Tuesday, May 29, 2007

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.


Blogger PierreLegrand said...

And in the end it will all come to naught because instead of defeating Iran and Syria we are negoitiating with them. Instead of crushing our enemy we talk to them. We should try that strategy with someone like Manson...well Charles why do you feel such anger?

What utter bullshit. In the end we are still fighting Islam and the administration is still denying it. This administration and its defenders have jumped shark.

BAGHDAD BLUES By RALPH PETERS …why I respect the man even though we part ways on Islam

5/29/2007 07:27:00 PM  
Blogger El Baboso said...

Well the British conquered India using an entrepreneurial model and succeeded where the Portuguese and French failed. Nor did they become a facist dictatorship, even though those entrepreneurial forces employed mercenaries of all types for centuries. I personally don't think that the Army or USMC (or even SOCOM) could stand the instutional or cultural strains of such a transformation nor come up with a creative response, but that analysis would be a tome, not a post. You'd have start anew with fresh, specially picked cadres.

America's strength is the entrepreneur. Dar al Islam's is the tribe. Until we reach a WWII-level of mobilization, the tribal network will be able to tie down any smaller sized force that we put in the field. I have lately become convinced that our future is not the professional Army, but rather militias and entrepreneurs with the regulars being the force of last resort like the Redcoats and the pre-WWI Regular Army.

5/29/2007 07:42:00 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

Interesting ...

Yesterday, I met with an Army Civil Affairs officer whose unit is set to deploy to Iraq in parts from Nov 07 to Apr 08. He said that they expect to be over there 18-24 months.

el baboso, Civil Affairs is already a viable model native to the military that has been evolving during this war. The question is whether the military will make the call to grow CA with the proper funding, resources, and manpower.

5/29/2007 08:14:00 PM  
Blogger Reocon said...

A new strategy of decentralization leaves open the question of what the strategic goal is vis-a-vis the Iraqi state. In certain ways, a flexible, decentralized strategy cuts not only against traditional military hierarchies, but also against state consolidation. For example: US counterinsurgency has had some notable success in arming and working with Sunni tribes to repel Al-Qaeda. Laudable, but those tribes are going to convert to Bahai'ism and pork wontons before they give up those arms and bow down to the Shiite-led government. Their newfound strength provides them with a better negotiating position, and why negotiate when strong?

Meanwhile, the Sunni reps in the Iraqi parliament keep stocking up on TNT. Strange "legislative agenda", eh?


TNT Found in Home of Iraqi Leader
Evidence Is Place on Maliki's Desk

Staff Reporter of the Sun
May 25, 2007

WASHINGTON — The Iraqi general in charge of the Baghdad security plan and the Interior Ministry is pressing Prime Minister al-Maliki to lift legal immunity for 15 Sunni members of parliament and begin prosecuting the lawmakers for conspiring with terrorists, in some cases Al Qaeda. . .

Shiite Islamists and Sunni insurgents . . . with a government like this, it's no wonder the Pierre Legrand's of America are peeling off from the latest Bush strategy. A decentralized strategy does not answer the question of what happens when the "centre can not hold." Or, if that center is occupied by democratically validated anti-American parties.

5/29/2007 08:23:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

These are good points Wretchard, but American society as a whole seems to want peace at any price, and appeasement of Iran and Al Qaeda specifically.

I think it will take another terrorist attack, like the one promised by Adam Ghadan, aka Azzam al-Amriki, "bigger than 9/11" to galvanize US society to fight.

Like it or not, the forces of Rosie O'Donnell, 9/11 "Truthers" and defeat and isolationism have won the culture war. They dominate the Media, Dem Party, and Congress. Sweeping in to the White House is at this point fairly likely. If they do control all three branches, expect to see abject surrender. Those forces and the institutions (Dem Party and the Media are essentially the same, most are married to each other quite literally) can't and won't change course from "dialoge" which in practice means appeasement.

If we lose a city, we might or might not fight. It would probably take three or four cities lost to WMDs by Al Qaeda or Hezbollah before the Dem Party and Media elites felt it was neccessary to fight.

5/29/2007 09:49:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

whiskey_199 -

Blame the "opposition" as much as you want.

Bottom line, though, is incompetent, corrupt Republican leadership that squandered the 60-70% approval ratings they had back in 2002. With Bush, Rove, Rice, Cheney & his neocons, Rumsfeld, and DeLay making a series of disastrous, reckless decisions starting in 2003.
Abetted by ineffectual leadership of the Senate and House by Hastert and Frist.

It's not just Iraq, it's how little they did for anyone but fatcats controlling both bodies of Congress and the Presidency. The horrific decision-making on display not just with Iraq, but with a host of domestic matters and diplomatic situations. The reckless spending, the refusal to augment the military or spend to replace what has broken or burned out in the last 5 years.

How Bush has failed to even try to learn and grow in office, to do anything to convince others of his vision other than boilerplate cheerleading. How he has failed to manage and replace bad generals and civilian appointees.

Now he has his conservative base just about ready to wreck the Party and rebuild it all over, due to his various betrayals & Teddy Kennedy "deals".

5/29/2007 10:49:00 PM  
Blogger Fat Man said...

