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Thread: A Modest Proposal to Adjust the Principles of War

  1. #21
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    Default Clinging to the past for what?

    I love these conversations where those indoctrinated at CGSC in pseudo-intellectual theories of war rally around Clausewitz and Army doctrine that frequently isn’t worth the paper it is written on. Anyone who dares questions this sacred doctrine is subject to heresy trails and is excommunicated. Of course there is no obligation on the true believers’ part to justify their hypotheses. I argue these so called “principles” are not based on objective observation, but simply faith and indoctrination.

    They are called principles of war. A principle in the military generally means it should never be violated. In another forum we couldn’t agree on the definition of war, but simply agreed you know what it is when you’re in it. We generally agree we’re at war now, so what level of war do these so called principles apply to: strategic, operational, or tactical, or all of them? I will only argue a couple of the principles.

    1. Mass is no longer required to prevail at the tactical, operational or strategic levels. Whether we call it a level of war (LIC, MIC, or HIC), 4GW (I don’t like the term either), or something else, desired effects can be achieved without mass. Al Qaeda achieved an impressive tactical/strategic short to mid-term victory on 9/11 without the use of mass. Numerous insurgents have achieved their desired end state using infiltration and selected acts of terror without the use of mass. With our superior training and technology we can achieve tactical and operational success without mass also. We didn’t need mass for our Air Force to conduct a raid on Libya. We didn’t need mass to prepare to drop a nuclear weapon on Moscow if our other forms of defense didn’t work. Of course I have seen mass defined at least five different ways in an attempt to force this principle to fit to various scenarios. I have seen more time wasted in planning groups trying to defend this nonsense than actually determining what needs to be done. We need a Martin Luther in the U.S. Army to formalize the divide that I know exists between those who are trying to determine how to win, and those who are simply trying to defend their traditional education. Traditionalists should be forced to defend themselves with logical arguments instead of faith based arguments.

    2. Surprise is not “always” required, especially if you have absolute advantage (that doesn’t mean mass). At the tactical level surprise is generally desired, but at the strategic level we may very well want to advertise our intent (threaten our foes to comply and if they don’t, then follow through, e.g. weapons inspections in Iraq). The utility of surprise for COIN operations is generally limited to the tactical level.

    The list goes on, each principle can be challenged, which in effect means it is not a principle. Sometimes they apply, and sometimes they don’t, which really makes me wonder what the “so what” factor is. Are these supposed to be criteria we use to evaluate courses of action? How do they help the war fighter? Furthermore, how can we simply assume that these so called principles of war apply to COIN? Conventional wars are focused on an enemy’s military and irregular conflicts are focused on the population. The two types of conflicts are not the same. These principles were developed for conventional conflicts between peer competitors. These principles made perfect sense for the type of war they were designed for, but they make little sense today.

  2. #22
    Council Member SteveMetz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Global Scout View Post
    We generally agree we’re at war now...
    Not me. Let me cut and paste from an unpublished manuscript I've been toying with.

    THE FRAGILE ASSUMPTIONS OF AMERICAN STRATEGY

    The core assumptions of American strategy were born under duress. Unlike the Cold War when Americans had the luxury of extended debate about appropriate response to Soviet aggression, September 11 demanded immediate action. The United States had to act quickly based only on what was known and anticipated at the time. In this pressure-packed and chaotic environment, President Bush and his key advisers developed the fundamental assumptions for what became known as the “war on terror” during the weeks after the attack. In the years that followed, there was little opportunity for deep debate about them. The atmosphere of crisis precluded it: to question the basic assumptions of the strategy was to be unpatriotic. When President Bush used his now-famous phrase "you are with us or against us" he was talking to the leaders of other states, but the idea applied just as much to the American public and Congress. This is understandable given the conditions and passions of the time. But we now have the opportunity for a sober and rigorous re-evaluation of the fundamental assumptions of American strategy. We better understand the threat and have greater psychological distance from the trauma of September 11. We also have a better sense of what has worked (and what has not) in the dangerous world of the 21st century.

    On first hearing, the core assumptions of the war on terror make perfect sense—or at least they did in the immediate aftermath of September 11. With more careful scrutiny, they seem fragile at best, counterproductive, perhaps even wrong. Some of the assumptions can (and should) be revised, others jettisoned all together. A failure to do this—to continue with fragile or erroneous assumptions—could lead to ineffectiveness, isolation, even danger. Serious reflection is not only possible, it is imperative.

    We Are at War

    Take, for starters, the assumption that the United States is at war. There is no doubt that September 11 required bold action. But it did not have to be a “war” on terrorists of global reach. Casting it as such was a vital decision. As Walter Russell Mead writes, “Historians are likely to agree that nothing in the record of the Bush administration is as significant as its decision to describe the struggle that began on September 11 as a—or rather, the—“war on terror.” It set the United States on a strategic trajectory that continues today.

