Monday, September 10, 2012

Robert Kaplan: The Supremacy of Stealth

Back in August of 2003, Robert Kaplan wrote an essay entitled The Supremacy of Stealth, in which he began with the observation:

Our recent effort in Iraq, with its large-scale mobilization of troops and immense concentration of risk, is not indicative of how we will want to act in the future. So how should we operate on a tactical level to manage an unruly world? What are the rules and what are the tools?

That essay described a number of steps that the U.S. ought to be taking in order to make its military both more “low profile” in the world, and more effective. And it seems as if some senior military planners, at least, have taken it to heart:

When I asked Major Paul S. Warren, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, home of the Army's Special Operations Command, what serves as the model for a civil-affairs officer within the Special Operations forces, he said, "Read John Hersey's A Bell for Adano—it's all there." The hero of Hersey's World War II novel is Army Major Victor Joppolo, an Italian-American civil-affairs officer appointed to govern the recently liberated Sicilian town of Adano. Joppolo is full of resourcefulness. He arranges for the U.S. Navy to show local fishermen which parts of the harbor are free of mines, so that they can use their boats to feed the town. He finds a bell from an old Navy destroyer to replace the one that the Fascists took from the local church and melted down for bullets. He countermands his own general's order outlawing the use of horse-drawn carts, which the town needs to transport food and water. He goes to the back of a line to buy bread, to show Adano's citizens that although he is in charge, he is their servant, not their master. He is the first ruler in the town's history who doesn't represent a brute force of nature. In Hersey's words,

[Men like Joppolo are] our future in the world. Neither the eloquence of Churchill nor the humanness of Roosevelt, no Charter, no four freedoms or fourteen points, no dreamer's diagram so symmetrical and so faultless on paper, no plan, no hope, no treaty—none of these things can guarantee anything. Only men can guarantee, only the behavior of men under pressure, only our Joppolos.

One good man is worth a thousand wonks.

That’s the first of about 10 such suggestions in the article, and even though the article is almost 10 years old, I highly recommend it as being a prescient look that still offers much insight into the US’s role in the world.

No comments:

Post a Comment