Author: ML Cavanaugh

Experiencing war and loss with Sebastian Junger and Tim Heatherington

Author Sebastian Junger gave an interview to NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross on 18 April 2013 about Junger’s new film Which Way is the Front Line From Here? The Life and Times of Tim Heatherington.

Heatherington, a British photographer, became very close to Junger while they collaborated on the documentary film Restrepo, which Junger turned into a book simply entitled War.  At left, one can see the two at the Academy Awards show – soon after the show the two were to go to Libya together on an assignment for Vanity Fair.  Junger had a last minute change, Heatherington went on his own and was killed by shrapnel from a single (likely errant) 82mm mortar round.  Junger’s film is meant to be a tribute to his lost friend; the interview also holds great insight for anyone who spends their life in a way that touches war and warfare.  Here is a sample of his thoughts:

On war photojournalism (at about 10 minutes into the interview):

“If you’re putting yourself in danger [as a photojournalist] in combat – if you don’t keep recording what’s happening – you’re putting yourself in danger for nothing. It’s utterly stupid. And so it’s actually easier to keep rolling in combat because at least it gives the risk some meaning.”

On fear in combat (at about 11 minutes):

“You go into shock a little bit. You know, combat’s not that scary actually.  It’s scary beforehand. The anticipation is very scary – and, afterwards, the fear catches up with you. But in combat you’re really very calm.  At least I am.”

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Iran War Council: Military Strategic Considerations

**Reader’s Note: These are Major Matt Cavanaugh’s remarks from the October 2013 War Council event on U.S. options toward the Iranian nuclear program.  The full event remarks are available at Small Wars Journal.  His prompt was to engage with “military strategic considerations.”**

Academics and opinion writers engage military issues all the time – glossing over important considerations.  For example, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, last year, writing on the U.S. Navy breaking an Iranian blockade in the Straits of Hormuz: “We will succeed, but at considerable cost.”  That seven-word sentence is pregnant with so many assumptions, challenges, paradoxes and questions – it is just so amazingly simplistic.

So what is a member of the profession of arms to think? 

That’s why we’re here – to get beyond overbroad statements to real strategic analysis.  I’ll cover three topics: what each country wants, likelihood of military tactical and operational effectiveness, and the strategic wisdom in using military force to deny the Iranian bomb.

Value of the Object

Start with a basic question – what do both sides want?  Or, as Clausewitz puts it: what is the “value of the object?”

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Syria War Council: Is intervention wise?

**Reader’s Note: These are Major Matt Cavanaugh’s remarks from the 6 September 2013 War Council event on intervention in Syria.  The full event remarks are available at Small Wars Journal.  His prompt was to answer whether intervention in Syria was “wise.”**

My task: What is the utility of American force in Syria – is any sort of intervention wise?  To start, I don’t like the word “wise” – the battlefield punishes intellectual vanity.  You will not hear me reach definitive conclusions.  I don’t specifically know what to do.  But I think we can advance the ball forward a bit; that’s success for me today.

I’ll begin with Clausewitz, who wrote, “the first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesmen and commander have to make is to establish the kind of war on which they are embarking…”

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