OPEN LETTER FROM ACADEMIC ADVISOR AT USAF ACADEMY

September 24, 2001 at 2:38 pm
Contributed by:

Hello
all,

Here’s
an interesting perspective for ya.

I
haven’t heard much else (worth repeating), but will keep forwarding anything
else that is.

–C

 

———————-

OPEN LETTER FROM ACADEMIC ADVISOR AT
USAF ACADEMY


Dr. Tony Kern, Lt Col, USAF (Ret)
Former Director of Military
History, USAF Academy
 

Recently, I was asked to look at the
recent events through the lens of
military history. I have joined the cast of
thousands who have written
an “open letter to Americans.” Please share it if
you feel so moved.

Dear friends and fellow Americans 14 September,
2001

Like everyone else in this great country, I am reeling from last
week’s
attack on our sovereignty. But unlike some, I am not reeling
from
surprise. As a career soldier and a student and teacher of
military
history, I have a different perspective and I think you should hear
it.
This war will be won or lost by the American citizens, not
diplomats,
politicians or soldiers.
Let me briefly explain.
In spite of
what the media, and even our own government is telling us,
this act was not
committed by a group of mentally deranged fanatics. To
dismiss them as such
would be among the gravest of mistakes. This
attack was committed by a
ferocious, intelligent and dedicated
adversary. Don’t take this the wrong
way. I don’t admire these men and
I deplore their tactics, but I respect
their capabilities. The many
parallels that have been made with the Japanese
attack on Pearl Harbor
are apropos. Not only because it was a brilliant sneak
attack against a
complacent America, but also because we may well be pulling
our new
adversaries out of caves 30 years after we think this war is over,
just
like my father’s generation had to do with the formidable Japanese
in
the years following WW II.
These men hate the United States with all of
their being, and we must
not underestimate the power of their moral
commitment. Napoleon,
perhaps the world’s greatest combination of soldier and
statesman,
stated “the moral is to the physical as three is to one.”
Patton
thought the Frenchman underestimated its importance and said
moral
conviction was five times more important in battle than
physical
strength. Our enemies are willing – better said anxious — to
give
their lives for their cause. How committed are we America? And for
how
long?
In addition to demonstrating great moral conviction, the recent
attack
demonstrated a mastery of some of the basic fundamentals of
warfare
taught to most military officers worldwide, namely simplicity,
security
and surprise. When I first heard rumors that some of these men may
have
been trained at our own Air War College, it made perfect sense to
me.
This was not a random act of violence, and we can expect the same
sort
of military competence to be displayed in the battle to come. This
war
will escalate, with a good portion of it happening right here in
the
good ol’ U.S. of A. These men will not go easily into the night.
They
do not fear us. We must not fear them.
In spite of our overwhelming
conventional strength as the world’s only
“superpower” (a truly silly term),
we are the underdog in this fight.
As you listen to the carefully scripted
rhetoric designed to prepare us
for the march for war, please realize that
America is not equipped or
seriously trained for the battle ahead. To be
certain, our soldiers are
much better than the enemy, and we have some
excellent “counter-
terrorist” organizations, but they are mostly trained for
hostage
rescues, airfield seizures, or the occasional “body snatch,” (which
may
come in handy). We will be fighting a war of annihilation, because
if
their early efforts are any indication, our enemy is ready and
willing
to die to the last man. Eradicating the enemy will be costly and
time
consuming. They have already deployed their forces in as many as
20
countries, and are likely living the lives of everyday citizens.
Simply
put, our soldiers will be tasked with a search and destroy mission
on
multiple foreign landscapes, and the public must be patient
and
supportive until the strategy and tactics can be worked out.
For the
most part, our military is still in the process of redefining
itself and
presided over by men and women who grew up with – and were
promoted because
they excelled in – Cold War doctrine, strategy and
tactics. This will not be
linear warfare, there will be no
clear “centers of gravity” to strike with
high technology weapons. Our
vast technological edge will certainly be
helpful, but it will not be
decisive. Perhaps the perfect metaphor for the
coming battle was
introduced by the terrorists themselves aboard the hijacked
aircraft –
this will be a knife fight, and it will be won or lost by the
ingenuity
and will of citizens and soldiers, not by software or smart bombs.
We
must also be patient with our military leaders.
Unlike Americans who
are eager to put this messy time behind us, our
adversaries have time on
their side, and they will use it. They plan to
fight a battle of attrition,
hoping to drag the battle out until the
American public loses its will to
fight. This might be difficult to
believe in this euphoric time of flag
waving and patriotism, but it is
generally acknowledged that America lacks
the stomach for a long fight.
We need only look as far back as Vietnam, when
North Vietnamese General
Vo Nguyen Giap(also a military history teacher)
defeated the United
States of America without ever winning a major tactical
battle.
American soldiers who marched to war cheered on by flag
waving
Americans in 1965 were reviled and spat upon less than three
years
later when they returned. Although we hope that Usama Bin Laden is
no
Giap, he is certain to understand and employ the concept. We can
expect
not only large doses of pain like the recent attacks, but also
less
audacious “sand in the gears” tactics, ranging from
livestock
infestations to attacks at water supplies and power
distribution
facilities.
These attacks are designed to hit us in our
“comfort zone” forcing the
average American to “pay more and play less” and
eventually eroding our
resolve. But it can only work if we let it. It is
clear to me that the
will of the American citizenry – you and I – is
the
center of gravity the enemy has targeted. It will be the fulcrum
upon which
victory or defeat will turn. He believes us to be soft,
impatient, and
self-centered. He may be right, but if so, we must
change. The Prussian
general Carl von Clausewitz, (the most often
quoted and least read military
theorist in history), says that there is
a “remarkable trinity of war” that
is composed of the (1) will of the
people, (2) the political leadership of
the government, and (3) the
chance and probability that plays out on the
field of battle, in that
order. Every American citizen was in the crosshairs
of last Tuesday’s
attack, not just those that were unfortunate enough to be
in the World
Trade Center or Pentagon. The will of the American people will
decide
this war. If we are to win, it will be because we have what it
takes
to persevere through a few more hits, learn from our
mistakes,
improvise, and adapt. If we can do that, we will eventually
prevail.
Everyone I’ve talked to In the past few days has shared a
common
frustration, saying in one form or another “I just wish I could
do
something!” You are already doing it. Just keep faith in America,
and
continue to support your President and military, and the outcome
is
certain. If we fail to do so, the outcome is equally certain.
God Bless
America
Dr. Tony Kern, Lt Col, USAF (Ret)
Former Director of Military
History, USAF Academy

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