The Truth About The Secret Sauce: There Is No Secret Sauce

1964 words - 8 pages

Recent technological advancements on show in the recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have indicated, to some, that there is a new American way of war. Scholars, however, do not seem to have reached consensus on what a new way of war for the United States would embody. Depending on the scholar, their beliefs are underwritten by the American ability to wage war with highly interconnected, agile, precise, and extremely damaging methods or because the United States is capable of waging war with a small, Special Forces centered footprint. Other scholars argue that there is not a new American way of war because traditional methods are still necessary in many kinds of conflict. Scholars who address this question focus on conflicts that they believe to be important indicators of how the United States will act in the future, but miss the forest for the trees. The choice of a particular method of combat in any given war is not the result of some national tendency, but rather the result of the political object desired. The political object is the ultimate arbiter of the choice of strategy in war, and that is certainly not new to how the United States wages war.
Whether there is a new American way of war is dependent on what the term “way of war” actually means in the first place. When scholars argue for one way or the other, they do not seem to be on the same page regarding the definition of the term. This is problematic because each camp seems to talk past the another when making their respective appeals. Frederick Kagan points out that more often than not, what is meant by “way of war” is the choice of a particular form of “combat.” This definition is insufficient because it is manifestly true that new forms of combat are continually adopted with the advancement of technology. Certainly, the cavalry charge has no place in contemporary warfighting. What is implied, therefore, is that not only has combat changed, but so too has some enduring aspect of how the United States wages war. The United States does not wage way in any enduring way, as is amply demonstrated by the perspectives of each scholar who believes he has uncovered some consistency in the thing.
Both Max Boot and Robert Kaplan appear to support the existence of a new American way of war, though each would disagree on both the political goals that the United States ought to pursue and the methods it ought to use to achieve them. Boot discusses what he sees as the overwhelming effectiveness of the military forces in the recent Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Instead of relying on a grinding strategy of attrition, the United States has adopted “a new style o warfare that eschews the bloody slogging matching of old. It seeks a quick victory with minimal casualties on both sides. Its hallmarks are speed maneuver, flexibility, and surprise. It is heavily reliant upon precision firepower, special forces, and psychological operations.” (42) The American military is able to achieve these hallmarks...

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