Does it make any difference what you call it?

Yes, because what you call it affects how you think about it.

Here’s just one example, from a recent article in The American Conservative:

During wartime who dares question almost any Pentagon cost “to defend America?”

From “12 Reasons America Doesn’t Win Its Wars,” by John Basil Utley.

Sun Tzu suggested, in the opening lines of The Art of War, that

War is a matter of vital importance to the state, the province of life or death; the road to survival or ruin.

Griffith trans., p. 63.

It follows, then, that if what you’re looking at isn’t a matter of survival of the state, it isn’t war. Can you, with a straight face, claim that the United States is engaged with an existential enemy outside of its own boarders? 

So if it isn’t war, how should we deal with it? Well, let’s look at what one of our opponents is doing (one can have “opponents” in many fields other than war). The title of this article from today’s New York Times (registration required) pretty much tells the story: “Offering Services, ISIS Ensconces Itself in Seized Territories.”

The group is offering reliable, if harsh, security; providing jobs in decimated economies; and projecting a rare sense of order in a region overwhelmed by conflict … “It is not our life, all the violence and fighting and death,” he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity, like others from areas run by the Islamic State, so as not to anger the jihadists. “But they got rid of the tyranny of the Arab rulers.”

The result is that increasing numbers of inhabitants — probably too early to call most of them “citizens” — of the Islamic State have come to identify with it and and become willing to fight for it, or at least fight to prevent the return of conditions that caused it to exist in the first place. If this seems incomprehensible, recall that the Russian people, few of whom were dedicated communists — fought heroically and successfully to defend their homeland from Nazi invasion.

Boyd noted that the best way to ingrain oneself in the emotions of the population is to immerse your movement in the matrix of the population:

  • Guerrillas must establish implicit connections or bonds with people and countryside. In other words
  • Guerrillas must be able to blend into the emotional-cultural-intellectual environment of people until they become one with the people. In this sense
  • People feelings and thoughts must be guerrilla feeling and thoughts while guerrilla feelings and thoughts become people feelings and thoughts; people aspirations must be guerrilla aspirations while guerrilla aspirations become people aspirations; people goals must be guerrilla goals while guerrilla goals become people goals. Result
  • Guerrillas become indistinguishable from people while government is isolated from people.

Patterns 95.  While the IS may still be a long way from this, they seem to have an appreciation for its importance. I would argue that their success at this exercise in nation building will determine whether they will be able to withstand the counterattacks that are coming. Schwerpunkt.

While we proclaim “war on terror,” and lob missiles at them from the comfort and safety of drone control centers, the terrorists are on the ground, with the people, providing services and security.

“Now there is more security and freedom, no arrests, no harassment, no concrete barriers and no checkpoints where we used to spend hours to get into the city,” said Mohamed Al-Dulaimi of the jihadist-controlled city of Falluja.

“What will happen if the militias enter Falluja?” he said. “We will take our guns and fight them, not because we are ISIS, but because the militias will kill us all.”

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8 thoughts on “Does it make any difference what you call it?

  1. Order in Chaos: The Memoirs of General of Panzer Troops Hermann Balck, loc:4623-26: The analysis of intelligence is probably the most complicated sphere of human action, one that requires a limitless amount of experience, knowledge of human nature, languages, geography, and character analysis–all skills that are more than rare. The Slavic institutes in the universities had an ominous influence because Hitler listened to them, and these institutes only presented what Hitler wanted to hear. Quidquid delirant reges plectuntur Achivi, or “The soldier has to suffer for it.”

    from National Insecurity pg248/3534-40: The Team B experience was the first instance of institutionalized militarization of intelligence imposed on the CIA from the White House. The first instance of the CIA’s internal militarization of intelligence took place in the 1980s, when President Reagan appointed a right-wing ideologue, Bill Casey, to be CIA director, and Casey appointed a right-wing ideologue, Bob Gates, to be his deputy. Casey and Gates combined to “cook the books” on a variety of issues, including the Soviet Union, Central America, and Southwest Asia, tailoring intelligence estimates to support the military policies of the Reagan administration. After he left the CIA in 1993, Gates admitted that he had become accustomed to Casey “fixing” intelligence to support policy on many issues. He did not describe his own role in support of Casey.

    pg261/loc3722-24: Cheney and Rumsfeld resorted to the same technique they had used in 1976, when they had worked for President Ford. In the 1970s, they had created Team B at the CIA in order to politicize intelligence on Soviet military power. In 2002, they politicized intelligence in order to take the country to war against Iraq.

    and Merchants of Doubt, pg47/loc1209-14: Team B’s Claims turned out to be more than a little exaggerated. Later analyses would show that the Soviet Union had not achieved strategic superiority, they had not implemented a missile defense system beyond their single Moscow installation, and they certainly never achieved the ability to dictate U.S. policy. One anecdote perhaps tells the whole story: A few years after the Soviet Union collapsed, one of Teller’s proteges toured a site that the Team B panel had believed was a Soviet beam-weapon test facility; it turned out to be a rocket engine test facility. It had nothing at all to do with beam weapons.

    and Prophets of War pg134/loc2273-74: Another Team B member who was to make his mark later, under the administration of George W. Bush, was Paul Wolfowitz.

