VCJCS Winnefeld Tells Army: Forget Long Land Wars – Sidney Freedberg


"Winnefeld said the nation would probably not need an Army sized to do any large-scale, long-duration ground operations. The admiral did not only downplay the possibility of prolonged counterinsurgencies like Afghanistan, Iraq, or Vietnam, although he certainly emphasized the decline of COIN: He raised doubt about long wars of any kind.
“We’ve seen very recently that the American people are very wary of getting into an extended war of any type,” Winnefeld said, in a veiled reference to Syria. “We should take to heart three principles that [Maj. Gen.] Fox Conner imparted to Eisenhower and Marshall when they were both young officers: never fight unless you have to, never fight alone, and never fight for long.”"  Freedberg


Well, well, well.  At last we have some rational thought expressed with regard to the future of US arms. 

This is a death sentence for the very flawed COIN doctrine.  That will go down hard with a lot of the hard heads who have spent the last ten years trying to absorb COIN as a new and wonderful thought.  About five years ago I ran a conference on tribalism as a factor in warfare in the modern age.  Among the guests was a young army brigadier general who had a staff job in which he was responsible for thinking great thoughts about the future.  He was rebuked by several attendees for the slowness of army adaptation to counter-guerrilla operations in Iraq. He replied that "they" had been working on this problem from a doctrinal point of view for six years and that they could not be expected to proceed more rapidly than that.  Most successful army officers are by nature not good at the "vision thing."  They are intelligent but not able by temperament to deal with futures that they have not seen.  They will have a hard time giving up all the silliness contained on the Army/Marine Corps manual on COIN.  You know that book.  It is the Petraeus masterpiece.  Ten years hence they will have settled into some other corpus of received wisdom but the transition will be painful.  It will be something like the long, sad, farewell to the horse.

The R2P folks and the neocons will try to fight this change but history and money are forces that will block their efforts.  pl


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11 Responses to VCJCS Winnefeld Tells Army: Forget Long Land Wars – Sidney Freedberg

  1. stanley henning says:

    COIN – my first assignment to Special Operations at For Bragg in 1972 introduced me to COIN, which was based on a shallow assessment of the British operations in Malaysia. They did not seem to understand that the Brits were primarily fighting Chinese immigrants in Malaysia – not Malaysians. And I also never forgot the Rudyard Kipling description of a British soldier lying wounded on the plains of Afghanistan and thought – when will we wake
    up to reality as opposed to how we want things to be?

  2. Laura Wilson says:

    Here is a hopeful post quoting a rational man!

  3. VietnamVet says:

    • Never fight unless you have to;
    • Never fight alone; and
    • Never fight for long
    These principles are way too sensible. They are from an America that is long gone. Charles Krauthammer was almost in anaphylactic shock while foaming about President Obama’s back down from bombing Syria on “Inside Washington”. If diplomacy holds, this is a watershed moment, similar to 1975, 1946, 1918, 1865 and 1783 when everything changed.
    If resolved, the U.S. Army will not be used again in our lifetimes. There are corollaries from this blow up. The only way to win the next war will be with a people’s army or a coalition of major nations. The U.S. voluntary army is too small to pacify a nation state i.e. Iraq or Afghanistan. Running up against a nuclear power, i.e. Russia, stops the war drums instantly. A nuclear war will destroy mankind including oligarchs and politicians, focusing their minds intensely.
    Syria was a prelude to preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons. If the Syrian civil war sputters out, Iran at some point will become a nuclear power and will have to be accommodated. War Mongers in Saudi Arabia and Israel will have to be restrained.
    The USA must end the drone wars and return to quarantining failed states. The rule of law must be reinstated for everyone. We shall see if the government agitprop ends and if NSA, Homeland Security and DOD are downsized if there is no war to fight.

  4. joe brand says:

    “If resolved, the U.S. Army will not be used again in our lifetimes.”
    I wonder how many people have thought that. A lovely sentiment, but were any of them ever right?

  5. Personally I believe we have been engaged largely in Wars of Religion the last several decades just not smart enough to see the historical continuity. Perhaps even Communism was better perceived long run as a religion.

  6. Charles I says:

    Leon Panetta was on Charlie Rose today opining now that the redline was a flop, we need a strict timeline on the CW deal. A countdown that is, to an attack he said should degrade Assad so the “good rebels” can prevail.
    The attack should be made by the Commander in Chief when same divines National Interest is At Stake, as is The Case Here, with or w/o Congress, whatever the war weary popular will. Once that divination has been made by the C-inC, lack of kinetics is a breach of duty. A failure to mete out consequences at T minus zero would “affect U.S. stature into the 21st century.”
    The Russians were dismissed as the usual meddlers, obstructing the definitely Exceptional America.

  7. jmc5588 says:

    I believe WRC is exactly right. The best way to think about Communism was as a belief system. The problem the Communists faced was that the Paradise they promised was to come in the real world, not in the hereafter. By hitching the Communist theology to nationalism, Communist parties in colonial and semi-colonial Asia were able to promise both independence and an economy that would surpass their colonialist and capitalist masters. The second part didn’t happen. However, the Party is the arbiter of what “Socialism” means. So when the CCP or CPV moved over to a state-sponsored capitalism they could still call it “Socialism.” In fact, they retained the old Leninist system of state organization under Party control, but opened up their economies to private and overseas investment enormously. The Parties remain credible, up to a point, because they have been able to deliver national independence and an improved standard of living. But they have to keep on delivering the goods. A great many cadre find the material temptations of absolute power irresistible, causing a groundswell of popular resentment and eroding what remains of the moral stature of the Parties. The few remaining true believers can still claim the system to be Socialism on the path to Communism. But it is a failed belief system. A friend once told me that being a Communist in today’s Vietnam is like being a Catholic in today’s France — almost everybody knows the words, but hardly anybody believes them.

  8. Rd. says:

    VietnamVet said…
    ” Charles Krauthammer was almost in anaphylactic shock while foaming”
    these are the people that need be assigned to SO, and have them dropped behind enemy lines and tell them, ok buddy, show us your resolve.

  9. mike says:

    I have always admired General Connor. He never got the acclaim that was due him. My favorite Fox Connor story was where he outfoxed the Germans with his Belfort Gap Ruse. They bought it and defended Mulhouse leaving Pershing a less bloody road to victory at St Mihiel.

  10. Thanks for your insights jmc5588!

  11. I would be interested in any open source material on issues of indoctrination as to political or religious issues on the Armed Forces of the USA. Either currently or historically.
    I am aware of the litmus testing of USAF Academy cadets in the recent past by on duty evangelicals.

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