Friday, December 10, 2010

New Sniper Rifle for Troops in Afghanistan

The XM2010 Enhance Sniper Rifle will soon find its way into the hands of Army and Marine Corps snipers in Afghanistan. This is reportedly in response to recent data that shows the enemy are engaging the troops more frequently and from greater ranges than in the past.

A better rifle is a good thing, but it continues to annoy me that weapons and equipment seem to take an unacceptably long time to reach our troops. This latest example is defensive procurement as though the expansive, mountainous terrain of Afghanistan only recently revealed itself as a sniper's paradise. Why be on the defensive and wait and react to what the enemy is doing?

The troops should have long ago been given the weapons, training and initiative to go out and relentlessly hunt the enemy. In effect they have to beat the enemy at their own game because patrols that often serve as juicy targets for IEDs are not going to win the war.

(I have to point out that President Obama has made it pretty clear he is not really interested in winning, but only in turning the fight over to the Afghans.)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Why Are Small Ticket Items Too Expensive?

Not too long ago I wrote about the disappointment of the new XM25 grenade launcher.  The tragedy is two fold: one, the weapon was to be a replacement for the M16/M4 and two, it was to fire standard rifle ammunition as well as the programmable explosive rounds. While the weapon is undoubtably an advance, it is more of a baby step than a leap forward as it will not replace any rifles and there will probably only be about four issued to each platoon.

High costs were cited as part of the reason the rifle/grenade launcher design was dropped and why the launcher is to be issued in small numbers. This is disturbing as there is money for billion dollar F-22s and submarines. Just a couple of days ago a new multi-million dollar littoral combat ship was commissioned. All of these big ticket items are great additions to our military, but then certainly money can be found for an all new weapon for every infantryman.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Victor Davis Hanson's "In Defense of Defense"

Mr. Hanson wraps up his recent article in National Review magazine with the line,"A healthy economy is the best national security measure of all." Many would accept this as axiomatic, but in today's deficit and budgetary climate nothing, as they say, is off the table. Many in government and the public will be tempted to see the defense budget as an easy target for sizable cuts.

The Obama administration has added about $ 1.3 trillion in annual budget deficits in the last two years. There will be considerable pressure to off-set this with cuts in defense spending even though we have thousands of troops engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan, North Korea is killing South Koreans and Iran is full speed ahead with its nuclear weapons program.

Mr. Hanson points out that can and has left the U.S. as being perceived as weak and vulnerable. Our unpreparedness leading up to World War Two and the decline of the military in the post-Vietnam era proved to be damaging to our interests. It would be pure folly to not heeds these examples in the era of the Global War on Terror.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Book Review: "The Savage Wars of Peace" by Max Boot

The history of war is often thought of as a collection of the biggest battles and the most colorful characters, but Max Boot reminds us that you are more likely to find dirty little fire fights fought by quiet professionals.  Mr. Boot's chapter on the Filipino Insurrection that broke out in the wake of the Spanish American War when a American naval squadron captured Manila Bay from Spanish forces.

Modern ground warfare is increasingly marked by small, violent engagements and this has been particularly true of the Global War on Terror.  Small, violent engagements describes the jungle warfare American forces faced in the Philippines in the years 1899-1902.  The Army prevailed in this bloody conflict due to their training, toughness and some daring exploits that would likely be overruled today by the Pentagon.

"The Savage Wars of Peace" is a valuable on its own terms, but will be particularly helpful for those who are trying to gain some perspective on the ongoing war against militant Islamism.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Better Late Than Never?

After years of delays and technical problems the Army is finally beginning to deploy a new weapon to Afghanistan. A battalion of the famed 101st Airborne (Air Assault) is to receive the first shipment. Unfortunately this is not the long hoped for replacement of the M-16 and M-4 known as the Objective Individual Combat Weapon. This was to be a combination of a conventional rifle that would fire the standard 5.56 mm round as well as a new air burst 25 mm round and be issued to all infantrymen. Technological and financial concerns killed the ambitious project, but it has been partly resurrected as the Counter Defilade Target Engagement System or the XM-25. This weapon only fires the air burst 25 mm round and a squad will probably get only one.

This is being touted as good news for the troops and it is as much as any effective weapon in the hands of our troops is a good thing, but is this the best we could do?  The Pentagon is drawing up plans for all kinds of futuristic weapons and IT technology but a all knew rifle for all of our grunts is just a bridge too far?  I cannot help but wonder if the military has put too much emphasis on standoff weapons like UAVs and big ticket items like amphibious assault ships and left those at the tip of the spear with less than they could have otherwise had?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What Time is it in Afghanistan? Part III

The latest battle for Kandahar, the birth place of the Taliban is unfolding as Operation "Dragon Strike" hits its stride.  But after months of shaping the battlefield and allowing the enemy to either flee or dig in the outcome seems destined to be mixed. Marjah was and now Kandahar is the center of the war effort, but how much of this is just whacking at moles when the enemy can slip in and out of neighboring Pakistan?

As politically uncomfortable as it may be for the Obama administration, the enemy's center of gravity is north west Pakistan or Waziristan. While the Obama administration has greatly stepped up drone attacks at a certain point this underscores the lack of a real operation into the Taliban and al-Qaeda strong hold.  A coordinated multi-brigade operation into the badlands of pakistan would take advantage of U.S. strengths: tactical surprise, air power and air assault capabilities and overwhelming fire power. By comparison the drone strikes seem like a delaying tactic until President Obama begins to pull the troops out in the summer of 2011.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Book Review: War, by Sebastian Junger

If you are looking for one of those sober policy analysis books that considers the situation in Afghanistan from 30,000 feet you will be disappointed by Mr. Junger's new book "War." His book is the dirty and dangerous ant's view of Operation Enduring Freedom. He made 5 trips to the Korengal Valley region of Eastern Afghanistan along the Pakistan border.  He spent many long days and nights living with an Army platoon at their lonely outpost.

The monkeys chatter at them from the wire, the Taliban take pot shots at them from the surrounding mountain tops and everyone counts the days until they can rotate out of the valley. This is the day to day reality of the war on terror: dusty out posts, dangerous patrols and sharp and deadly fire fights. Junger does not intrude on this reality with commentary on grand strategy and the young soldiers he talks to seem united in their indifference to international politics. To paraphrase President Obama - it's above their pay grade.

many will appreciate the details provided about weapons, equipment and living conditions, but this can get a little repetitive and there is little about combat tactics and procedures to help fill out the narrative. Overall, however, Junger tells an effective story most Americans have heard little about and shows that today's soldiers seem like the same soldiers we have read about in accounts from World War Two and Vietnam and there is something reassuring about that.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Future for the Blue Water Navy?

