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Thread: The Col. Gentile collection and debate

  1. #61
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark O'Neill View Post
    been Attack of the strawman...
    The problem I perceive with some of the argument presented is that a false dilemma is being postulated . No one - from Secretary Gates through to Nagl is on record as advocating abandonment of US conventional abilities and the US' obvious superiority in this field...Picking a 'winning approach' is not served by creating false dilemmas.
    Mark: Well said (Rob, Ken, et al too):

    I do not think I have set up a strawman or created a false dilemma. Of course folks like SecDef and John Nagl have not called for abandoning conventional capabilities, just like I have never said we need to ditch irregular/coin/stability capabilities. But it is fair to say that our conventional capabilities have atrophied over the past 5 years. Most reasonable folks would agree with that statement. The seriousness of that atrophying is what is in question and how long it will take to recover. Clearly our Army and sister services have gained much in the way of combat experience; but as I have agrued before that combat experience in Iraq and Astan is not directly transferable especially in terms of combat functions to other forms of conflict. Those who think that it will be should consult history; specifically the British 7th Armored Division who learned and eventually ended up fighting well in north Africa, gained much combat experience from that theater, but when in June/July 1944 they had a very rough go making just the 20 some-odd miles up to Caen in the face of a superior German tactical fighting ability. The logic of combat experience being universal and transferable from one form to another should have meant that the British 7th marched right up to Caen on Day 2.

    I am also not sanguine at all that somehow, by process, luck, hope, whatever, that we will end up with an appropriate balance. This especially worries me when I read what John Nagl writes in his RUSI book review of Brian Linn's The Echo of Battle. Nagl writes that in future wars and conflicts American soldiers who

    ...will win these wars require an ability not just to dominate land operations, but to change entire societies...
    The last clause in the above sentence takes my breath away in its implication for policy and American action in the world. As one, like many other SWC members, who has been on the business end of American foreign policy in foreign lands I am deeply suspect of the notion that deployed American military power can "change entire societies."

    And LTG Caldwell's recent article in Military Review where he proclaims with troubling certainty that:

    The future is not one of major battles and engagements fought by armies on battlefields devoid of population; instead, the course of conflict will be decided by forces operating among the people of the world. Here, the margin of victory will be measured in far different terms than the wars of our past. The allegiance, trust, and confidence of populations will be the final arbiters of success.
    This sweeping statment about the nature of future war is equally arresting. It is underpinned by a vision of the future security environment as one of a global-counterinsurgency that applies a counter-maoist, protracted people's war approach. Such an approach at least implies a force structure that is heavily weighted toward stability operations and irregular war. So how will our army look in 10 years? If the new Army doctrine has anything to do with things the logic of it calls for an light infantry heavy force that can work "among the people" protecting them and convincing them of ours and the host nations righteousness. this is why i am worried and not at all sanguine that "balance" will some how just come about because we say it will.

    gian

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
    It is underpinned by a vision of the future security environment as one of a global-counterinsurgency that applies a counter-maoist, protracted people's war approach. Such an approach at least implies a force structure that is heavily weighted toward stability operations and irregular war.
    Or towards saving defense expenditures (couple hundred billion USD) for a really stabilizing policy.

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    D'oh. I went and commented at the blog. Oh well.

    patmc raised some good issues...
    Quote Originally Posted by patmc View Post
    We've lost a lot of the FA technical skills that are highly perishable. But does that mean all the branches are in trouble?
    I felt exactly the same way about the Infantry before we were sent to Iraq to improve our skills. Whereas today the Artillery is suffering due to a fundamental shift in training and operations, the Infantry is stronger than ever. Before 9/11, the Infantry endured the same crisis that the Artillery faces today. The system was designed to prevent us from worthwhile training. Now we have Iraq and Afghanistan - both are gigantic ranges with a 360 degree range fan, unlimited ammunition, no safety tower or range control personnel, a wide-open scenario, and just about every curveball you can throw into the mix.

