I decided to write today’s blog after a former squadron mate sent me an article about how Hollywood has seduced much of the American public into viewing modern warfare as antiseptic and resembling a video game, when nothing could be further from the truth.
So, let’s begin with the basics, the U.S. military has two primary purposes:
- First – to deter our enemies from engaging us in warfare, and
- Secondly – if that fails, to defeat them in combat.
But deterrence is possible only if the opposing force believes it will be defeated. Respect for military prowess is fine, but if a nation wants deterrence, fear and certainty are required in the minds of its enemies. As George Washington said in his fifth annual address to Congress, “If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure peace… it must be known that we are at all times ready for War.”
With the above as context, the U.S. military cannot be true to its purpose and a mirror image of society at the same time. Values that are admirable in civilian society such as sensitivity, individuality and compassion are desirable, but they are antithetical to deterring potential enemies and winning wars because these qualities simply are not conducive unit cohesion; besides, individuality on the battlefield is corrosive.
As we’re seeing in Ukraine, no matter how sophisticated the weaponry, war always boils down to ground combat – and ground combat can only be waged when a soldier’s actions are instinctive, highly disciplined, and sacrificial when required. Consensus building and deference have their place in polite society, but there is nothing genteel about ground combat; quite the opposite in fact it’s usually intense and sometimes barbaric. I flew helicopters in Vietnam, so I haven’t experienced the grit and horror of fighting in the jungles and rice paddies, but after supporting Marines in combat for a year, the expression, “We sleep soundly in our beds is because rough men stand ready in the night to do violence on those who would harm us,” took on a whole new meaning for me.
Former Secretary of Defense, General James Mattis’ standard for military capability was lethality; Mattis believed the surest way to prevent war was to be prepared to win one. Unfortunately, beginning with the Obama administration, far too many generals have eschewed that counsel and instead have focused on diversity, gender, and climate. Yet one would think that they more than anyone would understand the reality that combat is the harshest of meritocracies and nothing but ruthless adherence to the principle of lethality will bring deterrence and combat effectiveness.
Mattis didn’t believe our military should designed to win, he believed our military should be designed to overwhelm. In sports we can win by a single point, run, or goal; but in war, narrow victories incur what is called a “butcher’s bill.” As Von Clausewitz admonished, “…to introduce into the philosophy of war a principle of moderation would be an absurdity.” The reality is wars must be waged with stone-cold pragmatism, not idealism. A corollary to that statement is that wars should be fought only when critical national interests are at stake and hopes of changing cultures to fit our model are both elitist and naïve; look no further than Iraq or Afghanistan for examples.
Which interestingly brings us to the tenets of Critical Race Theory and the question of why our senior military leaders feel the necessity to study, much less embrace it. CRT as it is called is a cross-disciplinary intellectual and social movement, that examines the intersection of race and law in the United Sates and purposely divides people along racial lines, with the operative phrase being “…purposely divides people along racial lines” –could anything be more detrimental to military unity and unit cohesion?
~ Unit Cohesion is Critical ~
There’s an old parable about how four brave men who didn’t know each other wouldn’t dare attack a lion. However, four less brave men who know each other well and are confident of each other’s reliability and receiving mutual aid, won’t hesitate to engage a lion if need be.
But beginning a little more than a decade ago the U.S. military has seen an ominous shift in priorities away from combat effectiveness. So, let’s get real here, it cannot bode well when climate change rather than war-fighting ability is considered the greatest issue facing the Department of Defense.
I was on active duty in the Marine Corps slightly more than four years so, I am no military expert. But even my untrained eye sees how dangerous these shifting priorities are to the military. So, with a land war in Europe for the first time in decades, now might be a good time to re-evaluate how our military leaders choose to approach deterrence and warfighting.
Quote of the day: “Never fly in the same cockpit with someone braver than you.” – Old military aviation expression