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Preparing for the Next War

Preparing for the Next War

James Joyner

10 Mins
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April 1, 2007

"Perhaps there is no great point in recalling all the tragic and idiotic blunders, all the false optimism, all the unrealism of the first phases of the war, but it is not possible to appreciate fully the heroism of the Security Forces unless the stupidities of some of those in command are remembered.”

The quotation above is from an April 1960 editorial in the Straits Times, reflecting back on a successful British-led campaign against the Malayan insurgency. Astute readers will see no small similarity with the yet-unfinished business in Iraq. It should be noted that winning in Malaya took twelve years. Our most recent adventure in Iraq will have barely passed the four-year mark by the time you read this.

As Genghis Khan observed some eight hundred-odd years ago, “Conquering a country while mounted is easy, dismounting and building a nation is difficult.” There have been amazing advances in the art of war since then, but that remains just as true today. Wondering why we fail to turn the world’s most disconnected and impoverished societies into “instant democracies” is, as the strategist Thomas Barnett puts it, “like wondering why the oncologist lets so many of his patients die.”

The United States spends more on national defense than all the other nations of the world combined. We do so because our interests are global in a way that no other country’s are, and because, quite frankly, we can afford it. The result is, by all accounts, the most highly trained and lethal fighting force the world has ever seen.

Unfortunately, that has spoiled us. Our first war in Iraq, 1991’s Desert Storm, involved a few weeks of missile strikes and aerial bombardment followed by a ground war that took precisely one hundred hours. Such walkover victories raised our expectations to grossly unrealistic levels.

It would have been hard to pick a worse team to manage the counterinsurgency and reconstruction effort.

We now face a foe that cannot be defeated with a few guided missiles, smart bombs, or shock and awe. We’re not simply fighting “terror” or “terrorists,” but, as Barnett puts it, “those who want to isolate large chunks of humanity.” These people are, quite literally, enemies of freedom and of its underlying values. The global economy, its rules, and its attendant culture threaten their way of life, and they will stop at nothing to cut themselves off from the reach of Western values.

The good news is that this enemy doesn’t have the ability that the Soviet Union had to wipe out the planet. The bad news is that this enemy may be harder to defeat. And remember: the Cold War lasted more than forty years.

Joseph Stalin was a butcher who had upwards of twenty million of his countrymen murdered and who allied himself with Adolf Hitler until getting double crossed. Yet he never came close to using his hydrogen bombs against us. Nikita Khrushchev was a little on the nutty side but, on the brink of nuclear war with the United States, he backed down and took a back-door deal offered by John Kennedy. But these enemies, no matter how depraved, still valued their own survival. By contrast, if Osama bin Laden gets his hands on even a single nuke, you can rest assured he will use it.

It’s also hard to imagine Russians volunteering their teenage sons and daughters for suicide missions in which they would strap bombs to themselves and murder random innocents in a marketplace. The jihadists do that with such regularity that the individual incidents have become a blur. For them, suicide in the cause of their religious fanaticism is the ultimate glory.

Nor does our enemy even pay lip service to the rules of war developed over centuries by the civilized world. While we go out of our way to avoid innocent casualties, even at the risk of our own, the jihadists actively target non-combatants as a central part of their strategy.

This is the essence of asymmetrical warfare. Our enemies can’t afford to “fight fair.” And they don’t care about surviving the fight, either. What they lack in resources, they make up for in sheer fanaticism.

To protect ourselves against this kind of nihilistic enemy requires a complete rethinking and restructuring of our national defense.

WHAT WE GOT RIGHT

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld correctly understood that we needed to radically transform our post-Cold-War military to handle this new threat. His plan did not go nearly far enough, partly because his aim was to defeat a hypothetical peer competitor of the future rather than the all-too-real threat from these forces of systemic disruption.

The Bush administration’s endorsement of the pre-emptive use of force, and its abandonment of the international consensus that tried to isolate and contain the world’s worst tyrants, drew howls even from Republican establishment stalwarts like Brent Scowcroft and Jim Baker. But in these respects its national defense policy was on the money. The old-style “realism,” aiming at international “stability,” had propped up despots, starved millions through sanctions regimes, but done nothing to stop terrorism.

