A Self-Licking Ice Cream Cone

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

Don’t let logistics drive strategy, Max Boot warns:

The U.S. military created a massive logistical footprint in Afghanistan and Iraq, erecting a series of heavily fortified Little Americas that offered troops everything from ice cream to large-screen TVs. These compounds proved staggeringly expensive to resupply. In the summer of 2006, when both conflicts were going strong, U.S. Central Command had more than 3,000 trucks delivering supplies and another 2,400 delivering fuel to its bases, and these convoys had to be protected by either troops or contractors. The military thus became what soldiers sometimes called a “self-licking ice cream cone” — an organization that fought to sustain itself rather than to achieve a mission.

It is doubtful that senior commanders ever gave much thought to these logistical requirements; they more or less operated on autopilot. Each base commander would bring in a few more amenities to make life better for the troops, a commendable impulse. But in the process, commanders not only created supply-line vulnerabilities but also cut off troops from the populace, neglecting an essential part of any successful counterinsurgency campaign. In the future, the Pentagon should resist the temptation to build up huge bases unless doing so accomplishes the objectives of the war.

I’m not sure, “don’t let logistics drive strategy,” is how I’d phrase that.


  1. Bert E. says:

    During the Vietnam War the U.S. military had in country no less than forty factories making ice cream to feed the troops.

  2. Bob Sykes says:

    And in both Vietnam and Afghanistan the war was ultimately lost.

  3. Dan Kurt says:

    All American wars since WW2 have been “lost” because of dithering instead of conquering, vanquishing. They are true Lost Victories or (unlikely) are Machivalian games played by our rulers for reasons hidden.

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