Friday, October 04, 2013

Hard won lessons

3 October marked the twentieth anniversary of the Battle of Mogadishu (“Black Hawk Down”). Here’s a good article on the lessons of that battle.

The Lost Lessons of “Black Hawk Down”

The lessons of “Black Hawk Down” should teach U.S. policymakers and officers not to become over-reliant on technology as an operational panacea, to prepare the human terrain in advance of a decision to target an individual, and to make long-term investments in indigenous forces and HUMINT networks in strategically vital regions for when emergencies require intervention. The descent of Somalia into a cross between Hobbes’ state of nature and a Mad Max movie that allowed al-Shabaab to flourish should remind policymakers that, although tempting, cutting losses or avoiding costs in the short-term can be more expensive in the long-run. And finally, in a lesson perhaps applicable to Syria, Somalia suggests that sometimes choosing the lesser of two evils is the best policy option available, and that resolutely pursuing an imperfect solution is preferable to ambivalently waiting for the perfect solution to emerge organically.
There is one additional lesson from this battle/campaign.

Have a strategy that fits into a coherent grand strategy.
The Clinton administration had no grand strategy because they did not believe they needed one. As historian John Lewis Gaddis notes:

President Clinton himself saw little need for a grand strategy under these circumstances. Neither Roosevelt nor Truman had had one, he told one top advisor early in 1994: 'they just made it up as they went along.'
Instead of the careful balancing of ends, means and interests, the Clinton years relied on ad hoc crisis management. All too often that degenerated into a battle to win the next news cycle and the next election (e. g. Susan Rice and Rwanda).

The damage created by this anti-strategic mindset lasted long after Rwanda, Kosovo, and Bosnia dropped from the headlines.

One thread connects Syria, Iran, and North Korea. We need Russian cooperation which Putin stubbornly refuses to give.


the Clinton national security team-- notable for its simultaneous cultivation and humiliation of Russia

No comments: