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Old 04-09-2006   #1
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Default McMaster on war (merged thread)

Successful COIN in Tal Afar, Iraq - New Yorker Magazine narrated slideshow on 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and the CO - COL H.R. McMaster. Also see this 16 February Washington Post article by Tom Ricks - The Lessons of Counterinsurgency and this PBS Frontline interview of COL McMaster.

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Old 04-09-2006   #2
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Smile Iraqi Army in Fallujah

In The Sunday Telegraph (London) today is a short article based on an interview of an Iraqi colonel in Fallujah. Nothing too startling, but interesting.

The link is: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main...ixnewstop.html
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Old 04-22-2006   #3
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Default Dereliction of Duty

Just finished reading "Dereliction of Duty" by H.R. McMaster. Great analysis of the background to the American war in Vietnam. I guess history does repeat itself. Substitute Rumsfeld's name for McNamara and this book could have been pasted from today's Washington Post.

Although it pains me to see the retired generals criticize a current SecDef, I'm glad someone is pointing out the obvious.
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Old 04-22-2006   #4
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Default Dereliction of duty

While it is a good book, it is wrong to compare the situation in the book to the situation with respect to Iraq. In Vietnam, specific troop request were denied or cut in half. In Iraq, no one in the chain of command ever had a troop request denied. Ever. While people can make legitimate arguments over Gen. Abizaid's "small foot print" strategy, it is his strategy and there is no evidence that it was forced on him. In fact there is considerable evidence to the contrary. Both the President and the Secretary of defense have indicated on numerous occassions that if the commanders in the field say they need more troops they will get them. When testifying before congress Gen. Abizaid and Gen Casey have also made it clear that they have made no request for additional troops.

Let's have an honest debate over the small foot print strategy instead of trying to scape goat civilian leadership over a commanders strategy that some may disagree with. If you read Tommy Franks book American Soldier, it is clear that he and his component commanders got the troops they requested and that it was their plan that was approved for execution in Iraq. There is little doubt that through Phase III of the plan it was one of the most brilliant plans for combat operations ever. It is the Phase IV aspect of the plan that has come into question. The problem with most of the complaints about the Phase IV aspect of the plan is that the enemy was forced to change his plan and adapt to the reality of losing the war and come up with a new plan to continue fighting. He is continuing to adapt as we adapt to his plans.

It is not only an unfair criticism of civilian leadership to blame them for not knowing plans that the enemy did not even have at the time, it is a disservice to the military commanders in the field who are dealing with an adapting enemy.

One more point about McMaster should be made. His innovative plan for the liberation of Tal Afar is an example of our military adapting and dealing with the enemy in a very successful operation. There is no indication that civilian leadership inhibited his planning and execution of his assignment in Tal Afar, particularly the way civilian leadership did in operations in Vietnam. The Tal Afar operation is in many ways a vindication of Gen. Abizaid's small footprint strategy which includes reliance on Iraqi troops to get the force to space ratio needed to cutoff and kill the insurgency. The real problem with the strategy was its requiring US forces to buy the same real estate more than once during the period before there were sufficient Iraqi troops to hold territory taken from the enemy.

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Old 06-29-2006   #5
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Default 3rd ACR Loses Its Famous Chief

29 June Colorado Springs Gazette - 3rd ACR Loses Its Famous Chief.

Quote:
3rd ACR Loses Its Famous Chief

McMaster, who used cultural and war strategy in Iraq, heads to think tank

By Tom Roeder, The Gazette

The most famous commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment since World War II hero George S. Patton will hand over the reins of the unit in a ceremony today at Fort Carson.

Col. H.R. McMaster, described in some circles as the Bush administration’s poster boy for the Iraq war, has led the regiment since 2004, earning presidential praise for tactics that drove insurgents from the city of Tal Afar.

His troops first surrounded the city and then ordered a mass evacuation, assuming that only the enemy would defy the order. Then the troops launched a house-tohouse sweep to root out insurgents.

