for the American people, our allies, and our partners around the globe than existed prior to World War II. Over the last decade, we have undertaken extended operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to bring stability to those countries and secure our interests. As we responsibly draw down from these two operations, take steps to protect our nation’’s economic vitality, and protect our interests in a world of accelerating change, we face an inflection point. This merited an assessment of the U.S. defense strategy in light of the changing geopolitical environment and our changing fiscal circumstances. This assessment reflects the President’’s strategic direction to the Department and was deeply informed by the Department’’s civilian and military leadership, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretaries of the Military Departments, and the Combatant Commanders. Out of the assessment we developed a defense strategy that transitions our Defense enterprise from an emphasis on today’’s wars to preparing for future challenges, protects the broad range of U.S. national security interests, advances the Department’’s efforts to rebalance and reform, and supports the national security imperative of deficit reduction through a lower level of defense spending.

Emphasis is mine.

The first sentence is true, but incomplete. Actually we have again transformed the international system since 2001, advocating pre-emptive war as a coherent strategy (as long as the US is the only country that practices it). Also the financial/economic system established by the Bretton Woods agreement of 1944 has been replaced by what we could refer to as our own made in the USA version of crony capitalism/global market as rigged casino that had been coming together since the mid 1990s, but has become glaringly obvious after the economic crash of 2008.

The "like-minded nations" at this point in time comes down to Israel, although they have their own goals which are not necessarily in the US interest of being achieved. One could argue that France may be a "like-minded nation", but given US "confusion" during the Libyan campaign I think that unlikely. The extended operations in Iraq and Afghanistan were the results of two strategically incoherent wars and both amounting to US defeats. In fact there is much the propaganda feel to the whole document and the disjunct with our recent history is so blatant at times it is difficult to take this document seriously, at least in terms of strategic coherence based on an accurate assessment of our recent history. Still I think it worthy of study in not so much what it says, but in the assumptions behind it, what it avoids and its intended audience.

Let's start with the assumptions. The first is what I bolded in the first paragraph and is the title of this post. Inflection point can be defined as:

An event that results in a significant change in the progress of a company, industry, sector, economy or geopolitical situation. An inflection point can be considered a turning point after which a dramatic change, with either positive or negative results, is expected to result. . . .

. . . Politically, an inflection point can be illustrated by the fall of the Berlin Wall or the fall of Communism in Poland and other Eastern Bloc countries.

Difficult to see what exactly the "inflection point" is today, although I would agree that 1992 was indeed one and that our strategic coherence has been going south, along with the effectiveness of our military actions, ever since that point in time. In other words there was a turning or inflection point after 1989-1992 and the result has been negative. Nothing I have read in this document shows either awareness of that basic fact, awareness of the self-defeating quality of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, nor any inclination to correct the situation to reflect the actual interests of the people of the United States. Instead what it shows is a lock-step determinism to continue with the failed policies/attitude of the past.

The second assumption is that the Al Qaida boogyman remains the main national security threat and counter-terrorism remains the first primary mission of the US Armed Forces:

The demise of Osama bin Laden and the capturing or killing of many other senior al-Qa’’ida leaders have rendered the group far less capable. However, al-Qa’’ida and its affiliates remain active in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and elsewhere. More broadly, violent extremists will continue to threaten U.S. interests, allies, partners, and the homeland. The primary loci of these threats are South Asia and the Middle East. With the diffusion of destructive technology, these extremists have the potential to pose catastrophic threats that could directly affect our security and prosperity. For the foreseeable future, the United States will continue to take an active approach to countering these threats by monitoring the activities of non-state threats worldwide, working with allies and partners to establish control over ungoverned territories, and directly striking the most dangerous groups and individuals when necessary.

Interesting mix of messages associated with this assumption. First, there is the not so subtle reminder of OBL "being brought to justice". Then the extensive nature of this nebulous threat which is portrayed as being essentially existential (violent extremists . . . pose catastrophic threats that could directly affect our security and prosperity), what in strategic theory is known as an "absolute enemy". Absolute enemies are not recognized as such in Clausewitzian thought and it is rather a Leninist concept. That is the concept that the administration is using here is a totalitarian concept which has been used in the past to justify war crimes and mass murder. The last sentence refers to the use of drones or RPAs, which I have addressed in the past. The existential and absolute nature of the threat justifying not only the use of this destabilizing weapon system, but the extensive and unending dedication of resources to combat this type of threat. In fact even questioning this policy can be see as treason, since "the absolute enemy" requires by definition an "absolute" response.

