Postcard from Kill Chain

There's a saying that the military are always well equipped to fight the last war, not the current one. Andrew Cockburn's book reinforces that with a shocking selection of examples.

The book is well written and well researched, but at times it makes you despair of the hide-bound thinking at the top of the US military. A style of thought that didn't work well in World War II, or in Vietnam and shows the same massive bindness in Afghanistan. In the first two examples, the mistakes and blinkered approach to problem solving didn't affect the ultimate result, other than cause more allied casualties than necessary. Afghanistan, on the other hand, may be a different matter. No-one has managed ot subdue the country for over a thousand years, and that's what the American-lead approach seems to be trying to do.

That's not the claim of course. The stated objective is to rid the country of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, but the use of armed drones and general air superiority backed by poor quality sensors have ramped up civilian casualties. And as a foreign army, you shouldn't be killing non-combatants.

Cockburn also discusses the well known red on blue war game that pitted a virtual US fleet (the blue team) against a rogue Middle Eastern military commander (red). Red won easily because the commander actually learned from recent actions, whereas the blue commander followed the "shock and awe" tactics currently in vogue. With several sunk capital ships and 20,000 dead virtual sailors, the blue fleet was refloated and the red team told sternly to play by the rules. Guess who won the next round?

To be fair, it's a difficult problem. The military top brass have to be politically aware or they loose the covetted jobs. Politicins have either no military exerience, or what they have is severely outdated. And it takes real courage to tell the President that he doesn't know what he's talking about, and his approach will kill Americans and alienate a currently friendly country.

At the moment, the US is convinced that sophisticated advanced technology is the answer to all problems. In Vietnam, IGLOO WHITE showed that technology on it's own won't win a war.

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