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Old 09-06-2006   #1
SWJED
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Default The Myth of Immaculate Warfare

6 September USA Today commentary - The Myth of Immaculate Warfare by Ralph Peters.

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Under the right battlefield conditions, sophisticated military technologies give Western powers remarkable advantages. Under the wrong conditions and employed with unreasonable expectations, high-tech weapons inflict more damage on our own political leaders and national purpose than they do on the enemy.

Precision-targeting systems and other superweapons are dangerously seductive to civilian leaders looking for military wins on the cheap. Exaggerated promises about capabilities — made by contractors, lobbyists and bedazzled generals — delude presidents and prime ministers into believing that war can be swift and immaculate, with minimal friendly or even enemy casualties.

It's a lethal myth. The siren song oftechno-wars fought at standoff range makes military solutions more attractive to political leaders than would be the case were they warned about war's costs at the outset. Inevitably, the “easy” wars don't work out as planned. Requiring boots on the ground after all, they prove exorbitant in blood, treasure, time and moral capital...

A paradox of this era of dazzling technologies is that the conflicts we face are born of ethnic bigotry and faith gone haywire — atavistic challenges that cannot be resolved with guided bombs or satellite imagery.

Employed incisively, technologies certainly help our troops, but they aren't a substitute for troops. And they won't be. Yet, the false promises will continue.

We've been through this before. In the 1950s, large ground forces were supposed to be obsolete, superseded by missiles. Then came Vietnam, followed by a succession of brutally human conflicts, from Lebanon through Somalia to the Balkans. For the 78 days of the Kosovo campaign, NATO aircraft attempted to force Serbia — a weak, miniature state — to agree to treaty terms. In the end, it took the threat of ground troops to achieve the international community's goals. After the firing stopped, we found that our expensive, sophisticated technologies had been fooled by cheap Serb mock-ups of military vehicles.

Why are defense contractors and partisan generals nonetheless able to convince Congress and one presidential administration after another that technology has all the answers? Because Congress and the White House want to believe machines will get them off the hook when it comes to sending our forces into battle. And there are huge practical incentives to buy big-ticket weapons systems from politically supportive defense contractors.

The defense industry silences military leaders who know better by employing them on generous terms after their retirement from service. The system is legal, but it's morally corrupt and ethically repulsive...

The promises made for advanced military technologies are all too seductive to political leaders with no experience in uniform. Hype kills. Until we abandon the myth of immaculate wars, our conflicts will continue to prove far more costly than the technology advocates promise.
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Old 09-06-2006   #2
CPT Holzbach
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Yet we continue to buy breathtakingly expensive systems designed to fight a Soviet Union that no longer exists, such as the $360-million-each F-22 fighter. We're buying Ferraris when we need pickups.
What I wouldnt give to see $360 million spent on infantry equipment. And then another $360 million spent on MOUT training and training facilities. And another $360 million spent on cultural training, and insurgency/counterinsurgency training. And that would take just 3 jets that we dont need from the Air Force. And in return, we would get the best trained and equipped infantrymen on the planet.
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Old 09-06-2006   #3
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Originally Posted by CPT Holzbach View Post
What I wouldnt give to see $360 million spent on infantry equipment. And then another $360 million spent on MOUT training and training facilities. And another $360 million spent on cultural training, and insurgency/counterinsurgency training. And that would take just 3 jets that we dont need from the Air Force. And in return, we would get the best trained and equipped infantrymen on the planet.
Agreed. Cut the B-2, the F-22, and possibly the JSF and we'd be ahead of the game when it comes to funding what is needed for today.
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Old 09-06-2006   #4
Tom Odom
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Default Agreement

In this arena, I find myself agreeing with Ralph Peters and of course MG (ret) Scales. Of the nearly 100 (91 according to history shots.com) divisions, most were formed, trained , and fielded 1942 to 1945; one can only ponder how useful say just 5 "new" divisions (or 15-20 brigades) would be today had the process begun in 2001 or 2002.

Of course, one could also make the same case for strengthening SOF by adding SFGs (or battalions).

One area I would dispute Peters is his rhetorical posturing in:

Quote:
Why are defense contractors and partisan generals nonetheless able to convince Congress and one presidential administration after another that technology has all the answers? Because Congress and the White House want to believe machines will get them off the hook when it comes to sending our forces into battle. And there are huge practical incentives to buy big-ticket weapons systems from politically supportive defense contractors.
because he either excuses or ignores the role of senior civilian leaders in this equation and that INCLUDES Congress and the executive branch.

Best
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Old 09-07-2006   #5
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Default Definately!

