The “Long War” we are completely unready to fight

I bring to the readership’s attention a fascinating speech at Breitbart by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich in December 2015 at National Defense University about the “Long War” we are facing and our spectacular lack of preparation for such a conflict.

You should read the whole think, slowly.  It is delivered in Gringrich’s usual crisp, punchy prose. Here is a sample in medias res:

6. Lawfare [the use of the law by a country against its enemies, esp by challengingthe legality of military or foreign policy] combined with ubiquitous regular media and social media coverage is creating new ground rules for the effective use of force in defense of American safety.  For two generations we have allowed lawyers, media members, and non governmental organizations to define an ever more complex and more unwieldy set of ground rules. The efforts to turn war into criminal justice and to find “humane” methods of waging war have largely come at the expense of American national security. Confronted by enemies like Islamic Supremacists who don’t care about either the rule or law or the public opinion pressures created by visible violence, the United States will find itself at increasingly one sided disadvantages.  The notion of “bringing to justice” those who attacked us on 9/11 or Paris this November is absurd. Not only do we need to move the lawyers, NGOs and media to the side, but our new leaders must communicate directly and bluntly the nature of the threats we face, and make it plain that we all must sacrifice something if we want this nation to endure. We have to cease treating our enemies with the kind of disdain (the “J.V. team” comment, for example) that allows our leaders to demand little of themselves and nothing of us.

7. As I noted at the beginning, we are engaged in a Long War. Hollywood began recognizing that war with movies like Black Sunday 38 years ago (1977) in which a Palestinian group sought to kill thousands at a Super Bowl. Today, 36 years after the Iranian illegal seizure of the American Embassy and year long hostage crisis, 22 years after the first bombing of the World Trade Center, 17 years after the bombing of the  United States embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, 15 years after the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen, 14 years after the attack of 9/11killed 2,996 people, we need to have the courage to face the facts. We are losing the Long War. Our elites in America and Europe have an enormous resistance to dealing honestly and effectively with the Islamic Supremacists who seek to kill us and destroy our civilization. Until we can find accurate words to describe the realities of the Long War we have no hope of even beginning to win it.  We have to recognize that this Long War may require totally new approaches completely outside the American historic experience. Furthermore the enemy’s ability to adapt may force us to dramatically shift away from the traditional “American Way of War”.

8. The Long War will last at least 50 to 100 years unless there is a disaster so large the West is compelled to mobilize with ruthless efficiency and destroy the capacity for Islamic Supremacists to function. We have no language or doctrine for sustaining a century long struggle in a free society. We have no serious efforts underway in our national security community to even begin thinking about such a long war. We certainly have no plans or systems  which enable America to cope with technological breakouts, Chinese scale and complexity, Russian opportunism and a Long War simultaneously. We also have no plans to communicate with the American people and organize understanding among Americans to sustain a century long effort which will inherently be both foreign and domestic. Since we can’t talk with ourselves it is no wonder we can’t build support among our allies.

There’s a lot more.  Read all of it.

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14 Responses to The “Long War” we are completely unready to fight

  1. TimG says:

    I would switch two words in Article 6…. We have to cease treating our enemies with the kind of disdain (the “J.V. team” comment, for example) that allows our leaders to demand nothing of themselves and little of us.

  2. Papabile says:

    I have particular interest in this as it’s what I was focused on professionally for 12 of my 14 years on Capitol Hill. In fact, I am still working on this.

    The Speaker is taking a concept that was rooted in what we saw developing during the time General Abizaid was commanding USCENTCOM. He had spoken about this, shaping the term during 2004/5, but it really took off in 2006. The Obama Administration put the term to rest, officially, when the SECDEF ordered that it not be referred to this way.

    In any case, I believe there is somewhat of a fatal flaw in the way people have thought about the Long War. While, I agree with the assessment that this will take place over our lives, our children’s and possibly our grandchildren’s lives, the focus (necessarilly of course) is on how to bring it to a successful completing.

    In waging any war, identifying the strategic and operational centers of gravity are necessary. And, our understanding of the Long War often evaluates the current war in a way where we assume that it began either after 9/11, after 1994 Somolia, Maybe after the Beirut bombing.

    However, unless we understand that the beginning of this war is rooted in the mind of the enemy as starting hundreds of years ago, we will have a basic strategic incapability of defining the center of gravity. We need to understand that this war started long before our country even existed.

    I look forward to reading the Speaker’s thoughts on this. He’s always stimulating intellectually.

  3. Priam1184 says:

    Everybody is obsessed with Islamic terrorism. And yes if you or one of your relatives and/or friends one of the relatively small number of people killed in a Muslim terror attack then they are the most deadly thing in the world.

    HOWEVER. What is going on with Russia is only about a billion times more dangerous and much more significant than mere ‘opportunism.’ [Ummm….] Read the Russian media. Watch RT. As propagandistic as it is it does give a lens through which to view the Russian mindset. The Russians at the moment are a strange combination of paranoid and aggressive. What is going on with that country could end up killing tens and hundreds of millions of people, not just a couple of dozen. And that AR-15 that you’re hiding in your closet and all that food storage you are building up aren’t going to you the least bit of good once Russia starts moving.

