The Next Revolution in Military Affairs…

I remember a random speaker during one of my countless seminars at West Point saying “rereading what you have already written is one of the most selfish forms of masturbation.”  Well, since I’m stuck here in a combat zone with a bit of time on my hands I have to occupy myself with something, right?…Seriously though, looking back I feel that this post I made on Facebook around Memorial Day might still be relevant and worth a second look.  As an army, we have always been quite good at fighting the last war.  We collect our AARs, develop lessons learned, and spend a lot of time researching and discussing what worked, what didn’t work, and what was downright retarded and shouldn’t have been tried at all in the first place.  And then we settle down with the knowledge that if we ever had to fight that war again, we could completely dominate it…The problem of course is that we never repeat our wars and therefore while we should take the time to learn our lessons from them, we must find ways to fit them within the framework of our next struggle and to meet the local conditions and network dynamics of our next area of operations.  As we look right now in our time, we are already starting to see a glimpse of what our “next wars” may be in the form of the conflicts in Libya, Somalia, Yemen, and now Uganda.  While it is beyond the scope of this writing to go into any details or develop any concrete strategies for how we might approach these challenges it is certainly worth noting that the face of our military involvement throughout the world is changing quite faster than we may have liked.  And ultimately beyond our operational and tactical level analysis of the current wars, the only true lesson we will be able to apply from them for the rest of our careers is the simple truth that we should NEVER seek to invade foreign countries under the premise of spreading democracy and fostering global security again…While we have gotten quite “good” (if you can really use that term) at counterinsurgency in the past few years the truth is that those wars have proven to be great strategic blunders which have cost more in rebuilding and making up for our mistakes than any of our initial estimates or predictions assumed…As we look to the future, let’s try to learn from the past, but not be bound by it.  We have so much potential for real, comprehensive change these days that to waste our golden opportunity would do great injustice to the world we pass on…and so, here’s my Afghan Saturday night selfish masturbation…enjoy and let me know what you think…

Cheers,

Brian

15 OCT 2011, 1930 AST, Sharana, Paktika, Afghanistan

 

The Next Revolution in Military Affairs…

Over time, I think I’ve come to accept the theory that our lives are built around little more than a long series of peculiar coincidences and otherwise random acts of chance.  And that it is solely the way in which we react to these events based on our perceptions, our personalities, our desires, and our emotions which makes all the difference in our lives determining our careers, our passions, and our personal relationships.  It is has been nothing but this string of coincidences that has led me to this point in my life at this time, serving in this Army, and under these most interesting of circumstances as opposed to serving as perhaps a Peace Corps volunteer or Christian missionary in some obscure third world country, a boisterous and outspoken student activist at some random semi-prestigious institution or the streets and coffee shops of Damascus , a rebel fighter on the frontlines in Misrata, or even a youthful gun-for-hire in any of the world’s countless war zones and fault lines.  Collectively, it is these coincidences that have led all of us to this pivotal place and time in our history and indeed the history of humanity where we possess the unique and powerful tools to essentially rewrite the book on our societal and collective existence.  And it will be how we harness and take advantage of them in the coming years that will forever shape the world we pass on to our children and grandchildren…

It is very interesting that at this time in world history that I am serving as a uniformed junior Army Officer.  While the long string of coincidences, decisions, half-decisions, and drunken stupidity which led me to this point in time of which I am increasingly becoming aware is far beyond the scope of this or any writing, the path I have taken has certainly not been direct.  It is also interesting that in this Army, unlike any other military organization to my knowledge, that uniformed officers swear an oath of office not to uphold any particular government, leader, or system of order, but simply to an idea, a document of political coincidence written over two hundred years ago by scared, exhausted, opinionated, and in many ways brilliant men.  By raising our right hands and swearing an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States” we are vowing uphold a system of governance and subordination to the needs of our people which serves ultimately as a relic to our forefathers inherent distrust of the power of standing armies as a tool for oppression and the sustainment of corrupt despotism.  At that time, such armies were a tool of the powerful kings of Continental Europe who viciously held on to their colonial interests and their people at home.  And today, as we see more and more “professional” armies turning on their own people in places like Libya, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen to name a few it appears that their fears are no less relevant today than they were centuries ago…human nature may not always improve with time…

