On Thinking Smartly About War

Bracing Views

W.J. Astore

I prefer peace to war, diplomacy to armed confrontation, but sometimes war can be unavoidable. At least the U.S. military sure seems to think so, given the number of wars it fights and the humungous sums of money it spends. Yet spending trillions on weaponry and destruction is no substitute for keen thinking about war. Sadly, the U.S. military isn’t exactly known for outthinking its rivals and enemies.

An analytical and quantifying mania marks U.S. military efforts in war.The enemy can be defeated by identifying and attacking his centers of gravity, as the U.S. Air Force likes to say, as if the enemy is an industrial factory or an engineering problem rather than a human organism of unquantifiable complexity.Societies aren’t machines, nor are they rational actors, necessarily. They are more like ecological systems, unpredictable, adaptable, variegated, and complex.

The “Type A,” “Can-do” warriors in the U.S. military are…

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