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Thread: The Warden Collection (merged thread)

  1. #41
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    Default Good points Ken...

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    First, the Rings model is also a simple way of depicting a system that may be more complex than some not so smart guys who try to use it realize. i.e. it can lead to mistakes. Secondly, it can depict the system but as has been said, many things out there defy categorization as a system.
    True, but we have to try to understand it somehow. Do the folks who say you can't understand things as a system advocate a trial and error approach to strategy?

    I suggest that trying to understand the enemy's political system is often unnecessary -- it is also exceedingly difficult to get right, particularly if that system is conducted in another language and / or stems from a quite different culture. What is necessary from both a military and a strategic standpoint is relatively sure if basic knowledge of what that system does. 'What' needs to be known, 'why' and 'how' will most often be nice to have for diplomatic purposes but actually relatively useless for strategic or war purposes.
    I agree that it is hard. Warden is arguing that we should acknowledge when things are difficult, but not let that make us think they are impossible.

    Without quibbling over details, I agree Warden has some good points. As did John Boyd. And Curtis LeMay. Or CvC, Jomini, De Saxe (probably one of the best of the bunch) and Subatai (certainly one of the 'winningest' of all time...). So do you and so do I -- a lot of folks do. None of us or of them has all the answers. I know neither you or Slap suggest that, I'm just reiterating it to point out that the principle sometimes gets lost behind the name. Warden is good but he's not the be all and end all; the Rings have applicability in some situation -- but not in all. Airpower (all source) is great but it also has limitations -- as does ground power or sea power...
    Agreed... again, Warden isn't saying there aren't limitations, he's just saying that we shouldn't let current limitations make us stop trying to overcome them.

    My problem with John Warden or anyone who offers THE optimum solution (even though they add caveats, their primary pet rock shows in their pocket) is that I'm old and have yet to see any one trick pony win the dressage.
    Valid point, I would re-iterate my point above on Warden's intent.

    That's true, he always has -- and he rarely gets credit for that. I suspect his 'air power uber alles approach has a great deal to do with that and his valid points get obscured by that. Parochialism tends to draw parochial responses...
    Unless the parochial response is from the Army, then it's ok, right?

    Our 'strategies' (multi polar plural ) have not done that at all well in 236 years. Fortunately, we muddle through rather well.

    We aren't doing the present really well. The future may be a step too far. The Wardens of this world might be able to get there but those really smart guys are only about 20% of the grand total -- that other 80% of us have to be dragged along and herded like a batch of cats. Hard to get there from here. Really hard. Particularly with a governmental system that changes directions every 2 to 8 years (that annoys the daylights out of the Strategists...). We tend to get really serious (that applies to both domestic and foreign political as well as military issues) only when confronted with an existential threat and there are none of those in view at this time...
    Won't argue with you here- again, I think Warden acknowledges this, he just is trying to argue that difficult shouldn't mean impossible.

    My next paper is going to be on ways to try and improve our strategic process...

    Anyway, good points Ken, I think part of why Warden is misunderstood is because people see him as so parochial. What folks miss is that a lot of his efforts aren't addressed at outsiders, but the folks inside the USAF who are stuck in old ways of thinking. The message for them gets misread when people think it applies to outsiders...

    V/R,

    Cliff

  2. #42
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    Default Fuchs, you are distorting the facts...

    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    Most warfare is not about directly breaking will, but about doing something that has an indirect effect on the enemy leadership's will, around several corners.
    OK, but Warden is arguing that we should try to focus on the ultimate object... getting the enemy to do what we want - IE, "War is politics by other means" as CvC would say.

    It's secondary quality because it requires a huge amount of effort and damage in order to reach the real goal very indirectly.
    Uhhh, this may have been true before... but not anymore. While World War II did require a lot of effort, Allied Force, OEF and OIF required much less effort. The cost in lives is much less on both the friendly and enemy sides. Do you really think that a NATO ground invasion of Kosovo and Serbia would have been less effort, less cost, and less casualties than Allied Force resulted in?

    This time "indirect" does not mean "smart", it means "poorly aimed".
    Uhh, Warden is arguing for the direct approach as opposed to attacking fielded forces... how is this poorly aimed?

    The meagre quality becomes more visible if you assume that the same would have been attempted with a copy of the Iraqi air force, negating the extreme disparity in resources. Hint: The Wehrmacht failed in 1940 against the British with pretty much the same as the U.S.A.A.F. attempted in 1942-1944.
    You are correct, the USAAF didn't have an adequate force until early 1944, and in early 1944 it was used on France and the intended areas of landing, not for strategic attack. Once it was unleashed on Germany mid 1944 it did some real damage. The Iraqi Air Force had 700 aircraft and was (for the time) a fairly credible Soviet-style force. I'm not saying they weren't outnumbered, they were. But the real key was in training, maintenance, technology, etc. You are essentially arguing that airpower was not effective because it worked too well...

    He offers so many targets to attack that I can only conclude he failed to find the real lever.
    Did you read the paper? Warden is suggesting selecting targets on the inner rings carefully so that you don't have to attack so many targets, the exact opposite of what you are saying above.

    None of this is really an argument in itself, especially not the firs ton, for his actual proposal for Desert Storm had been rejected in favour of a less fancy one - and that one produced some interesting and unanticipated effects.
    Warden's initial plan was not used, but because LtGen (at the time LtCol) Deptula was kept to be one of the key planners. He ended up writing the final plan.