After all, al Qaeda was at its apex well before President Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech, let alone the invasion of Iraq. Bin Laden’s organization had formally declared war on us in 1996 and again in 1998. They backed the first bombing of the World Trade Center and the “Blackhawk Down” incident in Somalia, both in 1993; the 1998 bombings of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; and the attack on the USS Cole in 2000, among others—all before George W. Bush was elected.

WHERE WE WENT WRONG

While they grasped the big picture of the new warfare, though, the administration has gotten much of its strategic execution wrong. There have been a myriad of mistakes made in fighting the Iraq War that have been extensively covered elsewhere. A synopsis of the most significant ones, though, will suffice as a jumping-off point for fixing the problems.

The overarching mistake, as Washington Post correspondent Thomas Ricks put it in Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, was “simultaneously ‘worst-casing’ the threat presented by Iraq while ‘best-casing’ the subsequent cost and difficulty of occupying the country.” This led to and was compounded by a series of poor decisions and tactical judgments.


Failure to Plan for Stability. The conventional wisdom, as Ricks documents extensively, is that the Bush administration and its military leaders failed to conduct detailed planning for “Phase IV,” the post-regime-change occupation and rebuilding of Iraq. Ultimately, though, Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor are closer to the mark in Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq. “The violent chaos that followed Saddam’s defeat,” they write, “was not a matter of not having a plan but of adhering too rigidly to the wrong one.”

Former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and others were convinced that the Iraqis would “greet us as liberators” and that a large American contingent would remove the incentives for the Iraqis to get to work. Another top Pentagon official, Lawrence Di Rita, proclaimed, “Within 120 days, we’ll win this war and get all U.S. troops out of the country, except 30,000.” This attitude prevailed because the administration’s key decision-makers, including President Bush, were adamant that we needed to avoid the kind of long-term nation-building projects that we had undertaken in the Balkans, Haiti, and elsewhere.

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice later explained, “The concept was that we would defeat the army, but the institutions would hold, everything from ministries to police forces. You would be able to bring new leadership but we were going to keep the body in place.” Indeed, that was the decision President Bush had made in an open meeting. For whatever reason, however, Paul Bremer, as U.S. Administrator of Iraq after the invasion, countermanded this policy and was allowed to get away with it.

General David McKiernan, who commanded all ground forces during the invasion, said that, as late as summer 2003, “I could walk the streets anywhere in Baghdad. Most Iraqis there still viewed us as liberators.” Retired Major General James “Spider” Marks agreed, arguing that “we lost momentum and that the insurgency was not inevitable.”

Ignoring Our Status as Occupiers. Wanting to be seen as “liberators,” American forces were hesitant to take control and were too eager to pass off the job to locals. In so doing, we lost an opportunity to establish security and restore some semblance of normalcy to Iraqi society.

But the idea that the Iraqi people, bitterly divided along sectarian lines and long oppressed by a brutal dictator, were going to simply spring into action, work in perfect harmony, and get their country working without massive outside help, was foolhardy. Breaking up the existing security forces and the bureaucratic infrastructure guaranteed that it wouldn’t happen.

The result? Rampant looting, including the stripping of the country’s infrastructure. Sewage treatment plants that had to be rebuilt. Ministries ransacked. Even the police stations themselves, according to Gordon and Trainor, “had been picked clean by looters—electrical wires, phones, light fixtures, even some of their door jambs had been stolen.”

Too Few Troops. Rumsfeld was quite right that a high-tech force much smaller than that used to fight Operation Desert Storm could achieve surprise and take down Saddam’s regime quickly. But he was terribly wrong to dismiss the advice of Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki and many other experts who argued that it would take more troops to handle the aftermath than the invasion itself. This error would be compounded by the dispersal of the Iraqi security forces, which ensured that local augmentation would not be forthcoming.

Most significantly, it meant that, in the early days and weeks after the fall of Baghdad, the gates were open. Anbar province was virtually unprotected, leaving it to become the base of the post-invasion insurgency. Weapons caches were left unsecured, ensuring that those insurgents would be well armed. And former regime loyalists were able to escape in droves to Syria, “taking money, weapons, and records with them with which to establish a safe headquarters for the insurgency,” as Ricks notes.

