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Thread: All that is old is new again.....

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    Council Member Mark O'Neill's Avatar
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    Default All that is old is new again.....

    In the course of my work today I came across this passage from Gwynn's Imperial Policing:

    "Finally, the fact that Waziristan borders Afghan territory presented a difficult problem. Afghan sympathisers were free to cross the border to reinforce the hostile elements. To close the frontier without the active assistance of the Afghan Government was impracticable and the Afghan Government could not co-operate without incurring the risk of unrest in its own territory."

    He published this in 1936. Now, the 'Government' being harassed have 'flipped', but I suspect that there is little else different. We are dealing with an enduring, complex traditional issue. Something that I think that many of the 'lets sort Pakistan out, and our problems will be solved' pundits clearly fail to appreciate.

    Lets face it, the Brits were, in their day, 'masters of empire'. They could not sort this issue out in over three hundred years. I think that it is entirely unrealistic to expect that the US, or any one else for that matter, could have 'solved it' in the last five years.

    Rather than continually bemoaning the existence of this long standing problem, a sound strategy would be one that recognises its likely continued existence, and develops accommodations and work arounds that ultimately minimise its impact.
    Last edited by Mark O'Neill; 08-10-2007 at 11:22 AM. Reason: fixing a typo, spelling

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default If You Won't Read, Watch the Friggin Movies

    Mark,

    There are even visual aids to reinforce these very same points. Look at the movies of this time, specifically what we would call action-adventure

    Lives of a Bengal Lancer 1935

    Gunga Din 1939

    Even the Charge of the Light Brigade in 1936 was tied to the Northwest Frontier.

    Again, mate, I agree completely about matching strategy and operational art to reality versus desires, wishes, dreams, and fantasies.

    Tom

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default Sound Advice

    Rather than continually bemoaning the existence of this long standing problem, a sound strategy would be one that recognises its likely continued existence, and develops accommodations and work arounds that ultimately minimise its impact.
    Well said Mark.

    I agree completely about matching strategy and operational art to reality versus desires, wishes, dreams, and fantasies.
    Tom - spot on, there is something to framing and acknowledging the difference between a problem and a condition here I think. From top to bottom we seem to want to treat everything as a problem that must have an immediate and enduring solution - maybe its cultural.

    What changes in our policy/strategy mix (and all those things they drive) when we start to view somethings as conditions? Its something that I keep coming back to no matter if we're discussing strategic patience or capabilities - they all seem to be connected.

    It seems instead our tactics are often driving adjustments in our strategy & policy as what works on the ground is slowly translated up the food chain and then incorporated. It seems we could save allot of time and treasure by being more realistic up front.
    Regards, Rob

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    Council Member Mark O'Neill's Avatar
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    Default

    G'day Guys,

    Tom,

    not that many of us Aussies have cable - and I reckon we have got no hope of seeing any of those movies on our 'free to air' TV. And, of course, I did not have the advantage of seeing them during their original theatrical release like you did...

    Rob,

    I agree with you, your point echoes yet another maxim from Gray's new book (it must have had an impact on me - that is two citations in two posts)

    - # 21 " The impossible is impossible; it is a condition, not a problem for which a solution has yet to be found".

    Cheers

    Mark

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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark O'Neill View Post
    In the course of my work today I came across this passage from Gwynn's Imperial Policing:

    "Finally, the fact that Waziristan borders Afghan territory presented a difficult problem. Afghan sympathisers were free to cross the border to reinforce the hostile elements. To close the frontier without the active assistance of the Afghan Government was impracticable and the Afghan Government could not co-operate without incurring the risk of unrest in its own territory."

    He published this in 1936. Now, the 'Government' being harassed have 'flipped', but I suspect that there is little else different. We are dealing with an enduring, complex traditional issue. Something that I think that many of the 'lets sort Pakistan out, and our problems will be solved' pundits clearly fail to appreciate.

    Lets face it, the Brits were, in their day, 'masters of empire'. They could not sort this issue out in over three hundred years. I think that it is entirely unrealistic to expect that the US, or any one else for that matter, could have 'solved it' in the last five years.

    Rather than continually bemoaning the existence of this long standing problem, a sound strategy would be one that recognises its likely continued existence, and develops accommodations and work arounds that ultimately minimise its impact.
    Yeah, I need to go back and re-read Gwynn for my work too. I do a lot of my stuff on British use of armored cars and tanks in Waziristan in the Twenties and Thirties, and it was a constant ulcer, whether the British used "butcher and bolt" or the "forward strategy" of building roads and trying to civilize the region. Seems like very little has changed on the North-West Frontier in eighty years.

