25 Mar The Cost of Strategic Dissonance by Bill Buppert
“Gentlemen, when the enemy is committed to a mistake we must not interrupt him too soon.”
― Horatio Nelson
― Horatio Nelson
The current strategic climate in DC reveals a deeply flawed and idiotic tendency to think that the mandarins in Mordor can simply click their ruby slippers and wish things to happen. The huge strategic blunders of the Busheviks is of a different ocher and hue than the mismanagement in DC today. The post 9/11 answer was to get the US involved in endless and ultimately fratricidal conflicts throughout the Middle East and the Horn of Africa for no better reason than bluster and the military industrial complex wagging the mangy mutts in the Pentagon and Capitol Hill. The new occupant of the Offal Office is indeed altering course but frustrated by the emergence of a Russian power that refuses to yield to American huffing and puffing. Aside from the hubris of lecturing the Russians on invading other countries, the failure to prevent the Russians from doing as they wish as regional hegemons is the signal to America that the 21st century is no longer theirs to control nor rule as a hyper-power astride the globe.
Ever since the first American imperialist excursions into Canada and Mexico and the subsequent invasion of the globe in 1893 after the Lincolnian coup that sealed the fate of the nation and put all Americans on the plantation. US bloodthirstiness in planetary command and control has known no limits but after the War to Safe Josef Stalin made the world safe for communism, American successes militarily have been few and far between. Even the allegedly successful Gulf War I simply laid the foundations for the ensuing conflicts and reemergence of global non-state actors.
The rest is history and the last two presidents have been strategic bumblers of historic proportions.
I often think WWI lasted from 1914-1945 with a Cold War bridge in the interregnum years and consider the conflict from 1938-1945 to be the War to Save Josef Stalin. So I would like to examine a slice of the strategic dissonance that affected both sides in that storied conflict.
“Defeat Germany first” characterized the germination of any global strategy on the part of the allies, the United States and Great Britain, in particular. Even after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the priority remained in the European Theater of Operations (ETO). US naval advocates naturally objected to this priority in the war. WWII forced a particular focus due to the breadth and width of the conflict that essentially embroiled every continent on Earth, including naval engagements near Antarctica.
The locus of strategy finds its working component in the operations conducted to fulfill the goals and ambitions of the grand strategic/strategic intent of the combatant nations. Very little coordination was necessary due to their paucity in national membership and the sheer span of distance between the two largest compatriot nations in the Axis alliance. This simplified the strategic framework for both nations, Germany in particular. The German military staff and associated civilian components probably brought the deepest and best expertise to crafting and fleshing out a strategy married to operations that would achieve the goals.
The Grand Alliance of the United States and the Great Britain and all the other countries which eventually aligned themselves to the Allies had a much more contentious and disagreeable consensus until a Supreme Allied Commander was appointed. The seasoned and politically savvy British General Staff seemed to have the upper hand until the US found its “strategic sea legs” and started to dominate the proceedings and force through US interest as paramount to all others. The American became a little more equal than others.
In the end, a balance of sorts was struck to allow the Americans to prosecute both a Pacific and Atlantic war while still seeking a German defeat before Japan. Japan was privy to the priority but made a severe economic underestimation of their primary foe:
“The Japanese high command made several major strategic blunders, but underlying everything was Japans’ error and thinking that the United States was soft and would not fight a long war, but would come to terms favorable to Japan after a limited war in the Pacific.” 
Absent a long-term policy and decisions to protect the long lines of communication necessary to keep its far-flung prizes and maintain the island chains of garrison and land fields, Japanese logistical savvy simply could not outpace the continued and unrelenting advance of Allied naval forces and continuous campaigning in the Pacific as allied forces closed on the islands of Japan. Again, the strategy of Japan had failed to account for the operational tempo and pace of the conflict especially for oiling and resupply considerations of both ships and fortified island bases.