    There's almost always something "well established". Infantry and cavalry doctrine were "well established" in 1913.
    This is just silly, Fuchs. What would you recommend airpower doctrine change to? What do you see as the major flaws in the current system?

    The actual air power in use was
    - successful in Iraq 1991 with an extreme resource disparity in near-perfect terrain
    - semi-successful at most with various punitive strikes during the 1990's
    - successful in Yugoslavia 1999 with an extreme resource disparity, yet still thoroughly embarrassed tactically, technically and strategically.
    - successful in Afghanistan 2001 with a total resource disparity that didn't even encounter noteworthy resistance
    - successful in Iraq 2003 with 'beyond extreme' resource disparity in very good terrain, but still with major gaffes
    - failing in Iraq 2003-2007 with total resource disparity against an elusive enemy
    - failing in Afghanistan 2005-2011 with total resource disparity against an elusive enemy (probably even with a negative net effect!)
    Why is airpower failing in Iraq and Afghanistan? I think it has done more to enable the land forces than anything else. OBTW the drone program has been pretty effective. How would the Army/Marines have done with no airborne ISR, airlift, CAS, AAR, etc?

    Well, if I go to a funfair and easily pling all targets there, and tomorrow I go into the wilderness with a shotgun and miss almost all the rabbits, hitting many trees, squirrels and cats instead - does this mean that my marksman skill is well established and satisfactory?
    Very few targets have been missed. Warden is arguing that improvements can be made to make airpower more effective in COIN - you won't find me arguing with that. But you seem to think that past failures mean the concept is doomed. By your methodology, we should have declared failure in Iraq and withdrawn in 2007... good plan.

    The only thing that's well established is the orchestration/'synchronisation' of strike packages.
    Airpower strategy of the last two decades has been a joke; I saw only a primitive application of brute force.
    The whole idea of elegance is totally gone missing because too many resources were at hand for too many conflicts.
    Are you serious? You seem to have no familiarity with the way air campaigns are planned now... while brute force is a part of it (I suspect Wilf would argue that it must be part of any war!), the process is very tightly controlled.


    ---------------------
    Just an example; scenario 1999 Kosovo Air War against Yugoslavia, what I would have done:
    (1) negotiate an electricity embargo against Yugoslavia by all neighbours, employ observers along the high voltage power lines.
    (2) Take out all powerplant turbine rooms in Yugoslavia (save for the one of the nuclear power plant; instead cut its nodes in a safe distance) with a single B-2 sortie (JDAMs were already available).
    Initially the air targets were limited to fielded forces. Only later was the political leadership of NATO finally convinced to allow the air component to target key infrastructure and the regime. It was the specific push to target Milosevic and his cronies as well as their financial concerns that finally led to the Serbs capitulating. (See RAND report) This is not an airpower strategy issue- that is a grand/political strategy issue of going to war without the will to do what is neccessary- exactly what Warden is arguing against.

    Offer a deal:
    Yugoslavia re-establishes autonomy for Kosovo and accepts foreign (military) police forces of its choice (no more than 50% slavs, though) as reinforcements for a mostly prejudice-free maintenance of security in Kosovo.
    NATO repairs the damage ASAP and asks the neighbours to lift the electricity embargo.

    How many months would they have accepted a life with electricity restricted to hospitals, the upper class residence area of Belgrade and state buildings? In resistance to what? Basically a gift!
    I guesstimate they wouldn't have accepted it for much longer than they endured the resistance-provoking bombardment.

    THIS is elegant strategy.
    Again, something similar to what you propose is basically what ended up happening... Oh by the way, you have just used Warden's 5 rings model to develop your "elegant" strategy. I would also submit that just being without power is unlikely to convince someone like Milosevic, especially when opposition to outsiders is the source of much of his power. But again, that's not an issue with airpower...

    The problems that occured were not airpower strategy issues, but problems with NATO's internal political and military leadership. That's not an issue for airpower theory to address directly. Airpower does help mitigate these problems, however, by making the war shorter and less bloody, as Warden points out. So I guess you basically agree with Warden!

    V/R,

    Cliff
    Last edited by Cliff; 03-08-2011 at 06:56 PM.

  3. #43
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    Cliff,

    There is one more thing missing in Warden's article: the effect of his strategy on OUR OWN leadership. This lacuna is a bit odd, because this effect was at the heart of his original article (see John A. Warden, “Air Theory for the Twenty-first Century”):

    All military operations, including air operations, should be consonant with the prevailing political and physical environment. In World War II the United States and her Allies imposed widespread destruction and civilian casualties on Japan and Germany; prior to the Gulf War, a new political climate meant that a proposal to impose similar damage on Iraq would have met overwhelming opposition from American and coalition political leaders.
    The problem with Warden's theory is that public and political intolerance for destruction and civilian casualties has grown faster than the effectiveness of surgical bombings. The steep increase in bombing precision that makes Warden's strategy feasible has been followed by an even steeper decrease in public tolerance for destruction and collateral damage. The 2006 invasion of southern Lebanon by Israel proved that Dan Haloutz's application of Warden's strategy destroyed the center of ISRAEL's five-rings model rather than Hezbollah's.

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    Default Agree with the percieved intolerance...

    Quote Originally Posted by Marc View Post
    The problem with Warden's theory is that public and political intolerance for destruction and civilian casualties has grown faster than the effectiveness of surgical bombings. The steep increase in bombing precision that makes Warden's strategy feasible has been followed by an even steeper decrease in public tolerance for destruction and collateral damage. The 2006 invasion of southern Lebanon by Israel proved that Dan Haloutz's application of Warden's strategy destroyed the center of ISRAEL's five-rings model rather than Hezbollah's.
    I agree that Israel mis-used Wardens model in Lebanon, and certainly discrimination is important. IMHO, one of the big problems with Israel's efforts is that they didn't discriminate adequately between Lebanon and Hezbollah when they did their systems analysis... and so ended up hitting targets that were used by Lebanese civilians. I think that Warden would argue that they failed to adequately find and target the leadership ring, and ended up hitting fielded forces and infrastructure too hard.

    As Warden points out, the big issue is time... the quicker a war, the less likely there is to be civilian casualties and the less likely public outrage is. Certainly the "baby milk factory" in Desert Storm and the Chinese Embassy in OAF cost us in the court of public opinion. I think that the actual effects of public outrage are somewhat overrated, however, due to the media and politicians views of them.

    This raises a deeper question that goes more to Fuch's grand strategic arguements... that is, do we have the will to do what it takes to win? Warden argues we shouldn't go to war if we do not. As Ken pointed out, in our current political system, it's tough to get there... politicians like G.W. Bush (whatever you think of him otherwise) who are willing to throw away their careers to do what they think is the right thing are few and far between.

    Again, I'm not arguing that Warden's model is the end-all be-all, but that he is misunderstood because people focus on the 5 rings as a prescriptive solution and ignore the other points he is trying to make.

    V/R,

    Cliff

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cliff View Post
    This raises a deeper question that goes more to Fuch's grand strategic arguements... that is, do we have the will to do what it takes to win? Warden argues we shouldn't go to war if we do not. As Ken pointed out, in our current political system, it's tough to get there.
    I am afraid you put the cart before the horse. It is not the politician's job to deliver the political will needed for the application of a certain strategy. It is the strategist's job to develop a strategy within the limitations of his leadership's political will.

  6. #46
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    Default Horse is in front of cart, really!

    Quote Originally Posted by Marc View Post
    I am afraid you put the cart before the horse. It is not the politician's job to deliver the political will needed for the application of a certain strategy. It is the strategist's job to develop a strategy within the limitations of his leadership's political will.
    Marc-

    I disagree. In our system of government the politicians ARE the strategists- that is the problem that Ken was pointing out.

    Agree that we as the military must strive to recommend strategies that alleviate this - that is why Warden argues for airpower to make wars faster/less bloody.

    V/R,

    Cliff

  7. #47
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    Cliff,

    Great points. I hope to be more responsive to them this evening, but to make sure I don't put words in your mouth or build a strawman, what do you think are the key points Warden is making that are new in this most recent paper?
    What do you think is being misunderstood about his other points?

    What I argree with him on are:

    Strategy provides the framework for finding the best means to attain objectives.
    This is true almost by the definition of strategy. The issue becomes what is the best approach to strategy and comes down to Jomini vs Clauswitz which at its root gets back to Plato vs Aristotle...


    The objective of a conflict is to achieve a future picture, not to kill and destroy.
    One must have a 'desired end-state' that one wants to achieve. The issue comes becomes how tightly coupled cause and effect are in the 'systems' involved.

    As we consider conflict, we should explore bloodless-force options exhaustively before reverting to traditional war and battle.
    Almost a throw away given a desire for "just war", but important not to take to the extreme. The rub is in how you define "bloodless - force"...


    What I disagree on:

    The best approach to strategy starts with a future picture, determines the systems and centers of gravity that must change to realize that picture, takes into account the impact of time, and preplans an exit.

    We should focus on direct, strategic centers of gravity to the maximum extent possible.
    Presupposes the existence and determinability of "direct, strategic centers of gravity" and linear cause and effect relationships between them and the desired outcomes. In Real Life, there are few "strategic centers of gravity" that can be determined (implying determinism...) and the cause and effect chains between them are not identifiable, or linear.

    Our conflict vocabulary flows from ancient times and traps us mentally and physically into concepts that no longer make sense, so our vocabulary must change.
    How does our vocabulary invalidate any of our current Joint Concepts? Which of those concepts no longer make sense and why? How does changing vocabulary (to what, that of business and return on investment?) enable different concepts. Capabilities enable concepts, not vocabulary.

    If we want to change our opponent as a system to conform to our objectives, then the most direct approach entails affecting opponent centers of gravity closely related to the objectives.
    Assumes not just a linear Newtonian world-view, but one that presupposes relationships between the enemy system and our desires. Who defines "closely related"? Have not seen enough cultural mismatches in our recent wars to put this sort of thinking to rest?

    Fast action and short conflicts are imperative and far less expensive than slow, long ones.
    There is a missing consideration of intensity. The reductio adsurdum is that all war should then be nuclear because it is the fastest and shortest conflict.

    “Battle” is at best an expensive and risky means to a distant end, and we should almost always avoid it.
    THis is perhaps where I disagree with Warden the most. "Battle" is used almost pejoratively, but in its barest sense means "competition". To remove "battle" from the vocabulary of conflict is to remove "competition" because what is a "battle" really, but a constrained competition between two or more adversaries?

    By removing "battle" from his vocablary, Warden attributes to Airpower the power to act unilaterally and without the "enemy getting a vote", as though our recent abaility to establish and maintain dominance of the air is a given in any future conflict.

    If the other guy has an the capability to compete with you in your desire to apply airpower, how can you assume away "battle"?