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    Default The Frontier and the British

    For a good read, lots of detail and entertaining, try Bugles and a Tiger by John Masters. He was an officer in the 4th Gurkas in that period. The bio is nothing like his novels, thank goodness. It also provides some insight into the regimental system.

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    Default Pushtunwali

    It is over 250 years since Afghanistan was cobbled together, from many ethnic groups, and two centuries since British colonisers tried stretching their writ to India's (now Pakistan's) north-western frontier, where the plains crumple up towards the Hindu Kush. Yet, in both places, a large part of the population is still wedded to Pushtunwali. Some 15m Pushtuns live in Afghanistan, or 50% of its population; and 28m in Pakistan, mostly in NWFP, representing about 15% of the population there. Most of them are ruled by their tribal code, the notable exception being where the rival Islamist code, of the stringent Saudi variety which is preached by the Taliban and quite new to Afghanistan, is strong. Islamism has rivalled Pushtunwali for centuries; it has often gained prominence, as currently, in time of war. More typically, the two competing ways have cross-fertilised in Afghanistan, each subtly influencing the other.
    http://www.economist.com/world/displ...ory_id=8345531

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Imperial echoes

    Sixty years after India and Pakistan achieved independence the impact of events in the sub-continent, including Afghanistan, on British national security has returned with a new emphasis. Notably regarding counter-terrorism and fighting AQ / Taliban.

    By a twist of history the British Army, plus 'new' partners, are deployed on the other side of the Imperial border or Durand LIne in Afghanistan.

    This time our supply lines, for heavy items, run from Karachi port into Afghanistan and who drives the trucks carrying the containers? Afghans, as they dominate the haulage industry. Yes, "money talks", what we do if they stopped helping?

    Back to learning from history.

    Davidbfpo

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default

    G'day Guys,

    Tom,

    not that many of us Aussies have cable - and I reckon we have got no hope of seeing any of those movies on our 'free to air' TV. And, of course, I did not have the advantage of seeing them during their original theatrical release like you did...
    There ya go...

    Try to be nice....

    I saw 'em on a Saturday matinee for a nickel ticket

    And by the way, the Aussies have heard of video and DVDs have they not?

    Tom

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    Council Member Mark O'Neill's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    There ya go...

    Try to be nice....

    I saw 'em on a Saturday matinee for a nickel ticket

    And by the way, the Aussies have heard of video and DVDs have they not?

    Tom
    G'day Tom,

    Of course, we have heard of them.........

    Cheers

    Mark

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Default

    It seems instead our tactics are often driving adjustments in our strategy & policy as what works on the ground is slowly translated up the food chain and then incorporated. It seems we could save allot of time and treasure by being more realistic up front.
    RT, I think you are hitting a nail somewhere with this statement, but it sounds as though you expect the situation of the ground to be the other way. If so, could you expound on it a little more?

    I would agree that strategy should shape tactics only in as much as the strategy sets a framework. I don't know if it's at all that bad that tactics shift/adjust/morph must faster than strategy can, and the strategy expands/contracts to incorporate "lessons learned", so to speak, of the tactics.

    As for your point about being more realistic up front, are you referencing the proclamations to the media that have been made concerning our strategy shifts in Iraq? Would you say that the administration should have been saying, "We will be adjusting our tactics as necessary..." while avoiding talk of strategy?

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default Sunday morning thoughts

    [QUOTE]
    Quote:
    It seems instead our tactics are often driving adjustments in our strategy & policy as what works on the ground is slowly translated up the food chain and then incorporated. It seems we could save allot of time and treasure by being more realistic up front.
    RT, I think you are hitting a nail somewhere with this statement, but it sounds as though you expect the situation of the ground to be the other way. If so, could you expound on it a little more?

    I would agree that strategy should shape tactics only in as much as the strategy sets a framework. I don't know if it's at all that bad that tactics shift/adjust/morph must faster than strategy can, and the strategy expands/contracts to incorporate "lessons learned", so to speak, of the tactics.

    As for your point about being more realistic up front, are you referencing the proclamations to the media that have been made concerning our strategy shifts in Iraq? Would you say that the administration should have been saying, "We will be adjusting our tactics as necessary..." while avoiding talk of strategy?[/QUOTE]
    JC,
    Good points. I guess I'm trying to establish the linkage between our policy objectives, to our strategy then down to the tactics. LTC Kilucullen pointed out that the big strategy shift was in securing the population (to facillitate the political solution & stability) not in the "surge" which was just the means to implement the strategy. I think we've kind of walked through this from where we started in 2003. I've met some of the ARCENT planners from OIF 1. Their biggest regret seems to be not being able to fully account for the PH IV piece - however I'd argue that would be a tough one to have visualized and articulated with the type of certainty needed to sway the tide as it were at the time (coming off of OEF, and the OSD dynamics).

