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Thread: Leading infantry tactics theoreticians/experts today

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Default Leading infantry tactics theoreticians/experts today

    I'm curious about who is being considered being one of let's say 20 top infantry tactics experts/theoreticians in the open domain (=some chance to find articles or books to read his/her ideas).
    I am specifically interested in the kinetic aspects when I wrote infantry, else I'd have written "PsyOps" or "MP expert".

    Any suggestions?

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    That's an excellent question. I think that much of the theory generation has succumbed to the need to develop COIN tactics, techniques, and procedures that can be employed by infantry.

    Some of the other longer trigger puller threads we have here about organization and platoon weapons will show that much of the discussion goes back to things of old.

    Perhaps there can be no more new theory . Well...in the Marine Corps we've got something about distributed operations, but that cannot be bumper stickered to just the infantry...I think. And I don't think that the concept is especially ingenious. Lately, it has become a boilerplate for technical solutions and justifications for particular gear sets (or at least that is my impression).

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    Default poole

    There are many better qualified than I, but I've found a lot of interesting and refreshing stuff in books by H. John Poole. He stresses small unit tactics, and throws in relevant political-historical backgrounds for AO's and threats. Currently reading "Dragon Days," which argues China is causing many of the insurgencies around the world to increase its access to resources and distract other nations (ie: US). "Terrorist Trail" discusses foreign fighters from Middle East and Africa. "Militant Tricks" discusses insurgent tactics. "Phantom Soldier" discusses Eastern style warfare. "Last 100 Yards," "The Tiger Way," and "Last Bridge to Cross" argue for better western infantry and small unit tactics.

    Don't know if he would make a top 20, but he does create a lot of relevant and readible products.

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    I've never quite understood the Poole style of researching. That's at least what I took away from the first two books I tried to stomach. I've seen a lot of information compiled there, but not (at least by my perception) much in the way of actual original writing and thought.

    Take the Rhodesian tactic of the "drake shoot". It's been posted about here, and would make for good tactical commonsense, but if I slapped it in with about 300 other solid principles, it wouldn't make me a theorist.

    I'm not trying to be too much of a naysayer, as I have to admit that I haven't read all of the books. I've heard Poole speak though, and he tends to give me some weird case of the creeps like Grossman does.

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Well, to me there's likely no comprehensive theory of war today anymore. It's grown too large for our brains.
    I consider the art of warfare instead as a huge mosaic picture; great theoreticians can add some mosaic stones and arrange many in a better grouping to improve the overall perception. A good book is one that adds a couple of mosaic stones to my perception of the art of warfare.
    I'm really looking for advances and I don't see many in the open domain.

    Poole is obsessed with "Eastern" style and seems to stretch anecdotes and military history to prove his point. His latest obsession seems to be with ninjutsu. He was still useful to tell about infantry combat concepts that don't depend on much material, though. He didn't seem to add much, instead he just illuminated some almost ignored parts of the art. I wouldn't call him "leading", but I would agree that he has succeeded in publishing and attracting attention.

    I think that much of the theory generation has succumbed to the need to develop COIN tactics, techniques, and procedures that can be employed by infantry.
    That's most likely true for the U.S. and to a limited degree also for UK, Canada and Australia. But we should have lots of theoreticians outside of the English-speaking world. Like France, Russia, India, China, Japan, South Korea, Germany, Italy, Spain, probably also Brasilia, Ukraine & Poland.
    Germany has abandoned the open domain discussion of tactics after 1939, and what I can still see today are very tech-intensive attempts to partially approach the U.S. model. Our infantry is busy with peacekeeping anyway.

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
    I've never quite understood the Poole style of researching. That's at least what I took away from the first two books I tried to stomach. I've seen a lot of information compiled there, but not (at least by my perception) much in the way of actual original writing and thought.

    Take the Rhodesian tactic of the "drake shoot". It's been posted about here, and would make for good tactical commonsense, but if I slapped it in with about 300 other solid principles, it wouldn't make me a theorist.

