Let me conclude by saying that, based on this judgement and the one pronounced against the Latins, when one has to judge powerful cities and cities that are accustomed to living in liberty, it is necessary either to destroy them or to give them benefits; otherwise every judgment is made in vain. Above all one must avoid a middle course of action.
When Clausewitz included “primordial violence” in his “paradoxical trinity,” he was motivated to do so by the passions he witnessed during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars—passions that inspired the French people to arms and led them on a doomed adventure to Moscow. However, this is not how passion is always operationally exploited. Beyond the cases that inspired Clausewitz, there are other actions that, instead of channeling passion toward grand objectives, do so by meting out violence in carefully measured doses. A prime example is the punitive expedition, a discussion of which was recently triggered by an article by retired Col. Kevin Benson. The punitive expedition is an interesting paradox. It is fueled by “primordial violence, hatred, and enmity,” but limited in its objectives. It seeks to inflict pain on an enemy, but not to completely destroy or eradicate the foe, only to change behavior or deter further disagreeable acts. Proponents of the punitive expedition suggest that it can be easily controlled; its duration is determined by the aggressor and its limited objectives ensure a swift campaign initiated and concluded on command. In this regard, the punitive expedition appears a viable option for policymakers forced to act, or react, to a national-security threat. However, this perspective neglects several characteristics of the punitive expedition that severely limit its applicability and raise doubt about its effectiveness as a tool for achieving long-term policy objectives. Inherently a measure too limited to achieve lasting effect, the punitive expedition is not likely to change the security landscape in a permanent or meaningful manner, its inability to deliver tangible political objectives makes it both costly and difficult to recruit partners, and limits to its applicability leave it unsuitable for addressing the majority of security challenges faced by the United States.
The punitive expedition is often cast as a scalable and relatively cheap means of retaliating against a foe while simultaneously deterring future misbehavior. As Dr. Benson noted in his article, “A punitive expedition results in a measured, relatively swift, focused response. . . . There is no regime change, no re-ordering of the existing power structure in a region. A punitive expedition demonstrates the will and ability of the US government to act with violence. . . . The purpose of the punitive expedition is to act with violence and return to home station.” Despite the allure of punitive expeditions as a policy option, it does not feature prominently in American military history. Its most notable use occurred in 1916 when President Woodrow Wilson dispatched Gen. John J. Pershing and ten thousand soldiers to Mexico to destroy Pancho Villa’s rebel army as a reprisal for killing fifteen Americans in Columbus, New Mexico. Failing to achieve their objective, Pershing’s forces returned home nearly a year later on the eve of a much larger war with Germany. More recently, although President Donald Trump’s retaliatory strikes against Syria were undoubtedly meant to punish the Assad regime for its use of chemical weapons and change its behavior, airstrikes do not meet the criteria of an expedition. This scant record is a function of the shortcomings inherent in punitive expeditions.
The greatest problem with the punitive expedition is the inescapable fact that, by its very nature, it is a half measure. Seeking not to reorder the power structure or bring about lasting change, the punitive expedition is a demonstration of violence meant only to change behavior. Victory is measured by the absence of further disagreeable acts by the enemy; there is no unconditional surrender, no seizure of territory, and no ultimate defeat—just the hope that the violence doled out was enough to deter for “long enough.” Political theorists and military strategists have long cautioned against half measures. In his Discourses on Livy, Machiavelli points to the Florentine Republic’s treatment of the rebellious city of Arezzo as an example of such ill-fated actions. Instead of acting decisively, the Florentines “employed that middle course of action which is extremely damaging in passing judgement on men; they banished some of the citizens of Arezzo, and they condemned others to death; they took away their honours and ancient ranks from everyone in the city; and they left the city intact.” Because they failed to act as the Romans, who “always avoided a middle course of action,” the Florentines were forced to return to Arezzo to quell future rebellions.
Contemporary statesmen have also cautioned against half measures. Struggling to codify strategic lessons in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger outlined six tests for determining when and how the United States should use force abroad. Known thereafter as the Weinberger Doctrine, the second test proclaimed, “If we decide it is necessary to put combat troops into a given situation, we should do so wholeheartedly, and with the clear intention of winning. If we are unwilling to commit the forces or resources necessary to achieve our objectives, we should not commit them at all.” Clausewitz echoes this sentiment when he writes that “the best strategy is always to be very strong. . . . The first rule, therefore, should be: put the largest possible army into the field.” Swift, measured, and focused, the punitive expedition is hardly a full measure and, as these strategists have pointed out, half measures yield, at best, a temporary respite from combat (the Florentines) and, at worst, an ever escalating quagmire (Vietnam). Such actions in ungoverned or loosely governed spaces are sure to further destabilize these areas, necessitating additional military intervention later down the road. Aside from the challenges associated with its transitory outcomes, it can hardly be conceived that such an excursion would draw on the full extent of American military might, for, if it did, the return on investment would be woefully disappointing.
Another problem with the punitive expedition lies in its irrational calculus and hidden cost. While on the surface the punitive expedition may appear far cheaper than America’s forever wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this neglects the fact that it does not deliver a tangible return on investment. As noted above, there is no “re-ordering of the existing power structure” and no seizure of territory. There is also, likely, no lasting peace. The punitive expedition accumulates neither power nor resources for the United States; however, it still costs both blood and treasure. It is the strategic equivalent of a carnival ride; it may be fun while it lasts, but it costs to ride and, in the end, you go home empty-handed. From the start this defies Clausewitz’s rational calculus for war, which states, “Since war is not an act of senseless passion but is controlled by its political object, the value of the object must determine the sacrifices to be made for it in magnitude and also in duration. Once the expenditure of the effort exceeds the value of the political object, the object must be renounced and peace must follow.” Yielding no tangible political objectives aside from a demonstration of violence, the punitive expedition is hard to justify in terms of the sacrifices it will undoubtedly require.
The costs of a punitive expedition are likely to be compounded by the lack of partners willing to sign on to the campaign and share the burden. With its lack of a tangible return on investment, recruiting partners who do not necessarily share in the original passion that spawned the expedition will be a hard sell. Without “re-ordering the existing power structure,” weaker third parties may be wary that their involvement will draw reprisals from a belligerent that remains in power. Not only will this drive up the cost of the campaign, but it will complicate things like access, basing, and overflight—all critical requirements for the United States to project power abroad.
While it may be difficult to recruit partners to a punitive expedition, identifying a suitable foe for which the campaign is an effective measure will likely prove even more elusive. Punitive expeditions are not feasible against peer threats capable of effectively resisting or escalating the conflict, for, in these situations, the punitive expedition is no longer measured nor swift. Nor are they likely to work against an existential threat, as the punitive expedition cannot deliver satisfactory political objectives when the adversary can hold the nation’s survival at risk. This leaves weaker, rogue states on the potential receiving end of a punitive expedition; however, there are significant issues here as well. Given that rogue states are often dominated by authoritarian parties or individuals, a sharp divide exists between the regime and the populace, and this divide heavily influences how we conceptualize the enemy. In these instances, the populace is largely viewed as the victim and the enemy is narrowly identified as the regime’s leadership and its security apparatus. Under such conditions, punishing the regime without compounding the suffering of the already victimized populace can prove exceptionally difficult, and, when large segments of society and its requisite infrastructure are ethically off limits, there is little room left to punish. Strategists must also carefully assess whether a punitive expedition will galvanize an already divided society, strengthening the regime’s popularity by bringing the people and the party together under shared hardship and a common enemy. The punitive expedition could only be effective in that rare circumstance when the rogue regime is supported by a large segment of its populace, thereby offering ample opportunity for the application of violence—a rare condition given the sociopolitical divide inherent in authoritarian states.
