In a March–April 2015 Military Review article, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster wrote about a handful of fallacies that plague thinking about modern war. Specifically, in “Continuity and Change: The Army Operating Concept and Clear Thinking About Future War,” McMaster suggested, “These fallacies are dangerous because they threaten to consign the U.S. military to repeat mistakes and develop joint forces ill-prepared for future threats to national security.”
The fallacies—the “vampire fallacy,” the “Zero Dark 30 fallacy,” the “Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom fallacy” and the “RSVP fallacy”—are a good starting point when thinking about modern warfare. However, the counter-Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria adds further legitimacy to McMasters’ vampire fallacy, which posits that technological innovation will deliver quick, easy and inexpensive victories while lifting fog and friction from the battlefield.
The counter-Islamic State campaign, underwritten by U.S. precision-strike capability, provided another opportunity for the proponents of precision strike to advance their position. Yet the hard slogs in Mosul, Iraq; Raqqa and Aleppo, both in Syria; and, to a lesser degree, Ramadi, Iraq, have further eroded the promises of precision warfare. As such, McMasters’ vampire fallacy lives on, but perhaps with an additional wrinkle—a precision paradox.