« Winning the War with … | Home | The Annual On V Blogr… »

An On V Update to Old Ideas, Round Three

With another month down, here is another On Violence update, where we highlight other blog posts and news stories that agree or disagree with our previous ideas. (Again, we’ll be honest: we mainly select articles that agree with us.)

Without further ado, the update:

More From Lone Survivor

Our post on Lone Survivor from last Tuesday (“Marcus Luttrell Stands By His Mistakes”) got a fairly good response on Twitter. Well, that post left out the most recent exaggeration of enemy numbers. Interviewed by Deadline Hollywood in May, Peter Berg increased the number of “Al Qaeda” (actually loosely allied wtih Hezb il Gulbuddin, but in reality mainly farmers in the Korengal just fighting against outsiders without real knowledge of the larger conflict) to 250 fighters, the highest total short of Glenn Beck’s ridiculously high 2,500. Berg also claimed there were four goat herders and and misstated the number of SEALs killed in action.

A quick note to all concerned military bloggers. If you thought The Hurt Locker mis-portrayed soldiers, just wait. This film could take the cake and then some.

Being Nice, and Management

I have a simple belief about management that I learned from Manager Tools: being nice is generally the best policy. Kindness has also popped up on our blog as it relates to “gratitude theory” in counter-insurgency. Unfortunately for On Violence, one of the biggest counters to this idea, Steve Jobs, just died, and had a widely read biography published. He was a notorious task master who was brutally honest with his employees. He has been called a jerk in many quarters.

This Atlantic article, though, does a fantastic job explaining why Steve Jobs was an exception to that rule. A great read for kindness.

Who says the world is dangerous?
Eric C keeps me on my toes, always asking during editing, “Is this a Ray Bolger?” (Ray Bolger being the actor who played the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, the definitional strawman.) So with our big push last month of links about people writing books that the world is safer than it ever has been, did we create a strawman? Which politicians or columnists deny this idea?

Many. The key word to look for is “dangerous.” Those who reject deep defense cuts commonly call our world, “dangerous.” They often call it “more dangerous”, but don’t say what it is more dangerous than. (Presumably the past.) The latest candidates using “dangerous” with regards to the world (some say defense cuts are dangerous, but these four individuals specifically said the world is more dangerous for Americans than the past): Representative Buck McKeon, Representative J. Randy Forbes, The Washington Times Frank Gaffney and BlackFive writer “MCJ”.

Some quick points. None of the above columnists or politicians provided a shred of evidence that the world is more dangerous. They assert “the world is dangerous” and let it stand on its own. They don’t provide evidence the world is more dangerous because there isn’t any.

Further, check out the donations to the two honorable congress-people’s campaigns. See any correlations? (Hint: high defense industry donations equal a belief in a need for more defense spending. As InkSpots pointed out, it is a myth that the defense community has no domestic constituency. In fact, it might have the most powerful lobby in congress.)

Defense Spending

And now our regular update where we argue that we spend too much on defense, and we waste a lot of what we spend. First, the contrary opinion from J. Randy Forbes. He has said that decreasing defense spending will cost 1.5 million jobs. Politicfact has rated this as “mostly true”, so we acknowledge that defense cuts will include some financial pain. (See not every link agrees with us.)

On to the counters. This Best Defense post by Richard Kohn argues that much of our spending is wasted confronting Cold War threats. I couldn’t agree more. This article argues that defense spending has actually largely been spared any cuts, and most of the public cuts are exaggerated. This DangerRoom article presciently predicted that sequestration defense cuts won’t happen, and that looks to be happening.

Meanwhile the F22, the Joint Strike Fighter, and the SBInet “Virtual Border Fence” continue to be over-budget, inadequate or unsafe. How many times do military contractors have to deliver over-budget projects before Congress or the DoD says enough is enough?

Humanitarian Interventions

A long time back, I argued that the US should start participating (for free) in UN humanitarian interventions to help train Army brigades in irregular warfare. This would double the amount of troops involved in peacekeeping, help the US reputation around the world, and provide us training. However, humanitarian interventions are always tricky, and often backfire. Joshua Goldstein--who we cited for his new book Winning the War on War last month--released an excellent Foreign Affairs article with Jon Western arguing that humanitarian interventions have become increasingly capable and successful.

This just proves my point: the US should assist in humanitarian interventions more often (though politically that will become less likely).

Criminals and Counter-Insurgents

This isn’t one of our ideas, but Mike Few brought to a lot of people’s attention the involvement of the city of Salinas and students at the Naval Post Graduate School discussing the comparisons between counter-insurgency and fighting crime. I couldn’t help think about this when it came to Fresh Air’s interview with David Kennedy called, “Don’t Shoot” about solving crime with a technique opposite to the “Broken Windows” theory. I feel like preventing crime and fighting counter-insurgencies are almost more similar than maneuver wars and counter-insurgencies.

Of course, that would mean that not all war is war with the same underlying principles...

three comments

I love these updates. Every time we do them, we have too many links. That’s why we have to keep doing them each month.

“I feel like preventing crime and fighting counter-insurgencies are almost more similar than maneuver wars and counter-insurgencies.”

Bingo. That’s why we should rarely use big massive armies externally in COIN campaigns. Instead, choose FID/SFA early on. You might also be interested in this


I agree with the thrust about rethinking the definitions of irregular war. The problem is too many theorists, many in SWJ, simply say, “War is war” and “war is eternal, with the same eternal truths.” Much like religion, those ideas are built on faith. No one has “proven” war has the same eternal, underlying principles. It is more a philosophical point than a scientific one.

And that is a controversial opinion of mine I am waiting to roll out fully in a longer article. But its similar to what you are saying.

And I totally agree about using smaller forces in COIN. Actually, either that or tons more forces. Like you have to either go big or go small. Right now, in Afghanistan, we are going medium, and it isn’t working.