Page 1 of 7 123 ... LastLast
Results 1 to 20 of 127

Thread: A Modest Proposal to Adjust the Principles of War

  1. #1
    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Largo, Florida
    Posts
    3,989

    Default A Modest Proposal to Adjust the Principles of War

    A Modest Proposal to Adjust the Principles of War by LTC Gian Gentile at SWJ Blog.

    I propose a consideration to adjust the Principles of War as accepted by the American military since J.F.C. Fuller first came out with them in the early 1920s and the American Army’s use of them in the majority of its major doctrinal manuals. I do not propose radically new principles of war like Lieutenant Commander Christopher Van Avery did in a recent summer Armed Forces Journal article. His proposal of very different Principles seemed too “new-ageish” for me and in my mind wrongly assumed that the information revolution of the 1990s produced a concomitant revolution in military affairs (a still debated and contested notion by scholars). Too, with regard to Avery, I do not accept his historical premise of now as the time to radically adjust the Principles of War because of the so called recent RMA; one could easily make the argument that we should have produced new Principles of War shortly after August 1945 and the advent of atomic war and Bernard Brodie’s classic The Absolute Weapon...

  2. #2
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Posts
    717

    Default

    I perceive that the intended message here (I may well be imagining this) in LtCol Gentile's proposal to modestly but purposefully modify the Principles of War is as much to get Students of War to think a little more about how War Theory may turn out in reality than in the abstract. The Principles of War, like most elements of Doctrine, are useful guides to thinking, learning, and practicing war. They are not elements of a formula that may be simply applied in the abstract to a real situation and be expected thus to lead to a general probability of success. They are guides to helping one develop and apply judgement; they are not its substitute. Col. Gentiles' revision of the Principles of War appears designed to shake its readers out of "complacent contemplation".

    Again, I hope that I wasn't reading something into something that was not intended to be there.

  3. #3
    Council Member SteveMetz's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Carlisle, PA
    Posts
    1,488

    Default

    I'm wondering how this lashes up with the essays that Hammes, Hoffman and I did for the 2005 book entitled Rethinking the Principles of War that OSD/OFT sponsored?
    Attached Files Attached Files

  4. #4
    Council Member TheCurmudgeon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Woodbridge, VA
    Posts
    1,117

    Default

    8. Security; Here I propose replacing the Principle of “Security” with a new Principle, “Protection of the People.” Since so much of our operations today are COIN based and we know as our doctrine tells us that through protecting the people our own security will emerge out of that protection, then it seems to me that we no longer need Security as a Principle of War because if we protect the people accordingly security will come in due course.

    9. Maneuver; I propose replacing this Principle of War with “Tactical Success Guarantees Nothing.” Obviously this new Principle is taken directly from the Paradoxes of the new COIN manual, FM 3-24. Since in modern war as we experience it today and in the future our soldiers all need to be “strategic corporals” then we should indoctrinate our Army to understand that tactics in and of themselves mean nothing as the paradox tells us. Maneuver as a Principle in the original list had to do primarily with the maneuvering of military forces in the field at the tactical and operational levels of war. Since one of the bedrocks of “maneuver” was tactics, and since the COIN paradox tells us that tactics in and of themselves are not that important unless they are linked to other lines of operations and higher objectives then replacing Maneuver with that paradox eliminates deadwood, so to speak, from the original Principles list.
    I am going to disagree (which is no surprise to anyone who knows me). My reason is simple, COIN is not war, at least as it is used in the principles of war.

    War as used in the principals of war is a conflict carried on by force of arms, as between nations. It involves a clash between large, organized forces. The principles of war work fine for that type of battle. Where you have clear centers of gravity and lines of operation that are tangible and can be destroyed.

    COIN is a fight for the hearts and minds of the people. Its center of gravity is intangible: an idea that binds a group together in a common purpose.

    I would agree that you can create a completely separate principles of COIN, but I don’t think we should adjust the current principles for COIN.
    Last edited by TheCurmudgeon; 12-16-2007 at 12:21 AM.
    "I can change almost anything ... but I can't change human nature."

    Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan
    ---

  5. #5
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    West Point New York
    Posts
    268

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Norfolk View Post
    I perceive that the intended message here (I may well be imagining this) in LtCol Gentile's proposal to modestly but purposefully modify the Principles of War is as much to get Students of War to think a little more about how War Theory may turn out in reality than in the abstract. The Principles of War, like most elements of Doctrine, are useful guides to thinking, learning, and practicing war. They are not elements of a formula that may be simply applied in the abstract to a real situation and be expected thus to lead to a general probability of success. They are guides to helping one develop and apply judgement; they are not its substitute. Col. Gentiles' revision of the Principles of War appears designed to shake its readers out of "complacent contemplation".

