On Winning Our Wars

Smoke rising from explosions during the first few minutes of a massive air attack on March 21, 2003 signalled the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the fall of Baghdad [GALLO/GETTY]
Smoke rising from explosions during the first few minutes of a massive air attack on March 21, 2003 signalled the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the fall of Baghdad [GALLO/GETTY]
Editor’s Note: The following commentary from Lieutenant Colonels Bolgiano and Taylor is a continuation of their response in the February 2018 issue of Proceedings to some of the readers who criticized their article “Can’t Kill Enough to Win? Think Again” (December 2017 Proceedings). See Commentary and Discussion, pp. 11; 84-85 February 2018 Proceedings.

One critic stated: “Killing our way to victory is a simplistic notion that appears to totally ignore the real-world complexities and challenges of the current war on terror.” On the contrary, U.S. military personnel have created their own complexities by trying to be diplomats instead of warriors. If we train for and fight a war against an opponent such as Russia or China in the same way as we are now fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq, we will get our butts handed to us. Warriors get called in to fix things quickly at the lowest echelon possible when the diplomats fail, not to dabble in diplomacy. Our sole concern should be finding the enemy and killing him as quickly and efficiently as possible. That’s it. Wonderfully simple in concept, it worked for hundreds of years for the Romans, yet some in our ranks today thrive on making things more complicated and difficult than they need be.

There is nothing new about insurgencies. Moreover, we are the insurgents in Afghanistan, not the counterinsurgents. To suggest otherwise is painfully arrogant and ignorant of the British and Russian misadventures in that country. We ought to have done as suggested by noted author, military historian, and Korean War veteran Beven Alexander, who in his 1995 book The Future of Warfare called for the use of overwhelming force to end resistance by eliminating the enemy’s intelligence, communication critical nodes, and supply structure; by killing or capturing their leaders and then leaving. And if the conduct that led us to attack them arises again, we must do it again and again, until they stop. Nation-building will fail in cultures that are fundamentally different from ours, such as the honor-killing tribal cultures of Afghanistan. Permanent war has never been a laudable goal for anyone other than defense contractors. We ought to stop worrying about ISIS recruiting or whether the populace will like us. As Patrick McCrory points out in The Fierce Pawns concerning the First British Afghan Campaign, “They will never like us.”

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