Sunday, June 18, 2006

In Defense of EBO - Part 3

In Defense of EBO - Part 3
FX-Based Note: I was getting ready to post on something else, but looking through the list of my postings I realized that I had an draft of something I had not published and it was part 3 of In Defense of EBO. You got to finish what you start. So here it is.

Previous posts on this subject here, and here.

Ralph Peters wrote in the April 06 issue of Armed Forces Journal an article titled Bloodless theories, bloody wars; Easy-win concepts crumble in combat.

The so-called "bloodless theory" he's alluding to is effects based operations or EBO.This is part 3 of my defense of EBO or more appropriately an effects-based approach to operations (EBO for short).

Peters writes:

"Precision-guided weapons are marvelous additions to our arsenal. They save lives, spare resources and accomplish crucial missions. The fallacy is to believe they can win wars by themselves. The abysmally failed “Shock and Awe” campaign that was supposed to persuade Saddam Hussein to surrender by demonstrating our techno-prowess should be a lesson to us all: Take the enemy’s psychology into account, don’t engage in wishful thinking and worst-case what it takes to defeat your opponent."

An effects based approach to operations actually considers effects that go beyond those of precision-guided munitions (PGMs). No smart military officer believes that a single type of weapon or a single type of effect can win a war by itself. In war, "silver bullet" solutions tend to be temporary at best, and the enemy usually devises a countermeasure for them. Stating that "Shock and Awe" was an "abysmally failed campaign" is, in my opinion, a gross misrepresentation of the whole operation. In Operation Iraqi Freedom, an effects-based approach was an extremely evident feature in the fast pace and shock of the major combat phase of operations. Granted, Saddam did not formally surrender (I predict that very seldom we'll see formal surrenders in future conflicts), but he was on the run and his regime collapsed in a matter of weeks in large part because of the disruption brought by a campaign characterized by speed and shock.

An effects-based approach actually takes the enemy's psychology into account more than a target-based attrition campaign. From a conventional warfare standpoint, "Shock and Awe" was a success. You can make an argument that the "follow-through" was awkward and poorly executed, but during the initial phases we kept our "eyes on the ball" and pretty much hit the "sweet spot". The initial phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom are almost universally regarded as an astounding coalition victory, even by critics of the later stages of the war; characterizing "Shock and Awe" as an abysmal failure seems to me like an attempt at revisionism to discredit the validity of EBO.

Peters writes:

"Nonetheless, at the Joint Forces Command and in the Air Force, proponents of Effects-Based Operations now suggest that, by striking just the right pressure points, we might bring China to its knees. Well, China's already on its knees — a position that gives China greater inherent stability than our own top-heavy military and hyper-developed national infrastructure possess. The crucial question in any war is, "What will it really take to force our enemy to surrender?"

"We know what it took in Nazi Germany. And in Imperial Japan. To defeat China, we'd have to inflict at least a comparable level of destruction. "

These two paragraphs are outrageous to the point that they almost require no refutation. War with China is not preordained as Peters suggests. By reading Peters, you get the impression that war with China is inevitable and just around the corner; something not true on both counts. In the unlikely event that we engage in armed conflict with China in the near future (3-5 years), the confrontation will probably turn out to be very different from World War II. Both the US and China have nukes. That fact alone, changes the whole equation when it comes to war. Addressing US-China relations strictly under military terms is a gross oversimplification of a multifaceted subject.

Peters writes:

"EBO isn't a strategy. It's a sales pitch."

Peters is right an effects-based approach to operations is not a "strategy". And what exactly is the "sales pitch" intended to sell?

Peters writes:

"Yet, EBO also reflects a recurring American delusion — the notion that, if only we can discover it, there must be a formula for winning wars on the cheap. EBO and other schemes for sterilized techno-wars have surprisingly deep roots in our military culture — the American vines were grafted onto diseased European root stocks. "The ideas of effects-based and network-centric approaches to operations have been misunderstood in a variety of ways. One of the misconceptions is to characterize these approaches as "schemes for sterilized techno wars".

The strong point of an effects-based approach to operations is that it directly deals with the least sterile components of any endeavor: human beings, human organizations, and events caused by humans. The search for a "formula for winning wars on the cheap" describes more one aspect of the traditional American way of war than an EBO approaches. As American, we are part of an optimistic culture typified by our conviction that every problem has a solution. We are fond of technology-based fixes for problems. An effects-based approach acknowledges this American proclivity towards problem-solving-through-engineering, but goes beyond that, and focuses on the human aspects present in every crisis.

Peters writes:

"Far from being a brand-new, breakthrough concept, EBO is rooted in the 19th-century cult of Gen. George B. McClellan's favorite military theorist, Baron Antoine Henri Jomini, the Swiss-born, French-speaking military charlatan who seduced the engineers produced by West Point with his geometrical "the calculus is all" approach to warfare. Presenting himself as the heir to Napoleonic thought, Jomini got the emperor dead wrong (only his Ulm campaign makes any sense in Jominian terms), reflecting, instead, the mannered approach to warfare that was generally prevalent between the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 and the cannonade at Valmy in 1792."

