The Western military are clueless about conflict! Fighting talk or true?

#1
There is a review of a new book by Sean McFate in today’s Sunday Times. The book is “Goliath: Why The West Doesn’t Win Wars. And What To Do About It”. Review by Max Hastings below.

6A9E5A29-53A6-4D6D-BB2C-FFC1991D9468.jpeg


61EAB07F-D8C4-40AF-8EF2-D9C9F5267FCA.jpeg

A188237A-7615-4321-A0DF-BA8D933B036D.jpeg

58884420-B1FB-4FD3-9DE5-CF495B79F79C.jpeg

AE75079F-2859-46A9-925A-E210AB2E3BB7.jpeg


It’s a provocative view. One wonders how private armies would operate in the absence of any concept of nation or loyalty other than to the $$?

On the other hand I read his (McFate) previous book “New Rules Of War” and he does make some valid points. Most of the military action around the world right now is not against state players and is pretty much unlikely to be so in the near future. So how do we respond?

Hopefully a conversation starter.


Edit: Nod to @Imago who posted extracts in the CVF thread.
 
#2
People get mislead by the term contractor. In US terms half the deployed force may well be contractors but 95% of those contractors will be support side of life from Apache technicians to chefs. And people should stop mentioning Blackwater as if it still exists, it hasn't for years and the article reads like one of Erik Princes monologues.
 
#3
Though comparing Blackwater (long gone via Xe, Academi & constellis group) and Wagner is a little disengenious/apples & oranges, it does mark up a major difference in between the West and the East - the acceptance and use of contractors as a normal way of doing business
Erik Prince's current outfit is effectively on contract to Beijing
Wagner's work & members gets recognised by Moscow.

Wagner and others in particular present more mass and coverage than the UK's thugs, geeks & spooks can.
E2A: SPiBs generate proxy forces to a degree, but not sure how agressively these could be used as their deniability isn't SF-like. Also tricky to train up potentially dodgy/factional but necessary proxy troops - unlike Wagner...Wagner, Russian Private Military Company, Goes to Africa - The Atlantic

yes, the US has lots of contractors that work in rather grey areas, its just they don't seem to have the naked give-a-****-itis the russians and chinese have.
 
Last edited:
#4
Mr McFate must have slept through history class. Western nations have been fighting counter insurgency wars for centuries. Nor is hiring mercenaries to do your fighting for you a new concept. The thing is if you want to lean on a Third World Dictator, a fleet of aircraft carriers is more impressive than having Erik Prince on speed dial.
 
#5
Mr McFate must have slept through history class. Western nations have been fighting counter insurgency wars for centuries. Nor is hiring mercenaries to do your fighting for you a new concept. The thing is if you want to lean on a Third World Dictator, a fleet of aircraft carriers is more impressive than having Erik Prince on speed dial.
Nope.
You refinance their debt*, with clauses that mean you own their land and minerals, you re-purpose failed projects for your own use, all exploited by your own people. When it goes a bit wobbly, then you sail your aircraft carriers into the area and take your now valuable citizens out of hamrs way (4-2-1 child policy has made them less disposable).

Erik prince's people (and others, including one called Huawei....) are already there making sure your people are safe from the dis-enfranchised locals
Rise of China’s private armies

*thanks Bono & live8, you bunch of idiots, clearing the field of play for chinese neo-colonialist financing
 
#6
Mr McFate must have slept through history class. Western nations have been fighting counter insurgency wars for centuries. Nor is hiring mercenaries to do your fighting for you a new concept. The thing is if you want to lean on a Third World Dictator, a fleet of aircraft carriers is more impressive than having Erik Prince on speed dial.
China may mutter about A2/AD bu they're slowly gearing up for expeditionary ops. The plan a fleet big enough to go head to head with the spams and win. We need them.
 
#7
Nope.
You refinance their debt*, with clauses that mean you own their land and minerals, you re-purpose failed projects for your own use, all exploited by your own people. When it goes a bit wobbly, then you sail your aircraft carriers into the area and take your now valuable citizens out of hamrs way (4-2-1 child policy has made them less disposable).

Erik prince's people (and others, including one called Huawei....) are already there making sure your people are safe from the dis-enfranchised locals
Rise of China’s private armies

*thanks Bono & live8, you bunch of idiots, clearing the field of play for chinese neo-colonialist financing
You can't sail aircraft carriers into the area if you don't have aircraft carriers because you followed the advice of Mr McFate and dumped them in favour of outsourcing your military needs to the private sector.
 