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Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
In this arena, I find myself agreeing with Ralph Peters and of course MG (ret) Scales. Of the nearly 100 (91 according to history shots.com) divisions, most were formed, trained , and fielded 1942 to 1945; one can only ponder how useful say just 5 "new" divisions (or 15-20 brigades) would be today had the process begun in 2001 or 2002.

Of course, one could also make the same case for strengthening SOF by adding SFGs (or battalions).
There's an interesting historical parallel that is operating here that may be germaine. After the civil wars of the 3rd and early 4th centuries and the establishment of the Quadrumvirate (Constantine et al.), the Roman Empire proceeded to downsize its mobile strike forces - legions - and replace large numbers of them with local "National Guard" type units (limitanii).

Unfortunately, for the Romans, they ended up with a military that couldn't handle increasing numbers of barbarian incursions with these local units who lacked the training, equipment and skills. Their concentration into a two tier system meant that they were highly vulnerable to any type of situation where large numbers of casualties would happen to their regular legions - Adrianople comes to mind.

This two tier system was designed to produce local and national political and military stability, but its actual effect was to make the military more "brittle" and locked into a particular waepons mix that was totally unresponsive to the actual tactical and strategic situations. The end result was the loss of the Western Empire and almost the loss of the Eastern Empire as well.

Maybe I am being somewhat paranoid, but I have to tell you that I see the desire to go out and spend another couple of billion on "state of the art" technology rather than training, upgrading and expansion of the troops that could actually do the job, verses looking good in 15 second sound bytes, is ringing all sorts of nasty bells in my mind.

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One area I would dispute Peters is his rhetorical posturing in: ....

because he either excuses or ignores the role of senior civilian leaders in this equation and that INCLUDES Congress and the executive branch.
True, Tom, but sometimes it can be useful to examine the style of the rhetoric used. Have you noticed that, in the general media lexicon, "high technology" (read shiny new toys) has a roughly similar place to that of the Saints in Medieval Catholic rhetoric?

It sells because it is a major part of the symbol system. For the past 40-50 years, the US has been bombarded with a series of "ad" campaigns that argue that the US became #1 because of their innovation in technology: "new" (aka "high") technology led to US supremacy post WWII; buy this "new" TV; use this "new" face cream, etc, etc, ad nauseum.

Today, you can't "sell" a product that is "old" - it has to be "new" and "improved" and, above all else, it has to be "stylish". And this is as true of oatmeal as it is of military equipment. It is also, unfortunately, true of "selling" candidates in political races. I truly doubt that you could get any candidate elected in the US today whose military platform was rational.

Marc
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Old 09-07-2006   #6
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Default The eternal infantry

Marc,

I would agree on you can't sell "old" even when it is cutting edge. Although largely OBE at this stage, I would offer the choice of a wheeled vehicle over a track when by all measures a track offers greater mobility at reduced weight over a wheeled vehicle built on multiple differentials and axles.

Marketing is what it is and it often drives perceptions that count far more in a "15 second sound byte" world.

Infantry is inherently non-transformational and only recently has been given serious attention as a "Combat System," as a means of highlighting the needs of the infantry in a system fixated aquisition process.

There is another relevant parallel in all of this. Look at the infantry as a labor cost, one that keeps costing management after the infantry (or soldiers in a larger sense) are worn out. Business models all focus on reducing such costs whenever possible. Systems like A/C can be rebuilt and upgraded as necessary and as new technology is available. Soldiers--especially infantry--require near constant training and their "wear out date" comes much earlier than a mainline battle tank, APC, or A/C. They are therefore a recurring sunk cost that must be constantly renewed. Business models abhor such costs.

The folly in that approach has been well demonstrated. Even stop gap measures as contrcat operations have their own 1st, 2nd, and 3rd order effects. War is not a business though some would argue all wars are fought for economic reasons.

We still need more and better infantry--just like the Legions of Rome.

best

Tom
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Old 09-07-2006   #7
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Default Welcome...

... visitors who got here through the Dangerously Idealistic and Crack Smoking Stupid blog. H/T to UCrawford for the kind words, added DICSS to our blogroll.
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Old 09-07-2006   #8
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Default Agree...

Quote:
Originally Posted by CPT Holzbach View Post
What I wouldnt give to see $360 million spent on infantry equipment. And then another $360 million spent on MOUT training and training facilities. And another $360 million spent on cultural training, and insurgency/counterinsurgency training. And that would take just 3 jets that we dont need from the Air Force. And in return, we would get the best trained and equipped infantrymen on the planet.
... and cut one more for $360 million to go into a fund that battalion, brigade and regiment level commanders may use for local reconstruction / humanitarian assistance and other needs as they see fit. Bottom-up in these cases seems to work much, much better than top-down.
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Old 09-08-2006   #9
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Default Rebuilding the Legionnaire

Tom,

Much as I hate to say it, you're quite right in this parallel.

