Our Ridiculous Way of Fighting Wars

As we look at the disgraceful coda of the Global War on Terror and the tens of thousands of our countrymen who have been maimed or killed with scant results, it is clear to all but few (sadly, those few seem to occupy a lot of Defense Department jobs and think tank posts), there must be a better way to fight our wars. If we look to history, and even demands from the anti-war Left, we might find a better way forward.

Believe it or not, the anti-war Left does have a strong point. No, their point was not to be found in their human barricading of military posts or yelling in congressional meetings with ridiculous costumes. It was in their demand for the third rail of military intervention everyone dismisses: Timelines. 

We are told we cannot set timelines. We are there until “mission accomplished” (or it loses funding, as we have seen). But what if we looked at our past and realized that when a war goes beyond four or five years of mobilization, beneficial results are difficult to identify? Which “victory” was more decisive: World War II or Vietnam? Are we to believe that timelines are beneficial to every type of work (construction, budgets, school testing, sports), but when it comes to deploying our military efforts that is the one thing that somehow needs zero accountability for how long it takes?

Why can we not have a five-year timeline requirement on each war declaration/force authorization? What would a five-year timeline require? Massive deployment of forces. Massive manufacturing of equipment, mobilization of forces, etc. (think of the old World War II movies of assembly lines, etc.). Few realize we fought Desert Storm with a larger Army deployed than our total Army is now. What if we had a manpower/equipment requirement (two Armies, 600 ships, 4000 planes, etc.) before we fight? Somehow, this idea would be dismissed as ludicrous (despite it being automatic in wars we cared to win), but yet having soldiers deployed in combat for half their careers is not?

Our generals (when not playing on Twitter or studying CRT) now present ludicrous theories to us that a few teams of SEALs grabbing a guy and some drones flying around are the same as a division of troops deployed in a town. Yet, we somehow never pacified much of Afghanistan or Iraq after two decades. Is the argument that the German SS troops were not as motivated to fight a guerilla war as Al Qaeda has been (spoiler alert: they planned to do it)? Perhaps, like the SS, Al Qaeda would have realized when 10,000 troops and materiel were in every little town, that resistance was futile? If we deployed in Europe as we did in Iraq and had just a brigade covering all of Bavaria, would the SS simply have surrendered? 

Another thing massive mobilization and five-year timelines might stop is the exploitation of the smaller (read: cheaper) all-volunteer military. Yes, it is great for America not to need a draft, but politicians and generals learned the wrong lessons from Vietnam. They realized if you have an all-volunteer Army and you make one percent (or less) of the population do the dirty work, it is easy for the citizenry to ignore the war. No involuntary service means no skin in the game for most. 

How many people today even know someone that knows someone who went to a KIA funeral? It is not without previous examples: France kept its empire running for over a century with foreign soldiers no one cared about. Is Great Falls, Montana or Youngstown, Ohio any less foreign to our political elite? Our elites use these people like grist in the war machine’s mill. They are like neocon carbon offsets (“well, they volunteered, so you do not need my kids.”). Perhaps keeping these places poor makes it easier to recruit them for foreign “adventure?” It certainly doesn’t hurt.

Another key to the five-year war requirement: Funding without using the existing budget. Remember the ludicrous commercial the Bush Administration ran explaining how we really helped the war effort by just “living our lives?” Ignoring our citizens being maimed and killed with no real objective being accomplished makes it easier for the war machine to continue. How is this different from Roman diversions of panem et circense? 

Some might be old enough to remember, but most others have probably wandered around a kitschy shop and seen a poster for War Bonds. We could not have fought many of our pre-Vietnam wars without them. Putting some American flags on a Super Bowl helmet is not the same as buying a bond to fund body armor, larger ships, or something that saves American lives. Why do we not add to a constitutional amendment that we require funding wars with bonds only? If we decide that some objective is good enough to sacrifice our young, can’t the rest of us at least loan the means to fight to the government with some interest? Should we not require an obligation of buying the bonds if your nuclear family is not serving at all? 

The Rumsfeldian argument that shrinking the military during the last two decades makes us win wars is obviously without evidence or logic. While your government has tried to make this ludicrous claim, we sit seven decades away from taking part in any major tangible military success. Our largest city was attacked (remember, Hawaii was not even a state in 1941) in 2001, and we decided our best choice was to not mobilize 300 million Americans. 

Could the War on Terror not have been finished in 2005-2006 with full focus on victory? When we decide to send our young off to fight, we owe them more than a thank you and a free concert. 

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About Mark Rothermel

Mark Rothermel is a former Armored Cavalry Officer in the United States Army and entrepreneur. He holds an MBA in finance and is currently pursuing his master's in history.

Photo: Lon Horwedel via Getty Images