    And this leads to the ultimate hubris:

    It also opens another very exciting possibility: conflict with little or no unplanned destruction or shedding of blood.
    and no mention of the "5 rings"
    "All models are wrong, but some are useful"

    -George E.P. Box

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cliff View Post
    Marc-

    I disagree. In our system of government the politicians ARE the strategists- that is the problem that Ken was pointing out.

    Agree that we as the military must strive to recommend strategies that alleviate this - that is why Warden argues for airpower to make wars faster/less bloody.

    V/R,

    Cliff
    Cliff,

    Then we know exactly where we disagree. Democratic politicians ARE NOT strategists (maybe they should be, but they are not). I can recommend two books on the subject:

    Dick Morris "Power Plays: Win or Loose - How History's Great Political Leaders Play the Game." (especially Chapter Six: Mobilizing the Nation in Times of Crisis)

    and

    Erik Claessen "Stalemate: An Anatomy of Conflicts between Democracies Islamists and Muslim Autocrats".

    Expecting politicians to take up the role of strategist is a short route to disappointment.

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    Interesting discussion so far.

    I think the first point I would make is to suggest that a one-size-fits all methodology that biases toward one particular element of national power is, at best, inadequate.

    Secondly, a primary problem with airpower-centric solutions is what do you do when you strike all the targets on your prioritized target list and the effects are not achieved? The inevitable temptation is to go further down the PTL into tertiary targets and start hitting everything - hence you get the Israeli's striking an empty Hezbollah office in a populated multi-story building which does nothing to Hezbollah and is ultimately counterproductive. In short, how does one tell when the strategy has failed? In an environment where political concerns limit the use of ground forces, both politicians and the air forces are going to want to "keep going" and hope for some kind of success.

    So, ironically, one of air power's great advantages is also a disadvantage.
    Supporting "time-limited, scope limited military actions" for 20 years.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Entropy View Post
    In short, how does one tell when the strategy has failed?
    Good point, and an important test for every strategy. Hitler's strategy failed in 1942 (Stalingrad and El Alamein), but he needed three more years to understand it. Are we smarter?

  11. #51
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cliff View Post
    Uhhh, this may have been true before... but not anymore. While World War II did require a lot of effort, Allied Force, OEF and OIF required much less effort. The cost in lives is much less on both the friendly and enemy sides. Do you really think that a NATO ground invasion of Kosovo and Serbia would have been less effort, less cost, and less casualties than Allied Force resulted in?
    The resources applied were in all the 1991-2011 examples out of proportion with the target. Show me contemporary air war strategy defeating a peer enemy in less than a half year anywhere and I'll buy that it's efficient enough.

    Btw, the record for most rapid defeat of a Yugoslav government is an astonishing 11 days. The most powerful alliance ever took 78 days to force very limited demands.

    Did you read the paper? Warden is suggesting selecting targets on the inner rings carefully so that you don't have to attack so many targets, the exact opposite of what you are saying above.
    The problem is merely that the whole 'rings' stuff is nonsense. The whole approach is just a bad idea. His writing is full of cluelessness with minimal inspiration. You need to get to the core if you want to break will, you need to look at psychology and preferences, not against an organisation complex.

    Here's a problem, though.
    Let's assume I think I have a better concept that the world-famous five rings crap.
    Would you expect me to publish it in an internet forum?

    I wouldn't even publish it in my blog.

    Warden's initial plan was not used, but because LtGen (at the time LtCol) Deptula was kept to be one of the key planners. He ended up writing the final plan.
    ... which was what he was told to propose, not what he proposed. There are certain people from that episode who do not hold him in high regard at all.

    Why is airpower failing in Iraq and Afghanistan?
    It has been a failure because it was no success, especially in regard to strategy. Doing this and doing that does not count much when the real idea was to win, not to keep doing things.

    By your methodology, we should have declared failure in Iraq and withdrawn in 2007... good plan.
    By my methodology, Iraq would have been left alone since '97, for it had been disarmed as demanded in '96 and was no real-world problem any more.

    Are you serious? (...), the process is very tightly controlled.
    Yes, and I don't care about tight control.
    There's no inspiration behind what's being done, just transpiration and the standard meme of throwing resources at a problem.
    The 90's and 00's air wars followed the 8th AF approach of destroying this, then that - trial and error. We need something more close to Biafra air force, Flying Tigers or Luftwaffe May '40.
    We need air forces which deliver a good strategic effect on small budget, accomplish their mission against the odds and which can focus on what's decisive.

    Initially the air targets were limited to fielded forces. Only later was the political leadership of NATO finally convinced to allow the air component to target key infrastructure and the regime. It was the specific push to target Milosevic and his cronies as well as their financial concerns that finally led to the Serbs capitulating.
    I'll translate this for you:

    The original strategy didn't work, a new set of targets was opened up and that strategy didn't work either, another set of targets was opened up and that strategy was still failing until finally the hero knight in shining armour arrived and rescued us all from the total strategic embarrassment: The Russian prime minister who convinced Milosevic that Russia would not intervene.

    Again, something similar to what you propose is basically what ended up happening... Oh by the way, you have just used Warden's 5 rings model to develop your "elegant" strategy.
    Hardly. We bombed a small power for 78 days. Not elegant at all.

