Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Darfur Part 2

I decided to amplify on my fantasy plan for Darfur. But first, I want to answer a comment from my friend Eddy from Live From The FDNF. Here's the comment:

Perhaps a correction?

"Opening of LOC from Ethiopia to refugee camps in
northwest Darfur"

Perhaps you mean Libya or Chad? Ethiopia is on the eastern side
of Sudan, near Eastern Sudan, where its likely the next ethnic cleansing
campaign will unfold if the rebellion there begins to eat into Sudan's oil

I actually thought about Chad, Lybia, and Egypt, but a lifeline line of communication (LOC) that extends from Djibouti through Ethiopia to Darfur made more sense.

Why not Lybia? Although Qadafi has toned it down quite a bit in the last couple of years, he is still not our friend or ally. Operations in Darfur will require a significant US presence in the countries where the LOCs are established. Lybia is a predominantly Muslim country, and I did not find a considerable amount of US personnel and assets - to include basing and overflight privileges - in Lybian territory to be a palatable option for obvious force protection issues.

Why not Chad? One word: landlocked. We want to be able to get quite a bit of aid, personnel, and materiel into Darfur. We want to be able to use the port facilities in Djibouti, where the US already has a presence, to bring in large shipments beyond what we would be able via airlifts to Chad. Additionally, Chad is also having some problems of its own.

Why not Egypt? If we can go through Djibouti, Ethiopia, and through the mostly non-Muslim southern part of Sudan, why even consider Egypt? We would have to transverse pretty much the entire country of Egypt from ports in the north (or east) and then enter Sudan through the mostly Muslim/Arab north. I did not find the prospects of crossing US troops crossing through Egypt very appealing.

All this illustrates how logistically difficult would be to mount an operation in Darfur. Add to that, the fact that Sudan falls under the CENTCOM AOR. CETCOM already has its hands full with Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, etc., to embark in yet another relatively large-scale operation in Darfur. The American public would just not support it. Especially when there is so little awareness of Darfur in the US and no clear strategic value to have a presence in the region.

Intervention in Darfur by the US military is highly unlikely. We are already involved in counterinsurgency efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Janjaweed could very well become the next insurgency we fight if we end up intervening in Darfur. Victory in Darfur would require far more than suppression or destruction of the Sudanese military. Public tolerance for what would essentially be a humanitarian intervention would be very low at this point.

Still, this is a fantasy plan. A mental exercise. A what if. On with the plan.


Air Campaign

Aim: Establish a no-fly zone over Darfur.

Aim: Neutralize the threat from renegade Sudanese Air Force (SAF) elements with a minimum loss of life.

Monday, April 24, 2006


I said I had a Darfur post in me. This is it. Reading Eddie's Live from the FDNF inspired me to write this post.

Backdrop. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called Darfur "the world's worst humanitarian crisis." Since early 2003, the people of Sudan's western Darfur region have experienced a brutal government-coordinated scorched earth campaign against civilians belonging to the same ethnicity as members of two rebel movements, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). Officials of the UN World Food Program (WFP) say nearly 1.2 million people currently need food and medical aid in the Darfur region. Peace talks between Sudan's government and these rebel movements operating in the Darfur province show little sign of ending the violence.

The Sudanese Government's Campaign. Two key elements comprise this campaign. Both had had devastating consequences for civilians in the region.

The rebels say the government is oppressing black Africans in favor of Arabs. Some of these Arab nomadic tribes have been involved in past clashes with the farming communities branded as supportive of the rebels.

Campaign Purpose. Some 1.2 million people need food aid, or have fled their homes and at least 180,000 are thought to have died since the conflict began. To end the conflict in this arid and impoverished region of the world a US-led coalition will have to:

Sudanese officials have largely dismissed international pressure in the past. According to a Human Rights Watch report, the Sudanese government blocked international access to Darfur from November 2003 to February 2004, exacerbating starvation and disease and worsening the crisis. However, under threat of stronger punitive action, the president of Sudan will probably agree to not interfere with this effort. However, renegade elements of the Sudanese military, including the Sudan Air Force (SAF) and some ground force commanders will probably defy Khartoun's instructions. These commanders will become high-value targets if they interfere. Musa Hilal, the leader of the Janjaweed militia widely suspected of ordering a large number of atrocities in Darfur will probably interfere with humanitarian efforts. He will become a high-value target and the 16 known Janjaweed bases will have to be neutralized if they decide to interfere with the international efforts.

