Thursday, August 18, 2005

Civilian Control of the Military

Bobby of Bobby's World has a very good post up detailing some interesting parallels between the Peloponnesian Wars and our current Military, with regard to civilian control, especially relating to policy: who makes it?

Bobby makes reference to the invasion of Sicily by the Athenians and arguments made by Nicias against the war. We pick up the story after Nicias' first argument has been defeated and he is forced to change tactics.

"Nicias noted that they could not risk defeat and would need to send overwhelming force...Further, he argued, the expedition would need tremendous stocks of provisions and huge sums of money in order to ensure that it was able to accomplish its mission. Lacking any of this, Nicias claimed, would lead to the defeat of the expedition and Athens itself."

It should be noted that Nicias was a military leader appointed with carrying out the mission.

Now, fast forward thousands of years to the present day. Out of the ashes of Vietnam rises not a coherent strategy for fighting an insurgency, but instead the Weinberger Doctrine and the Powell Corollary, which are as follows:

Weinberger Doctrine:
    1. The United States should not commit forces to combat unless the vital national interests of the United States or its allies are involved.
    2. U.S. troops should only be committed wholeheartedly and with the clear intention of winning. Otherwise, troops should not be committed.
    3. U.S. combat troops should be committed only with clearly defined political and military objectives and with the capacity to accomplish those objectives.
    4. The relationship between the objectives and the size and composition of the forces committed should be continually reassessed and adjusted if necessary.
    5. U.S. troops should not be committed to battle without a "reasonable assurance" of the support of U.S. public opinion and Congress.
    6. The commitment of U.S. troops should be considered only as a last resort.
Powell Corollary:
    1. Force should be used only as a last resort.
    2. Military force should be used only when there is a clear-cut military objective.
    3. Military force should be used only when we can measure that the military objective has been achieved.
    4. Military force should be used only in an overwhelming fashion.
While on the face of it, these seem like reasonable expectations of force, they are really only valid in fighting a conventional conflict, against a state actor, using conventional combined arms. Think Soviets pouring through the Fulda Gap, and you'll get the idea. The obvious problem with this is that since the Weinberger Doctrine was laid down, we have fought one war that was a straight conventional conflict solely against a state actor: Operation Desert Storm. Every other single conflict has ranged from Grenada, where low intensity warfare was fought with conventional forces, with near disastrous results, to Somalia, where low intensity warfare was fought with unconventional forces improperly applied with near disastrous results, or to the Balkans, where a limited air campaign was followed by the deployment of "peacekeeping" troops.

As I said in a comment on Bobby's post, both the Weinberger Doctrine and the Powell Corollary appear to be based in a large part on Clausewitz's thinking. Clausewitz's ideas, unfortunately, do not apply well to the concept of fighting low intensity warfare; that is to say, 4th Generation Warfare. He tailored his ideas in response to the "polite" wars that were fought in much of the 1600s and early 1700s, and then refined them in response to the "passion" wars of Revolution (American and French). While his ideas on total war and war simply being a continuation of politics by other means are good strategy to follow if you are fighting a conventional war, they are poor advice for fighting an insurgency. Counter-insurgency operations are rarely along the lines of a total war, and conventional military tactics and timetables are useless. Therefore, logically, neither the Powell Doctrine or the Powell Corollary can be condusive to fighting an effective counter-insurgency campaign. In fact, both were narrowly tailored to prevent the United States from ever being militarily involved in a low-intensity conflict. While this is all well and good, the problem lies in how the Army in particular, and the military as a whole, has interpreted the Doctrine.

The Army has consistently been stuck in a Cold War era mind-set. This was only reinforced by its only decisive post-Cold War victory, the Gulf War. So, instead of gearing up to meet the new threat presented by failed states and terrorist organizations, the Army has stubbornly stuck to its guns and refused to change, while the military as a whole has become sucked into the "Bigger, better, faster" mantra that consumed the USAF for much of the '50s and '60s. Everything must network, everything must be high tech, and most importantly, it must have some application in fighting the Soviets if they ever decide to come through the Fulda Gap. Heck, up until Operation Iraqi Freedom, the NTC out at Fort Irwin has basically been re-fighting the Gulf War. The relatively strong insurgency in Iraq has forced the Army to change, fortunately, but I highly doubt that the Army will learn any long lasting lessons from the conflict.

The Army was and still is able to justify their stance on low intensity warfare by pointing to the Weinberger Doctrine, saying that they aren't supposed to do that kind of warfare because the NCA isn't supposed to order them into that kind of a situation. And then we get into situations as I laid out above, where the Army is trying to fight a battle that it isn't equipped for and isn't trained for. I should add a caveat here: I have no beef at all with field-grade officers and below. These guys have done an AWESOME job of adapting and improvising to accomplish the mission in all of the afore mentioned scenarios, but especially the current conflict in Iraq. My problem is with the fact that the official Army strategy and education values are the antithesis of what these officers are accomplishing.

Another incident to consider would be to examine the time period from 1995 to 2001 with regard to Afghanistan. In this time frame the U.S. Army really did pull a Nicias. The Clinton Administration actually was somewhat serious about dealing with Osama, but faced two significant self-imposed hurdles. The first was the intelligence "wall" and other such intel problems. The second was a lack of putting troops on the ground. This is what I want to address. The blame here is actually two-fold, but the larger part of the blame must fall on the Army and the Joint Chiefs for refusing to green-light any sort of plan that would involve putting a small number of SOCOM troops on the ground to capture/kill Osama. The Clinton Administration repeatedly asked for a smaller plan, but the smallest that they ever got involved thousands of regular Army troops to "secure the area" in order to allow operations for months at a time. The Army knew that the Clinton Administration would never approve a plan that basically amounted to invading Afghanistan. So in effect, the Army was dictating policy to the policy-makers. Now, the Clinton Administration must shoulder some of the blame by refusing to absolutely demand, as Bush/Rumsfeld did in the run-up to OEF, that the Army's plan was crap and that they needed to come up with something else. But the fact still remains that they never should have needed to do that. The Army unfortunately forgot its role, and tried to make policy instead of giving the policy-makers all available options.

Now, granted, the SOCOM option would have been difficult and risky, for a variety of reasons. We did not have basing rights anywhere close(this is pre-9/11, remember), and the possibility for losing a large amount of troops was there.

But that is all beside the point, because the Clinton Administration still should have gotten ALL options, not just the ones the military wanted them to see. What makes it all worse is that the Chairman of the JCS at the time was Hugh Shelton, a former special forces guy.

This is completely unacceptable. The military, and the Army especially, needs to get its collective head out of the sand and accept the fact that it is never going to be able to fight the "glory battle" against the Communist hordes. Instead, it is going to be slowly and painfully rooting out Islamic extremism. It should be noted that combined arms are great for this kind of battle, so I'm not being a technophobe. All I'm saying is that the tactics that those combined arms are trained in needs to be looked at an re-evaluated. Granted, the Army has been forced to do this by the Iraq conflict, but it is still dragging its feet. The Army should be teaching counter-insurgency as its primary mission, and conventional warfare as a secondary mission, not vice versa like it is currently.