    The problems that occurred were not airpower strategy issues, but problems with NATO's internal political and military leadership. That's not an issue for airpower theory to address directly. Airpower does help mitigate these problems, however, by making the war shorter and less bloody, as Warden points out.
    Most of all, it leads to additional wars because
    a) there were already too many hundreds of billions spent on the AF bureaucracy and its toys (and politicians never fail to hit the sunk costs fallacy!).
    b) air power offers a fantasy of a war (or bullying) on the cheap, without much negative effects of relevance

    The Kosovo air war remains a strategic disaster on too many levels - it's astonishing how well this has been kept out of the public perception.
    * technical failure of DEAD attempts
    * technical failure of F-117
    * tactical failure of way too inept mission planning (such as no variance in French UAV routing and predictable Tomahawk flight routes)
    * tactical/technical failure of BDA from the air
    * intelligence failure on colossal scope before the war
    * political failure: lies about the reasons for war
    * intelligence failure: BDA
    * top HQ failure to teach politicians about what air power can achieve
    * top HQ failure to understand that the short bombing around Sarajevo is NOT a good analogy
    * political failure: opposition instead of cooperation with Russia
    * logistical failure: Race to Pristina airport
    * readiness and deployability failure: TF Hawk
    * strategic failure: poor understanding of the purpose of destruction
    * PR failure: slowed down train bombing video was a lie
    * reconnaissance failure: aerial imagery misinterpretation on colossal scale
    * reconnaissance and targeting failure: way too many decoys were engaged
    * reconnaissance and targeting failure: deployed ground forces were barely scratched despite being targeted
    * strategic failure: way too long campaign in light of the disparity between NATO and Yugoslavia
    * political failure: Greece was not convinced to make bases available
    * logistical failure: use of North Italian instead of South Italian bases was idiotic
    * political failure: many countries provided small packages of combat aircraft instead of the alliance tailoring a force of only the best for the job
    * political failure: no gains for us
    * political failure: we're stills tuck in there with blue helmets
    * political failure: a few thousand criminal insurgents fooled us into fighting their war
    * political failure: said thugs are now operating the organised crime hub of Europe under our protection
    * political failure: we came to end an ethnic cleansing campaign against Kosovars that did not really exist and then we didn't really keep the Kosovars from cleaning most of Kosovo ethnically from Serbs


    The whole thing was a huge embarrassment, and the air war component contributed a lot to the embarrassment. Only so-called "victory" prevented that the whole world laughed about us.


    Last but not least: Always keep in mind RAND is writing for its customers; the air force, the navy ...
    Any paper that quotes Michael O'Hanlon is by default already at least 50% disqualified in my opinion.
    Last edited by Fuchs; 03-08-2011 at 09:22 PM.

  12. #52
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Not even...

    Quote Originally Posted by Cliff View Post
    Unless the parochial response is from the Army, then it's ok, right?
    I railed about that stupidity by the Army while I was in it for over 27 years and while working for it for another 18. I did not rail about Marine parochialism during my four years as a Marine -- my excuse; I started that at age 16 and didn't know better -- by the time I got to the Army I saw how terribly counterproductive and stifling that excessive loyalty could be. It also crushes initiative and innovation. Parochialism by all the services -- and by the communities within the services is absolutely stupid. It is also absolutely embedded. It needs a firm hand to rid the institutions of a wasteful emotion.

    I also frequently rail about it here -- and on an equal opportunity basis.
    Won't argue with you here- again, I think Warden acknowledges this, he just is trying to argue that difficult shouldn't mean impossible.
    Hmm. You said that four times...

    I don't think anyone is saying that, at least no one here. The issue to me seems to apply the correct solution to a given situation, not to give up -- and applying on solution to all situations is likely to be problematic...

    Then there is this:
    Do the folks who say you can't understand things as a system advocate a trial and error approach to strategy?
    Cannot speak for others but IMO (an opinion shared by quite a few folks I've been around over the years...) is that the interplay of others with your goals and in response to your actions will cause you to have to modify your strategy on a almost constant basis. This will give the appearance in some cases of a trial and error approach, in others, that is exactly what it will be. In still others, both the actuality and the appearance are avoided and it will seem that the Gods smiled.

    That latter will generally be due to a fortuitous personage being at the right place at the right time. I will note that the US has in the past produced some of those types and that over the years all three variants have been evident in our 'strategeries.' I will also note that today, the system almost seems to conspire against great competence and that IMO doies not bode well.
    ...I think part of why Warden is misunderstood is because people see him as so parochial. What folks miss is that a lot of his efforts aren't addressed at outsiders, but the folks inside the USAF who are stuck in old ways of thinking. The message for them gets misread when people think it applies to outsiders...
    Yes...

  13. #53
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default You are correct. But...

    Quote Originally Posted by Marc View Post
    Democratic politiciansARE NOT strategists (maybe they should be, but they are not).
    Totally agree, even those with some military knowledge or experience have historically been poor as Politicians trying to influence the strategy of their Generals. Clemenceau who coined the ultimate Civilian control of the Military quip was poor at the task -- but he had enough sense to listen to his good Generals (and to know which were good)...
    Expecting politicians to take up the role of strategist is a short route to disappointment.
    While that is correct, the problem in a Democracy is that Politicians believe they must be seen as doing something. That the something they do is inept, inappropriate and does more harm than good is immaterial. They will meddle, they will screw things royally and only really good Flag Officers will keep them from doing too much damage. Unfortunately, in a system that rewards survival above all else, the number of really good Flag Officers isn't as high as it could or should be.

