The idea of a military adviser is one that probably has enough double meanings that you’d almost have to swear you heard about it in Sun Tzu’s “Art of War.” In fact, Sun Tzu was a military adviser along with his role as general during the reign of King Wu. He was one to tout the idea of subduing an enemy without fighting outright, and it’s a skill that’s easy to lose grasp of when a situation seems nearly impossible. On the surface, Islamic insurgents called ISIS trying to infiltrate Iraq may seem like a quagmire if there ever was one. Many insist that without going in on the ground with troops, we’ll never make much headway in solving the problem.
We also know that going in and fighting them directly is too complicated since nobody knows where certain loyalties lie. It probably complicates the role of military advisers teaching Iraqis how to wage war against ISIS, even if it may be the best political move President Obama could make in such a complicated situation. It also gives rise to speculation on how the role of military advisers could have worked in other wars of the past and whether it’s truly effective in teaching the people of a country to wage war against an enemy.
Military Advisers in World War II and Beyond
Had World War II been taking place now, we probably would be doing the same thing we’re doing now in Iraq based on the lessons from what came before. In 1941, we only had World War I as the precedent to go on in waging war, and because we won that one, we knew the military was strong enough to take care of business. Little did we know that a lot of mistakes would still be made in the early days of World War II, hence costing many lives. But what would have happened had we sent advisers in to teach all of Europe how to wage war against Germany without our direct involvement other than military equipment?
The British seemed to know how to fight tooth and nail from the minute The Blitz happened in 1940. And they had the fortitude to keep themselves from going under with little help from us in the beginning. France, on the other hand, had its hands tied when the Nazis came marching in. Regardless, had we taught them how to fight using our own military tools, they probably would have chased the Nazis out and eliminated the need for us to liberate them.
Had we been more aware of the Holocaust earlier, we could have also armed the Jewish community and let them fight back with our own guns and tanks. Using our intelligence, the whole Third Reich plan could have been averted. If it would have meant some fighting by U.S. troops, having the European populace trained to mostly take control of the situation would have prevented us from losing so many soldiers just to help save the world.
It perhaps would have set a military precedence that only Sun Tzu would be too proud to see. This would have worked the same way in Korea, into Vietnam, and possibly the era of Saddam Hussein. Some critics might say that we sent military advisers into Vietnam in the beginning to train people there and ended up getting drawn into the conflict in the end. The argument might be made that the more we meddle directly, the more we think we need our best troops to fight back against a persistent enemy.
Now we can finally test for sure whether anyone in a country’s population fit enough and with enough mental fortitude can be taught to fight against an enemy willing to fight to the death. We know mental fortitude will help more than anything based on the psychology of how George Washington’s limited army managed to win a war against the fortified British army.
If military advising means morale boosters in addition to teaching skills, then we may have something on the future of America’s work on international conflicts. Along with a likely superior and sharper intelligence unit we’ll never know about, this enemy may realize that a country’s populace can become near superhuman with the proper physical and mental training.