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  1. #1
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    Default Center of Gravity Construct

    Is the Clausewitzian idea of Center(s) of Gravity applicable in unconventional warfare?

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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Default Stealth People and the Center of Gravity

    Yes, I believe it does. The definition of COG I like best came from a Navy article I once read. The quote may be imprecise but it described a COG as something you take away from the enemy so he cannot attack you! In this case it is about how the enemy can move freely because he cannot be identified. Stealth people. He dosen't wear a uniform so you don't know who he is. He can expand on this in many ways. He can steal an airliner and make his own stealth bomber and strike with the same precision as our advanced and costly smart weapons and he can conduct EBO without having an Air Force. Very cost effective. Figure out how to take this away from the enemy and he will have a big problem.

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    Look up Col. Boyds theories on non-cooperative centers of gravity

    It is the essence of unconventional warfare

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    Default limited utility if any

    In my opinion the center of gravity construct which many of our officers cling to blindly demonstrates a serious deficency in our professional education process. COG's are rarely correctly identified (assuming they exist), or the COG identified (such as the enemy's will) is useless from a strategy stand point. Furthermore, using the COG construct (assuming it works at all) only results in the defeat of the enemy's forces, but does not result in a victory (eg OIF). It doesn't allow for planning in depth. The sooner we shelve this concept, or at least subordinate it to other methodologies the better for the force.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore
    In my opinion the center of gravity construct which many of our officers cling to blindly demonstrates a serious deficency in our professional education process. COG's are rarely correctly identified (assuming they exist), or the COG identified (such as the enemy's will) is useless from a strategy stand point. Furthermore, using the COG construct (assuming it works at all) only results in the defeat of the enemy's forces, but does not result in a victory (eg OIF). It doesn't allow for planning in depth. The sooner we shelve this concept, or at least subordinate it to other methodologies the better for the force.
    Center of gravity is viewed and handled from only a physical standpoint.

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    Default Mistake Re: Small Wars / COIN

    Quote Originally Posted by GorTex6
    Center of gravity is viewed and handled from only a physical standpoint.
    At times we seem to get enamored with physical centers of gravity because they fall into the easy to do category and can be assigned relatively simple metrics / measures of effectiveness. Second and third order effects are easy to identify, nodal analysis is easy, and the list can go on…

    Problem with Small Wars and COIN is that it is the human element and how it interacts with the physical environment that presents the problem set we face.

    Several schools of thought have emerged over the last several years – one is that the civilian population is always the COG, another is that there are multiple COG’s, and yet another is there are no "true" centers of gravity in a Small Wars / COIN scenario.

    Somewhere in all this – Lines of Operations fall out and I believe that probably is the best way to go… At least in getting a grasp on the systems of systems human and physical environment we are faced with.

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    Default Ooda

    Quote Originally Posted by GorTex6
    Center of gravity is viewed and handled from only a physical standpoint.
    Again, I apologize for commenting on something I know so little about. This quote from GorTex6 seems completely true to me.

    Unless you want to break the trust of your enemy, the enemy needs to see you exactly as you are. If the enemy sees you as an adaptive force that controls the COG in all situations, then, to remain in his OODA loop, which was formed when we penetrated his country, you have to give the enemy your complete trust and remain an adaptive force that controls the COG in all situations. Once the trust is broken the enemy has to readapt to the situation, which he seems to be very good at accomplishing. Strategically it may remain a good way to keep a lot of the enemy’s energy occupied by making him adapt, and in time the political force in Iraq might change for the better.

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    Default What is a Guerilla's Center of Gravity?

    What is a Guerilla's Center of Gravity and Critical Vulnerability(ies)?
    Strategic Level? Operational Level? Tactical Level?

    Here is an example at Strategic-Operational Levels:

    WWI, German East Africa. Col Lettow-Vorbeck and his German and Askari defense forces face overwhelming odds presented by the combined British, Belgian and Portuguese forces arrayed against him. Yet they where never 'beaten.' The Center of Gravity for the Germans in EA was their resolve, their will to resist. Note the main goal of Lettow-Vorbeck was not necessarily defense of the Colony but to draw the maximum enemy force possible into Africa and away from Europe. The critical vulnerability at the Strategic-Operational levels was simply Germany itself. Lettow-Vorbeck's force was small mobile and capable of prolonged guerilla resistance, no longer relying on the Colony for support, tying up thousands of troops and large amounts of war material. This resistance could have been continued for some time past the Nov 11th 1918, Lettow-Vorbeck stated he could resist indefinetly, but when Germany lost the war in Europe, his will was broken, their no longer existed a reason to resist.

