Ed's Blog

"Some people know everything, but that's all they know."


Deep cuts in the U.S. defense budget will have a negative impact on U.S. national security. Equally, if not more worrisome, are the effects of the strain we are putting on our warriors by endlessly placing them in harm’s way with no clear victory they can tell themselves was worth their sacrifice. (Read the full column at EWRoss.com)


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11 Responses

  1. Reposted from LinkedIn says:



    “Decisions America makes to intervene militarily or not have and will continue to affect the strategic realities of our world. When we intervene, however, Americans must demand that the commander-in-chief, Congress, and our military leaders not precipitously cut the defense budget and degrade the military capabilities our warriors need. And we must demand that they give our warriors achievable missions that lead to clear and lasting victories.”

    Three points I see thus far as being a deterrent; POTUS , Congress and Americans. The latter you will have to fit in between reality shows.

    Posted by Rachelle Belcastro

  2. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: International Relations Professional Discussions


    Ed: Excellent.

    After WW II military victory has been equated in many people’s mind as the unconditional surrender of the enemy. Most wars that end in victory of one side over the other do not result in one of the parties surrendering unconditionally (the requirement that Nazi Germany and Japan surrender unconditionally rather than sue for peace had very much to do with the mutual suspicon between the US and the Soviet Union -it showed the latter that the US and its allies- would not seek a separate peace, as well as with the nature of the political regimes of Germany and Japan which allowed no compromise and called for regime change and the tiail of the leaders). Victory is prevailing, whether the other party sues for peace, or compromise, or again is reduced to a residual nuisance.

    The war in Iraq was one where the US snatched victory from the jaws of a defeat that some like Senator Harry Reid had already proclaimed. A sound counterinsurgency strategy, a reversal of alliances by the Sunni tribes and a surge in troops, not to mention an excellent commander, did the trick. Unfortunately it is not a total victory, as the US had to withdraw at the expiry of its SOFA agreement with the elected government of Iraq, ie according to a deadline rather than the meeting of a series of objectives. I don’t dispute that this was the right thing to do, but will lament the fact that no agreement could be reached with the Iraqis on a residual force under a partnership agreement whereby the US could have helped defending the country’s borders, helped in the intelligence field and better help training the Iraqi army. Such a small, unobtrusive force (it certainly wouldn’t have patrolled the streets of Iraq) would have served several purposes including stabilization and, while the US would not have mingled with the internal affairs of Iraq, would possibly have avoided the current sectarian offensive against V-P Tareq Al-Hashemi and the Iraqiyya grouping. So it is victory in Iraq, but victory of a sort.

    Victory in Afghanistan is not there yet. The announcement by President Obama of a date for the withdrawal of US (and teherfore ISAF) troops -end 2014- is also an example of deadline rather than objective-driven approach, which does not have the excuse of a SOFA agreement imposing such deadline. It told the Taleban that they could wait out the US, and Afghanistan’s neighbors that they better move their pawns in quickly, as for instance Pakistan with the Haqqani network. There is nothing wrong with calculating how much time does the US need to ensure that the Afghani security forces are up to the task of defending the countru and the regime, with attempting to evaluate when Afghanistan will be strong enough to sustain itself, govern itself and defend itself. But a such dates are susceptible to revision as the situation changes, it is better not to present such internal evaluations as official deadlines. It does seem however that the Obama administration has somewhat revised its coopy and that the new Strategic Agreement signed with President Karzai will allow a residual support force that could intervene at the latter’s request (the vexing question of jurisdiction over US troops which killed an agreelent with Iraq does not seem to be resolved). Victory in Afghanistan would be the reduction of the Taleban to a residual force unable to put the Afghani government of government at risk of being overthrown or not controlling large chunks of its territory. The Afghani security forces are indeed becoming more proficient, but not yet so that they could do away with US support. The war however is not going to be won, whatever vice-president Joseph Biden says, by the sole combination of intellugenec and drone strikes. It requires accelerating the training of Afghani forces, which until two and a half years ago had remained in abeyance and helping with the reconstruction and economic development of the country.


    Posted by Giles Raymond DeMourot

  3. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: International Relations Professional Discussions


    (continued from previous post)

    Victory is not an oudated concept as long as it is not confused with surrender in battle or unconditional surrender. Military victory is prevailing oven the enemy so that this enemy is no longer an existential threat to oneself, or one’s ally, or allies. Victory remains achievable in Afgnaistan, but only to the extent that the goals of such victory are clearly defined and understood.

    Posted by Giles Raymond DeMourot

  4. stephen lent says:

    While the current mindset pervades the government, military victory is an outdated concept. None of the apparatchiks has any idea of what they are dealing with as far as our adversaries’ mindset is concerned. They ignore the reality the the Koran and the Hadiths tell the faithful to negotiate when weak and when the infidel is weakens in a number of years, attack again. The rules of engagement put our troops in extreme danger. The politicians don’t care as long as they play to their base and get votes.

