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My Thoughts on Winning the War

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My Thoughts on Winning the War

Last night I spoke to the wonderful ladies of the Foothills Republican Women's Club. It was a packed house and my Republican opponents were there as well. Since we only had two minutes to answer most of the questions, I didn't have a lot of time to elaborate on my experience and my ideas for dealing with terrorists and what I believe is the strategy we need to implement to win the war. So I offer my thoughts and opinion here in more detail:

For those that don't have a good grasp on what Special Forces (a.k.a. Green Berets) do during wartime, I'll give you a brief rundown. Special Forces (SF) are the best trained and equipped units in the U.S. military for fighting and operating in what is called "unconventional warfare operations."

Conventional war being simply defined as the type of war we were prepared to fight with the Soviet Union. Lots of tanks, planes and ships, with head to head battles that had clearly defined front lines and both side wore uniforms to tell each other apart.

Unconventional war is the exact opposite. Small units of men, usually fighting with small arms and other hand carried weapons. You can't tell the good guys from the bad guys because the enemy doesn't wear an identifiable uniform. The other thing that occurs in unconventional war, is that the enemy tends to use unconventional, sometimes barbaric tactics.

They fight in and among the populace and have no qualms about killing innocent civilians as long as it benefits their cause.

Insurgency, terrorism and guerrilla war are the manifestations of weak actors choosing asymmetric strategies against strong actors. While our Army, Air Force and Navy have been very well equipped and trained to fight a conventional war, they are poorly equipped and lack significant training to deal with asymmetric warfare.

For this reason, the President and the Secretary of Defense have designated the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) as the lead combatant command for fighting the war on terror. I was a member of USSOCOM for the last 16 years of my 20 year Army career. During that time, I honed my skills and trained extensively for fighting the very type of enemy we now face. I got to use those skills during my 2 ½ years in combat in Iraq, and Afghanistan.

President John Kennedy saw the dynamics of the conflict we fight today over 44 years ago when he helped establish what is now our modern day Special Forces. Kennedy said, "This is another type of war, new in its intensity, ancient in its origins - war by guerrillas, subversives, insurgents, assassins; war by ambush instead of by combat; by infiltration, instead of aggression, seeking victory by eroding and exhausting the enemy instead of engaging him… it requires in those situations where we must counter it… a whole new kind of strategy, a wholly different kind of force, and therefore a new and wholly different kind of military training."

Luckily, for us Republicans, there are no John Kennedy's left in the Democratic Party. That said though, Kennedy knew you had to fight fire with fire. You couldn't expect to use conventional tactics to fight an unconventional war.

That's why every day, I scratch my head wondering what the heck is going on in Washington when it comes to fighting this war, not just in Iraq, but all over the Globe. We are not following the basic tenants of waging a counter insurgency (COIN). We learned many of these lessons decades ago in Vietnam, Burma, Malaya, Algeria, Cuba and the Philippines. We know the mistakes that were made, we know what is needed to win, yet we choose to ignore them and fall into the same trap of letting politicians and the media dictate our tactics.

Now more than ever, we need experience in Washington to handle this the right way. Leaders in Congress and in the Defense Department that are committed to fighting this war the way it needs to be fought. We need leaders with the political will and courage to do what is right, to save American and Allied lives and do whatever it takes to win. Much like the courage and leadership we had during World War II, we must not cave in to this enemy.

In 1938 Neville Chamberlain returned to England after brokering "a deal" with Hitler and proclaimed "This is the second time that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honour, I believe it is peace for our time." Winston Churchill saw it a different way and immediately made a prediction, a prediction that unfortunately would come true when he said, "England has been offered a choice between war and shame. She has chosen shame and will get war."

We must not make the same mistake. This enemy is licking its chops, waiting for us to cut and run. If anyone honestly thinks that Islamic militants want peace, you are kidding yourselves.

So the next question is, how do we win?

There was a report known as JSOU Report 05-2 that was written by COL(ret) Joseph Celeski and published by the Joint Special Operations University that spells out proven techniques, validated by history, that have to be applied if there is to be any chance of winning.

#1 A correct analysis of the threat. We must understand the interrelated and networked nature of criminals, terrorists and insurgents. You do this through improving and modifying our intelligence to better identify the networks.