    Mao Tse Tung had a similiar will to resist as his COG. You could kill thousands of his supporters, force him to march a thousand miles, but his resolve remained. What was his CV? What could have broken the Communist insurgency at the Strategic-Operational levels?

    I state (it seems obvious) that the global insurgent's COG is his will to fight, this would definetly apply to the levels of war. In this sense, what then is today's guerilla or insurgent, in the global war's, critical vulnerability? This applies to the trans-national insurgent not the local, who would have a different CV all together based on his local conditions.

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    Troufion, agree 100% that is why I said a long time ago before you got here that the LE concept of Motive,Means,and Opportunity is a better way to think about Guerilla warfare Strategy then the standard Ends, Ways and Means. The Motive or Cause or his Will must be addressed some how or it will never be over-IMHO.

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    That's greatest misuse of "center of gravity" that I've ever seen. Center of gravity is something 180° different that what's meant here. It has nothing to do with weak spots at all. Ridiculous idea.

    And the critical vulnerability of guerillas is definately the support of their base - a certain share of the population.

    Identifying will as critical vulnerability is nonsense. No being or force ever does anything intentionally without will. Saying that they stop acting if they lost the will to do so is trivial and completely useless as analysis.

    By the way - Lettow-Vorbeck's force was not really a guerilla force. It was something in between guerillas and Xenophon's ten thousand.

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    Council Member TROUFION's Avatar
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    Default Cv-cc-cr-cv

    Lastdingo perhaps you should read Dr. Strange---

    http://www.maxwell.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/usmc/cog1.pdf

    http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute...les/PUB363.pdf

    http://www.iwar.org.uk/military/reso...g/art4-w03.pdf

    https://www.carlisle.army.mil/srp/ex.../Reilly_J_E_02

    http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/awc-thry.htm-cog


    Will and resolve are considered valid COG.

    The question remains what makes up the trans-national guerilla-insurgent-terrorist CV? Based on each level of war. And what would be (genericaly) a local insurgents CV?

    It is easy to pick out a counter-insurgents COG and CV. The counterinsurgent is tied to his nation state, or his organization-these are physical. The counter insurgent has to defend physical structures.

    Both Lawrence and Vorbeck targeted thier enemies railroad lines-a physical structure. Both gained disproportionate results tieing down large numbers of enemy in static defenses and large amounts of resources in armoring trains etc. Why could they get away with it? Because their 'base' was protected, while the counterinsurgents 'base' was not.

    If the 'base' loosely equated to the source of strength, which in turn equates to a COG, is will to resist or resolve to fight then what is the CV?

    BTW-I am not stating a fact I am asking a question.
    Last edited by TROUFION; 06-11-2007 at 06:16 PM.

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    Will is probably the COG that is most important and most difficult to defeat.

    I'd also add:

    Funding sources
    Equipping sources

    They don't destroy the will, but will reduce a group to ineffectiveness quickly.

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    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TROUFION View Post
    What is a Guerilla's Center of Gravity and Critical Vulnerability(ies)?
    WWI, German East Africa. Col Lettow-Vorbeck and his German and Askari defense forces face overwhelming odds presented by the combined British, Belgian and Portuguese forces arrayed against him. Yet they where never 'beaten.' The Center of Gravity for the Germans in EA was their resolve, their will to resist. Note the main goal of Lettow-Vorbeck was not necessarily defense of the Colony but to draw the maximum enemy force possible into Africa and away from Europe. The critical vulnerability at the Strategic-Operational levels was simply Germany itself. Lettow-Vorbeck's force was small mobile and capable of prolonged guerilla resistance, no longer relying on the Colony for support, tying up thousands of troops and large amounts of war material. This resistance could have been continued for some time past the Nov 11th 1918, Lettow-Vorbeck stated he could resist indefinetly, but when Germany lost the war in Europe, his will was broken, their no longer existed a reason to resist.

    Mao Tse Tung had a similiar will to resist as his COG. You could kill thousands of his supporters, force him to march a thousand miles, but his resolve remained. What was his CV? What could have broken the Communist insurgency at the Strategic-Operational levels?
    Let's not confuse the personal resolve of a leader with the CoG of that leader's forces. Had Lettow-Vorbeck been laid low in 1916 or 1917, I am not so sure that the resistance would have continued. The same is true for the Chicoms under Mao.

    The CoG for the guerrillas may very well be their leaders , but it may also be an ideal that is just well expressed by their leaders. In the former case, the loss of the leader probably results in the end of guerrilla operations. In the latter case, this is less likely to be true. I think the WWI German East Africa campaign under Lettow-Vorbeck epitomizes the first case. I suspect the force that comprises AQI is more like the second alternative. (And please do not unload on me for putting AQI under the guerrilla rubric; I know they are terrorists.)

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    Default Military Review: Center-of-Gravity Analysis Articles

    Military Review, Sep-Oct 07: Linking Doctrine to Action: A New COIN Center-of-Gravity Analysis
    Just as there is no one weapon that guarantees superiority in conventional warfare, there is no silver bullet when it comes to counterinsurgency (COIN) operations. Field Manual 3-24, Counterinsurgency, provides a firm doctrinal foundation, as corroborated in Battle Command Knowledge System chat rooms, training at the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Center and the Taji Counterinsurgency Center for Excellence, and field experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even so, there is still a gap between doctrine and tactical results in COIN warfare. This article seeks to fill that gap by introducing what we believe is a useful planning tool: the COIN center of gravity (COG) analysis, integrated as the culminating step of COIN intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB). COIN COG analysis translates theory into practice from the bottom up, exposing insurgent lines of operation (LOOs) and suggesting possible counters to them. Rather than thrusting objectives from the top down that may or may not apply to a given situation, it balances counterinsurgent efforts and provides metrics. Links between COIN IPB and the root causes of a conflict, and between COIN COG analysis and tactical actions, are analyzed to figure out how to preempt insurgent activity instead of merely reacting to it. The process approaches COIN from the dual perspective of the nature of the population and the nature of the insurgent, not from the perspective of the counterinsurgent.....

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    Second COG Article, same issue of Military Review:

    A Logical Method for Center-of-Gravity Analysis
    Largely due to its enigmatic nature, the center of gravity (COG) determination process has always been considered more of an art than a science. But even art has rules and structures that can turn chaotic sounds into language and language into poetry. Currently, the COG determination process described in joint doctrine lacks the clear rules and structure that might rationalize, discipline, and therefore improve campaign planning. Joint doctrine only describes the COG construct and its utility to military planning. This is unfortunate because the value of this conceptual tool cannot be overstated. Joint Pub 5-0, Joint Operational Planning, clearly states the critical role of COG analysis: “One of the most important tasks confronting the JFC’s [joint force commander’s] staff in the operational design process is the identification of friendly and adversary COGs.” It is the “most important task” because “a faulty conclusion resulting from a poor or hasty analysis can have very serious consequences, such as [impairing] the ability to achieve strategic and operational objectives at an acceptable cost.”

    This paper explores using the strategic framework of ends, ways, and means; a validation test; and a clear COG terminology to provide a logical and disciplined method for COG determination. In military planning, determining the center of gravity is too important to leave to guesswork; therefore, any technique or method that improves COG determination is certainly worth exploring. My experience as an instructor at the School of Advanced Military Studies and the U.S. Army War College, combined with recent operational experience as a strategist with U.S. Central Command and Multi-national Forces-Iraq, has convinced me that there must be a better process for determining a center of gravity than the current guess-and-debate method....

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    Council Member TROUFION's Avatar
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    Default Cog Discussion Crosses Boundaries

    A QUICK SEARCH OF THE THREADS SHOWS THE COG HAS CROSSED INTO ALMOST EVERY DISCUSSION LINE IN THE SWC. JUST AS THE DISCUSSION OF COG HAS PERMEATED US MILITARY SCHOOL HOUSES.

