Thought for the Day

"By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest." - Confucius

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Peace, Art and … Special Operations by Brian S. Petit

As I have mentioned, I am using Brian's book in a graduate course I am teaching this summer on UW and SOF for policy makers and strategists. This despite the fact that I do not like the term "Phase Zero" (and I have told Brian this).  I think that we need strategy and campaign plans that function in the space we call "Phase Zero" (as Brian is discussing in his essay) but the use of the term Phase Zero seems to imply two things - one, it is a lesser important phase and two, it implies that there will be something next and that the "real" phases come later (e.g., decisive operations).  I would really like to see strategies and campaign plans successful in the so-called "Phase Zero" space without having to go to Phase 1, 2, etc. (while at the same time recognizing that we do need contingency plans if the strategy and campaign plans are not successful)  I also think most agree with that idea and would chastise me and say that I am pole vaulting over molehills and that the use of "Phase Zero" is merely semantics.  But I would argue that some words have meaning and they influence the mindset and I think we need a mindset that will drive us to success in that the "Phase Zero" space while at the same time if success is not achieved we do have the agility to execute contingency plans.  The bottom line for me is that operations in that "Phase Zero" space are so important that stand alone strategy and campaign plans are needed and that they be given the same priority (or even higher perhaps) than the Phases 1,2, 3, etc (e.g., if we can prevent going to the decisive operations phase by successful operations in the "Phase Zero" space then we truly could achieve decisive effects - perhaps that is unrealistic but one can dream).

All that said, Brian's essay is important and except for my terminology criticism we are in agreement (though perhaps instead of or at least in addition to Kissinger I think we should look at George Kennan and Charles Hill and some others).

Please go to the Small Wars Journal web sit to read the entire essay.