    Certainly al Qaeda itself claimed to be at war with the United States, but so too have a range of motley groups, bands, and organizations, throughout history. This alone did not make it inevitable that the United States approach the conflict as war. For a war to exist, both sides have to agree that it does. And "all terrorists of global reach" certainly did not consider themselves at war with the United States. Ultimately the decision to cast the conflict as war probably had more to do with politics—with symbolism--than with an assessment that declaring war was the most effective approach to the threat. It demonstrated the seriousness with which the United States took the challenge from terrorism. And, quite frankly, leading the nation in war is more appealing, more glorious than leading it in a sustained, irregular conflict or—heaven forbid—imperial maintenance or transnational law enforcement. More broadly, portraying the conflict as war gave the Bush administration “operating space” both internationally and domestically, allowing it to undertake actions that it never could during peacetime. Other nations initially muted reservations they might have had about American actions. Domestic opposition and partisanship was dampened (at least until the extent of the fiasco in Iraq became clear). There is, after all, a powerful tendency to “rally ‘round the flag” in times of war. But do the benefits of portraying the conflict with violent Islamic extremists as war outweigh the disadvantages, limitations, and adverse second-order effects?

    Perhaps not. To take one example, portraying the conflict as war created an expectation that there would be demonstrable progress and, ultimately, victory. America wins its wars. Despite the efforts of the President and his advisers to warn the public that this conflict could last for decades (sometimes with little progress), two hundred years of American history said otherwise. History told Americans that war is abnormal and episodic. It has a beginning and end. In the early stages the United States might experience setbacks, but eventually the momentum shifts and America marches inexorably toward defeat of the enemy. This is what war looks like to Americans. But the conflict with Islamic militants has now followed this pattern. This has created frustration and an erosion of support for President Bush. Despite the Administration’s effort to explain to the public that "this" war was different than all past American wars, they never convinced all of the public. The idea persisted that if, in fact, “this” war is not like any previous war, then perhaps it is not a war at all.

    Portraying the conflict as war had other results and implications as well. For instance, it diminished the importance of other security issues and the protection of legal rights. Again, this reflects the American tradition. When the nation is at war, other security concerns are shoved to the background. Legal rights are temporarily constricted with the idea that they will be restored later. That all made perfect sense when America's wars lasted a few years. During the Civil War, securing the frontier or dealing with the French excursion in Mexico could wait. Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus was tolerable because it was temporary. Similar things happened in the world wars. The Cold War, though, was a bit different, largely because of its length. The idea that all security issues were judged by their relationship to the core superpower struggle did have some adverse effects. It alienated many states in the non-aligned movement which were frustrated by Washington's insistence on judging them and their concerns through the prism of the Cold War. Some of these relationships were later repaired, others were not. Ultimately, though, this did not destroy the effectiveness of American strategy. The superpower competition was, in fact, relevant to regional security almost everywhere. Security partnerships, issues, and problems moved to the background by America's focus on the superpower conflict actually were of secondary importance—at least at the time.

    Our insistence on prioritizing security issues based on how they affected the superpower balance set the stage for some disastrous conflicts during the post-Cold War period. Had the United States approached Yugoslavia, Zaire, Afghanistan, Iraq, Cuba, Algeria, South Africa, Central America, Somalia, and North Korea without considering their relationship to the Cold War, we might not have lost interest after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Eventually things might have turned out differently. But history aside, are we making the same mistake today? Now the war on terror determines U.S. interest in a given country, region, issue, or conflict. As during the Cold War, some states overemphasize the potential for terrorism within their borders or their region, knowing that is the only way to sustain American interest and support. Are we paying inadequate attention to security problems with little or no connection to Islamic extremism such as social strife in Latin America, ecological decay, trade imbalances, immigration, domestic extremism, and technology proliferation? And are we cultivating security partners based strictly on their role in countering Islamic extremism even though this relationship may eventually come back to haunt us?

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    Council Member SteveMetz's Avatar
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    [continued]

    Similarly, the constriction of legal rights which followed September 11, particularly those related to personal privacy, are beginning to spark debate. The initial assumption was that the public and Congress would defer to the Executive and accept whatever actions it deemed necessary. The uproar over the Administration's initial unwillingness to adhere to the 1970 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act demonstrated that this may not hold. So the dilemma persists: by casting the conflict with terror and violent Islamic extremism as a war, the Bush administration indicated that it held the right to constrict personal privacy rights. But by describing a war with no end point (or at least one far in the future), it broke with the tradition of approaching such constrictions as temporary expedients. It is not clear at this point that the public and Congress are willing to accept a permanent shift in traditional privacy rights, particularly without open debate on it. But the tension remains: if the “war on terror” is a war without end, must the United States accept a permanent wartime restriction of privacy rights?
    Logically, casting the conflict as war militarized it. This, as Andrew Bacevich persuasively argues, amplified the militarization of American statecraft which had been underway for several decades. While the American public is accustomed to metaphorical uses of the word "war"—the "war on poverty," the "war on drugs"—the war on terror was not presented that way. It was portrayed as a real war. By definition, real wars are primarily resolved by military force. This logic train forced American strategy in a particular direction—toward a heavy emphasis on state support of transnational terrorism, including the provision of funding, sanctuary, intelligence, and, potentially, advanced technology. If state support was not vital to transnational terrorism, then the utility of military force was limited. But the idea of a real war where military force had limited utility was counterintuitive. The only way to reconcile this logical discontinuity was to emphasize state support even though there was little evidence that al Qaeda depended on state support.