    I'm not trying to be too much of a naysayer, as I have to admit that I haven't read all of the books. I've heard Poole speak though, and he tends to give me some weird case of the creeps like Grossman does.
    Poole has always struck me as a major "cutter and paster." He hauls things out of other sources, doesn't always leave them in context, and seems quite smitten with the idea that everyone (especially, as Fuchs points out, 'Eastern' armies) do everything better than we do. I wouldn't consider him a theorist in any major sense. A compiler, certainly, but not a theorist.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    Poole has always struck me as a major "cutter and paster." He hauls things out of other sources, doesn't always leave them in context, and seems quite smitten with the idea that everyone (especially, as Fuchs points out, 'Eastern' armies) do everything better than we do. I wouldn't consider him a theorist in any major sense. A compiler, certainly, but not a theorist.
    Agreed. and he takes a single idea and streches it well beyond its elastic capacity. If you recall, I reviewed his book Tactics of the Crecent Moon with:
    Folks,

    I said I would order this book, read it, and offer some thoughts so here goes:

    Is it worth reading?

    absolutely in that it offers an interesting perspective on counter-insurgency set in the context of today's operations.

    Weaknesses:
    a. Style of writing. The book suffers much from poor editing. it reads in may cases like a power point slide show run rampant. While it is a legitimate technique to repeat key ideas, Poole at times takes repetition to extreme. That also comes across in poor organization; chapters, sections, and paragraphs do not flow. Given the repetition of ideas, I felt like a hamster on a mental ferris wheel going round and round with no progress.

    b. Exaggeration of certain key ideas. On this I would point to the role of Hizballah and its sponsor, Iran, especially the Iranian Sepah. Poole states that Hizballah is the main threat to the West and goes to great length to support that contention. Unfortunately his sourcing is poor and not--at least to me and I served in Lebanon and lost friends to Hizballah--convincing. I agree the Hizballah model and method are dangerous and difficult to counter; I don't see them as a universal model. A related issue is his insistence that Asian military culture permeated into the Middle East over the ages. Again it is an interesting idea but one hindered by poor sourcing and superficial analysis.

    Strengths:

    a. Poole focuses on the root elements of any counter-insurgency, the insurgents and the security forces who fight them. What I really liked about the book was his call for a more capable, more highly trained infantry with offensive infantry maneuver capabilities versus fires dominated thinking.

    b. Related to a. is Poole's other key point, that tactical victories based on such a firepower dominated military modely are NOT victories for the forces engaged in COIN. His key point--at least to me--was that civilian collateral casualties in COIN must be given equal or even more weight that friendly casualties. Now this is not something new; the same point has been debated many times. But it is still a point worth considering.

    c. Finally I liked the linkages Poole makes between culture and military operations. Some as I have already said were overstated to me. Still he does apply a logic that makes sense in understanding how a diffent culture with a different model for success can develop tactics to achieve that success--and how another culture may foolishly discount that success.

    Using an Amazon rating of 1-5 stars, I would give it a 3.

    Tom

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Default

    Come on. We should be able to come up with some names here, not just Poole.

    I just looked up the article titles of Infantry Journal 2003-2008 and found only two real infantry combat theory, non-COIN specialized article (Owen's).

    I know some books on infantry tactics, but few seem to propose non-technical innovations.

    OK, let's assume we don't come up with names. How about hotspots?
    Who knows infantry theory publishing or conferencing hotspots?
    The infantry-related "conferences" that I know about are rather trade shows.
    ( http://www.fbcinc.com/infantry/exhibitors.aspx )

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    Come on. We should be able to come up with some names here, not just Poole.

    I just looked up the article titles of Infantry Journal 2003-2008 and found only two real infantry combat theory, non-COIN specialized article (Owen's).

    I know some books on infantry tactics, but few seem to propose non-technical innovations.

    OK, let's assume we don't come up with names. How about hotspots?
    Who knows infantry theory publishing or conferencing hotspots?
    The infantry-related "conferences" that I know about are rather trade shows.
    ( http://www.fbcinc.com/infantry/exhibitors.aspx )
    Certainly

    I work at one and publish the results for the Army but the products are FOUO.

