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Thread: My Grand Strategy

  1. #21
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    Default Is strategy the real problem?

    One can disagree with Steve that some of the assumptions underlying our purported grand strategy are flawed and one can disagree in detail with his fixes. One can even disagree over what a “grand” strategy should be and do. But is the basic, down-deep, real problem we face today one of the strategy’s substance, or is it a structural problem regarding strategic planning, coordination and implementation?

    Since the fall of Bagdad (hard to say the end of combat operations), I’ve become more and more convinced the core problem is just that, structural. I don’t pretend to have an answer, but it might pay for those of you who share some agreement with me about structure being a very big part of our problem to take a look at the shorter Fournoy and Brimley article on strategic planning in the Joint Forces Quarterly No. 41 at http://www.ndu.edu/inss/Press/jfq_pa...i41_iad_01.pdf Or better yet, the longer paper on which it is based at http://www.wws.princeton.edu/ppns/pa...agencyQNSR.pdf

    I’ve also wondered of late what an alien standing on the Moon would think about the potential potency of our military and economic power while applying Clausewitz’s secondary Trinity of the People, the Government, and the Military Services. The first two are fractured with the first, to paraphrase Sam Huntington, increasingly not knowing who they are, and the second working hard, legislative and executive alike, to surpass the Athenian Assembly during the Peloponnesian War. We all know what happened with the demise of that empire: the democratic experiment disappeared until we resurrected it some two thousand years later. The last leg of the Trinity: the Land components are, if not yet broken, badly cracked and the Air and Naval appear to be looking for a place.

    As I look forward to what appears to me to be the set of possible futures following our ultimate withdrawal from Iraq (whatever shape that might take), I can’t help but wonder whether, after more than a few failures to achieve our stated ends, we will possess, as a people, the willingness and fortitude necessary to fulfill the international role we have consciously and unconsciously assumed. Thinkers like Colin Gray and Niall Ferguson see no alternative to our actively playing that role. Gray’s The Sheriff: America’s Defense of the new World Order completed in Nov ’03 and Ferguson’s
    2004 article “International Relations: A World without Power” make for interesting and to a degree compelling reading even given the course of events since they were written. http://www.hoover.org/publications/digest/3009996.html. There is the usual expected chorus of those others who much prefer we pull back and to a greater or lesser degree be less active, depending of on their parochial interests in an issue.

    Personally, I don’t believe we have the choice of being less active. Our interests are going to be involved; we are far from being the self-sufficient nation we once were; and the issues this discussion group focuses on will be somewhat more than nagging, but not the only ones. I just don’t see how we can intelligently address interests and issues and be pro- rather than reactive without a reasonable structure for development, planning and implementation. Without it, I only see more failures.

    What one hammock and a good cigar have wrought.

    Bob T

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob T View Post
    One can disagree with Steve that some of the assumptions underlying our purported grand strategy are flawed and one can disagree in detail with his fixes. One can even disagree over what a “grand” strategy should be and do. But is the basic, down-deep, real problem we face today one of the strategy’s substance, or is it a structural problem regarding strategic planning, coordination and implementation?

    Since the fall of Bagdad (hard to say the end of combat operations), I’ve become more and more convinced the core problem is just that, structural. I don’t pretend to have an answer, but it might pay for those of you who share some agreement with me about structure being a very big part of our problem to take a look at the shorter Fournoy and Brimley article on strategic planning in the Joint Forces Quarterly No. 41 at http://www.ndu.edu/inss/Press/jfq_pa...i41_iad_01.pdf Or better yet, the longer paper on which it is based at http://www.wws.princeton.edu/ppns/pa...agencyQNSR.pdf

    I’ve also wondered of late what an alien standing on the Moon would think about the potential potency of our military and economic power while applying Clausewitz’s secondary Trinity of the People, the Government, and the Military Services. The first two are fractured with the first, to paraphrase Sam Huntington, increasingly not knowing who they are, and the second working hard, legislative and executive alike, to surpass the Athenian Assembly during the Peloponnesian War. We all know what happened with the demise of that empire: the democratic experiment disappeared until we resurrected it some two thousand years later. The last leg of the Trinity: the Land components are, if not yet broken, badly cracked and the Air and Naval appear to be looking for a place.