While the Navy continues to express confidence in aircraft carrier battle groups with all the supporting surface ships. Similarly, the Marine Corps continues to push for amphibious assault vehicles and equipment.  But are these preferences supported by technological, tactical and strategic trends?

The future appears to lie in the green coastal waters where littoral combat ships range and in the "black water" of the deep where submarines reign.  Cruise missiles and UAVs are powerful force multipliers that will diminish the effectiveness and necessity for large, expensive surface vessels. LCSs and submarines are both relatively small, but versatile are not only combat vessels, but useful for missions such as surveillance and SF operations.

A century ago battleships were the epitome of Naval power, World War Two saw them eclipsed by aircraft carriers as naval warfare became air warfare. There is evidence to suggest that in this century naval warfare will become black water submarine warfare.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Is Africa the Next Afghanistan?

The possibility of The United States expanding its Global War on Terror is not idle speculation it is happening. Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom has grabbed all the headlines, but years ago the Bush administration established an American military presence in central and east Africa. These troops, based out of places like Djibouti, have been training and advising weak democracies like Ethiopia and Kenya.

Jihadi Violence has been part of African history since Islamic armies first spread into North Africa in the 7th century.  Algeria, the Sudan and Somalia are only the most recent flare ups. So far, media accounts seem to indicate the military's COIN, advising and training missions have been going well, but they have also been growing as underscored by the creation of the new Africa Command at the end of the Bush administration.

Like fire fighters, the goal the U.S. troops in Africa is to help local governments damp down local militant Islamists before another Sudan or Somalia is created. Hopefully this long term commitment will prove to be a success and demonstrate that not all the battles we fight with the militant Islamists have to be large-scale endeavors like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Monday, September 13, 2010

New Dawn or Shining us on?

President Obama seems to want things a couple of ways when it comes to Operation Iraqi Freedom, now renamed Operation New Dawn. His narrative for years has been Bush policies failed, especially the surge and Iraq was spiraling out of control. Obama's Vice President Biden even advised the country be split into three mini-states. Now that they own Iraq they are rushing to take credit for the progress Bush's policies and as important his determination to stay and win instead of withdrawing prematurely as Obama wanted to do as a senator and candidate.

The Obama administration recently presided over the withdrawal of combat forces from Iraq as called for in the Status of Forces Agreement negotiated by the Bush administration. Obama keeps harping on his plan to have ALL troops out of Iraq sometime in 2011.  Does this mean regardless of conditions on the ground.  What about the 4000 American Special Forces troops "assisting and advising" Iraqi forces? They only get to help kill our enemies until the hour glass runs out? What kind of war-winning strategy is that?

Obama may discover in 2011 that al-Qaeda and its ilk are not on the same schedule and as al-Qaeda and the Taliban are fond of saying in Afghanistan, "you have the watches, but we have the time."

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Secretary of Defense for a Day: 3 Items

What would you do if you were the Secretary of Defense for a day? This is the "thought experiment" I considered recently and these are the top three items I would put on the agenda:

1. There is too much duplication, expense and inefficiency among the four services. I would reorganize the branches by folding the Marine Corps into the Army and return the Air Force to its original condition as a Corps within the Army.

2. Refocus efforts into combat effectiveness. This does not always mean embracing the latest piece of technology. I would focus on ways to reduce the Army's tooth to tail ratio so tactical units like platoons and companies can operate independent of bases for up to weeks at a time.

3. I would put a stop to all of the silly uniform changes such as the Navy's weirdo bluish digital camouflage and the Air Force's digital tiger stripe uniforms. i.e. we're at war - pick one uniform!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Captain Un-America

Although combat takes places half a world away in places like Afghanistan and Iraq the war is with us - it is part of our culture. Since the Vietnam War the left has rejected war and the military as part of our legitimate past and present. The comic book super hero Captain America was born in the dark days of World War Two when the leftists who would reject him as adults marveled at his exploits as children.

In an era when the phrase "flag waving" is used with derision it should come as no surprise that the left views Captain America in much the same way it views America: big, lumbering and jingoistic. The generations who gloried in America's exceptionalism are dying off only to be replaced by multi-cultural minded vanilla beans. Sometimes I wonder how America still produces the millions of young men and women who still want to serve proudly in our armed forces.

Classic Captain America rarely had time to second guess himself and his motives; he was too busy fighting the Nazis and Red Skull. Does anyone believe he will be cracking Jihadi's skulls? Something tells me the newest incarnation of Captain America set to hit the silver screen next year will not be so lucky and neither will we.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Top Guns vs. Mouse Jockeys

The military is in a period of serious transition and transformation. It would be a significant phenomenon even if we were enjoying a period of relative peace. The GWOT has forced decisions to be made in an uncertain prism of war that has created a tug of war between current needs and and future needs. This has had an impact on military organization, training and education, but the most visible impact is the increasing role of technology.

UAVs have almost become a symbol of the reliance on technology in the GWOT to provide force multipliers in an era of flat or shrinking troop levels. This is particularly evident in the Air Force as this service has been at the cutting edge of technology for decades. Many observers believe the F-22 and F-35 fighters will be the last manned fighters built by the U.S. This is doubtful, but we already see the first indications of a split between what I call Top Guns versus Mouse Jockeys. To the chagrin of actual pilots, a subculture of "virtual pilots" are being trained to "pilot" the growing fleet of UAVs. Originally the idea was to retrain pilots for the UAV jobs but the growth in the fleet has made the Air Force rethink the training process and has created a new occupational specialty to accommodate the operators.

The trouble is UAVs are very much a tactical asset similar to artillery support or a gun ship. The Army has cannons and helicopters, but the Reapers and Predators are the property of the Air Force and CIA. The Air Force mouse jockeys sit in a room on a base in the U.S. and "fly" the UAVs. Perhaps these assets could be better utilized if the operators were in theater soldiers instead of airmen who have probably never set foot in Afghanistan or Iraq. Under my plan the UAV fleet as well as Air Force and Marine Corps planes would be reorganized into an Army Air Corps. This could go along way toward erasing costly and inefficient service rivalries and help the air forces come to terms with the idea that tactical air support and logistical support are and will probably continue to be their core missions.