    Tom

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    Council Member Randy Brown's Avatar
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    Default SWATting at the question

    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    I am specifically interested in the kinetic aspects when I wrote infantry, else I'd have written "PsyOps" or "MP expert".
    I understand your intent, and am just as interested in any ideas/answers generated here. For the good of the cause, I'm going to wonder out loud : Would the civilian tactical law enforcement community might have some thinkers/writers you might find applicable, at least as pertaining to squad-level TTP?

    Admittedly, however, this approach might lead to something of an echo chamber, given the revolving door between the military and para-military. Or, it might expose a reality in which "kinetic" philosophy flows only one-way, from "green" to "blue."

    Just trying to brainstorm different ways to approach the intellectual problem at hand. Gonna go call some cop buddies now ...
    L2I is "Lessons-Learned Integration."
    -- A lesson is knowledge gained through experience.
    -- A lesson is not "learned" until it results in organizational or behavioral change.
    -- A lesson-learned is not "integrated" until shared successfully with others.

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    Council Member Randy Brown's Avatar
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    Default Following-up on my earlier SWAT idea ...

    Charles “Sid” Heal is well-known and respected, says one of my Thin Blue buddies. Heal is with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office. Regarding the question of relevance of his work to your post, a point of entry might be his Sound Doctrine: A Tactical Primer.

    On its face, Paul R. Howe’s Leadership and Training for the Fight looks like more of a military/business-leadership-self-help book, but there’s apparently at least one chapter that might get at your topic. Howe was with Delta Force in Somalia, according to my buddy. On-line bios support but do not confirm.

    Much of Howe’s thinking may relate more to training on tactics--rather than philosophizing on tactics--although I’d be hard-pressed to distinguish one from the other in works such as CQB: Direct Threat or Points of Domination? Other writings and writer-contact info contained in the linked PDF.

    There is, admittedly, a lot of rip-and-read stuff from Army field manuals that ends up being re-packaged and sold to tactical law enforcement personnel. I'd continue to be interested in finding out, however, whether any of the philosophical and/or TTP stuff flows the other direction ...
    L2I is "Lessons-Learned Integration."
    -- A lesson is knowledge gained through experience.
    -- A lesson is not "learned" until it results in organizational or behavioral change.
    -- A lesson-learned is not "integrated" until shared successfully with others.

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Kilcullen has written some interesting pieces. Call it theory or TTP-centric, I don't know, but it is good stuff and it isn't all COIN. I made a big-to-do about his support vs. assault ratio somewhere here a few months ago.

    Our resident savant Jedburg may know the thread off the top of his head.

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    Default Disappointing

    I remember a few good books during my younger years, but most were were short historical "my story" type books, but they still captured the tactics used. When you get down to the muddy boot, fixed bayonet level, how to level there are very classic books out there. I agree that Poole's books are a too mystic and are largely cut and paste.

    However, some of the Field Manuals are excellent such as FM 7-8, as was the older version of the Ranger handbook (the new one is basically FM 7-8) and the 50's vintage individual rifleman FMs were also outstanding. Not what you were looking for, but still worth a read.

    Again not books, but there are a few outstanding papers/handouts out there on small unit tactics, such as the project B50 tips from Vietnam (informal, but well done), with great tips on rigging individual equipment to small unit tactics behind enemy lines. South Africans published quite a few books on small unit tactics, as did the Israelis.

    Of course, best of all was the valued instruction I received from my Vietnam Vet Team Sergeants and platoon Sgts. Not only were they legends, they were great instructors who taught by example and constantly mentored us when we were in the field. Unfortunately, they were not too much into writing how-to classics.

    Fuchs, great question. I'll see what I can find stowed away in the boxes in the garage. This one shouldn't be hard to answer but it is. Did anyone read "Steel my Soldier's Heart" by Hackworth? Did it fall into this category?

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    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
    I'm not trying to be too much of a naysayer, as I have to admit that I haven't read all of the books. I've heard Poole speak though, and he tends to give me some weird case of the creeps like Grossman does.
    At least I'm not the only one, then. My battalion CO invited Poole to speak to the officers and SNCOs before our OEF deployment in 2003. My platoon sergeant was excited, being a big fan of Poole's Last Hundred Yards. We all walked out a bit wide eyed after that one. My SSgt looked rather deflated.

