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Thread: Strategy in the 21st Century

  1. #61
    Council Member AdamG's Avatar
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    Bloomberg Q&A with Hugh White, a former top Australian official who feels Beijing has already filled the U.S. leadership void.

    White put these thoughts to paper and pixel with a much-debated essay in the Australian publication Quarterly Essay. "Without America" envisions a Situation Room scene where a fictitious U.S. president decides that, even with America's superior conventional military, the risk of a confrontation with China just isn't worth it. Even if the U.S. prevailed, all China would need to do would be to inflict a couple of glancing blows and it would, politically, have triumphed.

    For context, White is no raging left-wing academic. He has worked for Bob Hawke, a former Australian prime minister, and Kim Beazley, Hawke's defense minister. Both politicians were among the most pro-American figures in the Australian Labor Party. Beazley subsequently served as Australian ambassador to Washington from 2010 to 2016.

    White's opinions have not gone unchallenged -- among others, frequent Bloomberg View contributor Hal Brands took a few shots.
    Link to Q&A:https://www.bloomberg.com/view/artic...he-u-s-in-asia
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 02-06-2018 at 12:59 PM. Reason: Fix link
    A scrimmage in a Border Station
    A canter down some dark defile
    Two thousand pounds of education
    Drops to a ten-rupee jezail


    http://i.imgur.com/IPT1uLH.jpg

  2. #62
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Australian doubts

    There has been a series of articles on WoTR over Hugh White's views and I have read a few. See:https://warontherocks.com/index.php?s=hugh+white

    From this faraway spot I rely on this website for Australian input on strategy and to say the least there is an exchange there - a development I expect accelerated by President Trump holding office.
    Link:https://www.lowyinstitute.org/issues/defence-security
    davidbfpo

  3. #63
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    Default Question Convention

    Seems much of our strategy and planning frameworks are informed by legacy thinking and doctrine, and have little to do with the real world. Strategies, campaign plans, and contingency plans take months to years to develop unless their a crisis, and then we develop uninformed responses based on limited understanding of the environment and the second, third, etc. of our actions.

    I'm not overly concerned with our strategy framework of ends, ways, means, and risk mitigation if they're not taken to literally. Whether we're implementing strategy during competition or war, we're interacting with competitors or adversaries, while simultaneously shaping and responding to changes in the strategic ecosystem. The most important element of strategy is developing a holistic understanding of the strategic ecosystem so our leaders can make informed decisions.

    What about ends? We need aim points, otherwise we are simply treading water, but the ends can't be overly specific. Rather they need to be broad goals, and for the most part national level strategies address ends broadly. Another consideration for ends is clearly articulating what we can't accept, because it presents a significant risk to our national interests. Ends combined with strategic understanding enables decision makers to better recognize challenge and opportunities; thereby, enable them to direct responses more intelligently than say quickly flexing military forces to every location where some crazy is waving a black flag.

    Ways and means should provide a broad view of we envision competing or fighting, but not be overly prescriptive. The world is changing too fast, but our thinking on strategy is overly informed by the historical aberration of the Cold War, where we were locked into a bipolar competition for decades that informed our strategic decisions. That myopic focus caused us to either miss or ignore the rise of radical Islam which started on industrial scale in 1979, while our recent focus on terrorism blinded us to the threat of Russia and China's gray zone strategies. Our current focus on Russia and China could blind us to other threats, which is why ends should be focused on interests, not adversaries. Ways should be focused on protecting interests from multiple challenges based on our evolving understanding of the strategic ecosystem. Otherwise we once again engrain the political and military-industrial bureaucracy to develop the wrong means. Agility at the strategic level is as important as agility at the tactical level.

    Our outdated campaign and contingency planning construct as described in joint pub 5-O is most concerning. The changes the Chairman is trying to inject to fix very real problems he and others have identified, has mostly resulted in additional staff work that simply distracts from the deep thinking required to clearly define the problem and appropriate response. Clearly this wasn't the intent, but new planning guidance doesn't replace the old, rather it is additive, so it simply piles on more requirements upon existing requirements this is the unavoidable result. The result is planners must produce more and more within the same timeframe, so planners cut and paste from old plans and color between the lines. Developing deep understanding and creative solutions takes time, often our most precious resource.