A war of UAVs and A-10 attack planes is a very different war than the one with spectacular dogfights and massive bombing raids the Air Force has been planning and equipping for since World War Two. But this is the war we have drawn and we have to do what is necessary to fight it most effectively without regard for pet weapons and outdated organizations.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What Time is it in Kandahar? Part II

According to the way the Kandahar Offensive was sold in the spring it would be a lot like the Marjah Operation, but bigger and better. Now its the middle of August and according to the International Herald Tribune the military is no longer allowed to use the phrase "Kandahar Offensive." Military and civilian spokesmen have walked the whole thing back and are portraying the operation as largely a "civilian surge" with reconstruction taking a front seat to combat operations. An unnamed civilian official was quoted as saying, "'s not going to be an aggressive military campaign. They've looked at it and realized it wouldn't work."  General McChrystal was still in charge when this was said; is he the "they?" Is it President Obama? President Karzai?

Based on recent statements by General Petraeus regarding sitting down with the Taliban, it seems everyone believes a military solution is no longer the solution.  Instead of spending so much time writing a new COIN manual perhaps General Petraeus should closely study Sri Lanka's dismantling of the Tamil Tigers. What was the point of going ahead with the Bush Administration's intention to send a surge into Afghanistan? I thought the point was to try to repeat the success seen in Iraq, but if the extra troops are not going to be used to shred the hardcore Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters the whole things takes on aimless quality that feeds into the "we're out of here in 2011" message the Americans and Afghans have been getting from the Obama administration.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

War? What War?

This is not intended as a "President Bush did everything right and President Obama is doing everything wrong" diatribe because this is simply not the case. The Bush administration, the DOD and all levels of the national security establishment such as the CIA made more than their share of errors prosecuting the GWOT.

The single biggest achievement of the Bush era was convincing Americans in the wake of 9/11 that we were indeed at war with global jihadists (I use the term militant Islamists) and their terror sponsors. The Bush administration unleashed the military and intelligence agencies to go on the offensive to "root out" the terrorists and "bring them to justice." Sophisticates complained about President Bush's simplistic approach and denounced it as "war mongering."

War is war, mongering aside - what was or is the alternative? The Taliban and al-Qaeda was shattered and driven from Afghanistan, and the Iraq regime was toppled and Saddam captured, tried and executed. Al-Qaeda has been decimated in Iraq and both countries are fledgling democracies in a region of the world where Muslim democracies are almost unknown.

By any standard these are the most significant foreign policy accomplishments since the end of World War Two. The leftist view is that it was all a dark and disastrous imperial adventure and marked the end of Americans' civil liberties. Although the absence of anti-war activists protesting the ongoing troop presence and deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan (with a few exceptions) since President Obama took office tells you all you need to know about the motivations and convictions of the left.

The Bush policies or "doctrine" if there was one was that the U.S. was at war and would not only fight terrorist organizations, but would attack rogue regimes who supported them. This was why the Taliban government and the Iraqi government were targeted and not just al-Qaeda. This was not "taking the eye off the ball" but an attempt to carry out a strategic response instead of a purely tactical tit for tat response that had failed during the Clinton Administration. During his eight years in office there were at least half a dozen attacks, including the first WTC attack, but cruise missiles were the only response.

President Obama is more a caretaker President than a war time President who feels obligated to continue the Bush policies in Iraq and afghanistan in the near term, but with an eye on the exits instead of a commitment to victory. He is essentially presiding over a holding action as he waits to be able to report to his base before the 2012 elections that he has pulled most of the troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Predator drone strikes will not destroy al-Qaeda and the Taliban and will not convince them their cause is hopeless. President Obama does not believe the GWOT/overseas contingency operations are really worth fighting. He is more comfortable arguing about where and how captured enemy combatants will be tried and how Gitmo can be shut down or how sanctions will eventually make Iran's mullahs give up their nukes, but what about their ongoing meddling and killing of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq? This is not way to fight or to win a war.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Fantasy, or all too real?

 In his much discussed article "Al-Qaeda's Fantasy Ideology" Lee Harris essentially argues that 9/11 was not an act of war because that would describe it in too rational a way. He dismisses militant Islamism as a fantasy without rational goals. He makes the mistake he criticizes others for - he makes an inaccurate judgement about an exotic culture. For millions of Muslims throughout 1500 years of history battling infidels and creating a caliphate are Allah's will and completely rational goals as far as they are concerned. In that context 9/11 was an act of war against the "house of war" the part of the world still not under Islam.

 I do think his Hitler/Nazism analogy is weak; National Socialism, at least as it developed under Hitler, was a weird political aberration perhaps even a fantasy. However, even if we dismiss the Koran as one man's dreams, the fact is there are centuries of Muslim history, politics and culture and millions of people who believe it to be the literal word of God. Faith may sometimes be irrational, but pursuing a goal is often quite logical.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Men still better than machines...for now

A recent article on the internet pointed out the difficulties the U.S, Air Force is having supplying enough pilots to fly surveillance air craft in Afghanistan. Though not the point of the article in question, I think the real story is the tacit understanding that the military has been relying too much on technology like drones instead of people. One can almost hear the pitches company representatives made to the Pentagon over a decade ago in which they dazzled procurement officers and politicians with the allure of a panacea: cheap surveillance and weapons platforms that would keep pilots out of harms way. But one has to wonder if the pitch convinced anyone the drones would be more effective than pilots and their planes.

fast forward to the fighting in Southern Afghanistan going on right now.  Ground units need aerial surveillance and their aren't enough drones or surveillance planes such as the MC-12 Liberty, a twin turbo prop. Pilots can look out the cockpit window and actually see things like enemy movements and troops in trouble. The article I mentioned above points this out, but does not really address the core of the issue: People and training have been neglected in favor of technology.

Drones are probably the future of the military, but for now, in this war, people are still better than machines.

Monday, July 26, 2010

What Time is it in Kandahar?: 1st in an occasional series

What is the state of operations in Kandahar Afghanistan? I do not mean the specific operational details, but we should be able to get a sense of the general flow of events. Although their has been mounting U.S. and enemy casualties in and around Kandahar news reports indicate the operation to secure the city and surrounding provincial has not officially begun yet. This after the Pentagon has been putting out statements in the media for months about the impending fight.

The problem is that a decision was made at a high level (circa 2006?) that the War on Terror has to be waged with a minimum of fighting as codified in the new COIN manual.  It has been whole-heartedly embraced by the Obama administration. We don't yet know what effect this decision to downplay combat in a war will ultimately have on the military and the public, but the effect on the enemy is that they can believe the U.S. is not willing get into the mud and slug it out. In fact they have a date to look forward to as President Obama has repeatedly assured the left wing of his base that U.S. troops will be begin to withdraw from Afghanistan next summer.