    Again, I hope that I wasn't reading something into something that was not intended to be there.
    Dear Norfolk:

    You are spot-on as usual with your postings. Of course Principles are really only true in the eyes of their beholders. I do not see them in any way as transcendent over time. I wrote this short piece as you state to probe into the nature of contemporary war and how we understand it and where we think it will be in the future. Colin Gray's article really got me to thinking about it along with postings from Steve Metz and Ken White. There was a slight bit of tongue-in-cheek intended with this short piece based on my critique of FM 3-24 in "Eating Soup with a Spoon." But i am dead serious about trying to understand the nature of war today as are the other SWC members and that is why i posted it.

    I am going to disagree (which is no surprise to anyone who knows me). My reason is simple, COIN is not war, at least as it is used in the principles of war.
    Curmudgeon's quote here is a good example of why i am interested in this problem. He states that Coin is not war at least in terms of Principles, so then if that is the case then perhaps we should recommend to the writers currently working on FM3-0 to ditch the Principles all together and not include Coin in its discussion of full spectrum operations.

    Also, I defer to Steve's knowledge on the literature on "Principles of War." My knowledge of it is not that deep and some of what i say in this thread may have already been covered in other works. Still i thought it a worthy topic for discussion on this great blog.

    thanks for your comments and thoughts.

    gian

  6. #6
    Council Member Sargent's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    London
    Posts
    178

    Default From Doctrine to Principles of War

    I was originally going to post this to the Dishonest Doctrine thread, but really it's a response to your blog piece.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
    I will be involved in it; but not the day-to-day running of it like when you were here. Yeah, that was a great experience; I especially liked the staff ride to Saratoga when we made Simon Frasier's line "Oh Fatal Ambition" as our motto. That was my favorite tee-shirt too until my son absconded with it.
    Ah, Saratoga -- Hall was impressive, and it made all of the history of the Northeast just jump out at me, and it's been in big, bold type (so to speak) since then. I owe you guys one. Ref. your son's sticky fingers, that's why I bought a second one for my husband from the get go.

    Reminiscing aside, I bring up your reference to Saratoga here because I have always found it ironic to have had that lesson* of the Rev War -- the French won't get involved unless the Continentals can prove they are willing and able to fight the Brits -- brought up in the shadow of OIF. I've been living in the shadow of Rochambeau -- literally, his statue -- the last few years here in Newport, and it's a lesson I think about a lot. (My slightly more strange interaction with Rochambeau was my son, for most of the time he was 3, shouting his name as we'd walk the dog past the statue.) How one intervenes in the domestic affairs of another state/entity matters.

    Maybe this ought to be principle Minus 1 for wars of the sort likely to require COIN -- that is, don't even bother with the rest if you can't nail down this part.

    And I disagree with the Curmudgeon that COIN is not "war." Perhaps Fuller's Principles of War ought to be renamed Principles of 20th C Conventional War, but the concept that war itself is only encompassed at the most high-explosives, internal combustion engine end of the spectrum is far too limited. The pinnacle of the most perfectly executed war, according to Sun Tzu, is the one which need not be fought because the weaker side realizes the futility of bothering to fight, putting it at the "no intensity" end of the spectrum. I don't cotton with the habit of labelling any significant effort a
    "war," but neither do I think it is useful to exclude from the definition legitimate forms.

    Cheers,
    Jill


    * Yes, there's debate as to the actual importance of the outcome of the battle, but even with a tinge of apocrypha the lesson itself has merit. If you look further at how the French intervened -- subordinating their army forces to Washington's command (happily and willingly, it seems, at least from Rochambeau and Chastellux's commentaries, which recount very good impressions of the General and his officers) is a big one in my mind -- I think there's even more that can be gleaned from the case.

  7. #7
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    8,060

    Thumbs up Sigh. I was going to send a two word PM;

    "Rabble rouser."

    However, Norfolk beat me to it and publicly. Good job, Norfolk.

    At the risk of being unintellectual and exposing my laziness, I see no problem in adapting the Principles to COIN operations as written, all it takes is a little thought.