There is no mention of any state connection to Al Qaida, which is interesting given what we now know about OBL's last years. This would add necessary ambiguity to understanding the actual nature of Al Qaida and the situation as a whole, and that is clearly not the intention of the present administration any more than it was that of the last.

The third assumption has to do with what we actually achieve with our current force structure/level:

U.S. economic and security interests are inextricably linked to developments in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia, creating a mix of evolving challenges and opportunities. Accordingly, while the U.S. military will continue to contribute to security globally, we will of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region. Our relationships with Asian allies and key partners are critical to the future stability and growth of the region. . .

The maintenance of peace, stability, the free flow of commerce, and of U.S. influence in this dynamic region will depend in part on an underlying balance of military capability and presence.

Is it true that our presence keeps the peace, or would we have an acceptable level of stability if the US Navy only had three carrier battle groups? Is it the US that keeps the free flow of commerce going, or would it be operating pretty much the same without us? Who exactly would be the source of all this disorder if we weren't there to police this huge area? What would be their possible motivation to disrupt things? Do they even possess the resources to achieve this disruption?

A clue to the answer to these questions imo is the title of this document, which is "Sustaining US Global Leadership", but it isn't really "Leadership" that we are interested in sustaining, but "Dominance". "Defense" is a reaction to a threat or actual aggression, whereas "Dominance" is a state or condition of existence. Almost all acts of aggression committed by states since 1992 have been either committed by us, like-minded Israel, or by states that we supported. We're not in the peace and stability business, we're in the coercion and war-making business and our current goal is to maintain the state of dominance which allows for that, no matter what.

The fourth assumption has to do with the Arab Spring:

n the Middle East, the Arab Awakening presents both strategic opportunities and challenges. Regime changes, as well as tensions within and among states under pressure to reform, introduce uncertainty for the future. But they also may result in governments that, over the long term, are more responsive to the legitimate aspirations of their people, and are more stable and reliable partners of the United States.

Emphasis mine. I don't see how being more responsive to the legitimate aspirations of their people can be equated with being more stable and reliable partners of the United States, but then if we get to decide what their legitimate aspirations are (wink,wink, nod, nod), then I guess it works. This of course brings us back to the same situation we had prior to the Arab Spring itself . . .

The fifth and last assumption I'll list has to do with NATO, but is not limited to that since the quote brings up other interesting points as well:

The United States has enduring interests in supporting peace and prosperity in Europe as well as bolstering the strength and vitality of NATO, which is critical to the security of Europe and beyond. Most European countries are now producers of security rather than consumers of it. Combined with the drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan, this has created a strategic opportunity to rebalance the U.S. military investment in Europe, moving from a focus on current conflicts toward a focus on future capabilities.

The first sentence contains an array of conflicting statements adding together to a very dubious assumption. By bolstering the strength and vitality of NATOpeace and prosperity in Europe? One could argue the opposite, that by not only maintaining and expanding NATO, not to mention a US missile shield for Europe, we are needlessly antagonizing Russia.

Europe doesn't need NATO, the US does, since without it what would be our rationale or legal basis for stationing troops, nuclear weapons and equipment in Europe? Without those bases (and Lajes as well in the Azores) we would be very hard pressed to sustain our dominance, in fact the whole war on terror would have been probably impossible, which would have been a good thing not only for Europe (would there have been the London and Madrid attacks without GWB's wars?), but for the US as well, or rather for the people of the United States.

Europe has gained nothing from NATO post 1992. The commitment of non-US NATO countries to both Iraq and Afghanistan argues for the immediate discontinuation of NATO in fact.

The final point I would like to make associated with this assumption, but actually a separate one, is that security is seen by the US government today as a commodity. The document speaks of our "Defense enterprise" and mentions European countries are now producers of security rather than consumers of it.

On the individual level, we purchase "security" as a commodity all the time: a new/improved lock for the front door, a can of pepper spray, a guard dog, an H&K automatic for your "personal protection" . . . Insurance also provides a form of "security". At the individual level though, "security" is a mindset buttressed by commodities, but not necessarily so. A person who trusts his or her neighbors does not feel insecure and probably will see little need for security in terms of commodities.

But we are not talking about that at the level of states. At this level, "security" is more a collective result of a whole series of material, institutional and moral/value decisions. Security = internal social stability/a durable external balance of power. Dominance could be seen as providing security, but that requires the consensus of the international community. Should the power in a state of dominance start acting erratically, or against the interests of powerful states or coalitions, then the presence of the dominance itself becomes source of instability. Also should the hegemon define its "security" has having its own way by coercing others and perceiving their ability/intention to resist as "undermining" its own security, then the hegemony is approaching delusional behavior or even systemic collapse.

