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  1. #1
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Default On the avoidance of small wars

    Something was missing in this forum, and now I know what: A "How to avoid cutting yourself" thread. Discussing knifes, knife combat techniques and bandages is fine, but it's better to not cut yourself in the first place.


    I called this "avoidance" of small wars for a reason; there will likely always be conflicts. The question is about how to not stick your head too much into the dangerous mess of other people.
    Some countries can resist such urges better than others, maybe the more self-controlled ones who can resist such urges and thus did not suffer much harm from small wars do something right?

    What's the difference between a country that's believing it needs to be involved in distant, foreign and quite often totally irrelevant conflicts and a country that's cool?


    I'm fully aware that there are many ideas (I call them "myths") about how sticking your head into distant conflicts somehow keeps the world from exploding or something, but the history of the last decade should have told even those myth-believers that involvement is akin to self-mutilation.


    # What does it take to motivate a country to intervene military in distant places without clear national interests (economical, political obligations) to outweight the costs?

    # What does it take to counter these motivations?

    # Can institutional safeguards help or is it all about political culture and special interests?

    # How can a principal-agent problem ('chickenhawks in government') be avoided?

    # Do any countries have effective legal counterweights to political aggressiveness (such as conscription of sons of politicians into front-line infantry?)

    # What's the role of mass media? Can feeding the media with interestign stories keep them from pushing for war (intentionally or indirectly) because of a lack of good alternative media contents?

  2. #2
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Default

    Several factors contribute, I'll list a few that I think are important, though certainly not an inclusive list:

    1. Hubris

    2. A flawed, (generally too expansive) assessment of what one's vital national interests are.

    3. A flawed assessment of the nature and extent of the "threat" one is seeking "to defeat overseas so that it does not wash up on our shores."

    4. A combination of genuine desire to help a populace or government in distress and jumping into a scuffle that one does not understand; winding up either helping the wrong party or simply getting roughed up by one or both for one's efforts.

    5. Being talked into doing something one knows is foolish and risky by one's advisors (this only sounds like I am talking about VP Cheney), or by powerful corporate or national lobbies (this only sounds like I am talking about oil companies, or Israeli/Saudi lobbies) or the media (liberals and conservatives equally at fault here Fox and MSNBC...).
    Robert C. Jones
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    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Oh this is a really good topic idea...

    I'd add

    Having an exit strategy and having one that involves planning for failures too. Wishful thinking prior to an engagement doesn't cut it.

  4. #4
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Quick pints

    On the run today, so two items.

    There is a similar theme in this SWJ Blog comment:http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/the...oing-nothing-0

    Secondly, we often revert to the intention and capability approach. On quick reflection it might be easier to look at those states that do not get involved. I don't mean the Swiss or traditional neutrals, partly as the Nordic countries of late have been intervening.
    davidbfpo

  5. #5
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    Default Powell Doctrine

    Although never really accepted, in a previous era to counter the growing hubris associated with sticking our nose under everyone's tent with no clear achievable objective several folks formed what is commonly called the Powell Doctrine. Obviously it didn't work (due to some of its inherent flaws and the fact that doctrine alone doesn't constrain hubris).

    I think all these points surfaced by Fuchs are worth consideration:

    # Can institutional safeguards help or is it all about political culture and special interests?

    # How can a principal-agent problem ('chickenhawks in government') be avoided?

    # Do any countries have effective legal counterweights to political aggressiveness (such as conscription of sons of politicians into front-line infantry?)

    # What's the role of mass media? Can feeding the media with interestign stories keep them from pushing for war (intentionally or indirectly) because of a lack of good alternative media contents?

  6. #6
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    Default Two very different Worldviews

    (1) Don't let one onion layer be peeled, lest the core be lost (Integral Rigidity):



    (2) Let 'em eat the apple, but protect the core (Concentration of Mass):



    The rest of the questions are answered by choice of Worldview.

    Regards

    Mike

  7. #7
    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    Default I for one am very interested in this...

    I know that the journal Spectrum at the National Defense University is also very interested in something called "Phase Zero Warfare". I'm not sure if this is the same thing as this thread is talking about. I admit to being woefully uninformed about the topic.

    As I integrate the elements of conflict into the framework of cyber-power I realized having met with the Spectrum editors that nobody had looked at pre-engagement and the elements of decision processes leading up to a conflict other than as contingency planning.

    Sidebar: I contend that small wars is the only paradigm where hybrid warfare is fully ensconced as a principle of conflict. Other conflict proponents refer to "joint" warfare which is not the same as hybrid warfare. I think that the use of cyber-power is inherently a hybrid form of warfare similar to space and air (that ought to raise a few hackles).

    So, I'd like to know what the structures and principles of this "before operations" begin likely are. How do you know you're pre-conflict unless you've already decided you're entering conflict (seems circular)? What are the operational steps? I've seen lots of operational plans but they are either assessments "blue sky" that are then "operational plans" but then that brings up the whole circular argument again. That leads to what it means to avoid something via military planning. If you're avoiding it doesn't that mean you've already approached it? I can talk about polar cases (political leadership, military leadership and their failures) but where the defining lines are and how deescalation works in the small wars spectrum works? In large scale conflict of nation state "large" war there is a significant literature but the mechanisms seem ill suited to small wars.

    Well that's how it appears.
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  8. #8
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    It is really ridiculous at how fearful the Military community as a whole is of the "P-word"

    (yes, the prospect of "Peace" leaves them quaking)

    Due to this we have doctrine that:
    1 Declares that insurgency and counterinsurgency are complex forms of warfare, when in clear fact they are largely continuous dynamics between a populace and its government, rising only occasionally to a level of violence and activity that resembles "warfare."

    2. "Phase 0 operations" I'm sure someone earned a Joint Service medal of some sort for this silly little construct. It's peace. Don't be afraid, its ok to have peace. Peace doesn't make the military irrelevant, it merely means one doesn't need a warfighting sized military and can focus on deterrence and prevention for a while.

    Oh I get it, "zero" is an incredibly important number, and it allows modern mathematics to function; but do we really need to consider all peace as a zero-phase of the last/next war? Probably easier to justify more Brigade Combat Teams necessary to wage phase zero that it is to justify the same to execute peace....
    Last edited by Bob's World; 11-13-2011 at 04:05 PM.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

  9. #9
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Default yes

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    2. "Phase 0 operations" I'm sure someone earned a Joint Service medal of some sort for this silly little construct. It's peace. Don't be afraid, its ok to have peace. Peace doesn't make the military irrelevant, it merely means one doesn't need a warfighting sized military and can focus on deterrence and prevention for a while.
    Seconded.

  10. #10
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    Phase 0 is focused on prevention, and it can be argued that it was and is our phase 0 concept (long before it was called phase 0) that has significantly increased peace around the globe. Deterrence (in the form of fleixible deterrence operations) if needed, comes after phase 0, so you have actually seriously mischaracterized phase 0. All States will conduct shaping operations in peace, and that is what we do, and our intention is to mitigate issues that may lead to conflict or war. Regardless of what phase we're in we continue to conduct contingency planning, which most people would consider prudent.

    Since zero isn't a real number, it isn't a real phase, it was simply a means to describe how we strive to maintain the peace.

  11. #11
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    What increased peace around the globe is the sense of rules and cooperation created with the UN in 1944.

    I doubt that the U.S.'s invasions and foreign policy of the post-Cold War period have helped world peace in any way.

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