Sunday, December 31, 2006

War Is Not A Physics Problem

Some people have the idea that all wars are optional. Or at least a vast majority are for America. This especially includes Iraq.

Some wars are matters of survival. i.e. it is not always possible to choose your enemy. Sometimes the enemy chooses you.

It is possible to choose how to fight the enemy. Boots vs. bombs. However, boots can discriminate targets better than bombs can. They can also perform other useful tasks such as making friends and gathering intel. However, boots are limited by those in the military age range in any year. In the US we get about 1 million men entering that age range every year (which forms the main recruiting pool). The military gets about 10% of that pool every year. About the maximum possible in an all volunteer force. To increase the size of the force moderately rapidly (20,000 a year say), you would need to greatly increase retention rates. For that to be feasable you would need that many adequate performers who would like to be retained but are not due to Congressional force size limitations. Which I do not believe is the case.

Then you have the question of punitive expeditions vs transformative expeditions. One is quick, but often leaves a mess with the high likelyhood of having to cover the same ground repeatedly. Our you go in for a transformative expedition where your time horizon is much longer. All this affects troop man days spent in the field.

And lots of similar questions. Some political, some military, some economic, some cultural, some turning on social structure, some logistical, some technological, some related to infrastructure, etc., etc., etc.

All of this is complicated by the need to keep the oil flowing so civilization doesn't collapse.

On top of that there is reaction. The enemy is always adjusting strategy, tactics, and war aims in response to our moves as we adjust same in response to his. And then there is the problem of keeping alliances together and disrupting enemy alliances.

Which is what makes the whole question a wicked problem. You can't easily isolate the factors the way you can in a physics problem.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

1 comment:

linearthinker said...

Which is what makes the whole question a wicked problem. You can't easily isolate the factors the way you can in a physics problem.

Your post argues for patience. Others seem to agree.

The war must be won in a week! If not, abject failure and the military must go to its room.

The peace must be won in a day! If not, rioters will strip the country bare and another Vietnam will spring up from the desert sands like the ghost of Christmas past.

We must pacify a foreign country and make them love us in a month, or, well, we're just not good enough or smart enough or nice enough. We must give the gift of liberty to those too weak to win it for themselves in less than a year.

The usual whining chorus starts these off-key and historically flat refrains, and, like a bad rap group with ears of tin and hearts of slush, repeats it over and over and over again until even the more clear-eyed among us starts to think, 'Humm, it's not a catchy song but since everybody seems to be playing it in heavy rotation, maybe there's something in it.'

From Vanderleun in Patience Please: An American Empire Takes Time.

Patience, and confidence in leaders that don't always seem to deserve that confidence, and the fortitude to filter out the incessant whine of the opposition...challenges for 2007. Happy New Year!