    I suggest COIN is war -- and not as some say the Graduate level -- it's more like 7th Grade; full of angst, raging hormones one knows nothing about and constantly shifting loyalties, likes and dislikes compounded by hatreds one knows not from what cause and frustrated and confusing parental 'guidance.' Plus an aging an imperfect infrastructure. Bad teachers, too...

    Those Principles are just that, Principles. They simply give structure to planning and the goal of planning is to conduct successful operations at minimum cost to own forces. Thus the Principles are simply an outline and the plan is the body of work.

    I've lived with those principles for a long time, they aren't perfect and not all apply in all situations but basically, they're pretty good and cover most situations I've seen in several levels of war.

    I have, however long contended that Mass should be changed to Nathan. As in Nathan Bedford Forrest -- a simple reminder to get "thar fustest with the mostest." Those of a more formal bent may prefer Local superiority or even Schwerpunkt or any other term that connotes skill and agility and downplays Mass -- which should never have been first in the first place....

    Well, that's semi serious. Seriously, I have an alternative list that I've been packing around in my head for almost 40 years; I contend it is applicable to everything from life to all levels of war:

    1. Surprise
    2. Local dominance
    3. Agility
    4. Initiative
    5. Simplicity
    6. Objective
    7. Execution
    8. Economy of force
    9. Security

    Thus it was written in the gospel according to KW. Who by the way also points out that this version or the classic or Gian's should be viewed as readily shiftable in order, situation dependent but that the order shown will cover most situations. Yes, I know but people do tend to look at lists and consider the items in order -- particularly if there's an acronym to go with it. MOOSEMUSS = Mass; the American way of war...

    Very seriously, excellent piece that deserves thought.

  8. #8
    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Kansas
    Posts
    1,099

    Default Thought provoking

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    "Rabble rouser."

    I suggest COIN is war -- and not as some say the Graduate level -- it's more like 7th Grade; full of angst, raging hormones one knows nothing about and constantly shifting loyalties, likes and dislikes compounded by hatreds one knows not from what cause and frustrated and confusing parental 'guidance.' Plus an aging an imperfect infrastructure. Bad teachers, too...
    In agreement here

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Well, that's semi serious. Seriously, I have an alternative list that I've been packing around in my head for almost 40 years; I contend it is applicable to everything from life to all levels of war:

    1. Surprise
    2. Local dominance
    3. Agility
    4. Initiative
    5. Simplicity
    6. Objective
    7. Execution
    8. Economy of force
    9. Security
    I really like the simplicity part, somes of uss need things kept rather simple in order for us to keep up.

  9. #9
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    West Point New York
    Posts
    268

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    ...I suggest COIN is war -- and not as some say the Graduate level -- it's more like 7th Grade...
    Thanks for saying this; The arrogance of some to suggest that Coin is the "graduate" level, or that Coin is more difficult than conventional war has always seemed over the top to me. What do such statements imply; that conventional war is the undergraduate level? I mean i have not experienced conventional war, only coin, but are we to say that then Colonel George C Marshall as Pershing's Chief of Staff as he shuffled hundreds of thousands of troops from one front to another to take part in the Meuse Argonne operated at the undergraduate level? Or a Russian tank battalion commander at the battle of Kursk, was he at the undergraduate level too. And just one more to throw in there; consider Frederick the Great as he masterfully shifted his army using a central position and interior lines at Rossbach and Leuthen to defeat the French then Austrians in sequence, he was a Junior in college while the 101st in Mosul in 2003 was writing their dissertation? Don’t want to sound mean but let’s just call all forms of war difficult in their own way. And we can always use St Carl's classic line: Everything in war is very simple but the simplest thing is very difficult."

    Agree with your point on Principles; your list looks good to me. I wrote the post because i found the idea of wrestling in one's head what they should be a good way to get at the deeper problem of defining the nature of war as we know it today and in the future.

    gian

  10. #10
    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Belly of the beast
    Posts
    2,112

    Default

    I have to admit that I find defining COIN and conventional military activities as so different is troubling. COIN is a mission not a vision. As such COIN is part of the conventional military operational capablity. Of course in my uneducated opinion I think amphibious operations are conventioanl military operations, and anti-terrorism is also conventional military operations. Nuclear missiles, drug interdiction, and training support of foreign militaries I think might be unconventional military operations.
    Sam Liles
    Selil Blog
    Don't forget to duck Secret Squirrel
    The scholarship of teaching and learning results in equal hatred from latte leftists and cappuccino conservatives.
    All opinions are mine and may or may not reflect those of my employer depending on the chance it might affect funding, politics, or the setting of the sun. As such these are my opinions you can get your own.