    Social Contagion theory ( 1 2 3 ... Last Page)
    Rob Thornton 12 Hours Ago
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    Sticky: Tell Us About You #2... ( 1 2 3 ... Last Page)
    SWCAdmin 13 Hours Ago
    by sgmgrumpy 285 8,047 Tell Us About You
    U.S. Africa Command? ( 1 2 3 ... Last Page)
    Tom Odom 1 Day Ago
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    In COIN how do we describe the relationship of the levels of war? ( 1 2 3 ... Last Page)
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    Groups: Bin Laden plans video on 9/11 ( 1 2 3 ... Last Page)
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    Army Officer Accuses Generals of 'Intellectual and Moral Failures' ( 1 2 3 ... Last Page)
    SWJED 2 Weeks Ago
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    Good Anthropology, Bad History: The Cultural Turn in Studying War ( 1 2 3)
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    Is time really on the side of Insurgents? ( 1 2)
    Brian Gellman 07-12-2007
    by Abu Buckwheat 16 487 Futurists & Theorists
    Who Will Sound The Call to Service? ( 1 2)
    SWJED 07-05-2007
    by 120mm 14 831 Politics In the Rear
    What is a Guerilla's Center of Gravity? ( 1 2 3 ... Last Page)
    TROUFION 07-04-2007
    by ilots 38 1,133 Futurists & Theorists
    Do we require a victory or a Triumph? ( 1 2 3 ... Last Page)
    Rob Thornton 06-28-2007
    by Ray 47 1,001 International Politics
    Iran: Open Thread Until H-Hour... ( 1 2 3 ... Last Page)
    SWJED 06-24-2007
    by Tom Odom 92 5,056 Middle East
    Iraq - the Modern Equivalent of the Spanish Civil War ( 1 2)
    SWJED 06-20-2007
    by goesh 16 282 Brave New War Roundtable
    A Thin Blue Line in the Sand ( 1 2 3 ... Last Page)
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    by Doug Ollivant 35 775 US Policy, Interest, and Endgame
    Ralph Peters on Dreams & Islam
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    by Steve Blair 3 320 Global Issues & Threats
    Kinetic vs Empathetic Warfare ( 1 2)
    TROUFION 06-13-2007
    by TROUFION 18 769 Social Sciences, Moral, and Religious
    Googleing COIN in Iraq
    Rob Thornton 06-07-2007
    by goesh 5 347 The Information War
    Future Peer Competitor? ( 1 2 3 ... Last Page)
    Granite_State 06-07-2007
    by goesh 48 1,194 Global Issues & Threats
    Strategic Directions in Iraq - and the idea of Cultural Identity as a CoG ( 1 2 3)
    Rob Thornton 06-07-2007
    by wm 21 568 US Policy, Interest, and Endgame
    Theoretical Constructs
    Martin 10-18-2006
    by Martin 7 3 Social Sciences, Moral, and Religious

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    Council Member pvebber's Avatar
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    One of the biggest problems with COG related analysis at the deckplates level is the misunderstanding or COG and Critical vulnerability among a lot of planners. Even "decision makers". Several times I've heard Flad level commanders criticize plans for "not directly attacking the COG". Then he gets back a COA that attacks a CV, but has no discussion of the COG.

    COGs are leverged or exploited, CV's are attacked or defended. COGs increasingly exist in the moral and cognitive domains, CVs in the physical - where our prefered kinetic capabilities reside.

    Even when you find a true COG there is often a "so now what do I do with it" since the leveraging and exploiting of COGs tend to be in the strategic domain, vice tactical.

    This is an important educational issue - you can't get too much practice doing the planning analysis of COGs CV, etc, and a little bit can give you a false sense of expertise...
    "All models are wrong, but some are useful"

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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pvebber View Post
    COGs are leverged or exploited, CV's are attacked or defended. COGs increasingly exist in the moral and cognitive domains, CVs in the physical - where our prefered kinetic capabilities reside.

    Absolutely agree..Col. Warden defined them as the point of GREATEST leverage on the system.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Old Eagle View Post
    COGs always exist. Issue is defining them correctly. Haven't digested the new Military Review referenced on SWJ homepage, but it contains at least two articles on identifying COGs. I've heard Mark Ullrich's pitch before and it bears close examination.
    Mark's piece isn't on COG in the traditional sense, although it is similar. We're really describing it as a new way of doing COIN IPB. I'll see if I can get Mark on to discuss his article.
    "A Sherman can give you a very nice... edge."- Oddball, Kelly's Heroes
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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    In 1997 the USAWC published a study by retired Col.'s Mendel and Munger which had broad impact in LE circles called Strategic Planning and the Drug Threat. In the study they teach a framework for LE to write Strategic Plans and OP plans/orders basic 5 paragraph style. In the paper they define the COG as this (page 92 of the study, 102 of the pdf file)

    "Main concentration of an opponents power which can interpose itself between us and our strategic objective causing our campaign to fail."
    Last edited by Jedburgh; 09-14-2007 at 02:58 PM. Reason: Added link.

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