President Obama's public lack of a long term commitment to win has encouraged the enemy's often repeated line: "You have the watches, but we have the time." There is not doubt Afghanistan is a messy, unforgiving place, but there is a tendency in our age to over complicate things, to dress up difficult problems with phony intellectualism and pretend nuance is a virtue in war.  The simple truth is that Afghanistan is a backward, tribal society with deep ethnic divisions that will resist all efforts of "government in a box" whether originating from Kabul or Washington. However, like in Vietnam, some tribes will decide it is in their interest to fight with us against a vicious enemy. This is the coalition of the willing we need in Afghanistan.

Most importantly however, U.S. leaders need to remind themselves that the bottom line of any war, COIN or otherwise, is the enemy must be defeated on the battlefield before a lasting political settlement can be achieved. Instead of rehashing Mao's various stratagems, our leaders would be better served carefully studying Sri Lanka's recent ferocious and successful COIN campaign against the Tamil Tigers. Nuance and social theories were conspicuously absent, but there was a fair amount of actually fighting and killing the enemy.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Super Hawk could take a bite out of Army's dilemma

The U.S. Army has never had enough transport helicopters or attack helicopters. The former Soviet attempted to solve this problem with the Mi-24, a heavily armed troop carrying helicopter we know as the Hind. The Hind has served effectively for decades in dozens of militaries around the world. Dating back to the Vietnam War the Pentagon decided to build a dedicated helicopter gun ship to support the iconic "Huey" troop carriers and came up with the AH-1 Cobra.

Since Vietnam we have seen the UH-60 Black Hawk, AH-64 Apache, AH-1 Supercobra and the V-22 Osprey tilt rotor. All are either troop carriers or attack craft and none are a combination of both.  The Black Hawk has been of limited value in Afghanistan because of the altitudes, the Apache is powerful but has been more vulnerable to ground fire than expected and the Osprey had significant development problems and will likely never be available in large numbers. The workhorse of the Army is the classic twin rotor CH-47 Chinook.

The Pentagon could reduce the overall number of helicopters and save a lot of money by developing an all new transport/attack helicopter that incorporates the best of the two types. The TA-70 (Transport/Attack) "Super Hawk"  would essentially be a redesigned Black Hawk with elements of the Apache. It would have a somewhat streamlined fuselage to help make it less of a target than the Black Hawk, but be roomy enough to incorporate a rear door/ramp and troop compartment that can hold 8-10 soldiers. It would be armed with a combination of guns, missiles, rockets and bombs so it would need know gun ship support - it would be its own gun ship. It would need larger engines to handle the extra weight and still be agile and be able to attain a respectable altitude.

This is not a magic bullet, but it would redirect the Army's inventory toward a more efficient and combat effective channel instead of trying to rely to much on expensive and delicate technologies that may or may not prove themselves in the future.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Endless Argument: Review of "Endless War" by Col. Ralph Peters

Mr. Peters is an effective writer with a lot to say and a lot of it is dead on, but some of it comes off like he just wants to win the argument. Case in point: he repeatedly blasts the Bush administration for incompetence and ineptitude for how it waged war and peace in Iraq between 2003 and 2007 before the "surge" was implemented. As a student of history he cites many historical examples such as the invasion of Normandy in which more than two thousand soldiers were killed on the beach. Was General Eisenhower and his generals incompetent? Was their plan inept? or did they encounter heavier resistance and helplessly watch little mishaps pile up at the water's edge along with the bodies?

Obviously mistakes and missteps piled up in Iraq too - one I agree whole heartedly with Peter's on is the decision to not kill Muqtada al-Sadr and allow him to grow his Mahdi Army in defiance of the new Iraqi government.  According to Ambassador Bremer, he and the Army were for killing the terrorist leader, but were overruled by the Marine Corps leadership who had responsibility for al-Sadr's neighborhood. Was this general incompetent or merely mistaken?

The most important parts of the book are Peter's attempts to convince readers that  al-Qaeda and their ilk truly are Muslim terrorists who actually believe they are fighting a Jihad for Allah. He points out that many westerners, even tough minded intelligence analysts cannot quite wrap their heads around the emotional religious fervor of the enemy.

He is correct that the government in general and the Pentagon in particular has been incompetent when it comes to identifying and analyzing the militant Islamist nature of the enemy. Stories of brave intelligence analysts trying to buck the trend such as Major Coughlin are almost legendary within the defense community.

A followup book that focuses on the Obama administration instead of the Bush administration would be an interesting exercise. One can imagine the biting rebukes the Colonel would have for such recent follies as "man caused disasters", "overseas contingency operations" and more importantly and perhaps tragically the announced timeline/withdrawal date of summer 2011 for large numbers of U.S. forces fighting in Afghanistan.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Send in the Clowns

Along with the reading of the Declaration of Independence, 5k race and fire works  the Huntington Beach 4th of July parade is a staple of the day's celebration. Every year the Shriners dazzle children of all ages with their miniature motorcycles and cars and bright carnival costumes that evoke an exotic Arabian past.

The fun of the 4th perhaps obscures the Shriners mission to provide medical care to seriously ill children without means. This missions is similar to the Pentagon's charge to provide short-term and long-term medical care to serving military personnel and veterans. Unlike the Shriners which is a fairly efficient private organization dedicated to a specific purpose, the Pentagon has taken it upon itself to be the healthcare system for the military.

The government's Veterans Administration system made more sense with the massive mobilization of World War Two and the Cold War. Healthcare was a lot cheaper mostly because high technology had not yet come to dominate the field. Now that MRIs and laser surgery are routine healthcare is routinely expensive and increasingly so. The recent passage of President Obama's ruinous health care legislation that seeks to wrestle control of nearly a sixth of the economy is exactly the wrong way to go.

The privatization of the military's healthcare needs, at least the out patient and long term care needs, could have provided a model of an efficient and effective healthcare delivery system. The U.S., for now, has the best medical care in the world so why not get the Pentagon out of the business and foster a relationship with the civilian system that is the envy of the world? A voucher system could go a long way toward accomplishing what the Shriners do everyday for children and we all agree that our veterans are worth the effort.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Backpack Boot Camp

Boot camp is too precious a time to burden it with anything unnecessary. All drill and ceremony practice should be kept to a minimum.  Every waking hour should be orientated toward making young men and women into warriors not simply government workers with weapons. We have been at war since 9/11 and al-Qaeda, Taliban and other militant Islamists show little sign of surrendering.

Boot camp should become the entrance not only into the military, but also to the reality of a war footing. A war footing is not only about producing more weapons and conjuring up deployment schedules. It has to be about a warrior psychology  that trains new soldiers to be tough enough to be part of a more effective, more lethal military that honors the unique skills and contributions of combat troops.

