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Thread: Don't Send a Lion to Catch a Mouse

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Don't Send a Lion to Catch a Mouse

    5 March Washington Post - Don't Send a Lion to Catch a Mouse by Shankar Vedantam.

    ...Two political scientists recently examined 250 asymmetrical conflicts, starting with the Peninsular War. Although great powers are vastly more powerful today than in the 19th century, the analysis showed they have become far less likely to win asymmetrical wars. More surprising, the analysis showed that the odds of a powerful nation winning an asymmetrical war decrease as that nation becomes more powerful.

    The analysis by Jason Lyall at Princeton University and Lt. Col. Isaiah Wilson III at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point shows that the likelihood of a great power winning an asymmetrical war went from 85 percent during 1800-1850 to 21 percent during 1950-2003.

    The same trend was evident when the researchers studied only asymmetrical conflicts involving the United States. The more industrialized a powerful country becomes, the more its military becomes technologically powerful, the less effective it seems to be in an asymmetrical war.

    Essentially, what Lyall and Wilson are saying is that if you want to catch a mouse, you need a cat. If you hire a lion to do the job because it is bigger and stronger, the very strength and size of the lion can get in the way of getting the job done...
    More at the link.

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    Council Member TROUFION's Avatar
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    Four quotes from the Vedantam article:

    "...the likelihood of a great power winning an asymmetrical war went from 85 percent during 1800-1850 to 21 percent during 1950-2003."

    "The more industrialized a powerful country becomes, the more its military becomes technologically powerful, the less effective it seems to be in an asymmetrical war."

    "The rise of nationalism over the past two centuries and the revulsion that colonialism now inspires might also explain the declining ability of major powers to subjugate weaker nations."

    "While the findings are of immediate interest because of the situation in Iraq, the social scientists are really trying to address a systemic issue: America has gotten stuck in the Hollywood notion that a military with ever more powerful armaments is a more effective military."


    I would love to get a full copy of the report this article is based on. It opens up many questions. Least of all what has been the effect of the communications and transportation advancements: the speed of horse and sail 1800-1850 to the speed of airplanes, radios and digital sat com. Also what role has the change in sensabilities had on these operations (particularly to the US and Western Powers). For instance: In 1800 a white male could own slaves, and generally treat them worse than draft animals, a ships captain was omnipotent holding the right to life and death at sea, orders from the President to an Expeditionary force would cover six month blocks of time or more. Further the average in-country tour was measured in years not months. Colonialism, manifest destiny, superior races, civilizing effects, were all considered normal practice and accepted while genocide was not even heard of. The world was a fundamentally different place.

    The thesis analogies are good to work with but they sound more like excuses as to why we (US) are not 'winning' today. Does the actual report offer anything remotely resembling a solution to the stated problem?

    While I fully believe there is no cookie cutter answer to small wars, there are trends. There are successful tactical-operational and strategic actions that can bring about victory in small wars regardless of the size-strength and capability of a nation. But again as I have not seen the actual thesis yet I withold any further comment.

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    Council Member Danny's Avatar
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    Default Need Report

    I'd like to see the full report. I'd like to make my own determination that the correlation drawn is meaningful rather than accidental (or to use Aristotelian terms, "essential" rather than accidental, or part of the actual essence of being a large armed forces). In other words, the size and technological superiority may nothing whatsoever to do with winning or losing small wars. The author may have landed on something that is uncorrelated to the outcome, and thus the thesis may be unsubstantiated.

    Interesting article, but who knows unless we see the report?

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    Council Member TROUFION's Avatar
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    Default Difference of sensibilities

    Just to add a period note to reinforce the changing times-changing means, here is a note from the Boxer Rebellion, in other words why what worked in the past doesn't always translate too well today:

    Tientsin: Allied Proclamation to the Inhabitants

    To the Inhabitants of the City of Tientsin:

    In bombarding the city of Tientsin the allied forces only replied to the attack made by the rebels on the foreign settlements.

    At present, as your authorities, forgetting their duties, have deserted their posts, the allied forces consider it their duty to establish in the city a temporary administration, which you all have to obey. This administration will protect everyone wishing to deal in a friendly manner with foreigners, but will punish without mercy everyone who causes trouble.

    Let the bad people tremble, but the good people should feel reassured and quietly return to their houses and begin their usual work. Thus peace will be restored.

    Respect this.

    Tientsin, the 16th July, 1900.

    Approved by:

    Allemagne: Von Usedom, Capitaine de Navire.
    Autriche Hongrie: J. Tudrak, Lieutenant de Vaisseau.
    États Unis d'Amérique: Colonel Meade, American Marines.
    France: De Pelacol, Colonel.
    Grande-Bretagne: Le Général Dorward, Captain Bayly.
    Italie: G. Sirianni, Lieutenant de Vaisseau.
    Japon: Le Général Fukushima.
    Russie: Vice-Amiral Alexieff.