  11. #11
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    8,060

    Default Simplicity is my watchword...

    Ron said:
    I really like the simplicity part, somes of uss need things kept rather simple in order for us to keep up.
    That would be me. I'm taking an anti-virus med that's supposed to have confusion as a side effect. I can't tell a bit of difference...

    Gian said:
    I wrote the post because I found the idea of wrestling in one's head what they should be a good way to get at the deeper problem of defining the nature of war as we know it today and in the future.
    Always a good idea to look long and hard and question everything (and most everybody ). I am convinced that we've gotten out of the habit of asking questions for fear of looking untootered. Since I can't spell it, I've never worried about it and I think we've gone too far with the oriental concept of face. Maybe too many shooters of messengers about. McNamara's 'zero defects' has a lot to answer for...

    Good Blog item...

    Selil said:
    ...As such COIN is part of the conventional military operational capablity. Of course in my uneducated opinion I think amphibious operations are conventioanl military operations, and anti-terrorism is also conventional military operations. Nuclear missiles, drug interdiction, and training support of foreign militaries I think might be unconventional military operations.
    I can buy all of that. But you are NOT getting me to climb down another Cargo net from a 'KA to the Mike Boa... Wha... Huh? They don't? When did they quit???

  12. #12
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Posts
    717

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    "Rabble rouser."

    However, Norfolk beat me to it and publicly. Good job, Norfolk.
    That's what my dad calls me, lovingly of course!

    I've lived with those principles for a long time, they aren't perfect and not all apply in all situations but basically, they're pretty good and cover most situations I've seen in several levels of war.

    I have, however long contended that Mass should be changed to Nathan. As in Nathan Bedford Forrest -- a simple reminder to get "thar fustest with the mostest." Those of a more formal bent may prefer Local superiority or even Schwerpunkt or any other term that connotes skill and agility and downplays Mass -- which should never have been first in the first place....

    Well, that's semi serious. Seriously, I have an alternative list that I've been packing around in my head for almost 40 years; I contend it is applicable to everything from life to all levels of war:

    1. Surprise
    2. Local dominance
    3. Agility
    4. Initiative
    5. Simplicity
    6. Objective
    7. Execution
    8. Economy of force
    9. Security


    []Very seriously, excellent piece that deserves thought.
    I have long considered Nathan Bedford Forest to be perhaps the finest battlefield general this Continent has ever produced (sorry about Galusha, Ken). And I put him right up there with Sherman (but not side-by-side).

    Yep, as long as we've got smart Colonels like Gian, the Army has hope for the future. As for one or two Air Force officers that seem to want to replace the Principles of War either with a list as long as your arm, or with one that seems too abstract to stick to anything, reading that stuff just tends to confuse me and make my head hurt. Nine clear principles is good; let's think about them and stick to them (but not out of force-of-habit).

    Gian: In the Commonwealth, we've always kind of looked at Colonial Wars/COIN/Small Wars as the place to start off, honing one's individual and sub-unit skills before moving on up the spectrum ladder; for us, HIC Combined Arms operations is Graduate level!
    Last edited by Norfolk; 12-16-2007 at 06:12 AM.

  13. #13
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    8,060

    Default Galusha is of note only due to the fact that he

    was the youngest General ever; a 21 year old BG has got to have something aside from a family tree. Sherman was good, quite good. However, I think mayhap you ought to consider Daniel Morgan -- and your Guy Simonds is sadly under rated by many, good Corps Commander...

  14. #14
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Posts
    717

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    was the youngest General ever; a 21 year old BG has got to have something aside from a family tree. Sherman was good, quite good. However, I think mayhap you ought to consider Daniel Morgan -- and your Guy Simonds is sadly under rated by many, good Corps Commander...
    Morgan was an interesting fellow, to put it mildly, and sometimes I've thought it kind of funny that I've been places where he'd operated in.

    General Simonds got better with time; he was good in WWII, but by the time he was CGS during Korea, he really shined - and Currie in WWI was very good. Of course, he (Simonds) wasn't in the field anymore, except when he went to check on 1st Div. But I'm still facinated by both Sherman and Forrest.

  15. #15
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    The State of Partachia, at the eastern end of the Mediterranean
    Posts
    3,947

    Default

    I would strongly urge all concerned to read Robert Leonhards "Principles of War for the Information Age."

