Results 1 to 20 of 52

Thread: Indirect and Direct components to strategy for the Long War

Hybrid View

Previous Post Previous Post   Next Post Next Post
  1. #1
    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Fort Leavenworth, KS
    Posts
    1,512

    Default Indirect and Direct components to strategy for the Long War

    Some time ago I began to consider how our various efforts in the Long War are linked. Many on the SWC have slogged through this with me on threads such as the “Stability Operations vs. IW”, and many other threads in which we try to establish the linkages between Strategy to Operations to Tactics, or in which we consider policy.

    Part of what a “strategist” (and I use the term loosely!) tries to do is to understand and relate the writing, speeches and statements of our elected and appointed officials to our efforts – or how our policy objectives get implemented into some type of action to realize them. Army strategists are taught the Ends, Ways & Means formula, but they are also taught to consider other perspectives on strategy such as if a strategy is complete, feasible, acceptable, and suitable. This is important, because the strategist must consider if the actions or “ways” to achieve the “ends” are within the bounds of our strategic culture, if they do more harm then good, if they are suitable in terms of balancing our foreign policy goals with our ability to sustain domestic will, are the ways supported by the means, etc.? These are all important questions when it comes to devising strategy. A SWC member who has written a great deal about this is Dr. Steve Metz.

    At the last SWC get together her at Leavenworth, SWC member “Hacksaw” brought up an interesting point. He posited we were on the “Strategic Defensive” (and you guys thought all we did at the non-virtual get togethers was drink beer!). I chewed on that yesterday, as I thought it provided me an angle I had not considered. He’d also referenced Clausewitz as having stated that the “Defense is the stronger form of warfare” – which also was worth chewing on. While after thinking and talking about it some more, I don't agree with Hacksaw in total, but I do think there is there is merit to the notion of the rationale for pursuing aspects of an indirect approach which coincide with the scale of our policy objectives, and the means available to pursue them . A related discussion was why one goes on the defensive – e.g. because they have momentarily culminated, or in order to be decisive in other theaters or Lines of Operation. This is probably where I disagree with the idea of a strategic defensive – I think a case can be made that BPC (Building Partner Capacity) as an indirect approach is more suitable to the nature of countering instability and insurgencies which take root there, then a direct approach, put more simply, BPC may be more suitable to the nature of the larger war, and offer more opportunity to seize and retain the initiative then a direct, and purely military approach. BPC has some warts when we start to look at against the criteria I’d mentioned for evaluating ways, e.g. it takes time, and sustained political commitment (commitment which is effected by domestic will among other things) - but it may be a more feasible COA given the nature of the enemy and the conditions which he may advantage himself to.

    This is not to say we are not capable of, nor should we have elements of "direct" strategy where possible, and where suitable, just that we don't have the resources to be decisive everywhere. Nor does the subjective nature of this war and the nature of our objectives support a purely military strategy. The challenge I’ve been working through is trying to work through the inter-relationships between a “direct approach” and an “Indirect Approach”, and frame the scope of BPC, so I can get an idea of some of the contingent ideas, and the interdependencies which effect the operationalization of these ideas. This is related to another project I’m working on which is a Case Study on SFA (Security Force Assistance) to show the complexity and friction of conducting BPC activities while conducting simultaneous combat operations (incidentally this also gets to the highlighted change in U.S. Army Doctrine as articulated by FM 3-0). However, this idea of grand strategy that employs all the elements of national power in the Long War, and across the breadth of the places where stability is challenged is tough to get our arms around, particularly when it comes to synchronizing and deconflicting efforts on the ground to achieve unity of effort. That is part of the challenge, but so is framing the context in which they might be employed to achieve a purpose beyond just saying we need more of "X" and less of "Y".

    Here is the link to the 5 slides I’m using as a framework. Slide 1 speaks specifically to SFA Scope. Slide 2 considers the “Indirect” component of a larger strategy. Slide 3 is about operationalizing an Indirect Strategy. Slide 4 shows how an Indirect component works with a Direct component to achieve the greater political end. Slide 5 talks about why we might have an Indirect component. Caution, these ends, ways and means are not directly drawn from existing documents, and are not policy – they are theory, that reflects some of our actions and efforts, discussions and dialogue – and most importantly they are up for debate!

    My reason for posting here is as usual not to present something as complete and final, but to foster intelligent discussion abut the way forward and what are the implications associated with ideas and actions. We’ve got an intelligent CoP here on the SWJ and SWC, it is diverse and articulate, and we should always leverage its strength to inform the greater community and benefit from the experiences and ideas of the community. I’d encourage our community to interact.

    Best Regards, Rob
    Last edited by Rob Thornton; 03-13-2008 at 02:37 AM. Reason: realized I'd cut some sentences off in the original blog and post.

