'87 Sir

Thirty years of service ----USNA Class of 1987 '87 Sir

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Asymmetric Warfare-A Timeless Classic

Asymmetric warfare, although certainly the current rage among strategic thinkers, is not really a new concept in warfare. The basic definition of asymmetry-‘having two sides or halves that are not the same: not symmetrical’ really applies to warfare from antiquity. Generals have always sought an advantage during warfare, whether at the strategic or tactical level, and the current discussion of asymmetric warfare is really only a discussion of means, not ends in warfare. The great philosophers would have quite a bit to say about “asymmetric warfare.” Sun Tzu in particular was a great proponent of using psychological warfare, intelligence, maneuver and deception to bring about military victory. Clausewitz would probably have labeled asymmetric warfare to be ‘warfare by another means’ and would likely to have put a different spin on it, but basically agreed with Sun Tzu on the advantages in waging this type of combat.

Sun Tzu provides a great deal of discussion on asymmetrical warfare, in particular methods by which a weaker army can successfully attack a stronger foe. Because warfare was such a constant condition in his time, Sun Tzu placed a great deal of emphasis in his strategic writing on preparing for war and ensuring as many advantages as possible before combat begins. [1] His overall philosophy, which can be seen in current U.S. strategic thinking and doctrine, is to defeat the opponent with the minimum actual combat necessary, both to ensure a speedy conclusion to the war and to ensure the minimum casualties to your own forces. Sun Tzu had some keen early insights on both the psychological aspects of warfare, in particular a prescient understanding that it was far better to defeat the enemy leadership, both political and military, rather than have to fight a costly battle with the enemy army. [2] In fact, in a hierarchy of Sun Tzu’s strategic targets for a commander to attack, the enemy army is far down the list after attacking his plans and disrupting his alliances. Sun Tzu actually noted that the most successful general has, in fact, won the war before a shot is even fired. [3]

Clausewitz is actually very prophetic in his chapter on insurgencies and revolts to the current situations in Iraq and Afghanistan and shows an excellent grasp of not only the tactical and operational limits of guerilla forces and how to employ them, but his five conditions of a successful uprising show a profound grasp of the political and social nature of an insurgency and closely mirror the situation currently facing American forces. [4]

One of the reasons asymmetric warfare has become more common and more difficult to deal with is that military technology previously reserved for nation-states is now widely available. In addition, the explosion of the internet, communications technology and global media have allowed groups like Al Qaeda to recruit, move money and perform other logistical operations that previously required large and well established organizations.

Similar to the issues the American military has with ‘unconventional warfare’, the U.S. has not dealt well with asymmetrical warfare, particularly in those areas where American forces are in direct combat, Iraq and Afghanistan. Operationally, American forces have clearly attempted to move from a Clausewitz model of fighting a massive campaign of firepower and attrition to a more Sun Tzu model based on deception, maneuver, subterfuge and co-opting our enemies. In the initial phases of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. forces were able to quickly achieve their initial goals of toppling both hostile regimes, and in the case of Afghanistan, scattering the Al Qaeda forces in the country. However, American strategy has not completely followed Clausewitz’s first maxim on strategy to understand the nature of the war being fought and comprehending that each war has unique attributes that separate it from other conflicts. Beyond the conventional phase of each campaign, the U.S. and our allies have not been as successful at achieving successful termination of the conflict. The U.S. did not really understand the culture in either country, or the Islamic world in general, and the failure to quickly and effectively initiate post-conflict political efforts helped exacerbate insurgences in both countries. The U.S. has also not clearly understood our opponent and what motivates them and has done a poor job in many cases of differentiating between political and religious enemies, undercutting our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan to a considerable degree. The greatest challenge American strategy has faced from 2001-2009 has been the need to successfully tie military prowess with political purpose.

Because of the radically changed global environment and the political nature of terrorism and insurgency, this will continue to be a challenge for American strategy. The U.S. and other Western powers have not learned that to the asymmetric warrior, YouTube and CNN are weapons just as much as an AK-47 or an RPG-7. [5]

As the U.S. begins to shift resources and attention from Iraq to Afghanistan and also begins it next strategic assessment, a return to a more balanced look at potential threats and challenges will likely require another look at ends, ways and means. Although the threat of transnational terrorism and continued combat in Afghanistan will be a primary focus of attention in the near-term, threats of a more conventional nature that have been less emphasized over the last eight years will likely return to prominence. Even conventional adversaries like China have embraced the notion of asymmetric warfare in their doctrine—using cyber, space and types of psychological warfare to paralyze American decision makers and blunt areas of American technological superiority. [6]

The U.S. military is still coming to grips with the issues of “generational” versus “asymmetric” warfare and has only begun to understand the “hybrid” wars that it is likely to face in the 21st century. As information technology and sophisticated weaponry become more ubiquitous, the technology advantage that Western armies have long enjoyed over potential adversaries will continue to dissolve. Once again, issues of training, moral, willpower and even simple numbers will become decisive factors on the battlefield. The issues of generational warfare involving weapons and tactics and conventional versus asymmetrical warfare must merge into developing a doctrine to wage some combination of conventional, information, and psychological hybrid warfare to attack not only an opponent’s military but their entire society and will as the U.S. military seeks some weakness of our opponent, whether that opponent is a Hezbollah fighter or a Chinese tank commander. [7]

[1] Ralph D. Sawyer, trans., The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China, trans. Ralph D. Sawyer (New York, NY: Basic Books, 1993), 184-186.
[2] Chester Richards, "A Swift, Elusive Sword: What if Sun Tzu and John Boyd Did A National Defense Review?," Center for Defense Information (Washington, DC, 2003), 17-20.
[3] Michael I Handel, Masters of War: Classical Strategic Thought, 3rd (New York, NY: Frank Cass Publishers, 2001), 61.
[4] Carl Von Clausewitz, On War, trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976), 479-483.
[5] Daniel Marston, "Lessons in 21st Century Counterinsurgency: Afghanistan 2001-2007," in Counterinsurgency in Modern Warfare, 220-240 (New York, NY: Osprey Publishing, 2008); Carter Malkasian, "Counterinsurgency in Iraq: May 2003-January 2007," in Counterinsurgency in Modern Warfare, 241-259 (New York, NY: Osprey Publishing, 2008).
[6] Michael Mazarr, "The Folly of 'Asymmetric War'," The Washington Quarterly, Summer 2008: 33-53.
[7] Charles Dunlap, "21st-Century Land Warfare: Four Dangerous Myths," Parameters (U.S. Army War College), Autumn 1997: 27-37.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Different Kind of War? Part II

Strategically, hybrid warfare exhibits the ultimate Clausewitzian trait of warfare as an instrument of policy and not merely an end to itself. The very nature of the military mismatch between the opponents in a hybrid style of war means that the weaker side cannot achieve a strictly military victory and will aim for a political victory by attacking either their opponent’s will to resist, or, in this era of multi-national institutions and global information, defeating their opponent in the realm of public and international opinion. This is the biggest challenge for the U.S. and other hi-tech conventional militaries. The U.S. military and security establishment likes to interpret warfare and combat as a series of discreet events, which is no longer possible or realistic. [5]

This will present a very severe challenge to large, mechanized, firepower-centric Western militaries. In most conflicts likely to be faced by the United States, Israel, or other democratic societies, there will be extreme limits at the strategic, operational, and tactical level on the amount of violence and weapons available to military forces. Warfare of annihilation, where one side completely destroys their opponent’s army and occupies their territory essentially ended in 1945. Even the invasion of Iraq in 2003 did not see the U.S. completely destroy the Iraqi army and government, one of the major psychological and military reasons the subsequent insurgency was able to take root. Future combat, or at least periods of intense fighting, will be severely shortened in hybrid wars as the weaker side will likely appeal to sympathetic media outlets and international organizations to end the complete destruction of their forces at the hand of their better equipped foes by decrying collateral damage and civilian casualties. These media organizations, international bodies and even non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will practically become co-belligerents on the battlefield, wielding disproportionate influence on the operational and political outcome of the battle. [6]

Operationally, hybrid warfare will present two significant challenges to conventional militaries. First, the weaker side does not need to achieve any major battlefield victories to achieve their political goals. As the 2006 Lebanon War shows, merely being able to fight and survive against the superior military allows the hybrid warrior to claim some measure of ‘victory’ even after suffering significant casualties. [7]