By discussing these assumptions, I think both the mindset of the Nation's leadership and what they are leaving out of the equation becomes clear. My final statement on this post will be in regards to the intended audience . . .

To answer that question, let's first start with a quote:

Here we come face-to-face with the essential dilemma with which the United States has unsuccessfully wrestled since the Soviets deprived us of a stabilizing adversary - a dilemma that the events of 9/11 only served to intensify. The political elite that ought to bear the chief responsibility for crafting grand strategy instead nurses fantasies of either achieving permanent global hegemony or remaking the world in America's image. Meanwhile, the military elite that could puncture those fantasies and help restore a modicum of realism to US policy fixates on campaigns and battles, with generalship largely a business of organizing and coordinating material . . .

Reasserting a professional monopoly over the conduct of warfare requires drawing the brightest possible line between politics and war, thereby preventing civilian and military considerations from becoming entangled. Hence, the senior commander who experiences combat vicariously in the comfort of an air-conditioned headquarters nonetheless insists on styling himself a "warfighter". He does so for more than merely symbolic reasons. Assuming that identity permits him to assert prerogatives to which the officer corps now adamantly lays absolute claim.

As if by default, getting to Baghdad (or Kabul) becomes war's primary - almost its sole - purpose. The result is war undertaken in an atmosphere of astonishing strategic naiveté, leading soldiers like Franks and civilians like Feith to assume that, with a couple of quick battlefield victories, everything else will simply fall into place.

Andrew Bacevich, The Limits of Power, pp 187-8.

I think this quote makes it clear who the intended audience of this document is. It's our own military elite. This assures them that the political side will retain the same old goal of dominance, which we have pursued since 1992. The military will be left alone to organizing and coordinating the various operations, but there will be no actual connection between policy and military means/aim. Policy will continue as before to exist behind a curtain of propaganda and window dressing, while the military plans campaigns of destruction, but with the new promise of no actual US boots on the ground (However, US forces will no longer be sized to conduct large-scale, prolonged stability operations), outside of special operations forces I assume. This is what Obama's "inflection point" comes down to. As others have mentioned we experienced this same sort of drawdown in the 1990s after the "Defense Panning Guidance" of 1992 had been put into effect.


  1. "Europe has gained nothing from NATO post 1992."

    This is an exaggeration. The three Baltic countries have gained a lot, albeit the EU provided much the same, too.

    Continental Europe as a whole was furthermore spared an open (non-violent) conflict with the U.S., something that could easily happen without the bond of NATO. Our interests vary a lot and certain manners are lacking.

  2. Sven-

    Thanks for your comment. That's pretty thin gruel though if you ask me. None of the Baltics were members of NATO in 1992, so I would refer to the original members and what they have got out of the Alliance post Cold War? One could argue that Georgia has gained something as well - "security commodities" at the least, but that doesn't do much for "Europe", does it? In your view what has Germany gained from NATO post 1992?

    In all, continuance of NATO is a losing proposition for Europe, as a recent comment of yours makes clear . . .

    "So this sick obsession with Iran leads the U.S. to promote a new alliance in the vicinity of Europe which could turn into a threat to Europe in the long run? Are they trying to prove ultimate recklessness and disregard for allies' national security or what?

    I hope European politicians and intelligence agencies haven't totally lost sight of the long term and are going to sabotage this."

    Best way to sabotage it imo would be start making a lot of noise about abolishing NATO . . .

  3. To be honest I'm not really crazy about NATO - at least US membership in NATO. I guess one could make an argument about the Balkans during the 1990s but that's probably thin gruel. I don't think the US can afford to continue to subsidize European security.

  4. Funny you should mention, Andy, but this thread had me wondering about what an US-free NATO would be like. Not a break up of NATO, but rather the US having to relate to the other NATO states as an independent defense organization - a sort of additional separate player on the world stage. One where the current pact would no longer provide "cover", so to speak, for our actions, since any and all actions we took outside of Europe would be solely of our own volition.

    Would, indeed, be a rather different world.


    "....we have undertaken extended operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to bring stability to those countries.........."

    Wow, talk about a outright lie! Had they at least said "return" rather than "bring" or "regions" versus "countries" there might have been an element of honesty here.

    1. NATO > > > > FIGLF

      Obviously, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't France the largest component of NATO outside of the US?

