Driving home today, I was listening to the ‘Hugh Hewitt’ show on the radio, which in today’s case meant I was listening to guest host Dean Barnett prove the limits of his military comprehension. Like many Americans, Dean was very concerned by Russia’s brutal invasion of Georgia, and like many Americans Dean thought the American response should be fast and decisive. But today Dean decided to compare the present situation between Russia and Georgia, with the 1990 invasion of Kuwait by Iraq. Mr. Barnett claimed that sending U.S. troops in as a “tripwire” (his word) would stop the Russians. That, for a number of reasons would have been a very, very poor idea. Sending a force too small to accomplish any significant mission or hold any significant territory, without recourse to massive reinforcement and fallback positions, would simply kill those men. The war already underway, interposing our troops on the assumption that everyone would stop and cool down, is extremely naïve, almost Kerry-esque in its lack of contextual awareness. Mr. Barnett brought up Desert Shield and Desert Storm as his example of what we should be doing, without noting any of the critical differences, beginning with the fact that we had places to station troops from the get-go in Desert Shield, that our intel failed to predict the attack but had resources in place to assist our troops, that we had a coalition in loose formation to back us up in the U.N. before any U.S. soldier arrived at a likely battlefield, and – oh yes – Iraq was still trying to develop its first nuclear weapon, while Russia already has a fleet of ICBMs loaded and aimed at the United States. I don’t want to be too harsh on Mr. Barnett – talk show hosts are not normally versed in thinking an argument all the way through, but the argument he used was a dangerous one, the idea that a symbolic act would be effective against an opponent with a track record of ignoring anything but superior force. As outraged as decent people are by the invasion of Georgia by Russia, the American response must be far better considered than a reckless, emotional gesture.
There is an aphorism, commonly displayed on the walls of various barracks, which reminds the men that ’prior proper planning prevents p**s poor performance’. For all the apparent fury of warfare, it is vital to understand and remember that soldiers must plan before acting, and that the best commander does not rush headlong into a battle, simply because the public is angry.