ANOTHER FOR THE DEFENSE
I recently learned that David Kaiser
, a professor at the Naval War College and a person with whom I have often sparred on H-Diplo
,has a blog, History Unfolding
Dr. Kaiser is the author of American Tragedy
, a history of the Vietnam War as well as other works on diplomatic, economic and social history. I am frequently, though hardly always, in general disagreement with Dr. Kaiser but I seldom fail to read his posts and suspect that you may enjoy them as well. He's a fine writer, which is rare enough in academia, and argues his points well.
As an introduction to the world according to Kaiser, here is "Gambling on War
", where the arguments regarding von Clausewitz and defensive strategy will resonate with the followers of the 4GW school. An excerpt:"Clausewitz’s classic On War is long and difficult, and it truly requires many years of study to assimilate, but the reader gradually realizes that certain fundamental principles, as well as a few specific questions, pervade it. Many people know his concept of “friction” and the “fog of war,” which makes battles so devilishly hard to understand and requires extraordinary qualities of mind and spirit for generals on the scene to unravel. This is an insight that has survived modern technology, as the repeated attempts to kill Saddam Hussein with air strikes—none of which, we now know, actually aimed at one of his many real hiding places—recently proved. A battle is like a football game, and just as difficult to predict. Generations of military historians—most notably those unhappy partisans of the Confederate States of America—have tried to stand this principle on its head by rewriting the outcome of every critical battle of the civil war to show how it could (or should) have turned out differently....To wise leaders, the inescapable uncertainty of war should militate against embarking upon it unless it is absolutely necessary—which neither Vietnam nor Iraq in 2003 was. Reinforcing this point, Clausewitz also argued repeatedly that defense was the stronger form of warfare, both tactically (since the defender need not move and fire at the same time), and strategically, since the attacked party was more likely to secure the help of allies who recognized a common interest in the survival of sovereign states. The United States implicitly recognized that principle after defeating Axis aggression in the Second World War and wrote it into the UN Charter, which authorized war only in self-defense. It enjoyed considerable allied assistance in the Korean War—another clear case of enemy aggression. But Vietnam never seemed like such a clear-cut case of aggression because South Vietnam was always so fragile, and most of the world rejected the “preventive war” argument over Iraq—in large part because other nations understood that the idea of national sovereignty simply cannot be reconciled with the concept of preventive war. By going on the offense, the United States forfeited a huge strategic advantage. It should not be too late to regain it, but the genie is out of the bottle in Iraq, and more damage, apparently, will be done."
Shades of William Lind.