The question of offense vs. defense is as old as strategy and was discussed most famously by the Prussian general and author, Carl von Clausewitz. Although he maintained the superiority of the defensive (“properly understood”), he was not one to champion a passive approach to war:
Every defensive, according to its strength, will seek to change to the attack as soon as it has exhausted the advantages of the defensive, so therefore, however great or small the defense may be, we still also include in it contingently the overthrow of the enemy as the object which this attack may have and which is to be considered as the proper objective of the defensive. (end of Chapter IV, Book V) Continue reading
I’m sorry, Mrs. Lind, there’s nothing more we can do.
Has the concept of fourth generation warfare outlived its usefulness? The term was coined by Bill Lind and his colleagues in a paper they published in the Marine Corps Gazette in October 1989, “The Changing Face of War: Into the Fourth Generation.” If you haven’t read this paper, you might want to take the time now.
Here is their primary prediction:
Fourth is a goal of collapsing the enemy internally rather than physically destroying him. Targets will include such things as the population’s support for the war and the enemy’s culture. Correct identification of enemy strategic centers of gravity will be highly important.
In broad terms, fourth generation warfare seems likely to be widely dispersed and largely undefined; the distinction between war and peace will be blurred to the vanishing point. It will be nonlinear, possibly to the point of having no definable battlefields or fronts. The distinction between “civilian” and “military” may disappear. Actions will occur concurrently throughout all participants’ depth, including their society as a cultural, not just a physical, entity. Major military facilities, such as airfields, fixed communications sites, and large headquarters will become rarities because of their vulnerability; the same may be true of civilian equivalents, such as seats of government, power plants, and industrial sites (including knowledge as well as manufacturing industries). Success will depend heavily on effectiveness in joint operations as lines between responsibility and mission become very blurred. Again, all these elements are present in third generation warfare; fourth generation will merely accentuate them.
You have to hand them that.
Interview on NPR this morning with Vali Nasr, who, while urging the US to continue spending money and lives in the Middle East, offered this gem:
And secondly, are we really reconciled to the Chinese [refereeing] the Arab-Israeli issue, or the Chinese handling al-Qaida, or the Chinese refereeing disputes between Iran and Saudi Arabia?
My reply: Mazel tov!
On several interesting articles on transportation, with the usual rambling commentary.
First, “Two worlds — miles apart — exist on Delta flights” from the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. The gist:
On long international flights, some well-heeled passengers are willing to pay upward of $8,000 for a ticket that includes the creature comforts in business class: Those heading overseas in Delta’s BusinessElite seats may dine on pan-fried halibut with spicy tartar sauce, smashed fingerling potatoes, asparagus and wine pairings. On board may be free movies and HBO, a seat that reclines into a flat bed with a comforter and pillow from Westin Hotels and a luxury amenity kit. Upon arrival back in Atlanta, there’s a chance of getting picked up at the gate in a Porsche.
“The safety of the enterprise lay in its novelty.” Confederate Col John Singleton Mosby, commenting on his successful nabbing (NY Times) of Union Gen Edwin Stoughton well behind Union lines. A nifty example of a special operation.
Of course, the safety of the enterprise also lay in Mosby’s ability to do the daring deed and get his rear end out of Dodge before the enormous blue army all round him noticed his presence. Which required generating a continuous stream of quick-witted novelty. Where does all this novelty come from? Continue reading
The BBC ran a feature yesterday morning with the provocative title: Spent force: Are Wars still winnable? Their answer:
As America’s decade of conflict draws to an end it’s a time for reflection about the utility of force; can modern warfare within societies ever bring the tidy outcomes that policymakers strive for? It’s a question that should have been asked in Iraq and Afghanistan; and it is as relevant in Mali and across much of sub-saharan Africa today. There may be no more decisive battles like Gettysburg.
I know you’re shocked unless, by chance, you read General Sir Rupert Smith’s The Utility of Force (2005), which opened with:
War, as most cognitively known to most noncombatants, war as battle in a field between men and machinery, war as a massive deciding event in a dispute in international affairs: such war no longer exists.
call for desperate measures. Actually, desperate times — and which times aren’t, even though the participants may not realize them as such — call for new options, or as Boyd said, the ability to shift from one pattern of actions and ideas to another.