V/R
Dave

Peace, Art and … Special Operations

by Brian S. Petit

Journal Article | January 30, 2014 - 6:44am
Peace, Art and … Special Operations
Brian S. Petit
It is early 2014 and the United States is surrounded by war. Iraq is behind us, Afghanistan and Libya are beside us, and ahead of us lay a number of regions in turmoil, with Syria and Egypt topping the list. With persistent talk of military actions and war, we need an intensified conversation about military options and peace.
Warren Buffett said “Most people are interested in stocks when everyone else is. The time to get interested in stocks is when no one else is.” With wars simmering on all sides, Buffett’s contrarian logic has great strategic wisdom. So in this moment of war, let’s get interested in peace. Let’s be further contrarian by examining the role of the notoriously lethal US Special Operations Forces (SOF) in peacetime, or at least non-wartime, environments.
Getting Engaged
The post-Iraq and Afghanistan US national security environment is predictably yearning for a renewed era of engagement. Engagements, described as “the active participation of the United States in relations beyond our borders,” are the centerpiece of the current (2010) US National Security Strategy.[1] The desire to exert American influence through engagement reflects the foreign policy guidance of The White House and, arguably, the mood of a war-weary American public. Yet a key question remains: How are engagements designed, arranged, and implemented to accomplish US policy goals and strategic aspirations abroad?
Engagements occur where the US is in dialogue with allies, partners, friends, and competitors in reasonably normal diplomatic relations. In military parlance, engagements occur in Phase Zero, the pre-crisis environment in which state relations are relatively peaceful and routine. Beyond Phase Zero lies the military phases that represent an escalation of conflict: Phase I (Deter), Phase II (Seize the Initiative), and Phase III (Dominate). Phase Zero then, is a slang descriptor for both the actions and the environment in which the US pursues its strategic interests prior to any act of war.
Closer to Peace than War
Although economic, diplomatic and informational elements of US national power generally take precedence in Phase Zero, the US military plays a significant role in  peacetime foreign engagement. Among the US military options to engage foreign partners are US SOF. US Army SOF includes Special Forces, Civil Affairs and Military Information Support; US Navy SOF is comprised of SEALs and specialized maritime capabilities; and from all armed services come skilled aviators and counterterror forces.  Public knowledge of US SOF is centered on tales of derring-do and inspired stories of lethal military prowess. But there is another story to be told about SOF that is less sexy but more central to the national security interests of the United States.
Specially selected, culturally attuned, and language trained US SOF operate in small teams with select, vetted host nation security forces. Very often, these Phase Zero engagements are in and among local populations with committed, military partners. At other times, engagements unfold with potential partners who are judged to be less than ideal. In such cases, these US SOF engagements are exploratory in nature and can be expanded or retracted according to partner suitability and US policy aims. When engaging new, potential partners, US SOF engagements do not represent deep policy commitments; by design, they are limited policy expressions that start where the pavement stops. Subsequently, the assessments derived from special operations engagements help guide policy decisions about expanding, contracting, or retracting relations with putative partners.
Special operations engagements range from simple tactical-level training (marksmanship, radio operation and communications, medical training, small unit tactics) to more sophisticated topics like armed forces professionalization, security philosophies, and institution building. A typical engagement might last six weeks and involve twelve to twenty US personnel. When performed correctly, these exchanges are both transactional and relational – delivering mutually beneficial exchanges (finite) while deepening the trust and partnership required for true strategic relationships (infinite).
Enter Operational Art
In Phase Zero, highly skilled US military capabilities are required but capabilities alone can only take the US so far. A closer look reveals a compelling problem: Phase Zero military engagements lack a coherentoperational art, the sound link between tactics and strategy. While many military operations are physics-based problems of time, space, and capability projection, the application of military power to solve problems does, in fact, take a great deal of creativity, design, and even intuition; thus, the term art.
How could the US Armed Forces, 238 years old, and with few global peer competitors, lack an operational art?  To be clear, there are volumes of operational art. But operational art principally exists for the type of warfare where two military foes duel, within a bounded realm, intent on the harmonious synchronization of maneuver, firepower, and logistics with the singular purpose of destroying an opposing armed force. In Phase Zero, no such contest exists.  Without this contest, boundaries are less clear, foes are uncertain, and military options are radically reduced. Subsequently, traditional military operational art often becomes inert. For the US to fully maximize engagements in the pursuit of its strategy, the US military, within an interagency team, requires a revised, modernized operational art.
In Phase Zero, policy and diplomacy are the dominant disciplines – and should be. In this setting, the military operational artist is, appropriately, more confined and lacks a free hand to creatively apply military effects. Thus, in peacetime environments, military art options are limited. But complaining about such restrictions misplaces the desire for military efficacy with the need for policy supremacy. Military actions are expressions of policy and need to be calibrated and applied correctly to achieve policy aims. But even when these principles are understood, tensions are inevitable. Foreign policy, incremental in application, often produces a nebulous framework to guide military actions. And the military artist, by his nature, seeks those free, unfettered arenas to unfurl the flag and put full military capabilities into play. Lacking a foe to defeat on a tidy field of conflict, one can see the tension forming: military actions (Full speed ahead!) and policy aims (We’re negotiating.) can be uncomfortable bedfellows.
Coupling Warriors and Diplomats
(Continued at the link below)

Monday, January 27, 2014

INDEPENDENT COMMISSION TO REVIEW FBI’S POST-9/11 RESPONSE TO TERRORISM, RADICALIZATION

My boss (Bruce Hoffman) tapped for a new commission.



               
INDEPENDENT COMMISSION TO REVIEW
FBI’S POST-9/11 RESPONSE TO TERRORISM, RADICALIZATION

Washington, D.C. (January 23, 2014) – Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Virginia), chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds the FBI, today said that former Attorney General Ed Meese, former Congressman and Ambassador Tim Roemer and respected national security expert and Georgetown University professor Bruce Hoffman have been appointed to serve on a commission that will conduct an independent external review of the FBI’s implementation of the  recommendations from the 9/11 Commission as well as consider how the bureau is addressing the evolving threat of terrorism today. 

Wolf authored the language requiring the review, which was included in the FY 2013 Omnibus Appropriations bill and reaffirmed in the FY 2014 Omnibus Appropriations that was signed into law last week.  The idea was first introduced by Wolf in 2011 in a stand-alone bill with Rep. Peter King (R-NY).

Wolf has been a longstanding leader in Congress on addressing the threat of terrorism.  In 1998, he authored the language creating the National Commission on Terrorism, also known as the Bremer Commission.  Its final report, released in 2000, highlighted the threat from Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.  Wolf also served as chairman of this subcommittee from 2001-2006, and worked with former Director Robert Mueller to provide funding for the FBI’s post-9/11 counterterrorism initiatives.  Wolf’s northern Virginia district was home to many of those killed in the Pentagon on 9/11 as well as the first American killed in the war in Afghanistan, Michael Spann. 

“I cannot think of three more qualified individuals to serve on the commission,” Wolf said.  “They are all men of integrity and have significant credibility and expertise on counterterrorism policy.” 