    Quote Originally Posted by patmc View Post
    Our infantrymen and tanks are fighting as squads, platoons, and companies/troops, not as battalions/squadrons, brigades, and divisions; but in reality, squads and teams actually fight the war, so is this an overly bad thing? It may make higher level commanders rusty, but for the trigger puller who only sees the men to his left and right, the experience he is gaining in OIF/OEF is immense. Can anyone better attest to this?
    Agree 100%.

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    The combat lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan will not be good ideas for major conventional war, though.

    Infantry can reveal itself, show presence day after day and survive with some armor in these LI conflicts.

    Infantry that shows itself to competent enemies is dead within seconds.

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    Council Member Mark O'Neill's Avatar
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    Default I had not previously picked up on that quote

    from John Nagl that Gian cited (about the ability to change societies). I will have to go back and check the context, but I cannot conceive of this as either a practical, desirable (or for that matter realistic) task for the US military or State to aspire to - now or in the future. If nothing else the result of the neo-conservative 'project' of 02/03 should suggest the utility of such ambition.

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    Default Apportioning Resources and Sustaining Risk

    A couple of points on this discussion:

    1. Were we in a world that allowed the US military to have whatever it wanted, I can see the argument for ensuring that it was a full spectrum capable force. However, we are not. We are resourced constrained. And, being resource constrained means we need to prioritize how best to dispose of our resources. Folks usually seem to devote the greatest amount of resources to the problem that is most near to hand. Based on that hypothesis, it only stands to reason that the current fight gets more attention than future possibilities. Whether this phenomenon is as generalized as I propose, at least it seems to be a motivating factor for the current SECDEF. Perhaps that is a lesson that now former SECAF Wynne did not learn too well.

    2. A psychologist named Gerald J.S. Wilde has written on an interesting phenomenon called risk homeostasis. In a nutshell, his theory is that we are each “hard-wired” to expect a certain level of risk in our lives. If things change so that our perceived level of risk goes down, then we will restructure what we do to bring the risk level back up. This is a link to the first edition of his book.
    If Wilde is right about risk homeostasis, then Gian’s lament is as fruitless as is that of another who claims we are sacrificing too many resources needed for the current fight in order to prepare for a future conflict. Either course of action has significant risks, and each may be viewed as one way out of many for actualizing our obligatory risk seeking behavior. Instead of disagreeing about how risky the two alternatives are, perhaps we ought to be seeking a solution that maximizes our preparations for both ends of the spectrum while maintaining the current level of perceived risk through such a solution. Is this possible and if so, what would it look like?
    Vir prudens non contra ventum mingit
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  7. #67
    Council Member Randy Brown's Avatar
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    Default Tight shot-group!

    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    The combat lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan will not be good ideas for major conventional war, though.

    Infantry can reveal itself, show presence day after day and survive with some armor in these LI conflicts.

    Infantry that shows itself to competent enemies is dead within seconds.
    My compliments on distilling large concepts into punchy insights that look good on our team's 'lessons-learned' wall. They're a good reminder for us to put any OIF/OEF lesson--from the smallest TTP to the biggest strategic shift--into historical context. Again, thanks!
    L2I is "Lessons-Learned Integration."
    -- A lesson is knowledge gained through experience.
    -- A lesson is not "learned" until it results in organizational or behavioral change.
    -- A lesson-learned is not "integrated" until shared successfully with others.

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    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Question After reading the review

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark O'Neill View Post
    from John Nagl that Gian cited (about the ability to change societies). I will have to go back and check the context, but I cannot conceive of this as either a practical, desirable (or for that matter realistic) task for the US military or State to aspire to - now or in the future. If nothing else the result of the neo-conservative 'project' of 02/03 should suggest the utility of such ambition.
    It seems he is simply trying to emphasize the fact that DOD isn't going to be the only ones fighting but others as well. Specifically mentioning Info Agency.

    Lends support to his recommendations for a return of said org and not necessarily unrealistic if you think about it. Armies don't make societies nor should they try, Those who have are many against which we have battled.

    That said Wouldn't you consider changes in markets, infrastructure, societal norms, available employment, availability of press to public discussion, Education, etc all major societal changes. Long and short Empowerment does exactly that, it changes societies so in that context I get where hes coming from.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    The combat lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan will not be good ideas for major conventional war, though.

    Infantry can reveal itself, show presence day after day and survive with some armor in these LI conflicts.

    Infantry that shows itself to competent enemies is dead within seconds.
    Real dangers, assuming that our soldiers are unthinking enough to not adapt to a different environment. That has not been shown. There are intangibles from our seven years in combat that provide benefit regardless of the battlefield.

    The side effect is that we have experienced combat leaders who deal with unstructured problems very well, and are used to operating more independently than was true in the 90's. While certain HIC infantry fieldcraft has certainly been lost, that is easy to retrain/fix. We've got tons of FM's and ARTEPs that tell us how. Harder is to create junior leaders experienced in operating and thinking under combat stress and with immense responsibility in peacetime.
    "A Sherman can give you a very nice... edge."- Oddball, Kelly's Heroes
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    Gian makes some excellent points in his last comment. It frankly astounds me how predictions about the future of US military conflict are so casually made with little analysis or justification. The idea that the future of warfare will "reside among the people" needs some serious critical examination, in my opinion. As it stands now, it seems so often repeated that it's become a kind of "fact" that proponents do not feel compelled to justify even though it forms the central foundation for their successive arguments.

    Personally, I'm quite skeptical that US policymakers and the US public will willingly engage in a major "war among the people" for a generation or more - a war that would require the large infantry/COIN centric force that some envision. Proponents of this particular future of warfare do not seem to address this political aspect and they remind me, actually , of the early airpower advocates who believed strategic nuclear bombing would be the truly decisive form of future warfare. Those early airpower advocates failed to consider the political aspect as well and that politicians (for good reason) would place limits on their vision of the future of warfare.

  11. #71
    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Question The part that confuses me

    Quote Originally Posted by Entropy View Post
    Gian makes some excellent points in his last comment. It frankly astounds me how predictions about the future of US military conflict are so casually made with little analysis or justification. The idea that the future of warfare will "reside among the people" needs some serious critical examination, in my opinion. As it stands now, it seems so often repeated that it's become a kind of "fact" that proponents do not feel compelled to justify even though it forms the central foundation for their successive arguments.

    Personally, I'm quite skeptical that US policymakers and the US public will willingly engage in a major "war among the people" for a generation or more - a war that would require the large infantry/COIN centric force that some envision. Proponents of this particular future of warfare do not seem to address this political aspect and they remind me, actually , of the early airpower advocates who believed strategic nuclear bombing would be the truly decisive form of future warfare. Those early airpower advocates failed to consider the political aspect as well and that politicians (for good reason) would place limits on their vision of the future of warfare.
    The most about this is how anyone talks about wars without people being all throughout it. Weapons don't kill people, People kill people, Wars don't fight themselves people fight them, and so on so forth. Point being big, small, short, long all wars revolve around, inbetween, and amongst the people because without them there is no war. That's a baseline I've never seen anyone get around.
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    Default Good comment, Entropy.

    I agree with all and would submit that the second paragraph in particular is the reason I'm not as concerned as is Gian about the future. That may seem counterintuitive as, if you're correct, that would indicate a large degree of uncertainty for the future. It does but the political aspects have always outweighed the purely military aspects. I don't see that changing.

    Much of the current gnashing of teeth over the issue of Iraq; the future of warfare and ways to do thing are ideologically derived, naturally experience colored and contain a strong element of parochial interest. None of those things are going away but in the end, political need and goals will drive the effort and produce the result. No one should lose sight of that. As I've probably too often said, attempts by the Armed Forces to steer that political aim are mostly ineffectual. That means the responsibility for reacting to the Politicians brilliance or stupidity -- seems to be a 50:50 proposition -- is inherent to those forces. Period.