The tactics in Tal Afar countered a problem that plagued American commanders in Iraq — insurgents who would evade capture by fleeing when the Army showed up. McMaster’s approach has been adopted by the Army and Marines in sectors of Baghdad and Ramadi.

President Bush praised McMaster’s success in Tal Afar...

McMaster’s next assignment is a think-tank job at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, where he’s charged with devising better tactics to battle terrorism...

Many of the 5,200 soldiers who served under McMaster in the 3rd ACR worship him as a leader whose sheer intelligence saved lives in Iraq.

Capt. Russ Nowels said McMaster was so well-studied in Arabic language, history and culture that he gained instant respect from the Iraqis he encountered...

McMaster, a 1984 graduate of West Point who holds a doctorate in military history, ordered his officers to complete an extensive reading list on the Middle East before their Iraq deployment and emphasized cultural training for his troops.

Nowels said the training ordered by McMaster better prepared soldiers for Iraq, where they are part-time warriors and part-time peacekeepers...

Between the two Iraq wars, McMaster stayed in the spotlight as a critic of American leadership during the Vietnam War.

His 1997 book, “Dereliction of Duty,” which outlined the failures of leadership that led to defeat in Vietnam, became a Pentagon must-read. Its criticism of military leaders who refused to speak out against disastrous policies set by the Johnson administration has emboldened military critics of the Iraq war, who have cited McMaster’s work as a reason generals should stand up to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

McMaster has also penned scholarly papers on the military’s modernization plans. He has labeled as nonsensical the military’s assumption of the possibility of total knowledge on future battlefields through technology...

McMaster is especially critical of the Air Force and its high-technology satellite and aircraft purchases.

“The Air Force has become a force that is marketing flawed ideas that harm our defense,” he said.
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Old 07-02-2006   #6
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One day I was home watching a History Channel program on Desert Storm while I was eating lunch. There I saw a CPT McMaster interviewed because of his command of Eagle Troop/3rd ACR, which wiped out an entire Republican Guard BDE. I saw his name and thought "Gee, I wonder if he is still in the Army." I AKO White Paged him and was surprised that he was the current Regimental Commander of the ACR.

Finding that was neat.

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Old 02-15-2008   #7
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Default On War: Lessons to be Learned by Colonel H.R. McMaster

I brought this over from the Blog -

On War: Lessons to be Learned by Colonel H.R. McMaster

Money Quotes:

Quote:
"During the decade prior to the terrorist attacks against the United States in September 2001, thinking about defence was driven by a fantastical theory about the character of future war rather than by clear visions of emerging threats to national security in the context of history and contemporary conflict. Proponents of what became known as military transformation argued for a ‘capabilities based’ method of thinking about future war. In practice, however, capabilities-based analysis focused narrowly on how the United States would like to fight and then assumed that the preference was relevant."
And

Quote:
"So-called capabilities-based approaches to force development and constructive simulations that validate those approaches ought to be abandoned in favour of clear-headed thinking about contemporary and future conflict. Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon reveal the need for balanced joint capabilities and additional capacity in other agencies to assist in postconflict stability and counter-insurgency operations. At the operational level, forces must be capable of conducting counter-insurgency, stability or state-building operations. At the tactical level, forces must be able to fight under conditions of uncertainty and be employed in sufficient force and in the right combination to establish security and overwhelm the enemy in their area of operations."
A stinging and on target commentary. Doubt it will help him on the third look to BG.
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Old 02-15-2008   #8
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Default Yes, it is on target

It should guarantee his pickup -- but you may be right. Unfortunately.
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Old 02-15-2008   #9
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Quote:
"So-called capabilities-based approaches to force development and constructive simulations that validate those approaches ought to be abandoned in favour of clear-headed thinking about contemporary and future conflict. Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon reveal the need for balanced joint capabilities and additional capacity in other agencies to assist in postconflict stability and counter-insurgency operations. At the operational level, forces must be capable of conducting counter-insurgency, stability or state-building operations. At the tactical level, forces must be able to fight under conditions of uncertainty and be employed in sufficient force and in the right combination to establish security and overwhelm the enemy in their area of operations."
While I agree on one level, I think McMasters might be looking down the wrong end of the telescope. If you continually ask the wrong question, at no time do you get the right answer.