Meese served in President Reagan’s cabinet and on the Iraq Study Group.  Amb. Roemer served on the original 9/11 Commission as well as on the House Intelligence Committee when he was in Congress.  Prof. Hoffman is a professor at Georgetown University and has served on numerous advisory committees for the intelligence community and think tanks.

Said Meese:  “As a former Attorney General, I understand the important role the FBI plays in addressing the terrorist threat.  It is imperative that as we move further away from the 9/11 attacks, we make sure the bureau is evolving to address the ever-changing threat from al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups.”

Said Roemer:  “Having served on both the original Joint Inquiry and the 9/11 Commission, it's the right time to make an independent review and carefully evaluate what we found about 9/11 and the past terrorist efforts over this decade. Did we learn properly and get everything? Additionally, we should turn the page to the new threats facing America, whether they are coming from Syria or cyber security sources.”

Said Hoffman:  “With the significant increase in domestic radicalization over the last five years, it is more important than ever to have an independent review of how the FBI is addressing this threat, as well as how terrorist networks abroad are radicalizing and recruiting in the U.S.”. 
   
Among the issues to be reviewed by the commission:

·         Progress made since 9/11 in transforming the FBI to address the threat of terrorism, including a review of how the 9/11 Commission recommendations have been implemented and the efficacy of these reforms. 

·         All information relevant to the 9/11 attacks and al Qaeda, especially new information obtained since the release of the 9/11 Commission’s report in 2004 – such as information in the documents obtained during the 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound – to ensure that the full story of 9/11 is understood and commission’s final report reflects the government’s most complete understanding and analysis of the 9/11 plot.

·         The evolving threat of terrorism to the U.S. and our interest abroad, with a particular focus on the threat of domestic radicalization, cyber terrorism and the spread of al Qaeda affiliate groups abroad. 

At the conclusion of the review, the panel is expected to make recommendations to the appropriate committees in Congress aimed at helping the FBI do its job even better. Wolf said that he has spoken to FBI Director James Comey on several occasions about Congress’ expectations for this review and expects that the FBI will provide all of the necessary resources, flexibility and information to ensure the final report to Congress is a comprehensive and substantial product. 

“This is not to be an exercise in finger-pointing or second-guessing decisions made by bureau officials over the years,” Wolf said.  “I know the men and women of the FBI work tirelessly to keep our country safe and today face more challenges than ever from a variety of threats, chief among them being terrorism and cyberattacks.  This review is designed to help the FBI, not criticize it.”

-30-



How Choco Pie infiltrated North Korea's sweet tooth

We have read about this before and sure the tile and subject are humorous to some but the choco pie phenomenon is worth looking at from distribution on the black market to defiance of north Korean control to the influence of the Kaesong Industrial Complex.
V/R
Dave

How Choco Pie infiltrated North Korea's sweet tooth

By Madison Park, Frances Cha and Evelio Contreras, CNN
updated 3:18 AM EST, Mon January 27, 2014

