STRATEGIC LEVEL FAILURES. After some time in the wilderness, I'm coming around to Matt's way of thinking about the U.S. intervention in Somalia. Armchair Generalist puts it well when he writes:

I'm all for a good military operation, but I'd like to know that it was a logical plan with a strategic objective. And merely pointing to the "National Strategy to Combat Terrorism" doesn't count.

I'm reminded of a couple articles that I've read lately. The first is Sam J. Newland's monograph Victories are Not Enough: Limitations on the German Way of War in which he details how the German Army (in its various iterations between 1860 and 1945) completely detached operational thinking from strategic and political planning. Instead of asking whether the conduct of an operation would lead to the achievement of a particular national goal, German military planners simply focused on the operational and tactical details, such that even the successful operations often led to strategic disaster. The second is Millett, Murray, and Watman's 1986 article The Effectiveness of Military Organizations (subscription only) which details again how an organization can be extremely effective at one level and an utter failure at another level. The upshot is that just because something is possible doesn't make it a good idea.

I'm not in principle opposed to the idea of proxy wars; regional security depends either on the creation of multilateral regional security institutions or on cooperation with powerful local states, and the former isn't always possible. But, as Matt points, out, there's no discussion about this in Washington, in the media, or really anywhere else. Without any discussion, it's hard to understand the strategic motivations, and extremely hard to believe that the implications of the operation in Somalia and of our alliance with Ethiopia have been fully worked out.

--Robert Farley