Friday, May 18, 2007

Winning the Last War

It's not a new observation: military men fight each new conflict using the tactics and principles that they learned fighting the most recent few. It often takes a while before the new situation presented in the latest conflict becomes clear, and even longer before they get permission to abandon losting tactics, and eventually hit upon a strategy that will be successful. This process takes even longer for the folks back home.

The approach of military men is dictated by years of convincing superiors that the old tactics from Generation A no longer work, and training themselves to believe that a certain method will be needed in Gen B of warfighting. But wars are never the same, and the previous war fought with Gen A tactics, and the subsequent peace, teaches the enemy how to overcome Gen A tactics as well as those in use in prior conflicts. The enemy believes that his own cause is best served through fighting, and that some new set of tactics (and the ones our side never successfully countered during the Gen A war) will be more successful.

But the Last War Syndrome also affects civilian decision-makers, and civilians generally, perhaps even more than the soldier. The military man has as one of his top aim continuing to breathe, along with the compatible goal of defeating the enemies of his country. To those ends he is highly devoted, and highly motivated toward success. The particular method he chooses and policy he follows to stay alive while faithfully serviing his country are of secondary importance.

The civilian, on the other hand, is at least one step removed from personal danger, allowing elegant theories about root causes to trump the evidence of the senses. In particular, those with neither career nor skin on the line can demand that tactics and strategy conform to a theory of human action with no connection to reality. Those whose decisions actually affect the conduct of the war have motivation more like the military man's: being wrong can be deadly, and will certainly have a negative career impact.

So lest I be accused of reverse-chickenhawking, let me be clear: in the fight against Jihad, we all have skin to lose, this is nothing like Desert Storm or Viet Nam nor any other conflict, and it's a good thing that the civilians in charge are listening to the people with the most to lose should their collective plans go awry.

But to the civilians in Califongress, reared in communes and inculcated with the prism of Viet Nam, multiculturalism, and giving peace a chance, only the last war matters.

Sphere: Related Content

Blog stats

Add to Technorati Favorites