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    Well, this isn't quite the whole report - its a pdf of a draft on the subject that was to be presented at the 2006 Annual American Political Science Association Conference held last August:

    The American Way of War and Peace in Comparative Perspective
    Abstract
    Why do states lose to weaker foes in so-called “small” wars? The United States, for example, enjoys a reputation for unmatched tactical proficiency on the battlefield yet has witnessed a post-1945 decline in its ability to secure its political aims in war. Using a new dataset of small wars and insurgencies (1800-2003), we argue the paradox of tactical success but strategic failure has afflicted all states since 1900. While crude indicators of military and economic power are an excellent predictor of war outcomes in the nineteenth century, such variables are no longer tied to political victory after 1900. Indeed, we argue that as states embrace the “modern” way of warfare – typified by mechanized warfare that uses rapid decisive operations (RDO) to strike an adversary’s center of gravity – they become less capable of winning small wars and insurgencies. Two variables serve to lock states onto this suboptimal path: (1) the process of industrialization and the rise of market-based economies and (2) a cultural understanding of modern warfare as appropriate, indeed, required, for civilized states. The paper uses a nested research design that pairs large-N statistical test (including fractal pooling) with a within-case comparison of American operations in Iraq (2003-06).

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    Default 250 cases - what are they?

    Interesting article in the Post and thanks to Jed for the full draft article. I scanned the article for a list of the cases - haven't had time to read the whole thing yet - but could not find a list. That,alone, gives mepause.When Max Manwaring and I wrote our origninal piece in Small Wars and Insurgencies, wepublished the entire list of 43 cases. So, I wonder what the cases are. For example, do the authors address every single Indian War in the US beginning with 1800? I should note that the outcome, despite some significant setbacks for the US Army such as the Little Bighorn, was victory in every case! In all the post-WWII insurgencies in Latin America, there have only been 2 victories for the insurgents - Castro in Cuba and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua (1979). So, the definition of victory and defeat is of importance as well. The track record of insurgents is simply not very good. So, at a minimum, caution is indicated when we read the paper in its entirety.

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    Good point about the Indian wars, John T. From 1777 - 1787, in Kentucky alone, just over 1,000 settlers were killed or captured. The Shawnee were one of the main opponents in this phase of expansion yet by 1800, their power was pretty much negated. The likes of George Rogers Clark, Daniel Boone and Simon Kenton, experts in COIN at the time, saw to it. To give an example of their daring and ability, in 1789, Clark sent 3 scouts deep into Shawnee territory, Chillocothe to be exact, their principal village. That would be the equivilant of sending 3 men up to Fallujah during the initial invasion of Iraq to do some scouting/recon. They were that confident of their ability and that willing to take necessary, unexpected risks. Boonesborough and Franks Fort had been repeatedly hit in force and there was considerable marauding and Boone and Clark got wind of another force massing to the north and sent 3 men on a recon mission. Now that's classic, affective COIN doing the unexpected, high risk with the potential for real success. What Shawnee war leader would expect 3 white men to come snoopin' and poopin' deep into their turf? The mission was both a success and failure as Clark didn't expect his scouts to disobey ROE. They got up there, did their recon then took some Shawnee horses. Talk about balls, huh? Anyway, this apparently made the Shawnees more angry than the simple fact of scouting them. They gave chase, captured Kenton and killed my ancestrol Grandfather, Alexander Montgomery, at the Ohio river but the third man, whose name slips my mind, got away and returnd to his CO with the Intel. Typical of the asymentrical warfare our nation has had to engage in and the opponents we have had to face, the Shawnees repeatedly slapped Kenton's face with Grandpa's scalp ( at least they didn't put Grandpa's underwear on his head) held Kenton captive and frequently tortured him before he was able to escape. He ran the gauntlet 3 times. They didn't do beheadings back then, they burned people at the stake instead.


    There are lots of details and particulars left out in reports such as this that essentially claim failure of our Nation but there is an accumulation of lessons learned, there is collective imprinting that becomes self-sustaining, creative and proactive in and of itself from lessons learned. It endures the test of time and that's what counts. Reports such as this may well cite the battle of the Rosebud and Little Bighorn as failures, but do they address the change of tactics needed for successful COIN? Following the defeats in the summer of 1876, the hostile were finally pursued in the winter. The troops were issued buffalo coats and winter logistics were put in place. In the spring of 77', Crazy Horse and Gall were done fighting and only Sitting Bull held out but was spending most of his time in Grandmother's Land (Canada). Some of the world's best light cavalry were done fighting by the summer of 1877, one year after two major defeats.