The big prize on N. Korea's black market


STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Businessman describes North Korean workers at Kaesong trying Choco Pie for first time
  • Popularity of snack in North Korea shows how it could penetrate that country's society
  • South Korean workers give cup noodles instead of Choco Pie
(CNN) -- The first time the South Korean factory owner watched his North Korean employees nibble on a Choco Pie, they appeared shocked -- even overwhelmed.
He summed up their reaction to the South Korean snack in one word: "Ecstasy."
Much like what Twinkies are to Americans, South Korea's Choco Pies -- two disc-shaped, chocolate-covered cakes, sandwiching a rubbery layer of marshmallow cream -- are ubiquitous, cost less than 50 cents and are full of empty calories.
But on the other side of the Korean border, the snacks are viewed as exotic, highly prized treats, selling on North Korea's black markets for as much as $10, according to analysts. Their rising popularity in the north reveals an unexpected common ground between the two Koreas, despite their fractious relationship -- a shared sweet tooth.
Artist Jin Joo Chae creates a golden Choco Pie.
Artist Jin Joo Chae creates a golden Choco Pie.
This month, an art exhibition called "The Choco Pie-ization of North Korea" opened in New York, exploring the symbolism of the treat. The high value in North Korea of the Choco Pie, something considered so widespread and mundane in South Korea, is "a sad tragic story," said the artist, Jin Jo Chae.
Chae smeared melted chocolate across the North Korean newspaper Rodung Sinmun, staining the state-run propaganda with something sweet. She used the chocolate to make a symbol of Choco Pie, written in the lettering style of Coca Cola. Her exhibit, displayed at Julie Meneret Contemporary Art gallery, also contains piles of Choco Pies as well as a gold-plated one.
"Through this Choco Pie, I found the potential from chocolate as an object that changes a society," Chae said.
The Choco Pie represents something more than just a treat.
Subversive Choco and Coke?
Despite perceptions of North Koreans as brainwashed, insulated masses, the hunger and desire for Choco Pie shows that "complete quarantine is impossible," wrote Richard Lloyd Parry in London Review of Books. Lloyd wrote that it "reveals a susceptibility to outside influence in a society commonly regarded as impenetrable." The crumbly mass of chocolate and marshmallow had taken on a subversive aspect.
Indeed, Chae, the artist behind the exhibit, says, the Choco Pie "has a power in how it works as a mind changing tool between South and North."
Chocolate is smeared on top of North Korean-run state newspaper Rodung Sinmun.
Chocolate is smeared on top of North Korean-run state newspaper Rodung Sinmun.
The South Korean factory owner, who introduced his North Korean workers to Choco Pies, washed down with a Coca Cola, said the products seemed to leave an impression on his staff.
"It was clear that the workers had gotten at least some idea of capitalism and that it wasn't all bad," he told CNN.
"They had only associated the United States with evil, and the fact that they could love something that the U.S. had produced -- specifically Coca Cola -- was an eye-opener."
Choco trade
The factory owner, who did not wish to be named, operated his business for seven years at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, one of the key symbols of cooperation between North and South Korea, and the site through which Choco Pies trickled into North Korea.
At the complex, more than 100 South Korean factory owners employ about 50,000 North Korean laborers to manufacture products like clothing and shoes. Kaesong, considered to be an important source of hard currency for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's regime, sits just a few kilometers north of the Demilitarized Zone, which divides the two Koreas. It re-opened in September after a five-month hiatus.
(Continued at the link below)

One Way North Korea Battles For Survival -- Purging All Foes

Don Kirk is arguably one the best journalists covering north Korea (or maybe there is no argument about that).
V/R
Dave

1/26/2014 @ 11:06PM |1,297 views

One Way North Korea Battles For Survival -- Purging All Foes

The time-honored way for Korea’s Jeoson dynasty leaders to get rid of a challenger or threat to their power was to execute not only the bad guy but all members of his family. It figures that Kim Jong-un, as the hereditary leader of the latter-day dynasty that rules North Korea in the style of the kings who once held sway over Korea, would want to wipe out the family of the late regent-mentor Jang Song-thaek.
That logic lends credence to a report carried by Yonhap, the South Korean news agency, citing unnamed sources as saying Kim Jong-un’s regime ordered the execution of two former ambassadors and their wives and children. One of them, the ambassador to Cuba, was married to the sister of Jang, Kim’s uncle by marriage , who was executed last month basically for plotting a coup. Another, ambassador to Malaysia, was a nephew.
IMG_4567
(Credit: comradeanatolii)

By killing off wives, nieces and nephews of Jang, whose only daughter committed suicide in Paris years ago,  North Korea’s draconian justice system sought to eliminate all trace of the man described in North Korean propaganda as “worse than a dog.” Jang, of course, was the husband of Kim’s aunt, Kim Kyong-hui, younger sister of Kim’s father, the long-time ruler Kim Jong-il, who died in December 2011.

S. Korea creates N. Korea situation index

We are going to have to look more into this. This is the first I have heard of this.  I am not sure of the efficacy of such a system but the fact that they have developed this and are taking the problem of north Korean crisis seriously (which should and hopefully include instability and collapse in addition to "political transition") makes me optimistic that we (the ROK/US Alliance) may actually prepare for these potential crises (in addition to preparations for war, provocations and the nuclear crisis). 
V/R
Dave

   South Korea has developed an index that measures the level of crisis in North Korea and the possibility of the communist country's transition to a new political system, a government official said Sunday.

   The index, called the North Korea Situation Index (NKSI), will not be made public and used only for internal decision-making because its announcement may spark the ire of the North, the official at the Ministry of Unification said.

   "The ministry recently concluded the calculation of the NKSI for 2013 and is drawing up an analysis report," the official said. "But it will be difficult to announce the report."