      So if the "fig leaf" doesn't conceal the naked underbelly well enough for the belly's liking, it finds itself denigrated among the Armchair Chiefs of Staff of our "chattering class"? "Freedom Fries", "Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys".


  5. Andy: What was it that old saying about the purpose of NATO - to "keep the U.S. in, the Germans down, and the Soviets out"?

    As Al points out, the problem with taking the U.S. out is that it doesn't really do much to "free" the U.S. - NATO pretty much does 95% of what the U.S. wants it to do - as much as it frees NATO to choose positions that the U.S. might not like.

    And "subsidizing" EU security really IS in the U.S. interests assuming that what you want is a nice tame little EU whose strategic military heavy lifting is done by the U.S...

    So I dunno if that game's really worth the candle for the U.S.

    1. You've made a nice case for the US wanting to stay in NATO, Chief. How about the reverse? What is Europe gaining by having the US stay in NATO?

  6. Thanks for the comments gentlemen. Nice discussion, and I haven't even got to the intended audience yet . . .

    And yes, I think it's time for Al's "different world". NATO has outlived it's purpose and it's time for Europe to go its own way. This would be nothing but a benefit for the USA, but might be the beginning of the end of the US "Empire", which imo we are better off without . . .

  7. Very good post, seydlitz, and if I may say so, you'd be a fine English teacher marking up an essay.

    I would add this to your criticism:

    . . . directly striking the most dangerous groups and individuals when necessary.

    . . . to include US citizens, presumably under some Constitutional protection and due process of law, where evidence may be investigated and openly discussed?

    Dream on, bb.

    As I read through your post, several terms and phrases kept popping up in my imagination, one of which should definitely be taken out of the storage closet of our vocabulary, dusted off and used again, "Potemkin Village".

    I was waiting for "hegemony" and there it was. One of the pieces of literature I had my classes work with was from a Roman translator of fables, Phaedrus, "The Wolf and the Lamb".

    Obama was in Chicago today meeting with state AGs or their staff, to set the penalty against banking and financial institutions for their alleged fraud in the mortgage industry. 20 - 25 billion for lossed up to or near a trillion.

    How can their be domestic security in the US when there is such flagrant abuse of financial and domestic usage and law and lack of justice?

    Luckily, there is a number of state AGs who oppose this settlement.

    But if there ever was a fine example of a "Potemkin Village", here is one of the best.

    Little has changed since the time of Augustus. Pax Americana.


    1. "can there", not "can their". grrr.


    2. In terms of strategy, I'd give it an F. In terms of propaganda, a C-, since it doesn't really come across as even believable . . . but consider the intended audience . . .

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. I watched the first part of Andy's youtube of Dr. Bacevich's recent presentation in Chief's last post and found this one

    The part right after the 10-minute mark caught my ear.


  10. One of the brighter sides of World Domination, but yes, at what a price.

    Letting the larger world get a peek into a saner, humaner ( yes I'm biased ) culture.


  11. As to the last question I wish to answer on this post, the intended audience, consider the quote I've added . . . more to come. Btw, turned 55 today.


      From the FB page of the Old Farmer's Almanac, which I recommend you hook onto.

      "Calendar for January 25th, 2012

      Burns Night

      The birthday of Scotland's most famous poet, Robert Burns (1759-1796), has become an occasion for Scots all over the world to gather together in his honor. A Burns Night supper usually includes haggis, a traditional dish of the heart, lungs, and liver of a sheep or calf minced with suet, onions, oatmeal, and seasonings. Burns's words "Hail Great Chieftan o' the Puddin-race!" greets the dish's entry into the room. Men wear kilts and women their tartan sashes, and the evening's celebration includes reading Burns's poems and singing his songs, ending with one of his most famous, "Auld Lang Syne."


    2. My Scottish colleagues had their Burns Night celebration early, last Sunday, since most don't work on Monday . . . Haggis (which I actually like) and the reading of the poems, all washed down with copious amounts of Scotch whisky.

  12. Damn, Seydlitz, when I was 55 I didn't know anything.

  13. Thanks gentlemen.

    Intended audience has been added as have some concluding remarks.

  14. seydlitz-

    As others have mentioned we experienced this same sort of drawdown in the 1990s after the "Defense Panning Guidance" of 1992 had been put into effect.

    We have pretty much always had a post conflict "drawdown". Obviously, following the two World Wars, the military was far larger than needed for the subsequent no armed conflict period. Similarly, active military end strength ramped up for Korea (+1.5 million) and Viet Nam (+1.0 million) and then dropped back or below pre-conflict levels quickly when the conflicts were over. Following the end of the "Cold War", there was the "Peace Dividend" drawdown of some 0.7 million from the historically robust end strengths maintained to counter the Soviets.

