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davidbfpo
05-04-2008, 10:45 AM
I concur. I am even moved to say that the best modern Army that ever existed, was the British Army of 1918-28. It could war fight and do pretty good COIN as well.

Wilf makes a good point and made into new thread? So I have moved it from the thread Rifle Squad Composition.

I have read about The Hundred Days campaign in 1918, by the Allied armies on the Western Front (including Australia, British, Canadian, French, Belgian and American). Plus a few wars afterwards, not always succesful e.g. Russain Civil War intervention and not to overlook a war with Afghanistan (The Third Afghan War).

What is interesting is why this prowess disappears. Personnel changes I'd expect to be the key and declining political understanding of waging war second. Logistically, war stocks will have run down and new supplies are required.

I also recall a few comments on how the USMC went to war in Korea, the Pusan landing in particular and OIF.

davidbfpo

William F. Owen
05-04-2008, 11:01 AM
Wilf makes a good point

Had to happen sooner or later! :)


What is interesting is why this prowess disappears.

I don't think it does disappear. I think it mutates into the something less useful for reasons few are prepared to admit.

The great question of military thought is:"why do we not do, what we know works?"

Gian P Gentile
05-04-2008, 11:12 AM
Agree with Wilf's and Davidbpfo's point about the British Army. I would add that an inter-war focus on constabulary missions (partly due to the trauma of the country from World War I and not wanting to even think of having to do that one over again) hurt the British Army on the eve of its involvement in World War II; Dunkirk immediately comes to mind.

If any are interested in this problem of Armies and their possible breaking, I am pasting here ("Breaking the American Army" (http://www.sacbee.com/846/story/895895.html)by Gian P Gentile) a link to a short oped I had run in a number of newspapers around the country last week. It might be worth reading especially in light of the O'Hanlon piece (http://www.washingtontimes.com/article/20080504/COMMENTARY/87904340/1012)that Dave D posted in today's oped roundup where O'Hanlon essentially argues that today the overall condition of the American Army is OK; I disagree. I think O'hanlon sugar-coats some real and high risk problems that the American Army today faces after years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

marct
05-04-2008, 02:27 PM
We've talked a lot about various and sundry personelle issues, along with equipment issues, etc. What struck me about both of these pieces is the lack of a formal analytic system with meaningful metrics.

If we look at the O'Hanlon piece, there are some metrics, but are they meaningful? Consider the following two "metrics" offered on the recruitment issue:


That said, while figures for the other services have remained good, the Army has had some worsening problems of late, with the high-school graduation figure for 2007 declining to just over 70 percent of new recruits comparable to the norm of the 1970s. That suggests a trendline that needs to be arrested and reversed, even if overall statistics on the quality of new recruits are reasonably solid.

High School diplomas?!? There are so many naive assumptions here that I am almost unsure where to start! First, the actual "value" in terms of skills and knowledge represented by a High School diploma has certainly changed since the 1970's. Second, using a HS diploma as a proxy for "stick-to-it"ivness, which is one of the main reasons most HR people use it (there are others, but let's just stick with that one), is equally naive since it assumes that high schools as organizations have not changed during the 30+ years under consideration. Anyone who looks at the educational systems in North America, unless they are a hopeless idiot, will see that the organization of both the schools and the programs has changed significantly. For one thing, back in the 1970's in most of the public school systems, it was still possible to fail (i.e. get an F) while it is almost impossible to do so nowadays.

So what is a High School diploma a proxy for? Well, I suppose that you could argue, with some validity, that it is a good proxy for being able to put up with a psychotic organization for four years - and that may well be viewed as a useful skill for someone in the military to have (;)). It certainly does not guarantee that the person can read, write, do basic arithmetic or find the #ss with both hands and a manual. I find it absolutely fascinating that O'Hanlon states that


That suggests a trendline that needs to be arrested and reversed, even if overall statistics on the quality of new recruits are reasonably solid.

So, let me see if I understand his problem - the actually measured skills, the "quality", is roughly the same, but there is a drop in the number holding the socially approved credential? Wow, he's right - that is scary! People shouldn't be allowed to do something they don't have the socially approved credentials for - like read :eek:. (okay, I'll get off my sarcastic soapbox now...)

Let's look at his next metric:


Moral waivers for new recruits for their criminal histories have increased substantially in recent years. A total of 860 soldiers and Marines required waivers from convictions for felony crimes in 2007, up by 400 from 2006.

While most of the convictions were for juvenile theft, and the aggregate total is modest compared with the size of the force, only by arresting such trends will the quality of the force be ensured. Again, the current situation is not that dire, but the trendlines are worrisome and must be watched.