    Finally, a short comment on so-called SMART objectives and assessments. SMART objectives are appropriate for business practices, but have limited application for strategy and plans. I don't want to overstate this, because some objectives can be SMART, but for our assessment process we need to inject more art than science. As stated above, we're interacting in an ecosystem, hopefully responding smartly to emerging challenges and opportunities as we attempt to navigate toward or desired goals or prevent what we need identified to be unacceptable. The military tends to cling to outdated measuring/assessing SMART objectives, while failing to realize we have in many cases lost our strategic position of advantage, and even if those objectives would change, our adversaries have developed strategic approaches that negate their value.

    Simply food for thought.

  4. #64
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Food for thought

    A commentary 'This Too Shall Pass: Remarks to the Camden Conference on The New World Disorder and America’s Future' by Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr. (USFS, Ret.).

    Here is a taster:
    For more than two centuries, American exceptionalism had appealed to the angels of humanity’s better nature. But, as the 21st century advanced, foreigners began to see American claims to political privilege and demands for legal immunity as instances of assertive irresponsibility. The result is steadily reduced foreign support for the hegemonic privileges and double standards to which Americans had come to feel entitled. Today, the American conviction that other countries should be grateful to us and supportive of our continuing global primacy clashes with the preference of every other great power for a multipolar world order in which there is no single world policeman.
    The author's very slim bio:
    Ambassador Freeman chairs Projects International, Inc. He is a retired U.S. defense official, diplomat, and interpreter, the recipient of numerous high honors and awards, a popular public speaker, and the author of five books.
    Link:http://chasfreeman.net/this-too-shall-pass/
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 02-19-2018 at 09:09 PM. Reason: 58,533v
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    A commentary 'This Too Shall Pass: Remarks to the Camden Conference on The New World Disorder and America’s Future' by Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr. (USFS, Ret.).

    Here is a taster:The author's very slim bio:Link:http://chasfreeman.net/this-too-shall-pass/
    Interesting article David, but it may be premature to claim American global dominion is receding into history. Maybe wishful thinking on my part, but he points to the very reality of what the world will look like if that happens. To sustain a rules based international order, America's allies and partners will have to stand with us to defend collective interests. An unstable international order, where war becomes the norm again is not in our interest. However, preventing this scenario from continuing to play out will require a concerted effort and more sacrifice. For that to happen we'll need credible political leaders that mobilize their countries to rise to the challenge.

    Now, as American global dominion recedes into history, we can begin to see some elements of what is to come. If the 20th century was America’s, the 21st will be nobody’s. We are witnessing a return to a world based on regional, not global, balances of power. “America First” invites “China first,” “India first,” “Japan first,” “Pakistan first,” “Russia first.” Maybe “Europe first,” if there is a Europe. Great power rivalries are back, some of them between nations with nuclear weapons. None wants to shoulder the burdens of global hegemony on the American model. None seeks to impose its own model on the world. But all are arming to preserve their sovereignty, often against the perceived threat of American attempts at regime change.
    War is back as an accepted means of adjusting the policies, borders, and international alignments of nations. Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria have been thrust into anarchy by foreign intervention. Israel is swallowing all of Palestine. Serbia has lost Kosovo; Ukraine has lost the Crimea. A Saudi-led Arab coalition is devastating Yemen. International law has been reduced to an instrument of accusatory diatribe. It no longer regulates national behavior.
    Like many other strategists he also points out what should be obvious, until we get our own house in order we will be ineffective in projecting power/influence on the world stage.

  6. #66
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    Since the new Blog makes it difficult to start a conversation, the next two posts will be posts I published to the SWJ Blog. Following up here to hopefully see if others agree or disagree with my thoughts.