Apocalypse Now (1979):

Kurtz: Did they say why, Willard, why they want to terminate my command?
Willard: I was sent on a classified mission, sir.
Kurtz: It's no longer classified, is it? Did they tell you?
Willard: They told me that you had gone totally insane, and that your methods were unsound.
Kurtz: Are my methods unsound?
Willard: I don't see any method at all, sir.
Kurtz: I expected someone like you. What did you expect? Are you an assassin?
Willard: I'm a soldier.
Kurtz: You're neither. You're an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks, to collect a bill.

5/29/2007 11:05:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Cedarford, there is no question that Bush has been a terrible political leader. One of his key mistakes was not punishing Democrats for Moveon a few days after 9/11 parading around Manhattan crying "Our Grief is not a Cry for War."

Bush needed to punish the Democrats well and good, so that any appeasement and peacenik-ery and upper class elitism and sympathy for terrorists turned to poison. A "near-death" experience for Democrats in 2002 would have provided both impetus for Jacksonian Dems and also a long term check on Wilsonian idiocy that has characterized the Bush Admin in Iraq and Afghanistan and with his treasonous State and CIA Depts.

It also would have given voters alternatives to Bush. Right now an incompetent who sometimes fights is better than a smooth competent who has declared without any doubt he will never fight. Ever.

But blame must also come to the Democratic Party who believe in fairy tales, and dreams of the benevolent UN, EU, "soft power," wars without killing, phasers on stun, "negotiating" with terrorists to stop their attacks, and other moronic notions that only people on the Short Bus would believe.

Along with cancerous conspiracy theories. Fully 35% of Dems belive Bush knew of in advance and allowed 9/11 to happen. That's UFO/Bigfoot/Crystal Channeling lunacy. That's "fire never melted steel" idiocy. It's stupid. Deliberate stupidity to avoid facing reality.

5/29/2007 11:22:00 PM  
Blogger El Baboso said...


You may very well find the cadres you need in Civil Affairs units. However, they are still bound by Army regulations, Federal Acquisition Regs, and the constant need to cover your ass to protect your career. If you look back to the European colonial armies -- the British in particular -- they fought for king and country and were not bound by much else. This allowed them tremendous room to innovate.

Fighting a tribal/religious network with a hierarchical force is the hard way of winning. An entrepreneurial network is far more efficient than a tribal/religious network. It must be subject to executive control, congressional audit, and the laws of war (pre 1945) and not much else.

5/30/2007 04:47:00 AM  
Blogger David M said...

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 05/30/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

5/30/2007 07:32:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

“…the military really wants to do something new without necessarily describing it as a radical departure from traditional ways of doing business.”

This observation brings to mind one of my favorite illustrations of this kind of atttitude, one that I saw many times during my 25 years of service in the USAF.

In 1940 the British, having been evicted forcibly from France and the rest of the Continent, were in dire straights. Looking around for something with which to defend their island, they found they still had large numbers of older arillery pieces, used as recently as WWI. While of an older generation of weapons, they still worked and could be employed. They embarked on a training program to teach the new recruits how to fire the old guns.

As they went about the country demonstrating how the old field pieces in storage could be used in the event of a German invasion, someone finally asked what two of the soldiers on the crew were doing. The two did not particpate in the setting up, loading, aiming, and firing of the piece, but simply stood behind the rest of the crew and came to stiff atttention about 3 seconds before the gun fired. The soliders were only doing what they had been trained to do; they had no idea why. As the team demonstrated their abilities in various locations they asked if anyone knew what the function of the two standing soliders was. Finally, an aged brigadier snapped his fingers and announced that he knew what the two men were doing.

They were holding the horses that drew the field piece, to prevent the animals from running off, especially when the gun was fired.

But the horses had been replaced by motor vehicles, so there were no longer any to be held. And what is not only remarkable is that not only are there people in the military going about functions that have no meaning – but there are actually other people who would argue that this is a good thing – or at least something that is necessary.

5/30/2007 08:43:00 AM  
Blogger Soldier's Dad said...

The 1st Brigade of the 1st ID began transformation into a training/advisor brigade in '06.


This is nothing new..it is just the "fruits" of a transformation are now ready.

5/30/2007 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

el baboso,

You make a fair point there.

From my interaction with the CA community, if CA could operate independently with all the resources and power it needed, it has all the ingredients to become the answer to this dilemma.

However, I fear you're right. As much as I passionately believe in CA and its potential, it works within a much larger organization under leadership with conflicting interests and divergent bureaucracies.

A comment I left on another blog:

Reminds me of an Army Civil Affairs conference I attended a few months back where a CA CPT told us his story from Afghanistan of how dysfunctional the greater government has been in helping out the mission.

He wanted to help stimulate the Afghanistan economy and move them away from opium production. The obvious answer to him was textiles. Afghan rugs, right? Through proper channels, he pushed up an appeal to the appropriate US department to help implement his plan to stand up the Afghan textile industry - I disremember exactly, but I believe it was this one: OTEXA (http://otexa.ita.doc.gov/). The answer he got back was a ’no can do’, that they couldn’t be a party to the US textile industry failing to sell one less rug in the global marketplace because their department helped a foreign country become a competitive supplier.

5/30/2007 05:43:00 PM  

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