I have many of the same problems with this supposed metric as I do with the use of High School diplomas; the sum total of felonies in 1970 is different from 2008. Furthermore, and I think Ken will back me up on this, didn't there used to be a moderately common habit of judges in offering people a choice between the pen and the army?

So, again, "convictions" are being used as a proxy for something - but what? Well, people who haven't been convicted either never committed a felony, never had one pinned on them or never were found out. So, it is obviously being used as a proxy for either not bucking the system or for beating it.

Most of O'Hanlon's metrics are of the same (lack of) quality. Nowhere does he define what is the breaking point, and Gian's article suffers from the same problem. A statement such as


If the Army is not broken, it is getting very close to that point.

constitutes only a statement; not a proof. Where Gian's article is better than O'Hanlon's is the act that he doesn't list any BS metrics - kudos for that Gian :)! I also think that Gian is quite right to concentrate on the personelle system as the key one to examine, although I do think he is being even more of a hopeless romantic that I usually am when he says


The American army will not mutiny like some French army units did in 1917.

Got any proof of that, Gian? Don't bother, because it can't be proven it can only be either asserted or stated as a probability function. I can think of at least three or four scenarios that would lead to a mutiny inside US Army units (low probability, but not a 0% probability). (Sorry, but bald assertions that something will "never" happen is another hobby horse of mine).

Okay, so let's look at how to actually construct some metrics that might be useful. First, and foremost, any metrics have to be based on reality (as much as possible) and not on inadequate proxies. Okay, with that in mind, I would suggest that there are three major system areas to consider when building metrics:

political
personelle
equipmentThe political system concerns mission parameters - things like the COIN vs Conventional debate. Partially, this system is beyond the control of the military. For the sake of argument, I would suggest that we assume that the army must be able to do both at sufficient levels of force to actually accomplish any given mission. Given current and likely future commitments, this implies that

the army will have to be significantly expanded;
there will have to be significant leveraging of US forces with allies; and
there will have to be a serious commitment to developing interoperability with these allies.The personelle system concerns getting the right number of the right people with the right training delivered at the right time and place (we'll get into equipment in a minute).

If we treat the army as a basic demographic problem, then we look at the proxies for birth rate (entry into the system) and death rate (exit from the system). So, what metrics would work for this? Well, one is just basic numbers of bodies - it's simplistic, but it's a start. Are enough people being recruited to meet projected requirement targets? The exit rate is somewhat trickier since it includes multiple exit strategies: death, physical disability, psychological disability (i.e. PTSD, etc.), free choice to leave, etc. None of these, by themselves, is enough to "break" the army, although any one of them might. The important figure is the cumulative exit rate segmented by a variety of different factors (e.g. time in, grade, MOS, etc.). Defining where the break point in the system comes requires that you compare system strain (exits and segmentation) against the projected political objectives. When the system cannot meet a projected political objective, then you can say that it is "broken".

I'm not going to going to too much detail on the equipment system, but it is similar to the personelle system and has exactly the same definition for being "broken", i.e. when it cannot meet the projected political objectives.

So, how about shifting the parameters of the debate to something that can actually be tracked and checked?

William F. Owen
05-04-2008, 03:40 PM
Agree with Wilf's and Davidbpfo's point about the British Army. I would add that an inter-war focus on constabulary missions (partly due to the trauma of the country from World War I and not wanting to even think of having to do that one over again) hurt the British Army on the eve of its involvement in World War II; Dunkirk immediately comes to mind.

The inter war focus on COIN/Constabulary was not a choice. It was something the UK was forced to do because Johnny Native fancied at having a go. The Irish got it right, and almost everyone else (including the Afghans and Iraqis) got it wrong!

The intellectual and equipment focus of the British Army was still very focussed on "Big Wars."

Liddell-Hart, Fuller, Lawrence and some of the other not very helpful people were entirely focussed on "how to fight the next big war," and I think there is an argument to be made that they may have caused the Army to be less well prepared for WW2 than they might have been.

...and before everyone gets too excited, if you can show me any writing that Fuller produced, post 1919 that contributed to a doctrine for armoured vehicle design, I'd be very grateful.

Steve Blair
05-04-2008, 04:19 PM
To tag back into the "moral waiver" thing for a moment...has anyone considered that the need for these might be higher due to things like mandatory sentencing and the general press to "get tough on crime"? Personally I've seen offenses (MIP being the biggest one) that would have earned a caution (translation...."kid, don't be an ass") fifteen years ago change to a ticket and court appearance. That's gonna boost the need for waivers.

