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Thread: Spec Ops Leaders Want Return to Fundamentals

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Spec Ops Leaders Want Return to Fundamentals

    27 June AP via Marine Corps Times - Spec Ops Leaders Want Return to Fundamentals by Richard Lardner.

    Almost six years after the worst attack ever on U.S. soil, special operations commanders believe that simply killing terrorists will not win a war against an ideologically motivated enemy.

    That view is reflected in a series of transitions in special operations leadership posts. New senior officers are expected to give greater weight to an indirect approach to warfare, a slow and disciplined process that calls for supporting groups or nations willing to back U.S. interests.

    Former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld turned special operations forces into a “giant killing machine,” said Douglas Macgregor, a former Army colonel and frequent critic of the Defense Department.

    Now, with Rumsfeld gone and Navy Vice Adm. Eric Olson about to take control of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), Macgregor anticipates a return to the fundamentals drilled into Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs and other specially trained troops.

    “The emphasis will be on, ‘If you have to kill someone, then for God’s sakes, kill the right people,”’ Macgregor said. “In most cases, you’re not going to have to kill people and that’s the great virtue of special operations. That’s been lost over the last several years.”...

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    Council Member pcmfr's Avatar
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    I think COL Macgregor's premise is wrong. Rightly or wrongly, if SECDEF really wanted to emphasize the "indirect" methods in GWOT, then the new SOCOM and his Deputy wouldn't have both come from high-end DA backgrounds.
    Last edited by pcmfr; 06-29-2007 at 03:07 PM.

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    Default My thoughts...

    A quote from the article -- "It is not uncommon for a battle-ready Army Special Forces team to rumble into a remote village and spend most of its time painting mosques, drilling wells and running medical clinics."

    Sure but when you spend a good majority of your time reacting to contact while moving to these villages your ability to spread the goodwill and do the humanitarian projects is shortened, and not too mention when you chase the bad guys into the village you're going to help which puts you in a dilemma of attacking the village to destroy the threat or do you simply go home in some sort of retreat?!? There seems to be a lot discussion about winning hearts and minds within USSOCOM because direct action or DA is supposedly seen as counter-productive to "winning the hearts and minds" but don't kid yourself. Our military both conventional and unconventional measures success in body counts and enemy killed. I don't recall a time sitting in an update and hearing the commander ask how the well project is going or did the kids in a certain village make it to school today? Sure this stuff is happening, there are units out there trying to do the reconstruction mission, but it always seems to be overshadowed by the enemy combatants attacking us and the host nation security forces needing to be propped up. It is a double edged fight..."you hand out candy with one hand, and shoot them in the head with the other..."

    My favorite part of the article is Rep. Smith's quote -- "Rep. Smith, an enthusiastic backer of Brown and Olson, said it will be a major challenge to translate success in the Pacific to the volatile Middle East....Winning hearts and minds is one thing when you’re coming into a relatively stable place where there’s a minor insurgent problem,” he said. “It’s very hard to do those things in the environment that exists in Iraq.”

    Absolutely no easy answers and I caution the author to not draw comparisons between the situations in the Philippines, Iraq, Afghanistan, or HOA. Each of these geographic areas is as different as night and day. There is no counter-insurgency template you can drop on one and think it will apply to another. There are various nuances (most importantly the security situation or in most cases the lack there of...) in each theater that need to be considered when developing a strategy to defeat the radical Islamic threat. More simple minded rambling....my apologies for the lenghty reply...

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    Council Member bourbon's Avatar
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    Wider Antiterror Role for Elite Forces Rejected, By THOM SHANKER. The New York Times, May 21, 2008.

    National Security Leaders Forum with Admiral Eric T. Olson, USSOCOM. Sponsored by CNAS, Mon 3-Mar-08. (PDF)

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default

    Rightly or wrongly, if SECDEF really wanted to emphasize the "indirect" methods in GWOT, then the new SOCOM and his Deputy wouldn't have both come from high-end DA backgrounds.
    I don't think you were, but I would not necessarily suppose that their background experiences preclude them from recognizing changing requirements, or from exploring new possibilities. Nor would I say that while an indirect approach allows greater flexibility in many situations, it does not mean that we should do it exclusively. Even in a campaign dominated by one, its likely there will be requirements for elements of the other.
    Best, Rob

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    Default thought on adaption

    I agree with Kilcullen's statement (in one of his slides) when he wrote that the the U.S. is by far the best in the world now at conducting COIN by a "wide" margin. I also agree with Steve Metz where he basically wrote we need to learn quicker, because the American people will only give us two to three years to show results (unless we can maintain efforts with a small footprint that doesn't interest the media, thus there is no catalyst to mobilize our population against the effort). We have the best direct and indirect capabilities in the world. Yet we still come up short too many times when you look at our comparitive advantage, why?

    Possible reasons:

    1. We're too arrogant, so we assume that due to our comparitive advantage it will be easy, and it is never is (Haiti, Philippines, Afghanistan, El Salvador, Somalia, Bosnia, etc.). Doable yes, easy no.

    2. We use the phrase Small Wars, LIC, Stability Operations etc., as terms to describe something "less than" a Major War (or real war), yet the reality is due to our compartive advantage in Major War scenarios, we may be able to achieve a decisive victory quicker in a Major War (depending on what we want to accomplish, e.g. Desert Storm, OIF phase 3?) than in a Small War.

    The take away is that both are hard, and the same level of effort should be given to each endeavor (Small and Major Wars), which means detailed interagency planning, significant investment (better to overestimate the problem than underestimate it and not be prepared), robust information campaigns to garner and maintain international and national support, etc.

    3. Small wars that follow big wars (OIF, Philippines after Spanish American War, etc.) should be planned for before and during the major war to avoid future "catastrophic success" scenarios again. Realistic end states developed and supported by interagency/international plans (that are resourced), where every agency knows what they are responsible for, the military would have a clear vision of what conditions it needs to set for decisive political settlements, someone would be designated the Grand Puba to synergize/harmonize the interagency, etc. The reality is we have a very challenging interational system, and the fact that it works at all speaks volumes about the skills of our diplomats, and our interagency process, well need I say more?

    We're the best at the tactical level. War is organized chaos, so we still make mistakes, but we won't loose this fight or any other projected fights due to a few small mistakes at the tactical level. The issues we need to address are at a higher level.
    Last edited by Bill Moore; 05-25-2008 at 05:59 PM.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Too true...

    "The issues we need to address are at a higher level."
    and it ain't looking good for the home team barring some reform in Congress...

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    Council Member max161's Avatar
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    Default SOCOM Indirect and Direct Approach

    Quote Originally Posted by pcmfr View Post
    I think COL Macgregor's premise is wrong. Rightly or wrongly, if SECDEF really wanted to emphasize the "indirect" methods in GWOT, then the new SOCOM and his Deputy wouldn't have both come from high-end DA backgrounds.
    First, ADM Olson's public remarks and actual actions since taking over SOCOM have demonstrated he is looking for the right balance of the direct and indirect approaches. They are not "either/or" or mutually exclusive - they can be mutually supporting and reinforcing if applied correctly. Second, you have to look beyond the Cdr and the Deputy but also to the Director of the Center of Special Operations which is the element within SOCOM charged with synchronizing the WOT and the director is one whose experience is the indirect approach from Bosnia to Haiti to the Philippines. So I am optimistic that SOCOM is working on getting it right.
    David S. Maxwell
    "Irregular warfare is far more intellectual than a bayonet charge." T.E. Lawrence

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    Council Member Surferbeetle's Avatar
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    Default The Savage Wars of Peace

    and it ain't looking good for the home team barring some reform in Congress...
    Ken,

    American History would seem to indicate that this is an ongoing issue. I picked up Max Boot's 'The Savage Wars of Peace' (ISBN 978-0-465-00721-9) recently and as of page 252 of 428 Max appears to be saying (the broad brush analysis is mine) that the Marines and Navy have been running 'cost effective' (from a civilian standpoint) ops in support of dollar diplomacy in one form or another for the Barbary Wars (~1801 - 1815), Marquesas (1813), China (1859), Korea (1879), Samoa (1899), China (1900), Philippines )1899-1902), Cuba/Panama/Nicaragua/Mexico (1898-1914), Hati (1915-1934), Dominican Republic (1916-1924), Mexico (1916-1917), Russia (1918-1920), Nicaragua (1926-1933), and China (1901-1941)...his examples continue on through 1990's but I haven't got that far yet.