Second, the weaker power is likely to operate in a loose network of fighters that will not present a significant target for conventional firepower. Moreover, the growing urbanization of many Third-world countries, combined with the deliberate decision to wage war in densely populated areas will make the operational and tactical problems more difficult for Western militaries. The USMC is already grappling with this issue in their discussion of a ‘three-block war,’ where Western military forces may be conducting assistance, security, and combat operations in close proximity and nearly simultaneously. Hybrid warriors will not be faced with his problem and will be singularly focused on inflicting casualties on their enemies. [8]

The U.S. experienced a version of hybrid warfare in the Fallujah campaign of 2004. When U.S. Marines conducted a hasty and underprepared attack into the city in April 2004 in response to the killing of American security contractors by Sunni insurgents, they were halted not by military resistance from the insurgents, but by Iraqi political pressure and an international outcry against the alleged overuse of American firepower and the infliction of collateral damage and civilian casualties. Their ability to manipulate the “strategic narrative” kept the entire might of the U.S. military at bay for nearly nine months. When the U.S. finally conducted an all-out assault and capture of the city in November 2004, careful political and information operations preparations were conducted as an integral part of the overall military operation and the Sunni insurgents dug into the city were largely defeated. Control of the city passed to U.S. and Iraqi authorities in time to proceed with the 2005 Iraqi elections. [9]

COIN and CT operations are time consuming, messy and often do not present a clear military victory. They are often waged as small unit actions without any of the major battles at which the U.S. military excels. However, they are likely to be the major mode of combat faced by the U.S. and our allies for the foreseeable future and must be understood as warfare as deadly and earnest whether waged on the battlefield, internet or village markets. 

[5] David Johnson, "Military Capabilities for Hybrid War," Rand Corporation, 2010, www.rand.org (accessed May 2010), 1.
[6] Hoffman, 55-59.
[7] Stephen Biddle and Jeffrey Friedman, The 2006 Lebanon Campaign and the Future of Warfare: Implications for Army and Defense Policy (Ft. Leavenworth, KS: U.S. Army Strategic Studies Institute, 2008), 1-9.
[8] Maj Philip Boggs, Joint Task Force Commanders and the "Three Block War": Setting the Conditions for Tactical Success, Monograph, School for Advanced Military Studies, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College (Ft Leavenworth: U.S. Army War College, 2000).
[9] Bing West, No True Glory (New York, NY: Bantam Books, 2005), 89-94, 119-123, 257-263, 317-32 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Different Kind of War? Part I

The U.S. military is just another in the long history of conventional militaries struggling to understand and deal with guerrilla or irregular warfare. Traditionally, the U.S. military has fought large scale, conventional conflicts against an enemy in uniform that fought in a manner similar to U.S. forces. With the exception of the Indian Wars of the 19th century, the U.S. military had little experience fighting guerilla wars until Vietnam and avoided them after 1975 until the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, not only has irregular warfare become prevalent again, it is morphing into a new form of warfare that combines conventional and irregular warfare into an even more challenging mode of combat called “hybrid warfare.”

One of the principle reasons the U.S. continues to face a challenge in fighting guerrilla, irregular or terrorist forces is that counter-insurgency (COIN) or counter-terrorism operations are about more than traditional kinetic combat- finding, fixing, and using firepower to destroy enemy forces. COIN operations are also about diplomacy, intelligence, propaganda or information operations and even economics and infrastructure building, all of which usually fall into military purview as the only force able to conduct complex operations while maintaining the ability to wage combat. [1]

Warfare in the 21st century will continue this divergence from traditional conventional combat waged by large mechanized forces of tanks, artillery, and infantry. Recent experiences by the ground forces of Israel and the United States illustrate how new adversaries are developing innovations in tactics and strategy to negate traditional Western conventional military superiority. This has presented a severe challenge to the U.S. and our allies as these traditional notions of conventional, irregular, guerilla, terrorism and criminal activity continue to merge in the primordial soup of failed states in the Third World.

This new type of warfare, labeled “hybrid warfare” by some analysts and defense pundits has created a great deal of uncertainty on the role of conventional military forces and the operational level of war. Since the September 11 attacks, and particularly after the invasion and insurgency in Iraq, the concepts of asymmetric, compound and hybrid warfare have been confused and comingled. The best definition of hybrid warfare combines elements of all of these modes of combat and expands the political use of violence beyond traditional military methods: “Hybrid Wars incorporate a range of different modes of warfare including conventional capabilities, irregular tactics and formations, terrorist acts, including indiscriminate violence and coercion and criminal disorder.” [2]

Hybrid warfare is often confused with “Fourth-generation” warfare (4GW) which is primarily an insurgency/terrorism mode of war that evolved from the communist guerilla strategy and tactics of Mao Zedong and Ho Chi Minh. 4GW fighters have built upon these concepts of guerilla conflict to incorporate new technologies such as the internet and global media. Hybrid warfare incorporates many of these 4GW tools into a larger construct that includes more conventionally trained and equipped forces and even a functioning legitimate political organization to tie all of these elements of political violence into a coherent and simultaneous strategic and operational plan. [3]

Even the attempt to differentiate warfare by technology using the construct of generational warfare is becoming meaningless against well-executed asymmetric warfare. Suicide car bombs can be just as effective as tanks and artillery at destroying a building. More importantly, future insurgent and non-state groups will have no compunction about using non-combatants as defenses against Western militaries reluctant to use massive firepower in the face of unbalanced media coverage. For better or worse, Western militaries are held to tighter rules of engagement, which their opponents either blithely ignore or actively circumvent to attack the will of Western societies. The fact that asymmetric opponents are willing to wage unlimited, no-quarter warfare has not been completely understood by Western militaries and is really incomprehensible to modern Western society. Moreover, asymmetric warfare will also bring asymmetric measures of victory, usually to the advantage of the weaker side. Just as powers that wage counter-insurgencies are considered to be losing if they are not winning, in the future, non-state actors and terrorist groups waging asymmetric warfare can “win” a war by simply not being completely annihilated by their opponent while providing propaganda videos to the internet. [4]

[1] David Kilcullen, Counterinsurgency (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2010), 1-13.
[2] Frank Hoffman, Conflict in the 21st Century: The Rise of Hybrid Wars (Arlington, VA: Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, 2007), 29.
[3] Thomas Hammes, The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century (St Paul, MN: Zenith Press, 2004), 207-223.
[4] Robert Cassidy, "Why Great Powers Fight Small Wars Badly," Military Review, Sept-Oct 2000: 41-55.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Time for a new Army Air Force

Airpower has played a key role in warfare since its development in the 20th Century, evolving into an indispensible component of American military prowess. However, airpower advocates have long been overly enthusiastic about the revolutionary aspect of airpower to affect the course of warfare and the rightful place of aircraft into the overall battlefield construct. The controversy between airpower as a strategic or tactical weapon systems has recently become even more entangled as highly sophisticated and accurate sensors and weapons delivery systems allow airplanes to fulfill capabilities envisioned by advocates like Douhet and Mitchell. Like naval forces, the role of air forces in America’s current conflicts involving primarily ground force intensive counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations have created a continuing debate about what our future Air Force should be in terms of force structure and missions. This debate will likely continue as Iraq and Afghanistan wind down and critical decisions must be made about expensive platforms, the role of manned and unmanned aircraft and how the Air Force fits into America’s overall defense way forward. Recent technological developments as well as changing mores of warfare combine to bring into question the very utility of a separate Air Force.

