Wednesday, September 10, 2014
OBSERVATIONS ON THE LONG WAR by Conrad Crane
Some very important observations by Conrad Crane, the man behind FM 3-24 whose name you rarely hear associated with it.
Please go to War on the Rocks and read the entire essay: http://warontherocks.com/2014/
I strongly agree with his conclusion about being "COINfused" - not to be confused but to have a fusion between the COINtras and COINdinistas.
But I have to take some exception to his comments about SOF and FID. I concur on the critical importance of FID and the FID approach but I disagree with his characterization that SOF has been drawn to much to the dark side (though the role reversal of SOF and conventional forces he describes in Iraq is accurate and interesting to consider - but that should be understood to be a function of those who designed, executed, and led the campaign plan). I think the Army and the US Army Special Operations Command have well articulated the Yin and Yang of SOF with Special Warfare and Surgical Strike and the vast majority of SOF and in particular US Army Special Forces, Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations forces are conducting Special Warfare with particular emphasis on FID. I think that what causes confusion is that there is a dominant narrative both in the press and in the military that revolves around the high payoff immediate effects of surgical strike and there is a major command and control headquarters that is conducting those operations. Special Warfare does not currently have that type of headquarters to integrate Special Warfare on a global scale. USSOCOM does not do that though the separate Theater Special Operations Commands at the Geographic Combatant Commands do command and control Special Warfare and FID operations. But they will never achieve the notoriety of the forces conducting surgical strike and therefore there is a perceived imbalance. His comment about headquarters and playing the super bowl is especially applicable to the conduct of Special Warfare and FID. The only super bowl capable headquarters we have is the surgical strike headquarters. I do also agree with his comments about Air Force FID and with the need for the Coast Guard to conduct FID.
But all his observation are very much worth pondering, discussing, debating and using as we move forward.
September 10, 2014 · in Commentary
For more than a decade, I have been recording reflections about the course of the so-called “Long War” launched after the tragic events of 9/11. These are based on many unique experiences: being the recorder for the 2002 Army After Action Review on Operations Enduring Freedom and Noble Eagle, developing prewar Army plans to reconstruct Iraq, serving as lead author for the 2006 version of Army/Marine Corps Field Manual 3-24 on counterinsurgency, visiting Iraq in 2007 for General David Petraeus, working on projects analyzing wartime assessment and war termination for the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Army Training and Doctrine Command, and innumerable conversations with insightful civilian and military veterans returned from the field. This commentary has also been shaped by many international travels and my own reading of history. I hope to provoke more critical thought about where the American military has been and where it should be going.
There are two approaches to warfare: asymmetric and stupid. I have been quoted on this topic a few times, and need to expand upon it. All competent belligerents will seek an edge in conflict. Such an edge could be found through new technology, superior numbers, more effective strategy, or innovative tactics. No one has pursued such advantages better than the United States. The American military today is the most asymmetric warfighting machine in the world. All of those so-called “asymmetric warfare” cells and centers scattered throughout DoD are really analyzing how other actors pursue common ways of countering U.S. advantages that are outside our own preferences. These means are often the purview of non-state actors. Perhaps they should be called “uncomfortable warfare” centers, to borrow from Max Manwaring. We are deluding ourselves if we do not recognize the unique ways and means of American warfare, and the fairly commonplace and pervasive application of others’ “asymmetric” approaches to oppose them.
Conflict termination has become even more difficult, and outcomes even more uncertain. I was privileged to be a member of the team called upon by General Dempsey, when he was TRADOC commander, to analyze how the United States ends its wars. The project produced a number of case studies and eventually a book. War aims and desired end states always change over time because wars always take on dynamics of their own, and both sides must agree on final conditions if hostilities are really going to cease. Sometimes vague objectives like “unconditional surrender” are enough to direct military actions, but even in World War II, the final political end states for defeated enemies were not determined until the gunfire stopped. As the United States enters contemporary conflicts with more partners, and against adversaries that that are often loose and shifting coalitions of non-state actors, the number of players who can influence termination has expanded, as has the difficulty of enforcing any sort of agreed upon end state. Mosaic wars require a mosaic peace, which can also vary significantly in character from village to village and region to region. Perhaps the best that can be hoped for in contemporary complex conflicts is to reduce violence to a tolerable level, rather than really conclude them.
Precision targeting is not always the answer. America’s airpower is its greatest asymmetric advantage in major combat operations. The U.S. Air Force has doggedly pursued the ideal of precision bombing since the 1930’s and has achieved truly remarkable levels of accuracy. But when military museums of former enemies develop displays portraying American warfighting, the dominant theme is one of massed airpower (Hanoi even has a separate “Museum to the Victory Over the B-52”). Obviously there are certain propaganda angles that can be exploited from that perspective, but discussions with Chinese, Vietnamese, and Iraqi veterans reveal the persistent power of such images. One of the key motivators that drove so much of the Iraqi Army to go home in 2003 was their memory of B-52s in 1991. Leaflets displaying those aircraft dropping scores of bombs were used to intimidate the Serbs during Operation Allied Force. The deterrent impact of such operations should not be ignored. During the writing of FM 3-24 in 2006, the proposed imperative of “Use the Minimum Level of Force” was finalized as “Use the Appropriate Level of Force,” because of the realization that there are times when one really needs to hammer an enemy to make an impression. And that impact may reverberate for many years, and in the minds of many other potential adversaries.
Who controls the ground controls the message. Despite the strength of American airpower, our real and potential adversaries have developed many ways to counter that asymmetric edge, and not just with expensive anti-access technology. These other approaches include so-called “lawfare” – the push for international legal restrictions on uses of force most commonly employed by the United States – as well as deft information campaigns to cause public backlash against perceived atrocities. As the U.S. military found in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, one of the drawbacks of “long-range precision strike,” whether by Special Operations Forces or a drone, is that whoever controls the ground in the aftermath controls how the media spins the results. America’s enemies have become adept at quickly producing images of destroyed mosques and dead children supposedly from such missions, but often from other, unrelated (or fictional) incidents. The results of investigations that may clear American forces of wrongdoing appear too many news cycles later to change the accepted narrative.
(Continued at the link below)
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