Losing The Soul Is The Reason For Losing Wars

BY Herschel Smith
1 month, 1 week ago

Small Wars Journal (“Why The U.S. Military Culture Leads To Defeat”).

“Sir – it’s the TEA”   

The Target Engagement Authority was a US one star who sat in the joint operations center in Erbil, with the task of approving and controlling all Coalition fires in Northern Iraq.  I took the headset, preparing myself for the argument that I knew was coming.

“Andy, are you firing mortars”,

“Yes sir”,

 “What the hell is going on?”

 “Sir, the Pesh are getting mortared in the breach.  I’ve got an OP less than 500 meters away.”

“Are US personnel taking fire?”

“Not yet, sir”

“Then you’re not authorized to make that decision” 

“Sir – it’s a matter of one correction before our guys get hit too — I’m not going to wait for that to happen”, 

“That’s not up to you Colonel, that’s my decision — cease fire now!”

[ … ]

My introduction seems a lot to surmise from an isolated case of poor leadership, a single data point carrying by itself insufficient weight to yield such generalizations about the US military. Except, that this exchange was one of many similar incidents over my career, and the TEA, a General Officer with impressive background and unsullied reputation, was not someone I could simply dismiss as being a poor leader.  Instead, he was the product of an institution imbued with a cultural preference for centralized control and procedure.  It’s a culture that has evolved – as cultures often do – because of a view of the world, that appears rational to members of the organization. But that view no longer matches reality – if indeed it ever did – and the culture it has produced is proving harmful to the institution, its members – and the nation itself.

His experience doesn’t differ in the least from the awful ROE I’ve document in Iraq and especially Afghanistan.  The micromanagement was astounding, and men perished because if it.  As I’ve documented about the U.S. Marine Corps work in the Helmand Province, Gen. David Rodriguez, that awful imposter of a man, demanded to be at the top of the chain of approval for every artillery shell launched in combat.  Every single one.

But the author is making excuses.  The culture is a reflection of the men who lead it.  Leaving aside the issue of whether we should have been in Iraq (we shouldn’t have) or how we conducted the campaign in Afghanistan (much differently), when men are engaged in warfare, it requires men with souls to win it.

Heartless men, men who have jettisoned their last remaining vestiges of morality, decency, belief system and love for their fellow warriors, have no business in politics or war, and yet it seems that’s all we’ve got


Comments

  1. On September 14, 2021 at 12:37 am, Georgiaboy61 said:

    @ Herschel Smith

    Re: “His experience doesn’t differ in the least from the awful ROE I’ve document in Iraq and especially Afghanistan. The micromanagement was astounding, and men perished because if it.”

    We’ve known, or should have known, since the 1990s and the Battle of the Black Sea (better known as the “Black Hawk Down” incident), which took place in the October, 1993… that “network-centric” warfare isn’t everything it is cracked up to be.

    “Black Hawk Down” by Mark Bowden is widely-respected as one of the finest histories of modern war ever written, and despite the errors which always crop up in such complex & difficult accounts, Bowden – who was not and never has been a soldier – was invited to speak widely in military circles, at West Point, and other places, about the battle and what it could teach us.

    In the book and the 2001 Ridley Scott film of the same name, it can be seen that the task force sent to raid a meeting of Mohammed Farah Addid’s top leaders, was badly-conceived from the start and once the mission got under way, poorly-led and micro-managed by the two senior officers orbiting overhead in helicopters and also General Garrison’s HQ, which was looped-in as well.

    General Garrison and his senior staff officers were well-liked and respected by the men they commanded, if the accounts are accurate. This post is not intended to rehash that battle or even to cast aspersions on any of the participants. Rather, it is intended to remind us that one of the strengths of the U.S. military has always been its adaptability in the field. Meaning that once the generals formulated their battle plans, they got out of the way of their men and let them do their jobs.

    It is a cardinal rule of command that once a senior leader has selected and put into place well-qualified and trustworthy subordinates, that he then gets out of their way and lets them do their jobs. That is especially true if he is a senior military officer back at base, and not on the line and in action with his men.

    Near-constant interference from command – both overhead and back at HQ – caused no end of problems for the Delta Force operators tasked with snatching Addid’s subordinates, and the Army Rangers and other personnel assisting them.

    The cautionary tale here applies double when you consider that Garrison and his top lieutenants (two colonels if memory serves) were legitimately trying to help their men in the field.

    Re: “As I’ve documented about the U.S. Marine Corps work in the Helmand Province, Gen. David Rodriguez, that awful imposter of a man, demanded to be at the top of the chain of approval for every artillery shell launched in combat. Every single one.”