In the aftermath of World War I, militaries throughout the world sought methods to overcome the power of defensive trenches and machine guns and restore offense maneuver to warfare. Air forces seemed to offer a revolutionary weapon that could replace traditional armies and navies by taking the war directly to a country’s industry and population. Giulio Douhet, in his treatise The Command of the Air advocated a strong, independent air force composed of what today would be termed strategic bombers to quickly reduce the opponent’s cities to rubble “The complete destruction of the objective has moral and material effects, the repercussions of which may be tremendous…we need only envision what would go on among the civilian population of congested cities once the enemy announced that we would bomb such centers relentlessly, making no distinction between military and non-military objectives.” [1] Douhet and other strategic bombing disciples made no distinction between civilian and military targets as most military men understood that industry and economic output was crucial to modern war making. [2]

The majority of air power thinkers between the world wars emphasized strategic bombing and were loath to consider the role of providing close air support (CAS) to ground units or what today would be termed interdiction air strikes-preventing supplies and reinforcements from reaching the battlefield. Most airpower enthusiasts were very static in their thinking about technology and did not consider the inevitable development of aircraft carriers, anti-aircraft guns, radar, and even the proximity fuse as all militaries not only prepared to use their air forces offensively, but to defend against air attack. It would be inevitable that networks of pursuit planes, spotters and centralized command and control tied together by radio would be developed by every country. The fact that Douhet did not consider this shows how parochial his views were on air power. [3]

Ironically, World War II showed the essential enabling role of aircraft on the battlefield supporting ground troops while highlighting the limitations of strategic bombing. Although Douhet was correct in his thesis of the importance of gaining air superiority over an enemy, the technical limitations on payload, ranges and accuracy of even the best bombers of the day made daylight strategic bombing questionable, particularly given the serious losses inflicted on German bomber fleets over Britain in 1940 and the Allied bomber force over Germany in 1943-1944. The only truly indisputable contribution of the U.S. 8th Air Force in World War II was to draw the Luftwaffe into a war of attrition that ground it down prior to the D-Day invasion. [4]

Although the USAF became an independent service after World War II, the role of airpower in warfare has continued to evolve in unexpected directions. The advent of nuclear weapons was the ultimate enabler of Douhet’s theories and the case can be made the atom bomb prevented a costly and terrible invasion of Japan. However, the shear destructiveness of nuclear weapons brought renewed thinking on the morality of bombing civilian populations after World War II. [5]

Today, the continued utility of an independent Air Force is questionable. Although air power continues to be an important component of military power, there will never be another strategic bombing campaign like World War II. Even though aircraft, sensors, and weapons have achieved capabilities only dreamed of by Douhet and his American counterpart Billy Mitchell, general revulsion of indiscriminate area bombing has produced very restrictive rules of engagement and targeting criteria. The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and even Lebanon in 2006 also show the limitations of airpower in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism missions where our enemies deliberately hide among civilian populations to avoid air strikes. In addition, the over reliance of Western militaries on airpower as a substitute, rather than a compliment to ground forces has been interpreted by some adversaries as a weakness. This idea that Western militaries seek to avoid casualties and collateral damage has given our enemies even more reason to hide weapons and fight from mosques, schools, apartment buildings and hospitals. [6]

However, close-air support and interdiction have become even more critical to overall military power as air forces have assumed a de facto role of “flying artillery” long dreaded by the disciples of Douhet. The U.S. military’s development of the AirLand Battle doctrine in the 1980s shows the integration that I believe makes the case for the Air Force to become the Army Air Force once more. As U.S. forces become smaller and more expeditionary, with fewer overseas bases from which to stage massive armadas of aircraft for Desert Storm type prolonged air campaigns, the role of long-range strike missions can be assumed by either naval aviation or even new models of Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs). This will leave the Air Force to concentrate on providing CAS in those situations where ground forces are in battle. This CAS role will more than likely be assumed by more sophisticated, longer endurance unmanned aircraft, especially as air defenses become more automated and lethal. The current Joint Strike Fighter could, in fact, be the last manned fighter aircraft produced by the United States as the political liability of shot down and captured aircrew is replaced by the plausible deniability of drone attacks. [7]

Although airpower remains a critical military force, it is no longer a singular war-winning weapons. Integration with ground forces and the ability to fight in a joint environment make the need for an independent Air Force more questionable.

[1] Giulio Douhet, "The Command of the Air," in Roots of Strategy: Book 4, ed. David Jablonsky, 262-407 (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1999), 294.
[2] Douhet, 330-336.
[3] David Jordan, James Kiras, David Lonsdale, Ian Speller, Christopher Tuck and C. Dale Walton, Understanding Modern Warfare (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 194-198
[4] Jonathan House, Combined Arms Warfare in the Twentieth Century (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2001). 168-178
[5] Jordan, et.al., 73-77
[6] Ralph Peters, Wars of Blood and Faith (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2007), 239-241; Charles Dunlap, "Making Revolutionary Change: Airpower in COIN Today," Parameters (U.S. Army War College), Summer 2008: 52-66.
[7] House, 250-259; Peter Singer, Wired for War: The Future of Military Robots, August 28, 2009, http://www.brookings.edu/opinions/2009/0828_robots_singer.aspx (accessed November 8, 2010).

Monday, December 13, 2010

Seapower in the 21st Century- NeoMahanian?

“Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity (VUCA) characterize the environment of the 21st Century and thus a strategy for the U.S. can be a difficult concept to develop and implement.” [1] This phrase aptly describes the situation the U.S. Navy faces in the second decade of the 21st century. The primary purpose of seapower, or, to use a more Mahan-like term “maritime power” has remained fairly steady since Mahan and Corbett wrote their tomes on seapower and strategy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Great maritime trading nations have depended on ocean-going commerce for economic prosperity and have required a strong navy to protect their interests and ensure the safe flow of shipping.

Writing in the late 1890s, Alfred Thayer Mahan advocated a strong navy for both peacetime and wartime purposes. In peacetime a strong navy ensured the safety of both national and international commerce on the high seas, and in wartime, a strong navy not only protected American merchant shipping, but could menace an opponent’s sea-borne trade. To build-up and maintain this strong Navy, Mahan outlined six components of naval power, in particular noting the importance of overseas bases and a government supportive to ship-building and other maritime industries. In the spirit of the era of colonization, Mahan espoused the view that America would need to emulate the great maritime empires such as Holland, Spain and Britain and build a large navy supported by overseas colonies if it was to become a world power. [2]

Corbett completed his work shortly after Mahan and took a uniquely British view about sea power by combining prophetic view on expeditionary warfare and the concept of a “fleet in being” that Germany would use effectively in World War I to tie down a large portion of the British fleet in anticipation of a climatic naval battle. Corbett was a student of both Clausewitz and Jomini and attempted to integrate Clausewitz’ theories of limited and unlimited wars, along with the primacy of the defense into his thinking on naval warfare. [3]

As the U.S. begins to retrench from Iraq and Afghanistan, American ground forces will require extensive recapitalization and refurbishment form 10 years of combat operations. Moreover, the American public and international communities are both leery of any further large scale deployments of American troops to the world’s trouble spots.

Enter the U.S. Navy, with a new Operations Concept that is realistic and attuned to the challenges of the 21st century security environment. This new concept embodies the best of both Mahan and Corbett’s thinking, upgraded for today, and has been called neo-Mahanian thinking by some strategic pundits. Replacing the old concept of colonies and bases for coaling and refueling ships, today’s American navy provides key capabilities in maritime presence, expeditionary forces, and the ability to deter or defeat maritime enemies securing the free flow of maritime commerce world-wide. [4]

Globalization and free trade have replaced the old colonial concept of economic power, but the ‘global commons’ of the world’s oceans continue to carry more than 77% of international trade. Naval forces fit a unique niche among the armed services in maintaining a fairly small overseas footprint with minimal presence in foreign countries, mainly from port visits. Naval forces also fulfill a unique diplomatic position among the armed services through the interaction with other countries’ navies to ensure the safety and security of all international shipping. The current counter-piracy operations being conducted off Somalia are the ultimate example of navies from disparate countries such as China, Russia, the U.S., India and even Saudi Arabia working together to protect shipping and ensure the flow of international trade. [5]

Because of their offshore presence and ability to operate at sea nearly indefinitely, naval forces have also expanded into new roles of humanitarian relief and disaster assistance where the capabilities of large, capable platforms such as aircraft carriers and large amphibious ships provided diplomatic success to U.S. efforts to show benevolence and outreach to countries affected by the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean area.[6]

In terms of traditional nation-state conflict, the only significant potential competitor to the U.S. in the near to midterm is likely to be China, where any armed action will primarily involve naval and air power across the vast expanses of the Pacific Ocean. The U.S. Navy and their Air Force counterparts are just beginning to grapple with the realities of increasingly capable Chinese naval and air forces able to achieve local dominance in the East and South China Seas as the U.S. Navy operates at the end of a very long logistical tether. Unlike the U.S. Navy panned by Secretary Stimson, the modern U.S. Navy understands that it must act as part of a larger joint and combined team to overcome the Chinese military in its own back yard, if conflict becomes unavoidable. [7]

