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Analysis and comments on The Red Dress by Dorothy Parker

Comment 4 of 4, added on March 13th, 2012 at 1:33 AM.
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All:Freely available from
Stratfor.=====================================Never Fight a Land War in
AsiaMarch 1, 2011 | 0947 GMT By George FriedmanU.S. Secretary of Defense
Robert Gates, snikaepg at West Point, said last week that “Any future
defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American
land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head
examined.” In saying this, Gates was repeating a dictum laid down by
Douglas MacArthur after the Korean War, who urged the United States to
avoid land wars in Asia. Given that the United States has fought four major
land wars in Asia since World War II — Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and
Iraq — none of which had ideal outcomes, it is useful to ask three
questions: First, why is fighting a land war in Asia a bad idea? Second,
why does the United States seem compelled to fight these wars? And third,
what is the alternative that protects U.S. interests in Asia without
large-scale military land wars?The Hindrances of Overseas WarsLet’s begin
with the first question, the answer to which is rooted in demographics and
space. The population of Iraq is currently about 32 million. Afghanistan
has a population of less than 30 million. The U.S. military, all told,
consists of about 1.5 million active-duty personnel (plus 980,000 in the
reserves), of whom more than 550,000 belong to the Army and about 200,000
are part of the Marine Corps. Given this, it is important to note that the
United States strains to deploy about 200,000 troops at any one time in
Iraq and Afghanistan, and that many of these troops are in support rather
than combat roles. The same was true in Vietnam, where the United States
was challenged to field a maximum of about 550,000 troops (in a country
much more populous than Iraq or Afghanistan) despite conscription and a
larger standing army. Indeed, the same problem existed in World War II.When
the United States fights in the Eastern Hemisphere, it fights at great
distances, and the greater the distance, the greater the logistical cost.
More ships are needed to deliver the same amount of materiel, for example.
That absorbs many troops. The logistical cost of fighting at a distance is
that it diverts numbers of troops (or requires numbers of civilian
personnel) disproportionate to the size of the combat force.Regardless of
the number of troops deployed, the U.S. military is always vastly
outnumbered by the populations of the countries to which it is deployed. If
parts of these populations resist as light-infantry guerrilla forces or
employ terrorist tactics, the enemy rapidly swells to a size that can
outnumber U.S. forces, as in Vietnam and Korea. At the same time, the enemy
adopts strategies to take advantage of the core weakness of the United
States — tactical intelligence. The resistance is fighting at home. It
understands the terrain and the culture. The United States is fighting in
an alien environment. It is constantly at an intelligence disadvantage.
That means that the effectiveness of the native forces is multiplied by
excellent intelligence, while the effectiveness of U.S. forces is divided
by lack of intelligence.The United States compensates with technology, from
space-based reconnaissance and air power to counter-battery systems and
advanced communications. This can make up the deficit but only by massive
diversions of manpower from ground-combat operations. Maintaining a
helicopter requires dozens of ground-crew personnel. Where the enemy
operates with minimal technology multiplied by intelligence, the United
States compensates for lack of intelligence with massive technology that
further reduces available combat personnel. Between logistics and
technological force multipliers, the U.S. “point of the spear” shrinks.
If you add the need to train, relieve, rest and recuperate the
ground-combat forces, you are left with a small percentage available to
fight.The paradox of this is that American forces will win the engagements
but may still lose the war. Having identified the enemy, the United States
can overwhelm it with firepower. The problem the United States has is
finding the enemy and distinguishing it from the general population. As a
result, the United States is well-suited for the initial phases of combat,
when the task is to defeat a conventional force. But after the conventional
force has been defeated, the resistance can switch to methods difficult for
American intelligence to deal with. The enemy can then control the tempo of
operations by declining combat where it is at a disadvantage and initiating
combat when it chooses.The example of the capitulation of Germany and Japan
in World War II is frequently cited as a model of U.S. forces defeating and
pacifying an opposing nation. But the Germans were not defeated primarily
by U.S. ground troops. The back of the Wehrmacht was broken by the Soviets
on their own soil with the logistical advantages of short supply lines.
And, of course, Britain and numerous other countries were involved. It is
doubtful that the Germans would have capitulated to the Americans alone.
The force the United States deployed was insufficient to defeat Germany.
The Germans had no appetite for continuing a resistance against the
