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Thread: McMaster on war (merged thread)

  1. #41
    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Post In regards the conversation as a whole

    I think Mr Collins had it right back in 85, As you get better in one type of fight the threshold for a different type of fight is lowered. Would seem to reason as wel for HIC/LIC, CONV/COIN, whatever as it did for Conv/Nuclear

    In that that doesn't mean either type won't happen just seems that it's all the more important to figure out just what "Balanced" looks like and get to working on it.
    Any man can destroy that which is around him, The rare man is he who can find beauty even in the darkest hours

    Cogitationis poenam nemo patitur

  2. #42
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    Was doing a bit of reading over at DID where they linked McMaster's article along with this one from 2006 that I hadn't read before and found quite interesting. It examines RMA and "transformation" developments during the inter-war years in Germany and France which I think are important to consider today. Some excerpts:

    With the benefit of hindsight, France's preparations for war with Germany are an easy target of critique. It is another matter, however, to derive guidelines that might reliably help us avoid errors in our present efforts to envision future war and prepare for it. In fact, French planners conformed in a general way to dictums that are today supposed to help planners avoid obvious mistakes. They sought to "learn the lessons of the last war" and not prepare to re-fight it. But for the dominant clique in French leadership this meant resisting the "cult of the offensive" that had sent millions to their deaths against barbed wire and artillery during the Great War.

    This disposition did not imply the abandonment of offensive capabilities and operations altogether. But it did place emphasis on defensive preparations and defensive operations in the opening stages of war as a way of buying time and setting the stage for a subsequent counter-offensive. This approach also accorded with the French leadership's assessment of what types of support it might expect from its allies, how much, when, and under what circumstances. In other words, France's strategic disposition reflected its view of its strategic circumstances.
    Drawing useful lessons from the experience of interwar force developments and their subsequent application requires that we relinquish the privilege of hindsight. The question is: What might the historic players have done differently given what they knew at the time? And, moreover: Can their mistaken choices be structurally associated with predispositions that others might avoid? In other words, can we identify a "character flaw" in their planning or execution?

    As noted above, the case of the French air force warns against the politicalization of RMA efforts, while also suggesting that service interests can distort RMA development. The troubled experience of French ground force development illustrates how tying an RMA vision closely to a particular strategic disposition (as though one entails the other), can cloud the appreciation of operational opportunities.

    The German case points to how a nation's strategic disposition can disable the perception of operational limits. The contours of the new synthesis in land warfare were not fully drawn until Kursk. Before this, what the Germans saw was how a particular instantiation of the new synthesis might resolve, at least temporarily, a particular operational impasse. What the Russians saw subsequently was how the synthesis might be applied to spoil the German solution. What the French saw was neither.

    None of the provisos outlined above promise a way to reliably surmount the problem of RMA uncertainty, of course. At best, they flag some predispositions that can distort the development and application of new capabilities. As always, the real challenge is applying the precepts to entirely novel circumstances.
    The entire thing is well worth a read.

  3. #43
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default It is indeed well worth a read.

    This, in particular is worthy of being burned in the memories of many people:
    First, we can somewhat mitigate RMA uncertainty by means of extensive, independent, and competitive experimentation, field trials, and exercises - both single service and joint. We also can seek to sharpen the debate among competing RMA schools, service visions, and branch perspectives - while insulating these from partisan politics and commercial interests.

    Second, despite our best efforts, a substantial degree of uncertainty will persist; the only decisive test of vision is war. This humbling fact argues for avoiding over-commitment during periods of great strategic uncertainty, retaining flexibility, and developing our facilities for rapid adaptation. Adaptation is best served by substantial equipment and unit prototyping, which would offer multiple potential paths of development. Also useful is modularization of capabilities, units, and training regimes - an approach that allows rapid change through "add-ons" and supplemental training. (emphasis added, both / kw)

    Third, pervasive uncertainty tends to strengthen the position of the status quo, especially during periods of significant strategic change. For institutional reasons, the default position may be to extend the status quo into the future. However, this is not a neutral position. When the world is changing rapidly the preservation (or recapitalization) of the status quo involves a "future vision" as risky and open to question as any - if not more so.