Forces should be capability based. What is always missing is a clear doctrinal understanding of why the capabilities should be limited. The US problem has always been to assume that military power comes from maximising capabilities. Obviously it does not! Sorry to state the obvious, but it needs to be stated.
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Old 02-15-2008   #10
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Default Partly agree. I think McMasters realizes

Quote:
Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
...
Forces should be capability based. What is always missing is a clear doctrinal understanding of why the capabilities should be limited. The US problem has always been to assume that military power comes from maximising capabilities. Obviously it does not! Sorry to state the obvious, but it needs to be stated.
that military power does not come from maximizing capabilities. Seems to me he's saying that they should be doctrinally based on needed capabilities, not the same thing as our current technique, thus his use of the words "so-called."

He's also aware of our (and most everyone's) problem of political dithering and meddling in the force design process.
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Old 02-15-2008   #11
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I find these concluding lines of the piece to be the most compelling.
Quote:
no matter how clearly one thinks, it is impossible to predict precisely the character of future conflict. The key is to come close enough to be able to adjust as new challenges to security emerge. (Mcmaster, H. R. (2008) 'On War: Lessons to be Learned', Survival, 50:1, 28)
The point made here is the need to be flexible. And flexibility applies as much to one's thinking as to one's force structure. Until reform of the "personnel manglement" systems inculcates a selection bias towards flexibility and innovation as character traits, I suspect we will continue to see material solutions and organizational structures that are as agile as 200 car freight train negotiating the Tehachapi Loop.
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Old 02-16-2008   #12
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I think the elephant in the room on this is the FCS system of systems. Every time you see the word transformation in this paper think "FCS."
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Old 02-16-2008   #13
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Originally Posted by RTK View Post
I think the elephant in the room on this is the FCS system of systems. Every time you see the word transformation in this paper think "FCS."
OK, BUT do you mean or elephant like capability? Do we want to maximise our elephants or merely replicate their effect, but using grey mice with big noses?
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Old 02-16-2008   #14
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Default Apples and Oranges?

It seems to me that this is comparing apples and oranges. I think somewhere between McMasters and Dunlap is the right place...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
that military power does not come from maximizing capabilities. Seems to me he's saying that they should be doctrinally based on needed capabilities, not the same thing as our current technique, thus his use of the words "so-called."

He's also aware of our (and most everyone's) problem of political dithering and meddling in the force design process.
You need to have a spectrum of capabilities. The effects or capabilities based doctrine is supposed to mean that you don't use a jackhammer when a chisel is required or vice-versa - IE, you look at the strategic objectives (ends), determine the effects required to achieve them (ways), then determine what forces can best achieve those effects (means). I am sure most people here agree with that. You can't predict what future war will be like, so you must organize/train/equip a spectrum of capabilities as a hedge against your vision of future war being wrong.

I don't see OIF as a renunciation of the effects based doctrine. I see it as an example of the wrong effects being used... due to not understanding the actual effects required to achieve our objectives. As far as defeating Saddam's fielded forces and removing him from power, we did pretty well... quick victory and fairly low casualties - hardly a failure. The following ops were just the opposite - we didn't understand the effects required.