    Regardless, with respect to your initial comment on the topic:
    It is not the politician's job to deliver the political will needed for the application of a certain strategy. It is the strategist's job to develop a strategy within the limitations of his leadership's political will.
    Most US politicians have little will for much other than getting reelected and have definite constraints on the amount of will they will be allowed to exert by the vagaries of Congress and party politics. Add the fact that to most US domestic political concerns far outweigh foreign policy concerns and you have a recipe for military power to be misapplied, misused and wasted by trying to do too little with too few.

    While your approach is the way we have done it in this country since 1950 (and before on occasion), that does not mean that it is correct or even sensible. A quick look at recent history will show where that approach has placed us...

    Thus this "...It is the strategist's job to develop a strategy within the limitations of his leadership's political will" is saying that the "strategist" should collude and shave points. That's illegal in sports -- and war is more important than any sport. Regardless, Franks did that, so to an extent did Westmoreland and there have been others. The issue should be whether or not that is in the interest of the nation.

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    Default I'm behind the thread...

    Quote Originally Posted by pvebber View Post
    Cliff,
    what do you think are the key points Warden is making that are new in this most recent paper?
    What do you think is being misunderstood about his other points?
    I outlined most of what I think the key points are elsewhere, but his summary is:

    • Strategy provides the framework for finding the best means to attain objectives.
    • If we want to change our opponent as a system to conform to our objectives, then the most direct approach entails affecting opponent centers of gravity closely related to the objectives.
    • Fast action and short conflicts are imperative and far less expensive than slow, long ones.
    • As we consider conflict, we should explore bloodless-force options exhaustively before reverting to traditional war and battle.
    • “Battle” is at best an expensive and risky means to a distant end, and we should almost always avoid it.
    Finally, he is arguing that:

    we should at least begin with the presumption that airpower can carry out any military task... After careful consideration of a problem, we may decide that airpower will not work. That is an acceptable answer—for now.
    In other words, airpower can do much more than some would have us believe, and we should keep trying to make it work rather than writing it off.

    He closes with a plea to folks in the airpower community to work to sell their case, based not on technological promises but actual perforrmance.

    One must have a 'desired end-state' that one wants to achieve. The issue comes becomes how tightly coupled cause and effect are in the 'systems' involved.
    True, but you can still try to understand them as a system- ultimately there is a cause and effect, it just may be difficult to understand or predict.

    Almost a throw away given a desire for "just war", but important not to take to the extreme. The rub is in how you define "bloodless - force"...
    He is simply saying that airpower has the potential to reduce the loss of life.

    Presupposes the existence and determinability of "direct, strategic centers of gravity" and linear cause and effect relationships between them and the desired outcomes. In Real Life, there are few "strategic centers of gravity" that can be determined (implying determinism...) and the cause and effect chains between them are not identifiable, or linear.
    It may be difficult, but CoGs do exist - you just have to identify the correct ones. This may not always be possible, but again Warden is saying the fact that it is tough shouldn't make us give up. For example, Gadaffi probably has some things he cares about, like his life - and these would be CoGs for the current Libyan govt.

    How does our vocabulary invalidate any of our current Joint Concepts? Which of those concepts no longer make sense and why? How does changing vocabulary (to what, that of business and return on investment?) enable different concepts. Capabilities enable concepts, not vocabulary.
    His point is the focus on battle and attrition that is very much a part of US doctrine limits our thinking on ways to directly affect enemy CoGs.

    Assumes not just a linear Newtonian world-view, but one that presupposes relationships between the enemy system and our desires. Who defines "closely related"? Have not seen enough cultural mismatches in our recent wars to put this sort of thinking to rest?
    Again, I think you're taking this too literally. I agree on the cultural mismatches- but I think Warden would argue that we need to understand the enemy as a system prior to picking CoGs.

    There is a missing consideration of intensity. The reductio adsurdum is that all war should then be nuclear because it is the fastest and shortest conflict.
    Disagree, his stated intent is to reduce loss of life using things like precision...

    THis is perhaps where I disagree with Warden the most. "Battle" is used almost pejoratively, but in its barest sense means "competition". To remove "battle" from the vocabulary of conflict is to remove "competition" because what is a "battle" really, but a constrained competition between two or more adversaries?
    I think he is decrying the fact that to the US battle means "attrition"...

    By removing "battle" from his vocablary, Warden attributes to Airpower the power to act unilaterally and without the "enemy getting a vote", as though our recent abaility to establish and maintain dominance of the air is a given in any future conflict. If the other guy has an the capability to compete with you in your desire to apply airpower, how can you assume away "battle"?
    I disagree... the point is to avoid having to fight the enemy's fielded forces through attrition if you can. Yes the enemy gets a vote, but shouldn't we try to deny his ability to act if we can? Again, Warden is saying that our way of thinking pushes us in the direction of thought you are advocating - we're programmed to think about beating the other guy's military.

    And this leads to the ultimate hubris:
    I guess I don't see what's wrong with trying to reduce the loss of life (on both sides) in combat if we can do so while still achieving objectives...

    Again, I emphasive that Warden's point isn't just his 5 rings model... it is that we need to change our way of thinking to avoid being focused on battle. You could say that that focus on battle led us to a bad strategy for COIN in Iraq prior to the surge... because a lot of units were enemy-focused in an effort to defeat them. Just a thought.

    Great comments pvebber, looking forward to seeing your response.

    V/R,

    Cliff

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    While that is correct, the problem in a Democracy is that Politicians believe they must be seen as doing something. That the something they do is inept, inappropriate and does more harm than good is immaterial.
    Ken,

    True. The propensity to do something is an important cause of the difference between policy and strategy. We will probably see more of that in Libya soon.

