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  1. #1
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Lost Lessons & Fresh Thinking: a challenge for SWC

    The catalyst for this thread's creation comes from the discussion in the re-opened thread 'Recruiting for SWC members because....':http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=3837

    A couple of relevant posts have been edited and copied over.

    Perhaps this challenge has appeared before in discussions and maybe even a thread, for as one recent poster noted:
    Groundhog Day. I felt like I was making the same arguments over and over.
    davidbfpo

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    Default Bill Moore's 4 points and one other

    Bill's four points/challenges are at the heart of the issue. Let me tak a stab at each:
    1. The shift toward Asia was, in fact, made for perfectly valid strategic reasons. But it also has the effect of reemphasizing the "big one". The issue here is whether the legitimate concern over a potential peer competitor is at the expense of the more constant small wars threats and capabilities. It is an issue of balance and one we have not done well with over time.
    2. It is not the fact that there are more small wars than big ones but rather that the history of the military of the US (and the colonies before we were a country) saw much more engagement in both numbers of cases and longer periods than big war engagements. If past is prologue, then we need to keep studying the small wars along with the big ones and be prepared to fight them.
    3. The Army as an institution did turn its institutional back on small wars after Vietnam. Although there were pockets where an institutional memory was retained - LTC Don Vought at CGSC (Fort Leavenworth) salvaged all the stuff on COIN in the 70s and stored the documents under the heading of "Terrorism" (which was then in vogue). In the 93 I had a student there who on his deployment to Haiti the next year lamented that he had not paid more attention to what we were giving him with regard to small wars - and he was a good one. My big army counterparts in the 80s did not pay much attention to anything that was going on in SOUTHCOM because it really was not career enhancing. Yet, if that was the whole picture, we would never have had David Petraeus, H.R. McMaster (who was in the CGSC class during my tenure and published his well received book that year),or some of the other leaders of the COIN resurgence. Again, I would argue that the issue os one of balance.
    4. Bill, I don't think that you can avoid addressing policy and strategy in any discussion of the application of military power. Saint Carl (aka CvC) made the point that "war is the extension of politik (translates as both politic and policy depending on constext) with the addition of other means." That, to me, means that the "strategic corporal" is not confined to the USMC. What we do at the tactical and operational levels have profound impacts on the strategic and higher levels. A Salvadoran student of mine at Leavenworth stated in class that the decision taken during the FMLN 89 offensive to murder the Jesuit leadership of the U of Central America (and their housekeeper and her daughter) very nearly defeated the Salvadoran government and armed forces. It was a decision taken by a Colonel who happened to command the military academy (not functioning at the time) but gained command of the city because of the attack Clear case of tactical stupidity resulting in strategic and political disaster.

    Last point: In my recent review essay in the Journal (w/Amb Ed Corr) we noted the difference between assisting a funtitoning government and military and having to create one because we have destroyed what previously existed and are now the occupying power. We noted that this situation was analogous to what Callwell called Imperial Policing or what the Marines later practiced in the Banana Wars. We agree with Neustadt and May (Madhu, see their THINKING IN TIME) that analogies must be used with great care but we also cannot escape their use. If we are the occupying power then WE must nation build - an obligation under the laws of war. If we are a supporting power then the host government must nation build if it does not want to see an insurgency return. How we and our allies undertake those tasks is a question that is always frought with peril. I would simply add that we did reasonably well in these tasks in both set of circumstances in Grenada, Panama, El Salvador, and Peru between 1983 and 1995. All 4 are reasonably well functioing democracies two or more decades later.

