Strategic errors at the presidential level responsible for lack of military success

Mark Moyer:
Strategic defeat often results from an accumulation of tactical failures. Repeated battlefield setbacks can destroy an adversary’s capabilities, as befell Napoleonic France, or its will, as befell Britain in the American War of Independence. In such cases, military organizations may deserve at least some of the blame for the strategic loss, because in most countries the military leadership bears primary responsibility for training, equipping, and commanding armed forces, functions that are fundamental to tactical effectiveness. Military strategy, by contrast, is often set by civilian leaders, and in the case of the United States it is the statutory prerogative of the civilian commander in chief.

When a country enjoys tactical military success as consistently as the United States, responsibility for strategic success must rest primarily with those who make strategy. The American military could be held culpable for recent strategic setbacks were it highly influential in the crafting of strategy. But its influence under the Bush administration was much more limited, and under the Obama administration its strategic advice has largely been ignored.

A review of America’s military interventions since 2001 reveals that seven broad errors account for America’s inability to turn tactical successes into strategic victories. These errors are described below. In every instance, the error was the direct result of presidential decisions on policy or strategy. Some of those decisions ran in direct contradiction of the military’s advice. The military can be faulted for some significant tactical errors, such as ignorance of counterinsurgency in the early years of the Iraq war and excessive reliance on population-centric counterinsurgency doctrine in the middle years of the Afghan war. But the military eventually corrected its major tactical problems, and none of those problems thwarted strategic success.

Incompetence, in the form of bad judgment and disorganization, contributed heavily to the mistakes of both the Bush and Obama administrations. Reliance on flawed theories, which could be attributed to ideological fervor as well as incompetence, also hurt both administrations. Theories on democratization made Bush and Obama overly optimistic about the prospects for intervention in certain countries. President Obama’s adherence to McGovernite ideology fueled an undue aversion to the use of American military power. In addition, preoccupation with domestic politics and personal popularity guided many of Obama’s ill-fated strategic decisions.

1. Excessive Confidence in Democratization
2. Poor Selection of Local Allies
3. Haste in Counterinsurgency
4. Over-reliance on Surgical Strikes
5. Refusal to Commit a Military Footprint
6. Refusal to Maintain a Military Footprint
7. Signaling of Retrenchment
The piece is worth reading in full.  Items four through seven were all strategic blunders by Obama.  What these errors have in common is they are a weakness strategy where the command authority refuses to use adequate resources to achieve what should be his objective.  They boil down to the use a raiding strategy which leads to at best a war of attrition which results in a much longer war and may also result in higher casualties on both sides.

Obama's failure to maintain a military footprint in Iraq is probably one of the most disastrous military decisions in US history.  It led directly to the creation of ISIS out of the previously defeated al Qaeda in Iraq which also led to genocide on a level in the region as well as mass murder attacks in the US and Europe.

One of the other mistakes Obama made was micromanaging what military operations he did approve.  He was a man with no military experience nor a deep understanding of history and warfare who also put amateurs int eh White House in charge of military decisions.

One of the first things young officers in the US learn is when given an order to take an objective they should make a decision based on their knowledge of resources and the terrain as to how to accomplish their job.

Having someone in Washington who is more worried about the political fallout from the operation than the completion of the mission is a huge mistake which usually comes with unrealistic rules of engagement.

One of the smartest things President Trump has done is turn these matters back over to military experts and we are already seeing tangible improvement in results in the fight with both al Qaeda and ISIS.


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