William R. Polk on American Grand Strategy for Iraq, Syria, and the Region
"We win each battle, but the battles keep happening. And to
our chagrin, we don't seem to be winning the wars. By almost any
criterion, we are less 'victorious' today than half a century ago."
The Mental Block and The Broadside
by William R. Polk
Analysis of foreign affairs problems often ends in a mental block.
As we have seen in each of our recent crises—Somalia, Mali, Libya,
Syria, Iraq, the Ukraine and Iran—"practical" men of affairs want quick
answers: they say in effect, 'don't bother us with talk about how we
got here; this is where we are; so what do we do now?' The result,
predictably, is a sort of nervous tick in the body politic: we lurch
from one emergency to the next in an unending sequence.
This is not new. We all have heard the quip: "ready, fire, aim."
In fact those words were not just a joke. For centuries after infantry
soldier were given the rifle, they were ordered not to take the time to
aim; rather, they were instructed just to point in the general direction
of the enemy and fire. Their commanders believed that it was the mass
impact, the "broadside," that won the day.
Our leaders still believe it. They think that our "shock and awe,"
our marvelous technology measured in stealth bombers, drones,
all-knowing intelligence, our massed and highly mobile troops and our
money constitute a devastating broadside. All we have to do is to
point in the right direction and shoot.
So we shoot and then shoot again and again. We win each battle, but
the battles keep happening. And to our chagrin, we don't seem to be
winning the wars. By almost any criterion, we are less "victorious"
today than half a century ago [...] Link