This book reveals very little about national strategy or defense policy, or even about the effectiveness of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but it is a worthwhile read for those interested in the ground-level experience of war and Americans who want to know more about the actions committed overseas in their name.
Emotions are abundantly present in contemporary warfare, and various non-state actors, in particular, use acts of terror to invoke fear in target audiences. The same emotion is also central to the successes or failures of deterrence. Various intra-state conflicts in Central Africa are waged for the most emotional of causes, usually a mixture of greed and grievances. It seems the role of moral factors has actually expanded in modern warfare due to the influence of real-time mass media on public opinion. Despite their abundance, emotions are largely ignored by students of strategic studies.
A new science of human behavior has emerged over the past two decades. This new science has linked together the research of neuroscientists, cognitive and evolutionary anthropologists, decision theorists, social and cross cultural psychologists, cognitive scientists, ethnologists, linguists, endocrinologists, and behavioral economists into a cohesive body of research on why humans do what they do. Research in this field rests on two propositions about the human mind. The first, that the mind is embodied; the second, that it is evolved.
Sentilles’s staccato collection presents as a meditation on the pulsing heritage that underscores life and death. In her Preface, she acknowledges, “I began writing these pages after seeing two photographs.” One was an innocuous photograph of a man, Howard Scott, holding a violin, while the other was of an unidentified detainee from Abu Ghraib. With this juxtaposition, Sentilles sets about to unravel their complicated legacies and reveal their common thread: war.
Overall, Ways of War provides a solid history of the military and warfare in the United States from the colonial era to the present. It is not without its shortcomings, though considering its objectives as a textbook for survey classes, needing to provide enough information for students to become knowledgeable in the field while also not losing them in the details and keeping the amount of material manageable for the time constraints of a course, it accomplishes a lot
We must rethink our reading of Clausewitz's work as a search for and a description of eternal principles for an objective understanding of war. The nature of war is one thing, but war as instantiated in actual conflict and combat is another thing altogether; yet, both must somehow be held together in order to understand war. It is in this paradox that Cormier thinks we must locate, evaluate, and apply Clausewitz's ideas.
Intelligence at all levels is an art form. Sources, corroborating or contradicting information, unknowns, and delays in time all result in varied levels of analytical confidence. Information coming from different means, methods, and areas requires a functioning structure to ensure senior national leaders have the best information to make the decisions. While strategic intelligence drives operations and national goals, military decision-makers—especially in combat zones—rely on tactical intelligence to help win battles. For the Department of the Navy, “tactical intelligence support is the primary focus of naval intelligence.” Marine Corps intelligence also focuses almost exclusively on the tactical level to support Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) maneuvers since tactical intelligence is, “the level of intelligence Marines need, generate, and use most often.” When strategic missteps occur, tactical intelligence can provide a needed capability to keep front-line forces winning, creating breathing room for new strategic plans. A functioning intelligence structure encompassing all levels of intelligence is needed to enact this goal.
Between 1963 and 1975 the Sultanate of Oman was the scene of one of the most remarkable, and forgotten conflicts of the Cold War. The British-led Sultan’s Armed Forces (SAF) would battle and defeat a formidable Marxist guerrilla movement based in the southern province of Dhofar. The Dhofar War remains one of the few examples of a successful Western-led counterinsurgency in a postwar Middle Eastern country.
Even a casual viewer of the recent Burns and Novack film, The Vietnam War, comes away an understanding of the central theme of moral injury and the difficulty of the moral impacts of war on the individuals who fought and the society that sent them. While Jonathan Shay coined the term ‘moral injury’ in his seminal 1994 book Achilles in Vietnam, this issue has more recently become a prominent part of the public discourse. Concerns about PTSD, moral injury, and the return of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan from the ‘Forever War,’ as well as an increasing awareness of the so-called military/civilian culture gap. Tim O’Brien’s reading from The Things They Carried at the end of the film is especially evocative because of the public moment we find ourselves inhabiting.
In the November/December 2017 issue of Foreign Affairs, Kosh Sadat and Stanley McChrystal defended the ongoing state-building and counterinsurgency project in Afghanistan as both right and necessary. In doing so, however, they revived the fallacies that have long obscured problematic aspects of the US-led campaign in that country. Proponents of the open-ended commitments to Afghanistan have long misrepresented the governance and security issues in Afghanistan as merely technical, albeit complicated, and overstated the ability of American means to remedy such issues. Like others before them, Sadat and McChrystal have addressed neither the complex prerequisites to state building nor the consequences of ongoing American political ambivalence towards the war. Either one of these factors alone could derail US aims. The fact that both are present should give policymakers pause.
Over the past 100 years economics has been transformed from a prime motivator for war, through the imperialist ideals of national prestige and territorial expansion, to a tool best used as a means to try and avoid war. Additionally through the establishment of the rules based global order that emerged after the Second World War the economic motivation for war has not only been diminished but has effectively been rendered illegal and immoral. While economic considerations may be enshrined in the architecture of the current global order and serve to provide a means for modern nations to collectively pursue peace through mutual prosperity (as demonstrated by the EU), economic considerations do nothing to deter an irrational actor motivated by non-material means.
Conventional Warfare is officially dead. This has become an obvious trend with innumerable adversaries engaging the American military and her allies in unconventional ways and means. The long-held notion of the ‘decisive battle’ that brings the combat power of two nations against each other for a winner-take-all slugfest lies in the next grave. Even ‘wars of attrition’, in the model of the American Civil War, First and Second World Wars, and Korea are gone. If America hopes to remain strategically significant, its political and military leadership must adapt to the new reality that no adversary wants to fight the United States (U.S.) in a symmetrically conventional fashion.
To read Clausewitz on war is akin to reading John Muir on forests: each understood the particulars of his subject uncommonly well, but gained immortality for his insight into the nature and function of the whole. Scales on War, by contrast, is like a field guide to trees: full of interesting detail on the parts but with little to say about the entire ecosystem.
Democracy will always benefit from the requirement to persuade the public––to gain consensus on, and legitimacy for, the use of force in order to defend or pursue national interests. If this opportunity is ceded for fear of being unconvincing, or in fear of explaining the ugliness it will entail, then a society will find itself bereft of clarity in the political objective and therefore unable to craft strategy appropriate the task at hand. Furthermore, the failure to have these discussions leaves the populace underprepared for the brutality and sacrifice that war may require.
In this––our final installment––we appeal to each element of the Clausewitzian Trinity to do its part. To remain silent as practitioners of policy and war, we believe, would perpetuate the betrayal of those troops and civilians––American and foreign––who have made the ultimate sacrifice for reasons this country still struggles to articulate.
Violence remains an uncomfortable if necessary part of the profession of arms. As the United States has shifted to more limited ways of conducting war, so too have our views on the appropriate application of force. Seminal works like On Combat and On Killing by David Grossman began the discussion of how soldiers are trained for war and killing, and offer an organizational perspective on how individuals can be trained for violence. These books operate on the questionably documented assertion that humans are inherently reluctant to engage in violence.
Man, since creation, has had to kill and pillage in his quest for security and survival. Our complex characteristics such as greed, ambition, and lust have led us through generations to bear the teeth and spear against our kind in order to keep land, power, and wealth. War and the art of it has therefore been a handy tool for man to either destroy or rebuild.