Military Weakness

It seems to me…

Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness.  When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual.  Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  ~ George Santayana.

We never seem to learn some basic facts about national defense.  Many of the current conservative presidential candidates’ beliefs are strongly rooted in the past and not appreciative of the extent that the world has changed.  This is in no way more true than in their lack of understanding how psychology and technology have changed the nature of warfare.  Even worse, they failed to learn the lessons of Vietnam and detrimentally repeated the same mistakes in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The world has evolved since the large land-battles of World War II but political and military leaders remain firmly rooted in the past not understanding tactics must change to meet today’s threats.  Battlefields now are based on beliefs rather than territorial control.  No longer is victory assured by the number of boots on the ground; today success derives instead from gaining populous support.  While difficult to convince those either still living in the past or not comfortable with this new reality, now is the time to transition to the defensive force of the future.

Our military needs to evolve and develop new types of weapon systems better suited for today’s battles.  Iraq and Afghanistan were not wars in the classic sense – they are more like police actions in that there never can be a victory, only an ongoing struggle for control.  We do not know how to combat these types of activities any better than Mexico does in combating organized insurrection by drug gangs.  Our military is not trained to provide police protection but this is the capacity in which they will increasingly be used.  So far, we have, with only limited success, attempted to use the military in this capacity but our consistent response has essentially as noted by Bernard Baruch “When all you only have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”.  We need to develop special units able to engage combatants in this capacity.

Rather than always increasing the size of our military, we need smaller special purpose units trained to provide faster response.  We need to increase our defense-oriented research and innovation.  We need increased automation.  The big battles of the future will be wars of ideas fought with software and propaganda.  

It is time to stop listening to the military hawks who jingoistically wish to respond militarily to every real or imagined threat.  Increasingly, the battles of the future will be waged not with tanks, planes, or boots on foreign soil but on the electronic soil of cyberspace to curry the favorable opinion of world citizens.  Battles will be waged not only between nation-states but with groups of individuals bound only through ideological agreement.  Attacks can emanate from anywhere at anytime necessitating a constant state of preparedness unlike at any time in the past.

As the world continues to shrink, how we are perceived by others throughout the world becomes increasingly important.  No longer can we act as the world’s police force.  In the future, we will need to act in unison and coalition with other nations as equal partners if the world is to progress forward to everyone’s benefit.  We can not be considered as egocentric bullies only concerned with our own welfare.  The so-called “ugly American” has long been an unfortunate caricature which we as a nation can not afford.

While many disagreed with President Obama’s decision to allow NATO to assume the operational lead against Moammar Kaddafi in Libya, it must be the way of the future.  It will not always work to our satisfaction and will be an awkward, sometimes difficult, learning experience for all involved.  Gratefully, at least in this case, it appears to have been the correct course to follow.

No nation or political power can survive purely as a result of military strength.  Eventually investing a substantial percentage of a nation’s GNP into its military only can result in the decline of that nation.  While every nation must maintain sufficient strength to defend itself, any commitment above that required to sustain such a capability only serves to weaken the nation as that funding is removed from its ability to invest in infrastructure and innovation.

Every nation that has attempted to remain the dominate world’s power has failed.  Britain, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Russia did not succeed.  Through out history only Rome retained it position of importance over a prolonged period but they succeeded though funding of their armies by their controlled territories rather than by Rome itself.  The lesson of history should be obvious – do not have any military involvement anywhere in the world if it is not fully funded by the country in which it is stationed.

Conservative hawks are quick to advocate military intervention and only reluctantly consider non-military alternatives.  While the cost of maintaining the most powerful military force in the world is extremely high, we have yet to accept that the cost of maintaining the peace can be just as high.  We failed to fund the recovery of Afghanistan following the Mujahidin defeat of the Russians and consequently have paid that price many times over.  The world has changed; we have much to learn.  Let’s not once again fail to learn the lessons of history.

That’s what I think, what about you?


About lewbornmann

Lewis J. Bornmann has his doctorate in Computer Science. He became a volunteer for the American Red Cross following his retirement from teaching Computer Science, Mathematics, and Information Systems, at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, CO. He previously was on the staff at the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, Stanford University, and several other universities. Dr. Bornmann has provided emergency assistance in areas devastated by hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. He has responded to emergencies on local Disaster Action Teams (DAT), assisted with Services to Armed Forces (SAF), and taught Disaster Services classes and Health & Safety classes. He and his wife, Barb, are certified operators of the American Red Cross Emergency Communications Response Vehicle (ECRV), a self-contained unit capable of providing satellite-based communications and technology-related assistance at disaster sites. He served on the governing board of a large international professional organization (ACM), was chair of a committee overseeing several hundred worldwide volunteer chapters, helped organize large international conferences, served on numerous technical committees, and presented technical papers at numerous symposiums and conferences. He has numerous Who’s Who citations for his technical and professional contributions and many years of management experience with major corporations including General Electric, Boeing, and as an independent contractor. He was a principal contributor on numerous large technology-related development projects, including having written the Systems Concepts for NASA’s largest supercomputing system at the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. With over 40 years of experience in scientific and commercial computer systems management and development, he worked on a wide variety of computer-related systems from small single embedded microprocessor based applications to some of the largest distributed heterogeneous supercomputing systems ever planned.
This entry was posted in Afghanistan, Battlefield, Conservatives, Defense, Iraq, Libya, Military, Moammar Kaddafi, Mujahidin, NATO and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Military Weakness

  1. gundam says:

    thanks.very good blog and very good share.


    • lewbornmann says:

      U.S. military policy is more of an automatic reflexive reaction than the result of a carefully considered response. We no longer can — or should — be the world’s policeman. Change will be difficult, especially given the current inability of our elected political representatives to compromise. Let’s be hopeful it can be possible…


  2. auntyuta says:

    ‘……to learn the lessons of history’. Seems to me this is a very tall order indeed. Of course it’s possible. The question is how long is it going to take? And who can say what is adequate self protection or how much should be spent on it? And where should self interest stop and the thinking about the greater good of all nations start? Is anyone in the first world willing to share their bounty with less fortunate human beings?
    How do you share the water resources in this world? Some people don’t even have enough drinking water every day. Should wars be fought over it? Are some people just condemned to suffer without an adequate supply of water or food? If nobody wants to play the policeman in every country of this world, then the weak and the poor just keep on suffering. History tells us, it’s always been like this.


    • lewbornmann says:

      “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” ~ Sir Winston Churchill. But, unfortunately, for those to whom that lesson is most important are the most reluctant to study history. Politicians always seem to believe they have the answer regardless of the question or what history has shown to be true.

      When I was young, after a beer at the pub, we knew exactly how to solve all the world’s problems. Naively, we viewed the world in black and white, right or wrong, yes or no… Perhaps we grow wiser as we grow older — or perhaps we merely deceive our selves in different ways.

      I remain optimistic. While the process never is totally linear and there are frequent reversals, in general there is robust economic growth and political stability throughout the world. Nations are more open, less protective, and more democratic. Modernization, global interaction, and increasing trade will result in improvements in governance, human rights, and democracy. The U.S. must learn to share economic and political leadership instead of being the sole world superpower but if we are able to learn how to cooperate rather than dictate, the results will beneficial.

      Yes, there are food and water shortages but with cooperation, these problems can be solved. No nation, not even the U.S. can be the world’s policeman. We will not always like what we see but everyone is entitled to make their own mistakes…


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