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An On V Update to Old Ideas, Round Two

Last month, Eric C and I wrote a post that had a bunch of links that either refuted, proved or updated ideas we have argued for and against on this blog. (To be fair, though, there’s a bit of self-confirmation bias going for most of the links.) Well, here we go again; we’ve decided to make it a monthly feature.

Update to An Army Level AAR

I followed a ”Best Defense” link to this Atlantic article where some smart defense thinkers propose a new commission to study the military and national security establishment’s response/conduct of the post-9/11 wars. They call it “The Commission to Assess the Long Wars”. I totally agree, and wrote as much in a post I called, “The Army Level AAR.” With long overdue cuts looming over the budget, the Department of Defense should prioritize its missions for the next generation. (We’ll have a post way in the future about how irregular/small/uncoventional/political/asymmetric wars are probably the wars of the future too.)

I do have one additional recommendation. I think that the commission should also host a group of thinkers who are under 40, specifically the junior officers/NCOs (and ex-officers and ex-NCOs) who blog and write about these problems. I would call this this "The Blogging Commission to Assess the Long Wars". Starbuck should chair, with Kaboom as co-chair, Mike F of SWJ definitely on board, some of the gents from Ink Spots, and the boyz at VAntage Point. That’s not an exhaustive list, but I would follow their recommendations.

The Continuing Decrease of Violence and “Will Humans Ever Stop Fighting Wars?”

A long time back, Eric C discovered this brilliant TED lecture by Stephen Pinker about the decline of violence in the world. It, and John Horgan’s writing, prompted us to ask the question, “Will Humans Ever Stop Fighting Wars?” We both tend to take the “optimist” viewpoint.

Well, in the last month or so, the optimists have gotten a lot of intellectual heft from several books. Stephen Pinker published The Angels of Our Better Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, a book expanding the thesis of his lecture that violence has steadily decreased over the last millennium. (We plan to read, review, and then review the reviews of this controversial work.) Joshua Goldstein has a new book called Winning the War on War. He accompanied this with a “Think Again” piece in Foreign Policy on the decline of war. In both works, Goldstein argues that the frequency and severity of war has decreased. John Horgan is releasing a book called, The End of War in November, and we’ll try to review that as well.

Most importantly, after trolling around the YouTubes, we found video proof that humanity does have a starting point for warfare. Check it out.

Update to Terrorism and Iraq

A few months after we launched, Eric C and I wrote that the next terrorist attack would have ties to Iraq. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened yet. We’ve seen a Nigerian, some Somalis and Yemenis acting up instead. However, this Danger Room article links to research claiming that the next terror attack will likely come from Iraq. I tend to agree. The war in Iraq radicalized a generation of young Iraqis. It would not stun me if one of them ends up attacking America.

Update to Military Whistle Blowers

In my series, “Why I Got Out”, I mentioned that the U.S. military hates whistle blowers, despite the obvious benefits for exposing fraud and corruption. This Battle Land post, “Why Military Whistleblowers Fear Reprisal”, cross posted at the Project for Government Oversight, describes exactly what I meant. Read the story carefully. Senior officers, under investigation for “vast corruption and malfeasance”, ended the cooperating soldier’s career--the person adhering to military values. That is a tragedy.

Department of Defense Waste

If Eric and I continue posting monthly update on our articles, we will just as often include a paragraph on Department of Defense spending. It seems like every day in Defense News or The Washington Post or The New York Times, some senior advisor for the Pentagon or some policy wonk from the Heritage Foundation bemoans how defense cuts will kill every baby in America.

On the other hand, there seems to be a weekly post in Battle Land or Danger Room about another fantastic weapons program failure. This month we saw an investigation into the safety record of the Osprey, the regrounding of the F-22, some senators calling out the Pentagon for terrible funding practices, and some other senators revealing that the Pentagon spent a trillion dollars with contractors charged or convicted of fraud.

Meanwhile, reconstruction from Iraq to Afghanistan continues to be marred by corruption. “Cross-Check” has this post on the money wasted rebuilding Afghanistan’s electricity, and Fresh Air interviewed Peter Van Buren about his new book called We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People.

Update to Facts Behaving Badly

Finally, the awesome blog Polite Dissent--which weekly reviews the science behind House--verifies a fact behaving badly is truly behaving badly. We don’t only use ten percent of our brains.

two comments

I couldn’t reply to the “Army-Level AAR”, but I’d like to echo the thoughts of the cynics, sad to say.

The reason an Army-wide AAR won’t work is because the institution has a terrible time self-critiquing. Just look at suicides (The solution is for captains to start leading better).

Not to mention, take this into consideration. Of nearly all of the books written by high-level figures about the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, how many of them were written by good leaders? Between Paul Bremer, Ricardo Sanchez, Tommy Franks, Janis Karpinski and the rest, we see that there is endless blamestorming about the war’s greatest shortcomings.

Success has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan. Just look at how nonchalant Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld act when questioned about the war in Iraq.

That’s why, ironically, we shut put the AAR in the hands of the under forty crowd, specifically captains and majors. They would have enough knowledge to know the problems (like suicides are the result of an inability to chapter bad soldiers, which comes from unreasonable demands from higher, not because of captains) but young enough to still have creative solutions.

Cause, rereading your comment, I cannot disagree that the Army has a tough time criticizing itself. Though the AAR is the central learning tool across the Army, hardly any Generals take it to heart. We should have an Army AAR, but we won’t.