Tuesday, January 13, 2004

"Defining and Achieving Decisive Victory "

A long paper by Colin S. Gray that is well worth reading.

A sample of his bracing clarity:

It is not entirely true to argue, for example, that a bad idea can only be defeated by a better idea. There are times, as from 1939 to 1945, when a particularly bad idea--Hitler's vision of a racially pure Thousand Year Reich-- needs to be shot.

He writes intelligently about the war on terror and the correlation of forces:

Technology is not a panacea. The attractive proposition that the United States currently enjoys an unassailable military technological lead which has sharply reduced the value of allies, and which can deliver decisive victory more or less to order, is fragile or wrong on all counts. Technology is only one of strategy's dimensions,
and it is by no means the most important.


Because war is not solitaire, even an excellent army may fail to deliver victory. Policy simply may ask too much of its military instrument, or it may hamstring military operations with damaging political constraints.

One way in which policy asks too much is to expect quick and decisive victories in modes of war where that is impossible. For example, a key factor in decisive victory is the enemy's willingness to admit defeat. That is one of the reasons guerilla wars are so hard to win.

In words attributed to Mao Tse-tung: There is in guerrilla warfare no such thing
as a decisive battle.

Similarly, German doctrine and strategy in 1941-42 failed because Stalin, unlike the French, refused to accept that crushing operational defeats were strategically decisive.

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