Sunday, July 30, 2006

In Defense of EBO - Part 4

FX-Based Note: Why no postings for over a month? Work was a factor. I am in a new job and working pretty much outside of my comfort zone. I am still finding my bearing and trying to do my best not to f5(k things up too much. So far so good. Outside of work, I have taken some time to spend it with my family and friends, something I don't get to do enough. Yes, you can blog and still do other things. Busier people than me do it all the time. Bottom line, I just did not feel like blogging for a while.

On to the post.

Previous posts on this subject here, 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 4 of my defense of EBO or more appropriately an effects-based approach to operations (EBO for short).

First, my writings reflect the way I see things. They don't represent the position of any group or organization, much less the US Air Force or any other government agency.

Second, here's my quick opinion on "theories of war". No theory should weigh us down in the form of needless attachments. Trying to accommodate every phenomenon we see into our neat theories and formulas is a sure recipe for disaster. We should study the past, but act according to the present situation. Many times we are tempted to do things using the same "proven" (but really worn-out) techniques. After all, it is easier to stay in the comfort zone of "doing what we do best". This has its utility; however, sometimes we have to mercilessly drive ourselves to take new courses, even if they are less safe. Seemingly risky paths can open new possibilities. No strategy, theory, or formula can be effective if we don't accept reality and act according to the current reality. No strategy, theory or formula can save you if you fail to recognize what is going on around you and act accordingly.

Peters writes:

"Although there were many exceptions to the "mannerly war" school of that long 18th century — such as Marshal Turenne's scorched-earth campaigns in the Rhineland and the life-or-death battlefield ferocity of Frederick the Great — many of the period's conflicts within Europe were "cabinet wars" about slight alterations to frontiers."

Ralph Peters has probably forgotten more about land warfare during the 18th century that I'll ever be able to learn, so no argument from me on this topic. I would say that even though borders didn't change much during the 18th century in Europe, that century witnessed the decline and eventual collapse of the previously dominant French monarchy, the arrival of Russia as a serious European power, the Seven Years' War, the beginning of England's dominance over India, and the American Revolution. This 18th century events ultimately had more impact in our history than any European temporary frontier modification brought by a decisive battle.

Another factor we need to consider when studying 18th century warfare is how expensive the professional armies had become for their rulers. Serious losses were risked only under extraordinary circumstances. Prior to the 18th century, warfare in Europe was dominated by provisional armies employed for a single campaign. During the 18th century, kings loathed to use their costly professional armies in actual battles and many times preferred schemes that would place troops between the enemy and his supply depots, thus compelling him to withdraw.

Peters writes:

"Napoleon revolutionized European warfare with his strategic vision, his ruthlessness and his disregard for the accepted rules."

Agree 100%. Part of Napoleon's success can be attributed to the fact that his opponents fought him repeating methods that had worked in the past, but were inadequate to their present circumstances. This is what happened to the Prussians during the Jena campaign in 1806. The Prussian army that faced Napoleon's army during that campaign moved slowly, and their soldiers were like robots on parade. The Prussian military had not changed much from its rigid magazine-fed structure of the 18th century. For the fast-marching soldiers of France, who found their provisions on the way, this relic of an army was dangerous only if collided with directly. The catastrophic Prussian defeat at Jena led to a total reform of the Prussian military, most importantly the establishment of the General Staff system, leading to the eventual dominance of the Prussian military in Europe.

Clausewitz had this to say about the campaign:

"When in 1806 the Prussian generals...plunged into the open jaws of disaster by using Frederick the Great's oblique order of battle, it was not just a case of style that had outlived its usefulness but the most extreme poverty of the imagination to which routine had ever led. The result was that the Prussian army under Hohenhoe was ruined more completely than any army has ever been ruined on the battlefield."

The lévée en masse that gave way to the victories of the French revolutionary armies and Napoleon was not founded on new technologies, but upon the use of 18th-century military technologies on a formerly unthinkable dimension. Using standard 18th century weaponry Napoleon devised innovative strategies that relied on massive force (e.g. the heavy use of artillery), speed and fluidity to converge on the enemy army. Napoleon's style of warfare was revolutionary because it had the capability to encounter and cancel out the impact of the strongest and most advanced armed forces of the day. The patriotic foundation of the lévée created problems for Napoleon’s opponents because, to defeat Napoleon, they had to defeat not just Napoleon or his army, but the French nation as a whole. And as the most populous country in 1800 Western Europe, France had the advantage in numbers.

"Anyone can plan a campaign, but few are capable of waging war, because only a true military genius can handle the developments and circumstances." - Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon shaped his army (and the French state and economy) to wage a new, far more mobile, shocking, and distressing method of warfare, however, he did not carry out total war by exacting so much obliteration on enemy people and property that they gave up all will to resist. Napoleon's plans, from first to last, concentrated on the annihilation of the enemy's army. While this gave him great battlefield triumphs, it did not produce enduring gains. Even though Napoleon sought to destroy the Prussian Army, he did not seek the destruction of the means for Prussia to create military power. When Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812, the defeat of those enemy forces that could be engaged and the devastation of the infrastructure that could be reached were not decisive.

"A great captain ought to say to himself several times a day: If the enemy army should appear on my front, or my right or my left, what will I do? If he is embarrassed by the question, he is badly posted, he is not in proper order, he must remedy that." - Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon's brilliant maneuvers and the hard fighting of his army ensured his victories in many battles; however, he was unable to convert battlefield victories into long-term political outcomes favorable to France. After his stunning defeat of the Prussians at Jena in 1806, he became overly concerned with beating enemy forces in the battlefield and relied on mass more than maneuver to achieve victory. His victories on the battlefield were hardly decisive and his enemies were able to recover and fight him again after his incomplete victories. Napoleon's victories affected the civil means of creating military power only in a circuitous manner; Napoleon sought to destroy armies, not the means of creating military power.


"This arcane history matters because the U.S. Army never signed up for Clausewitz (not even in the 1980s, when he was quoted more often than he was read). Ours was instinctively a Jominian military when it came to theories of warfare."

Historically, theories of war have been accepted by the U.S. military based more on practicality than stylishness. Any theory has to both work and feel right in terms of who we are in the context of American culture. The fact that our Army was more a Jominian than a Clausewitzian force was not a random choice and we can hardly attribute the writings of a 19th century theorist to how our Army operates. Our way of war might be more Jominian than Clausewitzian, more Clausewitzian than Sunzian, but this has more to do with who we are as Americans than the influence of theorist and their proponents on our forces. As Americans, we are collectively drawn to engineering and technical solutions and often not inclined to seek diplomatic and subtle means to achieve our goals. This has more to do with our overwhelming material strength than with the adoption of Jomini's theories. Ultimately, theories can only be implemented and put into practice only if and when the armed forces believe, accept and follow them. Like Jomini, we loathe uncertainty and live obsessed with diminishing complexity and vagueness to a few apparently straightforward principles. Like Peters notes, we did this instinctively. Besides, our military is under no obligation to sign up for Clausewitz or any other theorist.

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