This paradox is best demonstrated through a comparison of the Allied conception of Nazi Germany during World War II and the United States’ approach to Ba’athist Iraq in 2003. Although neither of these campaigns were punitive expeditions, examining how the enemy was framed during each reveals the critical distinctions necessary in determining the suitability and acceptability of a theoretical punitive expedition. Air Marshal Sir Arthur Harris made no distinction between German and Nazi when he constructed a strategic bombing campaign that directly targeted the civilian populace. Known as “de-housing,” it offered an almost unending stream of targets and, had it been a punitive expedition, the options for inflicting punishment would have been enormous. While this is certainly an extreme end of the spectrum, it demonstrates that, in circumstances where the conceptual distance between the regime, the military, and the people is least, the greatest opportunity for punishment exists. By contrast, narrowly defining the enemy as a regime, its military, or even specific units, greatly restricts opportunities for punishment. As indicated by its name, Operation Iraqi Freedom was aimed at liberating the Iraqi people by toppling Saddam Hussein’s regime. Here, the distinction between the regime and the population was severe; the regime alone was the enemy and the Iraqi people were its victims. As such, the regime was worthy of punishment, but the people were not. Framing the enemy in this way leaves little room for the application of force lest we lose legitimacy and risk dissonance between words and deeds by expanding the purview for violence beyond the regime. Punishment directed against such a small segment of society, especially one with the resources to evade or recover quickly, is not likely to inflict sufficient pain to achieve worthwhile or lasting results. Instead, as is evidenced by the fraught use of punitive sanctions, rogue regimes are likely to find ways to avoid punishment and transfer its effects to the wider populace. Here again the punitive expedition is haunted by its inherent nature as a half measure, and its limited applicability only diminishes its relevance for policymakers.
In light of its numerous shortcomings, the punitive expedition is best understood as a boutique option for the use of force; it may have a place on the menu of options presented to policymakers but is only appropriate or effective under very unique circumstances. While it may deliver a brief reprieve from hostilities, or satisfy a desire for revenge, policymakers that opt for a punitive expedition are cautioned that, like the Florentines, they will likely find themselves returning to fix problems they believed had already been solved.
Maj. Christopher Parker is a US Army Strategist currently serving as a doctrine author at the Combined Arms Doctrine Directorate at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He holds a Master of Arts degree in History from Georgia Southern University and has served combat tours in Iraq. The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the United States Military Academy, Department of the Army, or Department of Defense.
Note: The author would like to thank Dr. Christopher Carey for his review and Col. (ret) Scott Kendrick for a nudge in the right direction.
Image credit: Staff Sgt. Amber Martin, US Army
If we consider the U.S./the West's long-term understanding of the term "strategic victory," maybe this will help us with these discussions.
"Strategic victory" — as understood by the states and societies of the modern West — occurs when the "cultural backwardness" problems found in various states and societies (those states and societies which are not organized, ordered and oriented, as we are, so as to better provide for and better benefit from such things as capitalism, free trade, and the global economy); when:
a. These such "culturally backwards" problems are overcome and, thus, when:
b. These such states and societies are made to become better organized, ordered and oriented; this,
c. So as to better provide for the West's political, economic, social and value wants, needs and desires.
In earlier times, this was somewhat accomplished via the process known as "colonialism."
Of late, a believed "better" approach, known as "nation-building," has been attempted.
Thus, to understand that (actually very much less than "half") measures — such as as punitive expeditions and indeed even the complete conquering of a nation and achievement of "regime change" — NEITHER of these meet the criteria of "strategic victory" that I describe above.
"Strategic victory," as I describe it above, requires some significant — and indeed very specific — form of "transformation;" this, for example, as described and discussed by Sir Adam Roberts in his "Transformative Military Occupation: Applying the Laws of War and Human Rights." Here is an excerpt from his such paper:
"Within the existing framework of international law, is it legitimate for an occupying power, in the name of creating the conditions for a more democratic and peaceful state, to introduce fundamental changes in the constitutional, social, economic, and legal order within an occupied territory? … These questions have arisen in various conflicts and occupations since 1945—including the tragic situation in Iraq since the United States–led invasion of March–April 2003."
(Note: The fact that even the U.S./the West's DOMESTIC policies, in the recent past, were directed at overcoming, in this case, our very own "cultural backwardness" problems [again, those "old order" matters that would tend to make the U.S./the West less competitive in current age] — the fact that these such domestic "modernizing" policies have been rejected by our very own "old order" [much as they were rejected by the "old order" in such places as the Greater Middle East] — this seem to confirm the "transformative" nature of the U.S./the West's understanding of "strategic victory" — such as I describe above?)