    The Lady of the Rosary who appeared to the three little children at Fatima almost a century ago to warn us of the calamities awaiting the world if mankind did not stop sinning never mentioned ISIS or Iran but she did seem to have a special concern for Russia. Pray and keep watch.

    [You didn’t read the whole speech, did you.]

  4. Kathleen10 says:

    Before we can do anything we have to get the Traitor in Chief out of the White House, and put in somebody who comprehends the Long War, and is actually on our side.

  5. Semper Gumby says:

    Priam1184 wrote: “Everybody is obsessed with Islamic terrorism.”

    Everybody? The massive weight of evidence refutes your assertion.

    Obsessed? Surely your intention is not to denigrate the fine folks at Central Command, or the FBI, or the many other professionals in government, academia, and the media who focus exclusively on Islamic terrorism rather than Russia.

    Note also that Fr. Z recommended reading Mr. Gingrich’s remarks in their entirety, Russia is point #4.

    “Watch RT”

    True, there is some benefit in keeping an eye on the Russian regime’s media. Better yet, balance that with reading the regime’s original statements yourself, along with many of the excellent Western books and articles on this topic. If you are interested, I will readily recommend some.

    “…not just a couple of dozen.”

    The casualty figures for Sep. 11, 2001 were significantly higher.

    “AR-15…food storage…aren’t going to [do] you the least bit of good once Russia starts moving.”

    Incorrect. And those resources can be used in many other contingencies. Please note the publicly available materials on Russian/Soviet nuclear targeting and EMP. A good introduction to EMP is the Starfish Prime test. Also, and reasonable people can differ on “moving,” but Russia may have already begun moving. Recall Georgia 2008, various incidents in the Baltic states, resumption of nuclear bomber flights, and of course the Ukraine 2014 and the annexation of the Crimea.

    “Lady of the Rosary…never mentioned ISIS or Iran.”

    Correct me if I am wrong, but our Holy Mother did not ask us to ignore ISIS and Iran.
    Regards.

  6. TheDude05 says:

    If we are to properly prosecute a war we must define our enemies and Congress must declare war on them. This idea of propping up barbarians so they will be our friend must end. Further I disagree with the idea of sacrificing for this war, as I know the type of sacrifices in mind are of our liberties. If it was of blood, sweat, and treasure then that is one thing, but they have attached the very fabric of what forms our country. With the strides against our rights to be secure in our property and person from unwarranted searches, more legal ground has been found to attack our speech and our faith. I say we pull our boys home, secure our borders, and go back to being a non interventionist country.

  7. tz2026 says:

    http://thinkprogress.org/security/2011/11/29/377907/gingrich-waterboarding-not-torture/

    Wonderful, we can now dump any thought of Just War, although we continually redefined our paranoia as justification for preemption.

    Victory in war is easy, it only costs you your soul.

    Peter Kreeft once asked if you had to make a choice to be a torturer or to be tortured.

    Even now, we target “signals” so blow up mothers and daughters. And we do (war crime) double-tap – blowing up rescuers, or mourners art funerals.

    Worry about the liturgy, but also worry about those who might go toward the edge of the cliff of the 5th commandment and some who will go over it.

    War is hell. It is best to keep it outside, and be very careful lest it enter you and you enter it.

  8. Semper Gumby says:

    tz2026 wrote:
    [Link to thinkprogress article]
    “Wonderful, we can now dump any thought of Just War, although we continually redefined our paranoia as justification for preemption.”

    Excuse the bluntness, but providing a link to a site known for shrill left-wing propaganda does not make an assertion a fact. Your sentence also contains errors in logic.

    Also, for years now there has been serious and non-hysterical information available on the distinctions between torture and Enhanced Interrogation. War is a serious business, as you are aware, but the word games as played in that article inhibit knowledge of the matter at hand.

    Please note, that website is not interested in informing you of the realities of the world. Rather, their goal is to impress upon your mind their distorted utopian vision.

    Who is the “we”? Who is the “our”? This is typical group-think socialist sloganeering. You appear, however, to have valid concerns about war, everyone should.

    “Victory in war is easy, it only costs you your soul.”

    Declare your first clause to a Marine who landed at Tarawa, he would not agree that it was easy. Declare your second clause to a soldier who liberated a concentration camp, he would not agree that he lost his soul. Let us move away from group-think here and consider individuals.

    “Peter Kreeft once asked if you had to make a choice to be a torturer or to be tortured.”

    What is your reader to make of this sentence?

    “Even now, we target “signals” so blow up mothers and daughters. And we do (war crime) double-tap – blowing up rescuers, or mourners art funerals.”

    This sentence strays into incoherence. Accidents are unfortunate in wartime or peacetime. Dereliction of duty is tried at court-martial. Please provide evidence to back up your assertions such as targeting to “blow up mothers.”

