26 February 2013

Second and Third Order Effects of Politics by other means

War is politics by other means.  If you can't get the enemy to submit politically you can resort to violence.  If the enemy then refuses to submit, then you are left either giving up or killing them all.  But in between "doing nothing" and "killing them all" is the fight where you seek to use force (or carrot and stick force and reward) to get the enemy to do what you want.  This is where that second and third order effect analysis is useful.

Killing them all works well when killing them all is an achievable task.  I found this portion of a comment by Jimmy the Saint over at WRSA and thought that it deserved expansion.  This was in response to what I originally wrote about second and third order effects.
The Indian fighters in the American West found that it was far easier to go after a tribe’s women and children than its warriors (e.g. The Battle of the Washita). The Oradur sur Glane massacre forced parts of the French Resistance to change their operations to avoid any further such reprisals. Communists in SE Asia were very effective at undermining government authority by killing the families of soliders and officials, too.
 Generally we look down our noses at genocide.  Just so you know my New Years resolution last year was to cause no genocide and I'm happy to report that I kept that one.  This year it is to not detonate any nuclear warheads.  Next year I'll resolve not to develop bio weapons in the kitchen sink.  Much easier to resolve to not do something you hadn't planned on doing anyways.

Enough about my new years resolution, back to the fun topic of genocide, why did genocide work in the American plains and in SE Asia and not in Nazi Germany?  They were much more efficient killers in Germany, but they still failed to eradicate the Jew.  The truth is that the American Indians were not fools, and all to often submitted to the cruel peace demanded by the American government through force of arms.  In Germany (and Poland, Russia, etc) the Jews fled, hid, and resisted as they were able.  In SE Asia, when you plan to rule by terror, it is good to terrorize, no? 

In a related comment, lets take a look at what Herman Snerd wrote, illustrating for all the world his brilliant ability to read a book and then quote it.
In his book, In Retrospect the tragedy and lessons of Vietnam, the late Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara admits none of the Ivy League whiz kids who ran the US during JFK and LBJ understood that VN was about the Vietnamese seeking to throw centuries of imperialists out of their country. China, Japan, the French and the US. Communism had nothing to do with it. They bought their arms from the reds because they couldn't buy them from us.

The "kill a commie for Christ" green machine followed its brain dead orders. Didn't know what it was doing. Didn't care. Apparently you still don't. Congratulations. 58,000 Americans and hundreds of thousands of other people died for absolutely nothing. The official version of history is almost always wrong. Be careful that the "collateral damage" your military action causes isn't raping and murdering our liberty or that of other nations.
Evidently writing a blog post about recognizing second and third order affects is an excuse for Herman to get on his soap box and tell me I don't know what I'm doing, don't care, and have no clue about history or learning from it.  Personally I'm more amused than insulted, mainly because Herman based his supposition on a technocrat instead of a military historian.  Take a clue Herman, explain to me what the British did right in Malaya that the French and US did wrong in Vietnam.  Here's a hint, there's a book about that one too, and if you can repeat your brilliant act of being able to read a book, might help you understand that counter insurgency isn't "cause specific."  Counter insurgency is always people specific.

In Herman's defense, what McNamara wrote is true, the whiz kids were basing their predictions off of the same WWII data that said, "more rounds fired equals a better chance of winning the war" without ever stopping to look at the political situation in Vietnam.  When people try to reduce warfare to a numbers game the only people who win are wargamers who learn to game the systems.  A lot of times what makes a counterinsurgency successful is not quantifiable.

In my career the bulk has been spent "boots on the ground" save for the last two years, where I was moved into operations and planning, first at BN and then at BDE level.  Identifying second and third order effects is easier to do in hindsight than with any sort of prediction.  At the BDE level very few staff officers have the time to conduct a proper second and third order analysis (although we do a great job of hasty analysis) as during training we are "reacting" to events instead of conducting deliberate long term planning operations.

If you think that war and politics aren't the same thing, then listen to this quote, about gun control in the state of Washington.  This is martial language, and it reflects a political goal that Senator Ed Murray (D-Seattle) has to violate the property rights of Washingtonians.
We will only win if we reach out and continue to change the hearts and minds of Washingtonians,” Murray said. “We can attack them, or start a dialogue.”
Make no mistake about it, the bill in question has been introduced three times now, all with the same "mistake" language, and the endstate desired is disarmement by means of force if necessary.  I consider the inclusion of the "mistake" a tactical error on the part of Democrats in Washington State.  Tactical mistakes often have strategic impact, such as Mai Lai or Abu Ghraib.  Strategic victories can have tactical impacts as well, such as the election of Ronald Reagan to the Embassy Hostages held in Iran. 

In the end, Jimmy the Saint understands the truth of tactics that aim to influence human behavior (that whole politics thing).
Like a lot of other tactics it can work, but it is by no means certain that it will.
Clearly the Democrats thought that they could capitalize on the Sandy Hook shootings the way they capitalized on Jim Brady before.  Hell, it worked in New York, right?

And that is why you have to analyze the second and third order effects before you choose to use a lethal effect to target the behavior of your enemy.  Anyone who says, "if you do X the enemy will surely respond in Y manner" is a fool.  People are not machines that always respond in the same way.  That is why the crafty warrior fights the battle in his (or her) head before ever going to paper, and then fights the battle on paper until the best way forward comes out.  This is what makes staff time so tedious, but it is what keeps you from making a mistake that sets you back years.  I hope the Dems in Washington are set back years from this faux pas, but I know that Dems are tenacious if not smart, expect to see the same mistake next year.

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