Why do we keep losing?

Referring to such places as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam. We send in military forces, they engage in combat — successfully the vast majority of the time — but fail to accomplish our political goals. In the process, we lose thousands of American lives and trillions of dollars.

Fabius Maximus has a new post on this subject, “Why the West loses so many wars, and how we can learn to win.” His argument is that foreign forces rarely win other people’s insurgencies. So we need to quit trying.

Another way to say this is that we’re asking our military forces to do things that military forces can’t do.  Military forces forces engage with and defeat the enemy, as I was taught in ROTC many years ago. After that, what?

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14 thoughts on “Why do we keep losing?

  1. The military industrial complex is not fighting to win. They are fighting to keep the money flowing. Victory means less military money, unless something else is hyped up to spend more money. That’s the only explanation I can think of.

    • altandmain | May 29, 2015 at 2:54 pm

      “The military industrial complex is not fighting to win. They are fighting to keep the money flowing.”

      I agree with that assertion, in large measure as being the simplest solutions, it strikes
      me as well many times, as being glaringly obvious.

      But let’s put it aside for a moment, and look at some other factors.

      One that also strikes me, and dovetails with Boyd’s OODA process.

      The OBSERVATION phase, needs to be honest, and unbiased. If you don’t start
      out with truthfull and unfiltered intake and assessment of the situation, your ORIENTATION will be
      flawed and built upon incomplete, biased, flawed information, wishfull thinking,
      and manicial ambitions that in the larger context serve the interests of a relatively few.

      To achieve sucess, You need sound judgement based on honest observation and orientation, and thus knowing when, and where to fight, and what to fight for.

      The system is broken, many would say hopelessly so, what keeps us afloat,
      is that the opposition and alternatives are simply a lot worse. For now anyway.

      • ““The military industrial complex is not fighting to win. They are fighting to keep the money flowing.””
        Which is really good news. Putin swore that he was going to create a Military Industrial Complex (MIC), and at first blush, it looks like he did.
        Of course like all MIC they need an enemy, and Putin’s chosen enemy (those across the gap between Russian speakers) didn’t set well with the rest of the world, so much of the advantage didn’t pan out so well.
        But when I heard Putin say that he was going to create a MIC, I was very skeptical, because of all the corruption present in his system. However, corruption doesn’t seem to be the problem. The problem really is that the MIC in the US doesn’t seem to like or know how to deal with competition.
        As I have said before, there really is only one MIC in the world, because competitors do not exist. Competitors are really in the same OODA loop just at different positions. There is no gap between positions only vectors.
        The only competition in Putin’s OODA loop comes from the Western Orthodoxy, and maybe Putin and the US forgot there was one.

  2. “Why We Lost: A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars” starts with discussion of desert storm and lasting 42 days of conflict … lots about all the forces in the land war. However, ground campaign only lasts 100hrs (4days)

    “Why We Lost” does mention precision bombing … but the GAO air campaign effectiveness study says that significant portion of Iraqi armor was destroyed by A10 30mm fire … and that Iraqis started walking away from their tanks because they were such sitting ducks. All the description of the tanks destroyed during the 100hrs of the land campaign fail to mention how many of the tanks had anybody home.

    Other discussions of Iraq round 2 … has Iraq had learned to minimize targets for US air power.

    As others have mentioned, objective is “perpetual war” and “keeping the money flowing” … which goes along with the “success of failure” theme:

  3. “why we lost” makes it sound like Iraq1 was ground war even tho it was only 100hrs (of the 42 days)

    advisors providing WMDs
    in the iran/iraq war
    were there with Bush1 for Iraq1. Sat. photo recon analyst warns that Iraq is marshaling forces for Kuwait invasion; administration says that Saddam told them he would do no such thing … administration proceeds to discredit the analyst. Analyst then warns that Iraq is marshaling forces for Saudi invasion … now the administration is forced to choose between Iraq and Saudi.

    and still there with Bush2 for Iraq2 fabricate WMD justification. cousin of the white house chief of staff Card … was dealing with the Iraqis at the UN and was given evidence that WMDs had been decommissioned, notifies her cousin, Powell and others; then gets locked up in military hospital

    from the law of unintended consequences, for Iraq2, the were told to bypass ammo dumps looking for WMDs … when they get around to going back, more than a million metric tons have evaporated. They then start seeing large artilliary shell IEDs, even taking out Abram M1s

    they eventually find the decommissioned WMDs tracing back to US in the 80s … that information is initially classified

  4. It’s easy. We keep getting involved in fights for which we really don’t have the national will to win. War is a contest of wills and at the end of the day we do not want to invest the resources required to win. For example, in the early days of Iraq there was a conscious effort to hold down the number of troops. What we did send was not enough to provide security, security that would have set the conditions for Iraq to recover and become stable. We were not willing to make that investment, which ironically, probably would have cost us less lives in the long run. Along the same lines, I’m growing tired of hearing, “there is no military solution.” Really? I don’t believe it. There is always a military solution, but again, we are not willing to go there so we walk away and lose.

  5. corporate representatives approach former eastern bloc countries and tell them if they vote for invasion of iraq in the UN, they will get approval to join NATO and directed appropriation USAID (that can only be used for buying modern arms from US military-industrial complex).

    “Directed appropriation USAID” is one way congress has of feeding the military-industrial complex w/o it showing up in DOD budget. An issue was that with the end of the cold war, there was downturn in military spending … and the military-industrial complex needed a way to reverse that trend. 2010 there was CBO report that DOD budget had been increased a little over two trillion dollars (compared to baseline budget), $1+T for the two wars and $1+T that couldn’t be accounted for. Note that in the 90s, congress passes act that requires all federal agencies pass regular financial audits. So far, DOD has been unable to pass a financial audit, there is some speculation that DOD might be able to pass a financial audit in 2017 (20yrs later).

    Current projections that when all is said&down, the cost of the two wars will reach $5T with long-term veterans medical and benefits. In fact, long-term veterans medical and benefits is looming as major threat to the military-industrial complex … cutting into the funds available to them.

  6. “Along the same lines, I’m growing tired of hearing, “there is no military solution.” Really? I don’t believe it.”
    Exactly who do you hear that from? For me that “there is no military solution” seems to comes from military leaders instead of the political side of our society. My guess is that you come from the political side.
    The reason our military leaders say that there is no military solution is that there is no real way of knowing the outcome of any engagement. At best, the outcome of any military engagement amounts to an educated guess. Perhaps to parapharse, once the shit hits the fan, all bets are over.
    Let’s take, as an example, the first Gulf War.
    If the Arabs had fought like Russians, for whom the tanks were made for, the outcome may have been different.
    The Arabs used Russian tanks. My unqualified guess, with Russians aboard those tanks, the outcome of the first Gulf War may have been quite different.
    From what I have gathered, from the open-sourced intellegence that I am a part of, the Russians would have held their position.
    So what does that mean? It means that the US military would have observed something quite different in the environment of the First Gulf War.
    Each Russian-operated tank would have been buried in sand and linked (I am presuming) with up to a mile of buried cable. So when the A10 came in hunting tanks, the first tank to lock-on to an A10’s position would direct the fire of the other buried tanks, still connected after the bombing-raid carried out by the close and heavy bombers of the US Airforce.
    And, of course, those close and heavy bomber would not take-out many of the Russian crewed tanks, considering the decoys and jamming devices deployied by the Russians.
    So, after the A-10s, the Marines would come in and destroy the tanks one by one.
    Unfortunately, for your military solution, the US may have, by that time, suffered millions of dollars of loses plus the lives of some of the best in Human resources the US has to offer.
    So by the time the Marines are called in, the environment the US military obseved would look quite different. The US would obtain air superiority, but not ground superiority. The Marines would fix that, i.e. the outcome after the failure of the A-10’s to obtain ground superiority (if that even happened) may have well been that the people of the US would want to know why? Why did we suffure such losses and why are we still fighting?
    That “why” is because the outcome of any war is unknown in the present. We only “win” in the past and future.
    So my question to you is: how do you deploy a force only realivant in the past and future, if the “military solution” doesn’t happen in the present?
    And, even you have to admitt, the future of the first Iraq War is that we fought a second.
    In the first Gulf War, no Russians operated those tanks and Iraq fought the first (and second) Gulf War as Arabs, a war in which bedowins control land they don’t have command over, so here we are.
    How exactly did that turn-out for you?
    It seems to me that you have a problem with the outcome of the first Gulf War and not the second, because no one wanted to win the second.
    Is your chair like mine with arms?

  7. more aside, in Desert Storm, army engineers were through the berms and 50miles into enemy territory three days before the ground war started … and not taking hostile fire

  8. “more aside, in Desert Storm, army engineers were through the berms and 50miles into enemy territory three days before the ground war started … and not taking hostile fire”
    Which is not really realivant, if your enemy is fighting a war of deception and isolation. It turned out the Arabs weren’t.
    More aside, it is hard to reach the bear when he is in isolation (hybernation), because he doesn’t leave a sign.
    The American nuclear power plants are within a drainage system to the sea, because when all else fails that is where the nuclear waste is going on a melt-down (Japan). Not so for Russian nuclear power plants.
    They create structure that keep the melt-down in position (Cherynoval). I think it is reasonalble to consider their military systems to conform to the same strategy, considering the large (isolated) mass, which is Russia.

  9. So when discussing weapons systems, one needs to know and understand the people who are using the systems.
    The Arabs are fighting (now) the war they wanted in the begining of the first Gulf War against those who want to occupy the area that the fighting is taking place in.
    It is a war against the Turks, Kurds, Persians, and all the rest of non-Arabs. My guess is that whoever defeats ISIS will be Arab.
    If not, then Arab strategy is not a winning strategy.
    So far that has not been the case (a losing strategy), as there is a strong Arab component throughout most of the world and throughout most of the South East and Pacific.
    George Bush loved them all, as don’t we all 🙂

  10. I was sitting in the sunshine down in San Antonio wondering ‘Why do we keep losing?’ and browsing through my Sun Tzu book on my iPad. I suddenly realized the Red Team is using this secret sauce. The Blue Team is not. And the Red Team is winning. I put together a quick and dirty analysis, passage by passage, on http://www.landwarinasia.weebly.com. I might have an app roughed out, Real Soon Now.

    To be fair, I’ve also posted the most recent San Remo IHL edition of the Laws of Armed Conflict, the book we mostly use on the Blue Team.

    • I realize it was a quick and dirty analysis, but, even not having read it all, I think you are putting the checks in the Snackbar columes too many times. After all, we sent our Red Team over there first. I think our Red Team only really got over there about the time we invaded Iraq, and maybe it was too late by that time. We may have been fighting their Blue Team n 2003, but I think it was after 2008 when those in command couldn’t hide the fact that it was and still is a full blown civil war, that our Red Team begin to understand that there would be no conversions going on today.
      And of cource the checks gradually moved more towards the colume of the Red Team that we were fighting, as the positions changed from Red to Blue for us, and from Blue to Red for them.
      On the other hand, I don’t think we want nor will be able to deploy another Red Team to that area of the world again.
      Unless, of cource, we elect another Red Team to office, and something awful happens again on their watch.
      I think it is our Blue Team that we want to handle the situation in the Middle East from now on. I think the 13 Chapters have been here and gone. It is now time to set and hold a position similar to WWII, according to rules and laws, no matter how awful.
      Something the Red Team on either side can never do.

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