    Thus, my contention is that we need to provide a full spectrum force; land, sea and air. Unlike others here I believe that is economically possible, human factors achievable and likely. It does unquestionably entail a revision in the way we operate and train and I think that will occur. It had better...

  13. #73
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Well, maybe...

    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    The combat lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan will not be good ideas for major conventional war, though.
    Not on the macro level but as pointed out by others, the little things are the killers, the basics -- and those things, Afghanistan and Iraq do aid.
    Infantry can reveal itself, show presence day after day and survive with some armor in these LI conflicts.
    Or without Armor if they're smart...
    Infantry that shows itself to competent enemies is dead within seconds.
    Depends. Can be generally true in most of rural western Europe that is developed and mostly unwooded; quite true also in the desert, on the plains or steppes -- but not at all true in jungles, mountains, heavily wooded terrain like boreal forest or taiga and absolutely not in an urban environment. Again, if they're smart, not totally true anywhere but in the latter types of terrain, they only have to be half smart...

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    Default Mao on mobile/guerilla warfare

    You are probably all aware of a quote from Mao (in Protracted war) where he states that ALL his soldiers MUST be able to switch to mobile warfare and then back to guerilla-style. If so I aplogize for bringing it up.
    Nihil sub sole novum.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    There’s a couple of points here I think worth making. With regard to the issue of “balance.”

    1. How does it serve a useful purpose to supposed of even suggest that the future of war is X or Y? The Insurgent is no more the future face of war than the T-90 tank. The fact most of the “COIN-experts” want to avoid is that Vietnam saw insurgents and NVA formations working in the same Corps area, on the same day.
    2. Nor does studying Hezbollah hold any key to the future either. Most analysis has failed to fine-tune the distinction of Hezbollah’s very limited tactical performance, and the IDFs High Commands woeful confusion over their Strategic and operational concept of operation, leading to tactically senseless or unachievable missions. Ludicrous extrapolations have been made from a very small number of outcomes, dubious sources and popular media.
    3. Add to all this the human dimension of agendas and personal promotion, and we have a very sticky and wholly unnecessary mess.


    So assuming my comments above are not too “off base,” I respectfully suggest that we might view the problem in these ways.

    1. Good Armies will need to be able to operate against both combined arms armour formations and Insurgents in the same town at the same time. This is mostly a training and leadership challenge. At the very worst it requires the fairly simple encompassing of a few simple contradictions and dualities. ( and as Ursamajor correctly points out.)
    2. I think their may be merit in considering the idea that a lot of the complexity we have ascribed to the current operating environment is not complexity at all, but a need to view something as complex to excuse our own lack of understanding.
    3. I would venture that the first step in this process may be recovering the solid, proven and effective doctrines of military force and learning to apply them I the context of avoiding civilian casualties. Take away the civilians and you take away the need for most of the complexity.
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    Council Member Mark O'Neill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by [*
    Good Armies will need to be able to operate against both combined arms armour formations and Insurgents in the same town at the same time. This is mostly a training and leadership challenge. At the very worst it requires the fairly simple encompassing of a few simple contradictions and dualities. ( and as Ursamajor correctly points out.)[*]I think their may be merit in considering the idea that a lot of the complexity we have ascribed to the current operating environment is not complexity at all, but a need to view something as complex to excuse our own lack of understanding.[*]I would venture that the first step in this process may be recovering the solid, proven and effective doctrines of military force and learning to apply them I the context of avoiding civilian casualties. Take away the civilians and you take away the need for most of the complexity.[/LIST]
    William, I am trying to ascertain what you are offering.

    Isn't (1) 'Three Block War' stated differently?

    Regarding (2) - by definition, complexity is relative, so I am not sure what we gain by the 'realisation' that lack of understanding makes something complex to the beholder; and

    Regarding (3) - are you implying that we have a choice as to where the enemy will choose to fight us? (ie - we can choose 'no civilians'). As Gray said in '40 Maxims' , The enemy too has a vote..

