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Book to Own: The Sling and the Stone (Pt. 1)

(Part 1 of an N Part series)

The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century, Col. Thomas X. Hammes (Link to Amazon)

Col. Thomas Hammes (retired) is a former Marine who you may (or may not) recall was one of the officers who called for Donald Rumsfeld to resign in 2006. He is also one of the US’ foremost experts on counterinsurgency, arguing that we must “study our enemies as they have studied us and build a networked, flexible, and, here’s the kicker, less hierarchical military structure that employs humans to fight the humans fighting us.”

In The Sling and the Stone, Hammes details the evolution of warfare from the Battle at Agincourt through present-day Iraq. According to Hammes, we are now experiencing fourth-generation warfare, evident in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but having its root in Mao’s unconventional rise to power in China. The book is worth a read for the history alone, but I spent most of my time pondering Hammes’ treatment of the US armed forces as an organization.

Hammes disparages the organization as a remnant of early 20th century industrialism, built for churning out massive forces for conventional warfare just as Ford build it’s empire on cranking out Model T’s. Just like the Model T, time has passed by the conventional army.

The US’ quick and total conventional victories in Iraq (both times) and elsewhere have proven the futility of challenging the US in the realm of conventional warfare.

The enemy has responded to our technological dominance with unconventional tactics, retreating from direct conflict, decentralizing decision-making and responsibility, gaining flexibility, limiting their visibility, and thereby minimizing the impact of our technological dominance. With these new challenges of fourth-generation warfare, the US Armed Forces must transform itself – it must be less Ford, more Google.

This brief series of blog posts will explore the specific recommendations on how the military should change everything from the makeup of it’s forces to it’s personnel evaluation system.


Filed under: World

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