The personnel system has been broken for YEARS. The army (and other services) have been in command denial about this since the 1960s. What we're seeing now is that haphazard careerist system straining under pressure. Has it happened before? Sure. Look at Vietnam. The catch is Vietnam had a steady stream of draftees to hide the careerism that took place in the Regular ranks. Now we don't have that shield for the system to hide behind. I'd also argue that the Army was FAR more "broken" from about 1969 through 1974 or so than it is now. Is there enough strain for rumor-mongers and self-promoters to paint it as a break? Sure. Does this mean things that aren't working shouldn't be fixed? No. The personnel system needs a total overhaul. It was designed to work with a "spare parts" draftee force and not a volunteer organization. It's bloated and inefficient and encourages behavior that goes against the core values that most services push.

That said, I don't think we're seeing a breakdown in discipline that even comes close to what we saw in 1969 and 1970. If anything it's closer to what units in Europe saw in late 1945 and 1946. Troubling, but not "breaking." I don't minimize the problem, but I also don't think it's a dire as some might believe.

Ken White
05-04-2008, 05:19 PM
Gian said:
"Agree with Wilf's and Davidbpfo's point about the British Army. I would add that an inter-war focus on constabulary missions (partly due to the trauma of the country from World War I and not wanting to even think of having to do that one over again) hurt the British Army on the eve of its involvement in World War II; Dunkirk immediately comes to mind."Given the fact that the German Army contributed to the 'Phoney War' every bit as much as did the British and French and that Dunkirk was a practical British success that the Germans could and should have prevented, it seems to me that Germans -- who emphatically did not do any between the wars constabulary missions -- don't have that excuse for their shortcomings...

I'd also suggest that a counterpoint to your contention is that the US Army's foolishness in deliberately avoiding anything to do with 'constabulary missions' or COIN for almost 30 years lead directly to the ongoing problems in Iraq -- events more harmful that Dunkirk even approached.

MarcT said:
"So what is a High School diploma a proxy for? Well, I suppose that you could argue, with some validity, that it is a good proxy for being able to put up with a psychotic organization for four years - and that may well be viewed as a useful skill for someone in the military to have ( ;) )."Heh, I think you've got that one nailed...

Wilf said:
"The inter war focus on COIN/Constabulary was not a choice. It was something the UK was forced to do because Johnny Native fancied at having a go. The Irish got it right, and almost everyone else (including the Afghans and Iraqis) got it wrong!

The intellectual and equipment focus of the British Army was still very focussed on "Big Wars."'True and we, the US Army, are in the same shape; we're doing what we have to do -- yet the intellectual and equipment focus of most, not all, of the US Army is still too much focused on the "Big War."

Steve Blair said:
"To tag back into the "moral waiver" thing for a moment...has anyone considered that the need for these might be higher due to things like mandatory sentencing and the general press to "get tough on crime"? Personally I've seen offenses (MIP being the biggest one) that would have earned a caution (translation...."kid, don't be an ass") fifteen years ago change to a ticket and court appearance. That's gonna boost the need for waivers."True -- and the rest of your comment is totally accurate. The 1970-75 time frame saw far more trauma than we're likely to see even as the troops realize they're going to do year on - year off rotations for a while.

Ken White
05-04-2008, 06:36 PM
...I don't think it does disappear. I think it mutates into the something less useful for reasons few are prepared to admit.

The great question of military thought is:"why do we not do, what we know works?"True on both counts, I think.

Among the reasons for the first count in most Armies are sloth (particularly intellectual laziness), dislike of change, dreams of past glories and domestic politics. There are many other factors but I believe those are the biggest impactors.

On the second issue, too true -- and other than the contributors I cited above (which I do not think adequately explain that second phenomenon) plus massive egos ("I can solve any problem, no help required...") I have been at a loss to fully understand that failure for many years. I do know it is an extremely dangerous effect that causes unnecessary deaths in every new war...

Gian P Gentile
05-04-2008, 11:35 PM
Ken said:


I'd also suggest that a counterpoint to your contention is that the US Army's foolishness in deliberately avoiding anything to do with 'constabulary missions' or COIN for almost 30 years lead directly to the ongoing problems in Iraq -- events more harmful that Dunkirk even approached.

On this one Ken, I have to tell you respectfully that I believe you are wrong. I think the notion that the US Army fumbled at Coin from 2003 to 2006 until rescued by the Surge is chimera. I have reviewed all of the editions of Military Review which is the Army's journal that carries on the ground experience from solidiers and the striking conclusion is that as far back as mid 2004 the articles in it by paractioners of coin in Iraq were very positive about their experience and the fact that they had learned and adapted to the requirements of coin. And I am not talking about the fair-haired few of the 101, 3rdACR, and 1/1AD but other combat outfits from 1AD in 04, 1st Cav in 04/05 to name just a few. Does this mean that there were combat units that did fumble at coin from 03-06; of course. Does this mean that there are combat units today as part of the Surge fumbling now? yes that is the case and i have annecodotal reports to prove this.