    I asked him, after his presentation about the Eastern way of fighting, why the Fedayeen had fared so poorly against our Soldiers and Marines in the invasion of Iraq, since he thought the "Eastern" way was superior. I can't remember his reply, but I do remember that it was dripping with condescension since I was a "mere lieutenant". I walked away completely offended, and have not been able to stomach anything by him since. I'm well aware of the prevailing opinion of lieutenants with regard to matters of tactics and strategy, but at this point I was a 1stLt with a combat deployment under my belt, and his refusal to seriously consider my question and make an honest attempt to discuss my point forever damaged his credibility in my eyes.
    Last edited by VMI_Marine; 06-27-2008 at 12:57 AM.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default I ordred one of his books that my son wanted for Christmas

    four or five years ago; that entailed talking to him on the phone for about 30 minutes. Interesting listening...

    Got the book, read it, passed it on to the Son and suggested he take it with a dumptruck load of salt. Haven't wasted any more money on 'em.

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    Fuchs, Kilcullen's main piece in this regard was "Rethinking the Basis of Infantry Close Combat" (Australian Army Journal). It more or less mirrored at Company-Level what General DePuy wrote about at Platoon-Level in "One Up and Two Back?"(scroll down to Pages 295-302 of "Selected Papers of General Wiliam E. DePuy", and yes, I'm plugging for my boy here). Both approaches are focused upon the primacy of suppression in the Attack, of course, and our own Tom Odom as you know (along with his two co-authors) based some of his publicly accessible work upon Gen. DePuy's: see "Transformation: Victory Rests with Small Units", in Military Review from a few years back. McBreen especially emphasized suppression in his articles for Marine Corps Gazette. Obviously it takes some digging to get a hold of his best two, but they don't say too much different than others who base their work upon DePuy's. Besides them, there's Wilf of course, and Wigram, whom some of Wilf's work derived from. And a number of us who admire the RLI's Fire Force (not to mention Drake Shooting); See jcustis' "Interview With an RLI Vet", too, here and here. The RLI's Platoon and Brick organization and tactics, along with Wilf's work, provide some insight into what Infantry tactics of the future may look like.

    Edited to Add:

    Get a hold of the original 1981 edition of On Infantry by John English (the 1984 edition with Bruce Gudmundsson as co-author is also good), and Virgil Ney's work is generally considered as good or better than even English's (but it's harder to get a hold of).
    Last edited by Norfolk; 06-27-2008 at 01:29 AM.

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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    The Killing Zone : A Professional's Guide To Preparing or Preventing Ambushes by Gary Stubblefield and Mark Monday. The best book I ever read on the subject and it applies to both Infantry and a lot is useful for Law Enforcement. Some of what is in the book I can vouch for from personal experience.

    Also Bill Moore talked about lessons from Vietnam Vets I was exposed to a lot of that myself and it was a shame that the Army never did something to debrief and record those lessons.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default They did to a fair extent...

    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9 View Post
    ...Also Bill Moore talked about lessons from Vietnam Vets I was exposed to a lot of that myself and it was a shame that the Army never did something to debrief and record those lessons.
    Get Tom to dig into the CALL archives -- not the current stuff, the old stuff; there should be tons there. Lord knows it was all over Bragg in the late 60s; li'l white books, li'l green books from the brand new C.A.L.L. and blue ones from Benning, too...

    We did it then -- but I suspect most of it got tossed in the 70s and 80s so we could relearn lessons the hard way; to do less would be un-American.

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    The Virtual Vietnam Archive at Texas Tech is a tremendous resource. But it is not as user-friendly as it could be, so you have to really dig if you're looking for something specific. On the other hand, I usually manage to pull up some very interesting items when I'm really searching for something else.

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    The language barrier must be terribly powerful.

    Every time I ask in English-language forums for expert names, I get minimum 90% US/UK/CAN/Israel replies as if there was no innovation in other languages.

    Come on, we're in an alliance. There should be lots of innovators in other countries as well. Doesn't NATO have some institution to distribute new ideas?

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