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Rob Thornton
11-21-2007, 11:32 AM
Retired Major-General Scales wrote a thoughtful piece on the use of the "Culmination Point" to describe AQIZ's current potential of challenging the outcome there. Generally we think about the culmination point as "the point in time and space where a force no longer possesses the capability to continue its current form of operations" - that is out of the latest FM 3-0 DRAG - but general scales gives an explanation that I think is more in line with the AQ ability to foment insurgency vs. our counter-insurgency efforts. I also remember if you go back to some of the older incarnates of FM 101-5-1s you'll find more thoughtful definitions like his vs. the truncated one in the 3-0 DRAG. Doctrinal concepts such as the culmination point help to visualize the battlefield, communicate and determine when and how to make transitions.

You can pick up the full article in the early bird - however I can't provide a link to the WSJ since it requires a subscription.


Wall Street Journal
November 21, 2007
Pg. 18

Petraeus's Iraq

By Robert H. Scales

BAGHDAD, IRAQ -- I've just returned from a week in Iraq with Gen. David Petraeus and his operational commanders. My intent was to look at events from an operational perspective and assess the surge. What I got was a soldier's sense of what's happening on the ground and, although the jury is still out on the surge, I came to the conclusion that we may now be reaching the "culminating point" in this war.

The culminating point marks the shift in advantage from one side to the other, when the outcome becomes irreversible: The potential loser can inflict casualties, but has lost all chance of victory. The only issue is how much longer the war will last, and what the butcher's bill will be.

Battles usually define the culminating point. In World War II, Midway was a turning point against the Japanese, El Alamein was a turning point against the Nazis and after Stalingrad, Germany no longer was able to stop the Russians from advancing on their eastern front. Wars usually culminate before either antagonist is aware of the event. Abraham Lincoln didn't realize Gettysburg had turned the tide of the American Civil War. In Vietnam, the Tet offensive proved that culminating points aren't always military victories.

Culminating points are psychological, not physical, happenings. The commanders I spoke to in Iraq all said that there had been a remarkable change of mood in February when Gen. Petraeus announced that they were taking the fight to the enemy by taking Baghdad from al Qaeda. He pushed soldiers out of the big (and relatively safe) forward operating bases and scattered them among really bad neighborhoods. These joint security stations and combat outposts attracted locals and encouraged them to pass on intelligence about the enemy.

Best, Rob

Tom Odom
11-21-2007, 02:22 PM
I respect Bob Scales and consider him a friend. He was very easy to work for in writing Certain Victory--not every general allows a major free voice of his opinions and actually listens to them.

That said, I think this is classic misapplication of concepts to situations where they do not necessarily apply. I have made my opinions on the ethnic and religious map of "Iraq" known. To say this is a culmination point implies a verge in that the surge has brought the Iraq situation to the verge of success or the precipice of failure. I submit it is neither. It is rather a pause in the ongoing aftermath; what happens next is not clear and Scales is interpreting too much clarity into it by positing that anything as clear as a culmination point has emerged.

In contrast, he could be correct if he interprets that culmination point as an Americam culmination point. The surge is being interpreted as a success in the run up to elections; who is doing the interpreting determines what that success means.

best

Tom

Rank amateur
11-21-2007, 03:40 PM
It depends what the mission is. AQI needs the support of the population and it looks like they're losing that. I've long thought that the mission should be limited to removing AQI from Iraq, but there are lots of people who believe that the objective should be more ambitious.

We're a long way from a democratic, stable Iraq.

Gian P Gentile
11-21-2007, 03:56 PM
That said, I think this is classic misapplication of concepts to situations where they do not necessarily apply. I have made my opinions on the ethnic and religious map of "Iraq" known. To say this is a culmination point implies a verge in that the surge has brought the Iraq situation to the verge of success or the precipice of failure. I submit it is neither. It is rather a pause in the ongoing aftermath; what happens next is not clear and Scales is interpreting too much clarity into it by positing that anything as clear as a culmination point has emerged.

In contrast, he could be correct if he interprets that culmination point as an Americam culmination point. The surge is being interpreted as a success in the run up to elections; who is doing the interpreting determines what that success means.

Mr Odom:

This is a superbly written assessment of MG Scales's piece. It summarizes my thoughts exactly on it and i tried to write a posting for it but couldnt get it right. In my mind you do. Although i am probably not the one to be criticizing writers using historical analogies (because i did just that in my How To Stop IEDs oped) I think his use of Gettysburg and the American Civil War, in how he applies it to Iraq is deeply flawed. He makes it seem as you say a point of clarity that we have turned the corner. But a more nuanced analogy would have acknowledged that after G.Burg there were two more years of Civil War with many, many Americans dead. Is that what we have to look forward to in Iraq. I usually like the pieces that Gen Scales writes, but on this one i have lost my trust in him as an objective observer and consider him to be now on the "victory" bandwagon.

gentile

Cavguy
11-21-2007, 04:06 PM
Mr Odom:
Although i am probably not the one to be criticizing writers using historical analogies (because i did just that in my How To Stop IEDs oped) I think his use of Gettysburg and the American Civil War, in how he applies it to Iraq is deeply flawed. He makes it seem as you say a point of clarity that we have turned the corner.


I have to jump on this bandwagon too.

One thing I've hated since first going to Baghdad in 2003 was the number of times major leaders or influencers have stated we're at the "tipping point", "culmination", "last throes", "End of the beginning", "beginning of the end", "decisive point", etc. The problem is that if we really have reached that point no one will believe it because of the "cry Wolf" syndrome.

It's almost as comical as the stock MNF-I answer to how large the insurgency is (from 2004-2006) - about 20,000. Never mind we detained over 90,000 in that period and killed over 10,000 AIF. :rolleyes:

There is little doubt that we have achieved at least temporary tactical and operational success, which has provided a window for larger strategic success. Strategic success depends on Iraqi political reconciliation, who as of this morning's paper Maliki was accusing the Sunni parliment bloc of being illegitimate. When the surge subsides that window will slowly begin to close if there is no progress on giving the Iraqis a flag/government to rally around, which seems as remote as ever.

Tom Odom
11-21-2007, 04:09 PM
Mr Odom:

This is a superbly written assessment of MG Scales's piece. It summarizes my thoughts exactly on it and i tried to write a posting for it but couldnt get it right. In my mind you do. Although i am probably not the one to be criticizing writers using historical analogies (because i did just that in my How To Stop IEDs oped) I think his use of Gettysburg and the American Civil War, in how he applies it to Iraq is deeply flawed. He makes it seem as you say a point of clarity that we have turned the corner. But a more nuanced analogy would have acknowledged that after G.Burg there were two more years of Civil War with many, many Americans dead. Is that what we have to look forward to in Iraq. I usually like the pieces that Gen Scales writes, but on this one i have lost my trust in him as an objective observer and consider him to be now on the "victory" bandwagon.

gentile

Gian,

Thanks for that. But please, Tom, suits just fine. Bob Scales has a tendency to reach for the dramatic sometimes and does so in this one; what is refreshing is that he will admit it, even when he is proved wrong. He said as much in revisiting the opening chapter of Certain Victory when he talked about a new way of war, something that made Terry Johnson and me cringe at the time.

In this case, I take a longer view because Iraq is a region which seen countless armies come, declare victory, and leave, changing nothing but borders, which have little meaning beyond offering reason for future conflict. Personally I don't mind the victory declarations if the do what Bob Scales said--set the stage for political and diplomatic measures--and allow us to extract ourselves and preserve our precious military forces.

best

Tom

Rank amateur
11-21-2007, 05:19 PM
Strategic success depends on Iraqi political reconciliation,

I know you didn't set the strategy, so I'm sure you won't take this personally.

I always thought it was dumb to make our strategic success dependent on others. There are lots of ways things could turn out "Not too bad." Stating that three stable countries would be a loss for us, makes it a lot tougher to win.

Cavguy
11-21-2007, 05:28 PM
I know you didn't set the strategy, so I'm sure you won't take this personally.