The bigger point here is that even good combat outfits practicing good coin methods can not make up for a failed strategy. The bigger point that I tried to make in my little oped on breaking the army is that the nation needs to reconcile strategic aims with strategic means; or to be more blunt the fact that we are breaking the American Army over Iraq. No this breaking will not look like the American Army circa 1970-1974. But it is already showing its deep fissures. Consider the report that the three colonels sent to army Chief Gen Casey where they refered to the Army's field artillery branch as a "dead branch walking."

What we have come to with the Surge Matrix is a fulcrum point where the past is viewed with a certain prism that shows failure and "not getting it" until the Surge begins, and then at that fulcrum point pivoting to a better present and new future. Problem is that the present in Iraq might be a bit better but for reasons primarily other than the Surge, and more troubling is that the vector to the future is filled with an over-emphasis on coin and irregular war to the detriment of our conventional capabilities which places us in my mind in strategic peril.

gian

Ken White
05-05-2008, 12:29 AM
...On this one Ken, I have to tell you respectfully that I believe you are wrong. I think the notion that the US Army fumbled at Coin from 2003 to 2006 until rescued by the Surge is chimera...At no point did I mention the word surge and if you'll recall, I have long agreed with you that the surge didn't change what had been going on for the previous 18 months.

The time of foolishness in denying reality was from 1975 until late 2003, 28 years of denial. In 2003 we figured out that had been a mistake and started corrective action -- and some units were doing all the right things from even earlier. From late '03, it took 18 month to get the idea of COIN embedded in this huge bureaucracy and most units were on board mid way or even earlier in that year and a half. It was an embedded technique by late '04 across the board. You and your Squadron were doing it before the surge started in January, 2007. So was the rest of the Army.
...
What we have come to with the Surge Matrix is a fulcrum point where the past is viewed with a certain prism that shows failure and "not getting it" until the Surge begins, and then at that fulcrum point pivoting to a better present and new future. Problem is that the present in Iraq might be a bit better but for reasons primarily other than the Surge, and more troubling is that the vector to the future is filled with an over-emphasis on coin and irregular war to the detriment of our conventional capabilities which places us in my mind in strategic peril.

gianThere is no question that there is a risk in our -- to my mind necessary at this point -- emphasis on COIN. We differ in that I have more confidence that the Army can recalibrate quickly when it wants to in order to cope with conventional threats. Is there an almost certain risk of higher casualties? Probably -- but ignoring COIN for those 28 years caused more casualties than needed in Iraq. that is the unhappy fate for Armies in democratic nations, always has been and that's unlikely to change.

You place a lot of emphasis on the so-called Surge. For example, you said and I repeat: "...where the past is viewed with a certain prism that shows failure and "not getting it" until the Surge begins, and then at that fulcrum point pivoting to a better present and new future." That may be true but you are one of the few people I see stating that. I don't see it that way, do not personally know anyone who does and my perception is that most here do not.

None of my business but it seems to me your efforts to personalize your disagreement with the 'COIN strategists' by denigrating them on occasion and the overemphasis of the Surge as the root of all evil may disrupt receipt of your otherwise valid message. My two mils -- I have no sense...:wry:

Gian P Gentile
05-05-2008, 01:31 AM
Ken, you are right, you did not mention the Surge. Still your point as I understand it is that by having the Army eschew coin and irregular war since the end of Vietnam has caused the, to use your words, "ongoing problems" in Iraq; Yes?

And with this clarification of your position I still disagree with it. The point I made in my previous post was that no amount of competent combat outfits practicing good coin methods even as far back as 2004 can make up for a failed strategy; that strategy was a lack of enough troops to occupy and rebuild a foreign land in the midst of a civil war.

But we keep trying to rescue the war in Iraq from its impossibility by compensating our inability to reconcile strategic ends with means by the notion that that is no longer necessary because there has been a different and imporved set of coin operating methods with the Surge. It is as if we are elevating simple coin tactics to the level of high strategy as an attempt to replace the failed strategy that came before.

That is why I spend so much of my energy commenting on these things. I am not personalizing things; I am trying to make an argument that shows there is not systemic and significant differences between Surge and pre-Surge forces. Since many folks out there believe there is it is necessary on my part to highlight which units are usually called as the exceptions, then argue why I seem them as not.