    Finally, "uncertainty" by itself does not constitute a strong rationale for either sitting still or moving decisively down a new path. It lends positive support only to efforts to reduce uncertainty or improve our capacity to react, recover, and respond to surprise (that is, to adapt).
    All simple basic common sense -- and all far too often ignored totally due to egos and agendas.

    That I underlined is harsh reality, that I placed in bold type is the only way to preclude not being prepared for that reality; one or the other will not work -- we have to be able to do either/or. Or even 'whatever'...

  4. #44
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    Default tactics are not strategy

    Policy and Strategy Must Determine Force Development
    U.S. force development should be driven by how our forces might be employed to protect vital national interests. Prior to 9/11, “capabilities-based” defense analysis reinforced shallow thinking about war and disconnected war from policy and strategy. The belief that surveillance and information technology could lift the fog of war elevated a desired military capability to the level of strategy. After 9/11, military operations were not clearly subordinated to comprehensive plans that aimed to achieve policy goals and objectives.
    I think this excerpt from BG McMaster's article captured the essence of the problem. This article combined with Robert Jone's article in SWJ, "Populace Centric Engagement" help paint a picture that points to one Sun Tzu's cautions, "tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.

    http://smallwarsjournal.com/mag/2008...engagement.php

    We are not struggling in this conflict due to the technological gains resulting of RMA, but rather because we tended to perceive war in a new way, or more simply we tried to model conflict to fit our preconceived technological solutions to it. Quite simply we created a lie. The technological gains have allowed us to be wildly successful at the tactical level, but tactical successes do not always equate to strategic success. BG McMaster's assessment that the capabilities approach to RMA reinforced shallow thinking about war and disconnected it from policy is spot on. RMA methodology has reinforced myths about war, but the question remains is a capabilities approach the wrong approach to drive technological evolution of our military forces? I don't think we know what the future will look like, and developing capabilities to address a wide range of potential threats is prudent, but a capability is not a strategy, it is simply a tool in the tool box. Perhaps the only revolution we need is in our military professional develop curriculum?

  5. #45
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Thumbs up I'd certainly endorse that...

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    ... I don't think we know what the future will look like, and developing capabilities to address a wide range of potential threats is prudent, but a capability is not a strategy, it is simply a tool in the tool box. Perhaps the only revolution we need is in our military professional develop curriculum?
    Strongly endorse, in fact...

  6. #46
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    Default Had to run

    I wanted to read over my post before I hit submit, but house hold six gave me an order to get off the computer so we could make our appointment, what's a guy going to do?

    Perhaps the only revolution we need is in our military professional develop curriculum? Anyway, what I meant to write was, "perhaps the only revolution we need is in our military professional development curriculum.

    On further thought, that professional development revolution needs to be pushed throughout the Whole of Government WOG. Many folks agree that the current system is far from ideal, but they're content to wait for the bureaucracy to change, but based on my experience that is a receipe for the same ole crap. Dynamic leaders push out beyond the culturally defined rules/limitations, then let bureaucracy catch up with reality. The key is to success is to develop these leaders, and then reward them with the right incentives to stay in, not place them in a dead end job because they're making waves. When people see innovative behavior rewarded, we'll once again see our greatest resource (our people) raise to the occassion of today's and tomorrow's challenges.

  7. #47
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default I'm still agreeing with you

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    ...On further thought, that professional development revolution needs to be pushed throughout the Whole of Government WOG...Dynamic leaders push out beyond the culturally defined rules/limitations, then let bureaucracy catch up with reality. The key is to success is to develop these leaders, and then reward them with the right incentives to stay in, not place them in a dead end job because they're making waves. When people see innovative behavior rewarded, we'll once again see our greatest resource (our people) raise to the occassion of today's and tomorrow's challenges.
    However, that is going to require Congress to change their ways to an extent and I'm not sure that can be done.

    What the Army -- all of DoD -- can do is take your thought and apply it internally at all levels. I'd submit that in addition to a revolution in professional development, we need and can have a revolution in initial entry training, officer and enlisted.

    We also need and can have a significant loosening of the systemically imposed stifling and initiative killing cultural norms to achieve real loosening of the de facto, over-cautious restraints on leaders so they not only permitted but actually encouraged to be dynamic leaders and push out beyond the culturally defined rules/limitations, and let the bureaucracy catch up with reality.