    America’s state-centric approach to strategy goes even further. To make the case that a state of war exists with Islamic extremists, American policymakers portrayed them as potential states. Hence the frequent mention of al Qaeda’s quest for a "new caliphate" which would, in President Bush's words, be "a unified, totalitarian Islamic state." In other words, to justify a state of war against a non-state enemy, we have cast them as a potential state. And not just any state, but a totalitarian one. We have, in other words, as new Hitlers, Stalins, or Saddam Husseins. One example of this thinking is the use of the term "Islamofascism" which is often used in right wing talk radio, by neoconservatives, administration policymakers, and others attracted to the idea of defining America’s purpose by a moral crusade against evil. Given that fascism is defined by hyper-nationalism, corporatist economics, the militarization of society, and the concentration of political power in the hands of a single dictator, the Islamic extremists, however vile and evil they may be, are most certainly not fascists by the normal definition of that emotion-laden word. While bin Laden may not yet be a Hitler, Stalin, or even Saddam Hussein, the thinking goes, he wants to be even in the absence of evidence. It is not enough for America’s enemy to be evil (which al Qaeda certainly is) but it also has to be a familitar type of evil—an aggressive, “fascist” movement. This has emotional appeal to Americans but gives foreign audiences—including the Islamic populations that we seek to influence—the impression that we do not truly understand the threat, thus undercutting our effectiveness in the “war of ideas.” Repeating the word “Islamofascism” does not increase its resonance in the Islamic world.

    Certainly the leaders of al Qaeda have mentioned the idea of a restored caliphate. When Islam was politically unified, they believe, it was strong; when it fractured into nation states, it was vulnerable to interference and domination by non-Muslims, particularly the West. Hence it should be unified again. But there is little sign that al Qaeda has any sort of real strategy or program to create a unified Islamic state, or that the extremists could, in fact, rule one should it be created. Most of Al Qaeda's thinking derives from the salafi tradition in Islam. One of its characteristics is that "warriors"—which is the way the members of al Qaeda perceive themselves—do not rule Islamic states. Clerics, scholars, and jurists do. The role of the warrior is to please God by defending Islam, leaving the construction and administration of governments to others.

    Ultimately al Qaeda can kill and destroy but cannot create or administer. As salafists, al Qaeda has no executable political plan or strategy. They are not like the Bolsheviks and Nazis who had explicit political plans and strategies even before they seized power. Recent history suggests that even should al Qaeda's allies or affiliates take power somewhere, they stand little chance of unifying the Islamic world, much less creating a super-state which can challenge the United States. It is hard to imagine, for instance, the benighted Afghan Mullah Mohammed Omar, whom Osama bin Laden considered the paragon of an Islamic leader, ruling a modern, powerful state which could challenge the West. It is equally hard to imagine that Indonesians, Bangladeshi, Indians, Afghans, Iranians, Turks, Kurds, Chechen, Uzbeks, and others would accept an Arab-dominated super state, or that Arabs would accept a caliphate ruled by one of these other nationalities. To the extent that we can glean any sort of political program or plan from the Islamic extremists, it is a recipe for a failed state. The "new caliphate" is, like the medieval European idea of "Christendom," a fantasy, clung to by both some Islamic extremists and some Americans. It is a rhetorical and ideological device, not a realistic strategic objective. To build American strategy on the delusions of our opponents rather than their capabilities is a mistake. To distort al Qaeda into the type of enemy we know and understand—a Hitler, Stalin, or Saddam Hussein who can be defeated by war—may be emotionally appealing, but it does not reflect reality. And by pretending that the threat from Islamic extremists is something it is not, we are less able to deal with the threat that it is.

    Today we portray the conflict with violent Islamic extremists it as war but have not put the United States on a war footing. There has been little call for sacrifice by the American people. While the “war on terror” is now second in cost only to World War II, there is no rationing, no war-related tax increases, and no military draft. The costs have either been deferred by the combination of tax cuts and deficit spending, muted by the narrow range of American society which provides the bulk of the U.S. military, or so abstract that they matter little to the public (for instance, most Americans are unconcerned with constrictions of personal privacy because they feel that since they are not involved with terrorism, the constrictions do not affect them).

    This dissonance between the rhetoric of war and the reality of sustaining the nation on a non-war footing creates confusion and undercuts the effectiveness of American strategy. Even Americans who would like to contribute to the effort have little idea of how to do so. This dissonance has international dimensions as well. Many of America’s partners, particularly the Europeans, do not consider war the appropriate or most effective response to Islamic extremism. Most partner states do not believe terror is an enemy that can be defeated in war or is amenable to military force. The result is a maelstrom of mutual frustration. Americans become frustrated with partners and friends who critique our actions and refuse support during what we see as a time of war. The partners are frustrated by what they see as the American desire to resolve a problem not amenable to military force via military force, and to demand acquiescence. So long as the United States assumes the conflict with terror and violent Islamic extremism is a war and key partners do not, this dissonance can only increase.

    In the early days of the “war on terror” Michael Howard warned:

    ...to use, or rather the misuse the term “war” is not simply a matter of legality or pedantic semantics. It has deeper and more dangerous consequences. To declare that one is at war is immediately to create a war psychosis that may be totally counterproductive for the objective being sought. It arouses an immediate expectation, and demand, for spectacular military action against some easily identifiable adversary, preferably a hostile state—action leading to decisive results.

