Re-configuring to fight Terrorism
Captain's Quarters examines which political milestones in Iraq may be reached by September and whether the milestones are in fact the right ones. Some of the old ones may no longer be so relevant, suggests Captain Ed, because the US is gradually changing its strategy. Taking a new path. Westhawk definitely thinks the administration will change its strategy in September to one which may emphasize more local alliances and fewer American troops. And to run that, Bing and Owen West argue in Slate, requires what might be called an Advisory Army, one which will be institutionally modeled after the Special Forces, which consists of a smaller presence which emphasizes much longer tours of duty to allow US forces to develop a deep understanding of the country and personal relationships with their counterparts.
Although these changes are presented in the guise of an existing Advisory model, I get the sense, from West's article that the military really wants to do something new without necessarily describing it as a radical departure from traditional ways of doing business.
Finally, the military needs a new management model for its advisory corps. Advisers are like entrepreneurs, each tinkering with their own startup projects. This is unusual in a military that still uses a Napoleonic, hierarchical management structure, and the results so far have been mixed. One transition team may do what's called "active advising," spending the bulk of its time patrolling, while 5 kilometers away another may choose to remain inside the base, focused on staff planning. The military needs to adopt risk controls similar to those employed by Wall Street firms and other large companies that encourage risk-taking by entrepreneurial units. It must strike a better balance between nationwide unity of effort, local relationships, and individual risk-reward profiles.
There have been quite a few posts on this blog speculating on decentralized ways to combat a decentralized insurgency. Shifts of the sort described by Bing West are natural attempts to gain flexibility, shorten the decision cycle and integrate the political and military aspects to a degree hard to achieve within existing formations. My own guess is that organizational adapation will not stop there. What the military does within its sphere will be insufficient. Western society still needs to find ways to mobilize all the sources of its national power to fight in the economic, intelligence and information warfare fields. This will likely take the form of public/private partnerships which are still evolving.
I think history will judge the decision to go after the enemy in Afghanistan and Iraq as fundamentally correct because it compelled a direct contact between the opposing forces. And as is so often forgotten, one of the principal outputs of combat, aside from losses on both sides, is information. Information about how the enemy acts; his strengths and weaknesses. Information about how our own forces perform; its strengths and weaknesses. Information we would never have gotten without going after them bare-headed. The enemy has long been at war with us, watching and waiting; learning and scheming. Only lately have we declared ourselves against them -- and even so, with qualification. In Afghanistan and Iraq and in theaters all over the world we have at last begun to learn how to fight them. There's a long way to go, but the principal decision -- to take to the highway -- has been made.