It should not be a zero sum game... IE, having the ability to dominate at the high end with "transformational forces" should not exclude having the capability to do a manpower-intensive lower end COIN war... we need to maintain a spectrum of capabilities. If the nation can't afford both, then maybe we should avoid COIN ops/nation building-if you're not willing to do it right/spend the money to do it right, then you shouldn't do it at all. Clearly we must be able to protect our survival and vital interests, which typically won't involve COIN but more high intensity conflict. So if we are funds limited, you have to make choices, and maybe the low end, nice to have capabilities fall out. I personally think that we can afford to maintain a reasonable high end force (380 F-22s, new bombers, B-2 replacement for the AF, 300 ships for the Navy, FCS for Army) and still afford the low end (COIN aircraft, increase size of SOF forces, maintain robust light infantry forces). It seems that rejecting the RMA is just as invalid as thinking that the RMA's transformational charachteristics will apply to all wars. If we failed in Iraq by thinking that it would follow the OEF model, won't we potentially fail in the next war by thinking that it will follow the 2005-2008 OIF model?

I agree wholeheartedly for the need to reform the interagency process. I'll be very curious to see if the next president does this... a new Goldwater Nichols for the interagency?

Not having been there I can't be certain, but folks who were involved in Anaconda at both the strategic/operational level (in the CAOC) as well as the tactical level (some of the first A-10s on scene) all have said that the Army and AF were NOT well coordinated prior to Anaconda. While Col McMasters' statements about UAV surveillance may be true, I don't think the AF was ready at all for Anaconda. It seems that both services are at fault- the Army for not making sure the AF was ready to support/wanting the support, and the AF for not making sure they knew what the Army had planned and lining up the proper support. Not our joint forces finest hour...

Anyway definitely a well thought article!

V/R,

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Old 02-16-2008   #15
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Default Perhaps

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cliff View Post
It seems to me that this is comparing apples and oranges. I think somewhere between McMasters and Dunlap is the right place...
though McMaster,an Army guy, is,as RTK says, inveighing against the purchase of the FCS while Dunlap is fighting for more birds...
Quote:
You need to have a spectrum of capabilities...
Of course you do.
Quote:
...The effects or capabilities based doctrine is supposed to mean that you don't use a jackhammer when a chisel is required or vice-versa - IE, you look at the strategic objectives (ends), determine the effects required to achieve them (ways), then determine what forces can best achieve those effects (means). I am sure most people here agree with that...
I suspect you're correct, most not only agree with it but they know it. However, That's not the issue McMaster is surfacing.
Quote:
...You can't predict what future war will be like, so you must organize/train/equip a spectrum of capabilities as a hedge against your vision of future war being wrong.
That's in essence what McMaster is saying, he's just pointing out two big truths; first, he said:
Quote:
"Proponents of what became known as military transformation
argued for a ‘capabilities based’ method of thinking about future war. In
practice, however, capabilities-based analysis focused narrowly on how the
United States would
like to fight and then assumed that the preference was relevant...(emphasis in original / kw)
Self-delusion about the character of future conflict weakened US efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq as war plans and decisions based on flawed visions of war confronted reality. This self-delusion has not been limited to the United States..."(emphasis added / kw)
He's merely stating the obvious but he's correct in saying we were planning for the war we wanted to fight -- not those we might have to. I suggest Dunlap is still in that mode, looking for the war he wants to fight. He's a smart guy, probably a good lawyer. He ought to stick to that....

Secondly he makes the same point you make here:
Quote:
...I don't see OIF as a renunciation of the effects based doctrine. I see it as an example of the wrong effects being used due to not understanding the actual effects required to achieve our objectives...
Precisely and that was due to two factors; poor national level intel but, even more so, trying to fight the war we wanted to instead of the war we went to. None of the services were ready to do that because all had concentrated for almost 30 years on fighting the "big war." Even after Viet Nam when it was quite obvious that such smaller wars would be foisted upon us in the future. In 1986, the Army acknowledged that fact -- but still kept its head in the sand and prepared to fight across the north German plain; the Navy insisted it was 'blue water' and the USAF was prepared to take on Migs once again.

By 1990 it was glaringly obvious that the USSR was not going to be threat for a long time if ever again -- and all the Services did nothing to adapt (or, very little to do so...). Preparations to fight the most likely kinds of war were ignored pretty much by all the services.