    The war against Iraq is a perfect illustration. No one thought that removing Saddam Hussein would deal a serious blow to the transnational terrorist network which attacked the United States on September 11. But because we portrayed the conflict as war, we were compelled to undertake warlike actions. Saddam Hussein was not the most dangerous opponent the United States faced, but he was the one who looked the most like our traditional image of an enemy. There is an old saying that when all one has is a hammer, every problem begins to look like a nail. Saddam Hussein was an annoying and convenient nail.

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    [continued]

    The decision to go to war should be based on whether war is the strategically appropriate response to a threat or challenge. A state of war is characterized by strategic focus (every other issue pales in comparison), an emphasis on the military element of national power, and a quest to impose the desired strategic outcome by imposing one’s will on an enemy by force. Violent Islamic extremism, although very dangerous, is not amenable to resolution by military action. Those who argue today that the United States should, in fact, go on a war footing fail to explain exactly how a more militaristic approach to the conflict with Islamic extremism will lead to strategic success. What, exactly, will we defeat on the battlefield? To transcend this paralysis, we must find some way to indicate our seriousness, sustain public attention, and focus our efforts on our extremist enemies without portraying what is not a war as war...

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    I will add this to Steve's remarks: until recently, Commonwealth Doctrine (to the extent that it formally existed, which was somewhat scant until more recent years) tended to regard Military Operations dealing with Terrorism and Partisan Warfare/COIN and their ilk as forms of "Aid to the Civil Power". As people here well know, that meant that the Military often conducted its operations directly under civilian operational or even tactical control; cooperation and coordination between the Police/Security Forces/Intelligence Services and the Military was essential and took some time to work out. That said, the term "War" was certainly applied, if loosely, to many of these operations.


    Back to the Principles of War: This is Robert S. Frost's piece written at SSI in 1999, "The Growing Imperative to Adopt 'Flexibility' as a American Principle of War". Presumably many people here have already read it, but I'm posting it here as much for its lists (on Page 6) of different Armies' Principles, and for Wilf's recommendation to consider Leonhard's Principles (Page 10):

    http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute...y/flexblty.pdf

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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    [continued]....A state of war is characterized by strategic focus (every other issue pales in comparison)..To transcend this paralysis, we must find some way to indicate our seriousness, sustain public attention, and focus our efforts on our extremist enemies without portraying what is not a war as war...
    Now I understand why you did not like my "Eating Soup with a Spoon" argument. Because in it i was arguing for exactly the opposite of what you say in this posting as extracted from your forthcoming book.

    On one hand your argument makes supreme sense to me, especially as it relates to policy. However, on the other hand, it seems to me to be an abstracted argument from reality. And however well you argue this, the reality on the ground in Iraq now is that it is war. I dont see how you can neatly separate the different levels of war and say well ok at the tactical level yes it might be but at the stategic level it would not. Clausewitz, I think, would be rolling over in his grave in response to this proposition; but then again as you have commented in another post you never have had much use for St Carl as a strategist. Good point, but you misunderstand him since he did not write a book that was fundamentally about strategy but a book that was fundamentally about the nature of war, of which strategy was a component.

    And the nature of war and understanding it as it exists today is why i used the "Principles" piece as a mechanism to get at it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Norfolk View Post
    I will add this to Steve's remarks: until recently, Commonwealth Doctrine (to the extent that it formally existed, which was somewhat scant until more recent years) tended to regard Military Operations dealing with Terrorism and Partisan Warfare/COIN and their ilk as forms of "Aid to the Civil Power". As people here well know, that meant that the Military often conducted its operations directly under civilian operational or even tactical control; cooperation and coordination between the Police/Security Forces/Intelligence Services and the Military was essential and took some time to work out. That said, the term "War" was certainly applied, if loosely, to many of these operations.


    Back to the Principles of War: This is Robert S. Frost's piece written at SSI in 1999, "The Growing Imperative to Adopt 'Flexibility' as a American Principle of War". Presumably many people here have already read it, but I'm posting it here as much for its lists (on Page 6) of different Armies' Principles, and for Wilf's recommendation to consider Leonhard's Principles (Page 10):

    http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute...y/flexblty.pdf
    Hmmm. I'd plumb forgotten about that study.

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    Try this one. Defeating A Cause: Anatomy Of Defeat For Conflicts Involving Non-Nation States.

    http://cgsc.cdmhost.com/cgi-bin/show...h=%22Defeating A Cause%22

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    Default What is your definition of surprise? I suspect

    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    1. Surprise - what is your definition of surprise?
    our definitions in a military context are quite similar. Simply in my view it means doing the unexpected and can be anything from a withdrawal to a no-firearms infiltration by small teams to an Inchon Landing and most everything in between. The choices are only limited by ones imagination and initiative...

    2. Local dominance - so what distribution?
    Strange question, METT-T applies as always -- not trying to be doctrinaire because I'm certainly not that but ask a question, get an answer.

    3. Agility - do you mean the ability to change direction quickly?
    Uh, no. That's only a relatively small part of the agility quotient and a rather silly one to cite i'd think. I mean the mental flexibility, equipment flexibility and organizational flexibility to respond quickly to enemy actions taken, hopefully, in response to own actions that precipitated the situation at hand..

    4. Initiative - initiate means to start, so why is starting something a principle?
    Two nations divided by a common language . No, I mean to foster and encourage initiative on the part of subordinates and units and, tactically and operationally (and far more importantly), to always seek to be the initiator of actions rather than to respond to the opponents actions. If you don't think that's important, we can disagree on the value.

