Dear friends and fellow Americans:
Like everyone else in this great country, I am reeling from last week's attack
on our sovereignty. But unlike some, I am not reeling from surprise. As a career
soldier and a student and teacher of military history, I have a different
perspective and I think you should hear it.
This war will be won or lost by the American citizens, not diplomats,
politicians or soldiers. Let me briefly explain. In spite of what the media, and
even our own government is telling us, this act was not committed by a group of
mentally deranged fanatics. To dismiss them as such would be among the gravest
of mistakes. This attack was committed by a ferocious, intelligent and dedicated
Don't take this the wrong way. I
don't admire these men and I deplore their tactics, but I respect their
capabilities. The many parallels that have been made with the Japanese attack on
Pearl Harbor are apropos. Not only because it was a brilliant sneak attack
against a complacent America, but also because we may well be pulling our new
adversaries out of caves 30 years after we think this war is over, just like my
father's generation had to do with the formidable Japanese in the years
following WW II.
These men hate the United
States with all of their being, and we must not underestimate the power of their
moral commitment. Napoleon, perhaps the world's greatest combination of soldier
and statesman, stated "the moral is to the physical as three is to one." Patton
thought the Frenchman underestimated its importance and said moral conviction
was five times more important in battle than physical strength. Our enemies are
willing - better said anxious -- to give their lives for their cause. How
committed are we America? And for how long?
In addition to demonstrating great moral conviction, the recent attack
demonstrated a mastery of some of the basic fundamentals of warfare taught to
most military officers worldwide, namely simplicity, security and surprise. When
I first heard rumors that some of these men may have been trained at our own Air
War College, it made perfect sense to me. This was not a random act of violence,
and we can expect the same sort of military competence to be displayed in the
battle to come. This war will escalate, with a good portion of it happening
right here in the good ol' U.S. of A. These men will not go easily into the
night. They do not fear us. We must not fear them.
In spite of our overwhelming conventional strength as the world's only
"superpower" (a truly silly term), we are the underdog in this fight. As you
listen to the carefully scripted rhetoric designed to prepare us for the march
for war, please realize that America is not equipped or seriously trained for
the battle ahead. To be certain, our soldiers are much better than the enemy,
and we have some excellent "counter-terrorist" organizations, but they are
mostly trained for hostage rescues, airfield seizures, or the occasional "body
snatch," (which may come in handy).
be fighting a war of annihilation, because if their early efforts are any
indication, our enemy is ready and willing to die to the last man. Eradicating
the enemy will be costly and time consuming. They have already deployed their
forces in as many as 20 countries, and are likely living the lives of everyday
citizens. Simply put, our soldiers will be tasked with a search and destroy
mission on multiple foreign landscapes, and the public must be patient and
supportive until the strategy and tactics can be worked out.
For the most part, our military is still in the process of redefining itself and
presided over by men and women who grew up with - and were promoted because they
excelled in - Cold War doctrine, strategy and tactics. This will not be linear
warfare, there will be no clear "centers of gravity" to strike with high
technology weapons. Our vast technological edge will certainly be helpful, but
it will not be decisive.
Perhaps the perfect metaphor for the coming
battle was introduced by the terrorists themselves aboard the hijacked aircraft
-- this will be a knife fight, and it will be won or lost by the ingenuity and
will of citizens and soldiers, not by software or smart bombs. We must also be
patient with our military leaders.
Americans who are eager to put this messy time behind us, our adversaries have
time on their side, and they will use it. They plan to fight a battle of
attrition, hoping to drag the battle out until the American public loses its
will to fight. This might be difficult to believe in this euphoric time of flag
waving and patriotism, but it is generally acknowledged that America lacks the
stomach for a long fight.
We need only look as far back as Vietnam, when
North Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap (also a military history teacher)
defeated the United States of America without ever winning a major tactical
battle. American soldiers who marched to war cheered on by flag waving Americans
in 1965 were reviled and spat upon less than three years later when they
returned. Although we hope that Usama Bin Laden is no Giap, he is certain to
understand and employ the concept. We can expect not only large doses of pain
like the recent attacks, but! also less audacious "sand in the gears" tactics,
ranging from livestock infestations to attacks at water supplies and power
distribution facilities. These attacks are designed to hit us in our "comfort
zone" forcing the average American to "pay more and play less" and eventually
eroding our resolve. But it can only work if we let it.
It is clear to me that the will of the American citizenry - you and I - is the
center of gravity the enemy has targeted. It will be the fulcrum upon which
victory or defeat will turn. He believes us to be soft, impatient, and
self-centered. He may be right, but if so, we must change. The Prussian general
Carl von Clausewitz, (the most often quoted and least read military theorist in
history), says that there is a "remarkable trinity of war" that is composed of
the (1) will of the people, (2) the political leadership of the government, and
(3) the chance and probability that plays out on the field of battle, in that
order. Every American citizen was in the crosshairs of last Tuesday's attack,
not just those that were unfortunate enough to be in the World Trade Center or
The will of the American people will decide this
war. If we are to win, it will be because we have what it takes to persevere
through a few more hits, learn from our mistakes, improvise, and adapt. If we
can do that, we will eventually prevail.
Everyone I've talked to In the past few days has shared a common frustration,
saying in one form or another "I just wish I could do something!" You are
already doing it. Just keep faith in America, and continue to support your
President and military, and the outcome is certain. If we fail to do so, the
outcome is equally certain.