    That is 'do-able,' Congress really can't stop it and those serving and most Americans will applaud it. Do wonders for the retention of Captains...

  8. #48
    Council Member reed11b's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    However, that is going to require Congress to change their ways to an extent and I'm not sure that can be done.

    What the Army -- all of DoD -- can do is take your thought and apply it internally at all levels. I'd submit that in addition to a revolution in professional development, we need and can have a revolution in initial entry training, officer and enlisted.

    We also need and can have a significant loosening of the systemically imposed stifling and initiative killing cultural norms to achieve real loosening of the de facto, over-cautious restraints on leaders so they not only permitted but actually encouraged to be dynamic leaders and push out beyond the culturally defined rules/limitations, and let the bureaucracy catch up with reality.

    That is 'do-able,' Congress really can't stop it and those serving and most Americans will applaud it. Do wonders for the retention of Captains...
    I would second that having "unit" personel policies, instead of individual ones, would also be extremly important for any signifigant change in the DOD.
    Quote Originally Posted by sapperfitz82 View Post
    This truly is the bike helmet generation.

  9. #49
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    "Conventional "legacy" Army organizations, designed to fight
    under uncertain conditions, proved critical in Operation
    Anaconda in Afghanistan in March 2002 and in the attack into
    Baghdad a year later. But some of those organizations have
    since been eliminated or redesigned, based in part on the
    assumption that future tactical and operational environments
    would be marked by a high degree of certainty. Although the
    divisional cavalry squadron of the Third Infantry Division,
    a unit designed to fight for information, protect against
    surprise, and ease the forward movement of follow-on forces,
    was invaluable during the attack toward Baghdad, that
    formation and all others like it have since been eliminated
    in favor of small, lightly armed reconnaissance squadrons
    designed to use mainly aerial and ground sensors to develop
    situational awareness out of contact."

    It was with sadness that I read the whole article, since I happen to agree with it, and I don't see it, or anything else, changing the mindset of those in position to effect change - they will instead continue to happily eat PowerPoint slide decks. But as in the above quote from McMaster's paper the DivCav squadrons could serve as the "poster child" example of how the latest grand reorganization went wrong (amoung some things that it admittedly got right), and more generally, how any belief in the chimera of RMA has led to some very bad conclusions...

    Whatever war is or becomes, it will always end up as a gun fight, and you'd better'd make sure units have enough weapons in the hands of people who realize that it is their job to employ them and know how to do so.
    Throwing more personnel and money into, say, military intelligence, certainly doesn't guarantee better intelligence (far from it, from what I have seen). But a grunt, scout, or a sapper with a rifle? I can think of all sorts of things that he can usefully do, even if I end up in a situation totally different from the original mission.

    (Heh, and "Deployablity", how far down THAT road have we gone, for no return on investment?)
    Last edited by Sabre; 11-14-2008 at 08:04 PM.

  10. #50
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    Very enlightening post from one of our most treasured General Officers.

    True that the RMA mentality repesents a deficit in critical thinking coupled with myopic obsession on a style of warfighting that is the exception not the norm, even if we attept to normalise it.

  11. #51
    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default BG McMaster on the Army Capstone Concept (Quicklook Notes)

    Brigadier General H.R. McMaster on Setting Conditions and The Army Capstone Concept

    Certainty vs. Uncertainty / Theory vs. Recent and Ongoing Conflicts (Then and Now)
    • Knowledge centric vs. fighting and politics centric.
    • Planning process vs. design and education.
    • Synchronization vs. initiative.
    • Centralization vs. decentralization.
    • Risk avoidance vs. risk mitigation.
    • Efficiency vs. effectiveness.
    • Fires vs. combined arms fire and maneuver.
    • See / quality of firsts vs. find and understand.
    • Rapid, Decisive Operations vs. sustained campaigns.
    • ISR vs. recon and security.
    • Command from the FOB vs. command from the front.
    • Systems approach (EBO) vs. complexity (design).
    • Dominance vs. strategy and continuous interaction.
    • MCO focus vs. spectrum of conflict.
    • Capabilities Based Assessment vs. Threat Based Assessment.
    • Vagueness vs. transparency.
    • Linear progression (leap ahead) vs. interaction with adversaries - continuous innovation.