The wishes of the coalition will be to enforce disengagement and support humanitarian efforts with a minimum of force, and will only engage Sudanese military forces that directly threaten the humanitarian mission.

Campaign Direction. To achieve our purposes we will probably have to:

Desired Conclusions.

That's all for now.

Here's a list of some of my references:

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Around The Internets

Somewhere in the world, the US military will be conducting a big exercise. And I will be there. I am sort of playing for the notional "bad guys" though, so it should be fun. I will try to post from out there, but the posibility is remote. I will probably be working long 14-16 hours-a-day, and Internet access will probably be limited. I will try though. I should be back in a couple of weeks. It should be fun out there. Qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum, baby!!!

On unrelated news, I found out two things in the last couple of weeks:

1) I got promoted. I'll be pinning on sometime later this year. And I have to buy beer for my troops who actually got me promoted. They are all over 21, BTW. Designated drivers will be assigned too.

2) I am going to be deployed (again) for six months (I hope). I am pretty sure I'll be able to blog from "over there", but my postings will probably be shorter and sweeter. Last time I was out there I was working long, long hours and spent little time on the Internet. I am going to a different post, but I'll see when I get there. In the mean time, I'll be completing the pre-deployment training, meaning I get to (safely, of course) shoot guns again (neat!).

Cruising around the blogosphere I found this on 7th Fleet's sailor Eddie's Live From The FDNF in reference to FX-Based:
When the brass eventually come for all the active-duty mil-bloggers, let's hope he's the last one standing. Most interesting mil-blog, pound for pound, word for word.

Thanks for the kind words. I was pretty much speechless when I read that. Sometimes I wish I was more prolific, but the USAF has kept me very busy since, well, Operation Desert Fox (1998). Eddie is very passionate about Dar Fur. I actually have a Dar Fur post in me, based on some stuff I was working on. Though place for an operation. I have been thinking about going to Japan or Korea (again) for my next assignment. I've spent some time in Okinawa (which I did not feel was much part of Japan, maybe I'm wrong), but have never been to the other islands (other than in transit, which does not count). Call me crazy, but sometimes I want to go back to Korea, ("the land of the no-quite-right") badly. Maybe it's the women. Actually, the women are a pretty big part of the whole thing. Plus, I feel like I need a rest from the Middle East. (If you are from the Air Force Personnel Center, and are reading this, please don't count this as an official request...it's just a vague desire...I'll fill out the paperwork with the official request soon, which might not even include anywhere in East Asia. Bottom line, I am not sure yet).

I found it funny that Eddie had this to say about TDAXP:

Home of "Globalization Is Water- The Magic Cloud" and other fascinating, stimulating viewpoints. Informed observers note a Corona is often required after reading.

I found it extra funny because "Globalization Is Water- The Magic Cloud" was the first TDAXP post I read, after Mark from Zenpundit posted it about it. The post starts like this:
This post is headlined "Globalization is Water," but of those three words "is" is the most important.

And it pretty much goes downhill from there, or uphill depending on your state of mind. I did need a Corona after I was done, though. "Globalization Is Water- The Magic Cloud" is a modern classic.

I've slacking on commenting on TDAXP. I am just waiting for another OODA, PISSR, or Asian women post to comment fruitfully.

One blog in which I've commented lately is Opposed System Design, maintained by Wiggins. Worth checking out. This is what Mark has to say about OSD and FX-Based:

Their very different Defense field backgrounds makes for a good tag-team approach on issues of doctrine or theory. Very complementary.

I could not say it better.