    Rumsfield white house chief of staff 74-75 (and supposedly organized replacement of CIA director), then when he becomes SECDEF, 75-77, he is replaced by one of his staffers, Dick Cheney. He is again SECDEF2001-2006

    When Rumsfeld was white house chief of staff 74-75, Cheney was on his staff. Cheney then becomes white house chief of staff when Rumsfeld becomes SECDEF. Cheney is then SECDEF from 89-93 and VP 2001-2009

    another “Team B”

    He is a leading neoconservative.[4] As Deputy Secretary of Defense, he was “a major architect of President Bush’s Iraq policy and … its most hawkish advocate.”[5] In fact, “the Bush Doctrine was largely [his] handiwork.”

    … snip …

  2. “Can you, with a straight face, claim that the United States is engaged with an existential enemy outside of its own boarders? ”
    No, with 80% of Americans claiming to be Christian, I don’t see any existential enemy in ISIS. However, with two of the last election cycle in the Republican Party being non-Chistian, I think it may come to that.
    And, what about when China starts being the number one economy on this planet? The U.S. is very much a part of that economy, so do we, like China, become a focus of this existential enemy and join a communist China in its effort to destroy this enemy?
    After all, much of our debit comes from Asia, as well as from those more in a positon to support ISIS as not, i.e. KSA.

  3. I read the “12 Reasons” and thought it to be one of the most cynical pieces I’ve read in a long time. Beyond that, it’s naive and generous to assume anyone in our DoD or Government is good enough to deliberately serve as the architect of conflicts that occur simply to feed the defense industrial complex. We get involved in wars we should not be involved in mainly out of ignorance of the environment that is mixed with an ideological world view. Once we are involved we lose sight as to why we are fighting and our lack of real resolve, the kind that war as a conflict of wills demands, surfaces. The Weinberger doctrine is not quaint and archaic in today’s complex world as many have suggested. It is actually a pretty accurate litmus test to apply for any representative government contemplating war.

    • ” We get involved in wars we should not be involved in mainly out of ignorance of the environment that is mixed with an ideological world view.”
      Exactly. Quantum physics tells us that the observations, from any position in the environment, only defines the observer and no others in the same OODA loop.
      I guess I added the part about the OODA loop, but, in Quantum physics, the environment observed is inside a loop, and to me that loop can best be described as an OODA loop, with perhaps another letter or two added.
      So when it comes to war, we should not forget were the environment is (a state in Quantum physics), as well as how our position in the loop is observed by others.
      So we would be still as ignorate and with an idelogical world view in following the 12 steps to the letter or not. The difference would be that we would be observed to be in a different position than if we hadn’t followed them.
      Of course it would be up to those observing us to determine the advantages between the two positions, because they have already defined themselves and, especially during war, negotiations can only be carried out from a position of strength.
      Of course in some instances you idelogical world view might keep you from negotiations (which are mostly cultural), at least until your world view changes structurally around you.

  4. It does not matter what it’s called.

    The issue is that ISIS clearly understands human psychology, the people of Iraq, and it’s own goals much better than the US does. The answer is that the Iraqi people see, with considerable justification I might add, the US as a foreign nation, that is occupying and trying to take their resources.

    Of course if the US goal is to “keep the money flowing” to the military industrial complex, then it has arguably succeeded remarkably well. There was no peace dividend at the end o the Cold War. The War on Terror has led to military spending like another Reagan buildup. Judging by the things the “hawk” type politicians in the US say, they want an increase in spending on top of that, worsening any defense death spirals.

    • The War on Terror has led to military spending like another Reagan buildup.

      Because we call it a “war.” As Sun Tzu noted, “war” is a matter of life an death for the state. So you do whatever it takes to win it. Those who don’t sign up are traitors.

      Perhaps if we didn’t call it a “war,” our orientations wouldn’t get so locked up.

    • People seem to be appealed for whatever other reason to go to war.

      If you think about it though, it’s the opposite of Sun Tzu’s strategy that America is pursuing. It has not made a serious effort to understand the enemy, instead the narrative of “they hate us for our freedoms” seems to be have dominated the national conversation. This is true under Obama, just like under Bush.

      It is also as noted before, the total opposite of the ideas that Boyd noted for a good “grand” strategy.

  5. “It has not made a serious effort to understand the enemy, instead the narrative of “they hate us for our freedoms” seems to be have dominated the national conversation. This is true under Obama, just like under Bush.”
    But if it is true that observations defines self instead of object, then by using the word “State” when we describe them and they us, it is much easier for each of us to define ourselves. But the word isn’t as important when defining a orientation, because it is our orientation, not the object observed.
    But I think decisions come out of our orientation (with feedback) and we position ourselves after decisions are made, and, hopefully, before acting. So the name “State” is defining a position instead of an orientation, and the name is important, because it is defining relationship and not what is observed, but more of what is felt, at least what is felt closer to action.
    I think it could be said that we position ourselves by thinking, and thinking positions us. The amount of time between thinking and acting depends on how close the name of the position is in describing the orientation and how much it defines the position.
    In that context of a name describing position, when a position and orientation can be defined by the same name, the time between decision and action is very small. I am thinking that this is when lockup occurs.
    As an example, when an orientation says to love our enemy and our position at war tells us that we need to destroy a whole generation of people, I imagine some lockup can occur.
    So the name of a position is important–the name of an orientation, not so much.

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