    Implications for the Army Capstone Concept

    • Conducting operations under the condition of transparency.
    • Conducting operations with partners and amongst diverse populations.
    • Overcoming anti-access in the context of a joint operation.
    • Conducting and sustaining operations from and across extended distances.
    • Fighting for information (physical reconnaissance and human intelligence).
    • Employing the manpower, mobility, firepower, and protection to close with the enemy.
    • Conducting area security operations over large areas (including population security; precision fires to limit collateral damage).
    • Developing partner capabilities (e.g. Security Force Assistance).
    • Protecting the network and routinely fighting in degraded mode.
    • Overcoming hybrid threats / complex terrain and overcoming enemy count-mobility efforts.
    • Reshaping logistics and the demand side of sustainment to ensure operations without pause and freedom of movement in non-contiguous area of operations.
    Last edited by SWJED; 08-19-2009 at 09:17 PM.

  12. #52
    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Comment note.

    Conference comment - What we lost in the 90's was the understanding that land warfare is fundamentally different from aerospace and maritime warfare because of the presence of a population and the complexity of geography. We have to capture that again...

  13. #53
    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Comment note.

    Conference comment - In consideration of the Capstone Concept and the implications and solutions it suggests we have to be careful that we do not overcorrect...

  14. #54
    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Comment note.

    Conference comment - The 2009 Army Capstone Concept fits nicely with US Joint Forces Command's Capstone Concept for Joint Operations.

  15. #55
    Council Member Mark O'Neill's Avatar
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    Default The first post (and subsequent) whilst intriguing,

    lack context in the 'vs' , Can you elaborate?

    Thanks

    Mark

  16. #56
    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Mark - context was in previous theory (90's) vs. the reality we eventually encountered.

  17. #57
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    Default But can the U.S. build the Army McMaster wants?

    BG McMaster delivered a broad attack on the DoD’s transformation plans from the 1990s. He asserted that the technological focus of that time neglected the human, social, cultural, and political factors necessary to prevail on the modern battlefield. According to McMaster, events of this decade have shown how adversaries have adapted to previous U.S. methods thus negating them.

    McMaster’s capstone concept seeks to reverse many of the precepts and assumptions of the 1990s defense transformation program. Under McMaster’s vision, in order to prevail in ground combat U.S. forces will need to “go local,” by getting very close to the enemy and sustaining long-term operations deep into a variety of indigenous population.

    During yesterday’s staff ride of the Gettysburg battlefield, we discussed how any army is the product and reflection of the society from which it comes. The nature of U.S. Southern culture favored the Confederacy early on, but the more industrial and commercial nature of the North later asserted its dominance.

    The question for today is whether U.S. society can produce the kind of soldiers and the Army necessary to implement the capstone concept McMaster described. And whether U.S. society can support the operational concept McMaster believes is required to prevail.

    -Robert Haddick

  18. #58
    Council Member Mark O'Neill's Avatar
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    Default OK. right............

    Quote Originally Posted by SWJED View Post
    Mark - context was in previous theory (90's) vs. the reality we eventually encountered.
    thanks for the clarification for a remote Aussie.

  19. #59
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Default A touch more....

    There is an interesting dynamic at work in this presentation - it is a paradigm shift in the classic, Kuhnian sense. My immediate perception of most of the concern and debate is that it not involve a total paradigm shift, aka a Revolution but, rather, a modification and adaptation of the basic epistemology to bring it more in line with lived reality.
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
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    http://marctyrrell.com/

  20. #60
    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by marct View Post
    There is an interesting dynamic at work in this presentation - it is a paradigm shift in the classic, Kuhnian sense. My immediate perception of most of the concern and debate is that it not involve a total paradigm shift, aka a Revolution but, rather, a modification and adaptation of the basic epistemology to bring it more in line with lived reality.
    I will also point to the conference comment above concerning overcorrecting - that is probably the tough part here concernng adapting for the future - what's too little and what's too much. Hopefully there will be some drilling down on this...

    Next brief and discussion is just starting - it's on the Army Campaign Plan...

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