   The NKSI, which is calculated once a year, is composed of subindixes covering three sectors: stability, system transition and crisis.

   The stability subindex measures the stability of the North Korean regime by calculating the level of stability in the country's politics, military and economy.

   The system-transition subindex mirrors the possibility of North Korea's transition to a new political system, while the crisis subindex is a barometer of Pyongyang's overall crisis, according to the official.

   The three subindexes are measured on a scale of zero to 100. The closer to 100 the subindex, the higher the level of instability, crisis and change in North Korea.

   Between 2010 and 2012, the ministry spent 4.65 billion won (US4.31 million) to develop a calculation system for the NKSI.

   North Korea has recently undergone a political upheaval following the surprise execution last month of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's once-powerful uncle, Jang Song-thaek.

   South and North Korea remain technically in a state of war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

   SEOUL, Jan. 26 (Yonhap)
(END)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

North practiced a raid on Incheon airport: Source

Nice description of a north Korean SOF attack.  If they were really training for this it would obviously be on a scale larger than the 1968 attempted raid on the Blue House or the attempted assassination of President Park Chung Hee that killed his wife and the mother of the current President Park.

Of course this statement makes some of the analysis suspect (which is probably a result of the journalist's and editor's interpretation or just a bad translation from Korean to English) because an AN-2 Colt is not a fighter jet but as the article describes it is a canvas skinned (leather?) bi-plane used to infiltrate SOF.  The South Korean military certainly knows the AN -2 COLT

The South Korean military is particularly worried about the use of AN-2 fighter jets in the drills on Jan. 19. 
Here is a photo.

 
Inline image 1


North practiced a raid on Incheon airport: Source

JoongAng Ilbo’s gov’t source said night drill was held on Jan. 19

Jan 24,2014

Rodong Sinmun, the mouthpiece of the North Korea’s Workers’ Party, reported Jan. 23 that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un also inspected the tactical training of Unit 323, separate from the airport drill. [Rodong Simun]
North Korea secretly carried out military exercises simulating an attack on a civilian airport in South Korea, mobilizing special jet fighters designed to infiltrate Southern territory, a source told the JoongAng Ilbo.

A South Korean government official who is engaged in North Korean affairs said Wednesday that North Korea conducted simulated military drills targeting Incheon International Airport in South Korea, the biggest civilian airport in the country, while making conciliatory proposals to Seoul at the same time.

“The South Korean government performed an in-depth analysis on the nighttime military exercises by North Korea’s special airborne unit on Jan. 19,” the official said, “and we found the drills targeted our civilian airport.”

“Currently, we have raised the military alert for a possible attack from a North Korean base in Taetan County, North Pyongan Province, and strengthened security at Incheon International Airport,” the official said.

According to the official, the South Korean military found that about 150 special agents of a special North Korean infiltration unit participated in the Jan. 19 drills. They are suspected of practicing sneaking into South Korean territory by parachute, staging a terrorist attack and occupying airplanes and facilities at the airport.

North Korea’s state media reported Jan. 20 that leader Kim Jong-un attended a military exercise held by an airborne unit but did not mention the location of the drills.

“It is extremely rare for North Korea to have conducted such a military exercise against a civilian airport [in South Korea],” the official added.

Following the JoongAng Ilbo’s report, the South Korean government held a top defense meeting hosted by Kim Jang-soo, head security chief, yesterday at the Blue House, which a number of cabinet ministers attended.

“We are closely watching North Korean military activities, including the one that mobilized the AN-2 planes,” Kim Min-seok, spokesman of the Ministry of National Defense, said at a briefing yesterday. “The unit that Kim Jong-un visited is assumed to be air-infiltration, attacking forces.”

The South Korean military is wary of North Korea’s latest proposal that both countries stop “all slander and insults against each other starting Jan. 30,” the first day of the Lunar New Year holiday.

To induce South Korea to accept those conciliatory suggestions, North Korea could possibly make some peaceful moves such as the withdrawal of some forces near the five frontline islands in the Yellow Sea, the South Korean military said.

“Possibly, North Korea could make a show of a surprise bargaining chip, which we would never expect, to maximize the effect of their anti-South propaganda,” a South Korean military official said.

But that could be a prelude to an attack. Some South Korean military officials said they should prepare for a scenario in which North Korea might occupy the five forefront islands.