Russians and saw surrendering to the Americans and British as sanctuary
from the Russians. They weren’t going to resist them. As for Japan, it
was not ground forces but air power, submarine warfare and atomic bombs
that finished them — and the emperor’s willingness to order a
surrender. It was not land power that prevented resistance but air and sea
power, plus a political compromise by MacArthur in retaining and using the
emperor. Had the Japanese emperor been removed, I suspect that the
occupation of Japan would have been much more costly. Neither Germany nor
Japan are examples in which U.S. land forces compelled capitulation and
suppressed resistance.The problem the United States has in the Eastern
Hemisphere is that the size of the force needed to occupy a country
initially is much smaller than the force needed to pacify the country. The
force available for pacification is much smaller than needed because the
force the United States can deploy demographically without committing to
total war is simply too small to do the job — and the size needed to do
the job is unknown.U.S. Global InterestsThe deeper problem is this: The
United States has global interests. While the Soviet Union was the primary
focus of the United States during the Cold War, no power threatens to
dominate Eurasia now, and therefore no threat justifies the singular focus
of the United States. In time of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United
States must still retain a strategic reserve for other unanticipated
contingencies. This further reduces the available force for combat.Some
people argue that the United States is insufficiently ruthless in
prosecuting war, as if it would be more successful without political
restraints at home. The Soviets and the Nazis, neither noted for
gentleness, were unable to destroy the partisans behind German lines or the
Yugoslav resistance, in spite of brutal tactics. The guerrilla has built-in
advantages in warfare for which brutality cannot compensate.Given all this,
the question is why the United States has gotten involved in wars in
Eurasia four times since World War II. In each case it is obvious: for
political reasons. In Korea and Vietnam, it was to demonstrate to doubting
allies that the United States had the will to resist the Soviets. In
Afghanistan, it was to uproot al Qaeda. In Iraq, the reasons are murkier,
more complex and less convincing, but the United States ultimately went in,
in my opinion, to convince the Islamic world of American will.The United
States has tried to shape events in the Eastern Hemisphere by the direct
application of land power. In Korea and Vietnam, it was trying to
demonstrate resolve against Soviet and Chinese power. In Afghanistan and
Iraq, it was trying to shape the politics of the Muslim world. The goal was
understandable but the amount of ground force available was not. In Korea,
it resulted in stalemate; in Vietnam, defeat. We await the outcome in Iraq
and Afghanistan, but given Gates’ statement, the situation for the United
States is not necessarily hopeful.In each case, the military was given an
ambiguous mission. This was because a clear outcome — defeating the enemy
— was unattainable. At the same time, there were political interests in
each. Having engaged, simply leaving did not seem an option. Therefore,
Korea turned into an extended presence in a near-combat posture, Vietnam
ended in defeat for the American side, and Iraq and Afghanistan have
turned, for the time being, into an uncertain muddle that no reasonable
person expects to end with the declared goals of a freed and democratic
pair of countries.Problems of StrategyThere are two problems with American
strategy. The first is using the appropriate force for the political
mission. This is not a question so much of the force as it is of the
mission. The use of military force requires clarity of purpose; otherwise,
a coherent strategy cannot emerge. Moreover, it requires an offensive
mission. Defensive missions (such as Vietnam and Korea) by definition have
no terminal point or any criteria for victory. Given the limited
availability of ground combat forces, defensive missions allow the
enemy’s level of effort to determine the size of the force inserted, and
if the force is insufficient to achieve the mission, the result is
indefinite deployment of scarce forces.Then there are missions with clear
goals initially but without an understanding of how to deal with Act II.
Iraq suffered from an offensive intention ill suited to the enemy’s
response. Having destroyed the conventional forces of Iraq, the United
States was unprepared for the Iraqi response, which was guerrilla
resistance on a wide scale. The same was true in Afghanistan.
Counterinsurgency is occupation warfare. It is the need to render a
population — rather than an army — unwilling and incapable of
resisting. It requires vast resources and large numbers of troops that
outstrip the interest. Low-cost counter-insurgency with insufficient forces
will always fail. Since the United States uses limited forces because it
has to, counterinsurgency is the most dangerous kind of war for the United
States. The idea has always been that the people prefer the U.S. occupation
to the threats posed by their fellow countrymen and that the United States
can protect those who genuinely do prefer the former. That may be the idea,
but there is never enough U.S. force available.Another model for dealing
with the problem of shaping political realities can be seen in the