One more thing before I go. Ralph Peters is wrong. He hates the Air Force and is trying to create divisions between the services where there sould not be. We are on the same team. We fight and die together. On a personal note, late in 2004, I was flying in a CH-46 full of Marines in western Iraq, when our helo came under small arms fire. We survived, of course, but for a while, I though we were going to crash (and probably die or be captured) in the desert. We would've died as Americans. Americans. The enemy wants to see Americans dead, regardless of what branch of service.

Is the F-22 necessary? Yes. Our premier air superiority fighter, the awesome F-15, has been flying since the 1970's. It's time to move one. We don't want a fair fight against our adversaries. Is the Joint Strike Fighter necessary? Yes. And the Marines are, righfully so, buying a bunch of them too.

From the LA Times:

In Iraq, the Air Force has taken over supply convoys to ease the burden on the Army and Marine Corps, and specialized forces have been used in Army-like combat patrols, conducting raids and seizing suspected insurgents outside such facilities as Balad air base, north of Baghdad. Commanders estimate that about a third of all Air Force personnel have been deployed to the Middle East and Central Asia since Sept. 11, 2001.

Actually, we have been deployed to the ME since Operation Desert Shield in 1990. And we have been flying combat missions non-stop over Iraq since 1991. People forget Operations Southern and Northern Watch. The Air Force has been in a combat footing for 16 years. In my career field, I am guessing that two-thirds is a more accurate number. I know I've been over there for close to two years of my ten-year career. Over one year (all in one "shot") since 2003.

Not all wars of the future will look like Iraq or Afghanistan today. We don't know what the future holds. Besides, the Air Force was instrumental in achieving our goals for the first parts of both campaigns. And anybody that says the Air Force is not instrumental even today, simply does not know what is happening in both theaters of those theaters. It has become very fashionable to criticize and take our Air Force for granted. Do they want a return of the Army Air Corps? So what, we are "high-tech". If by "high-tech" you mean flying 40- and 30-year old technology aircraft (B-52, F-15, F-16, B-1, C-130, C-5, etc.), then we are high-tech.

I have to go now. Pil Sung!!!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Plague

Zen master Mark from Zenpundit called my attention to an article by Bill Lind published in the DNI website. Here's an excerpt:

The problem is that these contractors are businessmen, and business is a whore. The goal of business is profit, not truth. Profit requires getting the next contract. Getting the next contract means telling whomever gave you the current contract what he wants to hear. If what he wants to hear isn’t true, so what? Just start the “study” by writing the desired conclusion, then bugger the evidence to fit. The result is endless intellectual corruption, billions of dollars wasted and military services that, as institutions, can no longer think.

The plague of senior officer contractors has effectively pushed those still in the military out of the thought process. Meeting after meeting on issues of doctrine or concepts are dominated by contractors. The officers in the room know that if they wave the BS flag at the contractors, they risk angering the serving senior officers who have given their “buddies” the contract. Junior officers, who have the most direct experience with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, are completely excluded. They have no chance of being heard in meetings dominated by retired generals and colonels.

Not only does contracting out thinking bring intellectual corruption, it adds a whole new layer of dinosaurism to the thought process. Most retired senior officers’ minds froze in the Fulda Gap many years ago, and that remains their vision of war. Further, any change is automatically an attack on their “legacies,” which they are quick to defend. Twenty years ago, once the dinosaur retired, you could push him into the tar pit and move on. Now he is back the next day in a suit, with a six-figure contract.

My comments:

I would say that the vast majority of contractors I have dealt with are by and large well intentioned. But...they work for a company, a business. The company has to make a profit. The company has to sell its system, its software, its equipment. I always keep this in mind when I talk to a contractor. At the end of the day, many times they are trying to sell something. This gets more "interesting" when there are rival companies trying to sell the government systems that perform similar functions. Then it's a matter of them telling you how much the system from the rival company sucks and how it does not meet the warfighter requirements, and how user-unfriendly and cumbersome the rival product is. On the other hand, the product that their company produces is portrayed as almost flawless. If there are flaws, the developers are always working on them "as we speak"; just wait until version 4.1.2 comes out. The conclusion to the slick PowerPoint slides that accompany the sales pitch...er...infomercial...er...briefing is always pretty much "if you use our product, you'll win the war". Really? I wish it was that easy. The contractors claim these products have taken into account "lessons learned" from the field. It seems to me like they reviewed these "lessons learned" circa 1995. Any suggestions to incorporate improvements based on current experience might not even be taken into account. The system is locked down and we might not be able to add new features. You have to wait until 2007 or FY 08 until they are open again for suggestions. It might be me, but every time I make a suggestion (based on a year and a half experience in the Middle East and over a year in Korea, as well as countless exercises) I always get a semi-polite brush off that basically boils down to "don't bother us with the facts". Creativity is stifled. I don't know how the commercial sector works, but I suspect that if we were running a private company with these acquisition, adaptation and fielding practices we would be out of business in a less than six months.