For the sake of argument, let us consider that, under President Trump, "moving forward" — so as to deal with both our own "cultural backwardness" problems (so that we might remain economically and politically competitive) — and/or dealing with the "cultural backwardness" problems of other states and societies (so that they might be made to better provide for our political, economic, social and value wants, needs and desires today and going forward); let us consider that, under the current presidential administration, these such "forward-looking" processes no longer describe how the U.S. defines "strategic victory."
Rather today, and under President Trump and his administration, let us consider — as per both our domestic and foreign policies — that a "backward-looking" approach has been chosen; one which, accordingly, defines "strategic victory" more in terms of rolling back the clock to an earlier time. In this regard, domestically, consider President Trump's efforts to repeal Roe v. Wade. And, re: our foreign policy today, consider President Trump's embrace of such things "old school" matters as "stability" and "sovereignty" now — matters which tend to preclude and/or actually prevent one from pursuing (necessary?) political, economic, social and/or value "change" in other countries.
Thus, re: the alternative scenario I describe above, the question seems to become:
If political, economic, social and/or value "change" is no longer what we seek to achieve in other states and societies, then cannot "punitive expeditions" — based on the (possible) Trumpian definition of "strategic victory" that I describe above (embraces such things as "cultural backwardness?") — now be seen in some more favorable light?
Interesting position to take, Major. But, if a humble deckplate sailor might chime in, while you may very well be right in every position and theme you espouse, punitive raids, expeditions, actions, and reactions have their place in world affairs.
The objective need not always be complete destruction, capitulation and unconditional surrender, and in the context of setting the objective at those levels, you are correct. A punitive expedition would not answer.
It's interesting that you eliminate punitive actions/reactions such as missile strikes from the equation to get to the point of using a centenary aged example of the folly of punitive expeditions. You aren't wrong in the result you posit given the narrowness of your playground here.
The fact of the matter is that there are times when a punitive expedition is warranted. And should be a limited option. And exercised as such.
Take, for example, Afghanistan, 2001. Taliban. Al Qaeda. Bin Laden.
Our initial aim was not the complete change of life, government, society, values, principles….. We wanted Bin Laden, they were protecting him, and we did not accept that state of affairs.
We launched essentially a punitive expedition to get Bin Laden, and to punish the Taliban for their reticence. In a matter of weeks with limited assets, the government was toppled. We didn't get Bin Laden, but there was nothing stopping us from packing up our stuff and leaving a note saying something about coming back any time we think we can get him. And that we would topple the Taliban each and every time until we had the terrorist in hand.
We didn't do that. The punitive expedition turned into the quagmire in the graveyard of empires. Mission creep? "Just a little bit more and, boy, we've got him this time?" Lack of discipline to the prime objective. Someone kicking around the higher echelons who thought, "hey, while we are there and junk, maybe we can make Afghanistan into an America clone?" Or, perhaps the same folks thinking that the US has too much blood and treasure and perhaps we should leave both in the dirt of Afghanistan?
It would seem to me that the punitive expedition succeeded in the prime goal of limiting the ability of the Taliban to protect Bin Laden. As an organized government, they were soon unable to. Sure, they could reform. Sure they could do tribal affiliation insurgencies. Sure, they could do all sorts of things.
And, even though we were there in force with beaucoup ducats and cool toys, that's exactly what they did. Had we pulled the expedition out of there, the same result would have been had. With less loss of life.
No, Sir, the failure wasn't in the expedition itself. It was the failure of the leaders to identify a logical and sustained national policy with regard to the location and effectiveness of Bin Laden to create more terror and the Taliban's role in hiding him. And stick to that objective.
I may not be in the know for everything, but when the Taliban toppled and Bin Laden was on the run into Tora Bora, and then to parts east, he knew his goose was cooked and kept such a low profile as not to be seen or noticed. Certainly not to incur further wrath from America. Would I not be correct in considering him militarily non-effective at that point? If so, the only step left was to wait him out until we found him. Time was on our side, not his. History proves that. Ultimately, it was checking the box of eliminating what we are told was a cowardly, doddering fool obsessed with watching himself and porn in an upstairs bedroom.