    Cheers
    JohnT

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    Default

    Quotes are from JohnT's post:

    1. The shift toward Asia was, in fact, made for perfectly valid strategic reasons. But it also has the effect of reemphasizing the "big one". The issue here is whether the legitimate concern over a potential peer competitor is at the expense of the more constant small wars threats and capabilities. It is an issue of balance and one we have not done well with over time.
    I'm not sure if anyone is looking at the next "big one", the "big one" is a bit a straw man in my opinion intended to downplay the risk of another war between states in favor for transforming the military into little more than a low intensity conflict force. I hope the military is investing in many able to fight and prevail against another state actor, but not at the expense of maintaining our small wars skills. It seems many of our small wars zealots, are generally our younger officers who didn't serve in the military when our joint war fighting capability wasn't much better than the USSR's as demonstrated in Grenada. They quickly forget, or came in after the initial major combat operations to oust the Taliban and Saddam, that those capabilities are still essential. That leaves all the stuff between those major combat operations that often fall into the realm of small wars. The first question is the military really bad them at them, or is the real issue stupid policies? If the military is bad at small wars, then is it at the tactical or operational level? or both? If we're going to maintain or develop the needed skills, then we need to get into DOTMLPF specifics to address our weaknesses, but before we can do that those weaknesses need to be clarified. Then we can revamp our education, training, manning, organizations, etc. as needed so they're capable of operating in the full spectrum of conflict. We need to avoid the straw man argument of the "next big one". It is a COINdista myth that misrepresents what those opposed to the COINdistas are saying. The COINdistas can't predict the future anymore than those opposed to our involvement in COIN. Our national level leaders are telling us to prepare for a range of new threats in an increasingly unpredictable world. To me that means a force with a wide range of capabilities that is agile and flexible, and can operate effective throughout the full spectrum of conflict. It includes cyber and space domains now, it includes runts like North Korea getting nukes, dangerous transnational criminal organizations, terrorist organizations, dangerous state actors, and in some cases assisting a partner deal with an insurgency. I actually think we a lot of things the legacy force needs to adapt to, and I don't think we're there yet. Small wars is only part of the equation.

    2. It is not the fact that there are more small wars than big ones but rather that the history of the military of the US (and the colonies before we were a country) saw much more engagement in both numbers of cases and longer periods than big war engagements. If past is prologue, then we need to keep studying the small wars along with the big ones and be prepared to fight them.
    Agreed, see above, but what does being prepared to fight them mean? Why aren't we prepared now? Most importantly, what do we need to do?

    3. The Army as an institution did turn its institutional back on small wars after Vietnam. Although there were pockets where an institutional memory was retained - LTC Don Vought at CGSC (Fort Leavenworth) salvaged all the stuff on COIN in the 70s and stored the documents under the heading of "Terrorism" (which was then in vogue). In the 93 I had a student there who on his deployment to Haiti the next year lamented that he had not paid more attention to what we were giving him with regard to small wars - and he was a good one. My big army counterparts in the 80s did not pay much attention to anything that was going on in SOUTHCOM because it really was not career enhancing. Yet, if that was the whole picture, we would never have had David Petraeus, H.R. McMaster (who was in the CGSC class during my tenure and published his well received book that year),or some of the other leaders of the COIN resurgence. Again, I would argue that the issue os one of balance.
    SF belong solely to the Army before USSOCOM (SF is still part of the Army, but receives its SOF doctrinal direction and SOF unique funding from SOCOM), and even before USSOCOM stood up SF was still carrying the small wars torch. Regular Army Officers and NCOs attended FID training at our Institute for Military Assistance before they deployed on FID missions (maybe a model worth relooking). However, not all was well in the force, and now I'm going to support you on why we need to be concerned about the future.

    There were many powerful officers in the Army who were opposed to SF and Small Wars in general, and we had friends in the big Army like GEN Myers. However, SF leadership felt threatened enough in the early/mid 80s to compel SF to focus on Direct Action and Strategic Reconnaissance (before it became Special Reconnaissance) to keep SF relevant in Big Army's eyes and thus funded. At least that is the rumors we heard on the teams when shifted our focus from UW to conducting DA and SR. I hope our SF leadership didn't embrace these missions for any other reason than to keep SF alive. I definitely don't want to see us go back to those dark days. It almost seems unconceivable that we could go back to those days, but I'm sure many felt it was inconceivable after Vietnam to forget the lessons from that war.