    The ability to think and to act in the absence of orders or when faced with an unusual situation. It also reinforces Agility and Surprise

    5. Simplicity - meaning only do something simple? Comparative to what?
    Avoid complex plans, the more complexity, the more openings for failure. Sometimes complexity is required but in my experience, that's quite rare.

    6. Objective - what about freedom of action?
    I'm easy, change it to 'goal' or 'aim.' Freedom of action is a given if initiative is fostered and encouraged. The issue is to remain focused on the purpose and destination of the operation.

    7. Execution - meaning what?
    Kill the guilty? Or the process actually followed as opposed to the planned course in achieving the goal or aim. Or you could reverse paraphrase this: ""I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!""

    8. Economy of force - relative to what and meaning what?
    Don't apply "overwhelming force." Use what's needed to do the job. Why send five men on a patrol when three are adequate -- or, even better, a single Scout can do the job. Why insist on a coordinated two Brigade attack when a Reinforced Battalion infiltration will do a better job? No sense risking more casualties than necessary. There are other considerations but that's one.

    9. Security - what about activity?
    Security means watch your rear and practice sensible OpSec for the level of force involved. I have no earthly idea what you mean by "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?
    For the impossibly brilliant, such a list is a total waste of time; for the pedestrian it gives a simple list of ideas to consider in the conduct of operations. It is a framework, no more, for the application of force in war. If one dwells at Platoon level, it's a totally unnecessary list; at higher echelons, it may have some utility for many, little for a few. It is admittedly too long, it can be refined down to five. Which five?

    The challenges to each principle are derived from Leonhard.
    Have not read it. Given this quote Amazon says is therein:
    "We still persist in studying a type of warfare that no longer exists and that we shall never fight again." Roger Trinquier, Modern Warfare, 1961.
    I probably won't bother. People have been telling me that war as we knew it is gone forever since the late 40s; been to three Wars, two county fairs and a goat roping since then and war is pretty much war. I heard there'll never be another amphibious landing -- then I went to Inchon, been downhill on that score ever since. I've heard about the demise of Parachute troops and the death of the Tank. Right...

    Principles of War are like principles of living, some need them, some don't. Having a sensible set available may do some good and is unlikely to do much harm.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Good ponts -- But...

    Quote Originally Posted by Global Scout View Post
    I love these conversations where those indoctrinated at CGSC in pseudo-intellectual theories of war rally around Clausewitz and Army doctrine that frequently isn’t worth the paper it is written on. Anyone who dares questions this sacred doctrine is subject to heresy trails and is excommunicated. Of course there is no obligation on the true believers’ part to justify their hypotheses. I argue these so called “principles” are not based on objective observation, but simply faith and indoctrination.
    True in many respects. Too true, in fact and that needs to be changed. however, for the here and now, it whiles away a rainy day.

    For the real world, flexibility and how to think need a lot of emphasis.
    . . .

    1. Mass is no longer required to prevail at the tactical, operational or strategic levels. Whether we call it a level of war (LIC, MIC, or HIC), 4GW (I don’t like the term either), or something else, desired effects can be achieved without mass. Al Qaeda achieved an impressive tactical/strategic short to mid-term victory on 9/11 without the use of mass. Numerous insurgents have achieved their desired end state using infiltration and selected acts of terror without the use of mass. With our superior training and technology we can achieve tactical and operational success without mass also. We didn’t need mass for our Air Force to conduct a raid on Libya. We didn’t need mass to prepare to drop a nuclear weapon on Moscow if our other forms of defense didn’t work. Of course I have seen mass defined at least five different ways in an attempt to force this principle to fit to various scenarios. I have seen more time wasted in planning groups trying to defend this nonsense than actually determining what needs to be done. We need a Martin Luther in the U.S. Army to formalize the divide that I know exists between those who are trying to determine how to win, and those who are simply trying to defend their traditional education. Traditionalists should be forced to defend themselves with logical arguments instead of faith based arguments.
    Agreed; moderation and balance in all things is good...

    But Mass does need to go.

    2. Surprise is not “always” required, especially if you have absolute advantage (that doesn’t mean mass). At the tactical level surprise is generally desired, but at the strategic level we may very well want to advertise our intent (threaten our foes to comply and if they don’t, then follow through, e.g. weapons inspections in Iraq). The utility of surprise for COIN operations is generally limited to the tactical level.
    Also true. Surprise will likely be achieved less often than not -- but it should generally be sought at the Tactical level, less so at operational and Strategic levels. I'd add that in seeking surprise at any level, a very realistic assessment needs to be made on the prospects of achieving it -- if the answer is less than 75% assurance (on a good WAG and some nervous souls or situations call for an even higher assurance), then don't try it -- a failed surprise can turn into a real disaster.

    The list goes on, each principle can be challenged, which in effect means it is not a principle. Sometimes they apply, and sometimes they don’t, which really makes me wonder what the “so what” factor is. Are these supposed to be criteria we use to evaluate courses of action? How do they help the war fighter? Furthermore, how can we simply assume that these so called principles of war apply to COIN? Conventional wars are focused on an enemy’s military and irregular conflicts are focused on the population. The two types of conflicts are not the same. These principles were developed for conventional conflicts between peer competitors. These principles made perfect sense for the type of war they were designed for, but they make little sense today.
    Some people like "principles" some don't. They mainly serve as a teaching vehicle; the bad part of that as you point out is that some then hew to them as gospel. Most people don't do that. Some folks can take them and realize what they are and adapt them to any situation, some don't want to bother. What works should be the determinant. I rarely use any of my set of needle files but they are handy when I need them so I ain't throwing 'em away.

