How not to prepare for war: Views of an active duty Marine

Sunday, October 6, 2002

I am an enlisted United States Marine, a Gunnery Sergeant. The views in this article are my own and not representative of any other person or organization.

Classified leaks; senators visiting Iraq and criticizing the president in public; retired flag grade officers providing insight on how they might see forces employed for combat; what is our country doing?

I'm all for freedom of expression, but for members of the government to do any of the above should be considered criminal. It is criminal down at the military service level. Members cannot leak info without going to prison. Members cannot bad mouth the president without repercussions as well. The fight at the highest levels of the government needs to be more discreet and behind closed doors. Let the citizens demonstrate and let the media guess, but don't give away our country's actions or intentions. Don't bad mouth the government service members who are going to have to fight in some capacity or another.

For the general public, it's called freedom of speech; for members fighting the enemy in uniform or under some kind of cover, this kind of confusing behavior is a recipe for disaster. Balkan and Mideast cultures have no respect for vacillation.

There are three levels to employing forces; the strategic, the operational and the tactical. In layman's terms this means the political level, theater commanders (3 & 4 star officers) to roughly regiment level and grunt level the people carrying the guns.

Waging war from my way of understanding requires a focused effort at all levels: a solid round versus a shotgun blast. The solid round can kill an elephant, the latter a duck if you are lucky. Without going into detail here, let me just suggest that reading General Vo Nguyen Giap's book "How We Won The War" illustrates this principle.

My point is simply this. Conflict occurs at three levels: The spiritual/moral, mental and the physical levels. Fog and friction, AKA confusion & uncertainty, is what we try to levy upon the enemy to break his will to fight. That is the bottom line.

Conflict is not about destroying the enemy's weapons, cities, people or soldiers. It's about making an enemy realize that fighting will do him no good, so he should give up. The fact that material damage and loss of life occurs is simply a by-product of attaining the objective of bending him to see our will through. This is an example of how fog and friction can work for us.

On the other hand, if the enemy's Fog (the unknown) is reduced via the leaking of classified information and the blabbing by former senior military experts, or a schizophrenic political leadership, we give him a reason to believe that he can win the fight. WE GIVE HIM THE WILL TO FIGHT. This is especially true if the enemy is backed into a corner. Why tell him our probable courses of action and give him the opportunity to put up the best and hardest defense for the sake of martyrdom and enlarging the conflict? Why break Sun Tzu's dictum on maintaining the State of Formlessness by telling the enemy what we are going to do and how?

Certain citizens of this country have convinced me that members of the armed services need to buy their spouses a hell of a lot of life insurance to carry them over if they, or their friends, die because of someone running their soup-cooler.

Where was Sun Tzu's press corps? My best guest was in the grave. I'm sure he considered them to be enemy spies.

Whether or not anyone realizes this, war has already started. War begins in the mind and heart. How U.S. citizens agree with the president, or not, needs to be handled in a more respectful manner. A service member goes with the decision made by this government regardless of feeling. He just wants to come to home at the end of the day too.

Service members do not want to freeload or get special benefits. They will die for something to believe in, that is the Constitution and to "Defend this Country From All Enemies Foreign and Domestic."

Semper Fidelis, A Marine who plans to retire in 3 years.

Bob Howard

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