It must not go unmentioned that it was originally with great caution that Thomas Jefferson approached the creation of the first American military academy on the site of an old garrison on the banks of the Hudson over two centuries ago, thereby establishing the nation’s standing officer corps.  And ultimately it wasn’t until the realization that the nation also needed a powerful civil engineering school whose graduates it could use for its many development projects that he ultimately relented and established my former Rockbound Highland Home (or prison depending on whether you are a cadet or a graduate).  And thus, the nation’s first professional officer corps led it in the wars of national existence and expansion, while at the same time, building the canals, railroads, and infrastructure necessary to reach its ultimate Manifest Destiny.  And with an officer corps dedicated to a system, and sometimes even an ideal, of governance and not the shaky political aspirations of individual leaders, the oftentimes short-sighted and inept operationalization of “national interest” and the ever-shifting winds of daily societal desires and fantasies, our original leaders were able to create an army not bound to narrow self-interest but to the content of governance and ever-vigilant service of the nation and mankind…

Beyond the shaky politics and oftentimes shady and deceitful policies of our time and beyond the long chain of powerful strategic coincidences that defined the past 10 years of our lives, it is this pure foundation which I feel can ultimately save us and our profession from the dangerous path our culture and our profession has taken in the past decades of our collective existence.  In an era where defense and security spending represents almost a third of the national budget (depending on how you do the math) at a time when only a fraction of which could be used intelligently to effectively end some of the major problems of world hunger, destitution, structural violence, and infectious disease I fear we may be moving further and further from the ideal our fore-fathers had for a small but competent standing army dedicated to service to the nation through both violent and peaceful endeavors.  And it appears that we are moving closer and closer to the realization that Eisenhower—the last graduate of the school on the Hudson to reach the highest office in the land—had of the dangers of a powerful and deeply entrenched military-industrial complex…

Sure, it is a natural tenant of economics that war is always a boon to certain sectors of the economy and our reactions to the great strategic coincidence of September 2001 can only be seen as evidence of our inherent humanity, but at what point must we step back and take stock?  While our soldiers, marching fearlessly into harm’s way time and time again surely deserve the best tools for the job and it is still a small condolence to every grieving mother that her son died while wearing the best, most up-to-date equipment—despite being killed by a $50 improvised explosive device laid by a man with nothing left to lose—there comes a point when we must decide which cost is worth bearing and which is merely a fool’s comfort in the age-old violent game of human warfare.  And I still fear that after almost 10-years of constant, high-intensity operations, that our forces are moving into foreign lands over-equipped and under-prepared in terms of training, local knowledge, individual maturity, and sometimes even quality leadership…

Today, as the military seeks to deal with these problems associated with its year of war—many of which the new leadership has already expressed—amid the mounting promise of more budget cuts, downsizing, and post closures, it appears that only a dedicated return to the founding principles of our profession based on that old, written manifestation of the social contract and commitment to governance—not government as such a term relates only the structures of control and not the substances of social order—can form the basis for changes we face ahead…

In an increasingly borderless world where the greatest threat to the physical security of human lives lies not in enemy formations across borders but in the lack of social order and institutions dedicated to the service of the people, the essence of that document still holds the key for the reoperationalization of the modern military establishment.  Take away the structures of government designed solely as an American solution and leave the substance of governance enshrined between the lines.  Take away the religious dogmas of our forefathers and leave the universal human dogmas upon which they were based.  Take away the American society of the 18th Century and leave the human society of the 21st Century and you will have at least a starting point for dealing with our new and challenging set of strategic coincidences…

Throughout the countless history classes taught at the oldest of American institutions there is mention of the many Revolutions in Military Affairs.  Throughout history, these have been based on new technologies and new conceptualization of world order which have profoundly affected the military establishment in dramatic and unchangeable ways.  As we look at the waning moments of decisive American military engagement in two major conflicts, I hope that the next Revolution in Military Affairs can be one not based on new and emerging technologies of violence—of which there are surely many available—but one of the remanifestion and reoperationalization of the very principles which guide our actions and our professional endeavors.  I pray that the next Revolution will be focused on the institutionalization of world governance and rules-based societies, the scaling back of the military industrial complex in favor of using our skills and technologies for the benefit of humanity rather than our narrow, short-sighted self-interests, and the ultimate giving of the gift of peace to our brothers and sisters who have come of age seeing far too little of the sort…

I appears the stars of great coincidence are already aligned for this manifestation in the scaling back of military operations, the introspective organizational look taken by much of the Army’s senior leadership, the ever-growing global necessity for some form of sustainable social contract, and the tremendous opportunities for new scientific and technological development able to benefit all mankind and shift the economic burden from military to civilian endeavors.  In order to realize this goal however, certain steps must still be taken…

First, we must finally as a society come to grips with the great strategic coincidence that occurred in September 2001 in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania.  We must seek to fully understand our actions, our feelings, and the decisions of our fathers for what they were at the time and how they have affected us up until this point.  We must shake off the hangover of the last 10 years and look to the future with open minds and open hearts, not discarding the memory of the fallen, but simply taking their sacrifice and their struggle in new directions for the good of their children and grandchildren.

