December 3, 2015

Concentration of forces is the most basic law of military science. Victory on the battlefield is won by amassing as many troops as possible at the key point of attack, or ‘schwerpunkt,’ as it’s known in German.

Unfortunately, the amateur strategists in the White House seem to have been studying social anthropology and women’s issues instead of basic military science. What they want is, to use the term coined by Russian poet Yevtuschenko, a half war.

This week, Pentagon chief Ash Carter, announced the US would send about 200 more special forces troops to Iraq and Syrian to fight the Islamic State. After vowing not to send troops to the Mideast, President Obama has by now deployed 3,500 new US soldiers to Iraq for “training.”

The best way to lose or at least prolong a war is by committing penny packets of troops. The US did precisely this in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan – and lost all these wars. Now, we’re on to more half-measures in the Levant.

President Barack Obama’s first instincts to avoid any more wars were absolutely correct. But the course of political events and the Paris massacre have dragged him into more rather than less military misadventures in the Mideast and Afghanistan. Obama’s senior strategic advisors, Susan Rice and Samantha Power, have been steadily providing wrong-headed, even calamitous advice.

America’s mighty – perhaps almighty- military industrial complex, the Republican war party, neoconservatives and imperialists – keep impelling the US towards new wars in Ukraine, Iraq and Syria in spite of Obama’s desire to end America’s addiction to foreign conflicts. Some of these cranks want a full-blown war with nuclear-armed Russia.

Washington has been infatuated by special forces daring-do, believing commandos can win small, imperial wars without involving the nation in a larger, costly conflict. Special forces are the new golden-haired boys in Washington, filled with swagger over their lopsided victories against lightly-armed tribesmen with no air cover or artillery.

Just as the British Army was after its 1890’s Sudan campaign against Fuzzy-wuzzies armed with spears and swords – until the Brits met German regular infantry in World War I.

What too few in Washington understand is that it is the US Air Force that is decisive weapon of US world power. Infantry – and special forces – merely serve to fix enemy troops for air attack and target US air strikes.

All those buffonish Republican candidates calling for US troops to be sent to Mesopotamia should be asked: what is the military objective of a new Mideast war? Military science teaches that the object of war is not to kill the enemy, as so many Washington sofa samurais believe, but to achieve a favorable political settlement.

Does anyone in Washington ruling elite know what this would be? Given fluid warfare in the Mideast against the irregular forces of ISIS and al-Qaida, will US troops there remain on a permanent deployment hunting irregulars, rather like the 19th century Indian Wars in the American West?

Will the US re-garrison Iraq’s Sunni regions? What will happen if Iraqi Shias turn on US forces and oust America’s puppet regime in Baghdad? Is Washington ready to get sucked into Syria’s maddening religious, tribal and regional conflicts? Are Israel and the US planning to partition demolished Syria?

And of course, the 64,000 dinar question…why should American stick its head again in this Mideast hornet’s nest?
To what gain? Can America afford such expensive imperial games when it is mired in debt? Or risk clashes with nuclear-armed Russia?

The imperialist camp will cry “stability,” that old code word for the Pax Americana. The neocons will howl that murderous ISIS must be stopped, ignoring that the US ally in Egypt, “Field Marshall” al-Sisi, killed more civilians in one day than ISIS did in Paris. No one will admit that most of ISIS’s attacks are revenge for US and French bombing of their towns and villages, nor that their gruesome executions of prisoners are meant to recall Guantanamo’s prisoners.

The American plan in Iraq and Syria is merely to kill as many “bad guys” as possible. Such sterile, juvenile strategy helped lead to America’s humiliating defeats in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. One would wonder what US special forces “trainers” have to teach Iraqis, Afghans and Syrians about war?

Arrogance and ignorance led the US to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. Heedless of past mistakes, Washington is again rushing in where wisemen fear to tread.

copyright Eric S. Margolis 2015

This post is in: France, Great Britain, ISIS, Israel, Syria, USA


  1. margolian_plot says:

    “Unfortunately, the amateur strategists in the White House seem to have been studying social anthropology and women’s issues instead of basic military science.”