  5. reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: Naval Postgraduate School Alumni


    I’m sorry, the best war fought is the one not fought at all. Military victory is a fleeting thing in the real world, mostly hyped to salve wounds suffered. Victory “justifies” the sacrifice, but does little to solve the problem for which it was achieved, unless coupled with higher justifications, such as can be found in the Augustinian Rules of War. Conflict is the abhorrent outcome of greed, avarice, arrogance and an otherwise lack of more civilized instruments of conflict resolution. What we have experience over the past 21 plus years of engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan amounts to a false notion that the US must take an active (belligerent) role in crafting a different world order post Cold War. We engaged without a clear understanding of the enemy and enemy objectives, we completely forgot our vulnerable centers of gravity, misapplied our values to a subculture void of modernity, and arrogantly declared that freedom is everyone’s right; not considering that what freedom really means is relative autonomy within given social constructs…even we are not free beyond our social constructs. The real tragedy, euphoric feeling of victory notwithstanding, is the opportunity cost incurred by not really contributing to reshaping of the vast 80 percent of the world that has moved forward and placed us in a diminished relative position on the world stage. Had we paid more attention to which way the post cold War world was moving over the pat 23 plus years we may have shaped a world where frustrations over victories (meaningless or otherwise) would not be a subject of discussion.

    Posted by Tony Kopacz

  6. reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: Naval Postgraduate School Alumni


    Tony, I agree with your observations and thoughts. Of course hindsight is 20/20. But your assessment is missing a key point. The world stage is constantly evolving based on the actions of the players. Had U.S. actions been different, our current world would be different. Lack of belligerent action in Afghanistan would have permitted terrorism to grow well beyond its current capability. Terrorism may well have come to dominate the world stage. American sacrifice of its superior relative position on the world stage gave opportunity for growth in other parts of the vast 80 percent of the world.
    What would you have done differently over the past 23 years? What should have been the role for the U.S.? Our experience has taught us (again) that we must better understand other cultures before we try to shape the world. What would you have us do now?

    PS. I think Ed Ross’s piece is really about closure for the warriors and not about the debate on whether to go to war in the first place.

    Posted by John Laszakovits

  7. reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: Naval Postgraduate School Alumni


    The continual draining of our resources is taking its tool on all of us. I believe we should have a strong military and have supported same since 1980 whether in the military and now as a contractor. However, the level of spending as the world’s policeman and our meddling in the affairs of so many countries, not to mention the social engineering that we are paying for through the US AIDE program and various UN programs has bankrupted us financially and morrally.

    A good example of how far we have fallen as a nation just since 911 is the situation with the Chinese lawyer Chen Guangcheng (sp?). We could not offer him assylum. Why? Because we are beholden to the Chinese government because they hold so much of our debt. In a complex world of oil and dollars, the United States stands to be overtaken not with guns and bombs but through our economy. Iran is already making or has made deals to sell oil to China, Russia, India and others in exchange for gold (not dollars) so if and when we decide to step in and stop their nuclear program, I believe we will be driven so deep into finacial dire straits that our own citizenry will revolt.

    Ten dollar a gallon gas will bring us to our knees making it easy for Russia and or China to come in and take what they want from us. We have a more difficult problem than just a military budget to solve. However, I see no one in a leadership position able or willing to lead us back to greatness. Lady liberty can no longer say, “give us your tired….” because we have put our light under a basket.

    Very Sad

    Posted by John Rackliffe

  8. reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: Naval Postgraduate School Alumni


    Ed and John, I agree, the article is aimed more at the fighting forces than at the source of the problem, but the source is responsible for setting the stage and tone for the need to claim absolute military victory. In the sense of today’s conflicts, what is military victory? Is it killing all those who hold an ideological belief contrary to ours, or only killing only those who want to kill us? Where is the boundary between the ideologue and the assassin? What should the expectation be regarding our ability to achieve military victory? How was this all thought out before entering conflict and subjecting our loyal and willing, but often misguided, youth to the life-threatening grind of asymmetric combat without a rational expectation of what would be called, in the canonical sense, “military victory”? Did anyone in the position of power actually think that by eliminating Saddam Hussein there would be peace in Iraq? Was that going to be “military victory”? Do we remember, “Mission Accomplished”? How long and how far did that claim of military victory fly and how important to the troops was it in the end? Regrettably, I don’t see any rational indicators that set any expectation of military victory in the canonical sense, so should the troops expect anything more? Simply looking at the Vietnam like troop rotations and the detrimental effects on the overall prosecution of the conflicts, the emphasis on force protection, and the acquiescence to a subculture’s rants indicates that we had no intentions of being victorious in the military sense. The professional military may have thought that, but that is the by-product of myopic thinking. The concept of military victory is either misplaced or overrated in today’s complex world. Did the volunteer troops really sign up to beat someone into submission and claim military victory? Or did they sign up to build a better and safer world, and accept the fact that they did a good job and took part in a great endeavor, regardless of how the end was achieved? That should tell us the importance of military victory. Sadly, with the country’s flailing grasps for greatness I suspect the former is true, so by default military victory becomes the simple reward for sacrifice.