Great example of this in the Marine Corps Gazette, “F–35B Needs a Plan B,” http://mca-marines.org/gazette/article/f–35b-needs-plan-b
Back in 2010, when the then-commandant proclaimed that there was no plan B to the F-35B, you knew that the Corps was setting itself up for a fall. Interesting for a service espousing the doctrine of maneuver warfare, with its emphasis on multiple thrusts. Well, now, what with the rises in costs of the program and impending cuts in the DoD budget, guess what? However, the Corps still has original thinkers, and whether you agree with the major on this particular option or not, the fact that he has written and the Gazette has published this article is a very good sign. The comments are well worth reading, particularly the replies to “Major Cannon, I certainly hope the monitors at HQMC get a whiff of this nonsense and you are never selected for Lieutenant Colonel.”
My first job at Lockheed, back in the early 1980s, was to find something new to broaden the company’s dependence on airlifters (C-130s and C-5Bs). The need we found was close air support and close-in interdiction, and for the low end of that mission, our proposal wasn’t too terribly different from Maj. Cannon’s proposal. Our favored platform, though, was a small, twin-engined jet to replace the A-10. The USSR was still around and so tank killing was a primary mission.
The United States cannot fight a war against radical Islamism and win …
There are those who will tell you that if you can’t sit in on meetings of our national security apparatus, the best alternative is to read George Friedman. So his most recent column in Stratfor, Avoiding Wars that Never End, might be taken as a trial balloon for a less intrusive policy for dealing with the treat posed by radical Islam. Friedman proposes returning to the strategy that proved successful in the two great wars of the twentieth century:
The United States cannot fight a war against radical Islamism and win … But the United States has the option of following U.S. strategy in the two world wars. The United States was patient, accepted risks and shifted the burden to others, and when it acted, it acted out of necessity, with clearly defined goals matched by capabilities. Waiting until there is no choice but to go to war is not isolationism. Allowing others to carry the primary risk is not disengagement. Waging wars that are finite is not irresponsible.
George Friedman, Founder and CEO of Stratfor, is always worth reading for the same reason that, say, James Kilpatrick was: You might not have agreed with much that he wrote, but there were usually a few nuggets amidst the infuriation, and he wrote so amazingly well. In fact, in his later years, his columns on writing were all I remember.
Friedman has an important column today in Stratfor, The Crisis of the Middle Class and American Power. He opens with:
I received a great deal of feedback, with Europeans agreeing that this is the core problem and Americans arguing that the United States has the same problem, asserting that U.S. unemployment is twice as high as the government’s official unemployment rate. My counterargument is that unemployment in the United States is not a problem in the same sense that it is in Europe because it does not pose a geopolitical threat. The United States does not face political disintegration from unemployment, whatever the number is. Europe might.
And proceeds to argue most eloquently that the United States faces exactly that. This was also something Boyd worried about. For examples, here’s part of his discussion of the prerequisites for an insurrection:
Insurrection/revolution becomes ripe when many perceive an illegitimate inequality—that is, when the people see themselves as being exploited and oppressed for the undeserved enrichment and betterment of an elite few. (Patterns, 94)
I assume most of you have seen Tom Friedman’s oped in the NYT today, “More risk-taking, less poll-taking.“
He opens with:
THE U.S. military trains its fighter pilots on a principle called the “OODA Loop.” It stands for observe, orient, decide, act. The idea is that if your OODA Loop is faster and more accurate than the other pilot’s, you’ll shoot his plane out of the sky. If the other pilot’s OODA Loop is better, he’ll shoot you down. Right now, our national OODA Loop is broken.
Although we could quibble with his use of the term (for how Boyd actually used it, see “Boyd’s OODA Loop” on the Articles page), his claim that our “national OODA loop is broken” has some validity.
Recall that in Boyd’s framework, action flows from orientation. Individuals have orientations, but when we’re talking about countries or other groups, we need a surrogate for orientation. What Boyd suggested was something called a “common outlook” or “similar implicit orientation,” which he describes on pages 74 and 79 of Patterns and pp. 18-23 of Organic Design.
What Friedman appears to be arguing, and in this I think he’s right, is that we have nothing like the common implicit orientation that we need to implement solutions to our problems, and that the President’s focus now should be on creating one.
I haven’t seen the movie, but didn’t Lincoln say something about a house divided?