    We're on the same side that we maintain these skills and the knowledge gained, but again we have to move beyond broad sweeping statements like we can't afford to lose them and provide solutions that can be acted upon.

    4. Bill, I don't think that you can avoid addressing policy and strategy in any discussion of the application of military power. Saint Carl (aka CvC) made the point that "war is the extension of politik (translates as both politic and policy depending on context) with the addition of other means." That, to me, means that the "strategic corporal" is not confined to the USMC. What we do at the tactical and operational levels have profound impacts on the strategic and higher levels. A Salvadoran student of mine at Leavenworth stated in class that the decision taken during the FMLN 89 offensive to murder the Jesuit leadership of the U of Central America (and their housekeeper and her daughter) very nearly defeated the Salvadoran government and armed forces. It was a decision taken by a Colonel who happened to command the military academy (not functioning at the time) but gained command of the city because of the attack Clear case of tactical stupidity resulting in strategic and political disaster.
    My point is we can do little to influence policy. The military isn't going to stop Sen. McCain from going to Syria and posing with terrorists and pushing for a policy to arm the anti-Syrian Government opposition and their Al-Qaeda allies. The military isn't going to stop idealist politicians from pushing policies like R2P, and the military won't stop future Bush administrations from creating policies related to building shinning cities on the hill in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our military leadership can advise against it, but at the end of the day we salute and move out. However, we can influence our education and training to better prepare our forces for a broader range of contingencies.

    See: http://zenpundit.com/?p=24935

    2. Policy is the True Fog of War:

    Having a clearly defined, coherently articulated policy based upon vital interests and empirical facts that sets a few realistic objectives in a way that makes possible shared understanding and broad political support is no way to go about losing wars.
    Last point: In my recent review essay in the Journal (w/Amb Ed Corr) we noted the difference between assisting a functioning government and military and having to create one because we have destroyed what previously existed and are now the occupying power. We noted that this situation was analogous to what Callwell called Imperial Policing or what the Marines later practiced in the Banana Wars. We agree with Neustadt and May (Madhu, see their THINKING IN TIME) that analogies must be used with great care but we also cannot escape their use. If we are the occupying power then WE must nation build - an obligation under the laws of war. If we are a supporting power then the host government must nation build if it does not want to see an insurgency return. How we and our allies undertake those tasks is a question that is always fraught with peril. I would simply add that we did reasonably well in these tasks in both set of circumstances in Grenada, Panama, El Salvador, and Peru between 1983 and 1995. All 4 are reasonably well functioning democracies two or more decades later.
    I applaud the effort you made to further differentiate FID from Occupation Operations. I am an advocate for developing an occupation doctrine regardless of how politically incorrect it is. Hopefully we never have to use it, but it would at least make us think about the possibility and plan for it which we didn't do well in Afghanistan and Iraq. In my view that is the most significant lesson from the last decade at war.

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    Default These are the kinds of discussions

    that I found so very stimulating when I first found SWJ. thanks Bill.

    Perhaps the distinction between FID, SFA, and occupation operations points in the direction of how we should educate and train the force. FID is an SF mission. I find it difficult to see how most conventional unit personnel can undertake the full spectrum of FID but they certainly can undertake parts of the mission. Those parts are what we call SFA (or is that term no longer in use?) In an occupation we have to do many things ourselves and we most certainly need a doctrine for them - concur with you on that Bill (along with much else).

