Thursday, February 12, 2009

Blogorama

Good morning everyone, I decided to refurbish my original three posts, please see them below:


BLOGORAMA


War should be the only study of a prince. He should consider peace only as a breathing-time, which gives him leisure to contrive, and furnishes as ability to execute, military plans.

–Niccol├│ Machievelli

"Hello World"

Military strategy, as Sun Tzu remarks, is "of ritual importance to the state" and must be studied to understand the dimensions of international relations, economic development, and political motivations. The literature of warfare and its strategies is impoverished. Of all the men who have written on the subject of warfare, I think that only seven have contributed significantly to the understanding of it and have by force of idea, influenced the course of it. Chronologically, the ones I have in mind are Sun-Tzu, Machiavelli, Clausewitz, Mahan, Corbett, Douhet, and Liddell Hart. I intend in this discussion with you to examine some of the patterns of thought that the military mind does use, and to speculate on some that perhaps it should use. There is a wide collection of scholarship focused on the examination of military strategy; however, a better understanding of military decision making has not yet been clearly posed, much less clearly answered.

"What can military strategy and the decision making processes of commanders teach us about history?" "What is the relationship between history theory and history practice?" These questions are at the crux of understanding military strategy: the art and science of employing armed forces under all conditions to attain national security objectives during war. The technique of war concerns, on one hand, the instruments of warfare (weapons and organizations) with which war is carried on and, on the other hand, the utilization of these instruments (policies and operations) to achieve the objects of war. The establishment of these principles of military strategy is essential in the understanding military decision making as well as understanding the current political and international situation.

My purpose is to introduce you, the reader, to the use of original sources—memoirs, diaries, government documents, newspaper editorials, and other contemporary accounts—coupled with current analysis—blogs, new media, and professional commentary. It is my hope that during our discussions we can come together to understand the difference behind the different types of military decision making. These can range from the theoretical framework of military strategy, which employs concepts and other intellectual tools to prepare overarching plans and conduct implementing operations, to the practical application of military thought that is executed by practitioners who perform military operations in pragmatic feats on land, at sea, and in the air.

It goes without saying, that the opinions or assertions in this discussion are mine and are not fool proof. However, like all intellectual discourse, I know that my speculations, whether valid or not, provide an introduction for others to propose something different and better. If this occurs my discussion will have served its purpose.

"Profile of the Blogosphere"

I came across an interesting article posted by Americus Maximus of the Eagle Standard in late October of last year. I am particularly interested in the conclusions that Americus has come to regarding the military efforts in Afghanistan, asserting that it is in the best interest of the United States Armed Forces to utilize the bulk of its army to “engage an entrenched enemy in a vast and complexed mountainous region where no large military force has ever truly been successful in conquering (Soviets -1980's).” Furthermore, Americus disagrees with the contention that eliminating Osama Bin Ladin will result in a collapse. The common misconception, Americus says, is that by eliminating Osama Bin Ladin "the threat of terrorism from around the free world will immediately come to an end." This is hardly the case. Americus' audience is surely aimed at historians, military professionals, and worldly individuals.

I say this because he mentions a variety of military tactics attributed to the famous military theorist, Sun Tzu, and he employs military jargon such as “entrenching forces” and the military principle of “terrain.” Furthermore, to understand the current situation in Afghanistan somewhat requires the understanding of the Soviet mire in the 1980s and the historical notion of the "grave of nations," countries that have failed military operations in Afghanistan, including the Macedonians and the British Empire. His blog is clearly a scholarly analysis of military strategy and its impact on the current theatre of warfare.

Additionally, Americus' posting is essential to the greater arena of military strategy because of the overwhelming lack of reputable scholarship on how military strategy and military decision making affects the current international situation, whether economically, socially, or politically. Like a United States Navy SEAL I scoured the depths of the Blogosphere in search of scholarly, updated blogs on military strategy. My search turned up nothing. I have a few theories behind why this exploration yielded very few results in such an important topic. One, it seems that in the field of history today there is a revitalization of cultural and social history aimed at movements such as nationalism and concepts such as class and identity. The 'traditional' sense of history, including political, military, and economic dimensions, seems to be somewhat lost in the excitement of newer discoveries in cultural and social history. Second, the assessment of military strategy requires a solid foundation in a variety of fields including history, political science, and economics. Americus’ blog is unique in that it exposes a small niche in the Blogosphere. Furthermore, Americus focuses on combined scholarship on military and political news, unlike other blogs that often reference current social trends or sizzling news gossip, which are often easily commented on by the public at large because of the ease of comprehension.

I must agree with Americus that the military struggle in Afghanistan will not be won by the elimination of Osama Bin Ladin; as a caveat; however, it is imperative to eliminate him as it would do a great justice to the American people and those that have lost their lives in the War on Terrorism.