    We’ll never again win a war unless micromanaging autocrats like this one are thrown out of the ranks of the general/flag officers who are assigned duties commanding men in battle. “Covering your ass” (CYA) doesn’t win wars, doesn’t win battles, and hands the initiative to the enemy. This imposter wearing a Marine general’s uniform apparently didn’t get the memo that good general/flag officers go to bat for their men, even if it costs them the rank on their shoulders.
    That’s the only reason he’s even there – to help those men get the job done and if possible make it back to base in one piece.

    During WWII, the Germans used what were termed “mission orders” and the passage of time has not rendered the technique less-effective. Simply speaking, it means that senior leaders/officers decide upon the overall objectives to be attained during an operation, but do not specify the precise methods or means to be used in fulfilling the requirements of the mission.

    Initiative and the ability to think on one’s feet as circumstances change is prized, whereas adherence to and emphasis upon process (as emphasized in 2nd generation military forces such as those of the French who faced them in 1940) are not, at least to the same degree. This is a characteristic of 3rd-generation or maneuver warfare, and it is one reason why the Germans ran up so many victories early in the war.

    Later in the war, the U.S. Army (and the Navy & Marines in the Pacific Theater as well) learned the hard way that process-oriented leaders unaccustomed to the rapidly-changing face of battle, weren’t going to get the job done. And the officers and men who won those battles, campaigns and wars were men who broke every rule in the book, if necessary, if it meant that they could win.

    Re: “Heartless men, men who have jettisoned their last remaining vestiges of morality, decency, belief system and love for their fellow warriors, have no business in politics or war, and yet it seems that’s all we’ve got”

    Yes, quite so. Above all, war is the acid test of character…. I believe Patton once made an observation to that effect. That if you want to know what a man is really made of, you’ll find out if you go into combat with him.

    One of the many severe structural flaws this country must correct within the ranks of its senior military and civilian leadership is the propensity to elevate the least-competent and least-virtuous men into positions of leadership and high responsibility. Ask any career military man who’s seen that particular sausage being made. It’s ugly beyond words.

  2. On September 14, 2021 at 8:28 am, JoeFour said:

    Seems like an appropriate moment to again recommend this essay:

    https://johntreed.com/blogs/john-t-reed-s-blog-about-military-matters/60879683-the-u-s-military-s-marathon-30-year-single-elimination-suck-up-tournament-or-how-america-selects-its-generals

  3. On September 14, 2021 at 9:08 am, Dov said:

    “Heartless men, men who have jettisoned their last remaining vestiges of morality, decency, belief system and love for their fellow warriors, have no business in politics or war,”

    It reminds me of why I quit in the 90”s just a few years short of retirement. There was bad corruption going on, and I fought it in my squadron as I had just been assigned a leadership position, but I lost and so resigned. The O-6 over me told me to just let it go, stay in and when I got to a position of power I could change things. There he was still compromising at his rank, and it went all the way up to Commander in Chief. I picked God and integrity over pension and perks. I quit and haven’t regretted it.

  4. On September 14, 2021 at 9:10 am, Bill Buppert said:

    “During WWII, the Germans used what were termed “mission orders” and the passage of time has not rendered the technique less-effective. Simply speaking, it means that senior leaders/officers decide upon the overall objectives to be attained during an operation, but do not specify the precise methods or means to be used in fulfilling the requirements of the mission.

    Initiative and the ability to think on one’s feet as circumstances change is prized, whereas adherence to and emphasis upon process (as emphasized in 2nd generation military forces such as those of the French who faced them in 1940) are not, at least to the same degree. This is a characteristic of 3rd-generation or maneuver warfare, and it is one reason why the Germans ran up so many victories early in the war.”

    Georgiaboy61 gives his usual eloquent rendering of the subject.

    Per the above, the Germans practiced Auftragstaktik which the US Army and by extension the joint forces adpted with ADP and ADRP 3.0 (Operations) but it is all lip service.

    The German forces in the War to Save Joseph Stalin were the best and most initiative based forces of any fielded (although the Finns gave the Germans a run for their money for tactical flexibility).

    The Prussian “culture of disobedience” lent itself to tactical and operational flexibility at the small unit level where all officers and NCOs knew the intent of the commander four levels up (unlike the three in American force) hence a platoon leader knew his regimental commander’s intent.

