From: Dr. Tony Kern, Lt Col, USAF (Ret)
Dear friends and fellow Americans
14 September, 2001
Like everyone else in this great country, I am reeling from last week's attack on our sovereignty. But unlike some, I am not reeling from surprise. As a career soldier and a student and teacher of military history, I have a different perspective and I think you should hear it. This war will be won or lost by the American citizens, not diplomats, politicians or soldiers.
Let me briefly explain.
These men hate the United States with all of their being, and we must not underestimate the power of their moral commitment. Napoleon, perhaps the world's greatest combination of soldier and statesman, stated "the moral is to the physical as three is to one." Patton thought the Frenchman underestimated its importance and said moral conviction was five times more important in battle than physical strength. Our enemies are willing - better said anxious -- to give their lives for their cause.
How committed are we America? And for how long?
This war will escalate, with a good portion of it happening right here
in the good ol' U.S. of A.
For the most part, our military is still in the process of redefining itself and presided over by men and women who grew up with - and were promoted because they excelled in - Cold War doctrine, strategy and tactics. This will not be linear warfare, there will be no clear "centers of gravity" to strike with high technology weapons. Our vast technological edge will certainly be helpful, but it will not be decisive. Perhaps the perfect metaphor for the coming battle was introduced by the terrorists themselves aboard the hijacked aircraft -- this will be a knife fight, and it will be won or lost by the ingenuity and will of citizens and soldiers, not by software or smart bombs. We must also be patient with our military leaders.
Unlike Americans who are eager to put this messy time behind us, our adversaries have time on their side, and they will use it. They plan to fight a battle of attrition, hoping to drag the battle out until the American public loses its will to fight. This might be difficult to believe in this euphoric time of flag waving and patriotism, but it is generally acknowledged that America lacks the stomach for a long fight. We need only look as far back as Vietnam, when North Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap (also a military history teacher) defeated the United States of America without ever winning a major tactical battle. American soldiers who marched to war cheered on by flag waving Americans in 1965 were reviled and spat upon less than three years later when they returned. Although we hope that Usama Bin Laden is no Giap, he is certain to understand and employ the concept. We can expect not only large doses of pain like the recent attacks, but! Also less audacious "sand in the gears" tactics, ranging from livestock infestations to attacks at water supplies and power distribution facilities.
These attacks are designed to hit us in our "comfort zone" forcing the
average American to "pay more and play less" and eventually eroding our
resolve. But it can only work if we let it. It is clear to
me that the will of the American citizenry - you and I - is the center
of gravity the enemy has targeted. It will be the fulcrum upon which
victory or defeat will turn. He believes us to be soft, impatient,
and self-centered. He may be right, but if so, we must change.
The Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz, (the most often quoted and least
read military theorist in history), says that there is a "remarkable trinity
of war" that is composed of the
Every American citizen was in the crosshairs of last Tuesday's attack,
not just those that were unfortunate enough to be in the World Trade Center
or Pentagon. The will of the American people will decide this war.
If we are to win, it will be because we have what it takes to persevere
through a few more hits, learn from our mistakes, improvise, and adapt.
If we fail to do so, the outcome is equally certain.