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default 43 Cases

    Quote Originally Posted by John T. Fishel View Post
    Interesting article in the Post and thanks to Jed for the full draft article. I scanned the article for a list of the cases - haven't had time to read the whole thing yet - but could not find a list. That,alone, gives mepause.When Max Manwaring and I wrote our origninal piece in Small Wars and Insurgencies, wepublished the entire list of 43 cases. So, I wonder what the cases are. For example, do the authors address every single Indian War in the US beginning with 1800? I should note that the outcome, despite some significant setbacks for the US Army such as the Little Bighorn, was victory in every case! In all the post-WWII insurgencies in Latin America, there have only been 2 victories for the insurgents - Castro in Cuba and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua (1979). So, the definition of victory and defeat is of importance as well. The track record of insurgents is simply not very good. So, at a minimum, caution is indicated when we read the paper in its entirety.
    John

    Can you provide a list of your 43 cases? I wonder how many of the Africa cold wars show up?

    This paper has several implications for the study of warfare and its practice. It is clear, for example, that there is no uniform logic to warfare: states that excel at Type I war are precisely those states most at risk for suffering political defeat in so-called small wars. This points to both the need to bound our theories of conflict to specific types of conflict as well as to engage in fractal pooling to capture how variables’ significance change temporally. The results presented here do, however, point to the fact that leading explanations – both power-based realist theories and regime type accounts – are inadequate for explaining war outcomes outside of conventional conflicts. What we need now are better measures of more qualitative variables such as force employment and command climate at the unit level in order to capture how culture and economics interact to shape patterns of warfare.
    33
    The paper’s findings also shed some light into current debates about US force restructuring. In particular, the paper raises the question of whether the current “Revolution in Military Affairs” is not, in fact, locking the US even further into a suboptimal path of war-fighting. To be sure, modular force restructuring and other technological innovations promise to deliver devastating amounts of firepower at the tactical level. Yet such practices may simply exacerbate, rather than ameliorate, the problems facing mechanized modern forces in Type II and III wars. An appreciation of how armies in the nineteenth century fared and, in particular, their use of local intelligence, foraging practices, and sustained interaction with the local populace over lengthy deployments, may lead to more successful tactics and outcomes. Interestingly, the paper suggests that the real revolution in warfare may not be RDO-type operations post-1918 but the opposite: the embrace of asymmetric tactics and methods by weaker opponents at the turn of the century. Devolution may, in fact, be the revolution in warfare. In sum, the paper’s findings, if still tentative, suggest that there is profit in rethinking the links between the political economy of war, market-based principles, and the way states (and militaries) conceptualize why and how fight.
    34
    What I did not see in my quick read of the paper is an adequate examination of the leap of faith made regarding common military practices in the Age of Colonial Imperialism and how those practices--foraging to pick one--might play out in the 21st Century. The closest they come to this is in lightly discussing differences between the 101st and 4thID.

    Interestingly, distance is highly significant and positively correlated with victory. This is a surprising result, for it suggests that states fighting insurgencies are more likely to win the greater the distance from their home capitals. By contrast, this result disappears and turns slightly negative in the 1900-2003 era. In effect, states in the nineteenth century appear to have had better power projection capabilities – if measured in terms of victories, and not quantities of material and men – than their twentieth century counterparts.
    Here too is another weakpoint: the authors came up with the factor of "distance" as a physical measure and then to my mind misinterpret their own findings: that 19th Century States had great power projection than 20th Century states. What is missed is that the key variable in the equation was communications and what Dave Dillegge has talked about on here as strategic compression.

    All of that said, however, I do have great empathy for the argument that our classic warfighting is defined by our own cultural parameters and we change only incrementally--usually at great cost. We go back to what we are most comfortable with and our arguments to support that position take on "10 Commandments-like" qualities.

    Tom
    Last edited by Tom Odom; 03-06-2007 at 02:22 PM.

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    Default 43 cases

    Tom and others,

    The full cite is "Insurgency & counterinsurgency: Toward a New Analytical Approach" in SMALL WARS & INSURGENCIES, Vol 3 No 3 winter 1992, Frank Cass, London.