    Single most important book I have read in the last 7 years. It has vastly informed and improved both my own writing and understanding of what I am trying to do.

    I cannot recommend this little known work highly enough
    Last edited by SWJED; 12-16-2007 at 09:28 AM. Reason: Add hyperlink.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - 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

  16. #16
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    The State of Partachia, at the eastern end of the Mediterranean
    Posts
    3,947

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    ":

    1. Surprise
    2. Local dominance
    3. Agility
    4. Initiative
    5. Simplicity
    6. Objective
    7. Execution
    8. Economy of force
    9. Security
    1. Surprise - what is your definition of surprise?
    2. Local dominance - so what distribution?
    3. Agility - do you mean the ability to change direction quickly?
    4. Initiative - initiate means to start, so why is starting something a principle?
    5. Simplicity - meaning only do something simple? Comparative to what?
    6. Objective - what about freedom of action?
    7. Execution - meaning what?
    8. Economy of force - relative to what and meaning what?
    9. Security - what about activity?

    I am in no way looking to be dismissive of your list, but I would ask what such a list is supposed to achieve? How does having such principles or even being aware of them help the practice of operations?

    The challenges to each principle are derived from Leonhard.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - 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

  17. #17
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    West Point New York
    Posts
    268

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Norfolk View Post
    I have long considered Nathan Bedford Forest to be perhaps the finest battlefield general this Continent has ever produced (sorry about Galusha, Ken). And I put him right up there with Sherman (but not side-by-side.
    Norfolk: Grant is still my number one; I cant get the image of him standing under the tree at night in the rain after the first day of shiloh where he is really figuring things out about the true nature of the war he is fighting. And to cross over to another thread a bit, I think a neglected American general at least at the operational level in ww2 is old Curt LeMay.

    In the Commonwealth, we've always kind of looked at Colonial Wars/COIN/Small Wars as the place to start off, honing one's individual and sub-unit skills before moving on up the spectrum ladder; for us, HIC Combined Arms operations is Graduate level!
    I humbly accept this statement; and sadly many Coin aficionados continue to wrongly portray conventional war as binary and simple. Oh Please, although i never fought in one but of course am a student of them through history i can only imagine them being anything but binary and simple. But my point here is to throw some realism on the Coin fetish and suggest to its oracles to bring themselves down a notch or two and show a bit of humility toward things.
    Coin as I experienced was certainly not easy, but neither i imagine is conventional war.

  18. #18
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Posts
    4,818

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    1. Surprise - what is your definition of surprise?
    2. Local dominance - so what distribution?
    3. Agility - do you mean the ability to change direction quickly?
    4. Initiative - initiate means to start, so why is starting something a principle?
    5. Simplicity - meaning only do something simple? Comparative to what?
    6. Objective - what about freedom of action?
    7. Execution - meaning what?
    8. Economy of force - relative to what and meaning what?
    9. Security - what about activity?

    I am in no way looking to be dismissive of your list, but I would ask what such a list is supposed to achieve? How does having such principles or even being aware of them help the practice of operations?

    The challenges to each principle are derived from Leonhard.


    Wilf, I think this a very good point the 9 principles of war can mean many different things to many different people.

  19. #19
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Posts
    4,818

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    COIN is a fight for the hearts and minds of the people. Its center of gravity is intangible: an idea that binds a group together in a common purpose.

    I would agree that you can create a completely separate principles of COIN, but I don’t think we should adjust the current principles for COIN.

    Very important point here. As I have said so often in the past the Strategic framework of Ends ,Ways and Means is the problem...it should be changed to Motives,Methods and Opportunities. You must understand the motive or movtives if you are ever going to accomplish anything.

  20. #20
    Council Member SteveMetz's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Carlisle, PA
    Posts
    1,488

    Default

    For what it's worth (and I realize the correct answer to that is "not much"), here were my suggestions in the aforementioned book chapter:

    Foundation Principles
    • Understand the conflict for what it is
    • Take it seriously


    Characteristics of Success

    • Shape operations and campaigns using psychological precision concentrating on psychological effects;
    • Degrade the opponent's strategy rather than attrit his force;
    • Be able to sustain adequate effort for years, even decades;
    • Seamlessly integrate all government agencies and elements of power;
    • Design and sustain effective methods for both intelligence and counterintelligence.
    • Adapt at least as rapidly and more effectively than the enemy.

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •