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Thread: Military command in crisis?

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Military command in crisis?

    Via the UK blog Defnce in Depth Professor Anthony King, now @ Warwick University, has a short article which starts with:
    Military command is currently a focus of deep public scrutiny; it might even be said to be in crisis. Following the disappointments and difficulties of the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, public concerns about the failures of military command have been frequent and strident. These interventions have been significant. However, many critics have often failed to appreciate a perhaps more important fact. In the early twenty-first century, generals have confronted distinctively challenging operational and organizational conditions. Warfare and the armed forces themselves have evolved drastically. Generals are no longer fighting the mass wars of the twentieth century; they command smaller, professional, increasingly integrated, networked and globalized forces.
    Later he argues that "heroic leadership" is dead and what is needed now is:
    While generalship has always necessarily involved a co-operative element, in the 21stcentury, military command has become collective to a degree which has rarely, if ever, been seen before; decision-making has now become a truly ensemble, collaborative practice.
    Link:https://defenceindepth.co/2018/06/20...ctive-command/

    From my armchair his description fits some armed forces, do they fit say the Nigerien or Indian military? Could other nations even afford all the "gizmos", let alone have access to the data links needed for ISTAR? Are today's opponents doing the same?

    Anyway I offer the article for you to consider.
    davidbfpo

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    Military command is currently a focus of deep public scrutiny; it might even be said to be in crisis. Following the disappointments and difficulties of the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, public concerns about the failures of military command have been frequent and strident. These interventions have been significant. However, many critics have often failed to appreciate a perhaps more important fact. In the early twenty-first century, generals have confronted distinctively challenging operational and organizational conditions. Warfare and the armed forces themselves have evolved drastically. Generals are no longer fighting the mass wars of the twentieth century; they command smaller, professional, increasingly integrated, networked and globalized forces.
    Is military command really the focus of deep public scrutiny? In the USA the military remains one of the most trusted and respected institutions, especially when compared to Congress. While military leadership is not without blame, the strategic failures in Iraq and Afghanistan belong squarely in the laps of our political leadership who defined ends that were not achievable militarily. This includes policy decisions to give spoilers like Pakistan and Iran a relatively free hand to undermine coalition efforts in these campaigns, and the foolish decision to "impose" democratic (in name only) governments in countries with no recent history of democratic governance on top of the existing chaos. These were policy decisions, not military command decisions.

    Of course the evolution of technology changes the character of warfare (for example, it enables the distributed operations the author mentions), but what the author emphasizes as the transformation of war and command, is focused on non-traditional war operations such as the campaigns in Iraq (after the initial combat operations to oust Saddam) and Afghanistan. Add to those the previous campaigns in Bosnia and Kosovo. The military was employed in a non-decisive role. To some extent an argument can be made that the Vietnam War fell into this category. In response, the Powell Doctrine argued the military shouldn't be employed without clear end states, and then should employ overwhelming decisive force to achieve those ends. This doctrine was pie in the sky, since the real world doesn't work that way. He basically argued for absolute war, over the reality of war or conflict that is heavily constrained by policy decisions. In absolute war battle decisively achieves our political ends, in today's current wars, battle is rarely decisive. It sucks, but it is reality, and we have adapted to it.

    If we ever end up in a high end military conflict with the likes of Russia, China, or North Korea, the role of the heroic commander will still be critical for winning major engagements, even if these engagements do not win the war or quasi-war we're engaged in. If we engage in high end combat, where the force must move at the speed of war, so the role of the heroic commander making timely decisions without consensus is still required. While the author is correct, that collective command has largely replaced the role of individualized, ‘heroic’ commander of previous decades, that is largely based on current stability campaigns with ambiguous ends, which increasingly seem focused on finding a graceful exit from these quagmires. Perhaps to the author's point, we need to re-emphasize the heroic leadership style in some of our training exercises to ensure we have it when required. After 15 plus years of preparing and then rotating our forces in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan, we may have seriously jeopardized our ability to fight conventional wars. Fortunately, this shortfall has been recognized, at least by U.S. leadership and is starting to be addressed.

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