    “Worry about the liturgy, but also worry about those who might go toward the edge of the cliff of the 5th commandment and some who will go over it.”

    Poetic imagery with the cliff, but not helpful. A healthy concern can stray into excessive worry.

    “War is hell. It is best to keep it outside, and be very careful lest it enter you and you enter it.”

    War is hell is simply a cliche. Keeping it outside, whatever that may mean, is impossible. You may not be interested in forces active in this world such as ISIS, but they are certainly interested in forcing you to live under Sharia.

    Anxiety is natural, we all feel it sometimes. May I suggest broadening your national security reading to include methodical analysis, reducing the intake of left-wing slogans and poetic imagery, and not relying solely on a series of rapid and incomplete allusions as a writing style.
    Regards.

  9. Absit invidia says:

    We can start by electing leaders who aren’t cowards who continue to blame this cold blooded movement on “global warming.” Of all the reasons for the rise of terrorism this has to be the most belligerently absurd.

  10. Pingback: The “Long War” we are completely unready to fight | Fr. Z’s Blog | therasberrypalace

  11. boxerpaws63 says:

    “War is hell.” Definitely ” It is best to keep it outside, and be very careful lest it enter you and you enter it.” We don’t have a choice. They have entered.
    “Peter Kreeft once asked if you had to make a choice to be a torturer or to be tortured.” It is a duty/OBLIGATION to protect citizens. Worse,Islam is at war not just with us,but with CIVILIZATION.Period. If they had their way we would all end up being barbarians.We can pray for them but it seems to me we would be praying for the subhuman.Pure evil. Pray,yes. Defend ourselves in the meantime.BTW.They’re not interested in peace. You can’t negotiate for a just peace unless the party on the other side at least wants peace for the sake of their own preservation. Let’s put it this way,who would you rather talk peace with? Putin Or “Bag Daddy”?
    “Even now, we target “signals” so blow up mothers and daughters. And we do (war crime) double-tap – blowing up rescuers, or mourners art funerals.” Intentionally?

  12. Kerry says:

    Semper Gumby, oorah!

  13. Priam1184 says:

    I have read the entire article now Father. But I am still not impressed. It may be just the case of a difference of opinion but I don’t think that the one time Speaker of the House has a firm grasp of the reality of how far the nations of the formerly Catholic world have fallen.

    1) there is NO chance of any American or Western leader pursuing any ‘Bismarckian’ diplomatic track to contain Russia. Who is going to do that? Hilary Clinton? Jeb Bush? Bernie Sanders? Donald Trump? Ted Cruz? David Cameron? Francois Hollande? None of those guys have it in them to do it even if the idea has occurred to them. Angela Merkel maybe, but given Germany’s position in the world I doubt it. They just don’t get it. The eyes and the hearts of our populations and our leadership are blind due to our infatuation with the sexual sins. Sorry if people don’t want to hear that, but it just happens to be the absolute truth.

    2) The West, at least as it is currently constructed, will NEVER ” mobilize with ruthless efficiency and destroy the capacity for Islamic Supremacists to function.” Sorry. Ain’t gonna happen, no matter how large the disaster they or anybody else inflicts and for the above stated reason.

    It is not a policy failure, but our sin and our abandonment of God and of his Church that has brought us to this point. And only our repentance and return to Him will bring us through.

  14. Semper Gumby says:

    Brief notes on Gingrich’s points 1-5:

    1. For a photo essay providing insight into the Long War, see “How the Veil Conquered Cairo University” by Jamie Glazov at Frontpage Magazine’s website. See for yourself how female students in the classroom have changed in appearance since the 1950s.

    2. 3-D printing is a technology that could have profound economic and military implications in several decades. T.X. Hammes, also at NDU, makes a good case for this in his article “3-D Printing Will Disrupt the World.” His article has many interesting links.

    3. China’s monopoly on rare-earth metals, used in advanced electronics from cell phones to missiles, may fortunately be ending. However, their Navy is not only strengthening its position in the South China Sea, but is more active in the Indian Ocean, to include efforts to acquire a naval base there. India is not pleased about this.

    4. Gingrich is on to something when referring to Russia, or more accurately the Putin regime, as predatory. See David Satter’s interesting and informative book: Darkness at Dawn: The Rise of the Russian Criminal State. Russia recently developed a new military doctrine that views NATO and specifically the US as an enemy.

    5. Gingrich: “As originally proposed in the Hart-Rudman Commission’s work in 2000 this department [DHS] should be sized to handle simultaneous nuclear events in three different cities. Today, 15 years later, it could not adequately handle one nuclear event.” This is almost certainly accurate, and unfortunate. For a detailed scenario of a terrorist nuclear attack and its aftermath on the port of Long Beach CA, complete with maps, see the RAND study: “Considering the Effects of a Catastrophic Terrorist Attack.” If I remember correctly this is a 70 page PDF at their website.