    It is why GEN Guderian could gather his generals in the spring of 1940 on the eastern border of France and simply inform his subordinates he expected to meet them on the other side of France without micromanagement of execution and constant communication that coordinated and not commanded.

    Even Russian performance from 1943-45 showed a surprising flexibility in operational art. The notion of German and Russian automatons was a deceit created by the west.

    The US and the west give lip service to Auftragstaktik but never allow it in practice with subordinate tactical commands. I would suggest that the US armed forces may be the most tactically stymied and unimaginative armed forces on Earth now.

    As Herschel has alluded to, why do I need my squad and infantry manual[s] (which I have on my desk at work even my ratty rawhide bound FM 7-8) of several hundred pages when I just need a 3×5 card that reads “Call for Fire”?

    Short read: https://thehuntsmanonline.medium.com/on-snowmobiles-and-seeing-what-others-dont-f3bcb962a283

    Note to JoeFour: Indeed. Preference for feces as a food group is the prime indicator for flag rank now.

  5. On September 14, 2021 at 10:12 am, Fred said:

    3×5 card with call to fire. That made me laugh.

    To expect righteousness from the unregenerate is the pinnacle religious ignorance.

    The problem is Christians. The culture of the rapture has lead to a criminal ( before the the throne of God) neglect for nation and civilization. Without arguing the doctrinal soundness of this theory it’s plain to see the results. They have surrendered to the devil what is commanded since Genesis to be conquered in His name, which is everything on this stinking planet. Their mindset is that they won’t be here when the real trouble starts. So they don’t plant trees under which only their grandchildren will sit in the shade thereof. The belief that Matt 24 hasn’t happened yet gives them a mindset of wishing and desiring those terrible things and on a global scale, so, again, they can be proofed out of here. They’re happy, almost giddy that sin abounds and western civilization is lost. The rapture theory has done it’s job, removing Christians from the fight for the future of America, western civilization, and the souls of all men under the command of Christ Jesus in the great commission.

    Every Christian will be held to account for losing western civilization. In Genesis 3:12-13 everyone was finger pointing and blaming another. So it is today. Everyone got got cursed oh God in Genesis 3. Nobody will get a free pass for losing a whole civilization, and judgement must begin at the house of God.

    So anyway, judgement includes the inability to function to the level of success. Incompetence is merely a symptom of an unjust and unrighteous people.

  6. On September 14, 2021 at 10:45 am, Factions Speak Louder Than Herds said:

    Long Marching Deep State infiltration of the State Department.
    The humiliation was intentional as Chiquitastan is being demolished in real time.
    CCP will now build the BRI through the Graveyard Of Empires and the tens of billions of dollars of rare earth minerals will be their prize.
    No nation can survive traitors and especially not one this soft and weak and obsessed with safety and what about the children at all times.
    Watched a video last night of PLA (Peoples Liberation Army) recruiting ad compared to an American one and it was cringeworthy.
    Their ad showed children learning how to work mortars and hard fit heavily armed men marching with heavy kit to arrive and fire off artillery pieces or drive off in tanks.
    The Chiquitastan ad was a Heather has two mommies faculty lounge abomination.
    You are on your own is etch on a stone tablet material now.
    The poleece and muh military are destroyed for a reason.

  7. On September 14, 2021 at 1:37 pm, scott s. said:

    The problem of fires I think goes back to Desert Storm. “Jointness”, imposed by Congress via Goldwater-Nichols resulted in Air Force doctrine being imposed on the other services. Fast forward and Air Force doctrine has been firmly implanted in all the services so that I doubt subordinate units can operate without that level of direction.

  8. On September 14, 2021 at 2:22 pm, Georgiaboy61 said:

    @ Joe Four

    Thanks for posting that article, I’d thought of it myself but couldn’t remember the title or author. Dang, this getting old stuff stinks…. ; )

  9. On September 14, 2021 at 2:23 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    ” … so that I doubt subordinate units can operate without that level of direction.”

    Not sure what you mean by that. Of course units can operate without that level of direction. U.S. Marine Corps found a way to bypass Gen. Rodriguez’ doctrine in Helmand.

    This level of direction isn’t necessary or even good. It’s a nuisance.

    My son’s Battalion called in A.F. strikes via sat phone in Fallujah.

  10. On September 14, 2021 at 2:40 pm, Fred said:

    We operated not only just fine but exceptionally well when following our own initiative by simply knowing the national strategic interest behind the mission. Then, after 3 years of incredible success that the 1 and 2 stars were very happy about, the middle managers found out. And without exaggeration all of the intelligent, independent, high performers were forced out within a year. They didn’t even break us up. They just made it so miserable that we all left the navy.