Not personal at all, just business; albeit a deadly business because we are talking about what I see as the strategic viability of the US Army. You and I will also disagree on the Army's condition; I see it is as much worse than you do. I hope I am wrong, but I worry that I am right.

Ken White
05-05-2008, 03:19 AM
Ken, you are right, you did not mention the Surge. Still your point as I understand it is that by having the Army eschew coin and irregular war since the end of Vietnam has caused the, to use your words, "ongoing problems" in Iraq; Yes?No, that did not cause the problems. Failures in strategic thinking at the National and CentCom levels (I fault the latter most) plus Bremer 'caused' the problems. Failure to include Occupation, Nation building and COIN in Army doctrine and training merely exacerbated those problems and caused additional casualties and a too lengthy adjustment to an insurgency that we blithely walked into and then unwittingly encouraged to expand.
And with this clarification of your position I still disagree with it. The point I made in my previous post was that no amount of competent combat outfits practicing good coin methods even as far back as 2004 can make up for a failed strategy; that strategy was a lack of enough troops to occupy and rebuild a foreign land in the midst of a civil war.As noted, your clarification was erroneous but that's of little import. I disagree with you on the strategic failure and doubt more troops would have had much effect. The strategic failure was engendered by not listening to a number of people with experience in the area who fairly accurately predicted what would occur and the failure per se was to not be prepared for the insurrection that Saddam publicly told us he was preparing. That's where the doctrinal and training failure contributed to and magnified but did not cause the current 'problems.'
But we keep trying to rescue the war in Iraq from its impossibility by compensating our inability to reconcile strategic ends with means by the notion that that is no longer necessary because there has been a different and imporved set of coin operating methods with the Surge. It is as if we are elevating simple coin tactics to the level of high strategy as an attempt to replace the failed strategy that came before.I see a lot of talk along that line in the public media but ignore it because with rare exceptions they're pretty well clueless. I see little of it in professional publications -- including Military Review which I've been reading almost every month for over 50 years -- so I don't think many who count share that view of the surge.
That is why I spend so much of my energy commenting on these things. I am not personalizing things; I am trying to make an argument that shows there is not systemic and significant differences between Surge and pre-Surge forces. Since many folks out there believe there is it is necessary on my part to highlight which units are usually called as the exceptions, then argue why I seem them as not.Admittedly some do see it that way but my sensing is they're a minority and have pet rocks. Regardless, you frequently name people in what appears to be a derisory manner and I think that dilutes the effectiveness of your message
...You and I will also disagree on the Army's condition; I see it is as much worse than you do. I hope I am wrong, but I worry that I am right.True. I see it as bad but not catastrophic nor even approaching that point, it's been worse three times in my lifetime. I've also have watched the Army rebound and reorient a few times. It does that pretty well...

William F. Owen
05-05-2008, 06:23 AM
The time of foolishness in denying reality was from 1975 until late 2003, 28 years of denial. In 2003 we figured out that had been a mistake and started corrective action -- and some units were doing all the right things from even earlier. From late '03, it took 18 month to get the idea of COIN embedded in this huge bureaucracy and most units were on board mid way or even earlier in that year and a half. It was an embedded technique by late '04 across the board. You and your Squadron were doing it before the surge started in January, 2007.

I have found nothing worthwhile, from US sources, on COIN between the dates you mention, with the exception of Rod Paschall's "LIC 2010." - It is interesting to note that almost all that was written and discussed on COIN was SF or SOF associated.

but... I submit that the pendulum may have swung to quickly, in that the US Army, and popular culture, has now created the "COIN Experts," or the discrete study of COIN as some sort of specialisation. I have serious misgivings about this. COIN only makes sense when placed alongside countering conventional armies.

I think Callwell's "Small Wars" makes this point better than I ever could.

Gian P Gentile
05-05-2008, 10:50 AM
Ken:

I understand your position; much of it makes sense but other parts, well again we will agree to disagree.

As for the personalization of things; Ken, it does cut both ways. Folks often freely take pot-shots at 4ID and the marines in AnBar prior to 07 to cite just a few examples. So I do find it curious that in this specific post on this thread that when I mention a few units (not individuals by name) that many believe were the exception to the overall fumbling of the American Army I am told I am personalizing things.

But OK, I do very much value your criticism and will keep it in mind as we move forward with the discussion.

And Wilf; I think you are right to emphasize the importance of CE Callwell. I think his book "Small Wars: Their Principles and Practices" should be viewed as a minor military classic (majors in my mind being Clausewitz and Mao). It does get at a theory based on the stronger side in Coin. That theory could be helpful since we have premised our own counterinsurgency theory on those written from the perspective of the weaker side (read; Galula).