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    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    I've followed this thread for a while now and feel the urge to chime in. If Gian's intent was to get COIN true-believers to recognize that warfare includes much more than just counter-insurgency operations, then I suspect a few more of the 9 principles need to be amended in order to get their attention. However, I predict that such an effort will be to no avail True believers tend not pay the right kind of attention when others lampoon their sacred cows. They usually just become angry and defensive.

    As to the point of having principles of war, I submit that they have two functions:
    (1) Folks use them to conduct post mortems (sometimes know as after action reviews or campaign studies) on military operations or battles. The goal in this case is to explain a commander's success or failure by showing how well or poorly the principles were applied in the operation under study.
    (2) Other folks (those whom I would call ops planners) use them as a check on the plans that they build. That is, they see how well the plan conforms to the principles of war. The more principles they get right, the higher the likelihood that those folks in group 1 above wil consider the operation a success.

    For planners, as Ken notes in the quotations that follow, the principles may or may not be necessary. What will be necessary is the METT-TC analysis (I know Ken doesn't hold much truck with including civilians in the planning process, but they really do impact on operations and must be planned for.)
    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    .For the impossibly brilliant, such a list is a total waste of time; for the pedestrian it gives a simple list of ideas to consider in the conduct of operations. It is a framework, no more, for the application of force in war. If one dwells at Platoon level, it's a totally unnecessary list; at higher echelons, it may have some utility for many, little for a few. It is admittedly too long, it can be refined down to five. Which five?

    Principles of War are like principles of living, some need them, some don't. Having a sensible set available may do some good and is unlikely to do much harm.
    METT-TC, by the way sets the context that Wilf and Global Scout were looking for in their respective posts. I suspect that METT-T also could be used to come up with Ken's 5 principle list (with suitable renaming and some creative redescriptions): Mission=objective; time=surprise; security (Ken's agility)=troops available; enemy=security; and terrain and weather=initiative)

    On a separate note, here's an anecdote related to Ken's comment about the order of presentation of the principles. When I learned them from an Armor officer in ROTC, he lead off with Maneuver; an artillery officer who taught them in OBC started with Mass while the infantry-branched tactics guru led off with Offensive.
    My personal mnemonic sort goes like this: maneuver, objective, surprise, simplicity, mass, offensive, security, unity of command, economy of force. Part of the arrangement puts what I consider the key components to building a plan that is likely to succeed as the first four items, the remaining 5 are also important, but their relative im[portance is much more dependent on METT-TC, IMHO. They are arranged in order simply to remember them as MOUSE.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wm View Post
    ...
    On a separate note, here's an anecdote related to Ken's comment about the order of presentation of the principles. When I learned them from an Armor officer in ROTC, he lead off with Maneuver; an artillery officer who taught them in OBC started with Mass while the infantry-branched tactics guru led off with Offensive.
    My personal mnemonic sort goes like this: maneuver, objective, surprise, simplicity, mass, offensive, security, unity of command, economy of force. Part of the arrangement puts what I consider the key components to building a plan that is likely to succeed as the first four items, the remaining 5 are also important, but their relative im[portance is much more dependent on METT-TC, IMHO. They are arranged in order simply to remember them as MOUSE.
    include a quote from from a Dinosaur.

    I think it's particularly good that you included the paragraph of yours I quote above. Being old, I'd truly forgotten that my early days also included a different order depending on who was spouting the principles. The thing that was pounded in my head was that the order was irrelevant, apply them to the situation at hand and you may not need all of them. Perhaps we've gotten away from that.

    That triggered another thought. All forms of warfare have their devotees, all our little Mafias (and I've belonged to a couple) make it entirely too easy to develop mantras that become dogma. Take the people bit. I don't really have an objection to including the 'C' -- just a reactionary move objecting to change for change's sake -- and I acknowledge that 'C' is not such a change, it does have a place. Sometimes I just say stuff to see if everyone's awake...

    However, that let me recall I had before 1960 been informed that COIN did required a focus on people. Then, after working in three Insurgencies and a couple of IW operations that were not quite insurgencies in the strictest sense, I realized two things that occurred in all of those.

    1. The vast majority of the people just wanted all those involved in the actual conflict of force to just go away and leave them alone. Period.

    2. If you are a foreigner, particularly if there is a large cultural and /or racial gap, they are not ever going to give you their hearts and minds and are not going to trust their own folks who are on your side.

    Get too wrapped around the people bit and you'll expect things you'll never see. Yes, the focus is on the people rather than on the enemy forces but it's entirely too easy to determine that a specific pattern of operation is the holy grail. I doubt that any one size fits all is going to adapt totally to all situations and the tendency to adopt a mantra and make it a dogma exists.

    All that's required to avoid that is a little initiative and mental agility.

