It’s all about implementation. Nothing is worthwhile until it’s implemented.
Clayton Christiansen wrote a book that blew my mind back in the day, The Innovator’s Dilemma. The book, a Harvard thesis that became a business bestseller, had a counterintuitive but essential point: a successful organization making what it thinks are the best and correct decisions will fail when against a smaller, weaker organization with a disruptive innovation. Unfortunately, in this war we are acting more like Redcoats, more powerful in the aggregate but not winning, either, and subject to pressure to give up the sunk cost of the fight we’re in. Grim at Blackfive is thinking about how to beat the innovator’s dilemma.
Grim at Blackfive honors me by mentioning an article referenced in this post when characterizing aspects of a new strategy for the Long War. Grim’s riffing off of the excellent work of guys like David Kilcullen, an Australian working at the US Department of State and thinking about information warfare. (By the way, I don’t know if Kilcullen is the beneficiary of the information warfare scene growing in Australia around Edith Cowan University’s Professor Bill Hutchinson, but there is an Australian center of expertise, and it’s growing.) I see a post like Grim’s as being a part of another Long Telegram.
The man who wrote the Cold War’s Long Telegram, George Kennan, benefited from an environment where people from Defense and State and business and government rubbed elbows to study war. (See pdf pages 8-14 of this book (24MB .pdf) for a description of what I’m talking about.) That environment isn’t there any more. But we do have guys like Consul-At-Arms and John Tammes who understand enough about DoD and DoS to make a difference; the Milblogs aggregator sustains a community of interest. Apparently the Milblogs group has the potential to be of service in this direction–but I’m not sure if we have all the right parts to be a machine for change yet, and it’s a little too military heavy to be influential outside that community. That said, who else is out there doing this grunt work of thinking through the strategy? I’ve looked into a couple of think tanks and similar groups, and if there is someone else laying the groundwork for a Long Telegram then I don’t see it. So maybe I’m being too selfimportant in saying so, but maybe we’re it–or a part of it.
Grim’s thoughts are a good start to thinking about a new strategy by riffing on the concepts of Kilcullen et al. I want to see a longer and revised version of this published somewhere. I doubt it’ll appear in a place like Foreign Affairs, unless someone in the establishment picks up on that kind of essay on a whim. A new strategy needs implemented, though. That means we have to get change through the system. The ideas in the Long Telegram became a Foreign Affairs article and then Truman’s NSC-68. That took years to accomplish.
Here are some thoughts on Grim’s essay in particular:
–We almost lost Fallujah because we pulled back. We had to have a Second Battle of Fallujah because our enemy almost got the benefit of our lack of will to be violent. About this time, we had Sadr in our posession and let him go. This weakness is damaging. Some people learned from that period; some have not; some will forget or get replaced. This is the path to ruthlessness that will be essential to neutralizing our enemy. Not cruelty, ruthlessness.
–Some of the precise recommendations Grim puts forth aren’t all essential to a new strategy, and are Department of Defense centric. Maybe an equally good answer to his public affairs question is to create a new structure entirely. Maybe it’s better to (as I’ve argued before) get a Gramm-Rudman for fighting interagency. Maybe these two posts might be of interest (here and here).
–Maybe we’re missing something entirely in the center of gravity of public will, including what Grim refers to as returning to teaching heroism. It’s clear that educating people to hate and kill has been a long term investment for the jihadist movement (we don’t even have a good name for this!); education will be as tough as can be to repair. History (whether truthful or not) is a weapon, and it’s being used against us. Grim’s comment about crushing oathbreaking is a start but needs expanded; all sorts of people are finding the line and pushing it, testing it, from flying imams to Code Pink giving aid and comfort to the enemy; this will, eventually, have to be reconciled. It might be that what was acceptable in the Cold War (see the story about the Hollywood Ten here) is acceptable now; it might be that it isn’t. That risk assessment hasn’t been done explicitly.
–I need to see the tie-in between the strategy and the president’s Second Inaugural. They must be compatible, I think, but that is an assertion that is far from being universally accepted.
Seems to me that the first step is to get a Long Telegram built, and the next step is to inculcate it. We need access to a guy who’s smart enough to get it, and influential enough to carry the idea. We may be missing out on somebody somewhere doing this already–the folks discussing this are mostly midgrade military, and we need more academics and State types and government types to be involved and interested. Heck if I know how to do it, though–and if a strategy isn’t implemented, it isn’t a strategy.
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