  2. #2
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Posts
    4,818

    Default

    Hi Rob, I think there is something wrong with slide 3...it's like it's not all there or something.

  3. #3
    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Fort Leavenworth, KS
    Posts
    1,512

    Default

    Slap, you have to run it in presentation form, or change the scale - just the way I did it up. Regards, Rob

  4. #4
    Council Member marct's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Ottawa, Canada
    Posts
    3,682

    Default

    Rob, interesting set of slides and I'm going to have to think about it for a bit.

    Just off the top of my head, however, I think that while the defensive may be the stronger position in physical combat, I don't think it is in symbolic conflict. I think that it is imperative to say what "we" (broadly construed) stand for, not just what "we" stand against. And, speaking as a Canadian, for me that doesn't really include U.S. interests as a core component (Canadian interests are another matter ). The point I am trying to make is that the ideology / symbology - what we stand for - must transcend any individual national interest.

    I'm not trying to say that national interest should be totally abrogated - it will clearly, and should clearly, play a role but, on the other hand, it strikes me that it cannot be the core of those values. This core has to be something that transcends individual national interests or there will always be a leverage point for our enemies to attack us. By way of example, why should Canada trust US interests? At one point in time, the US owned over 70% of our businesses, systematically manipulated our economy and directly manipulated our political process (if anyone wants the references, I can supply them).

    This, BTW, is the main argument of the anti-globalization movement - in a nutshell, the argument is that US corporations are systematically engaged in economic warfare against the rest of the planet, and their own population, and they have taken control of the US federal government. There is enough historical data regarding the actions of US corporations to make this appear valid and, I'll note, having Tom Barnett saying that the conflicts in the next century will center on bringing the 3rd world into the global system don't really reduce the paranoia when globalization is being preached as in the US National Interest !

    Please note that I am not saying that I agree with this argument. What I am saying is that it is plausible and is a weak point in any international coalition that has been exploited again and again. That's why I am saying that a set of statements about what we stand for must transcend national interest.

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

  5. #5
    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Fort Leavenworth, KS
    Posts
    1,512

    Default

    Hi Marc,
    I think you bring up some important points that must be considered in regards to devising ends. I've been thinking some lately about the effects of globalization. I'd agree with the point many have made about globalization having been a process that has been around for awhile, and one in which its influence has been pushed or retarded at times by events such as war, pestilence, commercial interests, etc. I think when we see it at its high marks is when multiple factors come into play - technology, politics, economics, culture, etc. When these factors converge in different ways it creates instability. Some of it is present on the scene, some of it is imported (or exported from elsewhere to the scene). Technology is a big enabler for importation and exportation. Global communications of ideas, people, services, goods, emotions etc. at the speeds we have achieved has made it possible to combine more of the factors, faster and with greater weight then we've seen before. State governments responsible for maintaining some form of order have a hard time keeping up - the commercial, public and private capabilities have out paced the capabilities of many governments to keep up. This is perhaps (and I'm intellectually wandering here) because their political systems were never able to accommodate such rapid change. Even in our system, arguably a pretty flexible and accommodating one by most standards, capability gaps might be emerging, and certainly capacity gaps are emerging just based on the sheer volume and public access we build into our own systems as part of our culture and political system.

    I think your point about International "buy-in" is also important and brings up a kind of paradox that strategists must work through. On the one hand, the means being allocated toward FP ends must be translated into something that accommodates domestic concern in our system (or it must be of such a scale that flys below the radar), on the other given the nature of Friedman's and other's "inter-conectedness", the ends must also make some accommodation for the needs and concerns of partners. This I think is a tough balance, and may well explain why identifying vital interests, and devising political ends with regard to grand strategy is so tough. I think every state realizes that, and is certainly rationale for why Diplomacy and Information are so key at both the level where states discuss policy, but also increasingly at the level where groups and individuals who effect domestic policy interact. Even the conversations we have here have elements of the "D" and the "I" - considering the diversity and connectedness of the SWC and the larger number of folks who "tune in".
    I'll come back to this later, but need to go for morning run.
    Best, Rob

  6. #6
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Maryland
    Posts
    223

    Default Possibly acpocryphal anecdote follows

    Will Rogers was asked how he would defeat the Nazi U-boat menace. "Simple", he said, "just raise the temperature of the Atlantic Ocean to the boiling point." The reporter agreed this would destroy all the enemy submarines, but wondered how Will would heat up the ocean. With his famous self-deprecating grin, Will replied, "I'm a concept man, not a detail guy."

    It is hard to find anything objectionable in your indirect approach. In some ways it is a larger version of classic COIN strategy - dry up the sea that the insurgent fish swim in and they will be, at the least, inconvenienced. And while we have been doing some version of this for decades, our modern system of combatant commands should facilitate a measured, consistent, long-term approach to applying such a strategy. Finally, world-wide stability in the most basic sense - i.e., the absence of violence in normal civil society - is a goal only various lunatic fringes would oppose.