Several strategic studies have shown that the two most important regions of the 21st century are likely to be the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions, where maritime power will be the most important measure of military and diplomatic influence. These facts will challenge the U.S. Navy as it continues to downsize through retirement of older ships and a much smaller shipbuilding program over the next twenty years. Discussions now underway about the size and composition of the future force will have a profound effect on the capabilities and influence of the U.S. Navy in the future. In order to achieve the national security objectives of America and its allies, the Navy will not only have to work with other U.S. services, but foreign militaries as well, when required. The unique capabilities of the Navy-Marine Corps team will remain extremely important, as world populations continue to grow, particularly in unstable and developing countries. Since most of these populations continue to live within 200 miles of the coast in many countries, power projection and expeditionary capabilities provided by modern and capable naval forces will remain an important component of American power and diplomacy. With the decline of the U.S. Navy from a force of nearly 600 ships in the late 1980s to less than 300 ships today, cooperation with allies and regional powers will become a necessity as American warships begin to shift their deployments and forward presence from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean in response to the increasing importance of that region to both regional and global stability. Stability, not hegemony will become the new watchwords of naval power. [8]

[1] CDR Bruce Black, The Legacy of Mahan for the 21st Century, U.S. Army War College (Carlisle Barracks, PA: U.S. Army, 2006).
[2] Alfred Thayer Mahan, "The Influence of Seapower Upon History, 1660-1783," in Roots of Stratgy, Book 4, ed. David Jablonsky, 43-148 (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1999).
[3] Julian Corbett, "Some Principles of Maritime Strategy," in Roots of Strategy, Book 4, ed. David Jablonsky (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1999).
[4] U.S. Navy, Naval Operations Concept, 2010, U.S. Navy (Washington, DC: U.S. Navy, 2010).
[5] Center for A New American Security, Contested Commons: The Future of American Power in a Multipolar World, (Washington, DC: Center for a New American Security, 2010).
[6]Jane's Intelligence Review, "Making Waves- Naval Power Evolves for the 21st Century," Jane's Intelligence Review, Nov 12, 2009, American Military University Electronic Library (accessed Oct 11, 2010).
[7] Frank Hoffman, From Preponderance to Partnership: American Maritme Power in the 21st Century, (Washington, DC: Center for A New American Security, 2010); Andrew Krepinevich, Why AirSea Battle?, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment (Washington, DC: CSBA, 2010).
[8] Ralph Peters, "Waters of Wealth and War: The Crucial Indian Ocean," in Wars of Blood and Faith: The Conflicts That Will Shape the 21st Century, 293=301 (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2007); CNAS, Contested Commons.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

War as an Art or Science, Part 2

Born several centuries later, Carl Von Clausewitz, and Antoine-Henri Jomini, further developed these concepts of warfare and statecraft but drew very different conclusions on waging war from their experiences serving in the Napoleonic Wars.
            Jomini was a clear proponent of war as a science that was governed by timeless and well-developed principles.  His work The Art of War, was written in a very precise and scientific manner, proposing concrete actions for a commander to take in given situations-“War is always to be conducted according to the great principles of the art; but great discretion must be exercised in the nature of the operations to be undertaken which should depend upon the circumstances of the case.”  [6] Jomini does an admirable job of offering an early delineation of Strategy, Operational Art and Tactics, but still provides a checklist approach to battle that, while useful on a tactical or even operational level, does not take into account the political or diplomatic elements of war at the strategic level.  Jomini’s entire thinking on warfare can be summed in his ‘fundamental principle of war’ which states- “To throw by strategic movements the mass of an army successively upon the decisive points of a theater of war and also upon the communications of the enemy as much as possible without compromising one's own.”  [7]
            Jomini’s thinking on the art or science of war was not as sophisticated or as complete as Sun Tzu’s or Clausewtiz’ on the political and diplomatic relationship to strategy and warfare.  Moreover, although Jomini was an enthusiastic proponent of his self-described principles of war, as well as his concept of using ‘interior lines’ to conduct offensive operations, he did not clearly proscribe under what circumstances to apply which principle, in a sense contradicting his own ideas of war waged by fixed scientific principles.  [8]
            Clausewitz was probably the greatest of the classic strategic thinkers and incorporated a holistic view of war that remains both relevant and confusing today.  As a member of the defeated Prussian military in 1806, Clausewitz shared Sun Tzu’s and Machiavelli’s viewpoints on the importance of the study and preparation for warfare to the survival of the state.  Clausewitz very much considered war more of an art than science and did not subscribe to any particular set-piece solution for a tactical or strategic problem—“In short, absolute, so-called mathematical, factors never find a firm basis in military calculations…in the whole range of human activities, war most closely resembles a game of cards.”  [9]   
Clausewitz clearly understood that warfare was a very human interaction since armies and their commanders rarely remain static in their thinking and actions.  The constant action and reaction of opponents in combat make a scientific approach to warfare very problematic and required a commander to exercise his ‘genius’ on a battlefield to overcome the friction and uncertainty of the battlefield.  Clausewitz famous dictum of the ‘friction’ of combat that prevents a commander from exercising total control over a battlefield remains true today.  Clausewitz and Sun Tzu both exhibited keen insights into the psychological aspects of warfare and Clausewitz in particular wrote extensively on topics such as the ‘genius’ or intuition of a commander to handle uncertainty, fear, bad information, and the basic confusion of a battlefield and still prevail.  [10]
            All of the author’s agree that at the tactical level there are definite ‘principles’ that apply to the successful conduct of battle such as discipline, use of terrain, the role of deception and surprise, simplicity and concentration of force.  At the operational and certainly at the strategic level, the authors have some significant differences, which are never really reconciled, particularly the relationship between politics, diplomacy and military action and the interplay between generals and rulers. 
            History and even current American doctrine would seem to indicate that at the tactical level, there are certain ‘scientific’ principles that apply to combat.  The employment of tanks, artillery, air power, and other modern weapons systems, particularly when combined with modern sensors and information systems would seem to make warfare an overwhelmingly technical and scientific activity that would eliminate Clausewitz’s ‘fog of war’.  However, at the strategic and even operational level, war remains very much still an art.  The U.S. Army’s current Field Manual 3-0 states- “Commanders use operational art to envision how to create conditions that define the national strategic end state. Actions and interactions across the levels of war influence these conditions. These conditions are fundamentally dynamic and linked together by the human dimension, the most unpredictable and uncertain element of conflict. The operational environment is complex, adaptive, and interactive. Through operational art, commanders apply a comprehensive understanding of it to determine the most effective and
efficient methods to influence conditions in various locations across multiple echelons.”  [11]
Because warfare is always fought between people that react and adapt, there is likely never going to be a completely scientific approach to war.  Technology cannot replace the thinking and reacting that a good battlefield commander brings to a conflict and as long as warfare is conducted between human opponents, war will remain more an art than a science.

[6] Antoine Henri Jomini, "The Art of War," Google Books, 1862, http://books.google.com/books?id=nZ4fAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_navlinks_s#v=onepage&q=&f=false (accessed Oct 2009), 15.
[7] Jomini, 70.
[8] John Shy, "Jomini," in Makers of Modern Strategy: From Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age, 143-185 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986).
[9] Carl Von Clausewitz, On War, trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976), 86.
[10] Clausewitz, 100-102, 148-150; Peter Paret, "Clausewitz," in Makers of Modern Strategy: From Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age, 186-216 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986); Michael I Handel, Masters of War: Classical Strategic Thought, 3rd (New York, NY: Frank Cass Publishers, 2001), 26-27.
[11] Headquarters, Department of the Army, "Field Manual (FM) 3-0: Operations," Joint Electronic Library, Feb 2008, http://www.dtic.mil/doctrine/doctrine.htm (accessed July 2009), 6-4.

Monday, October 18, 2010

War as an Art or Science?

So, we have been discussing in my MILH511 MA class on whether war is an art or science...here is my view..