    That said, I agree with the point that you make up front, which essentially seems to suggest that the future does not confront us with an 'either / or' proposition by the likely requirement to be prepared to do both, proficiently.

    regards,

    Mark

    PS apologies for stuffing up the quotation - something I edited obviously affected the list you had formatted.
    Last edited by Mark O'Neill; 07-07-2008 at 09:32 AM. Reason: insertion of post script

  17. #77
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark O'Neill View Post
    William, I am trying to ascertain what you are offering.

    Isn't (1) 'Three Block War' stated differently?
    Very probably, except without blocks, and a no prescribed number of blocks. I guess I am taking out the words "Three" and "Block". We might call it just "War". I am not professing to be original.

    Regarding (2) - by definition, complexity is relative, so I am not sure what we gain by the 'realisation' that lack of understanding makes something complex to the beholder; and
    It's a matter of perspective. I think there is a lack of "so what" in some of the popular aphorisms people throw about. Things are often defined by the name we give them, and the amount of attention we seek to focus on them, because we perceive them to be important. I think there are various aspects of modern conflict that there may be no actual need to address or rather the cost of doing so is disproportionate, to the measurable effect.

    Regarding (3) - are you implying that we have a choice as to where the enemy will choose to fight us? (ie - we can choose 'no civilians'). As Gray said in '40 Maxims' , The enemy too has a vote..
    This is not what I wish to imply. The military gets no say. The Politicians do though. What I am saying is (as have many others) that if there are no civilians, then there is little complexity. The issues that create the complexity are all to do with the proximity civilian populations, and their restrictions on force.

    That said, I agree with the point that you make up front, which essentially seems to suggest that the future does not confront us with an 'either / or' proposition by the likely requirement to be prepared to do both, proficiently.
    Yep. That's pretty much it.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

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    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    To add another point: some/most Mao's fighters were illiterate. If they could grasp the TTPs of both mobile AND guerilla warfare I dont think it should be too difficult for the modern days armies' soldiers. Even if (which I doubt) their other skills get lowered, being a multitask asset offsets much more than it sacrifices.
    Nihil sub sole novum.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Wholeheartedly agree with Wilf and UrsaMajor.

    I think I agree with Mark as well but I'm not sure I understand all I know about what I think he said...

    I think I agree with this:
    "...which essentially seems to suggest that the future does not confront us with an 'either / or' proposition by the likely requirement to be prepared to do both, proficiently."
    All this froth about either / or is prompted by a lack of confidence in the capability of prediction (justified) and Soldiers or Marines (not justified).

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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Mired in 'Surge' Dogma- Gian Gentile

    Found this article by COL Gentile in the International Herald Tribune this morning. Haven't seen it posted yet on SWJ, so here it is...

    The U.S. Army and other parts of America's defense establishment have become transfixed by the promise of counterinsurgency. Since the surge in Iraq began in February 2007, the panacea of successful counterinsurgencies has become like an all-powerful Svengali, holding hypnotic sway over the minds of many of the nation's military strategists.

    The promise of counterinsurgency is to turn war into a program of social-scientific functions that will achieve victory - if performed correctly by adhering to the guidance of counterinsurgency experts. The program is simple: increase and maintain long-term American combat presence on the ground; use those combat troops to protect the local population and win their hearts and minds; and build a new nation. The program's appeal lies in its purported simplicity, perceived relative bloodlessness, and seductive ability to remove the friction from war.

    The current U.S. counterinsurgency program rests on the dubious assumption that the surge in Iraq was a successful feat of arms that was the primary cause for the lowering of violence. Yet there were other reasons why violence ebbed, including the buying off of America's former Sunni insurgent enemies and a decision by the Shiite leader Moktada al-Sadr to cease attacks. Without those conditions in place, levels of violence would have remained high even in the face of a few more American combat brigades on the ground.
    http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/12/.../edgentile.php

    v/r

    Mike

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