“We have a tip-off that North Korea has set up a scheme to occupy the five islands in the Yellow Sea first and then ask the United Nations for a resolution of the tense situation,” an official of the South Korean Marine Corps said.

The South Korean military is particularly worried about the use of AN-2 fighter jets in the drills on Jan. 19.

According to the military, the bodies of those planes are made of wood and leather, materials that are hard to detect by radar.

They are capable of landing and taking off on highways or golf courses and are therefore useful in sudden attacks or a guerilla war.

“If the aircraft carry 13 special agents and swiftly land in several places in Seoul or the Gyeonggi region, our core facilities could be destroyed and chaotic disorder could happen,” another South Korean military official warned.


BY LEE YOUNG-JONG, YOO SUNG-WOON [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

Patton as a Counterinsurgent?: Lessons from an Unlikely COIN-danista

Read the entire article at Small Wars Journal at the link below.

Reference coindinista and cointra at an NDU panel a week or so ago Conrad Crane, perhaps half in jest, used the term "COINfused."  On the one hand it can be interpreted with some humor as in confused about COIN but upon reflection I thought it could also mean the fusion of both the so-called and mythical coindinistas and cointras fusing the important and valuable ideas from both sides of the debate so that we can capture best practices that can be incorporated into doctrine and training that will support campaign planning and ultimately support good policy and strategy.  

This essay is quite an interpretation But of course the 5 lessons apply to military operations in general and not exclusively COIN.
V/R
Dave