The discussion of war as an art or science in nearly as old as warfare itself.  Two of the early strategic thinkers, Sun Tzu and Niccolo Machiavelli, offer remarkably similar viewpoints on the importance of warfare to a state while presenting different opinions on how best to wage war successfully.  While their great treatises reflect the particular issues faced by their states and rulers, they do provide a common frame of reference to begin the strategic issues of war.   Born centuries after Sun Tzu and Machiavelli, Clausewtiz and Jomini expanded upon earlier thoughts of warfare and statecraft, but diverged significantly on the lessons learned from their common experiences in the Napoleonic Wars.  A careful review of these four great thinkers provides an excellent departure point for arguing whether waging war is an art or science and the importance of waging war to a state.
            Sun Tzu, writing in China of the 6th century BC, and Niccolo Machiavelli, who lived in 16th century Renaissance Europe, hard remarkably similar views on warfare and statecraft.  Both men considered the study and preparation for war to be the most important task of a ruler.  In both of their eras, being able to successfully wage war was literally a life or death matter for a ruler or dynasty and was a task never to be undertaken lightly.  Both men offered several early insights into the relationship between politics and warfare, particularly the notion that warfare was a common and accepted instrument of diplomacy.  “Warfare is the greatest affair of state, the basis of life or death, the Way to survival or extinction.  It must be thoroughly pondered and analyzed” was Sun Tzu’s view [1], while Machiavelli expressed his thoughts on the topic as “A Prince then out to have no other aim, nor other thought, nor take anything else for his proper art, but war, and the orders and discipline therof:  for it is the sole art which belongs to him that commands.”  [2] As these quotes show, both writers developed a keen understanding of war’s importance and the need for a ruler to undertake a serious study of strategy and diplomacy.  Both of these writers certainly considered warfare to be more of an art than science, and Sun Tzu in particular developed some of the earliest theories of indirect and psychological warfare as a means to avoid battles that, even if won, could destroy a ruler’s army and drain his treasury-“Thus one who excels at employing the military subjugates other people’s armies without engaging in battle…thus his weapons will not become dull, and the gains can be preserved.” [3]
Although Machiavelli was not as detailed in The Prince on how warfare should be conducted, he did introduce two important thoughts into military strategy—the increasing role of nation-states in raising and equipping armies and the need for conscription of soldiers to avoid the chaotic role of mercenary armies in Italy.  [4]
However, both authors were also influenced by their particular situations.  Sun Tzu actually served as a military commander and advisors to Emperors and his Art of War serves partly as a military manual, offering advice not only on strategy and policy, but deception, logistics and the equipping and organizing of armies.  Machiavelli was a product of 15th and 16th century Enlightenment thinking, as well as the political struggle of the Italian city-states to maintain their independence against larger and better armed foes.  One particular flaw in Machiavelli’s Art of War and The Prince was his complete disregarded or misunderstanding of the on-going changes to warfare at the tactical level caused by the widespread introduction of modern artillery and hand-held gunpowder weapons.  [5]

[1] Ralph D. Sawyer, trans., The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China, trans. Ralph D. Sawyer (New York, NY: Basic Books, 1993), 157.
[2] Niccolo Machiavelli, The Art of War (Radford, VA: Wilder Publications LLC, 2008), 191.
[3] Sawyer, 161.
[4] Felix Gilbert, "Machiavelli: Renaissance of the Art of War," in Makers of Modern Strategy: Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age, ed. Peter Paret, 11-31 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986).
[5] Gilbert, 11-31.
More later this week

Thursday, September 9, 2010

World and National Histories

In my opinion, world and national histories serve two basic purposes:  to provide an overarching narrative of history and to aid the people of a nation in better understanding their heritage.  These purposes present a significant challenge to the historian, but if these histories are done well, they also provide an opportunity to “make sense” of the sweep of history and provide a greater context for the many discrete people and events that make history.

    World and national history are the two most challenging types of history to research and write.  Because of the vast swaths of time covered, a historian must be selective about which people and events to include, or more significantly, not include in their narrative.  This need to cull through material often brings out the intended or unintended biases of the author, which can also be manifested in how the history is constructed and presented.  National histories are particularly susceptible to this issue, as they necessarily present history from the perspective of a particular group. 

World histories also offer great opportunities for comparative history to show how different civilizations or cultures developed in similar (or perhaps dissimilar) circumstances.  This presents a challenge for the author to write objectively, but it is a useful challenge, particularly for authors coming from a Euro-centric or decidedly Western point of view:  “Historians confronted the very problem of accounting for the West’s position among other cultures when they wished to explain the centuries of Western dominance and expansion.”[1]

My particular interest in comparative world history would be an examination of Chinese versus Greek and Roman military thought and development.  From an earlier reading, Herodotus and Sima Qian: History and the Anthropological Turn in Ancient Greece and Han China by Siep Stuurman, we know that the ancient Greeks and Chinese had many similarities and it was interesting to discover in another class that the Chinese were writing military treatises hundreds of years before Thucydides and Clausewitz.  Moreover, Sun Tzu, the best known of these authors, was just one of many great thinkers whose work is in The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China, by Ralph D. Sawyer.  Clearly the Greeks and Romans were not the only innovative thinkers and a good comparative military history might give us a better perspective into Asian thought and cultural norms about warfare:  “However, as interesting as they and a few books from the martial arts have proven to be, the vast Chinese military corpus-despite its historical importance and contemporary significance-remains unknown in the West.” [2] 

Western bias, indeed.

[1] Ernst Breisach, Historiography: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 411.

[2] Ralph D. Sawyer, trans., The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China, trans. Ralph D. Sawyer (New York, NY: Basic Books, 1993), xi.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Annales School of History

The development of French historiography, particularly the Annales school of historical thought, continues to affect history in the trans-Atlantic community.  The Annales movement-“the attempt by French scholars to adapt economic, linguistic, sociological, geographical, anthropological, psychological, and natural science notions to the study of history to infuse a historical orientation in the social and human sciences” has arguably been the most significant development in historiography in this century.  Although often misunderstood and steeped in controversy, the Annales methodology has been criticized for going beyond traditional documentary history, but in fact it does not replace traditional methods but rather, “The point lay not in deriding documentary scholarship but in transcending it by extending the subject’s comparative and disciplinary base.”

In addition to the floodgates of “multi-disciplinary” history the Annales school opened, the other significant post-war development has been the migration of historical talent from Germany and Italy, first to England and then to the United States.  Besides bringing their own historical talents to the U.S., these historians, many of them Jewish refugees, helped inculcate Annales thinking within American historical teaching.

The Annales methodology continues to influence American history today.  All of the trendy “new” subfields of ethnic, gender and cultural history clearly show their lineage back to France.  Overall, this new integration of geography, anthropology, economics, archeology, and other fields has been a positive influence on historical thought and writing.  This can particularly be seen in ancient history, where documentary evidence may be lacking or suspect.  However, like all trends in historiography, this effort at “multi-disciplinary” studies can be carried to extremes, as Keith Windschuttle described in The Killing of History.
On a personal note, I found it fascinating that integrating history and geography was controversial.  Trying to read history, particularly my field of interest in military history, without understanding geography seems almost absurd.  The fields of history and geography, either natural or man-made, seem inexorably linked, as it seems history and archeology should be.
The Annales school, in the proper context, really seems to make history more multi-dimensional rather than strictly multi-disciplinary and offers additional perspectives to better understand historical events.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Thucydides-The First Great Military Historian

The ancient historian I would like to meet and discuss history with is Thucydides.  I believe he could be considered the Western world’s first true military historian and strategic thinker.  Thucydides expanded some of the techniques of Herodotus to write the first real narrative of war not as the act of gods, but the messy and chaotic result of men and politics.  His notion that cities/countries go to war over “fear, honor and interest” has certainly stood the test of time.
I find his History of the Peloponnesian Wars to be a timeless work on the interaction of politics and war, sort of the ancient world’s On War and I find it remarkable that a book written over 2500 years ago is still studied by the U.S. military today.
A couple of questions I would ask him are:
* Why did the book stop before the war was over?  Did you see the handwriting on the wall and not want to chronicle the fall of your native Athens?
* Die you think Athens might have prevailed if Pericles had not died so early in the war?
*  How did you decide that wars are primarily fought for “fear, honor, and interest”?
I would tell him that history is still trying to teach the same lessons he was-warfare is the chief experience of the state, never to be undertaken lightly.  I would also tell him that military historiography owes a great deal to his work and even though warfare has changed remarkably from his time, the nature of war in really no different for a Marine in Afghanistan than it was for a hoplite from Sparta.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Professionalization of History

So, I am about to embark on a great adventure...tutoring our best friends' son in Roman History.  Now I am no Plutarch or Livy, but it should be fun...after all it is Sophmore level stuff.

So I was thinking about history, the historical process and historians...