Radical de-Baathification. We had learned during the earliest days of post-World War II reconstruction that trying to run an occupation without the assistance of former officials of the deposed regimes was impossible. Instead, we left the people with expertise in their old jobs to effect a smooth transition, weeding out only the truly bad actors. Conversely, in Iraq, we ordered a massive purge of Baath party members, even down to the level of schoolteachers, effectively banning hundreds of thousands of people from gainful employment. This included some 285,000 police and domestic security forces. The purge “created a vast pool of humiliated, antagonized, and politicized men,” according to Faleh Jabar of the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Ricks argues that Paul Bremer made this decision unilaterally, in direct contravention of months of planning and a direct decision by President Bush to go the other way. Gordon and Trainor, though, report that the administration was always committed to de-Baathification on ideological grounds. Regardless, the results were entirely predictable by anyone with even a modicum of understanding of civil affairs, and the results made themselves manifest within weeks. Yet, incredibly, we’re only now reversing ourselves.

Breaking Up the Iraqi Army. Similarly, Paul Bremer’s decision to break up the regular Iraqi army, contrary to all previous planning, proved catastrophic. It put 385,000 embittered, armed, well-trained men on the street without a job, providing the heart of the insurgent militias. It also destroyed the major non-sectarian institution in Iraqi society.

Paul Bremer’s decision to break up the regular Iraqi army proved catastrophic.

Former Central Command chief Anthony Zinni points out that it also reinforced the sense that Americans couldn’t be trusted, noting, “We had spent a decade psyopsing the Iraqi army, telling them we would take care of those who didn’t fight.”

Failing to Recognize the Insurgency. The insurgency was allowed to blossom for months while being dismissed by the administration and its senior leaders in Iraq—originally as mere “dead enders” and then as foreign terrorists when, in reality, it was mostly native Iraqis with a variety of distinct grievances—many caused by the decisions listed here.

Incoming CENTCOM commander John Abizaid acknowledged that he was facing “a classical guerrilla-type campaign” upon taking command in July 2003, much to the consternation of his bosses. It would be months, however, before there was any institutional reaction to that awareness.

Cultural Ignorance. Despite knowing since at least the early 1990s that the U.S. military was going to be involved constantly in the Middle East, there remains to this day a woeful lack of people able to speak even rudimentary Arabic and few with any serious understanding of the local culture. Even at the highest level, moves are made without consulting regional experts.

This results in amusing things like naming the replacement military force “the New Iraqi Corps,” or NIC, which just happens to sound like an Arabic vulgarism for sexual intercourse.


The Wrong Managers. Then there was the crippling combination of leaders badly suited to manage the occupation: General Tommy Franks, a brilliant tactician universally derided as one who “didn’t think strategically” and one of the few senior military leaders without experience in the 1990s stability operations; Paul Bremer, a diplomat with zero experience in the Middle East or with postwar occupations; and Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez, a micromanager with a conventional warfare mentality. Indeed, it would have been hard to pick a worse team to manage the day-to-day operations of a counterinsurgency and reconstruction mission.

The Wrong Troops for Rebuilding. In addition to having too few troops for the early post-regime-change period, we had too few of the right kind available.

In particular, we were woefully short of military police, civil affairs, engineer, and translator assets. Troops trained to close with and destroy the enemy but without any knowledge of the local culture or ability to communicate with the people made a bad situation much worse.

This was compounded by having many of those specialists diverted on what proved to be a wild goose chase to find non-existent WMD caches. This left translators and others unavailable at the most crucial early stages.

Constant Turnover. There’s a joke in military circles that there are no “lessons learned,” only “lessons identified.” Virtually all historians of the Vietnam War will tell you that we made a monumental mistake in rotating troops out once a year and officers out of line units every six months. Yet we’ve been doing much the same thing in Iraq.

For example, five different units were in charge of Fallujah between April 2003 and April 2004. Not only do these sorts of rotations mean that there is a constant influx of “green” troops who have to learn the culture all over again, but it sends the message to the locals that getting our soldiers back home is more important to the United States than getting the job done. Insurgents already have a big advantage over a foreign force because, by definition, they’re around for the long haul. The only way to combat that is to keep troops there for the duration and take the time to build relationships and trust.

While we’ve gotten smarter and are at least rotating at the unit rather than individual level, the constant movement of units in and out of theater and from locality to locality within theater has hindered us in gaining the local trust and establishing the intelligence network that all agree are vital to counterinsurgency.

This game of musical chairs was played at the top level, too. Franks was replaced by Abizaid, Garner by Bremer, McKiernan with Sanchez, and other major changes were made in the early months, too. New incoming leaders need a transition period to get their bearings. Time is a luxury one can’t affordin the early months of a counterinsurgency operation.