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    ...Get too wrapped around the people bit and you'll expect things you'll never see. Yes, the focus is on the people rather than on the enemy forces but it's entirely too easy to determine that a specific pattern of operation is the holy grail. I doubt that any one size fits all is going to adapt totally to all situations and the tendency to adopt a mantra and make it a dogma exists.
    I find Ken's point here exceptionally insightful. This goes along with what i have been arguing about dogmatism today in the American Army with the dominance of Coin. The notion of the people as the center of gravity and the Principle--turned law--turned rule to "protect the people" has become dogmatic and keeps us from being creative. Generally yes in Coin the people should be the focus, but if we make that the rule all of the time then we might find ourselves comitting lots of combat brigades to whatever little problem confronts us because we believe we have to go in and "protect the people."

    And WM your description of why i wrote the thing is correct:

    If Gian's intent was to get COIN true-believers to recognize that warfare includes much more than just counter-insurgency operations, then I suspect a few more of the 9 principles need to be amended in order to get their attention.
    That is what i was trying to explore with the piece; If we are dominated by Coin in the American Army and those true believers are not listening to Ken White et al and think Coin is the wave of the future and the only kinds of wars we will be fighting then lets just lay it on the line and start taking away some of the Principles and replacing them with Coin specific ones. That is why in the piece i limited myself to the original nine so to put two new ones in i would have to take two of the old ones out.

    gian

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    Quote Originally Posted by Norfolk View Post
    I will add this to Steve's remarks: until recently, Commonwealth Doctrine (to the extent that it formally existed, which was somewhat scant until more recent years) tended to regard Military Operations dealing with Terrorism and Partisan Warfare/COIN and their ilk as forms of "Aid to the Civil Power". As people here well know, that meant that the Military often conducted its operations directly under civilian operational or even tactical control; cooperation and coordination between the Police/Security Forces/Intelligence Services and the Military was essential and took some time to work out. That said, the term "War" was certainly applied, if loosely, to many of these operations.

    Just curious, what was the success rate for operations conducted under this system?

    On a seperate note, what ever happen to the principles of MOOTW (I always loved the way that word sounded ... MOOOO-TWAAAH!)
    Some of them, Restraint, Perseverance, and Legitimacy made it into the new Joint Principles.
    Last edited by TheCurmudgeon; 12-16-2007 at 10:35 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    ... On a seperate note, what ever happen to the principles of MOOTW (I always loved the way that word sounded ... MOOOO-TWAAAH!)
    ... OOTW and LIC too. While not principles, I wrote / listed / extrated about General Zinni's considerations for MOOTW in 2003. I posted this on the Urban Operations Journal as we were on the eve of OIF.

    ... They are presented here as helpful guidelines on winning the peace before, during, and after the dust settles in Baghdad and other Iraqi urban areas.

    • Each operation is unique. We must be careful what lessons we learn from a single experience.


    • Each operation has two key aspects - the degree of complexity of the operation and the degree of consent of the involved parties and the international community for the operation.


    • The earlier the involvement, the better the chance for success.


    • Start planning as early as possible, include everyone in the planning process.


    • Make as thorough an assessment as possible before deployment.


    • Conduct a thorough mission analysis, determine the centers of gravity, end state, commander's intent, measures of effectiveness, exit strategy, and the estimated duration of the operation.


    • Stay focused on the mission. Line up military tasks with political objectives. Avoid mission creep and allow for mission shifts. A mission shift is a conscious decision, made by political leadership in consultation with the military commander, responding to a changing situation.


    • Centralize planning and decentralize execution of the operation. This allows subordinate commanders to make appropriate adjustments to meet their individual situation or rapidly changing conditions.


    • Coordinate everything with everybody. Establish coordination mechanisms that include political, military, nongovernmental organizations, and the interested parties.


    • Know the culture and the issues. We must know who the decision-makers are. We must know how the involved parties think. We cannot impose our cultural values on people with their own culture.


    • Start or restore key institutions as early as possible.


    • Don't lose the initiative and momentum.


    • Don't make unnecessary enemies. If you do, don't treat them gently. Avoid mindsets or words that might come back to haunt you.


    • Seek unity of effort and unity of command. Create the fewest possible seams between organizations and involved parties.


    • Open a dialogue with everyone. Establish a forum for each of the involved parties.


    • Encourage innovation and nontraditional responses.


    • Personalities are often more important than processes. You need the right people in the right places.


    • Be careful whom you empower. Think carefully about who you invite to participate, use as a go-between, or enter into contracts with since you are giving them influence in the process.


    • Decide on the image you want to portray and keep focused on it. Whatever the image; humanitarian or firm, but well-intentioned agent of change; ensure your troops are aware of it so they can conduct themselves accordingly.


    • Centralize information management. Ensure that your public affairs and psychological operations are coordinated, accurate and consistent.


    • Seek compatibility in all operations; cultural and political compatibility and military interoperability are crucial to success. The interests, cultures, capabilities, and motivations of all parties may not be uniform; but they cannot be allowed to work against one another.


    • Senior commanders and their staffs need the most education and training in nontraditional roles. The troops need awareness and understanding of their roles. The commander and the staff need to develop and apply new skills, such as negotiating, supporting humanitarian organizations effectively and appropriately, and building coordinating agencies with humanitarian goals.


    General Zinni offers basic, common-sense guidelines here. Unfortunately, many of these guidelines are left behind at our military think-tanks and schoolhouses once the first round goes downrange. We are reaching critical mass and can ill-afford to relearn lessons from such places as Vietnam, Somalia, Haiti, and elsewhere. It is time to start winning wars instead of battles - winning hearts and minds instead of temporary respite. With that we will win the peace.
    Last edited by SWJED; 12-16-2007 at 10:36 PM.