    From my view on the small patch of Iraq I ran around in, things today look very similar to what has gone on before. The current cost/benefit ratio of Iraq/Afghanistan appears to be very different than these 'smaller' wars but the bureaucratic gears continue to run slowly and it seems we will have to wait awhile to see real change on interagency coordination. What are your thoughts on something along the lines of Goldwater Nichols for interagency issues ever seeing the light of day?

    Regards,

    Steve
    Last edited by Surferbeetle; 05-25-2008 at 07:26 PM.
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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default I'm not a big fan of Goldwater-Nichols.

    It did some things that needed doing, no question but as is true of anything of that magnitude, it carried unintended consequences; too many, I believe. While no one can think of everything, in my observation big omnibus laws and government reorganizations on a massive scale almost invariably introduce more problems than they solve (witness the DNI and DHS).

    G-N gave too much power to the CJCS (who, luck of the draw, may or may not be up to the job. As we have seen... ) and allowed DoD to both deliberately and inadvertently become the point man for the USG overseas -- that is NOT a good thing, among other things because it badly skews both interagency relationships and funding.

    My fear is that a civilian agency variant in an attempt to foster better interagency cooperation would create another layer of bureaucracy and do as much or more harm than good. The partisan division in Congress at this time would have a terrible impact on what was done.

    Today, the problem with getting interagency cooperation is partly the power of the Executive being diluted by Congress who will react to things like the AFGE and the AFSA disagreeing with directives; the Intel community and others fighting turf battles behind the scenes (not always... ); and other such borderline criminal foolishness. As an aside, anyone who thinks the Bush 43 Presidency has been one massive executive power grab obviously wasn't around when FDR was in town. Point is that outside an existential threat like WW II, partisan bickering and foiling political opponents while raking in $$$ for the districts is far more important to most in Congress than is the good of the United States or supporting and defending the Constitution. Not that the Executive is error free, they aren't but most of the problems trace to Congress and the way it does business.

    The other factors impeding that cooperation are structural -- with a Federal structure and (compared to many nations) little government direct involvement in most activities, we do not have agencies with the size and depth to do much in other nations -- partly agency specific cultural and mostly turf oriented. Congress fosters and encourages both those factors; the former by some on ideological grounds, the latter by most because it gives said Congroids power -- all they have to do is pick up the phone and suggest something, hinting of a fund or program blockage and every Agency in the USG falls over its feet trying to comply. Sad business.

    It's all about partisanship, egos and $$$

    Contrary to what some here will tell you, I'm too young to have gone to Haiti or Nicaragua with Smedley and Herman but I'm old enough to have talked to guys that went and their forays, in their day, were routinely press-bashed and railed against in Congress. Point of that is I think the cost benefit ratio discrepancy in Afghanistan and Iraq is more a matter of scale than anything else. I also think that a few years from now it'll look like a far better deal.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pragmatic Thinker View Post
    Our military both conventional and unconventional measures success in body counts and enemy killed. I don't recall a time sitting in an update and hearing the commander ask how the well project is going or did the kids in a certain village make it to school today?
    I don't think the statement regarding body counts and enemy killed is accurate. On my last two deployments we measured success by reductions in violence, increases in economic activity (is the market open? Is it growing?), waning capabilities of the enemy, whether certain tribes/villages/families/etc were cooperating with us, neutral, or cooperating with the enemy, etc. Projects were monitored for their progress and the utility gained once complete. And while we lacked the means to get worthwhile data on how many kids in x village made it to school each day, we did exert significant efforts to gather atmospherics in areas to get a feel for indicators like that (are people afraid to send their kids to school? Is there even a school in the village? Are there teachers? etc). This seemed fairly standard, as most other units spoke the same language and had largely the same measures of effectiveness. Some units might keep a scorecard of enemy killed, but it is more of a curiosity than anything else. It does not drive operations.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Been my observation that other than as a

    very broad indicator of trends, good units neither count nor note the number killed. Individuals may, depending mostly on how close they were or whether they had to pick up the body or parts or not but units don't count 'em because it generally has little relevance to whether the mission is getting accomplished or not. That's pretty well true at any level of conflict.

    Unless, of course, someone in the chain is over enamored of 'metrics'...

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    Default getting it right ever so slowly

    They are not "either/or" or mutually exclusive - they can be mutually supporting and reinforcing if applied correctly.
    Max161

    I agree with Max on this comment that direct and indirect, DA and CMO, and any other ying/yang combination we can come up with can be mutually supporting, but what we haven't mastered in many cases is the "if applied correctly". There should be one battlespace owner that dictates the supported/supporting relationships between units and their missions to avoid a situation where unit A conducts an operation setting back unit B's operations.

    For example, if unit B (any conventional combat arms unit) is focused on providing local security and building rapport with the locals using civil-military operations, etc., then all the sudden Unit A come into their battlespace unannounced to whack to some bad guys they were following creating undesired secondary effects in unit's B's AO that set them back several weeks. This is an example of an unsupported and unsupporting command relationship. Crap happens on occassion, but many times this crap could be avoided if we used our doctrine, and all operations were required to be approved by the battlespace commander. Special Forces and Conventional Combat Arms units (after years of COIN experience and training) are quite capable of doing both the Ying and Yang approach simultaneously, while other units are strictly Ying, no Yang. As a community we need to figure out how to use their Ying more productively, because Ying is good when used right.

    As for SOCOM, I think ADM Olsen's comments speak for themselves (see bourbon's post), and I also think SOCOM is now on the right track. SOCOM needs a world class direct action capability, and they have it. They also need a world class indirect capability, and they have that also relative to other nations, but we can get better in this area with more command emphasis and we will.

    and it ain't looking good for the home team barring some reform in Congress...
    Ken

    As for the interagency process and Congressional reforms, I won't hold my breath. We need to figure out how to win with the real world political environment we live in until enough good people run and get elected to make substantial change in the system.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default True. That problem has been one for a long time

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    As for the interagency process and Congressional reforms, I won't hold my breath. We need to figure out how to win with the real world political environment we live in until enough good people run and get elected to make substantial change in the system.
    and isn't going to get fixed any time soon. We have have been dealing reasonably well with that disconnect for years and will have to today and for a while.

    Simple old unity of command is never as easy as it should be but it is important. Right now it's too personality dependent and one fool in the wrong place can mess things up for a bunch of folks. I agree with you that while we're better than we used to be in many respects, we could still get better -- and we all need to realize we have to work it out ourselves.

    Er, uh, make that yourselves. I'm retarded...

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    Council Member Surferbeetle's Avatar
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    Default Metrics? Whoohooo!

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post

    Unless, of course, someone in the chain is over enamored of 'metrics'...
    For fun (after work), I just spent the last couple of months putting together a simple excel spreadsheet, tied in with some google earth and census data, which used monte carlo analysis and some simple home-made algorithms to quantify risk to capital, analyze a population, predict actions, and compare and analyze various 'accepted' business ratios and metrics (capital budgeting) for a specific industry. I am thinking about how (and gathering my strength) to apply bayes theorem, generate some fancy genetic algorithms and use the black-scholes model to examine some stock picks (or I might get a monkey and a dart board). I am also thinking about how to use some of these techniques to quantify a work problem involving water and earth pressures more accurately. Spreadsheet Modeling & Decision Analysis (ISBN 978-0-324-31256-0) is an interesting 'how to' book.

    The point of this metrics ramble is that their are many folks way ahead of me who are using simulations/metrics to predict things. I am just 'baby-stepping along' trying to figure things out and during my journey I often think about one of my heroes, Robert Manning. Long story short this guy with no formal engineering education started out as a draftsman, worked his way up to a senior public works engineer position, and was able to survey, select, combine and simplify several hundred years worth of hydraulics work into some workable equations (he was in his 70's when he presented these equations) that we still use today to predict hydraulic phenomena which were previously unquantifiable/unpredictable at an acceptable level (he died in 1897). Sometimes I just walk down the hall at work and talk to an engineer in his 70's who is doing some amazing things with some hydraulic computer models and get inspired that way.

    I guess one could say that despite being aware of the many variables I have hope in the metrics department when it comes to predicting outcomes in warfare. Fortunately I also know that I have a metrics bias and the folks I work with help me keep it in check
    Last edited by Surferbeetle; 05-26-2008 at 07:44 AM.
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    Default

    I just spent the last couple of months putting together a simple excel spreadsheet, tied in with some google earth and census data, which used monte carlo analysis and some simple home-made algorithms to quantify risk to capital, analyze a population, predict actions, and compare and analyze various 'accepted' business ratios and metrics (capital budgeting) for a specific industry. I am thinking about how (and gathering my strength) to apply bayes theorem, generate some fancy genetic algorithms and use the black-scholes model to examine some stock picks (or I might get a monkey and a dart board).
    Surferbettle, it is 0742hrs or 7:42 A.M and after reading your last post I think I'm going to have a beer.

    Tomorrow I'll go to the library and order, "Spreadsheet Modeling & Decision Analysis (ISBN 978-0-324-31256-0)" and leave it laying around the office to see if I can impress anyone. Probably not, they know I'm the monkey and dart board type, so that book is obviously way above my level of technical education (lol).

    By all means please continue to pursue
    despite being aware of the many variables I have hope in the metrics department when it comes to predicting outcomes in warfare.
    I personally am not convinced yet that metrics will lead us to cause and effect, rather they'll show some gross level correlations at best, but I remain open to the idea.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Heh. What Bill said.

    Metrics are imperative for many things, most hard science and most fields of engineering being but two. I suspect sales and marketing are another. The insurance business certainly requires 'em.

    OTOH, been my observation that in warfare -- as opposed to the logistical or a very few support functions thereof -- metrics generally serve little purpose other than to give a false picture and that such an outcome is particularly probable if the improper metrics are chosen for illumination...

    Though heaven knows these guys (LINK) agree with you on the potential...

  18. #18
    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    Default

    Metrics (like statistics) is the crutch that people who can not think use to excuse bad decision making in dynamic environments where cognition would normally be rewarded.

    Put another way:

    Numbers absolve failure where common sense has been ignored.
    Sam Liles
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    Council Member Surferbeetle's Avatar
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    Default More metrics

    Bill,

    Don't forget the sausage and pretzel for first breakfast to help smooth things out! When I go for just the beer, first thing, I often tend to fall down.

    Bill, Ken, and Sam,

    I can't speak to George Soros' politics however I am impressed with his results in quantitative modeling in finance. The downside in quantitative financial modeling is pretty scary. I can't begin to imagine the pain associated with losing the amounts of cash that some of the quant funds have. It appears that they trusted their models too much; a point which you guys consistently point out.

    I have suffered through enough heat, cold, bugs, nasty cases of the runs, and having people try to physically ruin my day to forget that models are just a representation of reality. The power of the models I use in engineering and business however have me hooked on the possibilities of adapting them for war.

    Now where is that beer...

    Cheers,

    Steve
    Last edited by Surferbeetle; 05-26-2008 at 04:31 PM.
    Sapere Aude

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    Default Back to the SOCOM issue

    I'm with Max on this. ADM Olsen is making all the right noises about FID and SFA. With upcoming SFA proponency, he'll have ample opportunity to make his mark.

    In fact, he may be able to teach some of his Army bretheren something -- like leading a re-juvenation of FID in the Army!

    I am somewhat embarrassed that it looks like it's going to take a SEAL to lead the way where the Army once held sway. (Dude! That rhymes!!)

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