I always thought it was dumb to make our strategic success dependent on others. There are lots of ways things could turn out "Not too bad." Stating that three stable countries would be a loss for us, makes it a lot tougher to win.

I'm referring to the strategic objective as being our current national objective as stated in Iraq by the national leadership, not what I think it ought to be. We all have our opinion on that one - but my view (held since 2003 when I was in Baghdad), that Iraq really needed - a) a benevolent dictator to oversee the transition to democracy and lay off the nukes - kind of like Turkey or worst case Jordan, or needed to be partitioned into states. Worked as a solution in the Balkans - although it involved massive population displacement..

We lost a lot of leverage to affect their political situation when we abruptly handed power off to an unprepared government in June 2004 when Bremer left. The problem with Iraqi sovereignty is that there is Iraqi sovereignty.....

tequila
11-21-2007, 05:43 PM
I always thought it was dumb to make our strategic success dependent on others. There are lots of ways things could turn out "Not too bad." Stating that three stable countries would be a loss for us, makes it a lot tougher to win.

Even basic stability, to a large extent, depends on others --- unless the plan becomes to run Iraq as an American colony in perpetuity, a plan which I think all can agree is in itself a failure.

If referring to early direct elections, one should remember that the original plan was not for elections but rather caucuses of Iraqis picked by CPA officials who would "elect" a new "sovereign" Iraqi government. This plan vanished once word of it hit the Iraqi press and Ayatollah Sistani called out hundreds of thousands of protestors against it.

Rob Thornton
11-21-2007, 05:44 PM
I guess its hard to get past the context of Iraq -since in this case its the context he uses to talk about culmination points, and because everything that is written now has political consequences - but what are the thoughts on culmination points with regard to the psychological vs. physical? What about why things happen without recognition of what they are? How do they effect transitions? The paragraph below is what stuck with me.


Battles usually define the culminating point. In World War II, Midway was a turning point against the Japanese, El Alamein was a turning point against the Nazis and after Stalingrad, Germany no longer was able to stop the Russians from advancing on their eastern front. Wars usually culminate before either antagonist is aware of the event. Abraham Lincoln didn't realize Gettysburg had turned the tide of the American Civil War. In Vietnam, the Tet offensive proved that culminating points aren't always military victories.

I mean it could go both ways couldn't it - you could culminate and not even know it. If we're talking about physical culmination - being out of Schlitz so to speak - even that could be subject to how you see yourself and the enemy. It just seems allot easier to look backwards and say - there was the culmination point where it was set in stone, then to say "here, is the culmination point". It may have just been the way I read it, and what interested me in the article - but I saw general Scales as pondering the possibilities and raising the questions of how culmination points come into being, how rivals see their selves, what does it mean in the broader perspective, what does that mean to policy, etc. I don't think Lee saw Gettysburg as a culmination point for his army - I'd argue he thought he had a shot right up to the end - he just needed the opportunity to make it happen. I'd argue that Grant did not see Lee as having culminated either until Lee had conceded by correspondence. Part of it has to do with those analogies - duels on larger scales, poker games, extreme sports, wrestlers etc - but with the highest stakes in the outcome.

I think its worthwhile to think about because it gets to how we make military and political decisions in war. I mean the threads gotta go where the thread goes - but that is what interested me.

Best regards, Rob

wm
11-21-2007, 06:53 PM
It just seems allot easier to look backwards and say - there was the culmination point where it was set in stone, then to say "here, is the culmination point". It may have just been the way I read it, and what interested me in the article - but I saw general Scales as pondering the possibilities and raising the questions of how culmination points come into being, how rivals see their selves, what does it mean in the broader perspective, what does that mean to policy, etc. I don't think Lee saw Gettysburg as a culmination point for his army - I'd argue he thought he had a shot right up to the end - he just needed the opportunity to make it happen. I'd argue that Grant did not see Lee as having culminated either until Lee had conceded by correspondence. Part of it has to do with those analogies - duels on larger scales, poker games, extreme sports, wrestlers etc - but with the highest stakes in the outcome.

I think its worthwhile to think about because it gets to how we make military and political decisions in war. I mean the threads gotta go where the thread goes - but that is what interested me.
Rob,

I'd say it is easier to see a culmination point in hindsight because it is a form of explanatory description rather than a form of predictive description. I should probably explain what I mean here. We use the word "why"
in two different ways--in one case we are describing what has happened after the fact --this is what happens with the Perry Mason chain of reasoning that justifies our making the assertion, "I now know that Colonel Mustard killed Mr. Body in the Library with the lead pipe." In the second case, we try to extrapolate from a current point into the future--this is the predictive description. Its outcome would be, "I now know that Col Mustard will kill Mr. Body in the Library with the lead pipe."

Warfare, like most human activities, is at best multicausal. (I suspect part of it is purely accidental.) It has some regularity, but not sufficient regularity to enable one to predict outcomes with any degree of confidence. We can usualy reconstruct events and provide an explanation after the fact. There are just too many independent variables to afford us the same luxury for accurately predicting outcomes involving creatures who are capable of changing their minds.

Rank amateur
11-21-2007, 06:59 PM
Even basic stability, to a large extent, depends on others

True. Which is why things like Nato, the UN etc are important. If you bring them in from the beginning, and things fail, it's not a US defeat, it's a bureaucratic screw up. If the objective had been, remove Saddam, then leave, we'd have won already.


I saw general Scales as pondering the possibilities and raising the questions of how culmination points come into being, how rivals see their selves, what does it mean in the broader perspective, what does that mean to policy, etc.

I'd say it's the point where it's inevitable that your strategy will defeat the opponent's strategy. If you assume that our strategy in Nam was to kill all the Communists and the Communist strategy was to convince us that they'd never stop fighting, Tet proved to a lot of people that our strategy wouldn't work and their's would. Inevitable, however, is subjective and the enemy can change strategies.

In Iraq, I'd say we're approaching the point where it becomes obvious that population control will work and that national reconciliation won't. But I'd say the first is still premature and since not many people agree with me, maybe the second is too. Still, I think we're close enough on the second point that somebody should start thinking about Plan B. (Sounds like Cavguy is perfect for the job.)

Rank amateur
11-21-2007, 07:18 PM
Warfare, like most human activities, is at best multicausal. (I suspect part of it is purely accidental.) It has some regularity, but not sufficient regularity to enable one to predict outcomes with any degree of confidence.

The outcomes of battles are difficult to predict: wars, not so much. When both sides have a strategy of chewing up the other side's planes, tanks and infantry, (WWII) Hitler's chances of victory became pretty slim once the US fired up its factories.

Despite Hannibal's tactical brilliance at killing roman soldiers, the fact that both sides had the same strategy - kill the other sides soldiers - and the fact that Italy had so many more people than Carthage made an Italian victory almost inevitable.

I will agree, however, that inevitable is a word that can only be used in hindsight. Just because Hitler never had an atomic bomb, doesn't mean that in 1943 it was possible to say that he never would. And I'm sure that if Hannibal had gotten his hands on gunpowder he would've figured out how to use it effectively. You can never assume that the playing field won't change.

wm
11-21-2007, 07:40 PM
The outcomes of battles are difficult to predict: wars, not so much. When both sides have a strategy of chewing up the other side's planes, tanks and infantry, (WWII) Hitler's chances of victory became pretty slim once the US fired up its factories. You've already skewed the analysis. It was not at all clear in 1940 that the US would become the arsenal of democracy. The US might also have changed its plan in 1943 and elected to negotiate with the Germans. (I suspect we were in a fight to the end with the Japanese after Pearl Harbor, but that same level of animosity was not as present WRT Germany--ulike in WWI.)

Despite Hannibal's tactical brilliance at killing roman soldiers, the fact that both sides had the same strategy - kill the other sides soldiers - and the fact that Italy had so many more people than Carthage made an Italian victory almost inevitable. Again this only became inevitable after the end of the period of Fabian delay, and the Roman decision to invade Tunisia. After Cannhae or Lake Trasimene, I do not think the outcome was so inevitable.