No Unified Command. Perhaps the most fundamental principle of war was violated in the post-major combat phase of the war: the lack of a single command structure.

While Rumsfeld and the military were the face of the operation, it was never quite clear who was in charge. Bremer reported either to the National Security Advisor, Rumsfeld, or the President; it was never clear which. He was not, however, in charge of the security or training operations, which were definitely under military control. He was also unable to incorporate the massive military staff resource.

MOVING FORWARD

As we look ahead to fighting insurgencies in the future, the most difficult challenges we face are outside the realm of simple prescription.

First and foremost, we must develop a national, bi-partisan consensus, such as existed during the Cold War, about the nature of the enemy and how best to fight it. That kind of consensus must be at the level of fundamental values.

It used to be said that politics stopped at the water’s edge. But the combination of a permanent electoral campaign, instant punditry, and a blurring of where foreign policy leaves off and domestic politics begins has eroded that tradition.

The US was woefully short of military police, civil affairs, engineer, and translator assets.

To be sure, there were often bitter battles over how to fight the Cold War. The wisdom of using CIA hit teams to take out dictators in Latin America, the conduct of the war in Vietnam, and the nuclear freeze debate are but the most obvious examples. There was, however, no serious disagreement that the Soviets were the central national security threat. Further, there was at least high-level agreement on the Containment strategy, which persisted through many changes in presidential administration.

Without a national consensus about the fundamental rightness of our cause, and a national recognition that our enemy is implacably committed to use whatever means necessary to destroy us, we will simply never sustain the willpower to devote the years, if not decades, required to establish order in failed states. No amount of bureaucratic reorganization or technological investment will achieve this. Commitment is a matter of basic philosophy and values.

Conversely, we must only enter conflicts where our aims can be justified to the people. Our leaders need to think about that in advance. If the answer to the question, “How many American troops are we willing to lose to accomplish this mission?” is something other than “As many as it takes,” then the mission must be shelved. As Army Lieutenant Colonel Duke Christie said, “If Washington decides to pull out of Colombia just because a bunch of us get killed, then we shouldn’t be here in the first place.”

War fighting is and has always been about achieving political objectives rather than military ones. In Vietnam, we managed to lose the war without losing a single battle. Even the infamous Tet Offensive resulted in a resounding military victory for our forces.

That has military implications that will be discussed shortly. On the national leadership side, though, this requires that we not undersell the enemy or over-promise speedy results, thus turning wins into losses. Guerrilla wars—the wars of our future—can take a very long time: the Chinese Communists fought twenty-seven years, the Viet Cong thirty, and the Sandinistas eighteen. The Palestinians have been at it on and off since 1967. Our leaders need to be up front with the American people about that, not promising any cakewalk, quick withdrawal of our forces, or that the war will pay for itself.

That said, building a military force geared to fighting what has been called “Fourth-Generation Warfare” (“4GW”) would at least give our leaders the proper tools to use.

THE RIGHT FORCE MIX

We need aradical realignment of our force structure, which still far too closely resembles the one we built to fight the Soviets. We still need tanks, heavy artillery, fighter jets, and the like. But not nearly so many. We toppled Saddam’s regime with a far smaller force than was necessary a decade earlier and, as Thomas Barnett notes, “we no longer even need strategic surprise to defeat a well-armed enemy.” We can announce when we’re coming and they can’t stop us.

We should move most of our heavy forces into the reserves, keeping mostly light and medium forces on active duty. At the same time, we must dramatically increase the number of military police, civil affairs, engineer, and special operations forces. We need  far more people with cultural and linguistic expertise, like Foreign Area Officers and translators.

The challenge in reconstituting our forces isn’t doctrine but culture. Since at least the 1993 “Blackhawk Down” debacle in Somalia, it has been clear that our force was not properly configured for what we now call “Stability and Support Operations.” Unfortunately, during the post-Soviet period of downsizing, a military leadership steeped in the Cold War tradition naturally fought to preserve the type of force with which they were comfortable: a heavy, high-tech one built to defeat a peer competitor. That none was on the horizon was of little consequence, as the military mindset was that any force that could defeat a Big Foe could easily beat nuisance forces. Our experiences in Somalia and Iraq have demonstrated, yet again, that this is not the case.