#9
You can't sail aircraft carriers into the area if you don't have aircraft carriers because you followed the advice of Mr McFate and dumped them in favour of outsourcing your military needs to the private sector.
Should have made it clearer.
We've lost already.
We'll just be squabbling over leftovers.
The US will inevitably keep some aircraft carriers as there are lots of industries that depend on them, maybe used as an existential threat, but not put anywhere they could be properly threatened.
China intends to own everything else.
Also things that can keep carrier groups going or replace them
Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port - Wikipedia
Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport - Wikipedia (stand by for its acquisition/usage)
 
#10
How is he planning on training mercenaries at scale?

Most of them were in the military first.....
Exactly. All those high paid contractors were paid at the expense of defence budgets and gained their operational experience in the employ of their respective nation.
 
#11
Add to the mix that no western "democracy" (or the Russians for that matter) has "won" a major asymmetric conflict since perhaps Malaya. The people of such nations simply do not have the stomach or the patience for the long war and without popular support, the military effort eventually loses steam (largely due to the erosion of political will) to the point it can no longer be decisive in the conflict.
 
#12
Add to the mix that no western "democracy" (or the Russians for that matter) has "won" a major asymmetric conflict since perhaps Malaya. The people of such nations simply do not have the stomach or the patience for the long war and without popular support, the military effort eventually loses steam (largely due to the erosion of political will) to the point it can no longer be decisive in the conflict.
The British won in Northern Ireland. The Iraqi insurgency was pretty well contained (eventually). The Russians got Chechnya largely under control and they are doing a pretty good job of propping up Assad.
 
#13
It was said of the US Indian Wars of the late 19th Century that the various combatant Amerindian tribes, "Knew a lot about fighting, but next to nothing about war." The same was true of the tribesmen of what was then Britain's North-West Frontier, so much so that many of the modern Commando soldier's bag of tricks ultimately come out of their playbook.

The dilemma was that in an Imperial world, you needed those who could fight and those who could perform garrison duties. As Empires shrank, so did the size of armies. Eventually it would have been decided, that where there is no immediate need for a large Army the secret is to train a small, professional, all Volunteer Army which can then serve as a cadre around which to train a much larger version of itself, if needed.

Sometimes part of that cadre must fight to gain time in a large conflict; this was probably the reason behind Kaiser Wilhelm's remark about, "That contemptible little Army." Nonetheless they held the line until the new volunteers and conscripts could be trained and made ready.

Ships such as Aircraft Carriers and Battleships can be mothballed to be refitted in an emergency and re-used until something better can be supplied. The US Battleship Missouri, for example, served in three conflicts, the first being the Second World War and the last being the Gulf War, with the Korean War in between.

As for the drug wars, the reason there are so many armed, "Drug thugs," in the various Mexican and South American cartels is simply the obscene profit to be made from selling drugs and the crap and corruption this inevitably causes. Simply put, the demand for the drugs the cartels sell is much higher than the supply. But this is a medico-legal problem, not a military problem.
 
Last edited:
#14
The British won in Northern Ireland. The Iraqi insurgency was pretty well contained (eventually). The Russians got Chechnya largely under control and they are doing a pretty good job of propping up Assad.
Fair point and I was perhaps overbroad but much depends on how one defines "winning." I also should have clarified that by "conflict" I was referring to those of an international nature rather than intranational which has somewhat different dynamics.
 
Last edited:

Grey Fox

*Russian Troll*
#15
There are two main kinds of conflicts (intrested for Great Powers) -
1) Great Powers fighting each other (WWI,WWII)
2) Great Power against small state or non-state group. (Vietnam, Gulf War, etc)

They can be mixed (proxy war between Great Powers - Korea, Vietnam, Ukraine, Syria) or change one into another - "Great Serbia vs Kosovo Islamists" was changed into the "Great power NATO vs small Serbia".

When you dont have mercenaries, when you need them - you lost money. When you dont have regular Army when you need it - you lost your state.

Potentional post-Brexit conflict in NI can be transformed into conflict between the UK and Respublic of Ireland. And conflict between them can be transformed into EU-UK war. And detterence depends only from fear and the possible losses. If you are ready to fight against Republic of Ireland (and they know it) - they will not support Irish rebels in NI. If EU is not ready to fight against the UK (and you know it) - you can use your forces in Ireland.
If you are ready to fight against NI rebels but not ready to fight against EU - it means, that you are not ready to fight against NI-rebels, too.
 
Last edited:
#16
Oddly enough, grey fox has a valid point.

The article has many valid points, however to suggest that mercenaries are the way forward is somewhat ill-educated.