I will agree, however, that inevitable is a word that can only be used in hindsight. Just because Hitler never had an atomic bomb, doesn't mean that in 1943 it was possible to say that he never would. And I'm sure that if Hannibal had gotten his hands on gunpowder he would've figured out how to use it effectively. You can never assume that the playing field won't change. Nor can you assume that the aims of those on either side of the playing field won't also change, in either a rational or less than rational way. This latter was my main point.

Rank amateur
11-21-2007, 09:04 PM
You've already skewed the analysis. It was not at all clear in 1940 that the US would become the arsenal of democracy.

No but it was obvious sometime before Adolph married Eva. Therefore, the culmination point was somewhere between those two points in time.



After Cannhae or Lake Trasimene, I do not think the outcome was so inevitable.

I agree - so the cumulation point hadn't been reached yet - but I still would've bet on the Italians. (There was a reason Hannibal didn't sack Rome, in spite of being urged to.) The Romans still had more resources to execute their strategy and I would've bet that Hannibal wouldn't be able to alter that equation.


Again this only became inevitable after the end of the period of Fabian delay, and the Roman decision to invade Tunisia

Careful, it almost sounds like you're saying there is a point before the end of a war where victory becomes inevitable. ;)

I agree with you that the concept is most useful in hindsight, but I agree with Rob that it has some strategic relevance. (I think it would've been useful if a few people had realized that toppling Saddam's statue was a photo op, not a culmination point.) I also agree with Tom. The article over states things, but preparing the world for "Things are better, so we don't need as many troops now" is a good thing.

RTK
11-21-2007, 10:25 PM
Rob,

Which do you really think he meant?


From FM 1-02:


decisive point (DOD) A geographic place, specific key event, critical system or function that allows commanders to gain a marked advantage over an enemy and greatly influence the outcome of an attack

culminating point (DOD) The point at which a force no longer has the capability to continue its form of operations, offensive or defense. a. In the offense, the point at which continuing the attack is no longer possible and the force must consider reverting to a defensive posture or attempting an operational pause. b. In the defense, the point at which counteroffensive action is no longer possible.

Tom Odom
11-21-2007, 10:59 PM
Good post Ryan and to the point.

I would sayhe using DP and calling it CP=or blending without explanation.

Tom

Tom Odom
11-21-2007, 10:59 PM
Good post Ryan and to the point.

I would say he using DP and calling it CP=or blending without explanation.

Tom

wm
11-21-2007, 11:42 PM
I agree - so the cumulation point hadn't been reached yet - but I still would've bet on the Italians. (There was a reason Hannibal didn't sack Rome, in spite of being urged to.) The Romans still had more resources to execute their strategy and I would've bet that Hannibal wouldn't be able to alter that equation. THe reason Hannibal did not sack Rome was becaue he did not have the wherewithal to do so. He chose instead to try to detach the Socii by showing them that Rome could not protect them--probably a strategic blunder on his part (sort of like what Al Qaida in Iraq did to lose popular support), but I imagine Hanniball thought it seemed like a good idea at the time (reminds me of that story Steve McQueen tells in The Great Escape about the guy jumping into the cactus).


Careful, it almost sounds like you're saying there is a point before the end of a war where victory becomes inevitable. ;)
I thought you might pick up on that.:eek:
I would say that a complete Roman victory became more likely after the legions landed safely in Tunisia. However the issue of battling elephant-equipped armies still made the outcome highly suspect. If it became inevitable, that inevitability appeared as the Carthaginian army fled in disarray from the field at Zama.


I agree with you that the concept is most useful in hindsight, but I agree with Rob that it has some strategic relevance. (I think it would've been useful if a few people had realized that toppling Saddam's statue was a photo op, not a culmination point.) I also agree with Tom. The article over states things, but preparing the world for "Things are better, so we don't need as many troops now" is a good thing.

As the subsequent posts from RTK and Tom indicate, a culminating point does have a useful meaning, just not in the way that Scales seems to be using it in his essay. It has operational and tactical relelvance and maybe strategic relevance in a conventional, symmetrical war. I see Scales' usage as being akin to a "turning point" or a crisis, as defined in literature.

PhilR
11-22-2007, 06:34 AM
Precise doctrinal definitions are useful at the lower levels because they allow the rapid transmission of meaning through fewer words. The common understanding is needed for unity of action.
As we move up the scale to the strategic level, I beleive that precision in language is less relevant. Rather than trying to sum something complex up into a neat phrase or term, its takes somewhat more skill to explain what is meant--succinct doctrinal concepts fall short of the mark (as do sound bites).
I think that this is revealed in all of the postings so far, where the richness of the situation in Iraq requires more explanation than that contained in the definition of "culminating point." I will agree, however, that Scales' choice of the the term reveals his own summation of all of the information. The danger is that now becomes a lens that colors the analysis of further information: "If this is the culminating point, then we expect X to happen, or if Y happens, it means this or that." If that assumption (culmination) is not continually re-evaluated, it will then lead to further misreading of the situation.

Gian P Gentile
11-22-2007, 12:20 PM
The danger is that now becomes a lens that colors the analysis of further information: "If this is the culminating point, then we expect X to happen, or if Y happens, it means this or that." If that assumption (culmination) is not continually re-evaluated, it will then lead to further misreading of the situation.

Right, I agree and to build on this statement Scales has used the word "culmination" as metaphor for things that defy his ability to express in clearer language. When I read the Scales piece it was like he was just substituting "culmination" for other metaphors like: "tipping point;" "turning point;" "we have the ball and the initiative;" "light at the end of the tunnel" sorts of things. And as PhilR points out it is almost binary-like in its conception. That there was this before, we are now here at the culminating point, and something wil happen next. An overly simplistic description of the complexity that defies simplification in the land from where PhilR writes.

RTK
11-22-2007, 01:43 PM
Precise doctrinal definitions are useful at the lower levels because they allow the rapid transmission of meaning through fewer words. The common understanding is needed for unity of action.
As we move up the scale to the strategic level, I beleive that precision in language is less relevant. Rather than trying to sum something complex up into a neat phrase or term, its takes somewhat more skill to explain what is meant--succinct doctrinal concepts fall short of the mark (as do sound bites).


If this is the case, then what's the point? IF all the terminology hits terminal velocity above a certain level, maybe that's what wrong at the "Big Map, Small Hand" level. Bigger question is, should we be willing to accept this as truth?

We've talked about this before on this board. As a tactics instructor it makes absolutely no sense to me that doctrinal terminology is not relevant above a certain stage. I have a feeling many of you disagree with me on this.

wm
11-22-2007, 02:50 PM
If this is the case, then what's the point? IF all the terminology hits terminal velocity above a certain level, maybe that's what wrong at the "Big Map, Small Hand" level. Bigger question is, should we be willing to accept this as truth?

We've talked about this before on this board. As a tactics instructor it makes absolutely no sense to me that doctrinal terminology is not relevant above a certain stage. I have a feeling many of you disagree with me on this.
RTK,
I would assert that any use of terminology has relevance in a context. Sometimes the context sets the relevance automatically, sometimes the relevance must be explained. I thinlk that Scales' use of culminating point in his article falls into the latter class of usage. As PhilR noted, at tactical and operational levels, the terminology has a perfectly transparent usage in the definitions you provided from JP1-02. The usage by Scales is a much more opaque metaphor.

For example, I would not use 'culminating point' in a current operation except to describe to my higher that my force had reached such a point that it was unlikely to be of much further operational use until given a chance to rest, refit, and reset. (And I probably would say my unit had or was becoming combat ineffective instead.) I do not see Scales using it in that way. I am not clear to whose culminating point he is referring--could be Coalition forces, could be insurgents, could be a subset of either or both, could even be all forces across the entire AOR. As you pointed out indirectly, as a mimimum, we need to know what scale map he has in mind when he uses the term. It would also be helpful to know to which "color' of unit symbols he is referring.

