Jon Basil Utley, a friend of mine and publisher of The American Conservative, highlights the thoughts and ideas he gleaned from a speech by General James “Mad Dog” Mattis to the Jamestown Foundation. Mattis is likely to be America’s next defense secretary. Jon’s comments are in italics.
–America doesn’t lose wars, it loses interest.
–We have no overall strategy about how to defeat our enemy. (Just killing them is not working because, as I wrote years ago, the proper analogy comes from Greek mythology, Hercules’ adventure where, for every enemy soldier he killed, ten more sprung up in each one’s place)
–We don’t understand our enemy. (This refers to Sun Tzu’s classic dictum for war, “Know Thyself and Know Thy Enemy.” Americans have scarce interest in understanding the Muslim world’s history, wants, and fears.)
–We need a strategy which does not drive young Muslims to al-Qaeda.
–We must develop a persuasive counter narrative to that of our enemies. (With communism America held the moral high ground; today our Middle East wars have taken it away.)
–Al-Qaeda’s narrative is vulnerable, its strategy has its own poison pills. The IRA is an example of how a group’s own extremists can cause disaffection among the public. They eventually caused the Irish public to abandon them as they competed to prove who could be the most violent and brutal using indiscriminate terror. A franchise operation is not controlled, factions will do things wrong—think of al-Qaeda in Iraq murdering so many Sunni civilians for not conforming to Sharia law and subsequently being defeated. (Remember also that every free election where most Arabs could show their beliefs, only a small minority supported al-Qaeda’s religious fundamentalism. Most want safety, prosperity, and security. The calumny that most want to establish Sharia law in America is a propaganda of Washington’s war party.)
–Irregular warfare must become a core competency of our military; also our new weaponry must be focused on this new kind of war. (Most military training and procurement still concerns the strategy of World War II.)
–We must be more attentive to our allies’ sentiments and needs. We ignore them and then wonder why they won’t later do what we want.
–We must do a better job explaining and talking to the American people about our objectives.
–Palestinian peace process—two-state solution –Washington must address and promote this issue. (The conflict weakens and discredits America in the whole Muslim world. Mattis follows previous CENTCOM commanders, Admiral Fallon and General Petraeus, in stating the same judgment.)
–First think how we are going to end the fight before getting involved in wars. Democracies don’t know how to end wars. How much longer will there be public support for the war? American are not war weary, but rather are confused.