  11. On September 14, 2021 at 2:46 pm, Georgiaboy61 said:

    @ Factions

    Re: “The humiliation was intentional as Chiquitastan is being demolished in real time. CCP will now build the BRI through the Graveyard Of Empires and the tens of billions of dollars of rare earth minerals will be their prize.”

    There are no accidents in geopolitics. Thought the powers-that-be try hard to make significant events seem accidental, virtually all happen for a reason. The fiasco in the ‘Stan is one of a series of dominoes which will fall sometime soon…. and which may include one or more of the following…

    The U.S. has quietly pulled a number of high-tech anti-aircraft missile defense systems out of Saudi Arabia, specifically Prince Sultan Air Base. The stated reason was because of the risk of them falling into the hands of attacking Houthi separatists from Yemen, but the real reason is the impending release of further evidence implicating the Saudi government and royal family in the 9-11-2001 attacks.

    This disclosure has been timed to coincide with the planned fall of the petrodollar and destruction of the USD as the reserve currency of international trade. Once the dollar is no longer backed by Arab oil, it can be allowed to implode or maybe quietly replaced.

    If these measures are not enough, hyperinflation kicking in will allow them to seal the deal.

    “Never let a good crisis go to waste” – Rahm Emmanuel

    Manufactured crisis is the preferred modus operandi of the billionaire oligarchs. It is how they like to move the ball up-and-down the field. In this case, they’ll yet again ride to the rescue with the “solution” to the problem that they have wanted all along, namely institution of a national (perhaps even international) system of digital currency. The cashless society.

    Going cashless is being sold as a convenience, but it is really about money, control and power.

    Cash confers privacy – or at least a degree of it – upon economic exchanges. The big boys don’t like that. They want to know each and every little thing you are up to; they want to make sure you “behave.”

    If there’s no cash, every transaction done with digital currency must, by definition, pass through the leviathan’s central banks, corporations and government. Meaning that they get their cut of every transaction, no matter how insignificant. Multiply this times the billions of transactions set to occur, and the wealth piles up fast.

    Last and perhaps best of all from their standpoint, a cashless society – along with the Chi-Com style social credit score – provides a potent means by which to bring dissidents to heel and punish enemies of the state. If your social credit score falls too far, suddenly everything is harder to get and more expensive. Your access to decent housing, credit, and other services may be restricted. And if you are very bad, the big-shots can simply zero out your digital account with the single keystroke.

    Of course, instituting such measures upon a formerly free people is – de facto – an act of war, but by the time the “normies” wake up, it will be too late. That is their hope, at any rate. This is one reason the powers-that-be are pushing so hard at the moment; they are in a race against the clock to get their program into place before a critical mass of people discern their plans and actual agenda.

    The controlled demolition of the USD and the petrodollar will usher in a new era, one for which the globalist elites have long-planned. Their NWO, in other words.

    The measures now being enacted in the other so-called “Five Eyes” nations – Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and Canada – presage and foretell what the oligarchs have planned for the United States. The only reason we are not as far along this glide path is that the others have been softened up to a greater extent beforehand than we have. And of course, the Second Amendment and God-given right to keep/bear arms.

  12. On September 14, 2021 at 6:16 pm, JoeFour said:

    @ Georgiaboy61

    You’re welcome! My Dad and his buddies used to say, “Growing old ain’t for sissies!” I’m finding out how right they were!

    BTW, interested readers can find more essays by John Reed at his military blog:

    http://www.johntreed.net/military.html

  13. On September 14, 2021 at 9:16 pm, Georgiaboy61 said:

    @ JoeFour

    Thanks for the recommendation vis-a-vis John Reed. Thought-provoking reading at his blog. I clicked on one of his articles, about the draft – and was reminded that one of America’s foremost military commentators and experts, the late Charles Moskos (1934-2008), favored reinstating the draft and for some of the same reasons Reed does.

    Moskos, who served in the army in between Korea and Vietnam, during the Cold War, later became perhaps America’s best-known and most=respected sociologist specialized in military affairs.

    Re: ” My Dad and his buddies used to say, “Growing old ain’t for sissies!” I’m finding out how right they were!”

    My older brother is a physician,and he says the same thing!

    Resolving the question of whether to conscript or not may be above my pay grade, but I offer the same observation that Reed did in his article: If the draft was so undesirable for the armed forces, how can our resounding victories in WWI and WWII be explained? We also undertook virtually the entire Cold War with a conscript army, as well. Whereas the much-vaunted AVF (“All-Volunteer Force”), has had a spotty and inconsistent record at best.