John T. Fishel
11-22-2007, 03:06 PM
many classes at CGSC where we tried to explain the term "culmination point" to eager young majors. It was part of the blocks on Operational Art and was always the most difficult of concepts. I came to think of the epitiome of a tactical culmination point as the second day at Gettysburg, the far left of the Union line at Little Round Top. Both Oates and Chamberlain had reached their culmination point when the latter ordered the bayonet charge that broke the Rebel attack. Oates' culmination point came moments before Chamberlain's but at the end of the charge neither force could continue doing what it had been doing.

Perhaps, a good example of an operational or theater strategic culmination point is the series of fights that Grant initiated in the Summer of 1864 and carried out through the siege of Petersburg when Lee, finally, could no longer continue what he was doing.

A national strategic culmination point was nearly reached that summer and fall when Union soldiers appeared to be dying needlessly in the battles in Virginia and Sherman showed no sign of taking Atlanta. The Democrats appeared likely to elect McClellan President with the result of a negotiated peace that would have sundered the Union. Had Sherman not taken Atlanta before the election the Union would, I think, have reached its national strategic culmination point because it no longer had the will to fight.

So, I suspect that the DOD definition of a culmination point is probably pretty good and can be addressed at all 3 levels of war. (Please note that I did not use Iraq or any other contemporary examples. :D I leave those applications to others, preferably after the turkey is finished.)

Cheers

JohnT

Global Scout
11-22-2007, 05:18 PM
Since the AQ threat is global I don't think defeating AQI (if we have) equates to a strategic culminating point for the long war (GWOT) or even the war in Iraq since it is multi-headed problem; however, we may be close to reaching a tactical or operational level culmination point against AQI.

I don't have strong feelings on this, but as food for thought, I think a culmination point for an insurgency or terrorist group/movement is generally more difficult to identify and/or define than it is a for a nation-state at war, especially without the benefit of hindsight. Insurgencies can ebb and flow, so any set back for the insurgents should probably best be viewed as temporary until the passage of time has proven otherwise, and it will take time (perhaps years) to see if this is truly a culmination point for AQI.

To help rebuild the USG's damaged credibility military professionals should probably steer away from perhaps overly rosey assessments, and simply focus on the facts, which fortunately is good news. However, if the situation takes a turn for the worse the speaker or author will be requoted a thousand times in an attempt to make him look like a fool and destroy his/her credibility. Let the politicians do that, as they seem to relish in their delusions.

For those of you that teach culmination points, do you have any examples of culminating points for insurgencies that I could use as examples when I mentor officers and NCOs?

John T. Fishel
11-22-2007, 08:21 PM
In El Salvador, I would suggest that the FMLN reached its culmination point with the failure of the November 1989 offensive. the principla reason for this was the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet decision to stop supporting Cuban foreign policy adventures which included support to the Sandinistas in Nicaragua to support the FMLN. The result was that the FMLN had the resources fro only one final offensive. When it failed, they headed to the negotiation table in earnest.

TET 68 was a strategic culminating point for the US in the Vietnam War because the interpretation of what happened by the American people was that this war would have no end and they were no longer willing to support it.

Note that I am using the DOD definition as supplied by RTK.

Hope this helps

Cheers

JohnT

Complex
11-23-2007, 03:43 AM
I have monitored this forum and lurked since early 2006, pleased to be on receive but hesitant to transmit/post given the healthy, intelligent dialogue. All credit to the moderators and members for maintaining a great site. Congratulations!

Me thinks the problem must be identified prior to assigning culmination points. Perhaps this long war, GWOT, GSAVE etc. will go on for just as long as irational religious belief exists.

marct
11-23-2007, 03:01 PM
Hi John,


So, I suspect that the DOD definition of a culmination point is probably pretty good and can be addressed at all 3 levels of war. (Please note that I did not use Iraq or any other contemporary examples. :D I leave those applications to others, preferably after the turkey is finished.)

I've been reading this discussion with some interest and trying to get a handle on what the term actually means. PhilR's point about language actually struck me as very relevant, and shifted my understanding quite a bit.

John, do both terms refer to shifts in organizational isomorphic vectors leading to a catastrophe point? This is what they seem to be referring to, but without that mathematical models. If that is the case, then it should be possible to map and plot them out.

Marc

PhilR
11-23-2007, 05:27 PM
The dialogue has prompted me to further think on the subject. In my previous posting, I did not mean that the doctrinal definitions are not relevant as we move up the ladder from tactical to strategic, but that they lose their precise nature.
At the lower levels, we can look at the definition for "culminating point" and each piece is usually readily apparent and generally agreed upon--what the terms "offense," "defense," and "capability" mean within the context are vital to understanding the definition as a whole. As we move up the scale, these terms are not so clear. In Iraq, we can argue about who constitutes what forces--there are multiple threats; we can also argue about who is on the offensive and what it means to be on the offensive. Can an insurgent run out of military capability, but offset and continue to press with informational capability?
It is no longer enough to state "culminating point" and generate an agreed upon mental picture in everyone's head as to what that really is. However, as demonstrated here, it does provide a great foundation for discussion and investigation--that is where the doctrinal terms are really useful at the higher levels.
I don't think it helps in this case that MG Scales has chosen not to use the doctrinal defintion of culminating point, as others have pointed out. He has freighted the term with a certainty and finality that it does not contain (according to DoD). The term as defined by DoD is just a shift in the form of operations, not necessarily an irreversible slope towards victory for one side or another. Of course, he is writing for a wider audience and may not feel tied to the DoD definiton, preferring a different tack. While it may appeal to the wider audience, it inevitably causes the debates within the military community as we are doing here.
I agree with Gian about the danger of the binary nature of MG Scales employment of the term (either the enemy is or it isn't at culmination and thus we can deduce X,Y,Z from this). We are in danger if this becomes the single presumed lens within which to analyze the campaign at this point. However, as sort of a working hypothesis to be continually held up to scrutiny, it is valuable as a framework to use to evaluate events and try to divine some direction for future action (it just shouldn't be the only framework--sort of like differing threat courses of action, or using scenario based planning).

John T. Fishel
11-23-2007, 06:18 PM
Isomorphic vectors, indeed! :eek: (I had to look isomorphic up - proved that a Phuddy Duddy can still use a dictionary:))

Are you referring toboth decisive points and culminating points? Or to culminating points at different levels of war? As Phil suggests, culmination does not always imply catastrophe although that is often how it is used. I guess that for me a culminating point is always not a good thing. If I reach it before my enemy does, I will not be able to accomplish my objective. If he reaches it before I do, he fails to achieve his objective.

That said, I don't think they are necessarily isomorphic vectors although they may be. By analogy: 2 marathoners are running side by side at the 20 mile mark. Obviously, they are on parallel vectors. One hits the wall and has to reduce pace; the other continues at pace and wins. the first hit his culminating point - the wall. Using the example of Chamberlain and Oates: The former was defending on a hill behind a wall. Oates was attacking up the hill but had more troops. Chamberlain was almost out of ammunition which was not Oates problem. Both had problems of fatigue. So, their vectors were hardly isomorphic but were quite different.

Much of this is psychological and much is physical. So, I find it hard to conceive how one might go about mapping.

Cheers

JohnT

marct
11-23-2007, 06:57 PM
Isomorphic vectors, indeed! :eek: (I had to look isomorphic up - proved that a Phuddy Duddy can still use a dictionary:))

LOLOL - I loved the concept of isomorphic vectors in social analysis when I came across it in the neo-institutionalists writings. It's so "clean".


Are you referring toboth decisive points and culminating points? Or to culminating points at different levels of war? As Phil suggests, culmination does not always imply catastrophe although that is often how it is used. I guess that for me a culminating point is always not a good thing. If I reach it before my enemy does, I will not be able to accomplish my objective. If he reaches it before I do, he fails to achieve his objective.

More towards culminating points across levels, although I suspect that decisive points could be mapped, or at least predicted, as well. On "catastrophe", I was using that in the mathematical sense (http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/CAT.ART.HTM), i.e. multiple vectors converging and spinning out of control or collapsing in on themselves.


