Sunday, January 15, 2017

SPECIAL REPORT: The Military Loves the Obama Doctrine. Can It Survive Trump?

I have to wave a huge BS flag on the "Obama Doctrine." 

First, Obama does not deserve credit for "through, with, and by."   That phrase belongs to COL (RET) Mark Boyatt who used it in 1994 to describe the essence of Special Forces operations in unconventional warfare and foreign internal defense. (see Mark's 1994 Special Warfare Magazine article on Unconventional Operations,  as well as his recent 2016 book, Special Forces: A Unique National Asset Through, With and By  here at Amazon)

Second, the concept of "through, with, and by" is NOT a silver bullet and should not form the basis of a doctrine or a strategy. It has taken on a life of its own starting with GEN Odierno's 2008 guidance to the force in Iraq (here in 2008when he issued his guidance to the force there and the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance.

"Through, with, and by" is an important concept but when it is adopted as a single strategic method it loses its value and undermines its own legitimacy when it is used as the "main effort."  The idea that we are going to use indigenous, surrogate, or forces of another country to protect US national security interests and NOT commit US forces to protect those interests is simply wrong.  The use of "though, with, and by" creates a paradox and a dependency among those forces.  While they are grateful for all the training, advising, assisting, and equipping, they come to believe that if there mission is so important to the US then they become "too big to fail" so to speak and know they will always be bailed out when they are in trouble and that the US will come to their rescue because it is in the US interests to do so.  These forces are smart and they are in their own way learning to "live to fight another day" for their own interests - happy to take US assistance and careful not to over extend themselves so as to husband the resources they have been provided so that they have improved capabilities when the US eventually tires of supporting them and realizes that they cannot really support US interests. The underlying premise of working through, with, and by as we help those who seek self determination through political resistance and insurgency by our application of unconventional and political warfare or who help those to develop the capabilities to defend themselves against lawlessness, subversion, insurgency, and terrorism is that we will help them to help themselves but we will NOT do it for them.  Once we do start doing it for them we they have lost and we now own the problem.  Until we learn this and ween ourselves from the myth that "though, with, and by" is a substitute for strategy and should only be applied in specific circumstances (based on the principle of understanding that rests on comprehensive and continuous assessment) by specific forces we are going to continue to experience strategic failure as we rely on "though, with, and by" as the foundation for our strategy.  The concept has great utility but only when correctly applied in the appropriate conditions for which it is suited.

"Through, with, and by" has been hijacked by those outside of SOF and in particular Special Forces.  It has great strategic value in helping others to seek self-determination (though UW) and to defend themselves against lawlessness, subversion, insurgency, and terrorism (through FID) but it cannot be the foundation for protecting US interests.  It can play a supporting role in achieving US interests but it cannot be a substitute for US forces conducting operations to protect US interests.  This great doctrinal and strategic folly that has been in place since the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance ( ) unless we never forget that caveat "whenever possible" which seems to have been translated to use in every situation in place of US troops:

Whenever possible, we will develop innovative, low-cost, and small-footprint approaches to achieve our security objectives, relying on exercises, rotational presence, and advisory capabilities.

SPECIAL REPORT: The Military Loves the Obama Doctrine. Can It Survive Trump?

Commanders say they’re already fighting ISIS the right way: “by, with, and through” local forces. · by Read bio
ERBIL, Iraq – There’s no welcome sign at this U.S military base discreetly tucked into the corner of the Kurdistan International Airport in northern Iraq. It doesn’t even have a name. But it’s here. Thousands of troops are here, including Americans, Germans, Italians, Finns, and Brits. And this time, it seems the U.S. military is in Iraq to stay.
The temporary tents and dining hall erected to house American forces — including special operators, CIA agents, and private military contractors who hunt, kill, and interrogate for America — are being replaced with permanent buildings. At least five types of U.S. military helicopters criss-cross the bright September skies over Kurdistan’s peaceful, bustling capital city, some ferrying generals up from Baghdad, others heading north into Syria with bearded special operators’ feet dangling from Black Hawk doors, or banking west toward Mosul, bringing Americans to the front lines of war.
It sounds busy and feels familiar, but today’s war in Iraq is a far cry from the mammoth effort of a decade ago. Gone are the hundreds of thousands of American troops and contractors occupying hundreds of sprawling bases and outposts across the country. Gone is the Bush administration’s total war and total occupation of a country. In its place is the Obama Doctrine.
What’s that? In his 2008 campaign, Barack Obama pledged to keep American troops out of unnecessary fighting while helping local populations defend and govern themselves. In short, it was his reaction to the Iraq War and over-extending America in the Middle East, explained Jeff Goldberg in his blockbuster article in Defense One’s sister publication, The Atlantic, after spending hours with the commander in chief. “Obama generally does not believe a president should place American soldiers at great risk in order to prevent humanitarian disasters, unless those disasters pose a direct security threat to the United States,” he said.
But ISIS’ rise in Iraq and Syria has confronted this vision with shocking reality. The unmitigated slaughter of Syrian civilians has provoked heavy, if not quite universal, condemnation of Obama’s and other Western governments. It angered an American electorate tired of wars in the Middle East but increasingly fearful of Islamic extremist terrorism reaching Europe and America. And it fueled perceptions that Obama was keeping the mighty American military on the sidelines, instead of just taking out what looked like nothing more than a savage band of pickup-driving psychopathic murderers. (One 2016 frustrated presidential candidate made the ridiculous suggestion of “carpet-bombing” Iraq.) Obama and U.S. generals have vowed to “destroy ISIS” — but he will this week be replaced in office by a candidate who said he could do it more quickly.
But what does the military want? In dozens of interviews with U.S. officials and coalition military commanders — from the White House to America’s war room in Tampa, the command in Baghdad, forward control centers and training grounds in Kurdistan, defense minister meetings in Paris, and NATO headquarters in Brussels — one thing was clear and consistent. On the whole, America’s military leaders do not want to be here any longer than they must. It also is clear that they wanted to “accelerate” the campaign against ISIS, as Obama has been doing already for more than a year with success, but they do not want America to own this fight. They do want Iraqis to fight and a functioning Iraqi government to take control when the Islamic State is gone. They don’t want to defeat ISIS only to become an occupying force of sitting ducks.
What they want is what Obama wants: patience. It’s a word I hear over and over, talking with special operators tasked to train local forces to fight terrorism and with the faraway policy makers they support. Like the outgoing president, they believe an enduring effort and a long view are key to winning the conflicts in the Middle East and halting the spread of global terrorism. But will Trump have the same patience as Obama? Will Trump have the same patience as his generals?
(Continued at this link)

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