Michael D. Moberly March 4, 2016 ‘A blog where attention span really matters’!
“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”, a quote widely attributed to Sir Winston Churchill, variously confirms a range of frustrations shared by many Vietnam War combat veterans with respect to how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were prosecuted.
In the U.S., we have come to assume any war, particularly those post-WWII, breed proponents and opponents with the differences frequently arising from nuanced social, political, moral, and even national security arguments, that eventually, but inevitably, morph as untoward revelations about a war’s underlying rationale and prosecution, which, in turn, give rise to doubts, questions, frustrations, and public weariness, e.g.,
• what are the ‘knowns and unknowns’, i.e., foreseen and unforeseen tradeoffs and consequences?
• is the war being prosecuted as effectively (tactically, strategically) as it should and with sufficient translucency?
• what means exist for regularly measuring the war’s status, i.e., are specific political-moral-military-national security objectives being met?
To be sure, frustrations…evolve, repeatedly evidenced when tactical, strategic, and/or policy misjudgments and misdiagnoses occur, all-to-often marked by an absence of ‘lessons learned’ from numerous prior comparables, i.e., the Vietnam War vis-à-vis the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
It is with confidence, had any military war planner – tactician asked any Vietnam War (ground) combat veteran, prior to deploying large numbers of U.S. troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, to describe risks-threats for which it would be prudent to train and prepare combat troops for in advance, their responses would likely evolve around…
• there will be more sophisticated versions of booby-traps’ of all types the former a term/phrase ludicrously modified to IED’s (improvised explosive devices) and ‘suicide bombers’.
• any prospect of ‘winning hearts and minds’ of independently indigenous (religious) sects-cultures marked by thousand year histories of conflict, will be a long, risky, costly, and very likely produce a disappointing outcome.
• the wars’ in general, and fighting specifically, (in Iraq, Afghanistan) will occur with 360-degree asymmetry, and 24/7 spontaneity.
• recognition that the primary, perhaps the primary difference insofar as combat in Iraq and Afghanistan to Vietnam, is terrain!
• training indigenous personnel for ‘standalone’ defense of their region – country will be challenging, time consuming, costly, and probably never produce a fully desirable outcome, lackluster performance of indigenous military will collectively translate to a political and social unsustainable willingness to continue indefinitely.
• mitigating – countering the influx and actions of religious indoctrinated – self-described insurgents will be challenging and achieve only sporadic territorial gains which can be quickly undermined – lost when troops are withdrawn.
It seems apropos then, to revisit the aforementioned quote attributed to Mr. Churchill, i.e., “those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. It’s quite possible the U.S. military co-opted Mr. Churchill’s quote was co-opted and re-phrased to ameliorate the persistence of more recent tragedies as ‘lessons learned’. For example, the April, 1996 plane (Boeing 737) crash in Croatia that killed then Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown and 34 other American aides and business persons accompanying the Secretary on a trade mission. Following this incident, the U.S. Air Force primarily, compiled a 7,700-page document titled ‘lessons learned’.
One of the most significant takeaways from that document, in my judgment, was the fact that numerous civilian and military pilots had personal and recent knowledge of the risks and challenges associated with negotiating the runway – a landing at the same Croatian airport. Such reports, conveyed over a period of time prior to the crash of Secretary Brown’s plane, were probably at echelons well below what would be required to produce change. As the report admits, most, if not all of the relevant concerns went un-asked, until that is, the Secretary’s plane crashed, upon which it became ‘time to ask’.
Mr. Moberly is an intangible asset strategist and risk specialist and author of ‘Safeguarding Intangible Assets’ published by Elsevier in 2014, firstname.lastname@example.org View Mr. Moberly’s videos on YouTube at ‘Safeguarding Intangible Assets’.