Iran-Iraq war. In that war, the United States allowed the mutual distrust
of the two countries to eliminate the threats posed by both. When the
Iraqis responded by invading Kuwait, the United States responded with a
massive counter with very limited ends — the reconquest of Kuwait and the
withdrawal of forces. It was a land war in Asia designed to defeat a known
and finite enemy army without any attempt at occupation.The problem with
all four wars is that they were not wars in a conventional sense and did
not use the military as militaries are supposed to be used. The purpose of
a military is to defeat enemy conventional forces. As an army of occupation
against a hostile population, military forces are relatively weak. The
problem for the United States is that such an army must occupy a country
for a long time, and the U.S. military simply lacks the ground forces
needed to occupy countries and still be available to deal with other
threats.By having an unclear mission, you have an uncertain terminal point.
When does it end? You then wind up with a political problem internationally
— having engaged in the war, you have allies inside and outside of the
country that have fought with you and taken risks with you. Withdrawal
leaves them exposed, and potential allies will be cautious in joining with
you in another war. The political costs spiral and the decision to
disengage is postponed. The United States winds up in the worst of all
worlds. It terminates not on its own but when its position becomes
untenable, as in Vietnam. This pyramids the political costs
dramatically.Wars need to be fought with ends that can be achieved by the
forces available. Donald Rumsfeld once said, “You go to war with the Army
you have. They’re not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later
time.” I think that is a fundamental misunderstanding of war. You do not
engage in war if the army you have is insufficient. When you understand the
foundations of American military capability and its limits in Eurasia,
Gates’ view on war in the Eastern Hemisphere is far more sound than
Rumsfeld’s.The Diplomatic AlternativeThe alternative is diplomacy, not
understood as an alternative to war but as another tool in statecraft
alongside war. Diplomacy can find the common ground between nations. It can
also be used to identify the hostility of nations and use that hostility to
insulate the United States by diverting the attention of other nations from
challenging the United States. That is what happened during the Iran-Iraq
war. It wasn’t pretty, but neither was the alternative.Diplomacy for the
United States is about maintaining the balance of power and using and
diverting conflict to manage the international system. Force is the last
resort, and when it is used, it must be devastating. The argument I have
made, and which I think Gates is asserting, is that at a distance, the
United States cannot be devastating in wars dependent on land power. That
is the weakest aspect of American international power and the one the
United States has resorted to all too often since World War II, with
unacceptable results. Using U.S. land power as part of a combined arms
strategy is occasionally effective in defeating conventional forces, as it
was with North Korea (and not China) but is inadequate to the demands of
occupation warfare. It makes too few troops available for success, and it
does not know how many troops might be needed.This is not a policy failure
of any particular U.S. president. George W. Bush and Barack Obama have
encountered precisely the same problem, which is that the forces that have
existed in Eurasia, from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in Korea to
the Taliban in Afghanistan, have either been too numerous or too agile (or
both) for U.S. ground forces to deal with. In any war, the primary goal is
not to be defeated. An elective war in which the criteria for success are
unclear and for which the amount of land force is insufficient must be
avoided. That is Gates’ message. It is the same one MacArthur delivered,
and the one Dwight Eisenhower exercised when he refused to intervene in
Vietnam on France’s behalf. As with the Monroe Doctrine, it should be
elevated to a principle of U.S. foreign policy, not because it is a moral
principle but because it is a very practical one.

Abdo from Nicaragua
Comment 3 of 4, added on May 9th, 2007 at 12:49 AM.

The Red Dress
Dorothy Parker

I always saw, I always said
If I were grown and free,
I'd have a gown of reddest red
As fine as you could see,

To wear out walking, sleek and slow,
Upon a Summer day,
And there'd be one to see me so
And flip the world away.

And he would be a gallant one,
With stars behind his eyes,
And hair like metal in the sun,
And lips too warm for lies.

I always saw us, gay and good,
High honored in the town.
Now I am grown to womanhood....
I have the silly gown.


Me from United States
Comment 2 of 4, added on March 2nd, 2005 at 10:20 AM.

This poem is just like the poem's i write myself I love poems that have
great ending to them.

alisha wooten
Comment 1 of 4, added on January 6th, 2005 at 12:44 PM.

i love this poem the ending is funny

jen from Canada

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Information about The Red Dress

Poet: Dorothy Parker
Poem: 2. The Red Dress
Volume: Sunset Gun
Year: 1928
Added: Feb 3 2004
Viewed: 9700 times


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