    First one.

    http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/cna...ship-contested

    CNAS Releases New Report “Building the Future Force: Guaranteeing American Leadership in a Contested Environment”

    My response:

    Special operations remain an afterthought in much of the Department of Defense and the services, and that shortfall is all too often reflected in papers like these. The utility of special operations doesn’t rhyme with America’s preferred way of war, which is seeking rapid victory through decisive battle. The military strategy this future force is designed to support is a strategy that emphasizes finding, fixing, and finishing faster than the adversary. These are capabilities we should desire and aspire towards, but it is hardly a holistic description of an ideal future force based on our current and projected threats.

    Since Dave Maxwell already addressed the special operations gap, I’ll focus my comments mostly on other areas. To clarify my position, the technical challenges this study addresses are very real and must be addressed. We haven’t seen the end of war, so like Dave, I am a supporter of rebuilding the readiness and capabilities of our conventional forces to prevail in future wars. However, what this paper fails to do in my view is one of the paper’s stated aims, “imagine ways of fighting that may defy conventional wisdom.”

    The focus on building a more resilient and faster find, fix, and finish (F3) capability and capacity, apparently at the expense of everything else, implies the underlying strategic assumption is that future wars will be fought according to U.S. morals, where every effort will be made by both sides to limit collateral damage to non-military targets. Yet, most of our adversaries throughout modern history (WII and beyond) have proven quite capable of deliberately committing atrocities to achieve their ends. Whether it was Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, or more recently Russia’s support of Assad in its deliberate targeting of medical facilities and conducting chemical attacks on civilians in Syria. The asymmetry is that we are focused on counter force targeting, while our adversaries are focused on counter force and counter value targeting as means to an end. Considering our adversaries have multiple means and ways, multidomain and multifunction if you will, to attack our homeland, then that must be a focus area. These means and ways range from cyber, space, conventional fires, special operations, to active measures in the human domain to undermine our political cohesion and national will. It would seem appropriate to address a substantial portion of any future force discussion on requirements to protect the homeland. It can no longer be considered a sanctuary when the boys march to fight a war on a foreign land.

    As we have seen with Crimea, the ability to F3 faster doesn’t overcome the challenges of interior lines our strategic competitors and North Korea enjoy. Even with state of the art ISR capabilities, decision space for leaders to respond will be limited, and adversaries will likely establish facts on the ground before we can generate the political will to act. At that point, gaining the political will needed to project enough force to conduct a military operation to reverse this situation will prove challenging due to the expense involved and the risk poised advanced anti-access / area denial capabilities. Would be worthwhile if the future force had other options to offer our national leadership? Unconventional warfare could be one such option.

    The feasibility of the 3rd Off-Set Strategy (3OS) is highly questionable. The assumption is our strategic competitors can keep pace with us, or in some areas even out match us in technical innovation, so the pursuit of the 3OS may prove more burdensome than our economy can bear over time. This begs the question, have we seriously imagined alternative ways of fighting future conflicts? The paper points out that technological innovation is happening quicker than anticipated. This shouldn’t be surprising, technology begets technology, each advanced technology is the son or daughter of previous technology, whether it is tying a stone to club, or interconnecting sensors with advanced weapon systems. It is the nature of technological evolution to increase in momentum.

    Finally, a hat tip to Dave Maxwell for calling out gray zone competition, which by description means our competitors are achieving war like objectives short of traditional armed conflict using innovative strategy more so than innovative technology. The take away from this point is that even if we did achieve the aims of the 3OS strategy, we would still be missing a critical piece of our future force design if we didn’t address how we intend to confront this challenge.

  7. #67
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    http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/uni...ring-wrong-war

    The United States is Preparing for the Wrong War

    My response

    Max Boot is partially right, but a more accurate assessment would be our obsession with the war on terror for 15 plus years to no discernible end enabled our strategic competitors to become near-peer or peer competitors militarily. We lost numerous FID missions around the world, and it had little impact on U.S. security and prosperity over time. Losing a war with China or Russia could be devastating. Also Max got Vietnam wrong, but so does the majority of Americans who achieved their education in a liberal university. The U.S. won the small war in Vietnam, the insurgency was soundly defeated. A large and well armed conventional force from North Vietnam defeated South Vietnam, not hybrid warfare. I'm not down playing hybrid warfare, obviously the way the Russians are employing it today presents a strategic threat.