Ken White
05-05-2008, 02:45 PM
I have found nothing worthwhile, from US sources, on COIN between the dates you mention, with the exception of Rod Paschall's "LIC 2010." - It is interesting to note that almost all that was written and discussed on COIN was SF or SOF associated.There was little done, beautiful example of head in sand -- "if I don't think or talk about it, it will go away." That never works.
but... I submit that the pendulum may have swung to quickly, in that the US Army, and popular culture, has now created the "COIN Experts," or the discrete study of COIN as some sort of specialisation. I have serious misgivings about this. COIN only makes sense when placed alongside countering conventional armies.I agree, balance is required -- but that's un-American, we tend to veer wildly from pole to pole... :D

Gian:
But OK, I do very much value your criticism and will keep it in mind as we move forward with the discussion.Likewise and back atcha. I'm just a hopeless moderate... :wry:
And Wilf; I think you are right to emphasize the importance of CE Callwell. I think his book "Small Wars: Their Principles and Practices" should be viewed as a minor military classic (majors in my mind being Clausewitz and Mao). It does get at a theory based on the stronger side in Coin. That theory could be helpful since we have premised our own counterinsurgency theory on those written from the perspective of the weaker side (read; Galula).A hopeless moderate who agrees with that... ;)

MattC86
05-05-2008, 03:01 PM
Liddell-Hart, Fuller, Lawrence and some of the other not very helpful people were entirely focussed on "how to fight the next big war," and I think there is an argument to be made that they may have caused the Army to be less well prepared for WW2 than they might have been.


Having just read Fuller and LH - along with Mearsheimer's scathing attack "Liddell Hart and the Weight of History" - I would be interested to know how you think the 1920s works of Fuller and LH on armored warfare and "deep strategic penetration" were detrimental to the British Army's preparations for WWII. I grant that LH went off on a different track in the 30s; emphasizing defense over mechanization and predicting the return of trench warfare, but I find it difficult to understand that the work of Fuller and (1920s version) LH hurt the British Army's preparation for WWII.

In my mind, this would be a case where Lt.Col. Gentile's concerns about COIN or imperial policing proved to be valid - the British government debated for years whether or not to maintain the Continental commitment, and for most of the period kept the Army as was necessary for imperial duties.

Finally, re: David's mention of the Marines in Korea and at Pusan - is that an example of a force in decline after a victory (i.e., WWII)? I'm not sure of the reference. . .

Regards,

Matt

Steve Blair
05-05-2008, 03:06 PM
Finally, re: David's mention of the Marines in Korea and at Pusan - is that an example of a force in decline after a victory (i.e., WWII)? I'm not sure of the reference. . .

Regards,

Matt

I'd actually say this is a case of a premature "peace dividend," or shortsightedness on the part of planners who didn't understand how much the world had changed since the end of World War II. Granted, their shortsightedness is understandable when one considers the popular isolationist trend that was still a part of everyday life in the United States (and had been since the end of World War I.

I guess the somewhat quick answer (though not necessarily the complete or 'right' one) is that military forces in victory are often forced to decline by their political masters (or can suffer from doctrinal stagnation, as was the case with the Prussian Army left by Frederick...).

William F. Owen
05-05-2008, 03:27 PM
Having just read Fuller and LH - along with Mearsheimer's scathing attack "Liddell Hart and the Weight of History" - I would be interested to know how you think the 1920s works of Fuller and LH on armored warfare and "deep strategic penetration" were detrimental to the British Army's preparations for WWII.

Phew, How long have you got? First thing to remember was that the Tank Corps were full of Fuller supporters, and Swinton, Martel and Hobart were all in full swing. Read JP Harris "Men, Ideas and Tanks," for a pretty sound account of what actually happened.

Basically, I think they lost the plot. I think "Tanks" blinded them to some of the realities and "deep strategic penetration" was only ever going to be a pipe dream. Fuller and LH all drank their own bathwater. VI Germains pointed out that "mechanisation" was nothing new and it had to be rationally applied, and not over sold. - in contrast the Germans had no avant garde and came up with generally sound methods, based on experience and experimentation.

- plus, point to note, the UK probably had the greatest proportion of Tank advocates anywhere in any army - yet we failed to produce any useable doctrine or even a good tank!

Unlike the German army, we did get rid of our horses.

William F. Owen
05-05-2008, 03:32 PM
In my mind, this would be a case where Lt.Col. Gentile's concerns about COIN or imperial policing proved to be valid - the British government debated for years whether or not to maintain the Continental commitment, and for most of the period kept the Army as was necessary for imperial duties.


