Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Aim of War

The Aim of War is to Achieve Political Objectives

Marshal of the Soviet Union Boris Shaposhnikov captured the essence of war in military-political terms:

[A] war must begin with the defeat of the strongest and most dangerous enemy, and it must not be diverted by successes over a weak one by leaving the stronger to hang over one’s neck... It must be not forgotten that for the resolution of a war, it is important to have not only military successes, but also obtain political success, that is, win a victory over a politically important enemy ... Otherwise, only after an extended period accompanied even by military successes, will we be forced to return to the same fight against the main enemy against which we initially were only on the defensive.[1]
Lessons of the Cold War.

 George Kennan in discussing American foreign policy and democracy notes that we made two big boo-boos dugint the cold war.  (1) to attribute to the “Soviet leadership aims and intentions it did not really have; in jumping to conclusion that the Soviet leaders were just like Hitler and his associates…” with the same aspirations, timetable, and who could only be dealt with in the same manner as Hitler was. [2]  (2)  The second postwar mistake was to embrace the nuclear weapon “the mainstay of our military posture, and the faith we placed in it to assure our military and political ascendancy in this postwar era.”[3] 

It is from these two great mistakes that there has flowed, as I see it, the extreme militarization not only of our thought but of our lives that has become the mark of this postwar age.  And this is a militarization that has had profound effects not just on our foreign policies but also on our own society…  And this habit—the habit of pouring so great a part of our gross national product year after year into sterile and socially negative forms of production—has now risen to the status of what I have ventured to call a genuine national addiction.  We could not now break ourselves of the habit without the serious of withdrawal symptoms.  Millions of people, is addition to those other millions who are in uniform, have become accustomed to deriving their livelihood from the military-industrial complex.  Thousands of firms have become dependent on it, not to mention labor unions and communities.  It is the main source of our highly destabilizing budgetary deficit.  An elaborate and most unhealthy bond has been created between those who manufacture and sell the armaments and those in Washington who buy them.  We have created immense vested interests in the maintenance of a huge armed establishment in time of peace and in the export of great quantities of arms to other peoples—great vested interests, in other words, in the Cold War.  We have made ourselves dependent on this invidious national practice; so much so that it may fairly be said that if we did not have the Russians and their alleged iniquities to serve as a rationalization for it, we would have to invent some adversary to take their place—which would be hard to do.[4][My highlight] 

Kennan notes that the problem is made worse by the unnecessary wastefulness of it all, the lack of coherent relationship between the way Congress figures out civilian and military costs.[5] 

It sometimes seems to me that those of us not involved in this great military-industrial enterprise are in danger of becoming, in the figurative sense, a nation of camp followers, like the pathetic civilian stragglers who trailed along behind the European armies of earlier centuries in the hopes of picking up remnants from the relative abundance of the military resources of food and clothing which the armies disposed.[6]

And because of these requirements we need to keep demonizing our opponent and giving him qualities which make them 10 feet tall in order to justify the military-industrial requirements which become self-generating.[7]
We should not allow politicians with vested interests to define China, North Korea, Iran or any other threat in order to justify military requirements which are not needed for our political / military aims in war. 


    [1]  David M. Glantz, The Military Strategy of the Soviet Union:  A History, (Portland, OR:  Frank Cass, 1992), p. 42.
[2] George F. Kennan,  At a Century’s Ending.  Reflections 1982-1995 (New York:  W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1996), p. 130.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Idid., pp. 130-131
[5] Ibid., p. 132
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.