    Finally, his point of the Italian elections demonstrate a lack of understanding of what drove the Italian people to this point. The far left in Italy left its economy and security in shambles. The scale of the illegals that have moved into Italy from the Middle East and Africa present an existential threat to their culture, which understandably has generated a right wing backlash. Recent shootings of immigrants alarms me, this can quickly spiral out of control. The EU did little to help Italy with this challenge, even though it is a threat common to most countries in the EU, Italy was left with the bill. Not unlike recent U.S. elections, people had to choose the candidate(s) they disliked the least. Did this benefit Russia? Certainly, but if Max wanted to make a point, it should have been that EU created an opportunity for Russia due to their inability to manage these challenges. This resulted in a right wing backlash in many countries in the EU, and Russia is opportunistic.

  8. #68
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    Bill,

    An attempt to reply to your two posts - before reading the linked articles (terrible I know).

    The Middle East has long been a focal point for US strategy, many argue that it has not been very productive when one considers the national resources committed. Plus the irregular comment that one opponent, Iran, has been the main beneficiary. I read the linked article below yesterday, which is the latest comment I've seen and the title 'The Fruits of Iran’s Victory in Syria'.
    Link:https://lawfareblog.com/fruits-irans-victory-syria

    I do wonder if we (US & UK) look too much at what we have done and not what our opponents have done.




    davidbfpo

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    I do wonder if we (US & UK) look too much at what we have done and not what our opponents have done.
    David, I tend to think that is a given. Our assessments over the 15 past years for our operations in the Middle East generally indicate we're winning, and every year is the pivotal year that will result in an enduring victory. Of course that has proven to be complete nonsense, and now it is laughable when you hear it. Some assessments are dishonest, but in most cases they're simply focused on what we have done, and if you look at through that lens we're generally making progress. On the other hand, if you conduct a net assessment and compare our gains relative to our adversary's it paints a very different picture. It also paints a different picture if you assess strategic gains versus fleeting operational level gains, all too often disconnected from strategy, because either there is no strategy, or military campaigning no longer effectively achieves strategic ends for various reasons. One can argue, and you may be making this point, that our 15 plus years of tactical and operational success have resulted in a global strategic for us relative our more important strategic competitors, Russia and China. They have invested in developing advanced war fighting capability and made significant progress using so-called gray zone strategies while we're undermining our military readiness and ignoring what is really important because we're mired down in the Middle East. Only now we're beginning to see this, and even if our national leadership understands this we have a military culture that seems dependent upon continued rotations into the Middle East because that defines who we are.

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    http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.o...d-rules-of-war

    Disruptive Technologies to Upend Rules of War

    New technologies promise an alternative. Robotics, cyber and space weapons can reduce the size of ground forces needed to wage war. They can withdraw human soldiers from the battlefield while making attacks more precise and deadly. They can allow nations to coerce each other without inflicting the same level of casualties and destruction as in the past. They can reach far beyond borders to pick out terrorists or selectively destroy WMD sites. They can reduce the costs that discourage western nations from stopping humanitarian disasters or civil wars. While armed conflict will continue as a feature of the human condition, it might now come at lower cost, for a shorter time, and with less violence.
    Maybe, but I suspect Colin Gray's argument about "Another Bloody Century" is more accurate. As the character of warfare changes based on automation and robotics, which arguably results in smaller military forces, do we really think these weapons will simply be directed against so-called legitimate military targets? It makes little sense, since destroying an adversary's robotic military would do little to compel a state or its population to bend to our will, or vice versa. For an opponent to impose one's will on another through this form of warfare would most likely require applying it against the opposing government and civilian population to force compliance.

    There seems to be a line of thinking in the high tech world that if my robot can beat our robot we win. I don't see how this form of warfare would result in achieving political ends with military power. It may serve as a deterrent, but most understand winning wars requires more than winning battles.

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