As a young, commissioned officer in the United States Army back in 1983, we had a mandatory reading list. That included books like Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and Erwin Rommel’s Attacks. I chose to read other historical books myself such as the tactics of Hannibal of Carthage as well as those of Alexander the Great. If there is one thing about the profession of arms, fundamental strategies, and tactics, along with principles of armed battle, rarely change. The thing that does change are the manner of arms and leaders. Today, our young officers in the military are compelled to read works such by Ibram X. Kendi about anti-racism and cultural Marxism. We have offices of diversity, equity, and inclusion in our Department of Defense. We are focused on pronouns use, according to a disturbing ideological agenda. We are more concerned with individuals who are confused about their gender, a declared mental condition called gender dysphoria, than military readiness. And we have uniformed leaders asserting that they want to understand white rage.
And we wonder why we are not winning wars.
Another of the mandatory books that I had to read as a young Army Second Lieutenant was Prussian military strategist Carl von Clausewitz’ book, On War. It was there we learned that “war is the imposition of one’s will upon the enemy.” As well, we, as future military professional officers and leaders, were instructed that “war is the continuation of policy by another means.” Therefore, armed conflagration is never the first tool a true leader should seek, but one should be prepared and offer a firm deterrent to those who would seek to engage in conflict.
John F. Kennedy once affirmed that “peace is not the absence of war” and for those of us who have read Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince know what that means.
There was once a time when America, even from its humble beginnings, understood that armed conflict meant winning, unconditional surrender. That began with the British surrender at Yorktown in October 1781 by Lord General Cornwallis, his sword as a symbol of capitulation. When the British refused to honor the terms of surrender and recognition of the United States we fought them again in the War of 1812…and they burned Washington DC as a means to bring about our surrender. In the Civil War the North unleashed William Tecumseh Sherman, who famously stated, “War is hell!”, against the South. Growing up in Georgia I learned about Sherman’s march to the sea through the Peach State, which included burning to the ground the city of my birth, Atlanta. The South surrendered, unconditionally, at Appomattox Court House.
World Wars I and II was about unconditional surrender by the enemy, and we introduced the use of a nuclear weapon to fulfill what Clausewitz said, “the imposition of our will.”
But something then changed, it started with the Korean War and the ramification to this day is the demilitarized zone (DMZ)…a place where I spent a year of my life in 1995. In Vietnam, where my older Brother served as a Marine infantryman, we allowed the enemy to impose its will upon us. We never lost a tactical engagement in Vietnam, but we were defeated strategically. Even in my first combat deployment, Operation Desert Shield/Storm, we fought a half-measured combat engagement. Yes, we drove Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, but we left his capability intact…and we later returned. And we can talk about the debacle of Afghanistan all day long. We never won, matter of fact, we were embarrassed in what can only be classified as victory for the Taliban.
Ronald Reagan was once asked how he defined success in the Cold War. He responded as only Reagan could, “we win, they lose”. And indeed, the Soviet Union lost that ideological conflagration. But in these most recent years we have failed to properly identify the enemy, and unleash our strength against them. Case in point, the moniker “War on Terror” is insidious. Terror is a tactic, we did not engage in World War II against the “blitzkrieg” or “kamikaze.” No, we fought that war against Naziism (national socialism), fascism (Italy), and imperialism (Japan). We have failed to clearly focus on militant Islamic jihadism as a dangerous ideology and defeat it…instead we seek to dismiss, appease, and in terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, Iranian nuclear agreement) fund it with billions of dollars.
We have become embroiled in a regional conflict between Russia and Ukraine when all we need to do is leverage our energy independence and export those oil and gas resources. The Germans went into Romania in WW II because of the Ploesti oil fields. Japan was angered when we cut off oil shipments. Energy security is a policy tool that is effective in undermining our most threatening opposition, OPEC+.
We don’t win anymore because there are those who just have forgotten what winning means, and some do not want to win. We do not win wars anymore not because of the men and women in uniform, but rather those at the strategic/political decision-making level. Clausewitz advanced the theory of the paradoxical trinity – the government, the military, the people – as a combined strength of Nation. Sun Tzu said that “to know yourself, know your enemy, and know the battle environment” you will always be victorious in battle.
We are not winning wars because we are not reading the classical military strategists and applying their time-honored principles.
Lt. Col. Allen West (ret.) is the Executive Director of the American Constitutional Rights Union and ACRU Action Fund. He is a constitutional conservative, combat veteran, and former member of the U.S. Congress.
Great article by Col. West. He could teach soldiers how to be soldiers.
You don’t win wars anymore because you were never a good soldier.
I could not agree with LtCol West more! I flew over 100 combat missions in Vietnam. Got what!
Correction: “For What?”
Milley is too busy worrying about what color underwear he has to wear
Today. Lloyd is just filling another quota. And the senile in chief doesn’t know what day it is. And what can I say about cackles that hasn’t been already said. No wonder we can’t win a war.
Because we elect imbeciles!