In terms of stimulating thinking, many times I feel like my talent and what I've learned is being wasted. I have to sit down through countless mind-numbing, soul-sucking "system's integration" briefings. I am political science major. My interest in these things is minimal. Even if I had something to say, based on my experience from last year, I doubt that my input would be taken into account. We do a poor job of putting the right people in the right jobs and at the right time. Basically everything you learn while overseas gets lost because you are sitting in a brief that deals with systems and software and integration and interoperability, which is all great but a) there's very little I can do of impact due to my rank and because the fielding process is so inflexible, so rigid and b) I would rather be in a place where I can make a real impact based on my current experience. I would rather learn from somebody who has actually been there recently, than learn some outdated way of doing things taught by someone who's last foray was back in Desert Storm. I might be whining, but this is how I feel. When I first arrived in the Middle East in 2004 I was clueless. Now I know why.

I you think out of the box, you might be labeled a cowboy. Every "innovation" takes too damn long too field. You need a freaking field manual to navigate trough all the different versions of programs that need to be integrated. One piece of software might be finished today, but might not get out to the field until next year if we are lucky. You have to navigate through a Byzantine maze of middle managers and contractors to get anything done. It's frustrating. Meanwhile, we are reinventing the wheel every time we send a new rotation out to the field. But, in the military, we are supposed to "shut up and color". God forbid that a captain would know more about how to fight our current war than a retired lieutenant colonel.

On the topic of PowerPoint. The software by itself is not the cause or the root of the problem. Technology is rarely the problem. The misuse and abuse of technology is what bothers me. You might have some piss-poor analysis supported by fucked-up assumptions, but if your PP presentation looks good, and is formatted right, you are golden. If you slides look kind of crappy because you spent most of you time actually reading and analyzing the problem, you might get in trouble. "Is that Times New Roman I see in that slide? Oh no! Arial is the correct font, goddammit! This will reflect in your OPR, captain. Lack of attention to detail. You cannot lead troops in combat if you can't tell the different between fonts, colors, and formats." You have to make sure all your letters are the right size and in the right font. Having cool animation always helps. if you have a laser pointer, you are the man.

On the topic of blogs. The higher ups really don't understand the concept. A blog is something that, most often that not, needs to be quashed. You can't have JO's and NCO's (let alone two- and three-stripers) running their mouths on the Internets. My advice to the milbloggers out there:

1) Use your blog as an educational tool.

2) Keep the rabble-rousing to a minimum. There are countless sites devoted to demagoguery and you'll just be adding to the noise...we don't need more Malkin wannabes. If you are going to talk politics, be smart about it.

3) Give me some insight, give me some intellectual meat. For the most part, I don't care whether you did laundry or went to the store today, or if you walked the dogs, or had a burrito for lunch.

4) Give me cultural knowledge. Some of the best milblogs give you a sense of "you are there", a sense of place. Learn about the culture of the country you are stationed in. And tell us about it. Give us your take on the "lands of the not-quite right".

5) Talk to other milbloggers. We must learn from each other.

6) Talk to other smart non-military bloggers. Expand your horizons. Be curious. There's a lot of smart people out there. Mingle with people from different circles. Hang out with smart "freaks". Cross-pollination is the name of the game.

That's my rant for now. I got to get on the road. Again.