"Mercenaries" are very good for security style jobs. Guarding a VIP in the middle East or protecting an oil tanker off the coast of Somalia is definitely better served by a private company than an army.

Retaking the Falkland islands or invading Iraq? I'll take a professional standing army with a loyal chain of command, thanks. Likewise deploying to NI - let's not entrust that job to G4S
 
#17
Exactly. All those high paid contractors were paid at the expense of defence budgets and gained their operational experience in the employ of their respective nation.
Proxy war is a big buzz word at the moment.
One point on the high paying contractor bit is to look at how quickly PSCs nationalised or went to cheaper options; in particular compare Iraq & Afghanistan where Governmental money paid for PSDs, versus maritime security where commerce pretty quickly realised that the gun held by a Sri Lankan marine was just as much a deterrent as that held by an ex Bootie.

The contractors in Yemen are also an interesting one to look at.

What would be interesting is if there was a space or push for an American or British Foreign Legion; service means citizenship etc.
It would also mean that there are overseas interests or conflicts that the UK requires the use of force to maintain or win
 
#18
Proxy war is a big buzz word at the moment.
One point on the high paying contractor bit is to look at how quickly PSCs nationalised or went to cheaper options; in particular compare Iraq & Afghanistan where Governmental money paid for PSDs, versus maritime security where commerce pretty quickly realised that the gun held by a Sri Lankan marine was just as much a deterrent as that held by an ex Bootie.

The contractors in Yemen are also an interesting one to look at.

What would be interesting is if there was a space or push for an American or British Foreign Legion; service means citizenship etc.
It would also mean that there are overseas interests or conflicts that the UK requires the use of force to maintain or win
I haven’t read the OP book yet but McFate makes a similar point in his previous book.

He points out the whilst the FFL is a part of the army and is controlled from Paris . . .

“it rewards its legionnaires with French citizenship. It’s a French army unit, except its enlisted ranks come from all over the world. It functions as a quick-response force, and an elite one at that, drawing largely from the veteran pool of other militaries worldwide. Even American vets have a hard time making the cut. With seven thousand legionaries, the unit can deploy deep forward in places like Africa or the Middle East to secure French national interests.​

It’s time for an American Foreign Legion—and a British one, an Australian one, a Danish one, and any other country that wants to overcome threats before they arrive at their borders. Like the French model, the American Foreign Legion would be a part of the Department of Defense, except its enlisted ranks could be recruited globally—a huge pool. The United States would recruit, train, sustain, and command these troops in the long term. The legion’s units would be led by American officers and special forces teams, scaling their mission at a reasonable rate.​

Loyalty would be ensured by welding legionnaires’ long-term interests to Washington’s. Like soldiers, legionnaires would sign multiyear enlistments and could make a career in service to America. Beyond a paycheck, the legion would also offer a pathway for citizenship. This is not a radical idea. For decades, the United States has offered earned citizenship through military service. The legion would serve as a beacon for men and women who want to opt in to the American way of life and are willing to earn it.​
A foreign legion could provide the United States with long-term boots on the ground in places it needs them the most, solving a perennial strategic problem. The West’s aversion to troops returning in body bags would not be an issue, judging by the US public’s lack of interest in dead private military contractors or proxy militia members. The transition from US casualties to non-US ones would give the legion political freedom of maneuver to bash threats where they breed, and to take some risks doing so. Even better, once the legion eradicated a threat, it would remain in the region to prevent the threat from returning. This fixed posture would solve the problem of a US playbook limited to air strikes and the involvement of special operations forces, who can linger in a threat area only for hours or days at the most. The legion could stay for years.”​
I might be missing the point here but it looks to me as if he wants to outsource the primary function of the USMC to avoid the politically unacceptable body bag count.


 

Auld-Yin

ADC
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Reviews Editor
#20
There is a review of a new book by Sean McFate in today’s Sunday Times. The book is “Goliath: Why The West Doesn’t Win Wars. And What To Do About It”. Review by Max Hastings below.

View attachment 395155

View attachment 395156
View attachment 395157
View attachment 395160
View attachment 395159

It’s a provocative view. One wonders how private armies would operate in the absence of any concept of nation or loyalty other than to the $$?

On the other hand I read his (McFate) previous book “New Rules Of War” and he does make some valid points. Most of the military action around the world right now is not against state players and is pretty much unlikely to be so in the near future. So how do we respond?

Hopefully a conversation starter.


Edit: Nod to @Imago who posted extracts in the CVF thread.
I have just received this book for review do hopefully we will have a review on Arrse fairly soon.
 

Top