    A significant difference today is that there was not a serious increase in active duty end strength to fight the GWOT/PWOT. While the Reserve Components became an Operational Reserve, they did not raise the total active strength as dramatically as did conscription and higher active end strengths during Korea and VN. Thus, and post Iraq/Afghan drawdown is going to result in a new and different Defense Dept beast.

    Why do I say a "different beast"? First of all, many of the CS/CSS functions once performed by GIs have been shifted to civilian contractors. These units and tasks were part of the personnel demand in the Korea and VN ramp ups. Now the personnel to perform these support "core competencies" are outside the DOD, and DOD will have no control over the maintenance of a mobilization capable support structure. In short, all that is left to draw down is maneuver and fighting capability. Where the post VN approach was to shift active component CS/CSS into the Reserve, contractors are a totally different animal. Are contractors going to provide the same ramp up mobilization potential as uniformed active and/or reserve forces?

    So now the Force Planner. Force Structure folks are preparing for the eventual drawdown, and all there is to draw down is basic fighting structure. No support tail to trim or put in Reserve. Is it any wonder they are behaving as they are? Not saying we need a robust military, but the next level of cuts do pose some difficult dilemmas.

    1. Agree, I think you also bring up a good point in regards to CS/CSS then and now . . .

  15. Meanwhile, the military elite that could puncture those fantasies and help restore a modicum of realism to US policy fixates on campaigns and battles, with generalship largely a business of organizing and coordinating material . . .

    That brings up a few questions. What does "puncturing fantasies" mean in actual terms? In other words, exactly what should the uniformed leadership be doing that it isn't currently doing? Second, to what degree is the uniformed leadership responsible for puncturing the perceived fantasies of the duly elected representatives of the American people? At what point should that uniformed leadership shut-up, salute smartly and carry out their assigned tasks whether coherent or not?

    I'm not exactly sure what Bacevich is getting at here, but it sounds like he's wishing for a more skeptical and activist military leadership to push back against the preferred policies of their political masters. I think we could probably use some more Generals with a spine, but we should realize that there are limits to what the military can do since it is subordinate to the People's elected representatives. At some point the military must carry out the mission it's given, however flawed it may be.

  16. Andy-

    I think "limits" is what Bacevich is talking about. There are only some policies which lend themselves to achievement by military means. Some times the policy goals are simply not achievable by the military instrument (say as in rebuilding Iraq as a liberal democracy in our own image), or the achievement of those goals would cost such a price as to make the effort too costly (destroying the Taliban as a major political player in Afghanistan). This is where the military should advise the political leadership prior to initiating conflict, in effect saying, "Mr. President, with all due respect, it is my professional opinion, that preemptive war makes no strategic sense in this case." Instead Bacevich implies that the model of General Tommy Franks, disparaging the political leadership, while "playing war fighter" is the norm today. In strategic theory terms, and Bacevich is clearly a Clausewitzian, there is no direct connection between policy goal and military aim, it is simply assumed that when the smoke clears everything will simply fall into place as we seemingly wish . . .

  17. Seydlitz,

    I agree, but think that in the case of Iraq and Afghanistan there was policy creep. For Iraq, we know the strategy did not foresee/assume that we would be doing "armed nation building" to transform Iraq into a liberal democracy - quite the opposite, the plans were to draw down and depart Iraq quickly because State and others were going to handle the transition. In other words an inherent part of the strategy was the assumption that the Iraqi invasion would result in an orderly transition to a new regime. Now maybe the military leadership should have realized that the original strategy was doomed to failure and that the military would be left holding the bag. Afghanistan was similar in that the assumptions going in were wrong and/or changed over time. There wasn't the intention to be there in ten years with 100k troops.

    So I get your points but I think the failure in strategy went way beyond the military element and therefore I'm not sure we can or should expect that military advisers will be able to correct such deficiencies. Also, if we continue to elect people who are bound and determined to take specific actions (as opposed to utilizing strategy), then I think it's unrealistic to expect the military to save us from ourselves. Not that I don't agree that Franks and officers like him are not the kinds of General Officers we want or deserve, or that they don't deserve opprobrium.

    I do hope, though, that our future military leadership is more cognizant of the fact that they will be left holding the bag if things don't turn out as expected and will, as a result, push harder to ensure any strategy with a military element is sound.