    A couple of questions arise.

    First, I wonder if there is a direct link between failed or vulnerable states and terrorism. Taking a long view, some of the most persistent, dangerous terrorist movements arise from stable, powerful, even enlightened states. Japan, Spain, Germany, and the UK have all generated significant home-grown terrorist threats. No one can accuse Saudi Arabia of being enlightened or, in most senses, modern, but it does have a pervasive and stable security apparatus. Yet as a society it supplied money, leadership, organization, motivation, and recruits to our current set of foes. I guess there is some harm done and mischief generated in places like the Horn of Africa and parts of Central Asia, but it seems to me that their importance as training bases and sanctuaries are overblown. Terrorists (as opposed to your garden-variety insurgents) have access to sufficient training, money, and weapons within modern stable states; they don't need secret bases in some God-forsaken hellhole. In fact, I suppose, one could argue that terrorism is a peculiarly modern product of increasing stability. It is a tactic of last resort when you have no other outlet, or when your cause is so unpopular you can never gain support for it through legitimate means. Is it possible to imagine that, were Saudi Arabia a participatory democracy, Osama would be running for office rather than running for his life?

    Secondly, in your slides you show SFA as nested within larger political and economic efforts. One could argue that it would, in many areas of the developing world, be working at cross-purposes rather than supporting the other elements of national power. In essence, as presented we would be strengthening security forces in societies that are otherwise undergoing radical political, cultural, and economic changes. It seems to be a Metternichian approach to preserving order.

  7. #7
    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Fort Leavenworth, KS
    Posts
    1,512

    Default

    Hey Marc,
    One more thought occurred as I was running - with regards to an indirect component, how do you better leverage existing, and naturally occurring "means" that result from some of the factors I mentioned in the post above? For example, if technology and interconnectedness are more frequent, is it possible to apply the same philosophical tenets of "by", "with", "through" to people engaged in inter-communications? I think one of the things we miss with regard to our conception of strategic communications is that somehow all you need is to do it once, put something out there, or post a single blog, make one public appearance, etc. I think the people who engage in this medium and increasingly others as a result of access to this medium and having been affected by it, are more sophisticated - they want interaction. Being engaged, does not mean firing a few shots across the bow, the guidance should be more akin to "gain and maintain contact", or inter-act. The other part I'd go back to is what Kilcullen pitched as "matching the narrative and the action". Which I think means you more often do what you say, vs. explain what you've done after the fact. Certainly there will be times when the latter has to occur, sometimes things go very different from the expectation, and as such must be explained, sometimes the opportunity presented may be of such value it seemingly contrary action must be held against the impact on public perception(s) - but by and large I think there is room to create a narrative or policy in which our actions fall within the narrative - we just need to be very clear about our narrative, and we need to be engaged in strategic (inter) communications.

    In my view this can occur by more leaders (uniformed, government civilian, religious, academic and private sector) being more engaged with both each other, and the general public. Understanding and articulating where their interests coincide, and how there activities can be synchronized is important; convincing them that they have keen interests in promoting greater stability that coincide with their understanding of their existing interests would be a key enabler for leveraging their participation toward a level of "by, with , through" that rivals those promoting instability. Certainly there are also the more accepted and very important components of "by, with, through" as they relate to BPC, but to build capacity (and in some cases capability ) in our available means commensurate to the scale and scope of the "end", and means that help us put into action our desired, or optimal "ways", we need to explore how the enemy is leveraging existing means, and in some cases tempting us to use our own weight/strengths against ourselves (I've heard it described as "cultural judo"). Does that make sense?

    Best, Rob

  8. #8
    Council Member marct's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Ottawa, Canada
    Posts
    3,682