That said, I don't think they are necessarily isomorphic vectors although they may be. By analogy: 2 marathoners are running side by side at the 20 mile mark. Obviously, they are on parallel vectors. One hits the wall and has to reduce pace; the other continues at pace and wins. the first hit his culminating point - the wall. Using the example of Chamberlain and Oates: The former was defending on a hill behind a wall. Oates was attacking up the hill but had more troops. Chamberlain was almost out of ammunition which was not Oates problem. Both had problems of fatigue. So, their vectors were hardly isomorphic but were quite different.

Much of this is psychological and much is physical. So, I find it hard to conceive how one might go about mapping.

I see your point, John. If the vectors are parallel, then any isomorphism will appear in other areas - keeping with your marathon example, training, physical build, etc. In order to probabilistically pick the "winner", you would need information on those isomorphism. The same is true of the Chamberlain and Oates example, but the isomorphisms are somewhat more evident.

I'm mainly thinking of it's application where you have a fairly radical asymmetry between isomorphic groups, and the groups become non-isomorphic at the level of fine grained detail.

Marc

Rob Thornton
11-26-2007, 06:39 PM
you wind up reading 4 pages per thread of good arguments and trying to digest it all - and you might catch somebody changing your name to "he looked better with a cigar":wry:.


Rob,

Which do you really think he meant?

From FM 1-02:

Quote:
decisive point – (DOD) A geographic place, specific key event, critical system or function that allows commanders to gain a marked advantage over an enemy and greatly influence the outcome of an attack

culminating point – (DOD) The point at which a force no longer has the capability to continue its form of operations, offensive or defense. a. In the offense, the point at which continuing the attack is no longer possible and the force must consider reverting to a defensive posture or attempting an operational pause. b. In the defense, the point at which counteroffensive action is no longer possible.

That was what originally struck me about the article - he steps right off from the current doctrinal definition when he states:

Culminating points are psychological, not physical, happenings.
Which ties into the examples John had brought up later about Grant's Overland Campaign - but even then Grant was still making moves in preparation of either Lee making a breakout and joining Johnston, or at least trying to. We'll never know how Lee really felt as he left no testimony.

This is where I liked General Scales interpretation of a doctrinal term from physical to psychological. What I see as physical may not be the same way my enemy see it (or my friends). The strength of will has allot to do with determining how much longer either I or my enemy will fight, and how they will fight. That is why its interesting and I think of value for people who go to war on precise calculations as if they will determine an outcome in a set amount of time - its not enough if you believe the enemy is beat, the enemy must believe either that he is beat, that the objective it too costly or that there is an alternative worth accepting at least for right now as opposed to getting nothing.

I think this might be useful for people deciding to use military means to achieve a political objective(s) - you can't go to war on a short term investment model (I mean one which postulates low cost/short term with high yield/long term benefits) because the enemy may decide to continue to fight long after your models and assumptions have ceased to be valid - no slam dunks, no dead enders, just a stubborn enemy who has decided that fighting is still an option he can pursue and one that offers better prospects then any other he understands, or can commit to - regardless of how we feel about it. That is why the decision to go to war should be the last option -it doesn't seem offer any kind of real finality unless the enemy is absolutely beaten and unconditionally surrenders - as in the Civil War and WWII - even then it can give rise to new problems. It seems the best it can offer - with heavy maintenance is the opportunity for less violent redress - but even then requires a commitment to keep the peace. The longer a state of war exists, the more it changes things and the more removed it is likely to become from its original aims in order to bring it to some kind of conclusion.

Having said all that - you can't do away with war either because somebody is going to see it as their best option and may use military force to impose their will on a neighbor to get what they cannot have otherwise. As long as you maintain a strong military and have the option of countering force with relative superior force, I think you can afford to be more patient in considering the outcome.

Changing gears a bit:

I don't think a friendly Decisive Point equals an enemy Culmination Point in that regard (or vice-versa) as most "marked advantages" still seem to be relative until its OBE - they are however both useful for assigning resources, priorities, synchronization, and other planning functions we used to get moving - but they change with the execution, and that is where CDRs and staffs should really be using their gray matter to understand what is going on vs. what the plan said would be going on. So while Scales definition does not conform to either the DP or CP from the DOD pubs - I think he may have outlined a more useful spirit of the term that is more useful in considering how the enemy decides when he's had enough.

One more thing John brought up with regards to the Overland Campaign - Grant thought Lee had "culminated" following the battle of North Anna and as a result got too anxious at Cold Harbor - he (Grant) said he basically mistook Lee's choosing not to take an opportunity to CATK the AoP's right flank at N. Anna and the subsequent evacuation of those Confederate positions as Lee's weaknesses in both physical and psychological/moral terms. For a number of reasons following that-political pressures, the strains of campaigning, his own desire to end it, and the belief that an opportunity existed - he committed to an attack that yielded no tactical or operational gains but cost him thousands of men in mere minutes. I think after that Grant realized how a wrong assumption about Lee's willingness to fight could prolong the war, and he vowed not to commit to such an assumption again.

Culmination Point is probably a more accurate term if confined to a self assessment used to communicate decisions to higher. However, we have to have some way of considering the enemy in order to take advantage of opportunities and that means accepting risk - I guess the important piece would be to ask "why" we think the enemy has culminated (or done whatever he has done) and then look for alternative explanations and better ways to test our conclusions (mitigate the risks we assume by taking advantage of opportunities).

Best Regards, Rob

goesh
11-26-2007, 07:14 PM
The collateral assumption here is a fractured, badly wounded and disorganized AQ/jihadist element in the equation, but the same parimeters that define culmination have made that determination. I think progress in the ability to govern and centralize power, to curtail religious fighting, to develope infrastructure and the economy is likewise no marker for the inability of insurgents to carry on the fight despite the current stand down on their part. I hope I'm wrong but its a year to a new White House and new strategies against jihadism and year is a long time to regroup, refund, rest and allow the opponent time to let down their guard.

Rob Thornton
11-26-2007, 11:41 PM
I think progress in the ability to govern and centralize power, to curtail religious fighting, to develop infrastructure and the economy is likewise no marker for the inability of insurgents to carry on the fight despite the current stand down on their part.

Hey Goesh - I think your right -it does not provide a guarantee - its only an indicator that you'd have to qualify by asking the "so what" to why a HN might have been able to accomplish those functions/services. I think depending how you look at it, there are varying degrees of stability or instability in which an opposing group can operate in. As long as an enemy has the means and the will to resist they'll probably do so. Maybe the only thing that changes is their ability to influence a population that may not have one or both of those things (means or will), and a HN government that may have more of one or both of those things then the enemy. Those conditions can change based on the HN government's ability or inability to deliver.

If a government (at whatever level) becomes better at governing and can provide security, and the populace "gets healthy" then the enemy has less freedom of movement and resources to draw upon - if it gets worse and can not provide security then the enemy may be provided with greater opportunities to achieve its own objectives.

What you may wind up with if the insurgency lost its appeal because the government met the basic needs of the governed - but there still existed some core groups/members with the means and will to carry off smaller attacks, is something akin to ETA of the late 80s/early 90s. I mean in the terms of ETA's capabilities (not ideology or goals). A group with capabilities like that could keep the spark alive so to speak until an opportunity existed again to regain momentum in a broader insurgency. I think that is one reason why many European countries still retain para-military forces - using straight military forces may not allow for enough civil liberties, while straight police forces might not be able to maintain security. I thought about that some with regard to Iraq & wrote it up in SWJ VOL 8 on Building Indigenous Security Forces with Regard to METT-TC. SWJ member Karina Marzuk from Poland has recently written a book (no English translation yet - but I think Dave has an English out-take from it) on the subject that we might find useful. I think there is allot of grey between where we were in 2004/2005 and where we might be in 2009/2010 - and I think the outcome (from a variety of perspectives) is far from assured.

