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December 07, 2005

Comment of the Day

We are at war - mistakes will be made, people will be killed, the enemy will sometimes outsmart us, etc. I find this whole expectation that we should never suffer setbacks or make mistakes very annoying.

I remember reading how during the Guadalcanal campaign Nimitz would constantly remind his gloomy subordinates that the enemy was suffereing and losing ships also.

In his memoirs, Grant (when he was just a militia colonel) wrote about leading a regiment to attack a Confederate camp. He was scared and kept imagining everything that could go wrong. He was outnumbered, it was a trap, etc. He got to the camp and the Confederates had run away. He used that to remind himself that the enemy is also scared and also screws up.

I forget which general said that you can not judge a battle by the rear area of your own army. There will always be wounded, confusion, people running away, etc. The media coverage now does this.

-- steve_in_hb

And remember Afghanistan -- another war that was lost for three or four weeks, until it was won.

I forget Steven den Beste's term for this -- I don't think it was his term, actually; I just learned it from him -- that some armies degrade smoothly and others degrade catastrophically.

Our army degrades smoothly. You can kill our men, but until you've done something nearly incomprehensible like kill 50% of them and cut off further resupply and reinforcement, you can't actually cause the army to degrade catastrophically. If you kill 10 men out of 159,000, you've managed to reduce the American military's effectiveness in Iraq by a commensurate percentage. Something south of 0.001%.

On the other hand, as Afghanistan shows, there's a lot of invisible "hollowing out" of enemy forces such as the ones we face in Iraq. They seem to be maintiaining their effectiveness until one day command, communications, or logistics are overwhelmed and the entire terrorist structure suddenly cracks, and then shatters.

All of this is invisible to stateside civilians. Indeed, 60% of it is invisible to our boys over there and military intelligence.

Den Beste's Original Essay On "Graceful Failure:" Here.

A commenter said this was a thoughtful and intelligent piece.

Well of course it was. I stole it from den Beste.


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posted by Ace at 06:39 PM

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