In his book The Clausewitz Delusion: How the American Army Screwed Up the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan author Stephen L. Melton, a professor at the Army's Command and General Staff College presents the argument that the U.S. military's fixation with the ideas of Carl Von Clausewitz are the reason for the "failures" in Iraq and Afghanistan and the U.S. Army needs to return to its traditional modes of thinking about warfare- strategically and operationally.
Although Mr. Melton makes a convincing historic case for the prowess of the U.S. military in fighting what he terms "The American Offensive Way of War", his arguments for the reason of U.S. "failures" in Korea and Vietnam are less developed, in my opinion. He also spends a great deal of time explaining why the U.S. should adapt a new 'OCCUPATION' doctrine modeled after what U.S. forces did in Germany and Japan after World War II.
Where I have the most significant disagreement with Mr. Melton is his understanding of Clausewitz and his definition of how it is applied in current U.S. doctrine. Although I don't disagree that some parts of the Joint Pubs and Field Manuals on Operations are pretty darn mushy, they are clearly intended to be GUIDANCE only and not a cookbook for every situation. As many of the lessons learned, books and monographs I have been reading on the Surge in Iraq clearly show, the U.S. Army was pretty darn adaptable to change in their counter-insurgency doctrine when it was instituted in late 2006 and concepts that worked were brought to the forefront.
Here's my bottom line for this book, the most fundamental part of Mr. Melton's argument is a non sequitur--there aren't going to be any more U.S. invasions of foreign countries for another 50 years. No matter how things eventually turn out, the sour experiences of Iraq and Afghanistan mean that no U.S. forces will be occupying any country in my lifetime. The SOLE exception to this would be Mexico, if it goes to hell in a handbasket and threatens to become a narco-terrorist state...even this Administration could not let Mexico become a failed state where Al Qaeda or Hezbollah could find refuge with tens of millions of refugees poring across the border. Although Mr. Melton makes the standard discussion points about more carefully using American troops, training foreign troops, using international organizations and diplomacy, blah, blah, blah, the main thrust of his argument just doesn't stand up for me.
As previously stated in another post, Clausewitz remains extremely relevant-IF studied in the proper context and with a solid historical background. His theories are dense, not for the simplistic pundits who use them too often, and require a great deal of study to be understood. Is Clausewitz some all powerful seer? Of course not, but his fundamental ideas of the relationship between politics, diplomacy and warfare...and of course his timeless trinity of chance, reason and emotion as driving factors in war, will likely be studied at War Colleges long after Mr. Melton (and I) am retired.
Read it for yourself, and decide...is Clausewitz a Delusion?