Monday, April 30, 2012

War is hell! Learn from it!

Vietnam - That stare...

By John Sykes

As we wind down in Afghanistan and hold our breaths in Iran, as our un-declared War On Terror sputters and increasingly threatens our constitutional rights, the following article gives us some concrete guidance on what we should have learned in Viet Nam.

From, Lessons Not Learned From Vietnam:

… What was missed in post-Vietnam assessments that might have informed a strategically efficacious approach to the War on Terror? …

  • First, understand the historical context.
  • Second, there are dangers in incrementalism.
  • Third, there are limits to what military power can achieve.
  • Fourth, know your enemy.
  • Fifth, Americans are not patient.
  • Sixth, beware of open-ended commitments to regimes of dubious legitimacy…

History’s not so tidy that mistakes in the War on Terror are entirely analogous to those in Vietnam. The current war proceeded with an all-volunteer force, not a conscript-driven force. From October 2001 to the present, American military leadership, at every level, has been outstanding. The Bush administration’s big mistake was not clearly identifying the enemy. The Obama administration’s blunder was to set a deadline for withdrawal.

To these learned points I add only one: Only go to war to “win” with win defined as “defeating the will of the enemy” first. Unfortunately, this is very messy, often savage, sorrowful, and will kill our loved ones.

Never, never forget that “War is hell!” Learn from it!