Patton as a Counterinsurgent?: Lessons from an Unlikely COIN-danista

by J. Furman Daniel, III

Journal Article | January 25, 2014 - 9:09am
Patton as a Counterinsurgent?: Lessons from an Unlikely COIN-danista
J. Furman Daniel, III
Abstract: This essay argues that General George S. Patton Jr. was a surprisingly proficient practitioner of small wars in three different contexts−the 1916-1917 Punitive Expedition to Mexico, the 1942 North Africa campaign, and in 1945 as Pro-Council to occupied Bavaria. While these lesser known campaigns will always be overshadowed by Patton’s other exploits, this essay attempts to accomplish three goals: first, to provide an alternative and more nuanced view of General George Patton; second, to underscore elements from these campaigns which may be of use to modern counterinsurgents; finally, to identify the elements that allowed Patton to succeed as an unlikely counterinsurgent despite his lack of formal training or practical experience. To this end, this essay will first briefly examine Patton’s role in each of these campaigns and will then proceed to an analysis of the factors that made Patton successful and the lessons which can be learned from this unlikely Coin-danista.
Nearly seventy years after his death, General George Patton still evokes many powerful images.[i] Patton is known as a prophet of mechanized warfare, a stubborn adherent to the value of horse cavalry and the sabre, an Olympic athlete, a contradictory mix of prayerful and profane, a mystic believer in atavistic reincarnation, a lifelong student of military history, and one of the most successful and dynamic commanders of the Second World War.[ii] Truly, George Patton is a unique figure in American history and, as such, means many things to many people.[iii]
One thing that Patton is almost never called is a counterinsurgent. Indeed, in many ways, such a label would be misleading. While the US military was heavily engaged in a series of small wars and pacification campaigns during his youth and early career, these experiences were generally denied to Patton. In fact, Patton was never formally trained in counterinsurgency techniques and the closest he came to being educated in these arts was his time as a cavalryman on the Western Plains. Although these deployments were formative experiences that helped Patton develop his leadership style and impressive horsemanship, they were more anachronistic reminders of the battles of the Little Big Horn or Wounded Knee than training for counterinsurgency.[iv] Furthermore, Patton missed opportunities to acquire these skills on the job. Despite a powerful desire to see action, he did not participate in the campaigns in the Philippines, Nicaragua, Panama, Haiti, Russia, or China. These campaigns largely defined the US military during the period and had a profound impact on other future American Generals such as Douglas MacArthur and Dwight Eisenhower.[v]
Given this lack of formal training or practical experience, how can Patton possibly be considered a counterinsurgent? This essay will argue that Patton exhibited these unlikely talents as a counterinsurgent in three distinct campaigns: The 1916-1917 Punitive Expedition to Mexico; the 1942 Campaign in North Africa; and during his brief and controversial tenure as Military Pro-Council to Bavaria in 1945.[vi] While these efforts are less well known than Patton’s Invasion of Sicily, the Cobra breakout, his subsequent attempt to close the Falaise Pocket, or his dramatic relief of Bastone during the Battle of the Bulge, they contain potentially powerful, and overlooked, lessons for students of history and practitioners and the military art.[vii]
By developing this unconventional view of the great general, this essay attempts to accomplish three goals: first, to provide an alternative and more nuanced view of General George Patton; second, to underscore elements from these campaigns which may be of use to modern counterinsurgents; finally, to identify the elements that allowed Patton to succeed as an unlikely counterinsurgent despite his lack of formal training or practical experience.[viii] To this end, this essay will first briefly examine Patton’s role in each of these campaigns and will then proceed to an analysis of the factors that made Patton successful and the lessons which can be learned from this unlikely Coin-danista.
Punitive Expedition to Mexico 1916-17
While the Punitive Expedition in Mexico from 1916-1917 is not one of the more celebrated chapters of US military history, it was an extremely influential episode in the early career of then Lt. George Patton. After initially being tasked to stay behind the expedition at Ft. Bliss, TX, Patton eventually persuaded his friend and mentor General John Pershing to include him as his personal aid during the expedition. In this role, Patton was indispensable to Pershing. Patton was energetic and thirsty for action and he quickly expanded the scope of his duties beyond the typical tasks assigned to a general’s aid.[ix] In addition to delivering messages, clerical work, and personal assistance, Patton served as a scout, an intelligence analyst, an operational planner, an interrogator of prisoners, a forward air observer, a liaison with the local population, and led multiple raids into enemy controlled territory. In essence, Patton was learning the rudiments of low-intensity warfare through an intense inside look at the center of Pershing’s headquarters and by personally leading and directing many of the essential tasks of this unusual mission.
Patton’s most famous exploit of the campaign was on May 14, 1916 when he used three Dodge touring cars to lead a raid on a house which contained rebel leader Julio Cárdenas and two of his men. In a swirling gun fight that recalled scenes of the mythic American West, Patton and his men killed Cárdenas and his two associates as they attempted to first fight and then flee on horseback, strapped their lifeless bodies to the hoods of their cars, and beat a hasty retreat as more of Villa’s fighters arrived on the scene and threatened to overrun their position.
This engagement is notable for more than its dramatic blend of the Army’s horse drawn past and a harbinger of its mechanized future. In addition to being the first mechanized assault in American military history, it was one of the few American successes in an otherwise frustrating and inconclusive campaign. By removing Cárdenas from the insurgent chain of command, this raid greatly curtailed the banditos’ freedom of action in the local area and singled to the local population that the US Army was able to act on local intelligence and mount bold strikes deep into hostile held territory. On a more personal level, this success gained Patton a large amount of favorable press and helped establish his growing reputation as a bright young officer within the US Army. In addition to these laurels, this successful raid was a microcosm of Patton’s early effectiveness at conducting counterinsurgent campaigns.
Patton was successful in this tactical-level counterinsurgency mission for a number of practical and theoretical reasons. First, Patton used his contacts with the local population to gather timely information regarding the whereabouts of the Mexican forces. He then combined this knowledge of the human terrain with his rapid reconnaissance of the geographical landscape. Patton then acted quickly and decisively, traveling as light as possible and making use of the mobility provided to him by his primitive Dodge touring cars. Next, Patton bravely engaged the hostile forces, but was careful to avoid potentially hurting local civilians who were busy cleaning a cow carcass. With a great degree of tactical skill and personal initiative, Patton was then able to fix the enemies’ position and to bring his superior firepower to bear on the insurgents. As the beleaguered bandits attempted a desperate escape on horseback, Patton remembered the old wisdom that he had heard from the Confederate raider John Singleton Mosby to shoot at horse of a fleeing rider and not the man himself. This adage proved accurate, as Patton and his men were able to first drop the horse and then silence the fleeing rider. Once they neutralized their targets, Patton and his forces tied the bandits to the hoods of their vehicles and made a hasty retreat as forces loyal to Cárdenas began to arrive on the scene.
Patton’s first taste of action highlighted his ability to succeed across a wide range of different environments, including a low-intensity counterinsurgency campaign. As will be discussed in greater detail in the Lessons and Conclusions sections of this work, Patton was able to combine his knowledge, cultural skills, leadership, initiative, and his political acumen to achieve tangible tactical results. While this early adventure is often forgotten, it is impressive that as a young and inexperienced officer, Patton could quickly master his tactical situation and harness his impressive array of talents to achieve success in a mission that he was not formally trained to conduct.
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