    As I look forward to what appears to me to be the set of possible futures following our ultimate withdrawal from Iraq (whatever shape that might take), I can’t help but wonder whether, after more than a few failures to achieve our stated ends, we will possess, as a people, the willingness and fortitude necessary to fulfill the international role we have consciously and unconsciously assumed. Thinkers like Colin Gray and Niall Ferguson see no alternative to our actively playing that role. Gray’s The Sheriff: America’s Defense of the new World Order completed in Nov ’03 and Ferguson’s
    2004 article “International Relations: A World without Power” make for interesting and to a degree compelling reading even given the course of events since they were written. http://www.hoover.org/publications/digest/3009996.html. There is the usual expected chorus of those others who much prefer we pull back and to a greater or lesser degree be less active, depending of on their parochial interests in an issue.

    Personally, I don’t believe we have the choice of being less active. Our interests are going to be involved; we are far from being the self-sufficient nation we once were; and the issues this discussion group focuses on will be somewhat more than nagging, but not the only ones. I just don’t see how we can intelligently address interests and issues and be pro- rather than reactive without a reasonable structure for development, planning and implementation. Without it, I only see more failures.

    What one hammock and a good cigar have wrought.

    Bob T
    My point was not that we disengage, but that we selectively engage. To misuse Colin Gray's metaphor (and I wrote a dust jacket blurb for that book), we didn't assign the whole West to one sheriff. Smart sheriffs knew to stay out of Comanche territory and stick to keeping the town orderly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    My point was not that we disengage, but that we selectively engage. To misuse Colin Gray's metaphor (and I wrote a dust jacket blurb for that book), we didn't assign the whole West to one sheriff. Smart sheriffs knew to stay out of Comanche territory and stick to keeping the town orderly.
    And a fine blurb it is.

    I agree we cannot disengage; our interests won't allow us to do so. Selectively engage? Yes, when we have a reasonable chance of success. But can we be sure we have that reasonable chance if we don't have a structure/process which ensures all relevant factors are considered in developing strategy/plans, have all those various departments and agencies whose resources/skills are necessary for a reasonable chance of success on board and playing their role in a coordinated manner?

    We had it under Eisenhower's planning board and operations coordinating committee setup. Kennedy threw it out and we have only once since seen a glimmer with the Nixon/Kissinger NSC system where we at least tried to give all voices a place at the table.

    I remain concerned that we may just have a so soured and lost the populace that it will be for some period of time very difficult to gain their confidence and support for engagements that do not clearly represent survival or vital interests.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RTK View Post
    I'm a counter-insurgency fighter and commander of combat troops. I believe my operational relevancy is up to date.



    Demo experts? Really? It would be that complicated? I'm sure all the guards are adequately paid and have a high job satisfaction. There are no chances any of them are Wahabbists.....

    Oh, I forgot. The Saudi are doing such a good job in the counter-terrorism department.
    We were talking about economic aspects and I mentioned my qualification to tell that I don't need be educated on econonomics basics, not to imply that someone else is unqualified in this discussion.


    And yes, historical experience tells us that it needs indeed good demolition work to keep installations of such importance out of business for months.
    A good example was the demolition of oil installations by the dutch in Dutch Southeast-Asia in early 1942. That was well done.
    The massve bombing of oil installations from low level around Ploesti in 1943 otherwise achieved iirc no more than 40% output drop for more than a couple of days and effects vanished quickly as repairs were effective.

    No pumping station, reservoir of pipeline is of such complicated construction that it couldn't be replaced within half a year as there's enough liquidity and will to repair present in the case of a successful strike. So no effect of a single operation would last a year or moreno matter how repairs are done, that's my opinion.

    Another aspect is that it seems to be typical western since WW2 bombings to aim at ecoomic bottlenecks for high strike efficiency. Islamist have not shown such a behaviour at all. They strike high prestige targets and induce fear - they do not wage an economic war.

    But maybe someone here can point at the impact of islamist insurgency 1991-2002 in Algeria on that nation's oil production, something like 50% dop is in question:


    Again, I do not say that terrorists cannot reduce Saudi Arabian oil exports. Even unsuccessful attempts would have a price-driving effect on oil prices.
    But a 50% drop in output only due to terrorist activity is in my opinion an overestimation of their capabilities.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lastdingo View Post
    We were talking about economic aspects and I mentioned my qualification to tell that I don't need be educated on econonomics basics, not to imply that someone else is unqualified in this discussion.