For more on the subject, read John Robb's post on his blog and Mark's take on Zenpundit. The Small War Council also has a dicussion forum on the subject of PowerPoint buffonery.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Thoughts and Considerations for COIN Ops

I've been doing some analysis in the hopes of understanding the nature of successful COIN ops. These are some of the random insights I've gathered, some through my time in the AOR, some through reading of history and other sources:

1. Military force should be employed in a highly precise manner. To defeat the insurgents you are going to need to use military force. That is a given. You are going to have to fight them. However, the military option is just that, an option. Insurgencies are defeated by strategies that combined military and political options. Military offensives should consider impact on the civilian population and be primarily conducted when there is credible intelligence on high-value targets and concentrations of enemy combatants.
Example: US unit conducts raid against suspected enemy residence. US unit conducts military tactics that end up alienating all residents of suspected enemy location and their neighbors. US unit conducted op based on shaky intel. Suspected enemy location turns out to be the wrong house. You keep doing that enough times and the local population will turn into your enemies even if they were neutral or favorable to you beforehand.

2. Do not underestimate the power of nationalism. We must assume that US forces will be seen as occupiers. We must work our way up from that assumption. A number of influential leaders in and outside the country in question will invariably portray US presence as an imperialistic occupation. Their voices will be heard. Especially if the country we are involved in has a large pool of bored, angry, an unoccupied young men. Nationalism can be strong even within a weak or failed nation state; witness pan-Arab nationalism.
Example: "Wherever, whenever there is occupation, there will be resistance."
Example 2: We are not the only ones guilty of underestimating national will. In Chechnya, the Russians did it too.

3. Be ready to go full spectrum. The US must be ready to conduct operations throughout the full spectrum of operations. This is especially true when conducting operations in the political and military environment of a COIN campaign. The center of gravity(COG) in a COIN campaign is the demographics, the people. The battlespace is in the streets and in the minds of the people. The ideal is to engage the demographic COG in a benign manner. Is not good enough that US forces be well trained in counterinsurgency, but the local forces you train must be as good or better than you at it.
Example: Providing training and equipment to security, firefighting, and medical emergency response units in a effort to improve public safety capabilities of transitional government.

4. It's the economy, stupid. Politics, security, the economy are all tied together in the COIN environment. In the short term, high unemployment just feeds more people into the pool of bored, angry, young men. Economic reconstruction is perhaps the most difficult task in the campaign. The countries in which our forces will be conducting the campaign will be probably be suffering from deep economic problems to begin with. An extraordinary amount of external assistance might be needed before the country in question can operate under its own steam. Also, don't assume that the country's vast natural resources will ensure the quick recovery of the economy.
Example: The assumption that Iraq's economy could quickly recover if the oil fields were not burned. The problems in Iraq's economy were deeper than that.

5. Insurgencies are like water. Insurgencies adapt their shape to wherever they move in the stream. They constantly learn and adapt to the present. They thrive in the complexity and chaos of modern war. They don't have rigid tactics and rarely settle in static positions. The insurgents might fiercely defend a sanctuary for a while. Diehards and suicide squads might stay behind as cannon fodder while the insurgent leadership and high value targets sneak out the back door ready to regroup in another town.
Example: Fallujah. Between 1,200-1,600 insurgents were killed inside the city in Nov 04. Many more insurgents fled the city prior to the operation. Insurgent attacks continued elsewhere in the country.

I've got a few more, but this is me thinking out loud for now.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Random Stuff

I am blogging "on the road" and from a laptop. Not my ideal setting, but workable.

My template for the blog was all jacked-up, so I changed it. Still getting used to it. Lost all my little customizations, but I can add those later. At least now, FX-Based looks less like Zenpundit. I don't think anybody was getting FX-Based confused with Zenpundit since Mark writes on a wider range of topics and far better than me.

