My Thoughts On War

by Colonel Dan


The Cowboy Chronicle

October 2004

~ There’s just no livin’ with bugs Wyatt ~  Morgan Earp, “Tombstone”

Given the divisive nature of America’s war on terror, made particularly so by an election year and a run-a-muck news media, I wanted to offer a few thoughts on the subject of war as I’ve come to view it.  There are many SASS vets that I’m confident will relate closely to the topic but this is just the view from my old saddle.

~ Karl Von Clausewitz wrote that “War is the continuation of policy by other means" meaning when statesmanship fails, war may be the course of action necessary to preserve, protect and defend vital national interests or enforce national policy.

~ War should only result when America’s vital interests are at stake and statesmanship fails.  What are vital interests?  Survival: economic, way of life or existence.  Example:  Oil, for better or worse, is vital to our way of life.  A threat to cut off the supply would cause our industrialized nation great harm thus seriously jeopardizing our way of life.  The other example is our very existence—when our homeland is attacked, as on 9/11, war is inevitable! 

~ War is extremely serious business and certainly not as portrayed in Hollywood movies.  It’s a foreign policy alternative that certainly should not be determined by feel good, altruistic and idealistic whims of those who will never have to fight them or die in the course of their prosecution. The finest young Americans I’ve ever known can die bloody deaths in war and decisions to send them into battle should be made only when America’s vital interests are threatened.  If not, those making such decisions do a serious disservice to all Americans.

~ Foreign political alliances are dangerous as well as unreliable.  Such alliances have been the cause of many wars in the past and were viewed as sufficiently precarious by the founders as to generate stern warnings. Such entangling alliances, as Jefferson and Washington called them, made by politicians on Don Quixotic type adventures has weakened us over the years and obligated us in areas of the world where we have no business or national interest whatsoever.  Such alliances were often established for numerous feel good reasons and then sold to Americans after the fact as a moral obligation that must be fulfilled. 

~ America’s first priority must be America.  I agree that it’s imperative to fulfill genuine moral obligations but it’s also my belief that our primary moral obligation must always be to this country and her sons and daughters.  We should never subordinate that principal obligation to foreign powers and allow politicians to entangle and mire us in foreign problems—one reason the growing power of the United Nations concerns the devil out of me.

~ International agreements should be just that—agreements, not entanglements. Agreements should only be entered into with the understanding that America will review them periodically to determine if the same circumstances that warranted them in the first place are still valid.  We should also let the world know that although we welcome trade with all, we will not entangle ourselves with any if such an alliance is or becomes counter to America’s own vital interests.

~ The best time to prepare for war is during times of peace.   This has been known for generations but oft times forgotten—particularly right after the last war when politicians are most apt to spend the “peace dividend” on social programs.  Preparing for war after a crisis is on us is far too late.  Constant preparation keeps us militarily strong and potential enemies at bay without a shot being fired in anger.

~ We can never solve everyone’s ills with American forces.  I’m sorry that the whole world is not as nice a place to live as America but that’s just the way it is.  We will never be able to solve the world’s problems no matter how large our defense budget.  Christ himself alluded to this principle when he told his disciples that the poor will always be with them.

~ Pick your fights carefully.  We cannot nor do we have the resources to be a white hat cop with a worldwide beat.  That philosophy has led to a seriously dangerous dilution of forces and angered many around the world who see America as butting into things that are of no real concern to us.  

~ When committed, be totally committed.  Overwhelming force is a necessity in war.  If a division is needed, send a corps.  There’s no such thing as a cheap war.  War on the cheap leads to quagmires because you never have enough to finish the job.  By following a strategy of restraint, all you can ever do is sustain an on-going effort with never enough capability to bring it to conclusion.  Smashing a bug with a sledgehammer is a good technique in war—one that saves lives in the end.

~ Get in, get it done and get out.  While getting in is often a slippery slope, the getting out part has been a serious weakness for America.  We always hang around and get ourselves further entrenched in local problems and bail out countries that just days before we bombed into oblivion—Europe and Korea after the war being prime examples of America’s noble national character. 

~ Clearly identify and scope the strategic objectives before going in.  This way you know what success looks like and when you’ve achieved it.  Shared and clear expectations should be well known and realized beforehand.  Crystallizing the objectives also tells you when that job is done and when its time to leave. 

~ Let those who can do it, do it.  Once the political decision has been made to go to war, turn the fight over to those trained to fight and let them fight it.  Politicians are not military strategists or tacticians.  All the untrained can do is seriously hinder the effort.  Contrast Viet Nam with Desert Storm.  Politicians were picking individual and specific bombing targets from the oval office during Viet Nam.  In Desert Storm, the Bush administration had the good sense to let General Schwarzkopf and his troops run the military operation.  What a difference in operations!   

~ Support at home is paramount.  This cannot be overemphasized.  Again, I refer to the Viet Nam Vs Desert Strom experience—a most important difference as those who lived through both eras can attest.

I believe these few points should always be thought out thoroughly and long-term consequences examined before resorting to armed intervention.  Our first reaction should rarely, if ever, be one of sending in the troops. 

However, when our country is attacked by vermin who seek her destruction as it was on 9/11 and our survival is on the line, it’s time to unleash the dogs of war who carry our American sledgehammer and will smash the bugs to hell without hesitation…and do so without regard for any phony politically correct dribble to the contrary.  Because when it comes down to it, Morg was right—there’s just no livin’ with bugs.  

Just the view from my saddle…




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