Though packaging himself as a peace candidate, Obama ultimately proved indispensable to the military-industrial complex in his ability to sustain the illusion of humanitarian intervention and defuse anti-war activism.”
Kuzmarov’s thematic idea is well presented and well supported. His writing is easy to follow and each section has a clear, well written summary highlighting the ongoing message of Obama’s complicity with the warfare state.
“Margin of Victory: Five Battles that Changed the Face of Modern Warfare” by Douglas Macgregor. Naval Institute Press. 2016, Hardcover, 268 pages, $34.95.
“Margin of Victory” is about change, intelligently and soberly recognizing the need for that change regardless of preconceived notions and the consequences of failing to do so. Each of the conflicts analyzed by Macgregor, all seemingly unrelated at first glance, center on his repeated premise that victory will depend on lessons learned that will drive accepting change and implementing the hard decisions that must accompany transformation – notably in technology, people, strategy and organization. While history provides perspective that must be considered, holding on to outmoded concepts or failing to properly leverage what’s been learned will ultimately lead to decisive defeat.
Revised and with a new foreword from leading reform advocate COL (ret) Douglas MacGregor, PhD, Don Vandergriff revisits his 2002 manifesto for the evolution of the U.S. Army.
From the foreword: “Few books in the history of the U.S. Army have made a more convincing argument for change than Don Vandergriff’s Path to Victory: America’s Army and the Revolution in Human Affairs. It is therefore a great privilege to offer some thoughts on the re-release of this important work.
When Don’s book appeared for the first time in 2002 it was not simply detailed account of the Army’s personnel management system, its promotion policies and unit manning practices. It was also a critical examination of the Army as an institution and its extraordinary resistance to change in the way it identifies, develops and employs human talent.
Don Vandergriff’s experiences, research and interaction with fellow military professionals suggest that a cultural revolution within the U.S. military is essential if the nation is to successfully adapt and prevail in the emerging 4th Generation Warfare (4GW) or asymmetric warfare threat environment. An Army cultural revolution has three parts:
1. Strategic leaders must change a counterproductive array of long-established beliefs including many laws, regulations and policies, which are based on out-of-date assumptions.
2. Military leaders must drive and sustain a military cultural evolution through effective education and training of the next generation(s) of leaders in a system that is flexible enough to evolve alongside emerging changes in, and lessons from, war, society and technology.
An Industrial Age model continues to shape the way the Army approaches its recruiting, personnel management, training, and education. This outdated personnel management paradigm―designed for an earlier era―has been so intimately tied to the maintenance of Army culture that a self-perpetuating cycle has formed, diminishing the Army’s attempts to develop adaptive leaders and institutions.
This cycle can be broken only if the Army accepts rapid evolutionary change as the norm of the new era. Recruiting the right people, then having them step into an antiquated organization, means that many of them will not stay as they find their ability to contribute and develop limited by a centralized, hierarchical organization. Recruiting and retention data bear this out.
We have, with the election of Donald Trump,a once-in-a-century opportunity to rethink, reinvent, and reinvest in our national military concepts, doctrine, human capital, organizations, technologies, and command structures, while eradicating much of the waste that is characteristic of a “government specifications cost plus” approach to contracting. Donald Trump won against all odds, against both parties, without the support of the military-industrial complex. Donald Trump is “unshackled” (his word) – his instincts on costly foreign entanglements and the utility of organizations such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are on display.
Wars are won or lost in the decade or two before those wars begin. Whether countries have a Grand Strategy or not; evaluate all high-level threats or not; devise a coherent force structure in which all services and civilian agencies are complementary, inter-operable, and sustainable or not; invest in the human factor for leadership and solider agility or not – these will determine the outcome of future wars a decade or two before the first shot is fired.
Speaking Truth to Power — Senator McCain Agrees, the Flag Officers Do Not
Margin of Victory is a hugely important book that should be required reading in all of the war colleges, as well as all national security programs in political science and international relations courses across the country.
In sailboat racing the race is often won or lost before the boat ever hits the water. If the hull is not perfectly formed; perfectly painted; and perfectly clean before it gears up, then the boat starts with an automatic embedded penalty factor – it goes slower. What the author has done with this book is demonstrate that wars are won or lost 10-20 years before they are fought, based on whether the nation-state devises an effective grand strategy and properly develops a balanced approach to organization, technology and human capital, with human capital being most important.
The People’s Army – the Continental Army rooted in home-spun militias – was formed and fought and won a war before the U.S. Constitution was written and signed in 1787. The Constitution – and the Republic – exist because the People’s Army, the Continental Army led by George Washington – leveraged the twin advantages of a righteous cause and home court to eject what was then the greatest imperial power on the planet. Of the 55 men attending the Constitutional Convention, at least 29 served in the Continental Army, most of them in positions of command. Understanding the relationship between the people from whom the early militias were drawn, the Army, and the Constitution, is essential to evaluating where we fall short today.