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    Folks, I have a busy schedule this week but shortly I will post a few responses including some of my personal contacts with Colonel Warden. I will start with how I met him and what he considers to be one of the most important elements of his Airpower Theory and Strategyin general. It is a good story, it shows if you really listen(from a non service dogma related viewpoint) you might just learn something.

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    Default You are making Warden's point

    Warden suggests, "airpower advocates must stop trying to use airpower as a substitute for its military predecessors." Accordingly, airpower detractors will engage airpower on that level for precisely the reasons Warden cites. That's what's going on here in spades.

    HERE is an example of a sublime and enduring airpower victory in an irregular environment (i.e. the Pakistan tribal regions after the earthquake) that isn't "bound to an anachronistic view of war with an anachronistic vocabulary (Warden)."

    Of that airpower-centric operation, terrorfreetomorrow.org writes, "Pakistanis now hold a more favorable opinion of the United States than at any time since 9/11, while support for Al Qaeda in its home base has dropped to its lowest level since then. The direct cause for this dramatic shift in Muslim opinion is clear: American humanitarian assistance for Pakistani earthquake victims." A subsuquent study showed that the reversals in opinion were not temporary.

    Along those lines, THIS article suggests one way the AF could turn that knowledge into capability. But it won't because the AF is as unlikely to internalize Warden's guidance (cited at the beginning of this post) as the AF's detractors.

    To the AF, conventional war = dropping bombs from jets and irregular war = dropping smaller bombs from turboprops. They don't even really recognize strategic effects even when they are creating them. Take the training of the Afg Air Force, for example. The zeitgeist is that the AAF is necessary to allow the gov't to continue to make security gains. What is frequently lost is that in a country like Afg (where vast distances are combined with scant infrastructure is combined with the strategic vulnerability of a central gov't that is too-far-removed from the people), airpower can provide the essential connectivity of the gov't to the population in the hinterlands. I have no idea why the USAF isn't blowing that horn. Maybe it is and I'm just not plugged in enough. More likely, though, that they view it as something they have to do so that the Afghans can start dropping the small bombs...

    Regardless, nice to see a well-informed discussion of airpower. Very good exchange.

  18. #58
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    Reread the article and the thread. There are several different lines of argument:

    What is new about this article?

    Given much of it is a review of Col Warden's previous work, what are the strengths and weaknesses of his theory?

    How effectively does Col Warden make his historical case to defend his theory?

    The last I will leave to Fuchs, as he has done a bang up job so far

    So what is new here? What are the strengths and weaknesses? The thesis appears to be:

    Regardless of airpower’s potential, it can never realize its real capability so long as it remains bound to an anachronistic view of war with an anachronistic vocabulary. On the contrary, if airpower is truly to come of age, it must do so in the context of a modern concept of war that associates the use of force as directly as possible with end-game strategic objectives, not with the act of fighting. If this is to happen, the operators of airpower must understand, believe, and teach end-game strategy as the foundation of airpower. Failure to do so will condemn airpower to suboptimization and deprive its owners of using force in such a dramatically different way that will achieve national objectives quickly and at minimum cost. To succeed, airpower advocates must stop trying to use airpower as a substitute for its military predecessors, connect it directly to strategic end-games, adopt a new vocabulary to match airpower’s promise, and become serious promoters not of machines but of ideas.

    The premises for this appear to be:

    Land operations have dominated warfare and the vocabulary of war is land -centric and therefore prevents unconstrained thought about airpower.

    This is indeed something I have never seen argued before. The argument made is that landpower was historically used in series, and the things which occured in series were called 'battles'. Doing away with the concept of serial 'battle' will therefore free us of the notion of serial engagement of the adversary and free airpower to be used simultaneously to affect multiple CoGs in parallel.

    Has COL Warden read Joint doctrine lately?

    When required to employ force, JFCs seek combinations of forces and actions to achieve concentration in various dimensions, all culminating in attaining the assigned objective(s) in the shortest time possible and with minimal casualties. JFCs arrange symmetrical and asymmetrical actions to take advantage of friendly strengths and adversary vulnerabilities and to preserve freedom of action for future operations. JP 3-0

    Simultaneity is a key characteristic of the American way of war. It refers to the simultaneous application of power against key adversary capabilities and sources of strength. The goal of simultaneity in joint force operations contributes directly to an adversary’s collapse by placing more demands on
    adversary forces and functions than can be handled. This does not mean that all elements of the joint force are employed with equal priority or that even all elements of the joint force will be employed. It refers specifically to the concept of attacking appropriate adversary forces and functions in such
    a manner as to cause confusion and demoralization.


    The COL's desires seem to be esconced in current doctrine, with the exception of attributing exculsivity of action to airpower.

    Unconstrained, airpower provides the vehicle to directly achieve strategic ends without the need for other forces.

    What if the strategic ends require interpersonal contact between human beings? Say to gain the support of a potential ally? Why can't land or naval forces be positioned so as to take simultaneous action that directly achives stragic ends? This key premise is actually an assumption, as no evidence is provided that it is true, and it is fairly easy to conjecture situations where it is not true. (for example if your desired end state is to enforce a strategy based on interdiction of maritime contraband how does one do board and search of potential interlopers with airpower?)

    Strategy is about conceiving a desired endstate, identifying means to achieve it, implementing a course of action, and deciding when you are done.