By 1943-44, the German three-front war was starting to exhaust German strategic considerations and plans as operational goals evaporated and were overcome by events. Mr. Muller provides a fascinating microcosm of this strategic and operational crisis by examining the loss of air superiority for the Germans and how they evolved coping strategies both ingenious and tragic to include the rare use of suicide aircraft. The Luftwaffe was faced with an economic juggernaut in the US that was not only outpacing German production but also greatly compressing technology decision cycles to months for new innovations and better combat aircraft deployed in theater. The Germans pinned their operational hopes on technology and improved tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) to defeat emerging opposition operations against them. Of all the major combatant forces on Earth, the Germans had the most effective After Action Review (AAR) systems tied to speedy implementation. Toward the twilight of the conflict, the Germans became very sophisticated in their methods to defend airfields and started to change the center of gravity from aircraft to ground-based kinetic weapons to combat the emerging Allied air superiority.
The strategic framework informed the operations but had greatly accelerated the decision cycle once the Allies established a lodgement and breakout on the continent, quite literally forcing the German armed forces to fight two direct front engagements at once in both Western Europe and the Russian bear. The Germans had to exhibit an operational flexibility that matched their exploits on the Eastern front.
“The ground organization learned sophisticated techniques of camouflage, concealment, dispersal, and mobility as means of reducing losses of materiel and personnel to air attack.” 
They quickly turned field army feedback into actionable responses to emerging and dynamic threats they were faced with.
“The Germans greatly strengthened their existing air-raid warning service since Allied fighter bomber attacks often took place with little or no warning.” 
German ingenuity crafted ad-hoc responses that employed both deception and surprise to quite literally lure the enemy in.
“Flak commanders took advantage of the fact that Allied fighter-bombers pounced on everything that moved on the Norman roads by creating ingenious “low-flying aircraft booby traps”. They deployed mobile canvas dummies equipped with glass panels to simulate glare from vehicle windshields. When fighter-bombers dove to the attack, massed anti-aircraft artillery guns, usually camouflaged as shrubbery, opened fire.” 
More operational surprises were in store before the dénouement of the ETO conflict in April 1945. The Germans would pull a rabbit out of the hat in the Ardennes in December 1944 and make the price dear for Allied forces moving to Berlin for the next three months.
Despite the rich heritage of von Moltke and the finest general staff in the twentieth century, the Germans could still not match operational tempos and capabilities to a coherent and workable strategy.
“Above all, and something that nations entering the 21st century should remember, is that the German experience shows the student of military history/affairs that sometimes technical operational victories in the field are not enough. They need to be a part of a strategy in pursuit of achievable goals, if the nation is to succeed.” 
Germany, like Japan, had failed to successfully harness strategic frameworks to realistic operational goals. They had also failed to account for the enormous benefit of successfully marrying economic output to maintain an edge over equipment attrition and technological advancement for both themselves and their martial opponents.
War should be avoided at all costs but the current framework of strategic deficit disorder in the US and EU speaks of a military malpractice that borders on existential failure as evidenced by the strategic defeats in both Iraq and Afghanistan and the literal martial impotence against the naked Russian advances in the middle of Eurasia.
Outclassed and outmatched, America should send all the living Presidents on a global apology tour and do the right thing: come home and stop meddling with the globe.
“Our knowledge of circumstances has increased, but our uncertainty, instead of having diminished, has only increased. The reason of this is, that we do not gain all our experience at once, but by degrees; so our determinations continue to be assailed incessantly by fresh experience; and the mind, if we may use the expression, must always be under arms.”
― Carl von Clausewitz
― Carl von Clausewitz
 Herman Wolk. “Sixty-Five Years On: Plans and Strategy to Defeat Japan in World War II.” Air Power History Volume 57 Issue 3 (2010): 4+.
 Richard Muller, “Losing Air Superiority: a Case Study from the Second World War.”
 Newland, Samuel J, “VICTORIES ARE NOT ENOUGH: LIMITATIONS OF THE GERMAN WAY OF WAR” December 2005, www.StrategicStudiesInstitute.army.mil