    The folks on the ground have sorted this one out - at a cost. It was not an easy one, but I think we've done a pretty good job of it. This has been fed back into policy and strategy and then back down to tactics where new direction is executed. I'm not sure it could've gone too much differently given the "perfect storm" type conditions that seem to surround us when fog, friction and chance are played out over extended time.

    I should've phrased the "realism" remark more as a question. It is hard to place many of the decisions made in 2003-2005 in their proper context since we are influenced so much by 2006-2007. Even n 20 years we'll be prejudiced by how things eventually work out, and what goes on in between now and then.

    What I'd like to see is a policy - strategy / match for where we go from here. With all the bluster on who is the enemy and who should be next, where we go from here in Iraq, what is at stake, etc. - I see very little of the realism that acknowledges why its very likely that we will be involved in the region and even the world.

    Imagine the possible difference in Iraq and CENTCOM strategy if up font we'd qualified and articulated that the access to natural resources is a vital interest to U.S. (our security, our economy, our prosperity, etc.) and that the growing and persistent threats of terrorism, WMD, coercion, blackmail etc. by non-state actors and irresponsible states in today's globalized world cannot be allowed to threaten those vital interests because nothing is isolated anymore. The world has changed and we must adjust.

    Imagine if as ugly and unpalatable as it sounds, we made a long term commitment up front - but did not decide that the solution to every problem and problem set was a hammer. I think it translates down the food chain. I think it helps to break the rotational mind set we had at the tactical level initially. When you make a long term commitment to something, it changes the way you consider it, and how you apply ways and means towards its solution. It also effects the political schedule.

    When problems are looked at holistically and in depth with as many of the possible permutations as possible considered it becomes more then just this or that administrations policy and it becomes more then just a military (or other element of national power) problem. Our policies need to be seen in the context of "grand strategy" I think. We need to spend some real time thinking about how the ways and means we apply to address a specific problem (on some scale) or conditions change the relationships with other areas and create or possibly even work toward addressing those problems. This should help us from living paycheck to paycheck (or supplemental to supplemental).

    We recently discussed on another thread an OP/ED piece on what to do about Iran. Its amazing to me that nobody talks about the long term effects of disrupting the other roles Iran plays in the global and political body & economy, and how our actions might create other big regional and global problems, or that the perception of unilateral rhetoric might lead to the type of global instability that requires others to challenge us to make decisions with long term impacts.

    I'm always amazed at how much something old can tell us about ourselves. Consider the Peloponnesian War - specifically the events that led to the failure of the Sicily campaign. It was a kind of perfect storm as well where bad leadership at all levels, bad policy, bad strategy and bad tactics all converged. Consider how the state to state perceptions changed throughout the war as it morphed and influenced how people viewed their world and what was right or wrong. Consider how the war began in the first place and why the interim peace failed. When you read it, it sure feels familiar in many ways.

    What I hope for is this. We will dutifully consider where we are at, where we need to go and how we will get there while being fully cognizant of the need to constantly re-evaluate our situation in the context of things often beyond our control. I hope that this will lead us to foreign policies that are more realistic in terms of flexibility, and more enduring and bi-partisan in terms of their commitment. I hope that the strategies we use to achieve these ends of foreign policy can transcend the scope of the next (relative) election so that the time tables reflect the realities of the world political body and not just our own - the world marches to many different local beats - not just the echoes of Washington's. I hope that by changing the perspectives on policy and strategy we can make DOTLMPF changes that allow us to develop and execute tactics that synchronize more with the needs established by conditions on the grounds vs. those conditions that exist solely in D.C.
    Last edited by Rob Thornton; 08-12-2007 at 08:50 PM.

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Default

    Imagine the possible difference in Iraq and CENTCOM strategy if up font we'd qualified and articulated that the access to natural resources is a vital interest to U.S. (our security, our economy, our prosperity, etc.) and that the growing and persistent threats of terrorism, WMD, coercion, blackmail etc. by non-state actors and irresponsible states in today's globalized world cannot be allowed to threaten those vital interests because nothing is isolated anymore. The world has changed and we must adjust.
    I'd totally agree with such qualification. The only thing I'd add would be a linkage to the vital interests of the peoples of the region. perhaps we should have worked harder on the front end at building a coalition among neighboring Arab states.

    Then again, maybe they were on to something and could chart the dark waters ahead.

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