    Again, right out of Joint doctrine.

    b. The design and implementation of leverage and the ability to know how and
    when to terminate operations are involved in operational art and are discussed in Chapter III, “Planning Joint Operations.” Because the nature of the termination will shape the futures of the contesting nations or groups, it is
    fundamentally important to understand that termination of operations is an essential link between national security strategy, NMS, and end state conditions — the desired outcome. This principle holds true for both war and MOOTW.
    JP 3-0

    Opponents are complicated entities that can be simplified by a systems analysis. (e.g. Five rings model).

    Here is where things start to get contentious. The issue is "complicated" vs "Complex". When some of the "five rings" anaysis of Gulf War 1 are looked at, the sample centers of gravity (see http://www.venturist.com/Prometheus%...%20Summary.htm) are given as:

    Saddam Hussien (dead),
    the electrical system non-functional,
    roads and bridges unable to support mobility,
    military officers demoralized or defecting,
    air defense unable to interfere with US operations.

    With the exception of affecting military officers, those are all complicated, but not complex systems that can be modeled, simplified and decomposed into a subset of vital nodes. Physical systems that those that can be effectively approached from a systems analysis perspective. Truely complex systems - most notably social systems - are largely opaque to the sort of systems analysis that is required to predict what an effect will do. Complex systems also have a characteristic of irreducibility - they can be decomposed only so far before any resulting model is no longer useful, and you will not no until after the fact that you have exceeded the irreducibility threshold.


    Centers of Gravity can be identified in the system which, if affected quickly and and simultaneously, allow the state of the system to be changed to a new, more desirable state.

    Another charateristic of complex systems is that the output can not be predicted from a given set of inputs. You can "set the dials and pul lthe levers" of a complex system the same way, and even if you have modeled it with 100% accuracy, you will get different outputs. When dealing with complex systems there is no way to no way to establish a requisite list of CoGs and no way to be certain that doing something to one COg will have a positive feedback one time and a negative feedback the next. This is the fundamental problem with "effects-basd warfare" in general. In every case Ive seen thee is no "theory of action" that connects the action taken, to the desired result - it is simply a matter of "guilt by association" or "correlation equals causality" (until it doesn't).

    Were it possible to create a "strategic effects machine" we would have figured it out by now in Afghanistan. Alas there is no "CoG analysis" that tells what levers to pull and dials to turn to create teh desired end state. You can lament "trail and error" but you can desire a magic strategic endstate computer all you want, but what we know about complex system theory says its impossible. Energent behavior is "emergent" becasue by definition it is not predictable.


    continued in next post
    "All models are wrong, but some are useful"

    -George E.P. Box

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    Affecting CoGs in series vice parallel is dramatically more expensive.

    Only if you are inept at operational art. How do you know that the cost of firing 1000 cruise missiles all at once to achieve your objective is going to be more successful than firing 100 on 9 consecutive days. or 8 or 7? Boyd discusses this problem in realtion to OODA loops.

    Maybe urban legend, but supposedly he tells the story of a dogfight with a new pilot where he makes a complicated series of manuevers, the response to which would lead to Boyd being on the youngsters 6. After completting the manuevers Boyd is horrified to find the younster behind HIM. He asks the youngster how he figured out how to turn the tables. The youngster said "I had no clue what to do, I was gonna go left, then thought maybe right and all of a sudden there you were in front of me!"

    You can make the OODA loop so much faster than your opponent that you end up outsmarting yourself, or paralyze him so much that he can't even surrender. With tipping point phenomena, you can't predict how much effect you need to effect the tip, or how much excess you applied after the fact. Sometimes incrementalism is also a political requirement.

    Again Warden's argument requires a very determinsitic world view to be correct. There are parts of an adversary "system" that operate that way, but on the whole they do not, and the parts that do may not always be politically acceptable because of collateral effects.

    Now these criticisms should NOT be extended to "well, then you must mean we shouldn't even try". Criticism is not condemnation - it is the seemingly obvious caution that we should not try to apply a theory that indeed works against some parts of the some problems, to ALL parts of ALL problems.

    Some systems we have to try to understand in their holistic, complete, complex entirety, because simplification introduces errors that render overly simplistic models useless. JUst becasue we want there to be an easy answer that we can apply airpower to simply, quickly and relatively bloodlessly doesn't mean that is possible. Everything we have learned from the last 10 years of war has demonstrated that the heady days of Joint Vision 2010, eliminating the Fog of war and mechnically applying combat power to centers of gravity win wars is folly. Either that or our best and brightest fighting these wars are criminally incompetent for not having achieved our desired endstate quickly and cheaply.

    When all is said and done, lets assume Warden is 100% correct. Then what? What changes?

    How do we change Joint doctrine to use a language that "enables unconstrained use of airpower"? What things would a Warden designed Air Force do that todays Air Force doesn't do? How does our concept of war change if we assume airpower is a "strategic end-sate generating machine"? How does it harmonize our future growth with China so the rising tide floats all boats? How does it convince Iran to abandon its desire for nuclear power? How does it reduce the strategic risk of our excessive debt? In a multi-polar world what are the end-states we can achieve by compelling, coercing, or denying? Can airpower be a carrot instead of a stick? (other than by giving away!)
    "All models are wrong, but some are useful"

    -George E.P. Box

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    Dip writes:

    I have no idea why the USAF isn't blowing that horn. Maybe it is and I'm just not plugged in enough.

    You have not seen the latest Air Force ad campaign: HADR is not only sexy its "SCI-FI"

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bg9K1mCh65U
    "All models are wrong, but some are useful"

    -George E.P. Box

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