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Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
There is another relevant parallel in all of this. Look at the infantry as a labor cost, one that keeps costing management after the infantry (or soldiers in a larger sense) are worn out. Business models all focus on reducing such costs whenever possible. Systems like A/C can be rebuilt and upgraded as necessary and as new technology is available. Soldiers--especially infantry--require near constant training and their "wear out date" comes much earlier than a mainline battle tank, APC, or A/C. They are therefore a recurring sunk cost that must be constantly renewed. Business models abhor such costs.

The folly in that approach has been well demonstrated. Even stop gap measures as contrcat operations have their own 1st, 2nd, and 3rd order effects. War is not a business though some would argue all wars are fought for economic reasons.
FW Taylor, the "father" of Scientific Management, has a lot to answer for.

For the sake of discussion, let's play with the analogies a bit. Labour cost, as that old crackpot Marx noted, are really the costs involved in transforming one material into another, regardless of whether the labour is provided by individual workers or by machines or by some combination of the two. This second material is then "sold" on the open market and the difference between the cost of labour, the cost of the raw materials and the cost of amortization of some other incidentals (e.g. factories, etc.) and the final sale price is the "profit" derived. The key problem that I see in the application of "business models" in most military situations is that the costing and "profits" are not in equivalent units and, hence, can't be compared.

In one sense, war is definately a business - a business that is involved in the transformation of a potential or actual opponent into a potential or actual non-opponent (back to von Clausewitz) - a shifting of their perceptions if you will. The "profit" derived from this "sale" appears in a whole variety of different forms - access to resources (a basic motive of WWI), access to land, shifts in alliances or power relations, "honour" (although whose honour is always a tricky question), some particular point of "principle", socio-cultural survival, etc., etc.. Hence, in any given situation of potential conflict, it is always a really good idea to know before hand exactly what you hope to achive from the conflict. It is also a good idea to have a specific transformational plan with exact markers.

Back to the labour cost anaolgy for a second. Would you use a table saw to hammer a nail? Most of the people I know wouldn't - they would use a hammer. So, if the transformation, the "profit", desired from OIF was defined as
  1. Regime change
  2. A re-alignment of regional power
  3. The creation of a "pro-Western" power in the region
  4. Eliminating alleged WMD
  5. Disallowing the use of Iraq as a terrorist "haven"

what would be the most efficient means of conducting such a transformation? Any MBA student handed this as a project should, if they wanted to pass , be able to figure out that the key to these transformations would be in Phase IV operations. Figuring how to neutralize the basic combat power of the existing Iraqi conventional forces, a/o the start of the war, was, actually, a fairly simple, if highly detailed, planning exercise. Figuring out how to do the actual transformations - the started goals of the war - is both much more complex and, at the same time, involves a totally different skill set.

The problem, of course, is that the stated goals - the transformation - all hinge around actions taking place in Phase IV, but almost all of the planning seems to have been aimed at earlier phases with Phase IV allowed to operate on a set of highly questionable assumptions. As far as historical parallels are concerned, I am reminded of both Vietnam and the campaigns planned by the Bureacratic faction of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire.

In a rather round about way, this takes us back to the old Roman Legions...

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Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
We still need more and better infantry--just like the Legions of Rome.
I couldn't agree more! Man for man, the Legionaires were the most versatile fighting force of the ancient world. They had the best training, the best discipline and the greatest combat ability of any ancient infantry - Alexander's Phalanxes and Hypapsists included.

Personally, I think their greatest strength was in their flexibility and cross-training. Legionaires could fight, and win, at 10:1 odds; could build roads and bridges that are still in use today; and could act as semi-trained military, naval and civil engineers.

Let's get back to labour costs for a second or so. One of the main reasons why the legions were so effective was that they could be, and frequently were, employed in non-combat infrastructure projects that had both civil and military applications. In MBA-speak, that means that you didn't have much labour down-time. If we compare that with the flashy, high tech combat systems, we find that they actually do have an incredible amount of "labour down-time" - after all, an F-22 doesn't really do that much except in combat, patrol or intimidation situations.

Tom, you say we need "more and better infantry" and I totally agree. I would go further, and say that we also need to completely revamp the "business models" involved in the military so that they more accurately reflect what the actual, transformational tasks of the 21st are likely to be.

Marc
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