Other than that, what argument had we with the Taliban? Blowing up the Buddha Carving and shooting the poor lady in the blue Burkha? And after the punitive expedition would we have been in more or less danger by leaving than what we ultimately did?
No, Sir….. You cannot effect permanent and complete capitulated effects with a punitive raid. But, one would be wise not to expect that to be the result.
Punitive expeditions have their place.
And, to clarify…. I am no Johnny Come Lately with 20/20 vision in hindsight.
This/these were my views at the time.
Perhaps it might help to remember the context of the rest of September, 2001.
– A large part of the commentariat complained loudly that the attacks were criminal acts by individuals and not state sponsored, and that it was incumbent upon US Law Enforcement to investigate, arrest, prosecute the perpetrators and planners of the attacks. (No one really came up with a logical explanation as to how THAT was supposed to happen)
– A large part of the commentariat ALSO took the position that Bin Laden/Al Qaeda were non-state actors and therefore there was no actual military justification or role in apprehending the people. The military is used against forces of countries, not individuals
– Same commentariat also loudly proclaimed that to use the military in operations like war must have a sovereign state to which Congress could issue a declaration of war.
The American people, for their part were pissed and wanted some heads on a platter with assurances this would not occur again.
Given these contextual pieces of information, I don't know how one argues for something beyond a punitive raid. Al Qaeda was not a strategic threat and our response was not going to be a strategic response as we understood the geopolitical landscape at that point.
We started down that path….. And succeeded in many ways.
Then some folks complicated it.
Stephen: From your second comment/addendum above:
"Given these contextual pieces of information, I don't know how one argues for something beyond a punitive raid. Al Qaeda was not a strategic threat and our response was not going to be a strategic response as we understood the geopolitical landscape at that point."
Note that President Bush, in his 2002 National Security Strategy (see the introductory letter) — and indeed America's view of things as this time — seems to have viewed AQ (as a product of weak, failed and/or failing states?) indeed as a strategic threat, and that this aspect of the geopolitical landscape, thus, required that our strategic response be one of political, economic, social and value "transformation" of these — now seen as as dangerous as powerful states — weak, failed and/or failing states:
"Finally, the United States will use this moment of opportunity to extend the benefits of freedom across the globe. We will actively work to bring the hope of democracy, development, free markets, and free trade to every corner of the world. The events of September 11, 2001, taught us that weak states, like Afghanistan, can pose as great a danger to our national interests as strong states. Poverty does not make poor people into terrorists and murderers. Yet poverty, weak institutions, and corruption can make weak states vulnerable to terrorist networks and drug cartels within their borders."
This such required transformation of other states and societies, more along modern western political, economic, social and value lines, this is what, in our nation's eyes at that time, was seen as the lesson — and indeed the necessary follow-on — of the Cold War. Again from the introductory letter of the Bush 2002 NSS (see the first paragraph):
"The great struggles of the twentieth century between liberty and totalitarianism ended with a decisive victory for the forces of freedom—and a single sustainable model for national success: freedom, democracy, and free enterprise. In the twenty-first century, only nations that share a commitment to protecting basic human rights and guaranteeing political and economic freedom will be able to unleash the potential of their people and assure their future prosperity."
Ultimately this such strategic view (which one might define as the natural "expansion" of our way of life, our way of governance, our values, etc., following our victory in the Cold War?) would become the approach that the U.S. would propose for the entire Middle East. From a August 7, 2003, Washington Post article by then-National Security Advisor Condellezza Rice entitled "Transforming the Middle East:"
"Soon after the conclusion of World War II, America committed itself to the long-term transformation of Europe. Surveying the war's death and destruction — including the loss of hundreds of thousands of American lives — our policymakers set out to work for a Europe where another war was unthinkable. We and the people of Europe committed to the vision of democracy and prosperity, and together we succeeded.
Today America and our friends and allies must commit ourselves to a long-term transformation in another part of the world: the Middle East. A region of 22 countries with a combined population of 300 million, the Middle East has a combined GDP less than that of Spain, population 40 million. It is held back by what leading Arab intellectuals call a political and economic "freedom deficit." In many quarters a sense of hopelessness provides a fertile ground for ideologies of hatred that persuade people to forsake university educations, careers and families and aspire instead to blow themselves up — taking as many innocent lives with them as possible."
