Three Wars, No Victory – Why?
[National Review] America is the most powerful country in the history of the world, yet it has not won any of the three major wars it has fought over the past half century. This has not been due to a lack of effort and persistence. Our troops fought in Vietnam for nine years and in Iraq for a dozen. We’re still fighting after 20 years in Afghanistan, where our generals are asking the Taliban to stop attacking. That’s not a sign of success; the victor does not make such requests. The fact is that in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, America has failed in its mission to develop and sustain democracies.
What accounts for this trifecta of failure? Through luck and poor shooting by our enemies, in all three wars I was able to witness both the actual fighting on the ground and the creation of the high-level policies that shaped the wars. In this article, I lay out what I believe were the root causes of the failures. Oscar Wilde once remarked, "Two kinds of people are fascinating: people who know absolutely everything, and people who know absolutely nothing." I’m rendering one man’s opinion, while hoping to fall into neither category.
Broadly speaking, leadership in war comes from three hubs. The first consists of the military commanders who design strategy and decide how our troops will fight. The second hub is the policy-makers, including the president as commander in chief and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs as his military adviser, plus the theater commander, the CIA, the State Department, and the secretary of defense, who all give input. The third hub is the culture and popular mood of our country, as reflected by congressional votes and the slant of the mainstream press. The press does not report "just the facts"; rather, it presents a point of view by selecting which facts to focus upon. The popular mood is the ultimate fulcrum of political power, because the policy hub can’t fight a war without resources from Congress.
I divided the wars into major phases, and for each phase I assigned a percentage of responsibility for failure to each of those three hubs, as shown below. A rating of 0 percent indicates that I do not believe that particular hub contributed to the failure in that phase of the war. A rating of + means that hub contributed to success, not failure. Note that while the locus for failed decision-making shifted from war to war, overall the heaviest responsibility lay with the policy hub in Washington, including the commander in chief.
Posted by: Besoeker 2021-02-26