Upon arrival at boot camp, along with their running shorts, boots and uniforms the soldiers should be issued their backpacks or rucksacks, rifles and helmets. These should be as much a part of boot camp as running shoes and boots. at formations, during calisthenics and during marches and runs the troops should be wearing their gear. Chin ups, pushups and runs are a whole new ball game with twenty pound packs, helmets and unloaded rifles. But why wait? Isn't more important to produce tough warriors than to produce shiny new soldiers who can march perfectly to the sound of the music?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"Defeating Communist Insurgency: the Lesson of Malaya and Vietnam"

"It is a persistently methodical approach and steady pressure which will gradually wear the insurgent down. The government must not allow itself to be diverted either by countermeasures on the part of the insurgent or by the critics on its own side who will be seeking a simpler and quicker solution. There are no short-cuts and no gimmicks." -Sir Robert Thompson, 1966

Friday, June 25, 2010

Win Their Hearts and Minds...By Winning

 There seems to be a theory making the rounds in Washington that some how counterinsurgency wars like the one we are fighting in Afghanistan do not require military victory - and in fact military victory as traditionally defined is not possible.  At best this notion is a straw man constructed to give cover to government leaders unwilling to do what is necessary to win an ugly, brutal war they say is necessary.

The U.S. Army's experience in the Philippines at the beginning of the 20th century is instructive. After fits and starts the Army adapted to the guerilla's tactics and beat them. It was a brutal, bloody campaign, but the leaders never lost sight of the reality that for a political solution to work the guerillas had to first be defeated.  Similarly, the recent military victory of the Sri Lankan government over the Tamil Tigers should be studied very closely by the U.S. More broadly, the British Empire f the 18th, 19th and 20th century was often effective at using soldier-diplomats to impose military solutions that led to political stability.

Recent news reports suggest a deep divide between military and diplomatic leaders concerning Afghanistan that will not help a military or political victory. The Obama administration seems to be calculating it must do enough not to lose and not allow the military to suffer too may casualties before they are eventually pulled out and some sort of "victory" is declared. While everyone agrees there will be no formal signing of a peace treaty with al-Qaeda or the Taliban that does not mean military victory cannot be achieved on the battlefield and should be pursued with all means necessary.

The Afghan people in the cities and in the remote villages in the mountains are doing their own calculus and are trying to decide if it makes more sense to help the Americans who have promised to begin pulling out in a year or side with the Taliban who have vowed to fight until they drive the Americans out of the country. A timeline is no way to win the confidence, trust and active support of the villagers.

An aggressive, sustained offensive with sensible rules of engagement can push the relatively poorly equipped, trained and led enemy to exhaustion. This would be greatly aided if Pakistan will do its part, but if not President Obama may have to convince Pakistan it has no choice, but to let the U.S. military do what must be done regardless of how politically unpopular it would be.  With concrete victories on the ground the Afghan hearts and minds will follow.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hey Buddy Can You Spare a COIN? Misunderstanding Afghanistan

Even before the General McChrystal flap regarding the Rolling Stone magazine article some had the sense that the war in Afghanistan is not going particularly well.

The more serious issue is the COIN strategy currently being implemented in Afghanistan. It is essentially the same as the plan used in Iraq: clear, hold and build.  It worked in Iraq for three reasons: first, U.S. troops renewed the offensive in earnest, second, Iraqi forces became a partner and force multiplier and third Iraqi society's relative sophistication made the strategy more workable.

Unfortunately Afghanistan doesn't benefit from the second and third conditions and is not likely to in the near future. Much more so than Iraq Afghanistan is primitive tribal culture that views the indigenous government in Kabul as almost foreign and the coalition forces as alien. Nation-building in terms of road, well and school construction and improved medical care has helped since these programs began under the Bush administration. However, this notion that Kabul, or the U.N. can construct some sort of trickle down civil administration with "government in a box" initiatives.

Afghanistan needs a true, stripped down COIN strategy that finally makes use of Army's counterinsurgency experts-the Special Forces. Instead of being treated as a necessary side show SF should be given the opportunity to take more of a leadership role in the grand strategy for Afghanistan. SF Major Jim Gant wrote a paper called "One Tribe at a Time" that outlined a process by which SF teams would work directly with Afghan villages for periods of time to train the men to fight effectively to protect their village as well as engage in nation-building civic action programs.

Perhaps most importantly, the SF teams would gain the trust of the villagers and provide the kind of intelligence the U.S. needs to help role up the insurgency.  According to the Pentagon's counterinsurgency manual, "Effective, accurate and timely intelligence is essential to the conduct of any form of warfare. This maxim applies especially to counterinsurgency operations; the ultimate success or failure of the mission depends on the effectiveness of the intelligence effort."

Maybe General McChrystal's firing can shake up the status quo and provide an opportunity for a course change before its too late.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

WANTED: Warrior Spirt - some training required, Book Review of "In Search of the Warrior Spirit" by Richard Heckler

Mr. Heckler's book, published in 1990 came out at just the wrong time in history. What incentive did the U.S. Army have as the Cold War melted away, to think seriously about counterinsurgency in general and its Special Forces in particular? From reading the book apparently little indeed.

"In Search of the Warrior Spirit" traces the several months Mr. Heckler and other specialists spent with two Army Special Forces Teams at a post in Massachusetts as part of an experimental program called The Trojan Warrior Project. Heckler, an aikido and meditation expert had mixed feelings about the opportunity from the beginning and his discussions about his reactions to the soldiers and the program are the are intriguing. One of his main issues is the warrior versus killer dichotomy that he finds himself arguing about with his liberal Northern California friends, alternating between complaining about and defending the soldiers.

The project itself, a combination of physical, psychological and spiritual training seems to be a big success based on the data the team has gathered.  The Special Forces commanders are pleased and authorize a continuation of the program.  Disappointingly, but not unexpectedly, the new commander defunds the program because he thinks its a waste of time. The holistic, big picture approach was too much for many soldiers to get, unfortunately even some in the Special Forces.

More than ever the Army and the Special Forces in particular could benefit from a renewed focus on the warrior spirit.  

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

You're in the Army Now

For the Marines and Marine enthusiasts who were unhappy with my plan for shrinking the Corps and transferring it to the Army, I am targeting the Air Force this time. The Army Air Corps was broken off from the Army in 1947 as part of the Defense Reorganization Act.  The rationale at the time was that strategic bomber forces were too big and important for the air forces to be part of the ground forces.

Perhaps in 1947 the strategic forces argument made sense as nuclear bombs delivered by large bombers was considered the wave of the future after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It seemed that the most optimistic dreams of the air power advocates had come to pass in the rubble of Japanese cities.