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    I remember reading articles about this subject 30 years ago when I was in college. They made me think the whole thing was complex beyond human understanding until I read the following:

    'Many years ago, as a cadet hoping someday to be an officer, I was poring over "The principles of war" listed in the Old Field Service Regulations, when the Sergeant-Major came upon me. He surveyed me with kindly amusement "Don't bother your head about all them things me lad." he said "There's only one principle of war and that's this. Hit the other fellow as quick as you can and as hard as you can, where it hurts him most, when he ain't looking." -Field-Marshall Sir William Slim'

    That is the most sensible thing about the subject I ever read.

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    Larry Cable used to delight CGSC students with his comment on MOO TWAAA, "Sounds like a cow going out of both ends."

    Cheers

    JohnT

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    Quote Originally Posted by John T. Fishel View Post
    Larry Cable used to delight CGSC students with his comment on MOO TWAAA, "Sounds like a cow going out of both ends."

    Cheers

    JohnT
    Larry was also the first person that I ever heard refer to peacekeeping as "armed social work." Don't know if he invented it but I guess it's possible since he apparently invented his whole life story.

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    If you are a foreigner, particularly if there is a large cultural and /or racial gap, they are not ever going to give you their hearts and minds and are not going to trust their own folks who are on your side.
    Having been involved in a few COINs I respectfully disagree; however, I agree that the many in the American military are far from the ideal individuals to execute COIN. Too many of our Soldiers and officers are arrogant and assuming, and unwilling to "really" listen to the locals, thus too quick to burn bridges with the indigenous personnel in whatever country they manage to put boots on the ground in. Special Forces is one of the only units that is actually trained to establish and maintain rapport with the locals, and trust is absolutely essential (it takes time to develop and constant work to maintain it). Unfortunately we too have started to lose that trait since 9/11, since everyone, including SF wants to play whack-a-mole and engage in bankrupt concepts like network targeting.

    Get too wrapped around the people bit and you'll expect things you'll never see. Yes, the focus is on the people rather than on the enemy forces but it's entirely too easy to determine that a specific pattern of operation is the holy grail. I doubt that any one size fits all is going to adapt totally to all situations and the tendency to adopt a mantra and make it a dogma exists.
    Some people, I believe Kilcullen is one, say there are two strategies in COIN. One is enemy focused, and it only works when the insurgency is in the incipient phase. The other one is population focused and it has historically had the highest success rate. I would argue that neither of these strategies work unilaterally, but rather is using a combination of carrots and sticks to influence the population to act a certain way. The key is getting the population to support you (not like you), so you need to find ways to organize them, not simply build schools and assorted other eye wash. The center of gravity is not the population, because regardless of what Mao stated (we have another Clausewitz problem, as many think all insurgents have to follow Mao's tentants) about a fish swiming in a sea of people (support). I can support an insurgency without popular support from the locals, especially if I'm content to conduct strictly terrorist type activities. On the other hand, I will have a hard time forming large maneuver forces from the local population without some degree of moral/popular support. To weed the insurgents out you have to some degree of support from the population to get the required intelligence, and you have to convince them that your objectives are in their best interests (hearts) and that you are going to win, not the insurgents (minds), which will stem the flow of support to the insurgents from inside the country. This doesn't happen overnight, you have to have operational patience, because X doesn't equal Y, rather X equals a wide range of potential responses, so you have to be flexible, but remain focused on the population to get to the enemy. I think the new COIN doctrine allows this, but that doesn't mean it being practiced that way. Instead some simply want to build schools and naively assume they're having the desired effect.

    I for one don't think that COIN is sole fight of the future, but rather we still face grave threats (in the future) of state versus state conflicts for access to vital resources. The persistant threat of state versus state conflict is why many Army leaders didn't want to see the Army involved in COIN again after Vietnam, because it would distract the Army at many levels from maintaining its warfighting capability. While that argument is true (look at where we're at today), it was also illogical to assume that we could avoid COIN altogether. I think we are once again at the Fulda Gap crux, but instead of the gap its COIN. During many of the Cold War years the focus of the Army was defeating Soviet Maneuver forces in Europe, everything else was a distant second priority. Reasoned analysis told us that was the gravest threat to our security at the time. Now we think the gravest threat to our security is transnational terrorism (I would argue this isn't reasoned analysis at all, but regardless it is where we are at now), and COIN is the response, everything else is a distant second priority.

    As always we need to maintain the capability to do both. I still generally agree with GEN Shinseki when he said something along the lines of we can lose a COIN and still survive, but we cannot survive losing a conventional war. I think that argument is still valid, and we have to accept that some insurgencies can't be won without an unreasonable amount of dollars and blood, because the HN government is simply inept. In those cases we have the option of saying enough, we tried to help you.

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    Hi Global Scout, Speaking of Special Forces there was an outline I was given (1973) that I don't have anymore from the JFK school of Special Warefare called the "Seven Steps From Hell" or something like that. It outlined the 7 steps or principles to be used in COIN warfare has anybody ever heard of it? It was a pretty easy read and easy to follow. If anyone has or knows where to get it, it might be interesting to post it. The title is the best I remember it and it could be slightly differant but seven steps was in the title somewhere.

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