    And yes, historical experience tells us that it needs indeed good demolition work to keep installations of such importance out of business for months.
    A good example was the demolition of oil installations by the dutch in Dutch Southeast-Asia in early 1942. That was well done.
    The massve bombing of oil installations from low level around Ploesti in 1943 otherwise achieved iirc no more than 40% output drop for more than a couple of days and effects vanished quickly as repairs were effective.

    No pumping station, reservoir of pipeline is of such complicated construction that it couldn't be replaced within half a year as there's enough liquidity and will to repair present in the case of a successful strike. So no effect of a single operation would last a year or moreno matter how repairs are done, that's my opinion.

    Another aspect is that it seems to be typical western since WW2 bombings to aim at ecoomic bottlenecks for high strike efficiency. Islamist have not shown such a behaviour at all. They strike high prestige targets and induce fear - they do not wage an economic war.

    But maybe someone here can point at the impact of islamist insurgency 1991-2002 in Algeria on that nation's oil production, something like 50% dop is in question:


    Again, I do not say that terrorists cannot reduce Saudi Arabian oil exports. Even unsuccessful attempts would have a price-driving effect on oil prices.
    But a 50% drop in output only due to terrorist activity is in my opinion an overestimation of their capabilities.
    You missed my point. I've been dealing with and teaching demolitions tactics for almost 10 years. I'm what you might call an expert.

    Inside jobs are easy. Training only has to be minimal. It's the E&E plan that would be the most difficult part of said operation. It's not about how much explosive you use but where you put it. Unfortunately it's so easy that I'm not going to further talk about it here.
    Example is better than precept.

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    Lastdingo made a point that reflects on our current strategy. The current "War on Terror" is almost precisely analagous to the WWII strategic bombing campaigns. We are currently trying to find the one piece of the puzzle that will cause the terrorists to come down like a house of cards, as a society.

    Surely, some people, especially in the military, understand how idiotic that idea is, but like the WWII bombing campaigns, we can only cause the mercury to flow in some other direction, we cannot make it "go away" by hitting strategic targets.

    I know it is a threadjack, but thought it was an interesting analogy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 120mm View Post
    Lastdingo made a point that reflects on our current strategy. The current "War on Terror" is almost precisely analagous to the WWII strategic bombing campaigns. We are currently trying to find the one piece of the puzzle that will cause the terrorists to come down like a house of cards, as a society.

    Surely, some people, especially in the military, understand how idiotic that idea is, but like the WWII bombing campaigns, we can only cause the mercury to flow in some other direction, we cannot make it "go away" by hitting strategic targets.

    I know it is a threadjack, but thought it was an interesting analogy.
    Well, since it's *my* thread, I authorize your jack!

    Interesting point you make. I was thinking along similar lines in my "The Illogic of American Military Strategy in Iraq" thread. In the study I'm writing right now, I argue that the whole notion of the "war on terror" is flawed--that "war" was not the most effective conceptualization of this threat.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RTK View Post
    You missed my point. I've been dealing with and teaching demolitions tactics for almost 10 years. I'm what you might call an expert.

    Inside jobs are easy. Training only has to be minimal. It's the E&E plan that would be the most difficult part of said operation. It's not about how much explosive you use but where you put it. Unfortunately it's so easy that I'm not going to further talk about it here.
    The problem here is that you miss my point even mroe than I missed your point which you didn't write in the first place.

    1. Historical fact: Muslim terrorists don't blow up 50% of a nation's oil supply capacity with one or two strikes. Nobody ever did something like that.

    2. The damage can be repaired within months, especially as the Saudis have the money and will to repair it asap.

    3. The Saudi military is intact, loyal and the army is in fact more oriented towards internal than external security.

    4. It's not important how well you can blow things up, as long as you don't enlist as islamist terrorist/insurgent.
    By the way, it's common knowledge that demolition experts can destroy things with lots of time but few explosives. But that's not how terrorists work.

    5. No matter what part of a plan to sabotage would be difficult - what counts is that it's not simple. It requires much more than a truck who breaks through the front gate and explodes.

    6. The Iraq oil suppply is despite years of insurgency still floating around the level to which it was restored quickly after the invasion. It's not dropping.

    7. The radical islamists in Saudi-Arabia are Saudi wahabbits, not so much the foreign workers. The latter ones are those who work in the oil industry. They have barely enough time to go to a mosque, and do certainly not go to the influental wahabbism mosques in distant Mecca and Medina very often.

    Sometimes it's reasonable to expect things not to happen even if they are possible.


    If the #### hits the fan in Saudi-Arabia, it would rather look like Persia 1979, not like Algeria or Iraq. If the terrorists would wage an economic war against the regime or the west by reduction of Saudi oil supply, they would undermine the national welfare-by-bureaucracy-jobs program of the regime and the Saudi people would immediately turn against them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lastdingo View Post
    If the terrorists would wage an economic war against the regime or the west by reduction of Saudi oil supply, they would undermine the national welfare-by-bureaucracy-jobs program of the regime and the Saudi people would immediately turn against them.
    This is really my worry, not piecemeal sabotage: A takeover of Saudi by radical Islamists who subsequently withdraw oil supply from the world market as a tactic of economic warfare.

    What you say here is a possibility, but the Taliban alienated its population with draconian social interference, not to mention destroying livelihoods by eliminating poppy cultivation. Perhaps the Afghan people would have eventually overthrown the Taliban themselves. But unpopular tyrranies sometimes last and last...Iraq, Burma right now, etc. I have less confidence than you.

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    Default Lastdingo I'm tapping out

    For example, if Saudi provided 30 bbl/day, Nigeria 10, Canada 15, Iraq 15, Mexico 10, Venezula 20, and terrorists reduced Saudi output by 50% (not that hard), that would equate to a 15% global decrease in oil production. I pulled these numbers out of you know where, so I think the real impact would be much greater than 20%, which is very significant.
    Lastdingo my percentages were pure speculation as stated (using American slang, so my apologies for not making that clear) to illustrate a point. However, I think we still disagree, because I think terrorists can have impact on oil production and transportation world wide, whether intended as an economic attack or not. I believe the insurgent/criminal attacks in Nigeria have reduced output in that country by 20% (I need to check my facts, but it is significant), the impact of terrorist and criminal attacks on the Northern Iraq oil fields has been significant (probably around 50% or more), and if you look at other locations around the world where terrorists are, or could, disrupt our global energy supplies, then I think you agree the threat is fairly significant. Look at it as a thousand pin pricks rather than a silver bullet attack on one critical node. Then again, there are locations where a silver bullet attack would have a significant impact.

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    Well, the exact numbers aren't so important.
    The question is rather whether terrorists can/want/will produce a supply shock that exceeds what we experience since two years as everyday experience.

    By the way, the sabotage influence on Iraq's oil production (the official one) is difficult to assess from outside. The effect is apparently much less an actual reduction than the prevention of expansion.

    http://omrpublic.iea.org/supply/iq_cr_ts.pdf



    So, back to topic(s).

    In my opinion it would not be anything resembling the end of world if Saudi Arabia would even completely quit producing oil.
    That would merely hurry up the transition to substitutes and make it felt as more radical. As I expect an economic crisis anyway I fail to see how high oil price scenarios would hurt us as much as many people fear. If I had told people in 2004 that the oil price will be as high as 70 b$/bbl in 2007, they would have expected much worse things to happen than we experienced.

    The idea that the west applies too much an approach of defeating the global islamist movement by successes against a key vulnerability is iirc old. It has often been criticized that decapitating by killing leaders won't work, and in fact that seems to be true.
    The only other key vulnerability that has been attacked afaik is the networking and communication - both of which were limited by the western intelligence service threat, but not prohibited completely.
    I would advise to use the old maxims that you should have allies and deny your enemy to have good allies. That's what politicians and diplomats can do. It's a mistake to declare too many groups as AQ or AQ-connected and make them to enemies without need. That's where a global war ont errorism becomes the enymy of an effective war against AQ.

    Disengagement is of course a good idea, Iraq was a mistake from the beginning in my opinion. But with immigrants and global communication, geographic distance does not help very much.
    It's observable that jihad proclamations against different targets have different mobilization effects. Anytime when non-Muslim troops are already fighting inside muslim countries, such a proclamation is able to mobilize ten thousands. Proclamations against Israel are quite irrelevant as there's a perpetual conflict with little opporttunities for action anyway.
    Proclamations of jihad against non-Muslim troops in Muslim countries but without a conflict going on (as in Kuwait, Qatar) are completely ineffective.
    That fits to Muslim theology of jihad.
    Another important factor is whether proclamatons of jihad are considered as being legitimate. Only high-ranking theologists have enough influence that enough preachers follow them and spread the news of jihad. Being in touch with those key preachers would be worthwhile for our diplomats. I guess I'm talking about just a couple hundred men all over the world here. Many of them have certainly distorted perceptions that could at least partially be corrected.

