Politician to General Order Fullfillment Mistakes

The Politician-General Problem of Mistakes

In democracies and corporatist entities military leadership is under civilian control. That is, a political leader controls military operations and directs military goals. Generals are given the task of carrying out the orders of the politician. The political goals may not necessarily be realistic goals militarily, nor the most efficient military goals to capture land or cities for political purposes. Many modern wars have manifested mistaken political judgment for beginning, continuing and ending. It is possible they are the result of democracy and democratic civilian leadership of the era (not to imply there are no other political structures that cause modern war). I will comment on a bit of that phenomena.

The stalled Russian attempted conquest of Ukraine is a case in point. The Russian President Vladimir Putin probably is the military director of the production and has or had (they may have changed since the start of the war) particular goals in mind. Maybe that was complete capture of all of the Ukraine along existing map definitions as it were. That goals may have been militarily unrealistic. Perhaps he should have simply have ordered the capture of large areas of land that would make a solid future state with good enough waterfront access, knowing that reinforcement of those areas against counter-attack and insurgents would be necessary to achieve a stable new normal as N.P.R. might like to say.

While the Russian military executed unattainable plans in the Ukraine, President Biden executed an exit strategy from Afghanistan earlier in another example of the power of a politician over a military of a corporatist entity. It was feasible to garrison troops to reinforce the Afghan government from secure bases over the long term, yet the President instead choose a precipitate withdrawal of all U.S. military forces that led directly to the collapse of the Afghan government. A few months later he opted to pitch in billions of dollars of advanced weapons to the Ukraine war making a decision to deepen and lengthen the period of conflict in Ukraine. Democrat leaders prefer stand off wars with advanced weapons and proxy soldiers that let others than constituents die.

The conduct of the Afghan war and effort to pacify the nation will be analyzed for years by military experts, as was a similar effort in the Vietnam war. Each conflict was under direct political control of American military forces, and each effort resulted in failure perhaps for different reasons. It may be that the disconnect between political leadership and military education is an underlying cause of the failure for politicians to set realistic military objectives in American wars of the 20th and 21st centuries and perhaps presently, by the Russian President in Ukraine.

One wonders at what point President Putin will decide to stop investing military force to take over cities that are easy to defend even as they become rubble, by a minority of force, as rats can find holes midst the concrete to strike out at snakes seeking to devour them. Large cities are bait to attract mobile armored vehicles that have needed to conceal their location from anti-tank weapons since the Cold War. Tanks today are mobile artillery and if in the open, concealed and unbunkered, are easy prey for a variety of weapons systems. New Russian tanks are faster and cheaper than U.S. tanks and actually quite good, yet rockets and drones to destroy them are far cheaper.

Civilian politicians may tend to regard tanks as big dogs able to put down runty civilian opposition in a significant mistake of judgment. If there is no modern rocketry in opposition that may have some truth to it. Civilians should stay out of the way of tanks.

In the present conflict in Ukraine it is challenging to know what President Putin actual objectives are or if they are feasible. American intentions are clear enough; unlimited supply of lightweight modern weapons to a Ukrainian resistance that would protract the conflict to defrappe Russian consolidation of regions of control over Ukraine, besides economic siege war against Russia itself to cut off the supply line to the military effort in Ukraine and lever political opposition to what is regarded in the west as an executive war by a dictator- perhaps in some error since Russia has a democracy on paper at least and President Putin is acting in accord with constitutional powers conferred in lineal progression from President Boris Yeltsin who in effect wrote the constitution of the Russian confederation that has since been amended several times.

Some would argue against a description of Russia as a democracy or a free society. In the modern era though dispensational democracy might be a better description of the relation between corporate political power, political leadership and ordinary citizens. Nearly unconditional freedom exists for many or most concurrent with legal and illegal restrictions on freedom for others deemed worthy of repression by those with power. Modern free societies do not presently exist unconditionally or even commonly so far as I know; certainly not in the United States.

Perhaps politicians that direct militaries are comparable to CEOs that hire private contractors to construct project for them . Often contractors take on projects bidding a certain price knowing there will be cost overruns the politician or the politicians financiers don’t know about. Former President G.W. Bush said before the Iraq war that the mission would cost about 50 billion dollars. The actual cost was in the trillions. Many of the billions went out in non-competition contracts to favorite contractors. Because competent military people do not control the political designs or mission strategy there is generally a high likelihood that even advanced militaries can fail in modern, limited war ; the cost to civilians as collateral damage may be very high.