    Posted by Tony Kopacz

  9. reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: Defense ViPs


    It is true. America hasn’t emerged clear winner in any post world war 2 scenario. American geo-strategic interests & security concerns get washed away by adverse public opinion at home. There is need of constant endeavor to generate public awareness in this regard lest major part of the world will get hostile & there will be heavy price to pay later.

    Posted by Raman Kapila

  10. reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: Naval Postgraduate School Alumni


    Tony, So what does the US do now? We can debate history and disagree on what it means. However, our leaders need to make decisions that show they have learned from the past 20 years. I would try to bring the troops home swiftly and find some way for them to claim a victory. I think the concept of victory is important to the troops and the country for two reasons. We need to keep our forces motivated and ready and we need a base population of Americans willing to volunteer to help protect our society. Victory is in the eye of the beholder and as long as it motivates, it need not be an overwhelming military victory. Additionally, I would shift our country’s focus on regaining an overwhelming technological edge, but not to the extent of ignoring the bad actors in the world. Building a better and safer world is a slow process and must be the result of balanced approach. For the reasons you mentioned the other day (and to some extent John Rackliffe’s comment), I believe we can’t be and can’t afford the world’s policeman role. We can never go back in time, we must accept today’s situation for what it is and we need to make decision that continue to move us forward. What would you do?

    Posted by John Laszakovits

  11. reposted from LinkedIn says:

    LinkedIn Group: Naval Postgraduate School Alumni


    John well said. This is long, please bear with me. The first thing I would do is play down the importance of claiming victory, when there is no evidence of same. Claiming victory in an asymmetric ideological conflict is quickly discredited even in the simplest of minds, and with an attempt to spin it, the more obvious it becomes that it is just spin. “Mission Accomplished” exemplifies this. Employment of hundreds of thousands of troops over the past 21 plus years, coupled with the fact that this kind of warfare produces victories in battles, but not necessarily a victorious war’s end just tends to numb the citizenry of all sides, including their troops. Next, I would give grave consideration of the law of unintended consequences. By that I mean consider the sociological attitudes that develop when we balance a countries altruistic aims with its darker, bellicose side, thus leading to confusing victory with greatness. Examples of this go back to the 90s and the Balkans conflict when we emerged with the realization that we were a technologically superior force. It was amplified at the end of the first Gulf War, when it became clear that the nation fell in love with the gun and our political and national attitude tripped over to, we are technologically superior, we have a well-oiled military machine, why not solve our problems militarily. We essentially disregarded the other instruments of power as too cumbersome and outmoded, appointing ourselves as the arbiter of right and wrong. An example of that is the concept of “preemptive defense”. So, to have any hope of putting our national and political attitude back in order, in addition to downplaying the importance of victory, I would curtail the defense budget to take into account our superior technological edge and well known lead-times for opponents to catch up. This would have a braking effect on the political ambitions and ability to engage in capricious military engagements. I would increase spending on a broad range of instruments of diplomacy. This would force us to engage in areas of future potential hot spots and either avoid conflict, and should conflict ensue, provide early warning and better understanding our adversary; in military terms, intelligence preparation of the battlefield. Finally, on a global scale, I would stop treating potential partners as threats or consumer markets and form strategic, economic partnerships, thus using economic dependency as a hedge against conflict, note that regardless of posturing, it was economically untenable for the US and USSR to go to war, regardless of whether it was nuclear or conventional. As far as the troops are concerned this is tough. The nation as a whole is numb from the incessant media coverage and extended engagement, only to see all too often, that the investment in dollars and lives to into military solution and ultimate victory eludes us with every revelation of an assertion of enemy presence and intent in this asymmetric conflict. I am convinced that the general public, left to common logic, without political haranguing would stop grandstanding on a national and politically motivated level and go back to the real appreciation for a job well done and genuinely give our troops the recognition they deserve. We see it at the local level, we see it at airports, restaurants, businesses, ceremonies, ballparks, racetracks, and the list goes on. But make no mistake, there is no national victory in sight for a very long time, this ideological conflict is truly a clash of cultures and will likely resolve itself in assimilation over a very long time. There is no lasting military victory short of annihilation, hardly a prospect within the capability of any protagonist. So in today’s context, I see victory an outmoded concept.

    Posted by Tony Kopacz

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