4.0 out of 5 starsSUPERB Conclusion–Has Flaws But Still a Strong Contribution, February 25, 2015
Wow. I have met the author and I gave an earlier book of his, Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power a strong review, but I was not expecting the deep common sense and pragmatic observations that conclude this book. There are many aspects of our insecurity that the author is not willing to address — notably the deep corruption of our political system and undue influence by foreign “allies” that are in fact enemies but that pales in light of his deep evaluation of how badly we are doing as a government. There are many flaws in the author’s arguments better covered by Reviewer Frank J. Wassermann, I put this down to the author trying too hard to not completely alienate all the mandarins he still meets for lunch and at evening events. I embrace most of Reviewer Wasserman’s comments but still give the book four stars instead of his two.
4.0 out of 5 starsWorld Class on One Half of the Challenge, Misses the Other Half Entirely, February 25, 2015
If Mort Halperin, who wrote the original book with the memorable “Rule 1” (Lie to the President if you can get away with it), Bureaucratic Politics and Foreign Policy is kind enough to praise this book, I will over-look the hype (it is NOT the “first”). This is an important book and very helpful to a deep study of the deep state, but it is also severely deficient to the point of mis-leading the public away from the 42 billionaires that own the government; away from the religious and ideologicial treason that skews government policy; and away from the lack of intelligence with integrity that we have a right to expect from our “intelligence” community. It also soft shoes the elite pedophile protective network within the FBI, and the drug-running money-laundering side show at CIA as well as the totally out of control Pentagon elements willing to murder US citizens including military officers to keep their boat afloat — the deep deep state. [I revere the FBI, CIA, and DoD as institutions — my point is that we don’t do serious counterintelligence in the USA, all of those organizations have layers of corruption going back to their founders, each layer recruiting and promoting its successors, all far outside the ken of this book.]
5.0 out of 5 starsOur Best Thinking to Date — We Can Go Much Further, December 24, 2014
This is the pre-cursor book to The Accidental Admiral: A Sailor Takes Command at NATO which I have reviewed most favorably and strongly recommend. This book — while free online as are all NDU Press books, is a very high quality production with some complex graphics and color photographs. It is fairly priced and absolutely recommended in print if you favor books you can hold in your hands.
There have been other books by military commanders but to the best of my knowledge only General Tony Zinni, USMC (then commanding the US Central Command with two wars and 12 task forces) and General Wesley Clark, USA (then commanding NATO during the Kosovo mess) have risen to what this book strives to be, a gold standard for whole of government multinational engagement.
When New York Times report James Risen published his previous book, State of War, the Times ended its delay of over a year and published his article on warrantless spying rather than be scooped by the book. The Times claimed it hadn’t wanted to influence the 2004 presidential election by informing the public of what the President was doing. But this week a Times editor said on 60 Minutes that the White House had warned him that a terrorist attack on the United States would be blamed on the Times if one followed publication — so it may be that the Times’ claim of contempt for democracy was a cover story for fear and patriotism. The Times never did report various other important stories in Risen’s book.
Many observers recognize that the U.S. Government has for decades placed too much emphasis on military might to the detriment of other interests. This book provides a sobering explanation of how such a skewed approach emerged. Stuart is an historian at Dickinson College and also adjunct professor at the U.S. Army War College. He shows how the 150-year tradition of peacetime pursuit of national interests headed by the State Department gave way to the “Pearl Harbor System” of viewing the world through the perspective of potential threats to national security.
5.0 out of 5 starsWell-Regarded in Afghanistan, A Real Gem, November 22, 2013
This book is in our J-2 Library in Afghanistan, and it is a very well-regarded gem.
This is a vitally important book. The author drives the value-proposition home with his Afterword, entitled “Truth as a Casualty of COIN.” His core point: lies kill military efficiency (including military learning). Those who would cite the vast spectrum of presidential and DoD directives and concepts and so on clearly are as out of touch with reality as the well-intentioned dolts that signed off on all that junk. Prior to reading this book I articulated — and had checked by colleagues at the US Army Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) and across Special Forces — some harsh comments in my summary critical review of The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One.
Being a strong critic of defense idiocy and corruption myself, coming off 20 years of trying to get the US Intelligence Community to actually produce ethical evidence-based decision-support, this book by a former commander who is now teaching history at West Point should be required reading in all the schools from entry-level to war college.
The author opens early with his view that the COIN understanding of “the population” is delusional (he is being kind). The population is indeed the center of gravity, but if one is going to substitute technology for thinking, ideology for policy, and corrupt puppets for indigenous leadership, then one should expect to implode. As I have lectured here are there, including to civil affairs cannon fodder at Fort Bragg, “no amount of tactical excellence can make up for strategic decrepitude.” (see the definition of the latter term of art in my review of Clausewitz and Contemporary War).