    To be fair, our full-time professional military in all branches, served as the skeleton of the force when all of those “amateur” draftees come on board. All of those officers and NCOs who were already in the military proved to be invaluable in serving as the cadre for the guys who had “R” in their signature block after their branch of service, i.e., U.S.N. versus U.S.N.R.

    Apropos of the AVF, I do not believe that a fair-and-balanced (reasonably unbiased and unslanted) assessment of the AVF has yet been written. At least none of which I am aware. I am aware of plenty of puff-pieces extolling its virtues, and some evaluations written by serving personnel, but those are – to my way of thinking – not sufficiently unbiased to trusted completely. That’s not necessarily casting aspersions on the people, it is rather to note that the military as an institution exerts a lot of influence and even pressure on how its personnel think and how they view things.

  14. On September 14, 2021 at 11:01 pm, Bill Buppert said:

    I am personally opposed to a draft because it is no better than slavery.

  15. On September 14, 2021 at 11:41 pm, Georgiaboy61 said:

    @ Bill Buppert

    Re: “I am personally opposed to a draft because it is no better than slavery.”

    That’s true. Compelling anyone to do things against their will, even in a “good cause,” establishes a very bad precedent and slippery slope to where we find ourselves now, vis-a-vis vaccines. Free people believe in the sanctity of the individual, whereas the communists believe that the state owns you, the party owns you.

    However, the historical record is clear: The U.S. had a much better set of outcomes fighting wars during the era of conscription than during the much-vaunted AVF era. That’s not an argument for the return of the draft, per se, merely an inconvenient and politically-incorrect observation.

    Historically, Americans have always stepped forward in great numbers to defend their nation, communities, homes and families when it is truly necessary.

    The problem with the “all-volunteer force” is that it isn’t really what it claims to be. You may join or decline to join of your own volition and free will, but once you’ve sworn in, the military pretty much owns you until they say they don’t. In other words, it ceases to be “volunteer” once you are in. Mil.gov can then compel you to do two, three, four, five or even more tours in the ‘Stan or Iraq, if they so choose.

    At least in Vietnam, yeah it was conscription, but once you did your thirteen months or whatever, you were free-and-clear unless you volunteered to “ship over” and remain there. Not so in the Global War on Terror. I knew guys that got grabbed and pulled back into the military after being away for years. And they didn’t volunteer. Stop-loss amounted to a back-door draft by another name. None of this was even remotely honest or ethical, but since when did leviathan care about that?

    If it was up to me, I’d structure the armed forces like the colonists did their militia: Anyone can come or go as they please. If you lose faith in the mission or whatever, then you are free to return home and to your civilian life.

    If our system was structured like that, how many of those young people do you think would have remained in Afghanistan for all of those multiple tours?

    For what it is worth – I am just an interested civilian with his nose pressed against the glass, so to speak – our present military combines being a giant jobs and social welfare program on one hand, with trying to be an organization serious about war-fighting on the other. Those are fundamentally different missions, and that fact has hamstrung the military for a very long time, and continues to do so today. That schizophrenia is part of the reason why the armed forces are now so screwed up.

    The lopsided tooth-to-tail ratio has always been a reality, but it is even more pronounced now that the military is home to so much dead-weight in the form of single moms with kids sponging off of it and whatnot, not to mention all of the freebies the DOD/Pentagon now offers.

    Question: Who is the largest institutional provider of childcare in the U.S.A.? Answer: The U.S. Army. Question: If you are a gal who wants/needs a breast implant or breast augmentation surgery, where can you go to get done for “free”? Answer: The U.S. military.

    See what I mean? A tiny sliver of overworked and strung-out people, mostly men, fight our wars and serve as the point of the spear. Meanwhile, the rest of the military carries on pretty much like usual. Heck, even the FOBs have Pizza Hut now….

    The problem with not having a draft is how do you make up shortfalls in personnel if no one “wants” to join? The free-market approach would be to increase pay and benefits, for one thing, but what if that isn’t enough? The “solution” is that governments turn to mercenaries and foreign-born troops. That’s far from an ideal solution in many ways, as well, so there you are.

    The whole draft-or-not-to-draft debate is probably temporary anyway, since the big-boys running things are rolling all of the dice on automation, robotics and unmanned systems as the wave of the future.

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This article is filed under the category(s) War & Warfare and was published September 13th, 2021 by Herschel Smith.

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