MG Paul Vallely has some excellent questions for our civilian and miitary leadership today. He also has some excellent answers -- all of which involve abandoning once and for the self-destructive, self-defeating, not to mention masochistic, strategies of "counter-insurgency" (COIN) doctrine and nation-building.
As Gen. Vallely points out: "The COIN principle is not based on winning; it is based on political whims and is not a true tenet of warfare. Warfare is, and always should be, about WINNING."
Winning this specific war against forces impelled by Islamic ideology calls for unconventional measures, Gen. Vallely writes, not the conventional actions followed by lengthy occupations such as we have seen and are seeing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Such an unconventional war doctrine, as he writes below, "heavily leverages the core capability to break enemy states, target and destroy the enemy’s capability to bring harm to America" -- what Gen. Vallely has long advocated as the "unheralded" Global Lily Pad strategy.
Why do the United States and its military/political leaders and strategists still languish in failed strategies from World War II to the present?
Fact: Jihadists with small arms and IEDS in faraway places cannot harm the United States so there is no reason to order massive armies that require large and extensive bases and massive logistical support to fight them on their home turf. But that is the essence of failed “counterinsurgency” (COIN) strategies that have bewitched US military political leaders.
Yes, we have made great and innovative technological advances in weapons systems in the air, sea, and ground, in communications, in advanced intelligence systems and command and control systems.
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.
Unfortunately, American leaders are increasingly trying to transform this force into one optimized for counterinsurgency missions (when, in fact, we are not, in my opinion, fighting insurgencies but rather, Islamic Jihadis and a fomenting global Caliphate) and conventional war followed on by long-term military occupations. Track back if you will to Korea, Vietnam, and now Iraq, and Afghanistan.
It is true that not all political goals are achievable through the use of military power. However, “victory” in war appears lost in the world of political correctness and appeasement. The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan – often seen as proving the necessity for COIN-capable forces as well as a commitment to nation-building -- demonstrate in reality that the vast majority of goals can be accomplished through quick, decisive joint military operations. 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 cannot seem to be able to discern 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. This is a point that the White House and the Pentagon fear to call this war against a pronounced ideology. It is not a war on terror as we first analyzed; it is a war against people subscribing to Jihad and a derived ideology from the Koran that has evil global intentions as much as the Nazis and Third Reich.
Why can we not understand that our military is for national security, defending our country and defeating our enemies before they bring havoc and harm to our citizens? Why can we not understand how important our resources are in terms of our trained Armed Forces and assets of our country and not to drain them across the globe in futile nation building operations but to leverage the military to counter threats to our country? And, as well, to realize and understand in a profound way that you cannot Nation Build in an area of conflict until the enemy is defeated.
The COIN principle is not based on winning; it is based on political whims and is not a true tenet of warfare. Warfare is, and always should be, about WINNING. Once the war is won, then, like Japan after WWII, real and substantive changes can be enforced. We were able to change Germany and Japan from tyrannical forms of government into thriving democracies with real constitutions and a real change in thinking of the indigenous peoples.
A fundamental challenge in devising a strategy for the use of future American military power is that the world has literally never seen anything like our capability. The U.S. today has military capabilities at least equal to the rest of the world combined. 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? Why do we want to kowtow to the same intellectual vacuity that caused the greatest conflicts on earth?
As a consequence, the U.S. must adopt a national military strategy that heavily leverages the core capability to break enemy states, target and destroy the enemy’s capability to bring harm to America. Such a strategy could defeat and disrupt most potential threats the U.S. faces. I will discuss in detail, in later follow-up articles, where the strategy of joint strike operations and the unheralded “Global Lily Pad” strategy prove to be the best method for success.
While America’s adversaries today may prefer to engage the U.S. using proxies and develop radical Islamist organizations and jihadists, there is no rationale in declaring to the people of the United States that we are in a long war and accept that as a reason to not achieve a quick and decisive victory. It appears we fight more in agreement with the so called United Nations, allies, and the likes of China and Russia than to stand up for own sovereignty. It is time to relegate these so-called allies to the sidelines. Let them wail and whimper as we achieve the success that is necessary; wiping out and neutralizing radical Islamism and nation states that support it.
Because our capability is so novel, American strategists lack a clear framework to guide the utilization of this force. They have sought to match capabilities to conceptions of the use of force from a different era, one in which the Cold War made regime change unpalatable due to the risk of escalation and that tended to make localized setbacks appear as loses in a perceived zero-sum competition with the Soviets. Like Reagan, it is time to call their bluff. They know we hold the big cards, so why are we so timid? This only fosters eastern thought that placation is a sign of weakness. A weakness they will turn into an asset and a political card to play to the uneducated masses they control.
Phrasing it another way, insurgents with small arms and homemade explosives (IEDS) in faraway places cannot harm the U.S. and there is no reason to fight them directly. Based on superb intelligence, we can launch required strike operations from any number of secure global sites and bases. True, these radical Islamic forces pose a major terror threat abroad and at home but we can defeat those efforts as well. The American experience in Iraq and Afghanistan – where insurgents have been able to build and deploy more than 80,000 IEDs while under occupation – calls into question the ability of occupying forces to root out terror networks without hitting the sources and sanctuaries that supply them like Iran.
Many describe our efforts as helping to recruit more fighters and more ideologues. This is no way to stop all the threat to our homeland. The only true way to stop that threat is to give them what they respect; pure force of arms and will. Otherwise, they sit in their sanctuaries and count up the moral victories they have achieved, and embolden future efforts. However, significant threats to the U.S., ranging from the military capacity of regional powers to weapons of mass destruction development programs to significant terrorist infrastructures, can be targeted and destroyed by conventional and unconventional military capabilities.
Again, we must stop thinking like westerners, and understand the way our enemy thinks. A lily pad is much more preferable because it gives them no moral high ground to propagandize, but at the same time instills sheer terror in their hearts as they guess at what is coming next. Force of will and resolve is required by our leaders that our enemies indeed respect and understand. Only when we understand that one objective of Global Jihad is imposition – by force or by stealth – of Shari’a (Islamic law) and the other is the re-establishment of the Caliphate/Imamate), can we even begin to formulate the enemy threat doctrine and strategic concept to DEFEAT THE ENEMY and WIN the GWOJ (Global War on Jihad).
MG Paul E. Vallely, US Army Retired, is the Chairman of Stand Up America and co-author of “Endgame “ and “Operation Sucker Punch”