    Default

    Hi Rob,

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    I think you bring up some important points that must be considered in regards to devising ends.
    Thanks . One of the things that your posts in many of the recent threads has done is to make me think more heavily about the concept of "convention" (as in "conventional warfare", "Geneva convention", etc.). It has struck me that one of the key endstates we are aiming for is the acceptance, at an international level, of a series of political conventions that can be generally accepted rather than imposed. I'm still working that one through, but I have a feeling that if we want and state of lack of general conflict in the open warfare sense, that will be one of the keys.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    I've been thinking some lately about the effects of globalization. I'd agree with the point many have made about globalization having been a process that has been around for awhile, and one in which its influence has been pushed or retarded at times by events such as war, pestilence, commercial interests, etc. I think when we see it at its high marks is when multiple factors come into play - technology, politics, economics, culture, etc. When these factors converge in different ways it creates instability.
    Yeah - I tracked about 300 years of that in my dissertation looking at the interplay between technology, technique, and social forms. What I was looking at was a fairly simple question of what constellation of factors encouraged the development of bureaucratic organizations and what led to their downfall. From what I could see, it seemed to be tied into a number of different factors, but the one, crucial one was the maturation curve on productive and communicative technologies and its effects on the most satisficing format for resource distribution inside a society.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    State governments responsible for maintaining some form of order have a hard time keeping up - the commercial, public and private capabilities have out paced the capabilities of many governments to keep up. This is perhaps (and I'm intellectually wandering here) because their political systems were never able to accommodate such rapid change. Even in our system, arguably a pretty flexible and accommodating one by most standards, capability gaps might be emerging, and certainly capacity gaps are emerging just based on the sheer volume and public access we build into our own systems as part of our culture and political system.
    I think that is a key observation, Rob. All of our present political systems, at least the ones based on state power, are predicated on the concept of scarcity. But what happens when production outstrips demand? First, there is a distribution question (Marx's classic mistake that Polanyi got right). Is there a "mature" distribution system available to get the produced goods and services to where the demand is. We can already see some of the effects when the answer is yes in the service / information industry (think call centres in India and China, along with data processing, data input, etc.). If the answer is no, then you still have local scarcities and overabundances that produce a differential that allows for a classic market exchange economy to boom.

    The second observation is more political. When you have an abundance of resources and a fairly good distribution system then, in order for the classic economy to boom, you need to either open up new markets (think NAFTA, GATT, etc.) or you need to create artificial markets (e.g. monopolies and oligopolies - think about the prescription drug situation in the US) or you need to destroy some of the production to drive up prices (think about the slew of litigation regarding patent infringements, etc.). BTW, this is assuming that the "classic economy" is based on fairly short term maximizing strategies.

    On the political level, we tend to find "private" corporations acting as strong lobbyists to the political elites. You can see that in Washington today, but the same thing happened in the UK in the 1820's and 30's with the development of long distance steamboats (Headrick's The Tools of Empire does a great job of tracking this). Inevitably, "national interest" leads to an intertwining of corporate and political interests that ends up on a war footing (think about the Opium Wars with China).

    Still on the political level, we start to see some of the problems with "lag" showing up. The Brits did a really great job of dealing with their political problems in the early industrial revolution by, in part, co-opting the "best" of the rising industrialists into their class system with all the political power that implied in the 19th century. At the same time, they widened the franchise and allowed pretty much anyone to run for parliament, which co-opted most of the potential revolutionaries or, at least, established a good system for forcing them "out of the water" in COIN terms.

    In the US, your political system developed in an agrarian society with a fairly long transit time (it's why you have that wonky College of Electors system). At the time, it made perfect sense but, with the rise of railroads and the telegraph, it actually became technologically redundant. The rise of the party system, and especially its hardening into two supra-parties, made sense in the post WW I system with broadcast communications technologies. Nowadays, when interactive technologies are the norm, it just makes for a bad French bedroom farce as we see politician after politician falling to scandals. BTW, we have the same problem in parliamentary democracies but, because of the way they tend to be structured, it is more likely that you will have more than two parties which allows for the system to survive even as parties are destroyed and new ones are generated (the Social Credit Party and the Bloc Quebecoise in Canada are examples of that).

    In many ways, the political systems lead to not only the capability gap you point to but, also, a credibility gap. In many ways, democracies (and republics ), are purposefully inefficient. I suspect that parliamentary democracies are less efficient than republics as a governmental form. In part, this is because the systems were designed that way on purpose - to limit the power of the State in reference to the population; certainly that was the case in the Anglo-culture complex. Our ancestors didn't want an "efficient" government, because and "efficient" government would be able to dominate and control the populace, so our trade-off was inefficiency for individual freedom in some areas.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    I think your point about International "buy-in" is also important and brings up a kind of paradox that strategists must work through. On the one hand, the means being allocated toward FP ends must be translated into something that accommodates domestic concern in our system (or it must be of such a scale that flys below the radar), on the other given the nature of Friedman's and other's "inter-conectedness", the ends must also make some accommodation for the needs and concerns of partners. This I think is a tough balance, and may well explain why identifying vital interests, and devising political ends with regard to grand strategy is so tough.
    I totally agree with that! It is much easier for a nation to say "I want this - give it to me or else!" than to say something like "How can we [multiple nations] build a system that allows all of us to get at least some of what we want?". It's one of the reasons why it is so simple to start a revitalization or apocalyptic movement - it's simpler to destroy than create (call that the Principle of Social Entropy ).

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    I'll come back to this later, but need to go for morning run.
    Personally, I'm for more coffee - have fun on your run!

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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
  •