Fundamental Truths

  • In war the best policy is to take a state intact.
  • Too Much is the Same as Not Enough
  • Fear is the Mind-Killer
  • All Warfare is based upon deception.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Further Truth-Bombs of T.R. Fehrenbach

From the same book as the previous entry:

"Americans, who cannot understand or even communicate with peasantry, are growing lonelier in a world where the great majority of men are peasants."

"Americans, he found, tend to take pride in doing things in a big way. But they had no interest in fighting a half-ass war like this one."

"It is admittedly terrible to force men to suffer during training, or even sometimes, through accident, to kill them. But there is no other way to prepare them for the immensely greater horror of combat."

"As Americans discovered during 1861-1865, sustained land warfare is extremely costly in blood, and there has been a pronounced American distaste for such since."

"If war is to have any meaning at all, its purpose must be to establish control over peoples and territories, and ultimately, this can be done only as Alexander the Great did it, on the ground. But because after the Civil War America's Allies again and again took the terrible losses required to bleed the enemy, Americans gradually developed a belief in cheap victory."

"Thus, again, it cannot be considered accident that in 1950 the dominant power of the world was barely able to contain the ground attack of an almost illiterate nation of nine million- nor could it have done so without the enormous manpower sacrifices of its Korean ally."

"Under the Constitution of the United States, Congress holds the power of life and death over the military, and no one would have it otherwise. History has shown very clearly that for democracy to continue, the people and not the generals or even the executive authority, must have control over the military. The people must dictate its size, composition and its use- above all, its use."

(Commentary by Your Humble Blogger- Yeah, funny how that little proviso has pretty much evaporated, no?)

"And with victory, as it had always come to Americans after a war, came the determination to force their will on the enemy, to punish them for the crime of aggression, for starting the war. If the fighting, with its resultant death and destruction, its loss of American lives, resulted only in the return of the status quo, then almost all Americans would feel cheated."

"Americans have always accepted checks and balances within their own system of government, but never without, in the world. Because in the world such checks have never been achieved with votes or constitutions but with guns, and Americans have never admitted that guns may serve a moral purpose as well as votes. They have never failed to resort to guns, however, when other means fail."

"Actually, the Communist world had not broken the law, for one of the continuing tragedies of mankind is that there is no international law."

"Military intelligence, quite competently, can determine the number of divisions a nation has deployed. Military men can never wholly competently decide, from military evidence alone, whether such a nation will use them. Such a decision is not, and will never be, within the competence of military intelligence."

"It is obvious the MacArthur's reliance on air power was almost absolute. Whatever the weaknesses of his ground forces, whatever their difficult and exposed positions, U.N. mastery of the skies was complete, and air would be the decisive arm. It was a typically American viewpoint. MacArthur and the men around him had a great deal to learn about Chinese Communist armies."

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Home Truths from 1963

T.R. Fehrenbach, writing a history of the Korean War in 1963, saw clearly some crap that we are a long, long way from grasping as a nation- mostly because the truth is unpleasant. Suck it up, people. The universe owes you nothing, least of all truths that are pleasant.

"The problem was that America had fought the war- as she had most of her wars- as a crusade, while Russia had fought first for survival, then for power. Crusades are usually inconclusive; it was no wonder Russia won the peace."

"It was hard for a nation and a people who had never accepted the idea of power, not as something immoral in itself, but as a tool to whatever ends they sought, to fight and die for limited goals. In short, it was hard to grow up."

"The United States could not be bought, or even intimidated, but it had a long history of looking the other way if not immediately threatened."

"Citizens fly to defend the homeland, or to crusade. But a frontier cannot be held by citizens, because citizens, in a republic, have better things to do."

"Korea was an infantry war, essentially no different from any infantry war of the twentieth century. This was one of the factors, along with the political, that made the fighting so distasteful to a people who had subconsciously come to regard infantry warfare as obsolete."

"Revolution and terror are synonymous; only with the passage of time does any revolution become respectable."

Fehrenbach wrote these words as Vietnam started to suck in more and more men. It is nearly half a century since he wrote them, and the lessons have not been internalized.

History. Read it and weep.