Sorry, missed this. Remember Fuller went around saying how much manpower tanks would save, and also advocated air power in the same vein.

The Continental commitment meant an Army based in the UK doing nothing, when the UK was very strapped for cash. I don't think the UK ever gave up wanting to be prepared for the next big bash, they just had no money to pursue it, especially as all the options the "avant garde" were kicking about were all pretty expensive.

MattC86
05-05-2008, 03:33 PM
I'd actually say this is a case of a premature "peace dividend," or shortsightedness on the part of planners who didn't understand how much the world had changed since the end of World War II. Granted, their shortsightedness is understandable when one considers the popular isolationist trend that was still a part of everyday life in the United States (and had been since the end of World War I.

I guess the somewhat quick answer (though not necessarily the complete or 'right' one) is that military forces in victory are often forced to decline by their political masters (or can suffer from doctrinal stagnation, as was the case with the Prussian Army left by Frederick...).

Well, I meant more specifically the Marines as David mentioned - they were able to stabilize the Pusan Perimeter acting as Walker's "Fire Brigade" and then land at successfully Inchon and fight through the streets of Seoul. I understand, certainly, the peace-dividend as it applied to the military forces as a whole - hell, MacArthur sent teams to salvage equipment from Pacific islands and have the Japanese refurbish it - as well as an unclear vision about the future in Washington and among the services.

Plus there's that whole little issue your sig-line gets into of the new kid on the service block. . .

. . . I was nitpicking the tree instead of dealing with the forest.

Regards,

Matt

MattC86
05-05-2008, 03:48 PM
Phew, How long have you got?

I was thinking we could get a debate of epic proportions going here, with expert witnesses and a few mud-flinging doctoral theses written. . . :D


First thing to remember was that the Tank Corps were full of Fuller supporters, and Swinton, Martel and Hobart were all in full swing. Read JP Harris "Men, Ideas and Tanks," for a pretty sound account of what actually happened.

Basically, I think they lost the plot. I think "Tanks" blinded them to some of the realities and "deep strategic penetration" was only ever going to be a pipe dream. Fuller and LH all drank their own bathwater. VI Germains pointed out that "mechanisation" was nothing new and it had to be rationally applied, and not over sold. - in contrast the Germans had no avant garde and came up with generally sound methods, based on experience and experimentation.

I wouldn't argue any of this - but wouldn't it be a rare moment indeed when an Army becomes unprepared for the next war because it went too far in developing new theory, equipment and methods? (At least within the realm of conventional warfare - US or IDF issues with tensions between maneuver warfare and COIN not included) I feel the Army in Decline concept is strongly linked with the "fighting the last war" theory, and all the tank advocates you describe were pushing strongly for major changes from the Great War. While they're predictions and prognostications may not have been entirely accurate, I still am not sure that pushing for mechanisation and promoting the tank - however "avant garde" their proposals may have been - had a major role in the May 1940 defeat.


- plus, point to note, the UK probably had the greatest proportion of Tank advocates anywhere in any army - yet we failed to produce any useable doctrine or even a good tank!

Indeed, yet despite all those advocates, the British Army still swung the gate into Belgium in 1940 to solidify the Franco-British line and return largely to Great War static conflict. I still equate this with blaming the revolutionaries for the problems of the masses.

Regards,

Matt

Rifleman
05-05-2008, 03:58 PM
Among the reasons for the first count in most Armies are sloth (particularly intellectual laziness), dislike of change, dreams of past glories and domestic politics. There are many other factors but I believe those are the biggest impactors.


One example: we garrison as divisions of small brigades and those divisions are of a "type;" yet, we depoly and fight as big brigade combat teams under a division level HQ that might operationally control three or four different types of brigades.

William F. Owen
05-05-2008, 04:01 PM
I was thinking we could get a debate of epic proportions going here, with expert witnesses and a few mud-flinging doctoral theses written. . . :D

Sounds good!


I feel the Army in Decline concept is strongly linked with the "fighting the last war" theory, and all the tank advocates you describe were pushing strongly for major changes from the Great War. While they're predictions and prognostications may not have been entirely accurate, I still am not sure that pushing for mechanisation and promoting the tank - however "avant garde" their proposals may have been - had a major role in the May 1940 defeat.

OK, so I didn't explain this well. The 1937 Army Doctrine was, for the most part, pretty good/excellent. Why it was not applied is another thing. (50% of our brigade commanders being less than perfect, didn't help).

Mechanisation happened. Everyone in the Army wanted change. The debate was how, how much and at what cost. The Tank bunnies over sold themselves and blew it, and what is worse they polarised the debates. Just like current debate, solid empirical fundamentals were ignored to promote agendas. They wanted revolution when evolution was required.

