Rule Five Critical Military Theory Friday

This guy gets it.  “This guy,” being retired Marine LTG Gregory Newbold, on the subject of critical military theory.  Excerpts, with my comments, follow:

Many Americans, particularly our most senior politicians and military leaders, seem to have developed a form of dementia when it comes to warfare. The result is confusion or denial about the essential ingredients of a competent military force, and the costs of major power conflict. The memory loss is largely irrespective of political bent because all too many are seduced by a Hollywood-infused sense of antiseptic warfare and push-button solutions, while forgotten are the one million casualties of the Battle of the Somme in World War I, or the almost two million in the Battle of Stalingrad in World War II.

This “warfare dementia” is a dangerous and potentially catastrophic malady, because the price for it could alter the success of the American experiment and most assuredly will be paid in blood. The condition is exacerbated and enabled when the most senior military leaders — those who ought to know better — defer to the idealistic judgments of those whose credentials are either nonexistent or formed entirely by ideology.

Warfare dementia is a pretty good way to describe what’s going on now, when we have a visibly dementia-ridden Commander in Chief who seems determined to make the military into a jobs program for the neurotic.

The purpose of this essay is to explain the fundamental tenets of a military that will either deter potential enemies or decisively win the nation’s wars, thereby preserving our way of life. What follows are the tenets of Critical Military Theory:

1. The U.S. military has two main purposes — to deter our enemies from engaging us in warfare, and if that fails, to defeat them in combat. Deterrence is only possible if the opposing force believes it will be defeated. Respect is not good enough; fear and certainty are required.

  • Relevant Wisdom: “If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known that we are at all times ready for War.” George Washington.

In other words, the military exists to kill people and break things.  Anything that distracts or detracts from that primary mission is unacceptable.

Having put in my own rather modest term in Uncle Sam’s colors, and being the son and grandson of men who have done the same, I find all of the tenets listed in this article laudable.  The military is not like any other organization, private or public; they have a mission, that mission ultimately being to close with and destroy our nation’s enemies by fire, maneuver and shock effect.  Nothing else matters.  The skin tones of the individual soldiers don’t matter.  They can either carry out the mission or they cannot, and nothing that stands in the way of that mission can be tolerated, or else we’re asking to, sooner or later, lose not a brush fire (Afghanistan) but a major war – one that will end our country and our way of life.

The essay concludes:

So what’s the problem? The problem today is one of both priorities and standards. We signal a dangerous shift in priorities (as just one example) when global warming, not preparedness to defeat aggressive global competitors, is considered the greatest problem for the Department of Defense and headquarters and rank inflation blossom out of control to the point that the support element greatly diminishes the ground combat element that wins wars. A problem of standards when every service and the Special Operations community dilute requirements based purely on merit in favor of predetermined outcomes to favor social engineering goals, and when new training requirements crowd out expectations and measurements of combat performance. 

This principle is the most clearly and frequently violated in our current military environment. Although the examples are many, the most egregious sidestepping of scientific evidence occurred when the U.S. Marine Corps’ lengthy examination of the effects of integrated (coed) ground combat performance was refuted and ignored (often by those who hadn’t read it). This brings to mind the verbiage used in another context: “inconvenient truths.”


Read the whole thing.  Think on it.  Those of you True Believers who have served will recognize the character of Lieutenant General Newbold; he may wear stars on his shoulder straps but he obviously has the heart of a rifleman.  We need more like him.

Unfortunately, given the entrenched bureaucracies in the Imperial City, we are probably going to get more of the likes of the soft-shelled invertebrate Milley.

I like General Newbold’s emphasis of his tenets by following each with what he calls “relevant wisdom” from military thinkers from days gone by.  Here’s one from one of the General’s fellow Marines, Colonel Jeff Cooper:  “If you find yourself under lethal attack don’t be kind. Be harsh. Be tough. Be ruthless.”  Colonel Cooper was talking about citizens attacked by criminals, but the same rule applies to nations.

The last time the United States fought like this was in 1945.  We couldn’t do that now.  And that doesn’t bode well for our future.