The “Spoiling Attack”

If you have read Mover Mike for any time, you know that I believe the U.S. fights wars with good intentions, but politicos get involved and turn the war into a cesspool of ineptitude.

If you are a liberal, you probably believe that too much money goes for defense that could be used for social causes, like education and healthcare, and you have no patience with the sacrifices that must be made to fight a war. What we have experienced instead is

…the United States has consistently encountered strategic stalemate or defeat in particular politico-military operations.

John Maudlin in his Outside the Box has a piece from Stratfor President George Friedman, the premise of which is the U.S. fights wars as “spoiling attack.”

The spoiling attack is an offensive operation; however, its goal is not to defeat the enemy but to disrupt enemy offensives — to, in effect, prevent a defeat by the enemy. The success of the spoiling attack is not measured in term of enemy capitulation, but the degree to which it has forestalled successful enemy operations.

He cites the Korean war, the Vietnam war, Cuba, the Iran containment policy, and the Iraq wars as evidence.

On a pretty arbitrary scale — between Korea (1950-53), Cuba (1960-63), Vietnam (1963-75), Iran (1979-1981) and Iraq (2003-present) — the United States has spent about 27 of the last 55 years engaged in politico-military maneuvers that, at the very least, did not bring obvious success, and frequently brought disaster. Yet, in spite of these disasters, the long-term tendency of American power relative to the rest of the world has been favorable to the United States.

So three questions arise:.
First, does a spoiling attack set us up for an abnormal defeat?. Is it possible that we enter a conflict not really trying to win and it backfires?
Second, is the spoiling attack better than total defeat of the enemy? Which strategy leads to long lasting peace?
Third, what is the next target for a spoling attack? Leaks from Russia suggest that the U.S. is ready to attack Iran with tactical nukes on April 6th, and the campaign would last 24 to 48 hours.

If you are a grunt in any of these conflicts, how does it make you feel to know, if Friedman is right, that you and your buddies were maimed or killed for stalemate or defeat as a goal?

John Maudlin George Friedman Stratfor Spoiling Attack Iraq Iran Mover Mike

Update:

Gina Cobb has an interesting post on the subject titled Shhhh!! Be Ve-wy, Ve-wy Quiet! We Ah We-tweating!

4 Responses to “The “Spoiling Attack””

  1. A couple of points:

    1. My dad once said, “If need to get an attorney, you might as well get the meanest, nastiest one around who will do you the most good.” I think it’s a fair comparison to say that if we have to use military force somewhere, let’s hit ’em hard and not mamby-pamby around with it. Anything less than that risks the lives of our young men and women in uniform. You’re right; politicians often get in the way of successful military action.

    2. I have to question your first statement about liberals not wanting to divert funds from the military to more social causes, “education and healthcare” were the terms you used. Since when is education a social cause? You’re hinting at a much greater thinking error here: Either we fund the military adequately, or we fund education adequately. I’m not sure why it’s not possible to do both. The fact is, a free, well-educated society has been the backbone of our country for a long time. I’m also not sure why many conservatives view the education system with such disdain. Sure, there are a lot of improvements that need to be made. But to me, sitting back and criticizing the system without getting involved at the local level to improve it is a bit hypocritical.

  2. Also, it looks like Oregon has contracted with American Institutes for Research (air.org) to deliver next year’s TESA program. As far as I can tell, this will continue to be a benchmark-oriented test, just as in previous years. I will let you know if I get additional information on that, though.

  3. Rick, maybe I labeled education incorectly. However, you have to admit most Dems running for president talk about more funding for education and universal healthcare and usually decry the money that is spent on defense. My point, really, is that liberals are more inclined to talk than attack. It would seem both sides would be disappointed if we use “spoiling attack” tactics. It is a big winner for the military-industrial complex, but doesn’t satisfy either conservatives or liberals. Would you agree with that?

  4. Yes, I think I would agree with that. And you’re also correct about the Dems doing a lot of talk without much action. Clinton spent 8 years doing just that. And when he did have to use the military, it was often for humanitarian efforts instead of tactical objectives. I’m just glad we didn’t have Algore in office when 9/11 happened.

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