To his credit, Donald Rumsfeld began to change this a few years ago. He canceled a handful of incredibly expensive weapons systems we clearly didn’t need, earning the bitter enmity of his generals, while ordering an increase in our Special Forces and civil affairs capabilities. But the speed and scope of the changes have been inadequate to the operational requirements.

THE RIGHT FORCE MINDSET

In the failed states where we are likely to be operating, national unity and cultural homogeneity are rare. Almost always, we will confront tribal politics in lands with artificially imposed borders. As Colonel Thomas Hammes notes in The Sling and the Stone: On Warfare in the 21st Century, this means that “alliances are always shifting based on the needs of the tribal, clan, or village leaders.” Small actions can trigger deep-seated animosities between groups pitted against each other under colonialization and post-colonial despots.

We can’t turn all our troops into Green Berets. Special operations soldiers can’t be mass produced; only a select few have the combination of athleticism, mental toughness, and smarts to succeed. We can, however, teach some of the Special Forces ethic to our regular forces—such as the maxim that “Humans are more important than hardware” and the emphasis on language and cultural training.

Since at least the 1950s, we have placed a high value on professional military education for our officers and non-commissioned officers. Additionally, our mid- and senior-grade officers are far more likely to have graduate degrees than their business peers. Even our NCOs are encouraged to take at least some college courses. We have the best educated military in the history of the planet, and it shows.

This emphasis must be redoubled, however. The nature of 4GW is decidedly non-hierarchical, requiring even young corporals to make difficult decisions in culturally sensitive situations that can have a major impact on mission success. At a minimum, all our soldiers should have at least rudimentary training in a foreign language and an understanding of the history and culture of the country they’re operating in that goes beyond some flash cards and a two-hour familiarization brief.

Creating this kind of force will require substantial trade-offs. For our career officers and NCOs, it means even more time on education, especially military history, foreign studies, and language training. This means less time doing something else. Hammes suggests having field grade officers spend less time on high-level staffs, which can easily be solved by flattening the hierarchy and thus eliminating several layers of headquarters.

Additionally, because these skills quickly atrophy if not used, we must significantly rethink our personnel policies. Currently, we rotate people from unit to unit in a variety of unrelated assignments to broaden them for higher-level assignments. Soldiers go from stateside bases to Germany, back to a different stateside base, then on to a short tour in Korea, and so on. This is especially true for our officer corps.

We must develop a national, bi-partisan consensus about the nature of the enemy and how best to fight it.

Given the type of wars we will be fighting in the years and decades to come, it would be far more efficient to establish a constabulary model, exemplified by the Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) and, to a lesser extent, the Marine Corps. As experts have noted, soldiers assigned to SOUTHCOM tend to spend most of their careers rotating through assignments in the Latin American theater. There’s no reason that we could not create a career rotation pattern where troops specialized in a particular region of the world.

Certainly, from a morale and family standpoint, soldiers would need to spend a substantial portion of their careers stateside. However, overseas commands could be partnered with stateside bases whose personnel would periodically rotate back to those same regions. This would lead to genuine specialization, and, as a side benefit, unit morale would greatly increase.

GO SMALL WHENEVER POSSIBLE

While an operation of the scale and complexity of rebuilding Iraq needs a large force to provide security and stabilization, many of our fights against the jihadists can be accomplished with a much smaller footprint. Most of the time, the fewer foreign faces seen in an occupied society, the better the chances of success.

One of the few cases of a foreign intervener successfully beating an insurgency was in El Salvador, where, as journalist Robert Kaplan notes in Imperial Grunts, “55 Special Forces trainers accomplished arguably more than 550,000 troops in Vietnam.” A key to their success was the absence of grandiose nation-building ambitions. Rather than trying to reform the society, or even the military, as a whole, they concentrated on training the trainers, establishing a local cadre force that could replicate itself. Kaplan notes that before the 9/11 attacks, U.S. Special Operators were conducting missions in 170 countries with an average of nine people each.

In addition to keeping a small footprint, this approach obviates the obsession with force protection. The more forces we have on the ground, the more visible our presence, and the more inviting they are as targets. Also, the support tail grows geometrically with the number of troops on the ground. We create large support staffs, forward operating bases, and Little Americas to support them.

HIRE LOCALLY, BUY LOCALLY

Some jobs are so complex that only sophisticated contractors like Haliburton can do them efficiently. The rule of thumb, though, must be to use local people and products to the maximum extent possible. This provides jobs, bolsters the local economy, ties the locals to the American effort, and builds trust.