    So whatever the west does with his military, we should never have troops engaged in long-time combat missions in Muslim countries - the only exception being elusive special forces that can hardly be found by jihadists.
    It does not appear to be necessary to withdraw from all Muslim countries, just from those with ongoing conflicts and observe what contact surfaces remain.
    That might be the reason why we're ignoring the genocide in Sudan although the Sudanese military is quite flimsy.


    @Bill Moore: I understood what you wrote, but I misunderstood you as I took the 50% serious and considered just the bbl/day figures as unimportant.
    Last edited by Lastdingo; 07-10-2007 at 02:50 PM.

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    Default The state of strategy in the UK today

    This maybe a dormant thread, but on a search on SWC the only one that readily fits my need.

    IIRC on SWJ and KoW there has been a busy commentary on Wilf Owen's latest commentary on Infinity Journal on strategy.

    The following commentary landed today, by Dr. Patrick Porter, a few selected phrases:
    Its about the state of strategy in the UK today....

    In the UK, the government struggles to reconcile its refusal to entertain ‘strategic shrinkage’ with depleted economic and military power. A convergence of dwindling resources, defence inflation and popular demand for other services combine to make our high-tech forces increasingly unaffordable. For the fourth time in a decade, we are at war with a sovereign state.

    During the recent strategic review, fundamental aspects of British power and identity were effectively taken off the table of debate: the nuclear deterrent, the Anglo-American relationship, the need for an expansive ‘global role.’ These questions are not presented for open discussion even within our American-inspired architecture of a National Security Council. We hardly study strategy, we hardly argue about it, we hardly talk about it.
    Link:http://offshorebalancer.wordpress.co...e-of-strategy/

    Please note there is no option to comment on the blogsite.
    davidbfpo

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    Default Confession of a Heretic

    Porter's "Isolationist heresies: strategy and the curse of slogans" takes us away from slogans and looks to some substance:

    What is isolationism, exactly? Isolationism is at root both a theory of American security, holding that the U.S. should insulate itself from commitments and conflicts to protect itself, and a species of American exceptionalism, born of a dislike of the Old World’s corrupt diplomacy and a desire to remain aloof from it. Actual isolationism as a conscious policy is historically extremely rare. The lockdown of Tokugawa Japan from outside influence is one example among few. Historically, it was never the grand strategy of the U.S. to isolate itself from the world. It was always extensively engaged in international trade and diplomacy. Many of those unfortunate interwar American forbears who became infamous for their isolationism were not the provincial reactionaries that memory credits them for. Even Republicans like Robert Taft did not call for the strict isolation of the United States from world affairs. A broad church, they were more often not isolationists but ‘hemispherists.’ They believed that the U.S. could defend itself amply across a vast domain from far into the Pacific through to the territories of the Monroe Doctrine in South America and off its eastern coast. To believe that the state should content itself with defending a domain from Alaska to Luzon, Canada to Argentina, Greenland to Brazil, (or beyond that if we include the Philippines), is not the equivalent of hiding under the bed.
    Since my foreign policy basics were shaped by Robert Taft circa 1950, I accept being termed a "Hemispherist" - my force projection focus is the Atlantic, Western Hemisphere and Pacific. So, I'm one of those damned heretics - bring ye forth faggots and a torch - as was Bob Taft, whose statements were not liked then (and probably not now):

    I have never felt that we should send American soldiers to the Continent of Asia, which, of course, included China proper and Indo-China, simply because we are so outnumbered in fighting a land war on the Continent of Asia that it would bring about complete exhaustion even if we were able to win. ... So today, as since 1947 in Europe and 1950 in Asia, we are really trying to arm the world against Communist Russia, or at least furnish all the assistance which can be of use to them in opposing Communism.

    Is this policy of uniting the free world against Communism in time of peace going to be a practical long-term policy? I have always been a skeptic on the subject of the military practicability of NATO. ... I have always felt that we should not attempt to fight Russia on the ground on the Continent of Europe any more than we should attempt to fight China on the Continent of Asia.[14]

    14. Murray N. Rothbard, Swan Song of the Old Right - orig. source: Robert A. Taft, "United States Foreign Policy: Forget United Nations in Korea and Far East," Vital Speeches 19, no. 17 (June 15, 1953): 530–531.
    Limited interventionism, BTW, does not mean you're a helpless new-born pussy cat. You can be a full-fledged, unneutered tomcat - you simply are selective in picking your alleys and fights.

    Regards

    Mike

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