Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
January 4, 2007
WAR: Total War?

An argument that American war-fighting doctrine has been on the wrong track since John F. Kennedy. I agree with the argument in theory; wars are about breaking the enemy's capacity and will to fight, nothing more and nothing less (though I was wrong, I thought in 1991 that it was an acceptable outcome to wreck Saddam's military, even though of course it would have been more satisfying to remove him from power; in retrospect it is clear that we can never again fight a war without removing the opposing regime). In practice, I'm not sure I agree that all of our military doctrines since 1961 have been quite as misguided as the author suggests, given the world political realities involved. But it's a provocative argument.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:25 AM | War 2007-12 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Crank, the last time we fought a war to win was when McArthur was at the Chinese border during the Korean War. We have been afraid of hurting someone feelings ever since. The most effective way to fight a war is to use your entire capacity and get it over with. While more "things" will be broken, in the long run, there will be less loss of life and a shorter duration. That is what we have done wrong in both Vietnam and Iraq. We have tippy-toed trying not to break to many "things".

Posted by: maddirishman at January 4, 2007 10:19 AM

when McArthur was at the Chinese border during the Korean War.

And a lot of good that particular bit of strategy did.

Posted by: Mike at January 4, 2007 11:17 AM

The point was up until that point the Korean War had been fought correctly. Then McArther was removed as commander because he wanted to continue into China and the rest is history. It is amazing the lessons we learn from history. Would the world be a better place if Patton had been allowed to take on Russia after WWII and McArthur had been allowed to continue into China? Sounds like a great premise for a novel.

Posted by: maddirishman at January 4, 2007 12:51 PM

Exactly. Tolerating communism early on caused untold havoc on the world, mostly to the people in those countries of course, but it also drained trillions of dollars from our country over the decades for the Cold War.

Posted by: andrew at January 4, 2007 1:00 PM

McArther was removed as commander because he wanted to continue into China

Yes, and also because McArthur kept undermining Truman through statements made in a less-than-private manner. And let's not forget that the Chinese counter-attack after we reached the border in 1950 -- the counter-attack that McArthur assured Truman wouldn't happen -- devastated our troops. We were routed, at least initially.

And damn good thing on Truman's part that he did what he did. I can only think of the incredible numbers of dead Americans if we actually tried to invade China. A little fewer than 100,000 dead Americans in Korea and Vietnam weren't enough for you?

Posted by: Mike at January 4, 2007 1:25 PM

Mike, it is good to start the new year out on the right foot.

You are right that the Chinese inflicted heavy casualties in their offensive. They had the same advantage that they enjoy today, almost unlimited numbers. Any good tactician knows that if you have overwhelming numbers and are not concerned about casualties you can over run ANY fixed position. The American line had become defensive instead of offensive at that point.

If McArthur had continued into China there is no doubt we would have suffered heavy casualties, but the Chinese would have been on the defensive not the offensive and on of McArthurs strengths was driving an enemy once he had them on the run.

Posted by: maddirishman at January 4, 2007 2:31 PM

Mike, it is good to start the new year out on the right foot.

Heh, heh. ;-)

the Chinese would have been on the defensive not the offensive and on of McArthurs strengths was driving an enemy once he had them on the run

I'm not even gonna try wading into this with you on the military history/strategist angle. I'm barely a dilettante and you -- unlike me -- seem to know what you're talking about.

But to what end would this drive into China have been made? To kill Mao? Occupy the third largest nation on earth? Convert a billion Chinese into capitalists?

Unless the agenda was to prevent a lot of dead Chinese -- Great Leap Forward (into starvation) and Cultural Revolution -- then how could it have been worth so many dead American boys?

And frankly, while acknowledging that Mao's madness is the biggest overlooked horror of the 20th century, it wouldn't have been worth it in my eyes.

Posted by: Mike at January 4, 2007 5:17 PM

My point isn't that I think we should have attacked China in the 50's. The original comment was that the US hasn't fought a war correctly since JFK. In my opinion, and no I am not an expert, but I have ready a lot over the years, there is a valid arguement that we have not fought correctly and, again in my opinion, that started not with JFK, but with Truman stopping McArthur.

The only way to win any kind of war is to attack and destroy your enemy. Granted, in a non-traditional engagement this is more difficult, but you still find your enemy and attack. The difference in Vietnam and Iraq is they are spreadout more and generally congregated in small groups, so you have to attack more often.

Posted by: maddirishman at January 4, 2007 5:25 PM

Whether Truman or McArthur was right about Korea, the main reason MacArthur was fired is he forgot how a chain of command works. If McArthur had a colonel openly questioning his decisions he'd have correctly canned him.

Posted by: largebill at January 5, 2007 1:15 PM
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