Living in the Flow of A Strategic Defense

Complex flow of liquid in many colors

Flows Are Complex

As I discussed last time, we are in the first phase of a Strategic Defense against the Administration’s effort to dismantle supports for people with disabilities and eliminate us as a cultural and political force. The flow of change in a Strategic Defense follows a general framework, though every example is unique.

I’ll go over three examples from military history at a very high level to build a feel for how the dynamic of a strategic defense plays out:

  • The Eastern Front in World War II
  • The US War in Viet Nam
  • The US Civil War

The Eastern Front

When the Nazi regime invaded the Soviet Union in June of 1941, they did so with what was arguably the strongest military organization up to that point in human history. They had carefully planned, staffed, and supplied the largest invasion force in history. They invaded a land with many soldiers but little military ability.

The invasion was entirely successful by every standard until the final defense of Moscow in December of 1941 and the beginning of 1942. Persistent, if spectacularly inept Soviet defense, the gradual erosion of the ability of the Nazi army to maintain it’s fighting quality, supplies, and leadership, and the onset of winter ground them to a halt.

In the Spring of 1942, the Nazis began an apparently successful offensive again, until Hitler decided that the proper end to his invasion would be to take Stalingrad, the city named after his Soviet opponent. This was a strategic error, but this kind of arrogance and strategic slippage is common among those who start wars and is one of the hallmarks of a successful Strategic Defense.

The Battle of Stalingrad was in many ways the largest in history. A million people died, and another million were wounded or captured. In mid-November 1942, the Soviet army counterattacked at the margins of the Nazi offensive, surrounding and eventually destroying the entire Nazi 6th Army. Though it took another two years, the Nazi “experiment” was over.

The Soviets tracked the two-phase framework described earlier. They tried to blunt the invasion and cost the Nazi Army what they could without being able to achieve any standard notion of military success. Nonetheless the blunting cost the Nazi Army through very gradual degradation and provided time for the creation of the second phase effort. The Soviet Army gradually built a well-equipped, well trained, fresh force in the far eastern part of the Soviet Union. Only when the Nazi Army was stretched to its practical limit at Stalingrad, only when the offensive had ground to a halt, and only when the fresh force was sufficiently prepared, did the counteroffensive begin.

The US War in Viet Nam

The War in Viet Nam that the US conducted from 1965 to 1975 is a complex example of how to conduct the Strategic Defense, as demonstrated by the approach that North Viet Nam took to responding to the US defense of the South Viet Nam government and Army (RVN).

It wasn’t remotely feasible for the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) to have a militarily strategic success against American forces. While not entirely true, the American argument, “We won every battle” was close enough to true that it, like the early offensive successes of the Nazi Army, shows the strategic shallowness of operational military success as a measure of strategic success when facing a competently conducted Strategic Defense.

The NVA settled on a very costly insurgency approach of continuing to engage the American military, in order to force expanded involvement and commitment of the US across South Viet Nam. This was the functional equivalent of phase one in the Strategic Defense.

It was very costly. Three million Vietnamese died over the time of the American involvement, and nearly 60,000 Americans died as well. When the United States stopped its military involvement, never to come back, the NVA began the process of the second phase, and eventually defeated the RVN using standard military operations.

An insurgency, however it is built and used, is functionally the first phase of a Strategic Defense, and there are many examples of such a use globally right now. The NVA developed a particularly sophisticated use of phase one, blunting the US military effort psychologically and politically rather than militarily. The military aspect of the NVA strategy was to ensure continued engagement over a protracted period of time so that when the US effort faltered psychologically, it would be politically impossible for it to begin again. This would leave the South open to military conquest by the North.

The American Civil War

I chose the Civil War as my third example because of its complexity and the fact that it is still being fought.  The initial invasion wasn’t a military one, but the secession of what became the Confederacy. The “invasion” was the attack on the idea of the union of the United States. After that initial action, the Confederacy settled into a Strategic Defense, based on the notion that the North would militarily invade the south and bring out the insurgency of the entire South fighting to the last.

Initially, this proved problematic. The North fumbled around for so long, that the South was having difficulty keeping the energy for the fight in their troops and communities. There was even some effort by the South to provoke the North into invading.

The delusions of the Strategic Defense of the South included:

  • Their initial superiority in individual fighting ability and operational competence would make up for their long-term deficits in numbers, manufacturing ability and their rigid and inflexible economy.
  • Europe, particularly England and France, would side with the South even though this would require Europeans to renounce their moral objections to slavery, the long-term economic and social consequences of mounting a war against the United States, and the very large surplus of cotton in Europe that had built up before the secession.
  • The arrogant delusion that the South’s economic system, social culture, and values were so superior to everyone else that they would somehow overcome the extraordinary barriers of the actual reality.

The Confederate notion of fighting to the last resulted in the complete destruction of their economic base, and the Reconstruction cemented the polarization which continues to this day. In the end, the Confederacy was unable to mount a competent second phase in their Strategic Defense, and the reason for this failure was economic. But the delusions that led to this debacle and the enormous human cost of the Civil War are still an important driver of the modern US economic and social system.

Next Post: Lessons for Our Current Strategic Defense


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