Speaking of Zenpundit, reading his blog I found a posting on the defense-related blog Opposed System Design by Wiggins that reference my "Unnecessary Attachements" posting on 4GW and Other Theories. Here's an excerpt from OSD:

Recognizing the uses and limits of a theory remains a challenge for surprisingly many thinkers. I see the uses and limits of 4GW, NCW and EBO as follow:

-use: recognizes the power of insurgency and unconventional warfare in a globalized environment
-limit: does not consider the relative vulnerability of non-state actors vs. states

-use: recognizes the importance of common orientation in military capability
-limit: is all too often is used to reduce war to a technological/operations research challenge

-use: intelligent targeting of structurally complex systems to generate cascading failures. This enables one to disrupt adversary systems with low costs, producing very high returns on investment.
-limit: not applicable to interactively complex systems, i.e. adversaries as a whole.

I like that Sonny characterizes these theories as tools that warfighters use as appropriate to adapt and overcome unexpected challenges. We naturally understand that tools have uses and limits. Theories, on the other hand, tend to activate our combative tendancies. To point to a theory’s limits often provokes the irate defense of its advocates. More theories mean more tools for the warfighter, and I say bring them on.

Thanks to Wiggins for commenting on my humble writings. I also like the bulletized "pros and cons" for each theory. I am going to elaborate on those three theories in a future post, but here's my quick take based on my real-world experience.


Believe it or not, I did not know that there was something called 4GW until I read The Sling and the Stone by Col Thomas X. Hammes in December 04. By then, I had already spent close to a year in the Middle East working in support of OIF and OEF. I think that even without knowing that we were fighting a "4GW enemy" we did a pretty good job of understanding that this was by no means a conventional fight. Understanding a concept and applying a strategy based on that concept are two different things though. Personally, this is how I viewed our enemy in Iraq:

So, we were basically dealng with a sneaky adversary that does not play by our rules. Having read about conflicts in the area prior to my deployment I was not that surprised when I saw some of the tactics used by the insurgents. They basically use whatever technique is practical to fight, (physically and psychologically) against us. Having played as a Red Team in some exercises, I can understand (but not condone) their method of fighting. Now, this is stuff that I knew well before I found out about 4GW. Maybe I was not reading the right books.


I don't really see NCW as a theory per se. I see it as a way of doing business. Call it NCW or whatever, we have to be able to share information across the battlespace to a host of dispersed units. In today's environment, you simply can't afford to have a collection of stand-alone units and systems running around the place. Personally, when I am in a forward operating location I want to be able to share information with other units in the battlespace, vertically and horizontally. NCW is just the way that we do business in the 21st century. Of course, we can fall into the technology trap, but part of your competence as a leader is knowing the limits of technology. The danger lies in the misaplication of technology, not in the the technology itself. Our military reflect our culture in many respects. We live in a "connected" information-intensive culture; our military will reflect some of that. For many of the kids coming in NCW or whatever you want to call it just makes sense and it's something they will pretty much do on their own. NCW does not need "proponents". It just comes naturally.


There is some disagreement as to what EBO is even within the Air Force. There are so many ways to approach a problem from an effects-based perspective that many times you will not have 100% consensus on what the best course of action to achieve a series of objectives. Even within EBO, we can use different models (Warden's Rings, Strange Analysis, Barlow's NEV Analysis, System of Systems Analysis, etc) to analyze the situation. No sigle model can account for everything, so basically what we usually do is use a combination of models to look at the problem. The metheorologists don't limit themselves to a single model to conduct their weather predictions. The same applies for strategists.

That's my quick take on those three "theories". I will definitely elaborate in my next post. Hopefully I'll be home by Saturday or Sunday, and I will have more time to write, but who knows?

One more thing before I forget. Dan from tdaxp added FX-Based to his "Great Blogs" blogroll. Thanks Dan! We had a long ongoing discussion on the OODA, PISRR, FFPS, and Attractive Asian Women of Lost Nomad's "Girl Wednesday" post. Click on the link and read the comments sections (below pictures of the attractive Asian race queens, courtesy of Lost Nomad) and judge for yourself. Lost Nomad also has a section called "Girl Wednesday" featuring more Korean hotties.

That's it for now.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Constant Reinvention

Proteus: His power came from his ability to change shape at will, to be whatever the moment required. When Menelaus, brother of Agamemnon, tried to seize him, Proteus transformed himself into a lion, then a serpent, a panther, a boar, running water, and finally a leafy tree.