The Professionalization of History:  Is it a good thing?
    A profession is defined as “a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation.” This was certainly true of the historical profession during the late 1800 and early 1900s as the university system began to spread and history acquired its own methodology and set of standards.  Instruction in historical research and writing became more academically rigorous, causing not only the decline of amateur writers but affecting how history was written, especially in the United States.  As academic history became more widespread, it assumed the basic form that continues today, particularly the emphasis on scholarly research, critical analysis of primary sources, and most importantly, the use of the thesis as a stepping-stone and “rite of passage” to becoming a full-fledged university professor.

However, this trend did not tamp down the continuing controversies within historiography, as different historical models vied to offer a coherent picture of the rapid changes taking place in Western society in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, particularly industrialization and urbanization.  The debate between scientific and positivist historians raged throughout this time as historians argued about causality in history and how to handle the continuity of history while looking at the context of specific events.

American historians remained fairly aloof from this debate as American history began to be shaped by our unique experiences of democracy, the Civil War, and the settlement (or conquering) of the North American continent.  In addition, American Progressive historians attempted to use history to bring about social and economic change in early 20th century America, building upon the work of economic history began in Europe in the late 19th century.

The continuing disputes about historical objectivity seem a little baffling to me—the whole point of history should be to strive for the truth as best the sources can tell you.  When new sources are discovered, then the historical truth should change without invalidating the overall calling of the historian to seek objectivity. 

World War II history is a good example of this issue.  Almost all military history written about the European Theater had to be rewritten after the disclosure of the Ultra code-breaking program in the 1970s.  However, that didn’t necessarily mean that history written before knowledge of Ultra was useless or false, it merely didn’t tell the whole story.  The debate about professional versus amateur historians also continues to this day.  While amateurs are no doubt looked down upon by some academic historians, the fact is that within their particular topic of interest, many amateurs, particularly correspondents, have written outstanding works, including Rick Atkinson, who won the Pulitzer Prize in History for An Army at Dawn in 2003.  The skills of research, collation of sources, critical thinking, and incisive writing take time and practice but are not confined to the historical profession.  The primary difference between amateurs and professionals is the intended audience.  Although I have read outstanding works by history professors, I have also read just as many sharp works by enthusiastic amateurs, particularly in the fields of military and political history.  In my opinion, academics often write truly scholarly, but dreadfully dry and boring articles for publication in peer-reviewed journals.  Amateurs want to sell books, so they write for a more general audience and try, sometimes with mixed results, to write outstanding narrative history that gets the “facts” right, but tells a story that Romantic historians would no doubt approve.  Although they were not PhDs, I would postulate that few American history professors could write history like Shelby Foote or David McCullough.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Trying to Catch Up

Okay, I know it's not Wednesday, but I am so far behind.  My final class for my Masters in Military Studies starts on Monday and I will be taking a young padwan through Roman History this year as his Jedi Master.  Fun, Fun, Fun.

In Federalist Paper #7, Alexander Hamilton continues his discussion about the need for a strong Union to avoid potential territorial and/or commercial disputes between the states as they had experienced under the Articles of Confederation.  In fact, the Commerce Clause, before it was abused by liberals and progressives to pass all manners of mischief up to and including ObamaCare, was probably one of the singular achievements of the Constitution by unifying commercial activity and preventing potential dangerous interstate tariffs and trade wars.  However, another interesting sentence comes to mind:
“The public debt of the Union would be a further cause of collision between the separate States or confederacies. The apportionment, in the first instance, and the progressive extinguishment afterward, would be alike productive of ill-humor and animosity. How would it be possible to agree upon a rule of apportionment satisfactory to all? There is scarcely any that can be proposed which is entirely free from real objections. These, as usual, would be exaggerated by the adverse interest of the parties……. Delinquencies, from whatever causes, would be productive of complaints, recriminations, and quarrels. There is, perhaps, nothing more likely to disturb the tranquility of nations than their being bound to mutual contributions for any common object that does not yield an equal and coincident benefit. For it is an observation, as true as it is trite, that there is nothing men differ so readily about as the payment of money.”
WOW, does that sorta ring true today, or what?  Why should the rest of the taxpayers bail out California, Illinois, New York, New Jersey or any of those other states that have made poor decisions and lived on the supposed never ending gravy train?  But, here it comes, expect more bailouts from Obama and Nancy before the election to try and keep public employees and BLUE states afloat….

Interestingly, Anti-Federalist #7 also address the issue of public debt and taxation, although it approaches the problem from a different point of view, arguing for the distribution of taxes between the states and Federal government and the use of an import tax as the primary means of Federal government funding…hmmm, if only that were true now:
The result of our reasoning in the two preceding numbers is this, that in a confederated government, where the powers are divided between the general and the state government, it is essential to its existence, that the revenues of the country, without which no government can exist, should be divided between them, and so apportioned to each, as to answer their respective exigencies, as far as human wisdom can effect such a division and apportionment….There is one source of revenue, which it is agreed, the general government ought to have the sole control of. This is an impost upon all goods imported from foreign countries. This would, of itself, be very productive, and would be collected with ease and certainty. — It will be a fund too, constantly increasing — for our commerce will grow, with the productions of the country; and these, together with our consumption of foreign goods, will increase with our population.”
Although issues of taxation are certainly dry and seemingly boring, they are, nonetheless, crucial to the economic health of the country, as we certainly know today…if only our current government carefully considered the implications of their tax (and spend) policies on the country….

Monday, August 23, 2010

It's not Clausewitz that's deluded

In his book The Clausewitz Delusion:  How the American Army Screwed Up the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan author Stephen L. Melton, a professor at the Army's Command and General Staff College presents the argument that the U.S. military's fixation with the ideas of Carl Von Clausewitz are the reason for the "failures" in Iraq and Afghanistan and the U.S. Army needs to return to its traditional modes of thinking about warfare- strategically and operationally.

Although Mr. Melton makes a convincing historic case for the prowess of the U.S. military in fighting what he terms "The American Offensive Way of War", his arguments for the reason of U.S. "failures" in Korea and Vietnam are less developed, in my opinion.  He also spends a great deal of time explaining why the U.S. should adapt a new 'OCCUPATION' doctrine modeled after what U.S. forces did in Germany and Japan after World War II.

Where I have the most significant disagreement with Mr. Melton is his understanding of Clausewitz and his definition of how it is applied in current U.S. doctrine.  Although I don't disagree that some parts of the Joint Pubs and Field Manuals on Operations are pretty darn mushy, they are clearly intended to be GUIDANCE only and not a cookbook for every situation.  As many of the lessons learned, books and monographs I have been reading on the Surge in Iraq clearly show, the U.S. Army was pretty darn adaptable to change in their counter-insurgency doctrine when it was instituted in late 2006 and concepts that worked were brought to the forefront.

Here's my bottom line for this book, the most fundamental part of Mr. Melton's argument is a non sequitur--there aren't going to be any more U.S. invasions of foreign countries for another 50 years.  No matter how things eventually turn out, the sour experiences of Iraq and Afghanistan mean that no U.S. forces will be occupying any country in my lifetime.  The SOLE exception to this would be Mexico, if it goes to hell in a handbasket and threatens to become a narco-terrorist state...even this Administration could not let Mexico become a failed state where Al Qaeda or Hezbollah could find refuge with tens of millions of refugees poring across the border.  Although Mr. Melton makes the standard discussion points about more carefully using American troops, training foreign troops, using international organizations and diplomacy, blah, blah, blah, the main thrust of his argument just doesn't stand up for me.

As previously stated in another post, Clausewitz remains extremely relevant-IF studied in the proper context and with a solid historical background.  His theories are dense, not for the simplistic pundits who use them too often, and require a great deal of study to be understood. Is Clausewitz some all powerful seer?  Of course not, but his fundamental ideas of the relationship between politics, diplomacy and warfare...and of course his timeless trinity of chance, reason and emotion as driving factors in war, will likely be studied at War Colleges long after Mr. Melton (and I) am retired.

Read it for yourself, and decide...is Clausewitz a Delusion?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What did our Founders know about taxation?

