The Cost of Ignoring Military Innovation

The Betrayed: On Warriors, Cowboys and Other MisfitsAfter Vietnam and 3 degrees, I can still say that guerrilla warfare was probably the most intellectually intense thing I have ever participated in.  It is a constant and deadly evolutionary game of “one upsmanship” with each side alternately developing a tactic and the other side responding with a counter.

Combat Shooter's HandbookA couple of examples: As best I can remember, it didn’t have a name. But the VC would send out a lone soldier who would take a couple of pot shots at a Marine patrol then take off running. It didn’t take the Marines long to realize that , if they chased the guy, it would lead them into an ambush.

Environmental & Natural Resource Economics: The Austrian ViewAnother one comes to mind: Known as “hugging the belt.”  It didn’t take the VC and NVA long to figure out that, when a Marine unit quickly broke contact, all hell was about  to be unleashed upon them in the form of artillery and/or close air support.  Their response was to “hug the belt” — staying “danger close” to the retreating Marines so they could (or would) not employ their indirect fire support.

The Essence of Liberty: Volume I: Liberty and History: The Rise and Fall of the Noble Experiment with Constitutionally Limited Government (Liberty and ... Limited Government) (Volume 1)The Essence of Liberty: Volume II: The Economics of Liberty (Volume 2)The Essence of Liberty: Volume III: A Universal Philosophy of Political Economy (Liberty: A Universal Political Ethic) (Volume 3)Another : The VC, in large part, resupplied themselves with what they could steal from the uS. I know of an SF outfit that took the fuses out of a case of fragmentation grenades then left the box where they knew it would be stolen. — jtl, 419

by John Robb via the Global Guerrilla

For all the “4th Generation of War” intellectuals running around today saying that the nature of war has fundamentally changed, the tactics are wholly new, etc, I must respectfully say … “Not really”: Alex the Great would not be in the least bit perplexed by the enemy that we face right now in Iraq, and our leaders going into this fight do their troops a disservice by not studying (studying, vice just reading) the men who have gone before us.”   Gen. James Mattis – 2013.

Gen. Mattis is right in that it’s important to learn from the history of warfare.  I do that whenever possible.  For example, a decade ago, I wrote this essay on how Alexander the Great defeated the Scythians (a “nation” of horse archers that wouldn’t fight by the rules) and how that insight could be adapted to Iraq.

However, unlike the General and many others with military backgrounds, I don’t believe that warfare has stopped evolving or changing.

A Handbook for Ranch Managers Planned Grazing: A Study Guide and Reference Manual To me, this resistance to change is both depressing and exasperating.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the “nothing is new in warfare” statement from otherwise intelligent people.  That statement is plainly wrong.  It’s a cop-out.  A way to avoid adapting to new circumstances.


In fact, the history of warfare is the best argument against this wrong-headedness.  It’s a history that is full of innovation, crafty adaptations, and creative endeavor.  This record of achievement is precisely why military history is worth reading.

However, I’ll readily admit I’m in the minority on this.

Most people don’t believe warfare is a serious area of study.  This attitude is why the study of warfare isn’t taken seriously in academia and why sociologists, political scientists, historians, economists, and area experts all claim ownership of it.  It’s why intelligence and foreign policy experts routinely discount the role of military theory in their analysis.

A major reason for this? The study of warfare is NOT seriously supported by the military.  Even the places where study should occur — the academies, the war colleges, and speciality offices (like the DoD’s Office of Net Assessment) — don’t support a true study of warfare.

This dismal situation isn’t limited to the US.  It’s epidemic in the developed world.  It’s gotten so bad that every military innovator is quickly turned into a pariah (Boyd, Lind, etc.) and the only refuge for new thinking are blogs like mine.

But in other places in the world, warfare is evolving.  

It’s changing and with every evolutionary adaptation the cost of our willful ignorance is going up.

PS: For many outside the military, the term: “military intellectual” is an oxymoron. Many believe that warfare is simple a prehistorical brutish contest.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

PPS:  If military theory hasn’t changed, please oh please tell me when it stopped evolving.  Give me the specific date when military history ended and repetition began.


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The Betrayed: On Warriors, Cowboys and Other MisfitsThe Betrayed: On Warriors, Cowboys and Other Misfits. Although woven around the experiences and adventures of one man, this is also the story of the people who lived during the period of time in American history that an entire generation was betrayed It is the story of the dramatically changing times in which this personal odyssey took place. It is the story of the betrayal of an entire generation of Americans and particularly the 40% (of the military aged males) of that generation that fought the Vietnam war.


About Land & Livestock Interntional, Inc.

Land and Livestock International, Inc. is a leading agribusiness management firm providing a complete line of services to the range livestock industry. We believe that private property is the foundation of America. Private property and free markets go hand in hand—without property there is no freedom. We also believe that free markets, not government intervention, hold the key to natural resource conservation and environmental preservation. No government bureaucrat can (or will) understand and treat the land with as much respect as its owner. The bureaucrat simply does not have the same motives as does the owner of a capital interest in the property. Our specialty is the working livestock ranch simply because there are so many very good reasons for owning such a property. We provide educational, management and consulting services with a focus on ecologically and financially sustainable land management that will enhance natural processes (water and mineral cycles, energy flow and community dynamics) while enhancing profits and steadily building wealth.
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