Fighting Todays Wars by David G Bolgiano & James M Patterson
Distinct elements of my career could be characterised as an old Nike
advert: you’d be wrong to think that I’m some sort of ripped Op MASSIVE type running past the camera in $200 trainers, it’s more the approach of ‘you don’t gotta like this, you just gotta do it’. This book is much the same: I heartily recommend it to one and all serving in or, perhaps more importantly, those directing the Armed Forces. That said, it can be an uncomfortable read at times and is distinctly challenging to many current thought processes within the military. Given that the sub-title is ‘How America’s Leaders Have Failed Our Warriors’, this could be expected.
The authors, David Bolgiano and Colonel Jim Patterson, are both military lawyers with operational experience with teach Judgement-based Engagement Training to US Armed Forces’ personnel deploying on operations. Bolgiano was in the Airborne and Patterson the Special Forces before they switched fire to becoming legal advisors and have operational experience in both realms. This gives them a significant insight into the legal ramifications of current operations and, in their opinion, how we in the West (by this they predominantly mean US Forces and the US government) have hamstrung ourselves in the modern wars being fought.
The authors raise two key points: armies are designed to fight wars, not build nations; and that there are certain criteria that should be met prior to using them. These criteria include an achievable end state and military objectives to suit this end state. They argue that in both Afghanistan and Iraq, the West used their armies incorrectly and did not send achievable end states. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that extraction became the end state and that this is the fault of the leadership in the West, both political and military, and their desire to avoid risk and export democracy.
Being written by lawyers, the book spends a considerable time discussing the Laws of War and how the West are not applying them correctly by using the Geneva Conventions inappropriately (ie by applying them to enemies who do not believe in them nor apply them). This is coupled to the restrictive Rules of Engagement that the Americans laboured under for a considerable time and how this hindered their attempts to fight insurgents in Iraq, causing uncertainty and hesitation amongst soldiers on operations.
I recommend this to anyone who wants a different opinion from the norm that is being pushed around at the moment. Don’t think that the authors are some sort of gung-ho, National Rifle Association gun junkies who wish to start a twenty-first century Project Phoenix and assassinate every enemy of the American way of life. What they are looking to do is get the West to treat the current war against al-Qaeda as a war and not a law enforcement problem: in short, to understand the context in which both the West’s Forces and their enemies are operating and the true level of the threat which must be dealt with. This is not a diatribe against the chain of command (although it does come close at times) and I do not agree with all their conclusions but it does make recommendations for the future and propose possible solutions. This is an interesting and challenging read that is well worthwhile.
Four Mr Mushroom Heads Fighting Today's Wars
by DG Bolgiano & JM Patterson published by Stackpole Click here to buy from Amazon