If you attempt the impossible, you will fail.
==One of the Ten Truths of Management
If a problem cannot be solved, it may not be a problem, but a fact.
==One of Rumsfeld’s Rules
Why was the United States so successful in building up Germany, Japan and South Korea as independent nations after World War Two, and such a failure in building up South Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan?
Chris Mason, in his book Strategic Lessons, wrote that the reason is that while it is possible to help an existing nation build up a stable government, it is not possible for outsiders to create a national consciousness among a people who lack it.
That is the reason for the failures in South Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan—not any lack of valor or professionalism among American troops, but the fact that they were given a mission equivalent to trying to make water flow uphill.
He said the U.S. military is well-suited for carrying out two kinds of missions:
- Defending allies from invasion by use of “intense lethality” against the aggressor.
- Intervening in a foreign country to protect American lives or interests by striking hard at a military target, and then leaving—preferably within 90 days.
If the American government is considering intervening in a country for an extended length of time, it should summon the best academic experts to assess whether the people of that country have a sense of nationhood. If not, the only unity those people will have is in resisting the invader.
Actually there were people inside the government who understood what would happen in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, and said so, but they were ignored, Mason said. Instead decisions were made by people who knew nothing about those countries, but knew what to do and say in order to advance their careers.
Those are harsh words. The fact that the Army War College has published his book shows that there are some people in the military who value intelligent dissent.
Click on The Strategic Lessons Unlearned from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan: Why the Afghan National Security Forces Will Not Hold and the Implications for the U.S. Army in Afghanistan for the text of Chris Mason’s book in PDF form. I thank Craig Hanyan for suggesting it.
Click on America’s Future in Afghanistan for interviews by ARRA News Service giving the opposing viewpoints of Chris Mason and General John R. Allen, USMC-Ret. [added 11/20/2015]