We got caught up short and had better admit that -- or we're likely to repeat the failure to adapt.
Quote:
...The following ops were just the opposite - we didn't understand the effects required.
Worse than that -- we didn't know how to apply the effect once we figured out we'd been suckered by Saddam.
Quote:
It should not be a zero sum game... IE, having the ability to dominate at the high end with "transformational forces" should not exclude having the capability to do a manpower-intensive lower end COIN war... we need to maintain a spectrum of capabilities.
We can agree on that, we need a full spectrum capbility in all services -- which means the USAF needs to boost up AFSOC.
Quote:
...If the nation can't afford both, then maybe we should avoid COIN ops/nation building-if you're not willing to do it right/spend the money to do it right, then you shouldn't do it at all...
I think we can afford it but Congress does like the big ticket items; jobs for the boys in multiple districts (also a part of the pre 9/22 stupidity and still a problem). The real question is will the voters put up with the sustained effort required for COIN efforts -- because they're long dirty slogs and that isn't going to change.
Quote:
...Clearly we must be able to protect our survival and vital interests, which typically won't involve COIN but more high intensity conflict.
As has been said here by many and often; we can afford to lose a COIN effort, we cannot afford to lose a major war. No question about that in my mind. The question that needs to be asked though is how many COIN efforts can we afford to lose?
Quote:
...So if we are funds limited, you have to make choices, and maybe the low end, nice to have capabilities fall out.
That low end isn't nice to have it's a part of being full spectrum -- and that "nice to have" is repeating the same flawed logic that got us stuck in Iraq.
Quote:
I personally think that we can afford to maintain a reasonable high end force (380 F-22s, new bombers, B-2 replacement for the AF, 300 ships for the Navy, FCS for Army) and still afford the low end (COIN aircraft, increase size of SOF forces, maintain robust light infantry forces).
So do I but I'm not voting for a whole lot of money for the FCS -- and you left out the F35 which I think is every bit as valuable as the F22. Not to mention that we have half dozen International Agreements about the little bird.
Quote:
...It seems that rejecting the RMA is just as invalid as thinking that the RMA's transformational charachteristics will apply to all wars.
I don't know anyone who's rejecting it. I do know a lot of us with scars are skeptical that anyone has all the answers...
Quote:
If we failed in Iraq by thinking that it would follow the OEF model, won't we potentially fail in the next war by thinking that it will follow the 2005-2008 OIF model?
Nor is anyone suggesting that -- full spectrum; that's what you said and with that, most agree. Full spectrum means that if you hit an OIF like situation you at least know what to do -- ALL the Armed forces of the United States hit OIF and took 18 months to figure out what to do and another 18 months to turn the massive bureaucracy around and start doing things right -- we may not have that that luxury next time.
Quote:
I agree wholeheartedly for the need to reform the interagency process. I'll be very curious to see if the next president does this... a new Goldwater Nichols for the interagency?
I hope not; G-N needs to die IMO. Nor will it be totally up to the Prez; Congress, the senior civilians and the AFGE will have a big say in that Interagency bit.
Quote:
Not having been there I can't be certain, but folks who were involved in Anaconda at both the strategic/operational level (in the CAOC) as well as the tactical level (some of the first A-10s on scene) all have said that the Army and AF were NOT well coordinated prior to Anaconda. While Col McMasters' statements about UAV surveillance may be true, I don't think the AF was ready at all for Anaconda. It seems that both services are at fault- the Army for not making sure the AF was ready to support/wanting the support, and the AF for not making sure they knew what the Army had planned and lining up the proper support. Not our joint forces finest hour...
Anaconda was an equal opportunity screwup; most everyone participating in that fiasco erred. In fairness to all of them, almost everybody was doing stuff they'd never done for real before.