The book focuses on the disconnect between a military trained, equipped, and organized to fight wars, and the “light infantry” variant that pretends to win hearts and minds while kicking down doors and running air strikes on civilians. The fact is that if there is no Whole of Government endeavor, if the Department of State is the Department of Nothing as Andrew Cockburn recently slammed Boffo Haircut (who gave up his integrity when looking into CIA’s role in Iran Contract and the cocaine crack explosion), then the military is on a fool’s errand at great expense in terms of blood, treasure, and spirit.
I am reminded of DIME by the early portion of the book. We need all four — diplomatic, informational, military, and economic. The fact is that we have a military that is dysfunctional and corrupt to the bone across strategy, policy, acquisition and operations, and a “paper tiger” across the other three domains.
There are five short quotes I have selected that capture the essence of the book, which I will follow with a final comment and eight other recommended books.
QUOTE (117): “When a state gets its strategy right in war, tactical problems tend to be subsumbed and improved within it.” This is an entire book waiting to be written — and the obverse of my comment to the civil affairs gladiators.
QUOTE (118): “But sometimes, in a war that involves limited policy airms, there may well be alternatives to victory.” Here I would point out that until last year the morons in DC conflated Al Qaeda and the Taliban — I do not make this stuff up. These are the same people that did not know Iraq was a Sunni minority ruling over a Shi’ite majority.
QUOTE (127): “The counterintelligence narrative posits that savior generals have game-changing effects, but it over-states their influence on the course of the war.” Yes, to which I would add, it is not helpful to have a Zionist bimbo sharing your bed and a G-2 without the balls the call a counterintelligence foul when he sees one.
QUOTE (128): “…hearts and minds counter-insurgency carried out by an occupying power in a foreign land doesn’t work, unless it is a multigenerational effort.” To understand the details, search for my Marine Corps University short paper (summary of a 1976 thesis), < 1992 MCU Thinking About Revolution >. No one in DC gets any of this.
QUOTE (132): “American strategy has failed in Afghanistan because it became tapped by the promise that counterinsurgency can work only if it is given enough time…” See my summary review of Colin Gray’s utterly gripping Modern Strategy — time is the one strategic variable that cannot be bought nor replaced. The corruption of US foreign and national security policy, deepened by the assassination of John F. Kennedy 50 years ago by a mix of Texas energy, New York money, CIA, and out of control elements of the rest of the US government, has wasted 50 years and destroyed the Republic. Time matters. So does integrity.
I am not going to summarize the most precious part of the book, pages 133-135, read these in the library or a bookstore if you cannot take the time to ingest the entire book.
I’ve had to work my way through multiple generations of flag officers divorced from reality and inattentive to the public interest. I dare hope that the serving Chief of Staff of the US Army is paying attention, and that this particular colonel might rise to be one of the thinking generals. Certainly I cannot count more than five in my lifetime out of the sixty or so I have known (Zinni is one of best and on record as saying that the US IC provided him “at best” 4% of what he needed to know as CINCENT). Consider helping me with the following SSI monograph under development, search for < 2013 ON REVOLUTION — Helpng Transform the US Army Consistent with CSA Guidance >
Buy this book, read it, display it, and share it. Let that be your act of loyal dissent this week.
Robert David STEELE Vivas INTELLIGENCE for EARTH: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity, & Sustainability
Andrew Bacevich’s latest offering, BREACH OF TRUST, is going to make a lot of people squirm – if people read it, that is. Because in this book he tells us flat out that an all-volunteer army in a democratic society simply does not work, and that the present system is “broken.” It is bankrupting our country, and not just financially, but morally. He tells us that Iraq and Afghanistan, two of the longest and most expensive wars in U.S. history, have evoked little more than “an attitude of cordial indifference” on the part of a shallow and selfish populace more concerned with the latest doings of the Kardashians, professional superstar athletes or other vapid and overpaid millionaire celebrities, reflecting “a culture that is moored to nothing more than irreverent whimsy and jeering ridicule.”
Bacevich cites General Stanley McChrystal, former commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, who spoke about having “skin in the game,” meaning that when a country goes to war every town and city should be at risk. McChrystal went on to say the unthinkable: “I think we’d be better if we actually went to a draft these days … for the nation it would be a better course.”
Horrors! That dreaded “D” word finally uttered aloud. Well, I’d say it’s about damn time. And Bacevich agrees, noting that in his many speaking engagements over the past ten years “I can count on one hand the number of occasions when someone did NOT pose a question about the draft, invariably offered as a suggestion for how to curb Washington’s appetite for intervention abroad and establish some semblance of political accountability.”