  18. Andy-

    I think the larger problem is political, since essentially both political parties - our entire political elite - support dominance which is unsustainable in the long-term. Ron Paul is the only candidate addressing this, which is one of the most important issues. I don't expect this to change, nor even be seriously debated. It's just another example of the incoherence of our political system.

    I've posted this in the past, but think it relevant to this discussion now. Rumsfeld issued these war aims for Operation Iraqi Freedom at a press conference on 21 March 2003:

    --Coalition military operations are focused on achieving several specific objectives:

    to end the regime of Saddam Hussein by striking with force on a scope and scale that makes clear to Iraqis that he and his regime are finished.

    Next, to identify, isolate and eventually eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, their delivery systems, production capabilities, and distribution networks.

    Third, to search for, capture, drive out terrorists who have found safe harbor in Iraq.

    Fourth, to collect such intelligence as we can find related to terrorist networks in Iraq and beyond.

    Fifth, to collect such intelligence as we can find related to the global network of illicit weapons of mass destruction activity.

    Sixth, to end sanctions and to immediately deliver humanitarian relief, food and medicine to the displaced and to the many needy Iraqi citizens.

    Seventh, to secure Iraq's oil fields and resources, which belong to the Iraqi people, and which they will need to develop their country after decades of neglect by the Iraqi regime.

    And last, to help the Iraqi people create the conditions for a rapid transition to a representative self-government that is not a threat to its neighbors and is committed to ensuring the territorial integrity of that country.--

    War aims as domestic propaganda. Notice the last point, essentially Phase IV, was part of their initial war aims as tasked by Rumsfeld. But then the military didn't take Phase IV very seriously since they took their cue from the administration. They simply assumed that everything would "fall into place" due to American exceptionalism, massive hubris and/or incompetence. Once again, imo, what was missing then and what is still missing is the link between military aim and political purpose. If it is not the military command's job to establish exactly how the military instrument is to be utilized to achieve that purpose, then who's is it?

  19. Seydlitz,

    If it is not the military command's job to establish exactly how the military instrument is to be utilized to achieve that purpose, then who's is it?

    The military can advise but at the end of the day they are subordinate to elected officials. That's not to say they shouldn't have done more with respect to Iraq and Afghanistan (remember my argument here)

    Getting back to Bacevich:

    Reasserting a professional monopoly over the conduct of warfare requires drawing the brightest possible line between politics and war, thereby preventing civilian and military considerations from becoming entangled.

    My main point here is to suggest that this is possible only in the most ideal circumstances and that, for the US at least, it's not possible to prevent entanglement between military and civilian considerations.

    The political elite that ought to bear the chief responsibility for crafting grand strategy instead nurses fantasies of either achieving permanent global hegemony or remaking the world in America's image. Meanwhile, the military elite that could puncture those fantasies and help restore a modicum of realism to US policy fixates on campaigns and battles, with generalship largely a business of organizing and coordinating material . . .

    I agree that the military elite should try to "puncture fantasies" by advising the political elite, but my point is that there is a limit to what the military can do as long as it is subordinate to the political elite. The question in my mind is how far can the military go in opposing the political elite when it wants to do something stupid. So I don't see that the military can ever be the solution when the political elite doesn't do what it "ought" to do - namely craft grand strategy.

    Finally, you say that Bacevich is a Clausewitzian, but "drawing the brightest possible line between politics and war" doesn't seem like a very Clausewitzian thing to say, at least based on my admittedly limited knowledge and understand of his work.

  20. Andy-

    The military is subordinate, I wouldn't argue for anything else, but that also makes them responsible to the political leadership to provide the connection between the military aim and the political purpose. In reality this would become a problem with a defensive war, not one that we initiate . . . when exactly was the last time the US fought a defensive war? The time before that?

    I think you misunderstood the meaning behind Bacevich's quote which is probably my fault for not providing more context. "Drawing the brightest possible line between politics and war" is what Bacevich accuses the US military elite of attempting, not what he thinks should be done. Since any war in question is the product of the political relations (both internal and external) existing at a particular point in time, it is impossible to separate politics from war.

    Bacevich argues, as do I on this thread, that US policy today is maintaining "full spectrum dominance" or in my case simply "dominance". The current political elite is not operating with a coherent view, let alone a grand strategy. The military elite which has become essentially a political constituency - which is why this document was addressed mainly to them - to be placated with $$$ and power in order for them to manage the various current or potential wars.

    I recommend "The Limits of Power" which gets more into the strategic theory side than "Washington Rules".