Thus to confirm, as I indicate in my comments above, that such things as "punitive expeditions" — viewed within the strategic context of the post-9/11 world — described and understood as it was above — this was seen as having no real usefulness/utility as to our strategic requirements back then?
Thank you for providing that information. Very comprehensive and much appreciated.
Yes, of course, in the strategic context, punitive raids are not sensible. Of that, I cannot disagree.
Having said that, in my personal opinion and outside of the strategic framework, President Bush was wrongheaded and defined this incorrectly into a strategic issue. Perhaps that's where my personal disconnect comes from.
Again, deckplate sailor and emergency manager. Fairly simple minded. Results focused.
Thank you Sir.
Stephen: Your welcome. And I am just an old retired Army Senior NCO — so no "sirs" between us, Yes?
As to strategic context, let us look at just how much has changed from the "we must transform the world more along modern western lines"/"our way is the only way" days of President Bush.
First, from the introductory letter (see the second page) of the 2017 Trump National Security Strategy:
"We will pursue this beautiful vision—a world of strong, sovereign, and independent nations, each with its own cultures and dreams, thriving side-by-side in prosperity, freedom, and peace—throughout the upcoming year."
Next, from the formal "Introduction" chapter of this Trump document (see Page 4):
"We are also realistic and understand that the American way of life cannot be imposed upon others, nor is it the inevitable culmination of progress."
Last, from then-British Prime Minister Theresa May (see the British website for the "Telegraph") in a January 2017 speech to Republicans in Philadelphia:
"The days of Britain and America intervening in sovereign countries in an attempt to remake the world are over."
As you can see, as to strategic context, the U.S./the West now seems (chastised as we have been by Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, etc. — where we successfully "transformed" no one?) to have done a complete 180.
Today, thus, and as I note in my second/addendum comment above (and as you rightfully suggest), such things as "punitive expeditions" — seen in this new "stability" and "sovereignty" strategic context light — this indeed may prove useful/may be an excellent tool for us to use?
I disagree and believe that the "Punitive Expedition" does have a place in modern combat, only that the USA may lack the necessary means and tools to achieve such an objective with "Punitive Expedition."
Was not the 1989 Invasion of Panama a "Punitive Expedition" against General Noriega? We did not seize territory; the USA wanted to punish Noriega and apprehend him. Was not the 1983 Invasion of Grenada a Punitive Expedition? Was not the hunt for Osama Bin Laden shortly after 9/11? Was not the USA's hunt for Joseph Kony? Was not the US reinforcement of Liberia against President Charles Taylor? Was not the hunt for Somali Pirates? See, a lot of these "Punitive Expeditions" stem from unclassified special forces Black Ops Missions. There are many special forces missions that are still secret and were never disclosed to the public—Punitive Actions that resulted in victory or defeat.
Were not the Romans, the Vikings, the Mongols, the Chinese Dynasties, the Samurais, the Crusades, the Barbarians, the Medieval society, the Spartans, the gangs, the Drug Lords, the Rangers against the elephant and rhino poachers, the Trojans, the Israeli Army and the Arab groups, and the Greeks not "Punitive Expeditions" to punish far off lands and people to change their behaviors and fear them so as to stop threatening the attackers and the populace? Yes, indeed, the idea and action of "raiding, pillaging, and slash and burn" does have a terror effect of inflicting maximum damage on the adversary and then retreating, laying waste for the other side to clean up. These raids happened countless times throughout history and the blood and violence were unprecedented, documented in history.
The USA still conducts Punitive Expeditions, landing C-130s to roll out HiMARS to fire rockets at long range and then driving them back in and flying away. The launching of Tomahawks is another method. However, I do believe that peer nations might have better Punitive Expedition tools such as more massive tactical ballistic missiles, AK-47, RPK, PKM, and RPGs to dish out more destructive firepower than the West with their smaller 5.56mm bullets and smaller rockets and missiles. And therein might lie the problem with Punitive Expeditions in that the weaponry of the West may not be destructive enough compared to our opponents. If a nation wants to lay waste to an enemy to teach them a lesson, sometimes accuracy doesn’t need to be pinpoint-sharp as evident in Syria, Yemen, and the Middle East Arab Spring where pro-government forces laid waste to the rebels and population with non-precise weaponry, creating a situation where people cannot live in cities and homes anymore.