    Did you hear we need to go to war because some women got raped? This is the depth of the depravity of American media and its audience in the feminist left, that rape is considered to be worse than war, when any rational person knows it is the other way around. The American media is nothing but a psychological operation preparing Americans for the next conflict 24/7, and being “progressive” is not only no guarantee you will not join the war party, but actually a vulnerability that can be exploited to ensure that you do so.

    Since the month has gone by, it seems on the surface America has come around to the Russian interpretation of the situation, realizing there is no point in going nuclear to serve Turkey’s or Saudi Arabia’s interests.

  2. “Concentration of forces is the most basic law of military science”

    Every army has a version of “Principles of War”. These are always contradictory which is what makes war more of an art than a science. In the one version the primary principle is “Selection and Maintenance of the Aim”, which in our democracies seems now to be impossible. “Concentration of Effort” is also a principle but so is “Economy of Force.”

    Memorizing these lists is all well and good for staff college students but the people who run the US gov’t aren’t concerned with victory- only votes, celebrity and cash.

  3. Obama is in an unenviable position. He has to keep a straight face, when he has to come across as leader of America the lone superpower, but is always stuck in the middle, because he has to wait for the OK of Netanyahu, for fear of him coming to the White House to give him another humiliating lecture in his own house.

  4. The military-industrial complex is at the heart of the US’s industrial base. As Eric suggests, it is constantly clamoring for war in order to justify its existence. In some ways, it resembles a government bureaucracy, trying to justify its existence while sucking hundreds of billions of dollars out of American taxpayers’ pockets. More and bigger wars help that much more. And for good reason, Obama is afraid to cut it down to size, but Congress would stand in his way if he tried to do so.

    Still, imagine what would have happened to the American economy (and, for that matter, the world’s economy) back in 2008-2010 if it had not had such a large military-industrial complex, with so much manufacturing activity in the US and employing so many people. It was probably one of the few things that stopped the US (and even the rest of the western world, because of its demand for raw materials for further manufacture) from sliding into a 1930s-style depression.

  5. KeninCanada says:

    The USA war lust is driven by religion. The religious right wants the end of days so they can travel to the mount and be taken up into heaven in the rapture. But before this can happen, there must be war. So get ready for it.

  6. The problem really is nothing to do with arrogance, or ignorance except for where the American public is concerned. The real reason is what America’s wars are always about, making money and The Dark Prince Dick Cheney perfected this in Iraq. Start a war, pay the military contractors piece work and deliberately work to draw the war out as long as possible. If you put all the pieces together in the documentary No End In Sight you realize that all of America’s ‘mistakes’ cannot be attributed to pure incompetence, everything was calculated to draw the war out as long as possible. The entire Iraqi military was fired, sending thousands of trained fighters to the insurgents. Ammunition bunkers were discovered and left unguarded to be found empty later. The list is endless. This is why the Republicans want to go back Congresses military contractor owners only have billions of dollars in the bank and who can live on that?

  7. Here’s an interesting write-up on the events (I don’t know where the truth is anymore, but I would have thought that there would be lots of maps and discussion)

    If I were Russia, I would not be providing plans of where I would be attacking… if there are American assets embedded with the ISIS or rebels, then they shouldn’t be there and should suffer accordingly.

  8. Wise word’s once again from Eric.Why does America insist on being the world’s policemen?
    It is a foreign policy mistake and a very costly one at that.If I was an American,I would dread the thought of losing a loved one in one these stupid useless conflicts.
    Why doesn’t America use it’s influence at the UN to turn these brushfire wars into a UN operation ie.(coalition of the willing).
    Perhaps it is time for Uncle Sam to retreat into semi isolationism.
    Let these religious zealots kill each other and save American lives and tax dollars.

    • Unfortunately, the imp is out of the bottle.
      The Americans cannot just pack up and leave with the announcement that, “We will leave you alone, if you leave US alone.”
      Arrogance, finance, patriotism, etc. prevent this. Unfortunately, the Americans have brought the rest of the world into the problem through ‘their’ NATO. Saddam must be chuckling (or maybe even outright laughing) in his grave.

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