Military Review English Edition July-August 2014 - Page 55

Soviets was apolitical—it was a fantasy war at the end What is the Function of Time? of history. The winner would survive; the loser’s society All social science questions involve time as an interwould be annihilated. All the annoying questions of dependent variable. L.P. Hartley’s now aphoristic line, sociopolitical context wer e excluded from the scenario. “The past is a foreign country,” is but one illustration of Therefore, during operations, neither tactical why time makes cause and effect questions so comprinciples nor tactical aims would be questioned even plicated and difficult to answer.10 Explaining complex though tactical principles left room for applying judgevents such as warfare in the kind of out-of-time rules ment. The relatively consistent tactical successes of used in hard science is impossible. In hard science, U.S. forces, especially since the 1970s, provided proof. rules are rules because they nearly always explain and Consistent application of position, cover, fires, compredict things that happen. On the other hand, answermunication, and so on, led to successful operations. ing why the Hundred Years War happened is not the The sum of all this experience reinforced the idea that same as explaining why Vietnam happened. Whatever a quantitative approach produced tactical success. the broad similarities, the differences from one case to Tactical success became an end in itself, separate from another tend to be greater. the uncomfortable complexities of war as politics in The United States surged 30,000 troops into extremis. Military science increasingly came to be seen, Afghanistan in 2008 based largely on military arguerroneously, as a scientific branch of the hard sciences. ments that a successful surge into Iraq in 2006 would It had become no more than quasi-scientific at best, predict a successful surge in Afghanistan. One problem pseudoscientific at worst. with this way of thinking was that it assumed simiThe problems of war and warfare, in reality, are lar conditions in each state. In reality, the differences not quantifiable problems of the hard sciences because between the societies in Iraq and Afghanistan were they involve the behavior of human beings. As Nobel considerable according to analysts Rick Nelson, Nathan Prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg noted, “It Freier, and Maren Leed.11 Neither the problems nor has been an essential element in the success of science to distinguish those problems that are and are not illuminated by taking human beings into account.”9 Social scientists seek to understand and explain why people do things. Students of warfare using a qualitative approach would seek to understand why people started wars, ended wars, and prosecuted wars in certain ways and at certain times. Answering any of these questions would involve getting at the subjective motivations of kings, generals, soldiers, and civilians. The ongoing difficulty is creating a reasonably objective science of fundamentally subjective phenomena. Military commanders need to see their lifelong professional role as active Afghan National Army special forces and commandos, 6th Special Operations Kandak, participants in the effort to build prepare to clear a series of compounds during an operation in the Nejrab District, Kapisa the discipline of war studies as a Province, Afghanistan, 27 May 2014. ANASF, assisted by USSF, conducted the operation social science. to disrupt insurgent freedom of maneuver in the area. MILITARY REVIEW  July-August 2014 53 U.S. Army photo by Spc. Connor Mendez STRATEGIC SUCCESS