#2 The political solution is the final answer to winning. We must ensure a stable government, elected by the people and most of all supported by their military exists and that a specific plan developed by the new government (with little US involvement) that maps out the future for the citizens know they have a future.

#3 You cannot win a war of attrition in a COIN environment. As the nature of the insurgency becomes more protracted, the strategy must shift. It is more important to go after the ideological motivators of the enemy to reduce his supporting capabilities than it is to try to kill each and every one of them. To do this you must fight an information campaign as well, something we are not doing very well, if at all.

#4 Intelligence is Job 1. Knowledge is power, and in COIN, intelligence to disrupt the "nexus" of criminals, insurgents and terrorists is a must in order to win.

#5 Use indigenous forces. I have no idea why Congress cut funding to equip the Iraqi Army. We can never leave Iraq until they're equipped, trained and capable of defending their own government. Yet every time the budget comes up for Iraq, there's plenty of money in there for pork programs like $3 billion ships and $1/4 billion airplanes, yet very little for what we actually need to succeed in Iraq; funding for the Iraqi military.

#6 Identify the external supporters and shut them down. We know who they are, Syria, Iran and others, some are even our supposed allies, yet we have not had the political will to shut them down. We must impose stiff diplomatic penalties, deny sanctuary, and when necessary use military force to prevent them from undermining our efforts.

#7 Engage the power of religion. What can be better that to turn the key component of the enemy's strength against him? We must engage with prominent religious leaders to help further the cause of the country. This can also delegitimatize the insurgents.

#8 Create innovative and hybrid fighting units with mobility better than the insurgents. This requires a flattening of the command structure, no interference from Washington, and a mixture of indigenous and SOF forces. The units must possess superior lethality and be trusted to use it.

#9 The "hamlet" idea still works. Right now or troops lock themselves up in Forward Operating Bases (FOBs). They alienate themselves from the populace, appear as occupiers and fail to create stability. Instead, small units of SF and light infantry and Marine units should "adopt" neighborhoods. They should move in to provide stability and security. Living with the indigenous populace brings trust and neutralizes a disaffected populace.

#10 Assimilation and repatriation of the enemy. This gives the enemy a way to opt out. Unlike a rat in a corner that will fight to the death, if given an alternative many my elect to "come back into the fold" and forsake the insurgency. This worked well in El Salvador and mostly for the efforts of Hamid Karzai, it is beginning to work in Afghanistan.

#11 Patience, Patience, Patience is a virtue. Military commanders and politicians need to remind the people that COIN is a long term investment if you want success. It took 5 years in Germany and 8 years in Japan after WWII. More recently, it took 13 years in El Salvador.

#12 Information operations. This is something our enemy does well and our media is more than willing to help them. The United States government and the military needs to mount an information offensive. Political leaders need to "drive the train" by holding press conferences and interviews highlighting the positive and not wait until forced to respond to negative news.

#13 Once you gain contact with the insurgents or terrorists, press the fight. You must not let any opportunity to kill the enemy slip away. When the populace sees the ugliness of dead terrorists, it helps demystify the cause.

#14 Population control. Surrounding a town or village and controlling the traffic in and out often led to the capturing of anti-coalition forces and cleansed the village of insurgents.

#15 Disarming programs may be necessary evils but they have little benefit. Just like they wouldn't work in the United States, confiscating guns has little effect in COIN. Most of the populace is astute enough to hide their best weapons, if for no other reason than for self-defense. The main effort should be focused on large ammunition and weapon caches and not individuals.

…and finally:

#16 Plug the leaks and holes on the battlefield. Isolating and destroying insurgents is sanctuaries is a must. Conducting an aggressive surveillance campaign to interdict smuggling routes, safe houses and members of the support network.

We need strong leaders in Washington that will know how to support and provide resources to accomplish this. We need leaders in Washington that will not get bogged down by diverting resources to expensive programs that have little or no effect on the outcome of the current conflict and most of all, we need leaders in Washington that know when they are being fed a line of bull, be it from members of the administration, military leaders, lobbyists from the defense industry, and even fellow members of Congress.

I'm the only candidate that has fought this enemy, the only candidate that understands the complexities of this type of war, and the only candidate that will bring instant credibility to our party when he stands up on the house floor to debate the Democrats.

For the sake of our future and security, we need strong, committed, patient and most of all experienced leaders in Washington and I believe I'm the best qualified to provide it.

Feel free to email me with you comments at

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