Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only ask one time of year, but when we do, we mean it. Without your support we can’t continue to bring you the very best material, day-in and day-out. CounterPunch is one of the last common spaces on the Internet. Help make sure it stays that way.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Non-Thinking Enemy

by WILLIAM S. LIND

One of the rituals attending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, when our opponents score a goal, is for an American general to materialize before the press and announce, in his best miles gloriosus manner, that “we face a thinking enemy.” Wow. Who ever would have imagined that the enemy might think and learn?

The latest example followed the insurgents’ success in shooting down seven American helicopters in Iraq. According to the February 18 New York Times, Major General James E. Simmons, an Army aviator, told reporters, “We are engaged with a thinking enemy.” General Simmons should know; the mujaheddin shot down his helicopter on January 25, fortunately with no casualties.

One of the most basic phenomena of war is that the enemy thinks and learns. It doesn’t always happen; an example of an enemy who did not think and learn was the Japanese submarine service in World War II. It kept on doing what it knew didn’t work right through to the end. The result was about a 1:1 exchange ratio between Japanese submarines and their targets, a truly remarkable achievement in the annals of submarine warfare.

But it is so routine for an enemy to think and adapt that it is difficult to imagine one that did not. In fact, such an exercise might prove enlightening. What characteristics might a non-thinking enemy have?

First of all, such a military would have to be highly centralized. Decisions should be made as remotely from the battlefield as possible, with layers of middle and senior management given a veto over any new ideas or adaptations. Someone, in some headquarters, is bound to veto anything.

It would help if all headquarters were as large as possible. Not only would this maximize veto powers, it would also ensure that all decisions were made on a lowest-common-denominator basis. Usually, all large groups can agree on is maintaining the status quo.

Senior decision-makers should not be focused on the war. Their “real world” should be as disconnected as possible from battlefield results. Over-concern with bureaucratic empire-building, budget politics and personal career success are all useful tools for attaining this important disconnect.

A non-thinking military’s feedback mechanisms should ensure that only good news is sent up the chain. The higher the level of command — including the nation’s political leadership — the stronger the demand to suppress bad news should be. Messengers with bad news should routinely be shot, or at least exiled.

To maintain its opacity of mind, a non-thinking military should be insular. It should be careful not to look at the experiences of other militaries, historical or contemporary. A general spirit of false pride and bravado is always helpful in maintaining insularity. Past failures can be blamed on someone else.

An excellent means to ensure that thought is suppressed is to contract thinking out. Contractors could care less about truth; their measure of success is profits. Since the awarding of contracts is in the hands of senior officers whose desire to avoid adaptation is well known, contractors’ unwillingness to suggest new ideas can be guaranteed. If most contractors are retired senior officers to whom any change would be an attack on their “legacies,” so much the better. In the cause of not thinking, billions to contractors is money well spent.

Finally, a useful way to discourage thinking among junior leaders is to try to wage war by rote process. Those processes are developed and dictated downward by the same large headquarters whose inherent aversion to thought has already been noted. Better, those same headquarters control training; soldiers and junior leaders who have been trained in obsolete tactics will have more trouble adapting than people with no training.

Despite all these powerful institutional incentives to stifle thought, the regrettable fact remains that junior levels of command, up through company and sometimes battalion, will still want to think and adapt, because they want to stay alive and even to win. Every effort must therefore be made to ensure they have to fight the system each–step of the way in order to change something. The old bureaucratic rule, “Delay is the surest form of denial,” is helpful here. This brings us back to the importance of centralization and large headquarters.

Some may object that a military so carefully structured not to think is hard to imagine in the real world. That is true, since its fate would be so sure. What kind of government would be so corrupt, so unconcerned about the security of the state it leads and the vast sums it would be wasting as to tolerate such a military? Simple self-preservation would dictate sweeping military reform.

Of course, it would be anyone’s dream to have a non-thinking military like the one I have described as an opponent. Any thinking military, even one with the most paltry of resources, could look forward to victory presented on a silver platter.

Who might have such exquisite good fortune and vast favor of the gods as to acquire a non-thinking military as their enemy? Anyone who fights us.

WILLIAM S. LIND, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation.

 

 

WILLIAM S. LIND, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
David Swanson
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
James McEnteer
Eugene, Oregon and the Rising Cost of Cool
Norman Pollack
The Great Debate: Proto-Fascism vs. the Real Thing
Michael Winship
The Tracks of John Boehner’s Tears
John Steppling
Fear Level Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Where Is That Wasteful Government Spending?
James Russell
Beyond Debate: Interview Styles of the Rich and Famous
September 26, 2016
Diana Johnstone
The Hillary Clinton Presidency has Already Begun as Lame Ducks Promote Her War
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Against Russia
Dave Lindorff
Parking While Black: When Police Shoot as First Resort
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
Brian Cloughley
The United States Wants to Put Russia in a Corner
Guillermo R. Gil
The Clevenger Effect: Exposing Racism in Pro Sports
David Swanson
Turn the Pentagon into a Hospital
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail