The View From Olympus: How to Prevent 4GW in America

Low-level Fourth Generation war has been underway in the U.S. for some time, largely in the form of gang activities. That is likely to continue, as will occasional terrorist incidents. This low-level warfare is a problem, but it does not threaten the state.

However, the Left’s reaction to the election of Donald Trump as president points to a far more dangerous kind of 4GW on our own soil. Trump’s election signified, among other things, a direct rejection of the Left’s ideology of cultural Marxism, which condemns Whites, men, family-oriented women, conservative blacks, straights, etc. as inherently evil. Not surprisingly, those people finally rebelled against political correctness and elected someone who represents them.

That is how our system is supposed to work. But the Left only accepts the results of democracy when they win. A rejection of cultural Marxism is, to them, illegitimate. Hence we continue to see not just the hard Left but the whole Establishment howl with hatred, loathing, and contempt directed toward President Trump and those who elected him. Establishment organs such as the New York Times drip venom from every page. The Times last week went so far as to devote and entire op ed to attacking the way the president ties his necktie!

This reaction will not intimidate the people who voted for President Trump. On the contrary, it increases their motivation. Their victory in November showed them they can win. They do not have to lie passive as the Left heaps manure on them. Having won once, they intend to win again and again and again.

The upshot is that we now have a country with two incompatible cultures. One is our traditional, Western, Christian culture. The other is the counter-culture of the 1960s, which was and remains largely a culture of instant gratification. The cultural Marxism of the Frankfurt School created that counter-culture and still provides its ideological justification. As currently structured, our political system is not able to create a situation where these two hostile cultures can live together. That means we are headed toward large-scale 4GW on our own soil and probably a failure of the American state.

This is not an outcome any conservative, or anyone with a shred of prudence, can desire. We only need look at places like Syria to see why.

Fortunately, our political system has a latent component which, if activated, could enable our two cultures to live together in one American state. That latent component is federalism.

The authors and ratifiers of our Constitution never imagined that life would be the same in all states. In their time, life in Massachusetts or New York was very different from life in Virginia or South Carolina. Had they been told the government they were creating would use all its power to force life to become the same in every state, they would have been appalled. We would have remained a confederation.

That earlier federalism can be revived. The federal government can allow states once again to be different. In some states, such as Massachusetts or California, the counter-culture and cultural Marxism will be the norm. In other states like Ohio or Alabama the old culture will prevail. Individual Americans can move to a state that reflects their preferred culture. But all states will still be part of one country, united for foreign affairs, defense, and commerce.

The red/blue map of the last election, when shown by county, raises a further possible federalism. Donald Trump carried more than 90% of all counties. The cultural Marxists and their beneficiaries are concentrated in the big cities.

We might therefore want to introduce something very old: free cities. Hard Leftist cities–Portland, Oregon for example–in culturally traditional states might be allowed to secede from their state and become a free city. They would belong to no state. They would not be represented in the U.S. Senate, but could elect members of the House. Given their high population density, this would tend to create red Senates and blue Houses. In a country where federal government efforts to impose one or the other culture are likely to lead toward break-up, the inability to get extreme measures through both houses of Congress might be a good thing.

Both approaches to federalism would require Constitutional amendments. But if traditionalists and cultural Marxists can agree that large-scale Fourth Generation war on American soil is a bad thing, they should be able to cooperate on passing such amendments. However much we disagree on political, cultural, and moral questions, we do share a common interest in avoiding war in our common home.

The View From Olympus: A Memo for President Trump

To: President Donald Trump

From: W.S. Lind

Re: Your request for a plan to defeat ISIS

You have requested a plan to defeat ISIS. Here is one. It begins with the highest level of war and works downward, because a higher level trumps a lower level. Too often in the past, the U.S. has ignored the higher levels, focusing simply on killing enemy fighters and taking ground. It then loses, but cannot understand why it lost. The approach recommended here does not repeat that mistake. It begins at the top, with grand strategy.

    • Our grand strategy should be to create an alliance of all states against violent non-state forces. Such an alliance must begin by bringing together the three real Great Powers, Russia, China, and the United States. From that perspective, ISIS is an opportunity more than a problem. China is not likely to participate, but a campaign to destroy ISIS can draw in Russia, moving us toward our grand strategic goal. More, it must draw in Russia, as an equal, if the campaign is to succeed. As we will see below, there are areas where we need Russia to take the lead, with the U.S. in a supporting role. Thanks to your good relationship with President Putin, this should be possible.
    • At the strategic level, we cannot destroy ISIS through military action alone. Military pressure alone is likely to bring the various elements within ISIS together, where our strategy should be to pull them apart. That is possible, because ISIS is an unstable and unnatural coalition between Islamists and high-level Baathists from Saddam Hussein’s government and security services. The religious crazies provide the front men and the cannon fodder, but ISIS is run by the Baath. Only the Baath can make things work; break the coalition and the Islamists become wraiths.

To reach the Baathists inside ISIS, who are rational men with whom deals can be made, we need Russia to take the lead. Virtually all leading Baathists trained in the Soviet Union and Russia retains ties to many of them. The deal we should offer is to recognize a new country, Sunnistan, made up of Sunni-populated areas in western Iraq and eastern Syria, and to accept that it will be led by the Baath. In return, the Baathists will cut the throats of the Islamists, something they will do with considerable enthusiasm. Their alliance is one of necessity only.

  • At the level of operational art (a long-time Russian specialty), we need to encircle Raqqa, ISIS’s capital. The purpose is to put the Baathists on notice that time is not on their side and to show we are ready to move quickly to support them if they accept the deal we offer. Here again we need Russia to take the lead. The U.S. military sees campaigns in terms of linear wars of attrition, not encirclement. Even if that were to succeed against ISIS, it would be indecisive, because it would just push them out the back door. The campaign should be commanded by a Russian general with a combined Russian-American staff where Russians serve in the top intelligence (J-2) and operations (J-3) billets.

On the ground, the U.S. should offer a small, highly mobile force suited to battles of encirclement. This is not something the U.S. military is prepared to provide, but it can be cobbled together from units we have. All combat vehicles should be wheeled, not tracked, LAVs (Marine Corps) and Strykers (Army). The force should not be larger than 10,000 men, most of them fighters, with sea-based logistics. The choice of commanders from battalion level on up will be of critical importance. We have very few officers who can do maneuver warfare. If the key billets go to typical process-followers, we will fail. It must also be made clear to all American commanders that they will take orders from Russians.

  • Tactics should not offer much of a challenge. Our force will not attempt to take urban areas aginst serious opposition. Once Raqqa is encircled, local militias can both man the lines of encirclement and, if it should be necessary, take defended urban areas. They will also deal with captured Islamists once our force, its mission done, leaves. The goal should be to get in and out in ninety days.

There you have it, Mr. President. No plan guarantees success, but this plan at least offers a chance of a decisive result, which more bombing and more advisors do not. Perhaps it is time to stop doing more of the same thing and expecting a different result.

The View From Olympus: His Majesty’s Birthday

January 27 is the birthday of Germany’s last legitimate ruler and my reporting senior, Kaiser Wilhelm II. As usual, I placed a telephone call to him to offer my congratulations. I am never quite sure where I am going to find the Reisekaiser; this year I reached him at Wilhelmshafen, the main base of the High Seas Fleet.

After offering my best wishes for his birthday, I asked, “What brings you to Wilhelmshafen this time?”

“Well, I do like the town’s name,” he replied. “Now that I think of it, I should order that the main seaport in all of Germany’s colonies be named Wilhelmshafen. I’ll instruct my ambassadors to suggest to other colonial powers that they do the same. I’m sure they will be delighted at the idea.”

“No doubt,” I replied. “We in the American republic now have a president who likes to put his name on things. Do you see any other similarities between him and your Imperial self?”

“Quite a few, actually,” replied the Kaiser. “I made Germany great, and he will make America great again, so long as he follows one rule: don’t go to war.”

“But I haven’t answered your question,” His Majesty continued. “I’m here for the simultaneous commissioning of twenty ships!”

“If they are battleships and battle cruisers, I hope there are some Mackensens among them,” I ventured.

“Not a one,” the Kaiser said. “They are all transports.”

“Why does his majesty find transports of interest, if I may be so bold?” I inquired.

“Because they will be used in the greatest amphibious operation of all time,” the Kaiser said.

“The enterprise of England?” I asked.

“No, although Philip II still wants to give that another go,” His Majesty replied. “These ships, and others like them building in all the shipyards of Europe, will carry out Operation Charles Martel: the expulsion of all the Moslems from Europe! The commander will be none other than Don Juan de Austria, the victor of Lepanto, come to save Christendom from the Turk a second time.”

“Just how will this work?” I asked.

Mit Eisen und Blut!” replied the Kaiser. “We will round them up, put them on transports and, in a single wave, land them somewhere on the coast of North Africa. The High Seas Fleet and the Grand Fleet will jointly provide gunfire support, if it’s needed. The Mackensens you love will chime in, have no fear!”

“But how is sad, beaten down, gutless Europe ever going to bring itself to do something like this?” I asked plaintively.

“Have you been sleeping at your telegraph key?” the Kaiser replied. “The tide has turned. The filthy Jacobinism that has ruled Europe since 1918 is on the run. President Trump’s election has given Europeans who still believe in Faith and Fatherland hope. Marine le Pen, France’s new Joan of Arc, will be its next president. All over Europe, people are remembering who they are. There is joy in heaven, let me tell you. Christendom’s armies are on the march again!”

“I cannot help but wonder if Your Majesty is caught in a bit of a contradiction here,” I said hesitantly. “When you were on the German throne, you allied with the Ottoman Empire. You visited Moslem countries and were quite friendly to Islam.”

“You are correct,” His Majesty answered. “But I was friendly to Islam in Islam’s portion of the globe. I would show the same friendship if I were in charge of Berlin today. But I would not be an idiot like Merkel and invite them to take over Germany and Europe.”

“You are, I take it, no admirer of the current chancellor?” I suggested.

“No woman has done more to prove I was right when I said women are for children, the kitchen, and the church. She has inflicted on Germany more damage than any chancellor since Adolf Hitler, flooding the Fatherland with a million Arabs, most of them Islamics. Germany was a safe and well ordered country. Now, all Germans have to be afraid on their own streets. Were I still Kaiser, I’d sell her to the Grand Vizier’s harem.”

“I think Your Majesty is right: the tide has turned. Might it turn so strongly that Germany again has a monarch, and your mortal remains can be returned home from the Netherlands?” I asked.

“I will answer your question with another question: did not even the dumbest Hohenzollern give Germany better government than the CDU and SPD provide now? And with that I must be off to the General Staff’s railway mobilization planning office. We will soon be moving a million people to Germany’s ports, and the trains must run on time.”

The View From Olympus: Maneuver Warfare and Navies

The debate in this country about maneuver warfare has centered on the Army and the Marine Corps, not the Navy. (It influenced the Air Force through John Boyd and Pierre Sprey, especially in the development and procurement of the A-10; for a recent look at air power and maneuver warfare, see the K.u.K. Marine Corps Air Cooperation Field Manual, available here. That traces to the origin of the debate, in my critique of the 1976 version of the Army’s basic Field Manual, FM 100-5. The fact that, of all the U.S. armed services, it was the Marine Corps that showed most interest in the concept kept the focus on land warfare. History also played a role: maneuver warfare as we now know it was developed by and institutionalized in the Prussian/German Army between 1807 and 1945.

But it did not start there. It started in the Royal Navy in the second half of the eighteenth century. Years ago, I asked John Lehman when he thought it began, and his answer was when George Anson became First Lord of the Admiralty in 1751. Anson, who led a round-the-world raid on the Spanish in 1740-1744, taking the Manila Galleon, certainly had the characteristics maneuver warfare seeks in a leader.

Another British admiral, I think, did more than Anson to promote the outward focus maneuver warfare demands. That Admiral was the Hon. John Byng, who, on March 17, 1757, following his court martial, was shot by a firing squad on the quarterdeck of H.M.S. Monarch. Of critical importance, Byng was executed not for what he did, but what he didn’t do. The charge against him was that, in action in command of a British fleet fighting the French off the Mediterranean island of Minorca, Byng had not done his utmost. By punishing with death a sin of omission, not commission, the Royal Navy created a bias for action in its officers that, by the time of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, had largely institutionalized what we know as maneuver warfare: outward focus on decisive results rather than inward focus on rules, orders, etc.; valuing initiative over obedience; decentralizing decision-making and depending on self more than imposed discipline. As Voltaire famously wrote, “Sometimes the British shoot an admiral to encourage the others.”

All this seemingly ancient history may have a new relevance in the U.S. Navy. The current PACFLEET commander, Admiral Scott Swift, is doing his utmost to promote the culture of maneuver warfare among his commanders. Driven by a probably accurate concern that, in a naval war with China (which God forbid) our communications will quickly be taken down, he is attempting to drive decision-making down and accustom his fleet to mission-type orders. He appears to grasp the fact that, as Marine Corps General Mike Myatt puts it, “Maneuver warfare is not centralized decision-making and decentralized execution. It is centralized vision and decentralized decision-making.”

If there is one book I could recommend to Admiral Swift, it would be Andrew Gordon’s The Rules of the Game. This very readable volume tells the story of how and why, in the 19th century, the Royal Navy lost the culture of maneuver warfare and focused inward again. At the heart of the matter lay signaling; improved signaling gave fleet commanders the illusion that they could at all times control the actions of every ship in their fleet. And so they did. Gordon does not rest content with history; he relates that 19th century experience to what navies are doing today, as billions of dollars spent on communication equipment again creates the illusion of perfect centralized control.

I wish there were a book I could recommend to Admiral Swift on the development of maneuver warfare in the Royal Navy in the eighteenth century. Sadly, no such book exists. I had lunch with Andrew Gordon a few years ago at the Royal Navy’s Maritime Warfare Centre near Portsmouth, England, which was previously the Allies’ D-Day headquarters. I told him I wanted to write that prequel to his book. He replied that unfortunately, the source material does not exist because the Royal Navy officers who were making it happen were not writing it down. Historians are restricted almost entirely to written sources. If there are none, the history cannot be written.

But it happened, and we know it happened because it was a basis of Britain’s vast naval superiority over the French Navy 1792-1815. That superiority had not previously existed; had the French Royal Navy not been qualitatively equal to the British during the American Revolution, the Queen’s governor general would probably still be sitting in our capital of Philadelphia.

So fair winds and following seas to Admiral Swift. He has a large task ahead of him. But it has been done, it did work, and what has been done once can be done again. Though we will perhaps need to shoot an admiral pour encourager les autres.

The View From Olympus: Korea and the Art of the Deal

As North Korea inches its way toward possessing an ICBM than can hit the United States with a nuclear warhead–both of dubious reliability–we can expect a Korean “crisis” to grow. In fact, there need be no crisis. A deal with North Korea is not difficult to envision, and America now has a president who is good at making deals.

The conventional wisdom presents North Korea as a rogue state ruled by a madman, Kim Jong Un. He, and it, are irrational, dangerous, and impossible to predict. Sanctions having failed, we must pile up more sanctions. There is no alternative to growing hostility between North Korea and the U.S., a course which is likely at some point to lead to war. In the meantime, we must keep thousands of U.S. troops in South Korea, a country far stronger than North Korea.

But there is another way to look at the situation, one that sees continuity rather than irrationality in North Korean policy. For centuries, Korea, then one country, was known as the “Hermit Kingdom”. Like Japan under the last Shogunate, Korea was closed to foreigners, trade, and all outside contact. Its government, a monarchy, was centralized, powerful, and all-controlling. An “ideology” of sorts, Confucianism, was the only tolerated way of thinking. The king was regarded as semi-divine.

From this perspective, today’s North Korea is merely an extension of historic Korea. The Kims are a new dynasty, behaving very much like the old dynasty. North Korea’s legitimacy is rooted in this continuity; it is South Korea, not North Korea, that is a historic anomaly.

North Korea’s stress on military power, including obtaining nuclear weapons and delivery systems, is defensive, not offensive, in motivation. If you want to wall yourself off from the rest of the world, you had better be strong militarily. Otherwise, you can expect a visit from Commodore Perry’s Black Ships.

If we can accept today’s North Korea as normal Korea, a deal ending the risk of another Korean war is not difficult to envision. South Korea is able to defend itself against conventional attack. The U.S. keeps South Korea under its nuclear umbrella but pulls out its ground and air forces. The U.S. and North Korea establish normal diplomatic relations. Negotiations begin to formally end the Korean War; at present, there is no peace treaty, just an armistice.

North Korea remains an unofficial nuclear power, like Israel. The North Korean government knows perfectly well that if they shot a nuclear missile at the United States, one that would probably blow up in flight or suffer a warhead failure, North Korea and the Kim dynasty would be obliterated. If they doubted that under President Obama, they will not doubt it under President Trump.

The U.S., South Korea, and the world would accept North Korea’s right to be the Hermit Kingdom. There would be no attempts to suck it into the Globalist Empire. Should it wish to join the alliance of all states against violent non-state entities, it would be welcome.

Should North Korea wish to go further in opening itself to the world, a serious effort at reunification of South and North Korea could be possible. Obviously, the South Koreans do not want to rejoin the Hermit Kingdom. A reunited Korea would be modeled, economically and politically, on South Korea.

But there could be one interesting twist: what if Korea reunified under a constitutional monarchy, with North Korea’s Kim dynasty on the throne? The king would not have much political power, but he would have all the honors due a head of state. Might the Kims like having all the fun without the work of ruling?

That might seem far-fetched. But in the art of the deal, no potential sweetener should go unexplored. Korea offers a situation where all parties need a deal. The U.S. now has a president who knows how to make deals. Can we imagine President Trump flying into Pyongyang to put an end to the North Korean threat? I can, and I suspect he can too.

The View From Olympus: On Intelligence

The Establishment’s latest hissy-fit over Donald Trump was sparked by his questioning of some assessments by the U.S. intelligence community (CIA, DIA, NSA, etc.). According to the Establishment, a president or other decision-maker must regard intelligence as hard fact. To do otherwise is to create a “crisis”. The January 6 New York Times hyperventilated on its front page,

Mr. Trump will have to say whether he accepts the agencies’ basic findings on the Russian role [in the U.S. election]–or hold to his previous contention that inept, politicized American spies have gotten the perpetrator of the hacking wrong. That would throw the intelligence agencies into a crisis of credibility and status with few, if any, precedents.

In fact, President-elect Trump’s doubts about the accuracy of our intelligence shows that he understands intel better than does the New York Times. Put simply, intel is never hard data. It is always a “best guess”, and history is littered with cases where it has been wrong.

The nature of intelligence is such that it is always incomplete. In any given situation, you do not know how incomplete it is. Further, some of it is always wrong, and you, the user, cannot know how much is wrong or what portions are wrong. Far from being hard data, intelligence is the world seen through a glass, darkly.

Obviously, the degree of incompleteness and the extent of intel’s error vary widely from case to case. If you have broken the other sides’ codes, your intel is probably more accurate than it otherwise would be–unless your opponent has realized you’ve broken his codes and is feeding you false information. But even when we were reading the traffic protected by the Germans’ Enigma machine in World War II, the Ardennes offensive of December, 1944 caught us completely by surprise. Suspecting we were reading their mail, the Germans kept their planning off the Enigma network. As is often the case, over-confidence in our own intelligence set us up to be surprised.

Intel is always incomplete and some of it is always wrong because of its nature. Gaining intelligence is a competitive action against a thinking opponent who tries to deceive you. Unless he is a complete moron, he sometimes succeeds. He either causes you to miss something entirely, or he fools you into believing something that is not so. His goal can be either making you uncertain, or making you certain but wrong; the latter is deception, which is hard to achieve but has big pay-offs.

As if all this were not enough to make intelligence a very squishy product, you next must consider the problem of bias. All intelligence agencies have biases, and those biases shape their findings. U.S. intelligence agencies are strongly biased toward telling a president what he wants to hear. Remember, the “findings” that Russia tried to elect Donald Trump were made under a president who sees Russia as an adversary. Then, the agencies are biased toward inflating the threat, because that supports their claim on more resources. Finally, their internal factionalism, such as the division between humint guys and photo interpreters, also creates biases and “filters” that distort findings.

If you put this all together, you realize that a president who is skeptical about intelligence products is probably going to be better anchored in reality than a president who accepts what the intel community hands him. If he is a clever president, he will develop his own sources of information beyond what the system gives him. Were I President Trump, I would read the Financial Times over breakfast every morning. When trying to figure out what is happening in places such as the Middle East, I might even pick up the phone to my good friend Vladimir and ask him, “So what are your intel folks telling you about this one?”

Admiral Rickover said, “You have to use the chain of command to pass your orders downward, but anyone who relies on the chain of command for his information is a fool.” As President-elect Trump has repeatedly demonstrated, he is no fool.

The View From Olympus: Is the Marine Corps Waking Up?

From the mid-1970s to the early 1990s, the U.S. Marine Corps established itself as the leading service intellectually. The ultimate outcome was the adoption by the Corps of a new doctrine of maneuver warfare, which occurred in 1989. The driving agent of change was the Marine Corps Commandant at that time, General Al Gray.

The Marine Corps’ intellectual endeavors paid large dividends. Not only did the Corps get a modern doctrine, its awakening drew strong support from Capitol Hill, the press, and the general public. I was Hill staff at the time, and the Corp’s clout in Congress was the envy of every other service.

Then, after General Gray left the Commandancy, the Marine Corps went to sleep. The doctrine remained words on paper. Few efforts were made to align what the Corps did with what it said. The result today is a Marine Corps that can talk about maneuver warfare but, aside from a few islands created by individual commanders, cannot fight as a maneuver doctrine recommends. Like the U.S. Army, it just puts firepower on targets and expects that magically to yield victory. Against Fourth Generation opponents, it guarantees defeat.

When General Robert B. Neller became Commandant earlier this year, no one expected any change in this situation. Neller was virtually unknown. To everyone’s surprise, he asked the question, “Are we really doing maneuver warfare? I’m not sure we are.” More, he has gone on to encourage others in the Corps to ask the same question. It is beginning to look as if the Marine Corps is waking up.

Where this will lead is anyone’s guess. But with the Commandant’s encouragement the Marine Corps’ Training and Education Command (T&E) at Quantico sponsored a conference in late October to address the question, “Are we doing maneuver warfare?” I was there, along with John Schmitt, the author of FMFM/MCDP 1, Warfighting; Bruce Gudmundsson, author of Stormtroop Tactics, the definitive history of the development of maneuver warfare in the German Army in World War I; and Marines ranking from corporal to brigadier. Unusually, the conference was run on a civilian-clothes, no-ranks basis, which led to everyone speaking up. Even more unusually, instead of the self-congratulations that are the norm in American armed services, the critiques offered were brutally frank. Not one person said the Marine Corps has institutionalized maneuver warfare. On the contrary, the conference concluded Marines can talk about maneuver warfare but they cannot do it.

The slides from the briefing produced by T&E that summarizes the conference’s finding are attached below. Great credit is due to T&E for not sanitizing the report. A few recommendations fell out, including making the Training & Readiness manual at the discretion of the battalion commander (at present it reduces both to dog training while leaving the battalion no time for free-play exercises), but most of what was discussed made it.

The question lies squarely on General Neller’s desk. As I saw in the Al Gray years, change will only occur if the Commandant drives it.

 

 

The View From Olympus: China and Iran

President-elect Donald Trump’s choices for cabinet positions have reassured his supporters that change will be real. However, for his presidency to begin successfully, there are two countries where change is needed in his approach. Those two countries are China and Iran.

As always, to see how we should relate to any state we must begin with our own grand strategic goals. The most important of those goals should be forming an alliance of all states to confront the threat Fourth Generation war presents to the state system itself. Obviously, we want that alliance to include China and Iran; all states means precisely that. China is one of three genuine Great Powers (Britain and France have that title by courtesy). An alliance of all states is possible only if it begins with an alliance of the Great Powers. Otherwise, Great Power rivalry will undermine it from the outset. Iran is an important regional power whose cooperation against 4GW elements in the Mideast is important. At present, Iran is playing a central role in upholding the state in Syria.

This grand strategy reminds us that in any situation, the worst possible outcome for our interests is the disintegration of another state and its replacement by a stateless nursery for more 4GW elements. The U.S. foreign policy Establishment has given us that outcome in Iraq, in Libya, and, in part, in Syria. A Trump administration should do its utmost not to add to that list of failures.

In this context, Mr. Trump’s initial actions vis-a-vis China, including receiving a congratulatory phone call from the leader of Taiwan, do serve to strengthen his bargaining position with Beijing. But it is important he accept the “one China” policy, with which both the Chinese Communist Party and the Kuomintang agree. Taiwan is an existential issue for China because of China’s history of centrifugal movements. If one province can become independent, so can others, and China would be heading back to a situation of “warring states”. That is the nightmare of every Chinese.

Because any movement of Taiwan toward independence has this implication for China, Taiwan has the highest potential for bringing about a war between China and the U.S. Such a conflict would be a disaster for both parties. But from the United States’ standpoint, it would be a lose-lose scenario. In the unlikely event the U.S. lost the war, our Great Power status would be called into question. If China lost, the result could be even worse. A defeat might destroy the legitimacy of the current Beijing government and with it the Chinese state. China could disintegrate into warring states in a huge victory for 4GW elements. We need China to be a center and source of order in the world. A defeat followed by disintegration would turn China into a vast source of disorder.

As China resumes her historical Great Power status, we should not merely allow but encourage her to take over the job of preserving peace, order, and commerce in a growing portion of the world. China must agree that is her role, but Chinese culture puts high value on order and harmony so that should not be too difficult. In that context, if China wishes to take over the job of protecting freedom of the seas in the South China Sea and is able to do so, we should welcome it. We should have no desire to be the world’s policeman. China, like Russia and the U.S., should have her sphere of influence, again and always in the context of upholding order and the state system.

Much the same is true of Iran on a regional basis. If the U.S. and Iran were to go to war–and Mr. Trump was elected in part because he opposed avoidable wars in the Middle East–an Iranian defeat might lead to the break-up of Iran, where the Persians are not a majority of the population. As has been the case in Iraq and Libya (thank you, Hillary), a disintegration of Iran into stateless disorder would be far worse for our interests than is the present Iranian state.

From this perspective, we should accept the Iran deal negotiated by the Obama administration. It may not be ideal in its terms, but if we tear it up, we will be on course either to accept a nuclear Iran in the near future or go to war with Iran, with all the dangers therein described above. Of these three alternatives, the present deal is clearly the least bad.

The foreign policy opposite of the neo-con/Jacobin “idealism” of Hillary and President Obama is realism. It is reasonable for those of us who supported Mr. Trump to expect realism will be the basis of his foreign policy. Realism often means accepting arrangements that are less than ideal. Realists do accept them because the other plausible alternatives are worse.

In the 21st century, the worst outcome of all will be destroying another state. Whenever and wherever the question of war against a state comes up, our thinking must begin with the realization that “victory” may, indeed is likely to, yield that outcome. We, and China and Russia and Iran and all other states face real enemies in the form of non-state opponents. Let us join together in confronting those enemies rather than pursue obsolete conflicts with each other.

The View From Olympus: Mattis

President-elect Donal Trump’s selection of retired Marine Corps General James N. Mattis is a brilliant move. For the first time, we will have a Secretary of Defense who understands war–and also understands that much needs to change in the Pentagon if we are to win wars. General Mattis is a true warrior-scholar, someone who has read deeply in military history and theory and also has experienced combat at several levels of command. By choosing General Mattis, President-elect Trump has justified the hopes that so many of us have for his presidency.

I have only met with General Mattis once, when he was in command of Quantico, the base where the Marine Corps’ schools are located. He invited me down to discuss those schools and Marine Corps education generally. I proposed requiring “the canon” as a pre-requisite for Command & Staff College. “The canon” is the list of seven books which, if read in the right order, take the reader from the First Generation of Modern War into the Fourth Generation. General Mattis seemed favorable to the idea, but in the end nothing happened.

This may point to a need for an Undersecretary of Defense who understands how the Pentagon works and knows how to make it act even when it does not want to. Getting a bureaucracy to do what you want it to is a fine art, and I am not certain it is one in which General Mattis excels. The best man for that job would be Chuck Spinney. Spinney was one of the core members of the Military Reform Movement of the 1980s, and he spent his whole career working in the Pentagon. He knows both what needs to be done and how to get it done. A team of Mattis and Spinney would be unbeatable.

That team will face and imposing agenda. It begins with the subject of my last column, adopting a grand strategy appropriate to a world where we need and alliance of all states against non-state forces. In the 21st century, the state system itself is at stake. War between states is obsolete, because the losing state is likely to disintegrate into another stateless region, which will be a worse threat than was the original state.

This new grand strategy means that many of the systems and forces the Pentagon is paying for are obsolete, because they are useful only for wars between states. This is good news, because it means that, by ceasing to build a military museum, we can save a great deal of money.

That in turn is important in confronting the next challenge, the looming international debt crisis. We are either going to reduce defense (and other government) spending to the point where we can begin paying off the national debt, or we are going to have a debt crisis where the defense budget plunges to a small fraction of its current level. Prevention being better than cure, Secretary Mattis will be looking for programs to cut. At the head of the list should be the F-35, a poorly-designed, untested airplane on which we are expected to spend $1.6 trillion. Alternatives lie readily to hand: reopen the F-22 production line for the “high” end of the “high-low mix” and buy the excellent and cheap Swedish Gripen fighter/bomber for the “low” end of the mix. Other countries participating in the F-35 program should be allowed to purchase (and build parts for) the F-22 instead.

Then come reforms to make our armed forces more effective in combat. Two should be top priority. First, get the women out of all combat arms units. Their presence severely undermines unit cohesion because instead of becoming a “band of brothers”, the men see each other as rivals for the attention of the women. In combat, men will drop the mission to protect the women. And the women hold a whip hand over the men, because if a man does anything a woman does not like, including giving her an order, she can charge him with “sexual harassment”. The man is presumed guilty until proven innocent, and the case is handled, not by the chain of command, but by a commissar system biased toward the women. We need to reduce the presence of women throughout the military, but getting them out of combat units is essential, or those units will not fight.

We also need to move our Second Generation armed forces into the Third Generation, also known as maneuver warfare. On paper, the Marine Corps adopted maneuver doctrine in the early 1990s. However, it never institutionalized it, so it can’t actually do it. The new Marine Corps Commandant, General Neller, is trying to change this. The other three services remain purely Second Generation, reducing war to putting firepower on targets through highly centralized, slow-moving, predictable processes. We do not know whether even Third Generation state armed services can successfully carry on Fourth Generation war, but we do know that Second Generation militaries cannot.

That’s a full plate, and there is much more beyond this. If anyone can do it, General Mattis can–if he has someone by his side who understands how the bureaucracy works.

The View From Olympus: The Most Important Thing

The election of Donald Trump opens the door to change and reform in many areas. The most important, in terms of our country’s future, is grand strategy and foreign policy (the latter, understood correctly, is a subset of the former). The United States needs a grand strategy aimed at preserving the state system.

Our present grand strategy was conceived in a world of states in conflict with each other. Its purpose is to make America dominant over all other states. The U.S. is not the first state to attempt this. Like its predecessors, it is failing. No state has ever been powerful enough to establish the “universal monarchy”, as it was once known. Attempts to do so have always resulted in overreach, then fall. Remember, Portugal once ruled half the world.

But the most important thing is not that we reduce our goals to match our power in the world of conflict between states. The most important thing is that we realize Fourth Generation war poses so serious a threat to the whole state system that conflict between states has become obsolete. We need an alliance of all states against Fourth Generation entities. If we and other Great Powers, especially Russia and China, continue to squabble among ourselves, the 21st century is likely to witness the end of the whole state system. Mere anarchy will be loosed upon the world.

President-elect Donald Trump has already spoken with the leaders of Russia and China, telling them he wants better relations with both. That is a promising start. An alliance of all states should begin with a Triple Alliance of the three strongest Great Powers. Britain and France will probably join. Those five (who conveniently make up the permanent membership of the U.N. Security Council) should be the policy-makers. Any more and decisions will become impossible.

I do not know whether President-elect Trump or his advisors understand the context within which we need a new Triple Alliance or Quintuple Alliance, and here as so often in grand strategy context is important. It is, again, the need for all states to work together against Fourth Generation, non-state entities that wage war. The alliance is a means, not an end.

The end is that whenever 4GW manifests itself, wherever it does so, all states work together to defeat it. The power of Fourth Generation entities, or at least some of them, at the moral level of war is so great that, even with all the states in the world against them, beating them will not be easy. Let me say it once more: what is at stake in the 21st century is the state system itself. If events remain on their current course, by the year 2100 the state will probably be just a memory (a fond one, as in Syria, Libya, and Iraq) in much of the world. States have never played for bigger stakes.

A corollary of a grand strategy that unites all states against violent non-state entities is that war between states must disappear. Too often, the losing state will disintegrate, creating a new petri dish of 4GW entities that is a far worse threat than the old state could ever be.

Therefore, the new alliance of all states will work assiduously to avoid and prevent wars between states. Any state that appears to be moving toward war with another state will find the whole world in its path yelling “Stop!” Ironically, this Realpolitik may do more to prevent interstate conflict than have all the “peace movements” led by idealists.

Some may ask, what about Iran, North Korea, and other “rogue” states? Do we want them in this alliance? Yes. “All states” means just that. Iran faces 4GW threats from non-Persians within her borders. North Korea does not face a 4GW threat, but she could be a useful ally, and we do not want her providing arms and expertise to non-state entities because of a desperate need for cash. A peace treaty with North Korea, followed by the removal of U.S. troops from South Korea, is just the kind of deal President Trump should be good at making.

I hope the Trump White House will take a serious look at revamping America’s grand strategy so it fits a century where the most dangerous threat will be Fourth Generation war. There is at least a chance it will do so. Under Hillary, or any other Establishment president of either party, there would be no chance at all.