The German military strategist Alfred von Schlieffen remarked that in strategy and tactics the rule applies that when the enemy has been located it is imperative that current operations reflect the need to strike immediately, instead of waiting for the enemy to make any movement. "Many Gentlemen did not content themselves with the most immediate task of attacking the enemy where he happens to be and where he happens to be found...through such considerations they came to one of the worst errors that can be committed in operations: awaiting the effect of the envelopment before advancing against the front." The point of an attacking force is to enable it to be effective; without immediacy in decision making strategy becomes immobilized. This applies directly to the case of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The United States Armed Forces should heed the call of immediacy over delay.

While new theories of strategy and tactics evolve during every confrontation, continental theory of organized warfare is still the best policy. To conclude a word by German military theorist, Carl von Clausewitz: "Destruction of an enemy's force...only by means of the engagement...only great and general engagements will produce great results...results will be greatest...in one great battle."

"An Assessment of Voice"

This week I am particularly interested in examining other blog rolls about the subject of the recent war in Afghanistan and Iraq. In Kings of War, Pat Porter focuses on reviewing some aspects of the so-called "War on Terror", including the language behind the terminology and the definition of warfare. Porter's use of rhetorical quotations emphasizes the intellectual connection between the writer and the reader: "Was this a war?" "Even if it was a war, on what?" Moreover, this is valuable to the reader because it evokes contemplation and curiosity on the subject. Porter then explains that the "War on Terror" has historical underpinnings by quoting the Secretary of Defense, then Donald Rumsfeld, as a “global struggle against violent extremism."

The use of persistent quotations by person's of authority assists Porter in building an "authoritative" voice. More concrete evidence of this authoritative voice is evident in Porter's use of parallel structure and the nature of the organization of the article. It begins not by wielding some vague terms or opinionated conjecture, but by simply exploring the history of the language behind the terminology of "The War on Terror," and in an effort to define it, offers thoughtful questions to the reader.

Quotations by United States military personalities such as Admiral William Fallon, Commander of US operations in the Middle East, with the statement "Long War" makes Porter's voice even more academic and substantive. Porter’s use of the term “Long War” in conjunction with Fallon establishes a dialogue of rapport with the reader, because of the simultaneous action of using an authority coupled with the use of military jargon. There is a particular passage I would like to look at for a more in depth discussion: "So where are we now? The ‘Global Counterinsurgency’ template, as far as I can tell, has not yet been retired. But as a description, one label might usefully summarize the approach of Obama: the Right War. This is not a partisan claim that Obama has it right and others had it wrong."

The initial probing question at the beginning of the paragraph asks the reader to access the situation of the United States in terms of military and political policy and decision making. This initial request of the reader is very important in establishing academic, or as I have noted earlier, "authoritative" voice. The reason for this is that it creates an aura of thought provoking discussion, whereby the reader is engaged in the simultaneous act of accepting information and then deciphering the author's argument. By creating a rapport with his readers, the readers began to routinely comment on his articles. In one instance, an initial blog post discussing the future of terrorist assassinations sparked a wave of intellectual discussion on the comments section, more like a symposium or a forum than a blog post. In most cases the Porter would respond in a continuous dialogue of probing questions and clarifying statements. In a particular case Porter established a 5 point model for assessing the Taliban attack on Kabul earlier this year, which caused immediate dialogue between readers. Some echoed his sentiments saying, “You are absolutely correct in that assessment.” Others, “comment[ed] on the target selection” of Kabul, its historical importance, and even referred to other media and international authorities, including the Pakistan Ministry of Justice. The most important distinction about Kings of War is that through authoritative language and probing questions and rhetorical devices, the readers gain a sense of community with which intellectual discussion takes place on a regular basis.

In a comparative analysis, I envisage my blog as having characteristics similar to an "authoritative" voice. I encourage the reader to access my information, such as my posting on Strategies Against the Taliban, and then proceed on an intellectual analysis of information. Is the information consistent with historical views? Does the reader agree with the information presented? Why or why not? In my posting "Hello World" I addressed my enthusiasm for this blog to be an intellectual exercise for the reader, addressing probing questions and accessing decision making. These intellectual enterprises are similar to Porter's use of quotations by military personalities. I often strive to use military strategists' quotations in my work, such as the initial quotations by Carl von Clausewitz and Alfred von Schlieffen. Additionally, Porter's use of parallel structure is echoed in my own work, with the use of the military mind in the initial "Hello World" post. In accessing the voice of Pat Porter's King's of War I have not only been able to compare my own voice to another military enthusiast, but I have been able to express my passion in words. In the words of Confucius: "Words are the voice of the heart."

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