Fast forward sixty years and the United States finds itself embroiled in land wars of an irregular or asymmetric character. Air power does play a pivotal role - ask any Army or Marine grunt.  However, the air power is nothing like what the air power advocates envisioned. Two things have intervened: technology and the enemy. Advances in munitions, targeting, air planes, missiles, stealth technology and UAVs have transformed strategic air power from a cloud of heavy bombers to a handful of B-2s and cruise missiles.

Strategic air power has been eclipsed by the GWOT because al-Qaeda, the Taliban etc. have few targets to strike and no air force to defend themselves with. Tactical air power as implemented by attack helicopters, A-10s, and Predator UAVs has been a boon for ground forces, devastating for the enemy and problematic for the Air Force. Just as the Navy would rather have air craft carriers and destroyers instead of littoral combat ships, the air force would rather have B-2s and F-22s. The most effective single air plane of the GWOT has probably been the A-10, which the Air Force has been trying to retire.

An Army Air Corps would be streamlined and more efficient, but more important it would be able to more effectively concentrate on the ground support, logistics and reconnaissance missions. Perhaps the blow could be softened by maintaing the Space Command as a separate Pentagon office that could concentrate on missiles, satellites and cyber war.  In any event, the military and the nation would be better served by a more integrated and combined services - the Army and the Navy.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Put FBI Back in the Crime Fighting Business

International terrorist groups like al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Hezbollah are not simply criminals, they are not the mafia with exotic names.  Treating them as criminals to be investigated, arrested, questioned, tried and sentenced is a problematic proposition at best. The recent arrest of two men who were preparing to fly to Somalia to attend a Jihad training camp is a case in point. These two men had been under surveillance since 2006 and were arrested apparently only when they were about to leave the country. Imagine the resources in time, money and manpower used so far.  They still have to be held, tried and incarcerated.

Apparently President Obama and  AG Holder believe the the overseas contingency operation can be "won" by arresting the low-level terrorists two at a time and assassinating the leadership one at a time with Predator strikes. This is not a strategy as much as it is a holding pattern until most of the combat troops can be evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan so - the FBI can take over the fight?

The FBI is good law enforcement organization that has had success against various white collar criminals, spies, militia groups and the mafia. These fall into the traditional law enforcement arena and have little or no international entanglements or impediments to a successful conviction.  The international character of the militant Islamist groups makes the law enforcement model inadequate. The FBI is and should be focused on investigations that lead to arrests and prosecutions. Our government should not be concerned with arresting or prosecuting terrorists. The intelligence agencies and military should be concerned with killing them.

Let the FBI go back to what it was designed to do and give the Department of Homeland Security the responsibility of domestic intelligence and counter-terrorism.  Perhaps the DHS could have allowed the two Jihadi wannabes to go to the camp in Somalia and then hand it over to the military for a Predator strike.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Ground Truth

We are repeatedly told that the Pentagon knows that the Global War on Terror will be fought and won by gathering, analyzing and using intelligence effectively. Predator drone strikes aside, it seems that institutional, the military rejects the intrinsic value of honest, detailed intelligence regarding the nature of the enemy.  Having lived through the Cold War in the 1970's and 1980's, I do not recall our government or our military being similarly obtuse about the Communists in the Kremlin.

Attorney General Holder's refusal to answer a question about the motives of the would be Times Square bomber was disheartening as it is symptomatic of either willful ignorance or gross incompetence. Perhaps one can forgive the posturing of an appointed official, but there is not excuse for our professional military sticking their heads in the sand. Four years ago Paul Sperry said, "U.S. intelligence officials tell me there are no baseline studies of the Muslim prophet Muhammad or his ideological or military doctrine found at either the CIA or Defense Intelligence Agency or even the war colleges."

We are given lip service about intelligence work, but there was no evidence of a comprehensive study of Jihad or militant Islamism in the military's new COIN manual. Language matters and truth matters.  Who are our soldiers fighting and being killed by in Afghanistan and Iraq? Are we to believe that the ideology and motives of the enemy do not come up in our discussions with Muslim allies?  I believe they could provide our intelligence services with a bit of ground truth about our common enemy.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The War We Have, Not the War We Want

In national security circles it is no secret that the military is not happy about having to fight the Global War on Terror.  I am not referring to the grunts and junior officers but the top brass and civilian policy makers who pine for either the starkly drawn lines of the Cold War with the Soviet Union or even the muddled "end of history" in the 1990's.

Counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, counterintelligence, guerrilla, asymmetric or low intensity warfare are all labels for dirty, bloody, war . The irony is that these are nothing new, but are in fact war in its distilled or even natural form. Politicians, generals and military strategists since ancient times have downplayed it and tried to cordon if off away from their neat formations of shiny troops.

Alas, the world is messy, is almost defined by chaos so military minds have always known on some level they could not keep the barbarians outside the gates forever.  The 9/11 was a reminder of the chaos model, that entropy reigns, not order, but the message was somehow not received by the Pentagon.  Internal reports and arguments reveal almost a foot dragging mentality.  Secretary of Defense Gates publicly called out the Air Force for withholding UAVs from Central Command forces because they were being held in reserve for other contingencies.

Other contingencies is another way of saying they hope or assume a big conventional war will break out and overshadow this messy little business. It is this kind of thinking supports my argument that that the Air Force should be folded back into the Army. (for those who thought I was just picking on the Marines, I will cover the Air Force in a future post.)

There are other potential threats on the horizon, including China and Russia, but the temptation to look past the GWOT must be resisted if we are to win it as quickly and with as little loss of American lives as possible.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Marine Corps in the 25th Century

Military historians and buffs alike are aware of Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal's dramatic statement that "...the raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next 500 years." As most Americans do I admire and respect the United States Marine Corps. However, sixty-five years later the 21st century has over taken the Corps and it is time to admit a major overhaul is in order.

The first reality that must be confronted is the Marines are caught between no longer having a true amphibious assault mission and the dilemma of staying relevant in land locked waste lands like Afghanistan. Further, the Marines have helped make my argument by complaining that they have been misused in the Global War on Terror as Army infantry units. Army infantry units is what the military needs in this war; highly trained and effective infantry units. The Marines fit the bill.

The trouble has always been its hybrid nature: not quite heavy units capable of sustained operation, but not easy to deploy light infantry either. Of course the capability to deploy in amphibious operations in coordination with the Navy is almost unique. The U.S. Army carried out the largest amphibious landing in history when it invaded Normandy France in 1944.

