Being a military thinker of the profoundest sort, I offer the following manual of martial affairs for nations yearning to copy the American way of war. Read it carefully. Great clarity will result. The steps limned below will facilitate disaster without imposing the burden of reinventing it. The Pentagon may print copies for distribution.
(1) Underestimate the enemy. Fortunately this is easy when a technologically advanced power prepares to attack an underdeveloped nation. Its enemy’s citizens will readily be seen as gadgetless, primitive, probably genetically stupid, and hardly worth the attention of a real military.
(2) Avoid learning anything about the enemy — his culture, religion, language, history, or response to past invasions. These things don’t matter since the enemy is gadgetless, primitive, and probably genetically stupid. Anyway, knowledge would only make the enlisted ranks restive, and confuse the officer corps.
Blank ignorance of the language is especially desirable (as well as virtually guaranteed). For one thing, it will allow your troops to be seen as brutal invaders having nothing in common with the population; this helps in winning hearts and minds. For another, it will allow English-speaking officials of the puppet government to vet such information about the country as they permit you to have.
(3) Explain the invasion to the American public in simple moral terms suitable for middle-school children at an evangelical summer camp: We are bombing cities to bring the gift of democracy and American values, or to defeat some vague but frightening evil, perhaps lurking under the bed, or to get rid of a bad dictator no longer of service to us, or to bring freedom and prosperity to any survivors. (This doesn’t work in Europe, which is honestly imperialistic.) The public can then feel a sense of unappreciated virtue when the primitives resist. Sententious moralism should always trump reason.
(4) A misunderstanding of military reality helps. Besides, comprehension would only lead to depression. As Napoleon said, or may have, in war the moral is to the material as three is to one, which implies that unpleasant facts should be played down in favor of cultivating a cheerful attitude. Most especially, it should not be noted that a few tens of thousands of determined, probably genetically-stupid primitives with small arms can tie down a cheerful force however gaudily armed.
Pay no attention to tactics, which are boring. It should never enter your mind that in this sort of war, if you don’t win, you lose; if the enemy doesn’t lose, he wins. Think about something else. Above all, do not understand that the enemy’s target is not you, but public opinion at home. You don’t need to remember this, as the enemy will remember it for you.
(5) Do not forget that a military’s reason for existence is to close with the enemy and destroy him. An army is not in the social-services business. Do not let the mission be impeded by touchy-feely considerations. If you have to kill seventeen children to get a sniper, so be it. The enemy must realize that you mean business. Ignore cultural traits, which are of concern only to idealistic civilians. Grope the enemy’s women. High-profile rapes are a good idea as they teach respect. It is better to be feared than loved. Be sure the embassy has a helipad.
(6) Intellectual insularity should be a primary goal, as it avoids distraction. This salubrious condition can be achieved by having officers read Tom Clancy instead of history. In military discourse it also helps to encourage the use of phrases like force multiplier and multi-dimensional warfare, as these increase confidence without meaning anything.
Remember that doctrine and optimism should always outweigh history and common sense. Discourage colonels and above from reading about similar campaigns fought by other armies, as this might lead to nagging doubts, conceivably even to thought. Encourage the belief that other countries have lost wars by being inferior to the United States. The French lost in Viet Nam? What else would you expect from the French? Never happen to us.
Some military philosophers favor actually removing from military libraries books on what happened to the French in Viet Nam, the Americans in Viet Nam, the Russians in Afghanistan, the Americans in Afghanistan (a work in progress), the French in Algeria, the Americans in Iraq (also in progress), the Israelis in Lebanon the first time, the Israelis in Lebanon the last time, the Americans in Lebanon 1983, the Americans in Somalia the first time, and so on. However, the best thinkers hold that it doesn’t matter what books are in military libraries, as only those on stirring victories will be checked out.
(7) Keep up to date with the latest nostrums and silver bullets. Organize your military as a lean, mean, high-tech force characterized by lightning mobility, enormous firepower, and extraordinary unsuitability for the kind of wars it will actually have to fight. Flacks from the PR department of Lockheed will help in this. Recognize that an advanced fighter plane costing two hundred million dollars, invisible to radar, employing dazzling electronic countermeasures, and able to cruise at supersonic speed, is exactly the thing for fighting a rifleman in a basement in Baghdad. Such aircraft are crucial force multipliers in multi-dimensional warfare. Anyway, Al Quaeda might field an advanced air force at any moment. It pays to be ready.
(8) It is a good idea to bracket your exposure. Be ready for wars past and future, but not present. The Pentagon does this well. Note that the current military, an advanced version of the WWII force, is ready should the Imperial Japanese Navy return. It also has phenomenally advanced weaponry in the pipeline to take on a space-age enemy, perhaps from Mars, should one appear. It is only the present for which the US is not prepared.
(9) View things in a large context. People who have little comprehension of the military tend to focus exclusively on winning wars, missing the greater importance of the Pentagon as an economic flywheel. Jobs are more important than wars fought in bush-world countries. An American military ought to think of Americans first. This is simple patriotism. It is essential to spend as much money as possible on advanced weapons that have no current use, and none in sight, but produce jobs in congressional districts. Good examples are the F-22 fighter, the F-35, the Airborne Laser, the V-22, and the ABM.
(10) Insist that the US military never loses wars. Instead, it is betrayed, stabbed in the back, and brought low by treason. For example, argue furiously that the US didn’t lose in Viet Nam, but won gloriously; the withdrawal was due to the treachery of Democrats, Jews, hippies, the press, most of the military, and a majority of the general population, all of whom were traitors. This avoids the unpleasantness of learning anything from defeat. Further, it facilitates a focus on controlling the press, who are the real enemy, along with the Democrats and the general population.
(11) Avoid institutional memory. Not having lost of course means that there is nothing to remember. Instead, read stirring novels and cultivate a cheerful, can-do attitude unintimidated by primitives in sand-lot countries, who are probably genetically stupid.
(12) Do it all again next time.
Fred Reed is author of Nekkid in Austin: Drop Your Inner Child Down a Well and the just-published A Brass Pole in Bangkok: A Thing I Aspire to Be.