    I wonder if the aversion at senior levels (both political and military) to call de facto occupations by that name is related to the desire for a "cleaner" conventional war. (God help us if we ever really have to fight one of those against a peer or near peer competitor because it will be bloodier than anything we have seen in a long, long time.) That said, we need to think about how we prepare for the full spectrum of conflict as well as prepare our officers to provide good advice to the civilian policy makers. We do have some good programs in place. DOS has a number of military officers assigned to the Bureau of Pol-Mil Affairs while DOD has a significant number of current or former DOS people. You may recall ASD-SO/LIC Allen Holmes during the Clinton Administration who was a career Foreign Service officer. More recently, Mike Sheehan (who graduated from Leavenworth in June 1992 as I arrived) went to work for his old grad school prof, Madelaine Albright, at both the US Mission to the UN and then at State. When Mike retired from the Army (he was SF) he went to work at State as a civilian, then NYC, and just retired from DOD where he too was ASD-SO/LIC. Lots of examples and a number of paths of this kind, only some of which are institutionalized by programs like FAO. Seems to me that a good place to start is to research what programs actually exist and see if they prepare officers to think beyond the operational and tactical so that they can provide both appropriate advice and participate fully and effectively in policy debates as they get to positions where those debates take place. I would note that some take place as low as the Ambassador's Country Team in the field and on the Interagency Policy Committees in DC (where military representation can be as low as LTC/CDR on occasion).

    Cheers

    JohnT

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    Default Models need care and feeding; no I mean social science models :)

    Quote Originally Posted by John T. Fishel View Post
    Last point: In my recent review essay in the Journal (w/Amb Ed Corr) we noted the difference between assisting a funtitoning government and military and having to create one because we have destroyed what previously existed and are now the occupying power. We noted that this situation was analogous to what Callwell called Imperial Policing or what the Marines later practiced in the Banana Wars. We agree with Neustadt and May (Madhu, see their THINKING IN TIME) that analogies must be used with great care but we also cannot escape their use. If we are the occupying power then WE must nation build - an obligation under the laws of war. If we are a supporting power then the host government must nation build if it does not want to see an insurgency return. How we and our allies undertake those tasks is a question that is always frought with peril. I would simply add that we did reasonably well in these tasks in both set of circumstances in Grenada, Panama, El Salvador, and Peru between 1983 and 1995. All 4 are reasonably well functioing democracies two or more decades later.

    Cheers
    JohnT
    I'm pretty sure the other kind don't eat much and so don't need feeding.

    Sorry, bad joke. And the following is not about the SWORD model, but a more generalized comment on the fascination of a British imperial history without a more full rounded study of what other colonial contemporaries said, colonial population histories and viewpoints, and newer research based on declassified materials.


    I understand the need for models but what I don't understand is the return to people like Calwell without adding more current information to the mix. Models need to be updated from time to time and reviewed from the vantage point of more current information.

    The entire second half of the twentieth century into the twenty-first in South Asia is all about nation building, what is this fascination with British imperial policing? If you are interested in nation building, then you have to understand more about it than models frozen in a point in time.

    It's hard to build a nation when its educated classes are sometimes targeted for assasination and some of this too via some proxy effort that is ignored for a variety of reasons.

    There is current research that taps into a broader range of information on the subject of nation building and, yet, the models discussed here seem frozen in time.

    I listened to Rufus Phillips on the John Batchelor show once (I think it was him) and the understanding of the region sounded like the 1980's.

    When the strategic endstate is viewed differently by at least one ally in the mix, you can't just outsource some of your counterinsurgency work through that very military. And, the history shows that attempts to change the national calculus fails time and time again. That was the point of the Komer quote I included to your article.

    The literature is rich on the subject of nation building in South Asia, it's gone far beyond 90's era peacekeeping literature and all I'd like to see is some of this included in the discussion.

    Occupations, colonial imperial policing, wars of conquest (Indian wars), how do these relate to the medium sized wars of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan?

    The models shove too many different types of conflicts together, we can't do some of the things we did during the Indian wars or during colonial times. That doesn't mean we don't study them, but it does mean you understand their limitations as models for contemporary conflict.