In the Federalist #6 Alexander Hamilton continues the discussion of the need for the states to unite to prevent inter-state conflict and potential European powers exploiting the differences between the new states for their own ambitions.  He does this by excellent use of historical examples from Ancient Greece and Rome, cautioning against the rise of militarism and imperialism:
Sparta, Athens, Rome, and Carthage were all republics; two of them, Athens and Carthage, of the commercial kind. Yet were they as often engaged in wars, offensive and defensive, as the neighboring monarchies of the same times. Sparta was little better than a well regulated camp; and Rome was never sated of carnage and conquest.
This is an interesting point, and one that many folks raise on our current campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.  However, Hamilton does oversimplify the role of commerce in international affairs, beginning the oft stated, and often misunderstood ideal that commercially "tied" together nations could never go to war with each other, 1914 and 1939 nothwithstanding:
The genius of republics (say they) is pacific; the spirit of commerce has a tendency to soften the manners of men, and to extinguish those inflammable humors which have so often kindled into wars. Commercial republics, like ours, will never be disposed to waste themselves in ruinous contentions with each other. They will be governed by mutual interest, and will cultivate a spirit of mutual amity and concord. 
While Hamilton's ideas certainly proved true for the soon to be UNITED States, they are not true of relations between nations.  As the great Thucydides states, nations often go to war out of FEAR, HONOR and INTEREST, commercial ties and trading status be damned.

In the Anti-Federalist #6, Brutus really goes to town on the issue of taxation and correctly points out the inherent conflict in delegating some powers of taxation and revenue to the states while maintaining some to the intended Federal government:
Suppose then that both governments should lay taxes, duties, and excises, and it should fall so heavy on the people that they would be unable, or be so burdensome that they would refuse to pay them both — would it not be necessary that the general legislature should suspend the collection of the state tax? It certainly would. For, if the people could not, or would not pay both, they must be discharged from the tax to the state, or the tax to the general government could not be collected.
WOW, does that sound familiar...can anyone say Federal bailout of the states and cities?  Hmmm, think your state tax burden is going down...how about your property taxes?  Mine sure as hell haven't, even though my house has lost about 30% of my equity.
Here's an even better quote:
A power that has such latitude, which reaches every person in the community in every conceivable circumstance, and lays hold of every species of property they possess, and which has no bounds set to it, but the discretion of those who exercise it[,] I say, such a power must necessarily, from its very nature, swallow up all the power of the state governments.
And to conclude:
For every man, rulers as well as others, are bound by the immutable laws of God and reason, always to will what is right. It is certainly right and fit, that the governors of every people should provide for the common defence and general welfare; every government, therefore, in the world, even the greatest despot, is limited in the exercise of his power. But however just this reasoning may be, it would be found, in practice, a most pitiful restriction. The government would always say, their measures were designed and calculated to promote the public good; and there being no judge between them and the people, the rulers themselves must, and would always, judge for themselves. [my emphasis]
 Think about it-- everything this Congress and Administration have done is "for the public good" or "for the children" or "for the poor and disadvantaged"  REALLY?!
Does anyone believe that anymore?  Does any member of Congress have the cajones to say "This is madness and a crock, this [fill in the blank] legislation is a pure power grab, plan and simple!"  Sadly, not too likely....yet..

Our Founders had a keen understanding of the power of taxation to destroy...not only the economy and industry of the new nation, but the power of the people to keep their liberty.  Once Congress gets its snout in the trough, they can invent all kinds of reasons to take your {our} money and spend it as THEY see fit.....
Hmmm....maybe there was something to Shays Rebellion after all....

Monday, August 16, 2010

The first of many "We Won the War!" books on Iraq

A Chance in  Hell: The Men Who Triumphed Over Iraq's Deadliest City and Turned the  Tide of War is the first of many books likely to be published in the coming years that explain why our brigade/battalion/company won the war in Iraq.

So, how true is it for this book? Well the 1st Armored Division Brigade that was sent to Ramadi in 2006 probably has as good a claim as anyone.  The fighting in Anbar Province in 2005-2006 was a strategically losing proposition for the U.S.  The mostly hostile Sunni population was providing an active "sea" for Al Qaeda "fish" to swim in and U.S. forces seemed to be taking endless casualties by IEDs with no sense of victory in sight.

Enter a fairly inconsequential Sunni tribal sheik, weary of Al Qaeda's extremism with an offer to fight for the Americans and PRESTO CHANGO, the rest, they say, is history.

The book moves at a pretty fast pace, while conveying a sense of the high-risk effort undertaken by the soldiers, Marines, SEALs, etc that teamed up with Sunni tribesmen to defeat Al Qaeda and begin to turn Anbar Province into a success by late 2007.  The independent thinking of the officers and NCOs of the brigade is fascinating to watch as they thread a fine line between the U.S. military command in Baghdad, the diplomatic and political landmines in Baghdad and Washington and the politics and squabbles of the various tribes seeking favor with the Americans as the Surge begins in 2007 and the tide of battle begins to turn against the extremists.

Anbar was considered a lost cause in 2006.  These remarkable troops made a big difference in the effort to turn things around.  Did they turn the tide of the war?  Maybe.  Did they change the narrative, think outside the box and win a classic counter-insurgency struggle?  Most definitely, and their story needs to be told.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Back to our previously scheduled program

A continued divergence of discussion points here in Federalist and Anti-Federalist #5.

In Federalist #5 John Jay continues the argument for a strong United group of States to not only withstand European pressure and interference, but to prevent the "Balkanization" of the colonies into competing armed camps that would not only potential fight amongst themselves, but invite foreign alliances and entanglements:
Instead of their being "joined in affection'' and free from all apprehension of different "interests,'' envy and jealousy would soon extinguish confidence and affection, and the partial interests of each confederacy, instead of the general interests of all America, would be the only objects of their policy and pursuits. Hence, like most other BORDERING nations, they would always be either involved in disputes and war, or live in the constant apprehension of them.
As usual, the Founding Fathers were way ahead of their time, as Americans we must stand united again today, only this time from an internal tyrant called Big Progressive Government, determined to pass their agenda, regardless of the people's wishes and funded by ???? shadowy foreigners?  (can anyone spell Soros?)

The publisher of the Anti-Federalist 5 continues to speak about the dangers of a dictatorial Chief Executive (hmmm, sound familiar) and a legislative branch all too prone to corruption and influence at the expense of the citizens it nominally represents....(wow, prophetic those old, white, powder-wig guys)
and you might as well deposit the important powers of legislation and execution in one or a few and permit them to govern according to their disposition and will; but the world is too full of examples, which prove that to live by one man's will became the cause of all men's misery.....Is it because you do not believe that an American can be a tyrant? If this be the case you rest on a weak basis; Americans are like other men in similar situations, when the manners and opinions of the community are changed by the causes I mentioned before, and your political compact inexplicit, your posterity will find that great power connected with ambition, luxury, and flattery, will as readily produce a Caesar, Caligula, Nero, and Domitian in America, as the same causes did in the Roman empire.
Dang....those guys, being very,very steeped in history, as opposed to the mushy social studies crap we feed our kids in school now, understood how quickly and easily Rome moved from a Republic to a Dictatorship to an Empire to.....nothing but bread and circuses....hmmm can anyone say Jersey Shore?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Great Masters of Strategy and Modern Warfare

The significant changes that have occurred in warfare at the operational and tactical level in the first decade of the 21st century have created an intense debate about changes to warfare at the strategic level.  This debate has been most passionate over the role of the great classical thinkers on war, particularly Karl von Clausewitz and his opus On War. A particular group of defense analysts, strategic thinkers, and professional soldiers question whether warfare has evolved at the strategic level into something so radically different that a new strategic paradigm is in order.  Competing analysts and scholars believe that the eternal nature of war at the strategic and grand strategy levels remains fundamentally unchanged, in spite of new actors and means of waging war.

In fact, a careful reading of both arguments reveals that Clausewitz’ two major themes on war—the relationship between war and politics and the interaction of his “strategic trinity” relationship remain just as valid today as they did in 1832, if studied and applied with a careful understanding and context within a proper historical and strategic setting.

The most misunderstood, but relevant, discussion Clausewitz raised in his work was the issue of “friction” and uncertainty in war.  For Clausewitz friction in war took two forms, tactical and strategic, both of which remain germane for conflict in the 20th and 21st centuries.  At the strategic level, Clausewitz noted that wars often veer in unexpected directions, often driven by the emotion side of his strategic triad, and not always controlled by the rational portion.  A primary example is the carnage of the Western Front in World War I, where the cost in treasure and manpower after 1914 quickly and completely overcame any possible negotiated settlement to the war, turning the conflict into a grinding attrition war that eventually killed millions and destroyed three of Europe’s oldest dynasties.  According to Clausewitz countries often go to war without a clear understanding of how to balance the ways and means the people, government, and military are willing to expend to achieve military and political ends.  This strategic friction of starting a war without clear and achievable goals is described as one of the worst mistakes a country can make, and numerous analysts have invoked Clausewitizian thought to condemn the American invasion of Iraq as a military operation begun without clear end goals or a desired and achievable political end state.

The more important aspect of Clausewitz’ thinking on friction is the understanding that warfare is fought between two thinking, evolving and adapting opponents.  In Clausewitz thinking it is the height of folly to assume your opponent will do what you expect them or stand idly while being attacked.   The maxim is true at both the strategic and tactical level.  The most recent conflict in Lebanon show how Israel underestimated Hezbollah’s willingness and capabilities to engage in prolonged firefights at the tactical level while completely changing the conflict at the strategic level by bombarding Israeli towns with rockets and missiles.  The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) never did provide an effective counter to their new opponents, expecting Hezbollah to crumple under the weight of Israeli firepower and tactical ability as previous Arab armies had done.  The U.S. also encountered this phenomenon during the initial states of Operation Iraqi Freedom when American tank columns did not face Iraqi armored units but groups of irregular fighters in civilian clothes fighting from pickup trucks.  Although U.S. combat units decimated these forces, follow-on logistical and maintenance units were much more vulnerable and considerable combat strength had to be diverted to protect supply lines.

Although warfare has changed a great deal through technology, culture and a new media dominated environment, the nature of war is eternal.  The attempt by “new war” theorists to discredit the classic strategic thinkers, particularly Clausewitz, falls short of the mark.  Although the realm of nation-state warfare is certainly in flux, the lessons on the political relationship of war and diplomacy combined with the strategic triad and the role of friction and uncertainty described in On War remains viable today.  Understanding Clausewitz, Sun Tzu, Jomini, and even Thucydides in the context of their times and circumstances continues to offer relevant insights to soldiers and politicians attempting to understand the unforgiving complexities of war.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Unusual Book

Okay, I have spent the weekend consuming World War Z by Max Brooks.  Now this is the kind of book that is normally wayyyy out of my lane, but it was actually recommended by one of the usual military strategy websites I read daily and I decided to check it out.  I was sucked in immediately and had trouble putting this book down over the weekend.
It is a strange mixture of sci-fi, narrative history and pure schlock.  I mean seriously- a book about a zombie war?  But, when I heard the author was the son of Mel Brooks, I had to check it out.  I must say the writing is really, really outstanding and it was not what I expected at all.  I have read many oral histories of World War II, Vietnam, and the Iraq War and this book could easily have been written by Studs Terkel. 
The attention to detail, while capturing the spirit of retelling the period when humanity almost became extinct is very well done by Mr. Brooks.  What makes the book really work is that Mr. Brooks does not get bogged down in the scientific details and doesn't tell you everything that happened, just weaves together various points of view to convey a sense of the "history" of the time and the "experiences" of the survivors.
Now,  I really enjoy alternate or counterfactual historical novels anyway, and this is one of the best I have read, ever.

I've never seen  a zombie movie, but I may have to check one out.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Finishing the Post on Hybrid Warfare

Warfare of annihilation, where one side completely destroys their opponent’s army and occupies their territory essentially ended in 1945.  Even the invasion of Iraq in 2003 did not see the U.S. completely destroy the Iraqi army and government, one of the major psychological and military reasons the subsequent insurgency was able to take root.  Modern sensibilities and aversion to casualties and destruction will also introduce a new element into the strategic and operational equation of warfare—time.  Future combat, or at least periods of intense fighting, will be severely shortened in hybrid wars as the weaker side will likely appeal to sympathetic media outlets and international organizations to end the complete destruction of their forces at the hand of their better equipped foes by decrying collateral damage and civilian casualties.  These media organizations, international bodies and even non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will practically become co-belligerents on the battlefield, wielding disproportionate influence on the operational and political outcome of the battle.
    Operationally, hybrid warfare will present two significant challenges to conventional militaries.  First, the weaker side does not need to achieve any major battlefield victories to achieve their political goals.  As the case study on the 2006 Lebanon War will show, merely being able to fight and survive against the superior military allows the hybrid warrior to claim some measure of ‘victory’ even after suffering significant casualties.
    Second, the weaker power is likely to operate in a loose network of fighters that will not present a significant target for conventional firepower.  Moreover, the growing urbanization of many Third-world countries, combined with the deliberate decision to wage war in densely populated areas will make the operational and tactical problems more difficult for Western militaries.  The USMC is already grappling with this issue in their discussion of a ‘three-block war,’ where Western military forces may be conducting assistance, security,  and combat operations in close proximity and nearly simultaneously.  Hybrid warriors will not be faced with his problem and will be singularly focused on inflicting casualties on their enemies.
    Given the new nature of hybrid warfare and its close nexus of political, diplomatic and information influences on combat, what lessons should militaries such as Israel and the United States learn at the tactical and operational level?
•    Hybrid warfare is already shaping not only how insurgents and non-state actors fight, but countries as well.  Incorporating the lessons of the 2006 Lebanon War, Iran has begun to completely reshape their strategy for dealing with a ground invasion by foreign forces that are assumed to be technologically superior, more mobile, and enjoy air superiority over the Iranian military, presumably the United States.
•    Technology will not be a panacea, and in fact, may hinder the ability to defeat hybrid opponents.  As both the U.S. and Israel learned, enemies like Hezbollah that cannot match Western firepower will simply neutralize that firepower politically by fighting from urban areas and concealing weapons and supplies in schools, homes, and mosques.  Although there will be a continuing role for technology in warfare, particularly intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance tools, hybrid warfare cannot be waged by airpower at 10,000 feet.
•    Hybrid warfare must be waged beyond merely military considerations.  Although tactical and operational capability is necessary, as all three case studies show, military action, diplomatic and political efforts, and information operations must be tightly woven into the “strategic narrative” that not only defeats the enemy militarily, but wins in the arena of public opinion.  In hybrid warfare, the internet and television news are weapons no less than tanks and airplanes.
•    The prospect of fighting hybrid warfare will require fundamental operational and tactical decisions for the U.S. military-particularly the Army and Marine Corps.  Although the strategic level of war will remain basically unchanged, the balance between the light infantry/special operations forces component and the heavy armor/combined arms will create significant changes to future weapons systems acquisitions as the Army and Marine Corps decide on the types and numbers of tanks, mine-resistant vehicles, and other equipment needed to fight and win against an opponent armed with increasing numbers of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles.  The future ground forces of the U.S. Army will very much be affected by hybrid warfare.  The current debate on light versus heavy brigades, conventional versus COIN warfare, and which type of opponent the U.S. should be prepared to fight will have a significant long-term effect on not only force structure and procurement strategies, but training, doctrine and the overall concept of employing military force.
Hybrid warfare will present immense challenges to high-tech conventional militaries in the 21st century.  How well the militaries and their political masters adapt to the new strategic, operational, and tactical levels of warfare will go a long way in determining how useful military power will be in the years to come.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Win one for the Gipper

Continuing with the second volume, Hayward performs a critical analysis of Reagan's two terms and, unlike the worshipful polemics written about Clinton and no doubt Obama, Hayward again pulls no punches in pointing out the highs and lows of the Reagan years, including Iran-contra, Lebanon and other missteps of his Administration, even covering the 1987 stock market crash.

The book continues the "destiny" theme from the first volume.  The 1980 campaign was not a sure thing until the final debate, when Reagan hammered Carter with wit and deft to show voters he was not too old to assume the Presidency.  The early fights over tax cuts, the defense buildup and even Reagan's near-assassination show just how much a near-run thing his victories over a constantly back-biting Congress were.

This book does continue Hayward's penchant for detail, detail and moooore detail, particularly over the arcane point of economic and social theory.  It does take some work to get through and I will admit, I might have skipped a few pages.  The narrative on foreign policy was really excellent, especially Reagan's clear and concise thinking about defeating Communism by any means needed and regardless of the ninny-nannying of the Europeans and the left wing loonys. (yes I wrote ninny-nannying)  Our current leader could take some lessons about getting a backbone against the Islamist threat we face today.

These are weighty tomes, but well worth reading if you want to get a sense of Reagan within his times and how he literally saved America, the freedom of Western Europe and created the modern conservative movement.  I doubt they will be on Nancy Pelosi's Amazon Wish list, so all the better.