More importantly, they were doing stuff they hadn't even trained for -- or thought about. A repetition of that is what McMaster is trying to preclude.
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Old 02-16-2008   #16
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Originally Posted by Cliff View Post
You need to have a spectrum of capabilities. The effects or capabilities based doctrine is supposed to mean that you don't use a jackhammer when a chisel is required or vice-versa - IE, you look at the strategic objectives (ends), determine the effects required to achieve them (ways), then determine what forces can best achieve those effects (means). I am sure most people here agree with that. You can't predict what future war will be like, so you must organize/train/equip a spectrum of capabilities as a hedge against your vision of future war being wrong.
I do not think you need a spectrum of capabilities. A defined capability provides the spectrum. An M1A2 is a discrete and definable capability. It can operate across a spectrum. FCS seeks to undermine that logic, with creating "M1A2" effects or capabilities from something that is not an M1A2. Suppose it might be Stryker MGS (i know it is not) - and that is very limited and cannot operate across the spectrum M1A2 can.

Military power is military power. If you have it, you have it. It's simple coherent and logical.
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Old 02-18-2008   #17
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Default I agree

..you do have to procure discrete capablities...

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Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
I do not think you need a spectrum of capabilities. A defined capability provides the spectrum. An M1A2 is a discrete and definable capability. It can operate across a spectrum. FCS seeks to undermine that logic, with creating "M1A2" effects or capabilities from something that is not an M1A2. Suppose it might be Stryker MGS (i know it is not) - and that is very limited and cannot operate across the spectrum M1A2 can.

Military power is military power. If you have it, you have it. It's simple coherent and logical.
I agree with you when you say a system can have a range of effects.

I think that you do need to procure a range of capabilities to cover the range of potential conflicts/threats you might face. The FCS can have some of the M1's effects vs. armored forces... but you have to consider the M1's psychological effect in other situations...

I think the execution phase is when effects based thinking is most appropriate... you can then consider the desired outcome, what effects will achieve this, and then pick the systems that generate the desired effects instead of having a system and then trying to tailor its effects to the desired level. Of course this assumes you have multiple systems to choose from (Heavy forces, Stryker, Light inf, SOF....) etc...

V/R,

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Old 02-18-2008   #18
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I think the elephant in the room on this is the FCS system of systems. Every time you see the word transformation in this paper think "FCS."
Was thinking the same thing. But I think that ship has already sailed.
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Old 02-18-2008   #19
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Default Interesting discussion...but...

can we at least get his name right? It's McMaster, not McMasters. That last 's' doesn't belong.

Pet peeve of mine.

As for Anaconda...there was certainly enough blame/confusion/whatever to go around, but it also played into what the AF does not really want to do: CAS. They don't like it. Never have, no matter how much lip service it gets. We've had instructors here dismiss it as a waste of assets (and yes...I'm serious. And we're talking about O-5s instructing future AF officers). The Army messed up to be sure in a number of areas (some of which can be traced back to Franks, who is not high on my favorite 'leader' list), as Ken points out.
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Old 02-18-2008   #20
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Quote:
It should not be a zero sum game... IE, having the ability to dominate at the high end with "transformational forces" should not exclude having the capability to do a manpower-intensive lower end COIN war... we need to maintain a spectrum of capabilities. If the nation can't afford both, then maybe we should avoid COIN ops/nation building-if you're not willing to do it right/spend the money to do it right, then you shouldn't do it at all. Clearly we must be able to protect our survival and vital interests, which typically won't involve COIN but more high intensity conflict.
Cliff,

I thought your post was good and thought provoking. But, I take issue with the elimination of COIN and thinking our vital interests won't necessarily involve COIN. Most did not think Iraq would see an insurgency...often times we may go somewhere and find ourselves in a COIN role. Eliminating training for that or ignoring it will see us in our current situation (or 2004 in Iraq) or leaving because we don't want to do it. You have to have both...how expensive is COIN? I'm willing to bet a lot cheaper to train than to buy a lot of the weapons we currently have and probably don't need.
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