Chuck Spinney: Steven Walt’s Proof of Col John Boyd’s Strategic Theorem — Don’t Think, Just Keep The Money Moving….

Military, Officers Call, Strategy

Chuck Spinney
Chuck Spinney

Boyd’s Theorem 

(pounded with unrelenting ferocity into the heads of friends for over 30 years):
“People say the Pentagon does not have a strategy 
They are wrong. The Pentagon does have a strategy; it is: 
Don’t interrupt the money flow, add to it.”
— Col. John R. Boyd (U.S. Air Force, ret.)* 
Fighter Pilot, Tactician, Strategist, 
Conceptual Designer, Reformer
Now read the attached opinion piece to see why Steven Walt’s last sentence is dangerously wrong.
Lesson: If you want to understand U.S. foreign policy and U.S. military strategy, you need to climb down from Mount Olympus and dig into the dirt to discern and acknowledge its domestic roots.
Hint: A good place to start getting your hands dirty would be to investigate the real reasons why the Pentagon has refused to fix its corrupt and unauditable accounting system, a disgraceful state of affairs that is in violation of the law (i.e., the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990), not to mention the spirit and the letter of the Appropriations and Accountability Clauses of the Constitution (which, by the way, every member of the US government has taken a sacred unconditional oath to protect and uphold).
Chuck Spinney
* New readers unfamiliar with Boyd and his seminal works will find an introduction and references to his strategic theories here, including especially Robert Coram’s highly readable biography, Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War (Little Brown).

Leaving Afghanistan: Not With a Bang, But a Whimper

 Stephen M. Walt, Foreign Policy, 28/10/13

One of the hardest things for a great power to do is reverse course when it’s made a strategic blunder, especially when it involves a war. Fred Ikle wrote a whole book about this problem — the classic Every War Must End — where he described many of political obstacles that getting in the way of cutting one’s losses and either making peace or just getting out. You know some of the reasons: politicians don’t like to admit they screwed up, the fallacy of “sunk costs” continues to drive policy, the military doesn’t like admitting defeat, etc. And even when the decision to end a war is made, it usually takes longer to get out than it should.

Case in point: Afghanistan. I don’t know if the United States and NATO could have achieved a meaningful victory in Afghanistan had the Bush administration not embarked on its foolish misadventure in Iraq. But it was clear by 2009 that doubling down in Afghanistan wasn’t going to produce an effective or fully legitimate Afghan government and wasn’t going to produce a strategically more favorable outcomefrom the perspective of U.S. interests. But President Obama decided to “surge” there anyway, mostly because he wanted to look tough on national security and feared the domestic backlash if he cut our losses and withdrew.

Now, some five years later, NATO and the U.S. are preparing to (mostly) leave. The corrupt Karzai government has been giving us a hard time about the terms under which the residual force would operate, however, and insisting that we accept their terms if we wanted to stay. 

But instead of seizing this free gift and saying “da khoday pa amaan” (“goodbye” in Pashto), Secretary of State Kerry and other U.S. officials have done a full-court press to persuade Karzai & Co. to let us keep pouring resources into this bottomless pit. To do that, reports the New York Times, U.S. officials “are planning a more minimalist mission, with a force consisting of fewer combat trainers and more military managers to ensure that billions of dollars in security aid are not squandered or pilfered.”

I have two comments. First, if you’ve read any of the reports from the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR), you’d know that vast sums of money have been squandered already. It therefore beggars belief that we’re going to do a better job of monitoring Afghan spending of our aid programs with a smaller force. Bottom line: a lot of the money spent in the future is just going to disappear.

Second, this whole enterprise looks like a can-kicking, face-saving operation, precisely the sort of long, drawn-out end that Ikle and others have described. In this regard, it is revealing to read what retired general David Barno, who led U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2003-05, told the Times we are going to get for this extra effort (my emphasis):

“The most important thing we can do is keep writing checks so the Afghan National Security Forces can remain funded – fuel, food, weapons, salaries. . . If that continues, they will be at least able to maintain a stalemate with the Taliban, and that is enough to keep the state up and running.”

That’s right: more than ten years of war, and we’ve managed to create a corrupt central government that cannot defeat the Taliban (who aren’t getting $4 billion a year in US aid, by the way). The government can manage a stalemate, but only if Uncle Sucker keeps thousands of troops there and keeps the money flowing. . . presumably forever.

I don’t quite know how to describe this policy, but I sure wouldn’t use the word “strategy.” 

[emphasis added]

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