    And you have to first know something about the world into which you are introducing the model. Ignorance of the basic strategic set up is not a good way to go. That's why I say the discussion becomes thin. People are not interested in this and yet it is vitally important.

    As Ken White said, we do small and large wars pretty good, it's our history with medium wars as an expeditionary third party that are problematic.

    The models should make this distinction. Maybe they do.
    Last edited by Madhu; 08-04-2013 at 09:28 PM. Reason: added "And the following...."
    “I am practicing being kind instead of right” - Matthew Quick, The Silver Linings Playbook

    "Throughout the world sounds one long cry from the heart of the artist: Give me the chance to do my very best." - Babette's Feast

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    Default Please ban me for my own good, someone, please?

    I was only supposed to check in for a few minutes as a break from writing something else, and now look what you've all done?

    I really don't mean my comments to sound hostile, I love the direction this conversation is taking and in that spirit I will try and post articles that support what I mean about different ways of looking at nation building.

    For instance, I had posted an article from India Review about how the internationalization of Kashmir may have contributed to its intractibility as a conflict (although regional powers are responsible).

    I think a neglected area of study is the way in which our own post WW2 security structure has reached its limits and is contributing to instability and preventing nation building, or at least, impeding it.

    That is the value of looking at newer research and the questions it asks.

    Good comments, all.
    “I am practicing being kind instead of right” - Matthew Quick, The Silver Linings Playbook

    "Throughout the world sounds one long cry from the heart of the artist: Give me the chance to do my very best." - Babette's Feast

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    Default Some grist for the mill.

    Here are a few ideas to offer up.

    1. One size does/doesn't fit all. Taking SF FID out of the mix, can you really do stabilization with a hunter/killer Army? When pushed, won't they just revert back to their initial training and kill everything in sight. Is that what you really want?

    2. Is soft better? In the early days of Iraq we ran over looters cars with tanks and woke everyone up at 0200 with Bradley’s firing into nothing as a “show of force” and we were loved (or maybe we weren’t). Was that a better model? Is it really better to be feared than loved?

    3. An American Foreign Legion. Should we be picking up some of the “best and the brightest” military officers and interpreters from Iraq and Afghanistan and putting them in an American Foreign Legion of sorts to advise on future operations? Not a full blown force, more an advisory element. About one per company plus staff personnel at the BN/BDE level for those units regionally aligned.
    "I can change almost anything ... but I can't change human nature."

    Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan
    ---

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    Default Riposte to one idea

    Only one of three points made
    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    Here are a few ideas to offer up.

    3. An American Foreign Legion. Should we be picking up some of the “best and the brightest” military officers and interpreters from Iraq and Afghanistan and putting them in an American Foreign Legion of sorts to advise on future operations? Not a full blown force, more an advisory element. About one per company plus staff personnel at the BN/BDE level for those units regionally aligned.
    Sometime ago now SWC have discussed this idea, in 2007 ' Create a U.S. Foreign Legion':http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=2510 and in 2006 'All-Mercenary service?', which is one of many threads on the PMC option:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...read.php?t=474

    You will see an American Foreign Legion didn't get much support and since then we know PMCs have taken on an even greater role for the USG. In the UK there is a greater use of PMC, although we don't call them that, just contractors - mainly IIRC for logistic roles, not combat.

    There is IMHO merit in having a small, if not larger, non-American element in your regionally aligned brigades - if only to provide language and cultural expertise. Immense difficulties I expect, notably who would, under what conditions and basing not in the USA.

    With due respect to Madhu, who has reservations over looking at British Imperial practices, there was a long-standing practice of integration of British and Indian units - notably at brigade level. I'm about to read an article on the inter-war practice of an Indian machine gun platoon, plus mules, being part of British infantry battalions 1921-1938.

    Personally for the USA IMO what is needed are American individuals and formed units willing to serve abroad under foreign command - away from NATO and other alliances.
    davidbfpo

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