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No More Easy Wars - By Scott Gerber | Foreign Policy

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Over the last decade, the United States spent more than a trillion dollars and the lives of thousands of American troops unlearning the tenets of network-centric warfare, the 1990s-vintage belief that precision strikes by coordinated, high-tech forces would allow the country to obliterate critical nodes in enemy defenses. Hostile forces would collapse under such punishment, and opponents would rapidly bow to American desires, making the capability to execute protracted ground wars unnecessary -- or so the theory went.

By 2003, as the United States prepared to invade Iraq, a military-intellectual bubble had built up around these ideas, manifested in the doctrine of Shock and Awe. And for a few short weeks that spring, as U.S. forces launched their first salvos against Saddam Hussein and rolled toward Baghdad, this plan seemed to work -- until it failed catastrophically. No one had planned what to do after U.S. forces threw that first spectacular punch and our enemies decided not to surrender. For the next eight years, the story of Iraq became a story of a U.S. strategic establishment overcoming its own denial, wrestling with the natural consequences of "easy war." Ultimately, it learned that war is not about target lists and networks. It remains an unpredictable, dynamic human endeavor.

Now, suddenly, those pivotal lessons have vanished like smoke. Even though their ideas miscarried, no one has asked the Shock and Awe acolytes to explain themselves. No one has asked why their ideas failed to defeat the opposition in Iraq. While those who claimed that Iraq would be a "cakewalk" took a thrashing, no one has asked how to win the clash of wills from a distance when bombing fails. The easy-war theorists have been spared hard questioning -- in fact, they are once again being embraced.

Today, we are resurrecting the exact same strategies -- most notably in the concept of Air-Sea Battle advocated by many in the Pentagon -- and we are acting as if they are the solution to the problems encountered in Iraq rather than their cause. A coalition of parochial retirees, think tanks, and special interests are using the current political winds to engineer a flawed defense strategy. Their plan virtually ensures the United States will be unprepared for the next war for three reasons. First, they once again are making indefensible assumptions about the future use of ground forces. Second, they are advancing a techno-war solution for all U.S. security needs that cannot even meet today's challenges. Finally, they are building their strategy on tools that are becoming obsolete. In the end, this group is just advancing Shock and Awe dressed up in new language. Many of us have seen this before. It ended poorly.

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