Military Review English Edition March-April 2016 - Page 14

defeat our enemies, our military leadership has to stop pretending like we’re winning the current war against IS; we’re not. Quite the contrary, our military leaders should feel morally bound to protest, in a meaningfully way, the political mindset that routinely embarks the U.S. military on participating in wars—often not even insisting that they be called wars—with no clear metrics describing a victorious end state, and does so just because it has a professional military available and it can. In conjunction, our national commitment to demanding success must also change if we are to have victory in the future. To accomplish this, Americans in general must be made in some way to have a very personal stake in the duration as well as outcome of conflicts in which our politicians contemplate taking us. For example, if the military—including the Reserve and National Guard—was told to go to war, and that it would not be coming home until that war was won, we would organize and fight much differently than we have done for the past few decades.  We did exactly this when we habitually used to win wars. My father was a World War II veteran; when he deployed to Europe, he wasn’t told he’d be home in four months or six months—or after his unit’s first year’s rotation to the European theater was up. He was simply told by his leaders, go win the war on the European continent—which he did, serving proudly as a corporal until the job was done. Why shouldn’t we do the same today if we are serious about winning wars? What has changed? Is it too hard? Do we lack the forces to sustain a lengthy war? Do we lack the will? Or, rather, do we now have a system in place that makes it too easy and convenient to send our forces to fight wars in which the U.S. citizenry and politicians have little personal stake? Has that system grown so overly bureaucratic that it can’t get out of its own way? Has winning become too politically incorrect for our nation? The answer to all those questions, in my view, is yes. If our military was directed to go fight a war with the specific understanding that it would be required to stay until it won the war, we would plan and fight much differently than we do today. And, more urgent and specific planning, as reflected in reformed policies and procedures, in my assessment, would result in wars that would be far less costly than the perpetual funk of perfunctory conflict in which we now find ourselves. 12 Such a change in mindset would prevent, for example, the nonsense we routinely see at large U.S. bases in war zones where many soldiers become preoccupied with getting to a Pizza Hut or a Burger King located on the base instead of eating the rations that are already provided. Remember, someone has to protect those convoys of frozen burgers and pizzas along the highways we fight on. Many of those protecting the convoys filled with totally unnecessary supplies like these were no doubt blown up by al-Qaida’s improvised explosive devices or Iran’s explosively formed penetrators. However, complaining about the suitability of chain-business pizza in a war zone is not the point. Rather, war zone pizza parlors and burger barns serve as a collective metaphor for the inappropriate ease and comfort that policy makers now too easily promote within the military toward war making that is reflected in a lack of strategic purpose that should aim at victory in as short a time as possible. This is not an elementary argument. Clearly, winning is something we have not done well, with few exceptions, over the past half century of conflict an d war. (Those exceptions include Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm in the early nineties and the defeat of al-Qaida in Iraq, 2009–2011.) Therefore, we need dramatic reform of our mindset as reflected in extensive changes to our defense and interagency structure. Such changes should go well beyond Goldwater-Nichols to whole-of-government planning and execution of a war effort, and they should come as soon as possible. However, at present, there is an immediate and urgent necessity for organizing for absolute victory against IS’s very vicious and cancerous form of radical Islamist extremism before it is too late; reform (in some cases, radical reform) that enables organizing and acting decisively against IS is the most important requirement today. Organizing for War against the Islamic State The kind of war we are currently in with IS is in many respects not at all new. Globally oriented terrorism is not a new phenomenon but has existed in many permutations since even before the nineteenth century. So, we should not be surprised at the current levels of violence involved directed mainly at soft targets that are appearing in many quarters of the March-April 2016  MILITARY REVIEW