Heavy Lifting - thoughts and web finds by an economist
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Friday, June 25, 2004

Where do we go next?

Here is an old post about the "Pentagon's New Map." The author is at the Naval War College and is ostensibly paid to think about the things the rest of us don't want to think about, but feel obligated to pipe off about. It is interesting reading - and should be required for those who still don't want to understand why we had to go to Iraq.

These two pictures say a lot about what the military is thinking our focus will be in the future. Notice a lot of "hot spots" in the middle east - Western Hemisphere Eastern Hemisphere.

Personal Rant

This type of thinking is surely necessary, and may also come to fruition. It is sad, however, that there are lots of people so filled with rage, envy, and bitterness, that the live-and-let-live is not possible nor is any other type of reasoning or negotiation of mutual existence. I am sure that the terrorist movement is an extreme minority, but it is one that seems to receive no rebuke from those in the best position to suggest an alternative agenda.

Ultimately, the role of a nation's military is defense and the tough part is to know when extra-national military action is truly defense. It seems that most people accepted Afghanistan because of its clear support of Al Qaeda, but that Iraq has been a tougher sell. Perhaps it is because France didn't jump right in, but that seems like a weak excuse not to support liberating Iraq. Perhaps it is because of a lack of WMD, or a distrust that democracy will actually take hold, or too much bad news all the time. Perhaps there was the same kind of discussion during previous wars, e.g., "Why are we fighting in Vicksburg, Mississippi when Robert E. Lee is in Pennsylvania?" or "Why are we fighting in North Africa when we are really concerned about France?" just not on MSNBC or CNN.

In every true "war" the strategic and the tactical can easily be confused, especially by the public and the lesser-informed. Put bluntly, Afghanistan was tactical and Iraq is strategic. Perhaps it has been too long since World War II, the last time the U.S. fought in a multi-country conflict in which the strategic and the tactical became more exclusive. Put another way, our recent military experiences (Kosovo, Kuwait/Iraq, Somalia, Panama) were limited to one area and therefore the tactical and the strategic seemed observationally equivalent, or at least were not a point of such contention and division. That is not the case in the "war" on terroism, as the Pentagon's new map clearly indicates. Our military may eventually have to "defend" the United States in areas as geographically (and seemingly politically) separated as Indonesia, Syria, and Columbia. If this happens, it is not for imperliastic
aims, although many will claim that it is.

Perhaps our leaders need to do a better job in explaining what is going on here, or perhaps I am all wet and should shut up. However, it seems that all too often those who "debate" our military actions do not have a clear understanding of the differences between strategic and tactical. Hence the debate over Iraq devolves to such an extent that Michael Moore becomes a voice of "authority." This sad state of affairs will continue until people actually do some reading before they start their yapping. However, as my good friend Dane Perry likes to say, "ignorance, once lost, cannot be recaptured."

Some additional reading:
A Short History of War
Strategic vs. Tactical Bombing (definitions (not the bombing) apply in the war on terrorism?)
Strategy vs. Tactics in the U.S. Civil War

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