Thursday, July 4, 2013

Founding Insurgents: What today's military could learn from George Washington. BY JOHN ARQUILLA

Excerpts:
In the main, what took shape was an insurgent approach to the war based on "winning by not losing," and it was nowhere better employed than in the South. It was there that the Revolution was won -- not so much by the main force as by the inspired blending of conventional infantry and irregular raiders. Washington's most effective executor of this approach was the Quaker-turned-soldier Nathanael Greene, who marched his Continentals here and there to draw his opponent, Lord George Cornwallis, after him. While the British were chasing Greene and his men, American irregulars led by Francis Marion ("the Swamp Fox"), Thomas Sumter, and others struck at outposts and supply lines, causing no end of trouble.

The true strategic heir of Washington and Greene seems to have been Vo Nguyen Giap -- now over 100 years old -- who guided the skillful blending of conventional and irregular field operations that ultimately prevailed against American might in Vietnam.
So the battle for the American military's strategic soul goes on unabated. No doubt the predilection to pursue conventional approaches is a natural outgrowth of an industrial age in which sheer mass came to mean so much, particularly in the world wars. But in an information age, when the fundamental dynamic in armed conflict has shifted from mass-on-mass collisions to the simple need to find the hidden -- the key to fighting insurgents and terrorists -- the persistence of the "overwhelming force" mindset imposes huge costs and makes victory ever harder to achieve.

Perhaps the Army is on to something with "Conventional and Special Operations Forces interdependence" which is used some 9 times in the December 2012 Army Capstone Concept. http://www.tradoc.army.mil/tpubs/pams/tp525-3-0.pdf
V/R
Dave

What today's military could learn from George Washington.

BY JOHN ARQUILLA | JULY 3, 2013

This week, the 150th anniversaries of Gettysburg and Vicksburg are being observed, their military lessons reabsorbed. But for strategists today it is more appropriate to recall the Revolution than the Civil War. Yes, Gettysburg was a pivotal slugging match that saved the Union from defeat. And the Vicksburg campaign was indeed a masterpiece of maneuver warfare that split the South in two along the Mississippi River. But both were very conventional military struggles, a rare form of conflict today. Instead, our world is now rife with irregular wars, so there is much more value in remembering that American independence was won by insurgents.

As historian Joseph Ellis makes clear in his new account of that time,Revolutionary Summer, George Washington was initially far too tied to notions of conventional stand-up fights and nearly lost the whole army in his disastrous 1776 campaign in Manhattan. After a narrow escape, he learned his lesson and seldom thereafter ran such risks. Washington grew content, for the most part, to keep the Continental Army "in being," posing an ever-present threat that the British always had to take into consideration in their planning. In the meantime, Washington sent off smaller forces to fight in savage actions, as at Oriskany, and in skillful operations like those that culminated in the great victory at Saratoga.


In the main, what took shape was an insurgent approach to the war based on "winning by not losing," and it was nowhere better employed than in the South. It was there that the Revolution was won -- not so much by the main force as by the inspired blending of conventional infantry and irregular raiders. Washington's most effective executor of this approach was the Quaker-turned-soldier Nathanael Greene, who marched his Continentals here and there to draw his opponent, Lord George Cornwallis, after him. While the British were chasing Greene and his men, American irregulars led by Francis Marion ("the Swamp Fox"), Thomas Sumter, and others struck at outposts and supply lines, causing no end of trouble.
(Continued at the link below)

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