The changing nature of our security environment requires that our forces be protean in nature: versatile, mutable, capable of assuming many forms. Our enemies will attack us with sudden shocks, hoping to paralyze us. Our enemies will try their level best to break our physical strength and, more importantly, destroy our mental resilience. Our strategies should not be a matter of learning a sequence of moves or theories to follow like a formula. Victory has no set recipe.

We must be able to operate in the realm of chaos, in the the domain of the unexpected. The future is flexibility. The challenges that we've faced range from deposing tyrants, to disaster relief. We have been trained on how to fight another army, but we've ended up fighting tiny bands of terrorists scattered across cities and mountains. These are times that call for us to be quick, crafty, flexible, resolute. Can our Industrial Age military, perfectly structured to deal with another Industrial Age military, act in this manner?

To effectively operate in this rapidly changing environment might require a control-free approach, with no fixed formulas for command, control, communications or tactics, each operation taking its form in response to inexhaustibly changing circumstances. Think General Douglas MacArthur when organizing his campaign to island hop to the Philippines, telling his air component commander to "keep the Japanese air forces out of my way." That was the only order issue. The subordinate was left to decide how best to achieve the mission. As the Marines 1940 Small War Manual tells us, "the commander in the field must be adapted to the situation in order to accomplish the mission without delay."

Think about T.E. Lawrence when we said, "In a real sense, maximum disorder was our equilibrium." The most significant components in war are quickness and flexibility - the capacity to move and make decisions more rapidly than the adversary. As Col Thomas X. Hammes tells us in The Sling and the Stone, "Freedom to communicate laterally based on commander's intent is the fundamental key to converting today's hierarchical organization into tomorrow's flexible, networked organizations."

We are in the midst of a period in which small number of highly-determined, "super-empowered angry men", with the aid of readily available advance technology could potentially cause as much damage to the United States and its interest as could many foreign nation-states. Unlike for nation-states, we might not have the return address for these super-empowered individuals, if their are even alive after they commit their atrocities.

America's new enemies derived their lethality from their fluid yet determined efforts to exploit our weaknesses. In some instances, our weakness stems from a perception that the US is more involved in chasing oil or its own domestic interests than in alleviating the problems of the population, as happened in Iraq. Another weakness is our lack of cultural awareness; in many cases, we simply have failed to know the enemy, and have actually made new enemies by humiliating Iraqis in their own homes. Rule Number One of COIN: Don't Make New Enemies. You are already in a swamp full of alligators.

If you ever get to slide 108 of Colonel John Boyd's "Patterns of Conflict" not so "brief" briefing, you'll see it right before your eyes; he gives you some tools, we must never assume that the fairness of our cause is obvious, we must, "undermine the guerrilla's cause and destroy their cohesion by demonstrating integrity and competence of government to represent and serve needs of people—rather than exploit and impoverish them for the benefit of a greedy elite."

Military analyst Andre Beufre writes, "I have the impression that what the Tet offensive was really aimed at was what has in fact been achieved: to confer international political significance upon the Vietcong, to ruin the prestige of the Americans and of the South Vietnamese government, and to restore better control over the countryside. In sum, the Tet offensive appears to have been much more of a psychological than a military operation."

For Americans, the success of the Vietnam war depended mostly on the military. After our success in WWII and Korea, we were pretty sure that we could beat the enemy. If we could just locate him and then somehow persuade him to come out and fight, where he would then be efficiently killed through devastating American firepower. The North Vietnamese saw the war in a different way. The Communist knew that their main target was the will of the American people. Year by year, the Vietnamese continued to widen their outlook and studied the war at a macro level. We were reduced to thinking in small terms, trying to win the war by winning as many battles as we could. At some point, we were mostly reacting to their tempo.

We must be in constant evaluation of the nature of a war based on what is actually happening. We should see things as they are, not as we want them to be. As Mao explains, "If (our plan) does not correspond with reality, or if it does not fully do so, then in light of our new knowledge, it becomes necessary to form new judgments, make new decisions, and change the original plan so as to meet the new situation".

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