Briefly, we no longer win wars: Firstly: The U.S. has killed over 6 million unborn babies and is continuing to kill more. There is no respect for life.It has transformed into grooming and mutilating children. Biden has been selling us out for over 40 years (Biden Crime Family) Biden/Obama/Soros took out the gas pipelines, and then set us up for bank failure (another intentional criminal act) /Obama and the other corrupt greedy elites put Chinese professors in our Universities to teach our children Marxists’ ways; Before all this Pelosi and crime friends rigged the 2020 election to install an unelected president. Fauci, Collins, Pfizer, Modena, etc. did a ‘gain of function’ on the coronavirus containing Spike Protein, mRNA gene manipulation, and other poisonous ingredients to “lower the population” a.k.a. murder, in agreement with Universities, health institutions, employment places and even the Vatican. They have tried and tried again to get rid of Trump, so they could ultimately get rid of us, but God has intervened because of our prayers and God was the one who chose Trump for such a time as this. They are still trying to eliminate more of the population with their bioweapon they like to call a “pandemic” and still trying to eliminate Trump via Soros – who has no business getting into our justice system. So, we keep praying. Asking God for mercy, as we are not all murderers. But ultimately, it is God we will need to stop all this cruelty, hatred and complete disrespect for God. Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and there is no fear of the Lord. But only selfishness and greed.
There is sadly, a fact that’s always left out of pretty much every comment but you mentioned Him. He has been “kicked out” of schools, mentioned on TV only in derogatory terms and absolutely forbidden in schools, absent in the family…and yet so many complain about the unstable state of the nation. So many churches now refuse to talk about the true prophecies and the coming future. The original settlers in the mid 1600’s were God fearing people, the Puritans, who lived in harmony with the Native Americans for a half century because they kept the promises they’d made to Him. America has more and more become secular starting with kicking prayer out of schools. One of our Founders and builders of our Constitution, Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence, Ben Franklin said so rightly: “When a nation forgets it’s God, tyrants soon forge it’s chains.” With now China joining Russia we’re possibly seeing the beginning of the end. Ignorance and hatred of God and His eternal truth are poisoning our once strong Republic…and it’s only going to get weaker, and much worse. America is not mentioned even one time in His word…not once.
Thanks fir the article…just hoping that people will read and digest it. But many don’t care and are more worried about gender and climate issues. Education needs to concentrate on world history…Here we are with China taking over…China’s goal has always been to rule the world. Sad that most Americans live in their small world…too lazy to find out whats going on around them and do their part to protect our Republic.
SIMPLE.. THE U. S. FIGHTS WAR WITH ONE HAND TIED BEHIND THEIR BACK. TO MANY LIMITATIONS. BINGO. DEPORT ALL liberals, illegals AND THE ONCE HONORABLE, fbi, STAT, TO MAGA.
No. The problem since WWII has been the involvement of politicians in war strategy and their calling of the shots and not letting the military experts do their jobs.
Excellent article Colonel West.
You hit the nail on the head.
Winning wars is for suckers. Its much more profitable to just keep them going for as long as possible. Vietnam and the GWOT showed that clearly. Ukraine is the next example.
A fiat system of money REQUIRES ever more currency to be created. This system is coming to an end, and a new one is needed and a world war is going to help bring it in.
Thus endless war, the Federal bank bailouts,taking government taking over college loans ( soon to be free to all),and all banking deposits regardless being backed.
lol the FDIC has only a penny of all deposits in its (“insurance account”) only a few billion to cover TRILLIONS. Bank reserve requirements went to ZERO Years ago.
You retired folk better get wise and GET OUT OF THE DOLLAR. Or you will be eating cat food (if you can afford it)
dollars are as plentiful as sand on the beach (and just as valuable)
…”We are focused on pronouns use, according to a disturbing ideological agenda…”
Military pronouns should be “Sir”, and “Yes, Sir”. Anything else is just noise.
Cia invilvement by there use of movable line in the sand. The military industrial complex in making money.
A large majority of the American public do not understand and not willing to tolerate what it takes to win a war – kill a lot of people and utterly destroy their resources for waging war in the future. The regressives believe we can talk to our enemies and they will be reasonable because after all – we all love one another – right? We need to utterly defeat enemies and so, so many people don’t understand what is involved in doing this.
Your right Steve. Too many have turned into Candyass Snowflakes.
Not to mention that 17-35 year old’s are UNFIT, FAT, and LAZY.
Maybe they’ll wake up when Communist China is kicking in their doors but it’ll be too late then.
Our “military” is run by a bunch of limp wristed pantywaist sissies. They are the “brass”. The regular troops have no role models except a bunch of circus geeks with shiny ribbons and medals they won for taking a crap by themselves.
“We” haven’t won a war since the Spanish American War. “We” didn’t win WW1……”we” were only involved for 111 days in that conflict yet still managed to lose around 300,000 soldiers. “We” didn’t win WW2………..check out which country killed the most Germans and which country lost the most soldiers in winning that conflict. Rhymes with Krusha if ya dont happen to know. Now we are responsible for defeating the Japanese in a conflict with them that WE started (research “the McCullom Memorandum). So I guess there is that…….even though Japan is about the size of……..New Jersey with MUCH less oil.
“We” as a major nation have got to hold the record for being involved in the most losses of all nations. To be fair we have partnered with others in “winning” conflicts so at least we used to be good at picking sides.
Paper tiger comes to mind. But thats just me.
I WILL ALWAYS have trust and faith in the men and women in uniform who risk their lives in the places they are sent. The Command (at least those in Washington) need grow a pair and command again.. Our Enemies could give a flying ***k about feelings.
It’s because there’s No Urgency Anymore! . . . Since it’s only the offspring of the Middle and Lower Classes and NOT THE WEALTHY, there’s Less Urgency to Win! The WEALTHY don’t care if their offspring aren’t at risk, after all, they make money selling to the military!
Colonel West should be back in action.
Col. West should be our ‘Secretary of Defense’. The end.
Col. West is a great patriot and the finest of America man. He is a great example of what are weak ass leaders should be.
God help this country.