Isn't this how the US began in Vietnam, as I recall it (Stefan, please correct me on that one if I'm off base)?

"Militants’ Siege on Mountain in Iraq Is Over, Pentagon Says"

Stefan Jovanovich replies: 

Bless you, David, you are not off base; you are not even playing the same sport. The American attempt at "guns and butter" in Southeast Asia involved the last mass conscription among Western nations and outright expenditures on the war itself (not counting the other military efforts for the Cold War) that were a larger percentage of GDP than the entire Defense Department budget, with all its social spending, is now. "Viet-Nam" was the last war of mass armies in what will be seen in retrospect as the age of Napoleonic state militaries (the French, as with so many things, started it, the Prussians, Russians, Holy Roman Empire (Italy, Austria) followed and the British and Americans came in last and made the final industrial improvements.)

We are back in the age of small wars - tactical encounters between professional soldiers (Hamas and ISIS are no more a bunch of amateurs than the Barbary pirates were; this is their trade). If you want to see things in their proper light, look to the campaigns for which Vauban built all those fortresses; there are no proper comparisons to be found with any of the large wars in past American history. This is going to be an age of extraordinary gains in technology just like those of the 18th century before the French revolution - i.e. the French making the first systematic application of mathematics to warfare by inventing ballistic science. The fighting is going to be expensive but nowhere near as economically ruinous as the the mass wars were. It is also going to be equally bloodless - at least for the Westerners.





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2 Comments so far

  1. Andrew Goodwin on August 15, 2014 8:23 pm

    ISIS moved in a sophisticated manner. They used the Von Clausewitz technique of threatening the major target (Baghdad) and then changing direction to strike at Kurdistan.

    They separated the minorities from the fold and drew ethnic, political and state divisions into conflict.

    ISIS operates under a skilled command. What they cannot handle is the backward envelopment that NATO or the US singularly can employ. Nor can they survive an envelope from the neighbors.

    If the US will not commit troops then the trick will be to create a triple envelopment. You have the Iraqi army strike from below. The Turks strike from north or west. Then you roll ISIS up by having a surprise intervention from Turkey or Iran marching their soldiers into the rebel positions from unpredicted directions. They can be surrounded and put into a panic retreat mode with the typical envelopment moves now.

    These people have no state allies and are digging themselves into a trap each moment they take more territory. The counteroffensive will be memorable.

  2. Gregory Rehmke on August 16, 2014 9:41 pm

    I’ve been reading and writing about Iraq and other Middle East countries over the last couple months (U.S./Middle East policy was chosen in June as a national homeschool debate topic). (And with a few more months of research I expect to know more than Stefan J. did in 1990…)

    My post today includes a link to a 1950s British video on “Ageless Iraq,” presenting Iraqi progress and prosperity. What went wrong? Partly the country of Iraq looked better on paper than in reality. And population grew from 5 to over 30 million people without enough open economy.

    Economic advisors trained at UK and US universities pushed for industrial planning. Economic planners tripped over colonial strings, local landlords, corrupt officials, and energized communists, socialists, and nationalists. Together they all managed to slow or stop economic progress.

    Successful economic reforms in Turkey are a model for future reform Iraq and Egypt. UAE “charter cities” like Dubai offer an decentralized Hong Kong alternative. Maybe soft partitions for Iraq, Syria and Libya offer a path forward.

    Before the recent ISIS attacks on Iraqi Kurdistan, optimists were asking if Kurdistan could be the next Dubai.

    Refugee camps across the Middle East, funded and regulated by UN aid, could learn from the astonishing success of Hong Kong, a refugee camp in the 1950s and 1960s. I ask if the Middle East refugee camps of today could be more like Startup Cities.

    “Through the 1950s over two million refugees arrived in Hong Kong from communist China. Most arrived with nothing but what they could carry. Yet within a few decades Hong Kong became the wealthiest place in the world. How did that happen? It is an important lesson showing that refugees, though a cost in the short-term, can help create tremendous wealth once settled.”

    So when millions were escaping communist China for Hong Kong, millions also migrated to the cities of Iraq from the countryside, and to Istanbul from across Turkey. Rule of law and modest economic freedom allowed Istanbul to prosper, and the far more economic freedom in Hong Kong allowed residents far more prosperity.


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