In the article, “Clausewitz and World War IV,” Maj. General Scales (ret) has confused combat with war. They are not at all the same.
Combat is what occurs between armies of warring societies. Scales refers to Clausewitz several times, but misses that observer’s most important observation: That war is the continuation of politics by other means.
Rather than spending time and energy discussing winning wars, General Scales discusses winning battles.
Rather than enlighten the reader with observations that wars are political actions conducted by the forces organized, trained and equipped by a society, and that a war is a political action between societies, he writes of learning about the culture of an enemy and that future wars will be “intimate” and “brutal.”
It truly is unfortunate that Gen. Scales once taught future battlefield commanders, for he does not understand war.
The battlefield may indeed be, as he says, “psycho-social,” whatever that means (if anything), and combat may be “intimate,” but wars are not won or lost on battlefields. A battlefield victory is a means to an end, not the end itself.
Worrying about the culture of an opponent is fine in academia. Destroying the enemy, however, is what wins wars, regardless of their culture. No one sat around writing articles about the need to understand the Japanese or German cultures – they were all too busy fighting the war to waste their time.
America never lost a single battle in Vietnam, not even the surprise Tet Offensive, or the first large fight against the NVA and overwhelming odds in the Ia Drang Valley.
But there is no question we lost the war.
Wars are concluded either by causing enough inconvenience to the enemy to quit the field, or by destroying the society with which one is at political odds to begin with.
America made the battlefield inconvenient for the British Empire in the American Revolution, again in the War of 1812; for Mexico in the Mexican War; for Spain in the Spanish American War, for the Germans in WWI. The Vietnamese made the battlefield inconvenient for us in Vietnam. In none of these wars was the enemy of the victor defeated.
America destroyed or collapsed the enemy society only in the Civil War and in WWII. These are the only wars America won. In the others the enemy simply left the field.
It is silly to think a modern industrial country can inconvenience a 7th-Century tribe off the battlefield. When espoused by one in a position to train or influence future military leaders, it is dangerous.
Defining theories of combat that are high-tech, low-tech or no-tech has nothing to do with war. These theories simply are ideas on how to manage a tool of policy in executing that policy.
It is the behavior of the enemy – or of ourselves – that is changed through war. Killing a bunch of men on the field doesn’t do that. Never has. Never will.
Either that the enemy behavior must be changed, or we have decided the war is not worth the fight.
If we have not made that decision, if we have not decided that our political goals are more important than those of our enemy, we have no business forfeiting life and treasure.
Either way, the mono-cultural, Western ideas of limited warfare and of avoiding civilian deaths at all costs are theories of the battle that are not at all applicable to a multicultural war.
General Scales discusses high-tech tools of war. Again, he misses the mark. These are high-tech tools of combat. Frankly, we would be better off without them. Had we carpet-bombed Baghdad, as we did Berlin and Tokyo and other targets, we would be much farther along toward our goal. Why? The society would have been collapsed.
Who was a political, economic and military ally one generation after the pertinent war – Germany a generation after 1918, or the Germany and the Japan one generation after Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Dresden, Cologne and Berlin?
Why? Because in WWII we won the war. We collapsed the enemy society. We worried more about winning than about the culture or feelings of our enemy. Those leaders who had seen in the rise of the Third Reich from the ashes of Verdun what happened when an enemy society was not destroyed, waged war – and destroyed their enemies.
If we are to win this war on terror, we must destroy our enemies.
Do we want to win?