I am not calling for an end to the Marine Corps but a reorganization that would detach it from the Navy and attach it to the Army. Currently the Corps is about 178,000 strong with a fairly small percentage serving in infantry units. My proposal calls for transforming the corps into an even leaner fighting force along the lines of the 82nd Airborne and 101st Air Assault Divisions.

There would be less pressure to misuse and over use this small, highly effective force that could refocus it resources away from conventional amphibious operations to airborne and air assault. This change would free up billions of dollars currently being spent on hover craft, amphibious assault ships and amphibious personnel carriers. This transformation would not kill the Corps but make it relevant - perhaps even into the 25th century.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Other Gulf War Syndrome

The 1990-1991 campaign known as the Gulf War ousted Saddam's forces from Kuwait after about one hundred hours of ground combat. The swift armor attack had been preceded by 5 weeks of sustained air strikes against air defenses, air fields, command and control centers and concentrations of troops and tanks. Histories of the conflict unfolds almost like a classroom exercise on U.S. AirLand Battle Doctrine - and this is the problem. Desert Storm was an exception that proved the rule. This little war was perceived as neat and clean and the minimal casualties as a triumph of technology and training over the fog of war. This "success syndrome" would soon haunt the pentagon as messy reality soon intruded.

Although the pentagon chose to congratulate itself on a job well done and bask in the afterglow of seeing  a generation of training, procurement and doctrine come to fruition as if on cue, storm clouds were already gathering to rain on the military's parade. Before President H.W. Bush left office you sent troops to Somalia as part of a U.N. humanitarian mission to help get food to starving Somalis who were being terrorized by Islamic militants with loose ties to a little known organization called al-Qaeda.

The little mission in Somalia became big news when the Clinton administration decided to send Task Force Ranger in pursuit of some of the militant leadership. The ensuing television images of burning helicopters and American soldiers being dragged through a dusty street shocked the public leading to the firing of the Secretary of Defense and a precipitous withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country. This was war: ugly, bloody and brutal. We had learned a valuable lesson; or had we?

At just the time when the Pentagon should have been reevaluating its doctrine, weapons and training priorities the victory in the Gulf solidified the conventional war way of doing business.  To add insult to injury this was also shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union so politicians were scrambling to transfer suddenly unnecessary military spending on pet projects.  The 1990s was the Pentagon's lost decade in which soldiers and weapons were cut by a third and a general feeling of security set in as people tallied up the "peace dividend."

Many in the military are aware of the "moon landing syndrome." This is reaction U.S. personnel encounter from friendly foreign forces when things do not go as scripted.  The WWII generation did not experience this, but after Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon in 1969 expectations changed. "You landed people on the moon, but you can't...?

I had trouble with the fact that when U.S. forces went into Afghanistan in 2001 the Army did not have enough heavy helicopters that could fly at Hindu Kush altitudes, that Army and Navy personnel had trouble talking to one anther because their radio systems were not the same and that retired CIA officers were brought out of retirement because there were not enough Dari and Pashto speakers.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Book Review: The U.S. Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual, 2007

The U.S. military’s Counterinsurgency manual had not been rewritten since 1986 when General Petraeus spearheaded a rewrite published in 2007. This came just as the troop surge and new counterinsurgency strategy for Iraq was about to be implemented. Field Manual FM 3-24 is a rewrite of FM 90-8 which was written in the Cold War between the U.S. and the Communist Soviet Union. FM 90-8 assumed counterinsurgency similar to what it had seen in Vietnam and Latin America.

            Both manuals refer to Insurgency Doctrine as espoused by Chinese Communist Revolutionary Mao Zedong. It is curious and disappointing that FM 3-24, written in the midst of the Global War on Terror only mentions al-Qaeda and the Taliban in passing, but not as part of a global militant Islamist movement bent on conquering the Muslim World and destroying the West.

             Both manuals profess the importance of intelligence gathering and analysis, but FM 3-24 fails to connect the dots about who the enemy really is. What little explanation is given tends to fall back on the tired platitudes regarding economic deprivation without mentioning sharia law, burqas, honor killings beheadings etc. Vietnemese villagers did not acquiesce to the Viet Cong because they were poor, but because they were terrorized. The same is true of Afghan villagers and Iraqi merchants.

            While the new manual is impressive as a work of military theory, it might prove less effective as a practical field manual for commanders on the ground. Section titles like “Determine Threat Courses of Action” and “The Nature of Design” would have been more appropriate for an academic treatise. FM 90-8 tended to stick more to the basics such as “Attack Fundamentals” and “Point Ambush Formations.” The graphics and charts are an unhelpful addition to the manual that infuses common sense topics with an air of intellectualism unnecessary for a practical document.

            My general criticism of the manual is that it was a once in a generation opportunity to provide the military with a straightforward, effective and easy to use guide. It is packed with a lot of information, but I am not convinced it is the best thing for the troops.  FM 90-8 was a sturdy and informative work that could have benefited from an update instead of being superseded.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I have been a mild critic of the choice of General Petraeus to head the rewrite because he never served in Special Forces units which are the military’s counterinsurgency experts.)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Brennan's Right: Jihad is a Legitimate Tenet of Islam...

John Brennan, a high-ranking member of President Obama’s national security team recently gave a speech about our enemies.  The problems was he could not describe them because political correctness has tied him and the administration up into such not they are left saying things like we can’t call them jihadists or Islamists because jihad is a legitimate tenet of Islam. Of course he’s right – jihad is a legitimate tenet of Islam, but the problem is Brennan perpetuated the apologist’s lie that jihad simply means striving in the name of Allah. This type of childish pandering might be excusable from an ivory tower intellectual, but it borders on criminal from a public official charged with keeping Americans safe. One of the first rules of war is to study your enemy, but for too long our intelligence agencies have been stymied by political correctness, otherwise known as lying to yourself. Anyone who know the first thing about the Koran, Muhammmad or Islamic history in general knows how absurd Brennan’s statement is, but group think and cultural illiteracy keeps the media from calling the administration on its lies.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Basic Training is Much Too Basic

Peace time armies have the luxury of putting a relatively small emphasis on nuts and bolts combat training on the assumption most soldiers, even most infantrymen will not face combat. This was the situation in the 1970’s 1980’s and most of the 1990’s.  This has not been the case since 9/11 as the military is about 1/3 smaller and deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan have stretched the military too thin. With almost a decade of warfare behind us and almost certainly years of it ahead of us it makes sense to reevaluate how our troops are trained.

            In short I am arguing for an end to “basic training” that spends too much time on things like making your bunk, keeping your foot locker, closer order drill and marching. Any time spent cleaning floors with toothbrushes could be better spent teaching hand to hand fighting, strength training or marksmanship. Whatever it is called the training should essentially be infantry training with the minimum amount of extras like how to wear the uniform, salute and recognize ranks etc.