Half-measures DO work, and armies do not have to commit heavy forces to enact raids, consequences, and Mission Objectives. Retired General Colin Powell believed in committing heavy forces into combat—“Go Big”—and not delve with Mission Creep or ad hoc 1993 Somali special force raids. Powell believed in conventional warfare, just as the late General Norman Schwarzkopf did; these generals didn’t like “Snake Eaters” special forces who conduct small surgical Direct Action Raids (West Point, not Coronado or Ft. Bragg). These generals wanted to hit the enemy with an iron fist, not poke at them with fingers. Surgical strikes of Punitive Expeditions, chopping the head off the snake, do indeed work and unfortunately, Somalia, Afghanistan, Joseph Kony, ISIS, insurgents, and Kosovo didn’t for the USA at first, but did succeed later on with US special forces Direct Action Raids for some of these people.
To commit half a force to see if it pays off may indeed prove useful. Other generals might “Go Big” but that takes a lot of time, effort, funds, and resources. The USA needs better firepower for Punitive Expeditions such as the MPF, RCVs, OMCV (cancelled), UGVs, HiMARS, JLTV with RiWP, FVLs, etc.
Modern War Institute, in its item "HOW LT. GEN. H.R. MCMASTER, THE NEW NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR, THINKS ABOUT FUTURE WAR" by John Amble of February 22, 2017; this item may have offered some insight — which may help us with these questions relating to such things as "punitive expeditions." In this regard, consider LTG McMaster's thinking as to the second of his four suggested fallacies of future war:
"2. The Zero Dark 30 Fallacy:
Like the vampire fallacy, the Zero Dark 30 fallacy 'elevates an important military capability . . . to the level of strategy'—in this case, military raids. While attractive to decision-makers for a variety of reasons, raids can both be immensely successful tactically and, unfortunately, look to be a viable substitute to the conventional joint capabilities that are integral to effective strategy.
'Because they are operations of short duration, limited purpose, and planned withdrawal,' McMaster writes, 'raids are often unable to affect the human and political drivers of armed conflict or make sufficient progress toward achieving sustainable outcomes consistent with vital interests.' ”
a. If you have taken off of the table the U.S./the West's definition of "achieving sustainable outcomes consistent with vital interests," which, since at least World War II, has been the transformation of outlying states and societies more along modern western lines (see my first comment above). And, in the place of same,
b. Have adopted the extremely old, outdated and generally non-servicing concepts of "stability" and "sovereignty" (see my second/addendum comment above),
Then, indeed, such things as "raids" — and/or "punitive expeditions" — these may prove useful to you in some fashion. (Indeed, by embracing such things as "stability" and "sovereignty;" these may be the only tools that you have left yourself in your tool box?).
However, my thought here is that strategic goals such as "stability" and "sovereignty" — both here at home and there abroad — these will ultimately be seen as misguided concepts; this, given that they seem to embrace — both here at home and there abroad — such things as (a) "cultural backwardness" (b) and the prejudices related to same. As such, the strategic goals of "stability" and "sovereignty" (which would seem to be designed more to provide for some "old order;" this, rather than for "national security?"), these will be seen as error. This, given that they tend to stand directly in the way of the political, economic, social and value changes that states — who wish to survive in today's every-changing modern world — require. As to this clash between (a) capitalism/the global economy and (b) the culture of various states and societies (the matter that brought to prominence and power both Osama bin Laden and President Trump?), consider the following from the "Introduction" chapter (see Page 3) of Robert Gilpin's "The Challenge of the Global Economy: The World Economy in the 21st Century:"
"Capitalism is the most successful wealth-creating system the world has ever known… (however) … the process of "creative destruction" (associated with same) ,,, poses a serious threat to traditional social values, beliefs and institutions."
(The items in parenthesis above are mine.)
Bottom Line Thought — Based on the Above; Thus, and as in nature, adapt (embrace necessary change) or die?