- and what we did go to France with, was pretty good, bearing in mind, no money!

davidbfpo
05-05-2008, 04:58 PM
A British military commentator when doing a lecture on the French campaign in 1940, comparing the rival armies, made a small point on the gain for British Army in the defeat. The German blitzkreig method of war-fighting, at such a tempo in effect and time exhausted countless officers. Some collapsed, others died, many were captured and the Britsh Army gained by losing those un-suited to the new warfare.

In some reading years ago on the British Army, in particular the training at home before D-Day, there were veiled hints at officer exhaustion.

I mention this point as preparing for war, after a successful WW1, with the mixed inter-war experience, in "small wars", did not work. Whether it was a contributory reason for defeat in 1940, I simply don't know enough.

Having read this thread and others I do wonder if the US military having won two Gulf Wars, suffered a similar problem to May 1940? This time the tempo changed quickly and took time to adapt.

All this is from the comfort of a safe armchair.

davidbfpo

jcustis
05-05-2008, 06:40 PM
David,

In my Sadler research, I see the same thing among the senior leadership based in Cairo during the N. Africa campaign. Only the strong survived, or at least stayed on in theater. It also took some enterprising young officers and other ranks to develop techniques to keep the enemy off balance (e.g. LRDG and L Detachment SAS) when the linear meatgrinder took effect.

Granite_State
05-12-2008, 01:12 AM
I was thinking we could get a debate of epic proportions going here, with expert witnesses and a few mud-flinging doctoral theses written. . . :D


As someone who's at the tail end of one of those (should be working on it right now)....

My PhD is looking at British use of armor in small wars in the interwar period, so I naturally get sucked into all of the broader mechanization debates.

I basically agree with Wilf, and J.P. Harris' book is very good, best I've seen on the subject, only wish I could find a copy of my own to buy somewhere.

The biggest problem Britain faced in mechanical warfare and preparing for WWII, as Wilf said, was money. Army was the Cinderella service, third in line (fourth behind air defense sometimes), and after laying down some of the basic principles of mechanized warfare behind Fuller and co., lost the lead to the Germans due mainly to money. The 16 ton tank was cancelled, and when Britain finally began rearmament, they were way behind. One author (Beale in Death by Design) gave the estimate that something like 75% of British tanks were obsolete or even virtually useless by the time they reached British Army units in WWII. There's a reason Monty's tank at the IWM is a Grant, and Shermans, Grants and Stuarts made up a huge chunk of British tank forces in Africa and Europe.

The tactical problems, as I think Wilf said again, were largely due to the "RTC avant garde." The big difference between the British and the Germans in the Western Desert was that the latter embraced combined arms warfare, while the British had undue confidence in the powers of the tank fighting alone. British armored units had too little organic infantry, artillery, engineers, AT guns, etc. The culprits for this were men like Fuller, Hobart (in a big way) and Martel to some extent. Fuller had a long history of this kind of thing, check out Plan 1919 for example, had far too much faith in the tank and a limited appraisal or acceptance of its technical limitations.

Even though it doesn't make my thesis any easier, I think the revisionist view that the cavalry were not blinkered reactionaries who held the army back is basically accurate. Britain after all, despite the slow pace of mechanization, went to war with a fully mechanized army (unlike the Germans, who relied on the horse far more and even had horsed cavalry divisions left).

I also don't think Britain imperial commitments did much to retard preparation for major war. Even if the government waxed and waned on the continental commitment, the Army always saw itself as preparing to fight a major opponent, that being Russia in Asia for most of the period. And the practical experiences of small wars were invaluable; the Pathans were, after all, known as the "best small unit tacticians in the world." Witness some of the great minds that came out of the Indian Army, like Slim.

One historian even argued in an obscure little article in 1983 that the imperial frontier actually helped contribute to the British Army being the early leaders in mechanization, because small wars with limited numbers of men and huge distances to cover made them think in terms of mobility and speed (as opposed to say, the French).

There's also been some interesting stuff written, most recently in the January 2007 Journal of Military History, about cavalry being the "scapegoat arm" and its continued usefulness in war up to (and, according to at least one scholar there, including) WWI.

Also, I remember Williamson Murray writing in the Britain chapter of one of his Military Effectiveness books (worth finding in a library) that Britain would have been better off if it simply refought the last war, given the success of the Hundred Days and British combined arms warfare on the Western Front at the end of WWI. I think, if I remember correctly, he argued that Britain instead simply descended into myopia and avoidance of the issue. Not sure I agree with him.