And if you’re hiring them to rebuild the local infrastructure, you get the “two-fer” bonus: it not only denies the insurgents recruits but, ideally, gains valuable intelligence.

NOT JUST JOINT, BUT INTERAGENCY

A truism of 4GW, Hammes points out, is that“if the government is not succeeding, the insurgents are getting stronger.” That means the government and its coalition partners must quickly get a handle on security and ensure that there is a functioning economic infrastructure. In cases like Iraq, where a regime has been toppled, this will mean training and reforming not just police and security forces but also the court and prison system, banking, currency, customs, public health, business regulation, and taxation.

This is all well beyond the capability of even a highly educated military. Much more needs to be done to augment the military force with help from the State Department and other agencies. One model is the Provincial Reconstruction Teams working in Afghanistan and Iraq, which have done this sort of thing on a smaller scale. They combine coalition and local military, indigenous government agencies, and NGOs. By producing concrete improvements in people’s lives, they foster trust which in turn leads to crucial intelligence. As Kaplan puts it, they create “influence without the stigma of occupation.”

MANAGE THE INFORMATION WAR

Iraq is being fought as an asymmetric war, with the world’s best military trying to contain a guerrilla force that, as Christopher Hitchens notes, is reduced to “the use of random murder to create a sectarian and ethnic civil war” and efforts “to alienate coalition soldiers from the population.” Yet, the information war is asymmetric, too. The enemy can dominate media coverage by staging constant acts of mayhem. News about mundane affairs of state—like the coalescing of democratic institutions, revitalization of the infrastructure, or even the relative peace and prosperity in most of Iraq—is very much “dog bites man” when there’s gore to be shown.

Even when the photos tell the truth, as in Abu Ghraib, the power of stirring images is such that anomalies get heightened emphasis and sometimes contexts get dropped. A handful of bad soldiers in that camp got far more coverage than the tens of thousands of decent ones; the former simply make for more titillating news.

Sadly, however, these tactics have been sufficient to turn American public opinion against the war. Well over three thousand American servicemen have lost their lives in over three years of fighting in Iraq. While tragic, that is tiny in relation to past wars. Indeed, during the Civil War we lost more people at Antietam alone and nearly two times that at Gettysburg. But those wars weren’t on television and every single death was not memorialized daily on the national news.

Kaplan has observed that “the actions of the lowliest corporals and privates could be of great strategic impact under the spotlight of the global media.” As we saw with Abu Ghraib, Haditha, and elsewhere, nothing helps an insurgency more than human rights violations by outside interveners or government forces.

To be sure, in fighting insurgencies, the rules of engagement are different, because the bad guys may be more readily shot rather than arrested and tried. Still, counterinsurgency forces are, in essence, beat cops and must practice many of the principles of community policing. It’s not a matter of pie-in-the-sky morality or silly rules but at the very essence of mission success.

STAY IN FOR THE LONG HAUL

In preparing for the next war, perhaps the most important virtue we must learn to practice is one unfamiliar to most Americans:

Patience.

From a practical standpoint, we should radically overhaul the defense budgeting process, which not only impedes long-range planning but also sends the wrong signals. We currently budget one year at a time and are invariably late in doing so, leading to continuing resolutions and regular funding disruptions.

The pretense that long-term endeavors like the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are short-term “emergencies” is not only dishonest domestically, it signals to our potential allies in those countries that we’re playing it by ear and might leave at any moment. And it sends the same message to our enemies.

It would be nice to live in a world where we could overthrow hostile regimes and simply walk away. But in the power vacuums we leave behind, new enemies will arise to threaten us. The nature of modern, asymmetrical warfare is that even remote and savage places like Afghanistan can serve as bases for terrorists to plot and train, and then bring carnage to our own shores.

Thomas Barnett explains that “if we simply engage in drive-by regime change without waging the peace that must follow all such wars, then all our victories will remain forever hollow, and they will necessarily be repeated time and time again.” Invasion, followed by “cut and run,” is a strategic option that Fourth-Generational Warfare has rendered obsolete—and dangerous.

So, our patience must be broad and deep. It must be grounded in our recognition of the fundamental goodness of our nation and its values, and the rightness of our cause. Ultimately, our patience must be rooted in love—a love of life and liberty so strong that it will outlast and overwhelm our enemies’ hatred of both.

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