Don’t Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight

by Mike Swetnam

We have the largest military in the entire world. In fact, if you add up all the next ten biggest, you will not get a military force as big as the one the USA controls.

That should mean that there is no war or military action on this earth that the USA cannot fully overwhelm, control, and win in short order. Why, then, have we been fighting nasty little wars in Afghanistan and Iraq for a decade? Why do we feel like we cannot do anything except provide some meager air support to the war against ISIL?

Is this the reality of the modern world? Or are we, the USA, severely underestimating and therefore underutilizing our own power? The answer should be obvious, but it seems to not be so.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the US put together an army that included 500,000 US troops and about 220,000 allied troops, and 720,000 boots on the ground! General Colin Powell, the author of the military strategy of overwhelming force, called it shock and awe.  The result was that Iraq was pushed out of Kuwait and the allied forces marched all the way to Baghdad in less than 100 hours! Yes, four days.

Fifteen years later, we invaded Iraq with the intention of changing the leadership and eliminating weapons of mass destruction. It turns out that there were no weapons of mass destruction and a decade of fighting later, we left without ever really owning the country.

What was the difference? When we invaded Iraq in 2003, we went with less than 200,000 boots on the ground (148,000 US and 47,000 allied) instead of the 720,000 we used in 1990.

We also tried to liberate Afghanistan. We used only about 20,000 troops for most of this conflict with a surge to 63,000 by 2012.

We have been trying to stop an infestation of rats with a fly swatter! Colin Powell would have had us use a hand grenade!

The lesson is clear. If we need to take action and use military force, do so with overwhelming force. Make sure you win decisively and quickly. Demonstrate your resolve, your ability, and the swiftness of your resolve.

Acting meekly, with underwhelming force, only serves to make you look weak, ineffective, and malleable.

Our current fight is with ISIS, or ISIL. They cut people’s heads off and broadcast videos of that act. There are also hundreds of pictures on the web of pickup trucks full of heads they cut off of their prisoners and innocent victims.

We can not address this threat with flyswatters, other-people’s military forces, or insufficient numbers of troops. We need troops on the ground; several hundreds of thousands of troops on the ground.  That is the only way we will end this quickly, decisively, and permanently.

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