Iraq is in a bad neighborhood and even under the best conditions most can imagine is still going to be the subject to internal and external efforts to destabilize it for as far as anyone can imagine. An enduring challenge for Iraq will be how to maintain adequate security from the many threats it faces while providing levels of government that appeal enough to Iraqis so that they don't see insurgency as a better political alternative.
Best Regards, Rob

John T. Fishel
11-27-2007, 11:48 AM
The observation that culmination is as much psychological as physical is well taken. But it is not entirely psychological. Consider the tactical scenario on Little Round Top again. Chamberlain was almost literally out of ammunition. He had reached physical culmination so he ordered the bayonet charge. What if Oates, who was not out of ammo, had been able to regroup on the north slope of Big Round Top and lossed a volley just as the bayonet charge was coming apart?

I think that one can easily put too much emphasis on the psychological just as one can do the same on the physical. Your example of Grant's reading of North Anna strikes me as the latter as much as it was a misreading of the former. Still there is a point at which the physical cna outweigh the psychological.

Cheers

JohnT

wm
11-27-2007, 12:48 PM
The observation that culmination is as much psychological as physical is well taken. But it is not entirely psychological. Consider the tactical scenario on Little Round Top again. Chamberlain was almost literally out of ammunition. He had reached physical culmination so he ordered the bayonet charge. What if Oates, who was not out of ammo, had been able to regroup on the north slope of Big Round Top and lossed a volley just as the bayonet charge was coming apart?

I think that one can easily put too much emphasis on the psychological just as one can do the same on the physical. Your example of Grant's reading of North Anna strikes me as the latter as much as it was a misreading of the former. Still there is a point at which the physical cna outweigh the psychological.

Cheers

JohnT
BLUF: When a unit reaches culmination depends on at least three factors: physical, psychological, and logistical. A dynamic interplay among these three factors makes it extremely hard to specify when a unit is actually hors de combat , in the sense of being no longer able to continue its mission.

For a long time the French, as typified in the writing of du Picq, emphasized the "moral" factor in war. I suspect that what they were really emphasizing was the psychological factor, which was codified in the notion of the spirit of the offense preached by Joffre as the winning strategy early in WWI. (Check Bob Doughty's book, Pyrrhic Victory: French Strategy and Operations in the Great War) It seems that the French found out the hard way that physical can outweigh the psychological--at least that is my take on the failure of French offensives through 1916 and the move by Petain to set up his rotations through Verdun. It is equally arguable that what happened was a loss of psychological motivation, which resulted in a physical debilitation of the forces. (The 1917 French Army mutiny points in this direction.) Tough call here. Either way, I suspect that there is an intimate interweaving of mind and matter associated with assessing if a force has reached its culmination point.

WRT to the example of Chamberlain at Round Top, I submit we are presented with another aspect of the assessment--logistics. The fact that the boys from Maine werer able to execute the bayonet charge indicates to me that they still had both psychological and physical means to contest the effort. They were prevented by a shortage of ammunition from maintaining a static defense. Chamberlain, therefore, modified his defense plan and chose a charge to sweep the attackers from the field. Remember "The best defense is a good offense"?

Perhaps a better example of the interplay of the physical, psychological, and logistical aspects is the effort during the D-Day landings at Omaha Beach. These landings teetered at the culminating point. But for the efforts of a few exceptional leaders (and, of course members of the 5th Rangers, "Ho-ah"), the forces of the 1st and 29th Divisions would have failed to achieve their goals on 6 June 1944.

Another example, in a humorous vein, is the Black Knight in his battle with Arthur in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail."

Ron Humphrey
11-27-2007, 02:14 PM
Hey Goesh - I think your right -it does not provide a guarantee - its only an indicator that you'd have to qualify by asking the "so what" to why a HN might have been able to accomplish those functions/services. I think depending how you look at it, there are varying degrees of stability or instability in which an opposing group can operate in. As long as an enemy has the means and the will to resist they'll probably do so. Maybe the only thing that changes is their ability to influence a population that may not have one or both of those things (means or will), and a HN government that may have more of one or both of those things then the enemy. Those conditions can change based on the HN government's ability or inability to deliver.

If a government (at whatever level) becomes better at governing and can provide security, and the populace "gets healthy" then the enemy has less freedom of movement and resources to draw upon - if it gets worse and can not provide security then the enemy may be provided with greater opportunities to achieve its own objectives.

What you may wind up with if the insurgency lost its appeal because the government met the basic needs of the governed - but there still existed some core groups/members with the means and will to carry off smaller attacks, is something akin to ETA of the late 80s/early 90s. I mean in the terms of ETA's capabilities (not ideology or goals). A group with capabilities like that could keep the spark alive so to speak until an opportunity existed again to regain momentum in a broader insurgency. I think that is one reason why many European countries still retain para-military forces - using straight military forces may not allow for enough civil liberties, while straight police forces might not be able to maintain security. I thought about that some with regard to Iraq & wrote it up in SWJ VOL 8 on Building Indigenous Security Forces with Regard to METT-TC. SWJ member Karina Marzuk from Poland has recently written a book (no English translation yet - but I think Dave has an English out-take from it) on the subject that we might find useful. I think there is allot of grey between where we were in 2004/2005 and where we might be in 2009/2010 - and I think the outcome (from a variety of perspectives) is far from assured.

Iraq is in a bad neighborhood and even under the best conditions most can imagine is still going to be the subject to internal and external efforts to destabilize it for as far as anyone can imagine. An enduring challenge for Iraq will be how to maintain adequate security from the many threats it faces while providing levels of government that appeal enough to Iraqis so that they don't see insurgency as a better political alternative.
Best Regards, Rob


Rob,

Excellent discussion and point's
As the symantic's can be such a slippery slope in effective communication
I will instead focus on something related to what you stated. This is a rough neighborhood we're talking about and do to familial, tribal, religious, and other factor's it is virtually impossible to seperate any long term results, from what happens around them.

As Will Durant says in Hero's in History

The price of Freedom is security

That being said if one were to accept that AQ and other forces have perhaps been brought to a point where their actions and capabilities within Iraq are becoming prohibitive due to lack of support, then does this really still equate to either a culminating or decisive point. Outside factors have an effect, but even more so internally the Iraqi people will ultimately show whether or not they will choose to allow for return to former establishments or not.

This more than anything else is probably the best argument for continued US presence long term albeit at much lower levels.

There will not be a complete termination of attacks or political complications until such time as other entities choose to discontinue their undermining of every step possible.

It may be that one good thing about bottom up militia related interactions towards peace that they are still that. If anyone is likely to cause problems after the fact it would be them. This being the case if they are not drawn into being part of the solution so that their supporters (the people) hold them responsible for continued prosperity and movement toward peace, then they would inevitably continue on past paths of conflict.:eek:

(more to come)

Ron Humphrey
11-27-2007, 03:07 PM
The collateral assumption here is a fractured, badly wounded and disorganized AQ/jihadist element in the equation, but the same parimeters that define culmination have made that determination. I think progress in the ability to govern and centralize power, to curtail religious fighting, to develope infrastructure and the economy is likewise no marker for the inability of insurgents to carry on the fight despite the current stand down on their part. I hope I'm wrong but its a year to a new White House and new strategies against jihadism and year is a long time to regroup, refund, rest and allow the opponent time to let down their guard.

This is true, but I think you will find that this may work to our advantage just as easily as it might work to theirs. If we sometimes find ourselves holding our breath in anticipation of what will come, it can be no less difficult let alone dangerous for an opponent to move ahead on assumptions which may or may not be the case when it's all said and done.

Keep em guessing, and while your at it kill as many as possible

Rob Thornton
11-27-2007, 05:53 PM
John - good example about Little Round Top - I wonder with regard to assessing physical culmination if its more likely to be anticipated or acted upon as an opportunity at the tactical level? Only "more likely" not "limited to" - I say that because of the disconnects (impaired situational understanding) & time delays (windows of opportunity) that occur as what is happening on the ground is communicated higher?

I'd once had it put to me that for the ground services technology has a larger impact on the tactical whereas art has a larger impact on the strategic because the preponderence of technology is used toward tactical ends - whereas the higher the echelon the command the greater the reliance on art (intuition, experience, judgement, courage, candor, etc.) to make decisions. Again - both technology and art are present at all levels - but are more influential at certain levels based on the nature of their responsibilities/authorities & missions and tasks.

Last night I received a draft of TRADOC PAM 525-FW-X, The USA's Commander's Appreciation and Campaign Design Handbook (CACD) & and a supporting info brief. So far I like it allot - the emphasis is on how CDR's at various levels frame the problem. On one of the sildes there is a problem model that illustrates the difference between "more inter-active / more structurally complex" problems at one end of the spetrum and "less inter-active / less structurally complex" problems at the other end. Above the two ends is a digram depicting the level of corresponding effort between a "design" approach to framing the problem vs. an "engineering" approach toward framing the problem. The level of effort in the design approach corresponds with the "more inter-active / more structurally complex" problems that also fall toward the operational /campaign design end where the level of effort in the engineering approach more closely corresponds with the less inter-active / less structurally complex" problems in the tactical engagement end. Again both design and engineering are present in both, and inter-action and complexity exist in both ends - but the effects of non-linearity (disproportional outputs) are magnified the higher you go.

I mention it becuse of Wayne's statement:


Either way, I suspect that there is an intimate interweaving of mind and matter associated with assessing if a force has reached its culmination point.

Which get to how we make decisions and how the elements of the physical and psychological/moral/mental weigh in making those decisions. If you are interested in the draft CACD shoot me a PM - to big to hang here. Its an excellent piece of work that I hope makes it ito formal doctrine. The CACD offers the type of "descriptive" doctrine that I find most useful in harnessing talent toward "thinking". Even with some of the EBO language - it still puts the emphasis on people making decisions interacting with enemies and populations who are also making decisions. Some people are probably not going to like it though - because it: doesn't make any promises about easy wins, doesn't offer prescriptive formulas, clearly states there are no fire and forget solutions, clearly says the best we can do is adapt - and perhaps get it more right then wrong faster then the enemy can adapt. Its full of
unpleasant truths that require us to be engaged beyond the issuing of the plan. For some folks it will be too much to take on. I hope it gets acceptance in the community - it could be a very important piece of doctrine - Imagine, if we accept that we must think our way through somethings in their entirety.

Best Regards, Rob

slapout9
11-28-2007, 12:24 AM
Even with some of the EBO language - it still puts the emphasis on people making decisions interacting with enemies and populations who are also making decisions.
Best Regards, Rob

That 's mean Rob:D besides with all the Generations of warfare and Global Mugger Jumpers and stuff I decided I would invent something new and confuse the situation even more. It is now EBW Effects Based Warfare. I figured I clould write a book about it get Steve Metz to review it and explain how it is so "New" that only I understand it and maybe go Oprah, Lou Dobbs,Al Jazerra and ####:D:D

Rob Thornton
11-28-2007, 01:26 AM
Slap - after knowing you for about a year - I'd have to say our views are pretty close - Best, Rob

Rank amateur
11-28-2007, 02:44 AM
From FM 1-02:
decisive point (DOD) A geographic place, specific key event, critical system or function that allows commanders to gain a marked advantage over an enemy and greatly influence the outcome of an attack.
culminating point (DOD) The point at which a force no longer has the capability to continue its form of operations

When we changed to population centric COIN, did we reach a decision point and implement a new critical system/function or were we forced to a culminating point by insurgents?

jcustis
11-28-2007, 03:34 AM
Great question RA. I would offer that the decision point towards "eyes on the population" COIN was always out there, keeping pace with other strategic ebbs and flows, but for whatever reason, not quite palatable or maybe not possible to pick due to troop strength, political capital issues, etc.

We did hit a culmination point of sorts, which made the decision point not so much more suitable to pick, but rather a case of "well, we've tried about everything else...what was that guy talking about the other day?"

RTK
11-28-2007, 12:28 PM
When we changed to population centric COIN, did we reach a decision point and implement a new critical system/function or were we forced to a culminating point by insurgents?

Be careful on interchanging decisive point and decision point. I don't know if you intentionally did that.


decision point (DOD) The point in space and time where the commander or staff anticipates making a decision concerning a specific friendly course of action. A decision point is usually associated with a specific target area of interest, and is located in time and space to permit the commander sufficient lead time to engage the adversary in the target area of interest. Decision points may also be associated with the friendly force and the status of ongoing operations. (Army/Marine Corps) An event, area, or point in the battlespace where and when the friendly commander will make a critical decision.

First, COIN is always going to be population centric.

I think in the scenario you point out culminated the HIC phase, though the decision point was before the culmination point, that is, the decision to enter into a sequel plan that began the stability operations and support operations (remember - there were no insurgents in May 2003). The phase culmination point was reached, but I don't think anyone has reverse engineered the culmination point for the entire war, nor do I think it's possible at this time so long as elections, tribes, and another soveriegn nation's security force have a say in it.

SteveMetz
11-28-2007, 12:40 PM
First, COIN is always going to be population centric.


Being a chronic heretic, I kind of take issue with that. Or at least believe we need to revise what we mean by it.

I think the idea that counterinsurgency is population-centric reflects the logic of cold war insurgency: insurgents are wannabe states. Therefore they need to control territory. They need popular support to provide them resources, intelligence, and sanctuary. So counterinsurgents need to prevent the insurgents from controlling the population. This is all straight from Galula, Thompson, etc.

Contemporary insurgents exercise a different type of control than Cold War era ones. Rather than being physical, it is more psychological, reinforced by periodic acts of terrorism. And--this is important--they are routinely interspersed within the population rather than spending most of their time in some sanctuary and making occasional forays into areas they don't control.

So, the idea of the government providing 24/7, country-wide security against the insurgents is, I think, an impossibility. I'm not sure exactly where this leads us, but we need to rethink our old ideas about a population-centric approach.

Here's another idea: I'm at least half convinced that the idea that success in counterinsurgency comes from protecting the population was always a myth. When I look at the history of insurgencies, it seems to me that when counterinsurgents lost, it was ALWAYS because of a collapse of will on the part of the regime and the security forces, not an inability to protect the population. That's why I blogged that I believe that the Casey strategy in Iraq which focused on bolstering the Iraqi security forces was actually better than the Petreaus one which emphasizes security the population (forgive me John, Dave, H.R., Pete, etc. if you're reading this!) At least that's what history suggests to me.

RTK
11-28-2007, 01:00 PM
Being a chronic heretic, I kind of take issue with that. Or at least believe we need to revise what we mean by it.

I think the idea that counterinsurgency is population-centric reflects the logic of cold war insurgency: insurgents are wannabe states. Therefore they need to control territory. They need popular support to provide them resources, intelligence, and sanctuary. So counterinsurgents need to prevent the insurgents from controlling the population. This is all straight from Galula, Thompson, etc.

Contemporary insurgents exercise a different type of control than Cold War era ones. Rather than being physical, it is more psychological, reinforced by periodic acts of terrorism. And--this is important--they are routinely interspersed within the population rather than spending most of their time in some sanctuary and making occasional forays into areas they don't control.

So, the idea of the government providing 24/7, country-wide security against the insurgents is, I think, an impossibility. I'm not sure exactly where this leads us, but we need to rethink our old ideas about a population-centric approach.

Here's another idea: I'm at least half convinced that the idea that success in counterinsurgency comes from protecting the population was always a myth. When I look at the history of insurgencies, it seems to me that when counterinsurgents lost, it was ALWAYS because of a collapse of will on the part of the regime and the security forces, not an inability to protect the population. That's why I blogged that I believe that the Casey strategy in Iraq which focused on bolstering the Iraqi security forces was actually better than the Petreaus one which emphasizes security the population (forgive me John, Dave, H.R., Pete, etc. if you're reading this!) At least that's what history suggests to me.

I said population centric, not securing-the-populace centric.

Relationships breed trust which leads to intelligence. There's something incredibly human about that. I don't disagree with 85% of what you have above but I think bolstering security forces is a means to securing to the populace. At least that's what I gathered from COL McMaster in his commander's intent.