    "43 Internal Conflicts Involving Western Powers 1945 -1983"
    1. Chinese Revolution Ph V 1945 -49
    2. Vietnamese War for Independence 1945 -54
    3. Israel War for Independence 1945 - 49
    4. Indonesian War for Independence 1945 - 47
    5. Algerian Troubles 1945
    6. Greek Civil War 1945 - 49
    7. Madagascar Uprising 1947
    8. Malaya 1948 - 60
    9. Huk Rebellion 1948 - 54
    10. Colombia (La Violencia) 1948 - 53
    11. Mau Mau 1952 - 56
    12. Shifta Insurgency Eritrea 1946 - 52
    13. Morocco Indepandence 1952 -56
    14. Cyprus 1955 -59
    15. Guatemalan Coup 1954
    16. Algeria 1954 - 62
    17. Vietnames Reunification Ph I 1954 - 62
    18. Cameroon Civil War 1960 - 61
    19. Cuba 1956 - 59
    20. Spanish Morocco 1957 - 58
    21. Muscat-Oman 1957 -59
    22. Togoland 1957
    23. Jordan 1958
    24. Angola 1960 - 75
    25. Venezuela 1961 -64
    26. Bay of Pigs 1961
    27. Vietnamese Reunification Ph II 1962 - 73
    28. Brunei 1962
    29. Guinea Bissau Ind Ph I 1962 -66
    30. Oman 1965 - 75
    31. Aden 1964 -67
    32. Rafdan 1964
    33. Mozambique 1964 - 74
    34. Aden Crisis 1966 - 67
    35. Guatemala 1966 -68
    36. Bolivia 1967
    37. Equatorial Africa 1969
    38. Argentina 1970 -80
    39. Moros 1972 -83
    40. Uruguay 1972 - 80
    41. Namibia Ph I 1973 - 80
    42. Nicaragua 1972 - 79
    43. Central African Empire 1979

    Although there can be some argument, my count of these has 14 cases where the Western Power was on the losing end of the conflict. 14 of 43 (33%).

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default Congo/Zaire Wars and Angola

    John

    I would add the following to the list:

    Congo 1960-1963: Belgium, US, UN: Government and UN "win"

    Subset Katangan Secession: Belgium versus Congo, US, and UN: Congo win

    Congo 1963-1965 US, Belgium, Congo versus Simbas with some later PRC assistance: Congo win

    Angola 1975-1977(?) US, Holden Roberto (FNLA), Zaire versus MPLA, Cuba, USSR: MPLA "win"

    Zaire 1977-1978 (Shaba 1 and 2) France, Belgium, US, Morocco, Zaire versus East Germany, Angola; Zaire win

    That would make the total 47 with 15 cases where the Western power lost.

    Best

    Tom

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    Council Member J Wolfsberger's Avatar
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    Also from Shankar Vedantam's article:

    Quote Originally Posted by SWJED View Post
    The Peninsular War interests us because it is one of the earliest examples of an asymmetrical war -- Spanish insurgents faced down the powerful French army by using stealth, deception and the support of civilians.
    Wasn't a gentleman named Wellington, commanding a few British troops, somehow involved?
    John Wolfsberger, Jr.

    An unruffled person with some useful skills.

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    Default Wellington

    At the time, he was merely Arthur Wellesley (sp?!

    Yea, verily!

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    I'd submit that Wellesley and the British were nowhere near as critical to the defeat of the French in Spain as the Spanish and Portuguese insurgents, and that British victories in Spain were largely made possible because of the actions of the insurgency.

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    Council Member J Wolfsberger's Avatar
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    The g's did tie up a lot of French troops who would otherwise have been fighting the allies. The allies did tie up a lot of French troops who would otherwise have been suppressing the g's. The French would, IMO, have been successful against either alone, but failed against the combination. Thus, the author's generality, that the g's won outright by themselves, struck me as false.
    John Wolfsberger, Jr.

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    Default Classic support for partisans

    The Peninsula campaign is a classic example of Great Power support to partisans in a secodary theater of war. In this respect, it is not dissimilar to the anti-Japanese guerrillas in the Philippines supported by the US.Another example is the partisans in Yugoslavia supported by the UK, US, and USSR or the maquis in France before D-Day. In any event, if Great Powers are involved on opposite sides, the case is much more complex than a simple insurgency with carefully limited support from one Great Power or another. It is for this reason that I noted that someone else might break out the winners and losers among the Western Power supporters/participants differently than I did among out 43 cases.

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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    John, Tom Odom posted this paper on compound warfare awhile back and it has a great section on this subject and the theory of compund warfare in general.
    http://www-cgsc.army.mil/carl/downlo...nd_warfare.pdf

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    Default Huber book

    Thanks Slapout. Tom Huber is an old friend from Leavenworth days but I didn't know about that book.

    To Tom Odom: thanks for the other cases.

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default Huber, Lewis, Yates

    Quote Originally Posted by John T. Fishel View Post
    Thanks Slapout. Tom Huber is an old friend from Leavenworth days but I didn't know about that book.

    To Tom Odom: thanks for the other cases.
    John,

    Welcome. Tom Huber, Sam Lewis, Spike Yates, and I used to do pizza and movie on Sundays at Leavenworth in the mid-1980s.

    Best

    Tom

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    Default Yates

    Tom--

    I don't know if you knew that Larry has retired. His book (vol 1) on Panama is due out from CMH.

    John

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Yep I heard that Spike had hung it up.

    Sam retired 3? years ago (we roomed together for nearly 3 years).

    Huber is one of the handful left.

    Tom

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