Second, we must redefine ourselves and our core values along more sustainable, globally-oriented lines.  We must work for the dedication to social contract and good governance upon which our profession was founded and focus our blood, sweat, and tears on the protection of people through our world who lack the capability to protect themselves.

Third, we must redefine our concept of national inclusion and forever defeat the “us versus them” from our collective consciousness.  The world we inherit is increasingly fluid and borderless.  Our generation travels and interacts with people from other places unlike any other.  And thus we find true connections with other human beings from all across our planet.  There is nothing saying that the children of today’s “enemies” may not one day fall in love with and marry our own children—and indeed is that not the ultimate manifestation of “victory”?—or that we ourselves may not forge our own eternal human companionships in far off corners of a much more connected world.  The walls we build to prevent this must be torn down and our divisions must be addressed    Human beings are human regardless of their race, creed, ethnicity, background, or the multitude of other coincidences they have inherited through the course of their lives.  For our children’s future, we must move from global conflict to global community.

Fourth, we must work ourselves out of a job.  We must seek ways to downsize the military establishment not just within our own nation, but throughout the global community.  Just like the first graduates of the Hudson Highland institution moved on to produce the greatest civilian endeavors of our great great great grandfathers’ time, so too must many of us move on to produce the great scientific, technological, and transformational civilian developments of our time.  We must evolve the military industrial complex into a civilian scientific and technological industrial complex taking our existing corporations and foundations and moving them towards sustainable human development.  Our military must become small, dedicated, incredibly professional, and highly intelligent being schooled not just in the arts of war but also the arts of science, technology, and governance.

And finally, we must take our action, develop our organizations, networks, and institutions, and prepare to lead them through the next set of great strategic coincidences of our time as we build the future our children deserve.  No one can say what challenges are in store for our generation, but we as leaders in this society must remain dedicated, intellectually flexible, and morally grounded enough to meet them head on without fear for our lives, our careers, or our adolescent dreams of “old security”.  It is ultimately our path to shape and our children’s future to create.

This paper is ultimately a work that has been a long time in the making.  It is in no way complete or even right—as above all else I have come to know my capacity for being wrong—by any means but it is simply an ongoing work in progress.  As the day in which we take a step back and honor the sacrifices of our fallen comrades through history, I feel that Memorial Day is as good a time as any to put it into somewhat coherent words and put it out.  I don’t expect everyone—or even anyone—to wholly agree with my ideas, but only through sharing our thoughts can we eventually manifest something of value for our society and our profession.  As of right now, I still have no idea what great coincidences my life has in store for me, how long I will  stay in this uniform, or even if I will ever live long enough to take it off but the ideas are there nonetheless. If you have gotten this far, thank you for caring and please share whatever your thoughts may be.

Please be safe during the coming year.  I hope to see all of you in the near future and share a beer, a talk, or an exit point.  If for some fucked up reason this happens to be my last Memorial Day don’t worry about it, for there will be plenty of good liquor left over in my apartment…drink up, friends, for it will be a long road ahead…

Cheers,

Brian

30 MAY 2011, Grafenwoehr, Germany

 

Dedicated to John and Darren, my fallen classmates of 2009.  I’ll think of you guys every time I pop open a beer bottle with that big rock from somewhere on the Hudson.  Also to Nick, who taught me how to fly years ago.  If human being have learned to fly, what the fuck could be impossible?  See you guys soon…

 

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About briangdonnelly

I'm pretty much a random traveler and free thinker. Right now I live and work with the Army in North Carolina. I grew up in Missouri but am from the northeast US and have traveled a lot with the Army and life in general so I can't say I really have a "home" except where I chose to catch a few hours or rack each day. Overall, life is pretty awesome and I'm looking forward to changing the world. Hit me up if you care... Peace, Brian
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