At the end of the day, I think the winner of the fight is going to be whoever the populace hates least.

SteveMetz
11-28-2007, 01:11 PM
I said population centric, not securing-the-populace centric.

Relationships breed trust which leads to intelligence. There's something incredibly human about that. I don't disagree with 85% of what you have above but I think bolstering security forces is a means to securing to the populace. At least that's what I gathered from COL McMaster in his commander's intent.

At the end of the day, I think the winner of the fight is going to be whoever the populace hates least.


I think the winner (in those very rare instances where there is a discernible winner) is going to be whoever the population fears most.

RTK
11-28-2007, 01:13 PM
I think the winner (in those very rare instances where there is a discernible winner) is going to be whoever the population fears most.

I concur. I weighed phrasing it that way too. Somehow it seemed less barbaric the first time I typed it.

selil
11-28-2007, 01:26 PM
Dr. Metz I'd disagree with the point that the insurgents are wannabe states too. Not all insurgencies are about creating or taking over a nation. Sometimes they are proxy conflicts having to do with issues other than nation state such as reprisal or ethnic rivarly.

Rank amateur
11-28-2007, 11:46 PM
Be careful on interchanging decisive point and decision point. I don't know if you intentionally did that.


My bad. Mrs. RA was yelling at me to come watch Helio's dance.:rolleyes:

I guess the questions was, were we forced to stop stability and support operations because of the insurgents? If so, does that mean that we reached a culmination point? If so, can we say that changing strategies at a culmination point can be very beneficial?

RTK
11-28-2007, 11:55 PM
My bad. Mrs. RA was yelling at me to come watch Helio's dance.:rolleyes:

I guess the questions was, were we forced to stop stability and support operations because of the insurgents? If so, does that mean that we reached a culmination point? If so, can we say that changing strategies at a culmination point can be very beneficial?

No, I think we've conducted SOSO concurrently to FID, IDAD, and COIN.

Again, I think certain phases or subphases have reached culminating points but not the overall operation.

SteveMetz
11-29-2007, 12:25 AM
Dr. Metz I'd disagree with the point that the insurgents are wannabe states too. Not all insurgencies are about creating or taking over a nation. Sometimes they are proxy conflicts having to do with issues other than nation state such as reprisal or ethnic rivarly.

No, no--I wasn't advocating that position. I was saying that the notion that counterinsurgency must be population-centric flows from it. And that it is codified in American thinking. Just look at the official Joint definition of insurgency.

Ken White
11-29-2007, 04:24 AM
My bad. Mrs. RA was yelling at me to come watch Helio's dance.:rolleyes:

I guess the questions was, were we forced to stop stability and support operations because of the insurgents? If so, does that mean that we reached a culmination point? If so, can we say that changing strategies at a culmination point can be very beneficial?

different things to different people. The Armed Forces, like any profession, have a jargon -- a lot of it doesn't translate well into civilian idiom. When you couple that with the Politicians ability to toss words around in a meaningless fashion, things can really get confused... :wry:

A lot of folks in uniform knew in May 2003 that a stability operation was likely to be required if we stayed. Originally, we (wrongly and shortsightedly) didn't plan on staying. By Jun '03 it was obvious we were going to be there a while. So we began. As RTK said;
"I think we've conducted SOSO concurrently to FID, IDAD, and COIN." All along. The problem was that the Army had deliberately ignored all those methodologies for almost 30 years in an effort to not have to do those things because they are long term, tedious, dangerous, dirty and unpleasant -- plus they do bad things to highly honed big conventional war machines. :rolleyes:

A second problem is that our federal government is way too big and is governed by laws written by a well meaning but not good thinking Congress, thus that government and its Armed Forces are big, bureaucratic and very cumbersome.

It took the Army 18 months to realize that they were going to have to get serious about the SOSO, FID, IDAD and COIN things instead of just jacking around with them, much as they hated the idea. It took another 18 months to get the system to gear up to start doing that and 18 more months for that shift to really become effective. :o

Thus, IMO, the answer to your question is that we were not forced to stop stability and support operations because of the insurgents, we've been doing them all along and it just took the big bureaucratic elephant over four years to shift gears and change direction. Again to RTK; we've been doing all those things all along, we just gradually shifted the emphasis, refined the tactical process and better trained the troops. The surge made little difference.

I don't think we've reached a culmination point -- and that's a bad word for Scales to be throwing around because it implies an end to something and we aren't near the end of anything. It's as bad as using 'victory' and 'win' in that those words imply something that is not what is likely to happen in any insurgency. Thus soldiers say one thing, the politicians another and the great American public gets confused because of jargon and jingoism.

We can say that changing strategies at a culmination point can be very beneficial in some situations but not necessarily in all. Since we aren't at a culmination point in Iraq and since we have not changed strategy, merely tactical procedures, that doesn't apply to Iraq.

Tom Odom
11-29-2007, 01:44 PM
I don't think we've reached a culmination point -- and that's a bad word for Scales to be throwing around because it implies an end to something and we aren't near the end of anything. It's as bad as using 'victory' and 'win' in that those words imply something that is not what is likely to happen in any insurgency. Thus soldiers say one thing, the politicians another and the great American public gets confused because of jargon and jingoism.

Agreed. And as you have said on related subjects many times, I don't expect this tension/confusion to end anytime soon. Bob Scales use of terms in offering false clarity really blurred reality.

Best
Tom

Ron Humphrey
11-29-2007, 03:55 PM
different things to different people. The Armed Forces, like any profession, have a jargon -- a lot of it doesn't translate well into civilian idiom. When you couple that with the Politicians ability to toss words around in a meaningless fashion, things can really get confused... :wry:

A lot of folks in uniform knew in May 2003 that a stability operation was likely to be required if we stayed. Originally, we (wrongly and shortsightedly) didn't plan on staying. By Jun '03 it was obvious we were going to be there a while. So we began. As RTK said; All along. The problem was that the Army had deliberately ignored all those methodologies for almost 30 years in an effort to not have to do those things because they are long term, tedious, dangerous, dirty and unpleasant -- plus they do bad things to highly honed big conventional war machines. :rolleyes:

A second problem is that our federal government is way too big and is governed by laws written by a well meaning but not good thinking Congress, thus that government and its Armed Forces are big, bureaucratic and very cumbersome.

It took the Army 18 months to realize that they were going to have to get serious about the SOSO, FID, IDAD and COIN things instead of just jacking around with them, much as they hated the idea. It took another 18 months to get the system to gear up to start doing that and 18 more months for that shift to really become effective. :o

Thus, IMO, the answer to your question is that we were not forced to stop stability and support operations because of the insurgents, we've been doing them all along and it just took the big bureaucratic elephant over four years to shift gears and change direction. Again to RTK; we've been doing all those things all along, we just gradually shifted the emphasis, refined the tactical process and better trained the troops. The surge made little difference.

I don't think we've reached a culmination point -- and that's a bad word for Scales to be throwing around because it implies an end to something and we aren't near the end of anything. It's as bad as using 'victory' and 'win' in that those words imply something that is not what is likely to happen in any insurgency. Thus soldiers say one thing, the politicians another and the great American public gets confused because of jargon and jingoism.

We can say that changing strategies at a culmination point can be very beneficial in some situations but not necessarily in all. Since we aren't at a culmination point in Iraq and since we have not changed strategy, merely tactical procedures, that doesn't apply to Iraq.

So right :wry:

Rank amateur
11-29-2007, 10:48 PM
You've convinced me. I looked up FM-23. It says COIN is a mixture of offensive and defensive operations, so I can see that we've been on the offensive the entire time.

RTK
11-29-2007, 11:19 PM
It says COIN is a mixture of offensive and defensive operations, so I can see that we've been on the offensive the entire time.

Not completely. I think the term that is more appropriate is full spectrum operations:


FM 1-02
full spectrum operations The range of operations Army forces conduct in war and military operations other than war.

FM 3-0 has more on this.