The military pointed out that about ¾ of America’s youth cannot qualify for military training. This underscores the imperative that the military must make the most of the people they do get and ask more of them. If we are going to maintain only a minimum amount of ground troops even though we are fighting several land wars then every soldier must be an infantryman and every infantryman a special forces operator.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

M4 Report is Symptomatic of Systemic Failure

The new Army study detailing the lack of stopping power of the M4 carbine and its 5.56mm round only codifies what soldiers have been saying since being deployed to Afghanistan. The M16 and M4 are good weapons, but the Pentagon has never admitted their mistake of switching from the 7.62mm round to the 5.56mm. Common sense has been verified by the study: smaller, lighter rounds don’t have a lot of stopping power past short ranges. The valleys and mountains of Afghanistan sets up a lot of long range firing situations.

The report underscores the Pentagon’s inexcusable delays over the XM25 a weapon that fires standard rifle rounds and explosive rounds that has been heard about for about a decade. The weapon has been down graded, perhaps for budget reasons, from a replacement for the current rifles to a small unit weapon that fires only explosive rounds. So instead of replacing the decades old technology of M16s the Army has gotten itself a hi-tech grenade launcher. The Pentagon has given flight to the Osprey, Raptor and Reaper and launched a new class of littoral combat ships, but somehow a new rifle that incorporates the technological advances of the last twenty years is a bridge too far?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Warrior-Centric: Cutting Bayonet Training Will Dull Soldiers’ Edge

            Many soldiers and civilians in the Pentagon will tell us bayonets and bayonet training is a vestige of an old fashioned Army less useful than the pinky finger.  It is true that bayonet charges died a bloody death on the muddy fields of France almost a century ago, but until recently the Army believed there was intrinsic value in teaching this technique of last resort with an antiquated weapon.
            The increasingly point and click, casualty adverse military culture does not bode well for the success of future wars. War is still not a video game and so units get overrun, soldiers’ weapons jam so what then? Now that the Army has decided to stop bayonet training are U.S. soldiers going to find themselves without the tools or the training to defend themselves?
            Even if you argued these situations are so rare that they are not worth considering what about the intangible benefits of teaching our soldiers to be warriors – warriors whether they have missiles, rifles, knives or their bare hands? Do our military leaders really think this is less important than close order drill or sexual harassment training?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Book Review: "A Short History of the Long War: The Global Struggle Against Militant Islamism, by Michael Phelps

     Reviewed by Marianne Salvatore

         Every American needs to read this book!  Mr. Phelps has definitely hit the mark.  This book is a tour de force; both well researched and comprehensive.  It covers how Militant Islamism began, what it stands for, and how its negative extremist values impact not only the United States, but the world at large.  Each of the fourteen chapters focuses on a particular aspect of the war.  For example, the Transformation chapter describes how the United States Military must be proactive, flexible, and ready to change and improvise in order to defeat this enemy in the long run. 
         Other chapters describe the history, ideology and goals of al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the Iranian terrorist group Hezbollah. Mr. Phelps’s book is not written for the professional historian or political class, but for the buffs and concerned citizens who are bombarded by our information culture and want to gain a clear insight into the Global War on Terror.  It is an even toned and easy to read narrative that provides a wide range of historical information and interesting details. This book methodically covers all sides of the issues and leaves no stoned unturned.  It enables reader s to soak up a manageable volume that has distilled disparate events, concepts and personalities then allows them to draw their own conclusions. This is a must read!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Armed Forces Day

Today is Armed Forces Day.  President Truman consolidated the various days that celebrated the separate services into one day in 1949.  Take a moment to reflect on what all the troops do for us even as fighting continues in Afghanistan, Iraq and places not mentioned on the evening news.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Warrior-Centric: An Introduction

The Pentagon has been at the epicenter of the war against militant Islamism since the morning of September 11, 2001.  It also finds itself in the middle of an ongoing and evolving “transformation.”  Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld opened the Office of Force Transformation at the Pentagon in October 2001.  However, as the first term of the Bush administration began to take shape in early 2001 the Pentagon thought it would have years of relative peace and quiet to implement its long-term plans for transforming the U.S. military.  Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and smaller operations around the world have both interrupted and instigated various aspects of the ongoing program. 
The transformation program can be broken down into three major divisions: bureaucratic reform, technological improvements and evolutions in doctrine, strategy and tactics.  The biggest obstacle that stands in the way of a truly transformed military is not the war on terror or funding shortfalls but the mindset of many of the Pentagon’s leaders.  We can call this bureaucratic, institutionalized and sometimes narrow way of thinking “Pentagonism.”  Just one small example of this is the infighting between the Army and Air Force over allocation and operational control of the limited number of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs.)  The competition for these platforms underscores another problem within the Pentagon culture that has trickled down to some extent at least into the officer corps and enlisted ranks. 
Technology is widely seen as a, if not the indispensable factor that separates us from our enemies and ensures victory over their less sophisticated ways.  You see this mentality in the constant requests for more UAVs, more close air support of ground units, more stand off munitions and more networked computer systems.  The UAVs are a wonderful piece of technology that have saved many American lives and ended many enemy lives, but the constant clamor for more and better ones could serve to undermine the overall tactical savvy of combat units on the ground.  An over reliance on them could evoke a mindset and then a doctrine that says we need UAV support to conduct our mission.  This position would be self-limiting and ultimately self-defeating.  American soldiers in World War Two were well aware that their Sherman tanks were grossly inferior to the German Panzers, but superior numbers of Sherman’s and old-fashioned perseverance carried the day.  The U.S. military should not put itself in the position of relying on superior technology in inferior numbers as the Nazi’s did.
In the end technology or more generally raw military power is ultimately not the way the U.S. military will defeat militant Islamism.  It will have to be done by brave, tough and well-trained warriors.  Americans have not successfully confronted this issue since it was the overwhelming underdog in the Revolutionary War more than 230 years ago.  Since its war with British Empire it has tended to rely on overwhelming firepower to win, but as the Vietnam War demonstrated, this was not always a successful doctrine.  It is one of the founding principles of the Army Special Forces that people are more valuable than technology. This core truth must be instilled in the military's culture and specifically how it fits into the counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations of the Global War on Terror.  
There is no doubt that the U.S. military has proven itself to be the best in the world, but to be as effective as possible in the 21st century it needs to truly transform itself. America does not have a choice: it has to win the Global War on Terror while accomplishing its core mission of maintaining dominance over all potential adversaries.