The idea of EBO is, like Peters indicates, not new; but EBO's roots can be more easily traced to Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, Giulio Douhet, Billy Mitchell, J.C. Slessor, the US Army Air Corps Tactical School, and Thomas C. Schelling than to Jomini. To a great extent, the current EBO movement and the fervor of its proponents stem more from the combat zones of Vietnam than from the battlefields of 19th-century Europe. For more than three years (1965 to 1968), American airpower was misused in the Rolling Thunder bombing campaign against North Vietnam. The young officers who were aghast by this often senseless and unproductive use of airpower were resolved to do a superior job when their chance to be in charge came. The Gulf War was their first big break.

Part 4 of 4, is next.

Let's see, EBO is Air Force centered and relies on expensive technology--very expensive and is geared towards conventional warfare. There aren't too many nations that have a Sadam for leadership who would fight the US in a conventional war, but the Pentagon does need a potential enemy in order to justify a lot of its weapons purchases. China fits their bill rightly or wrongly. I don't see how refering to that fact leads one to conclude Peters is advocating a war with China. Peters' AFJI article is basically a blast at the Air Force and its weapons purchases. For the foreseeable future, we are going to be fighting foes like those in Iraq and Afghanistan. No big defnse programs here ala the F-22 for example. However, prudent defense and security policy also suggests the wisdom to be prepared for to meet the challenge of a rising military competitor. China may or may not fit that bill but the conventional war thinkers use it as their foil to advance doctrines such as EBO as well as justifying buying a plane at over $230 million a pop. Rant against Peters all you want--it is still, the last time I checked--a free country--but be a little more carefull in your interpretation.
No-name misses the point.

Ralph Peters only sees one type of employment of EBO -- it is, after all, the latest orthodoxy being labeled "EBO" and makes for an easy target -- but Sonny, you've actually expanded the concept of EBO as a way of looking at warfare, beyond such a limited consideration, in your three parts. (Where's Part 4?) Mr. Anonymous (or Ms.) ought to read the rest of your arguments.

I've been checking into your argument and have addressed the subject of EBO in the second part of my series on Rethinking the OODA:

EBO is Everything in War -- Almost.

You wrote in a previous post in this series, "First of all, EBO is a methodology, an approach and a way of thinking used for planning, executing and assessing operations and not a new "theory" of war or a particular strategy...The effects-based approach is not mainly focused on winning quick decisive battles; the focus is on actions and the effect of those actions over an extended period of time."

This, in my view, is essentially correct. However, EBO assumes that we can sufficiently know what the effects of particular actions will be in order to accomplish certain goals. And within reason we can. We know that collapsing or at least paralyzing a state is within the realm of possibility with an EBO campaign (which, as a side note to critics, is not solely limited to air power). EBO is predicated on a "cascade of critical system failures" that seeks to render a state inoperable. In other words, you specifically target only what the state needs to function and the culmination of this targeting is a state that, in theory, does not retain any of the characteristics of “stateness. However, if your goals fall short of collapsing a state (or you seek to collapse and then rebuild that state) I would argue that EBO is inappropriate and can bring about unintended and potentially disastrous outcomes.
EBO can be considered as an additive to normal warfare, just like EW supports combat.
EBO does not do very much if the opponent is well-prepared or simply robust. EBO is also irrelevant if the opponent has lost anyway as Iraq '03.

A very long, stand-alone application of EBO might actually be successful if paired with a superhuman amount of patience (like for example blackmailing Milosevic in '99 by keeping the electricity grid down for months or if necessary years with minimal combat actions - a pet theory of mine).

The Gulf War was not the "first big break" for EBO airpower proponents; in fact it's public knowledge that the "five rings" EBO airpower strategy was discarded in favor of more conventional all-out warfare. They did attack some targets like in an EBO, but they did so because they had excess striking power.

I consider EBO as in part illegitimate claims and in part normal component of modern warfare - unspectacular and absorbed by normal practice since decades.

It's the same story as always; prominent military theories have their useful core, but to focus on their application by neglect of more traditional concepts is a recipe for disaster.
The Israelis got cured of EBO in 2006.

Btw; I consider definitions of EBO as useless if they define EBO as operations that do not necessarily have unusual reinforcing effects far beyond their physical effects.*
And to use definitions that claim such far-reaching effects for EBO means to automatically limit the applicability of EBO to a niche.

*: If EBO don't have such far-reaching non-physical effects, we could easily call German 1917/18 artillery barrages as EBO - much of Bruchmüller's reasoning about these barrages was about non-physical effects. That's just an example to show that a more restrictive definition is necessary to give "EBO" any meaning.
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