Sunday, June 25, 2006
Random Thoughts Concerning My (Out of Control) "Expeditionary" Bookshelf
I received some good comments from an anonymous commenter on the last EBO post. I'll respond to the comments on a different post. I truly appreciate it when readers comment on my posts. Even if they disagree with my points. I prefer non-anonymous comments (I think most bloggers do), but I am grateful to have any comments at all.
For now, some other thoughts.
As I was unpacking my stuff in my temporary Florida location, I realized that I had packed a lot of freaking books. Since I drive a big pick-up truck I could've packed more, but I certainly could've packed less. You can see a picture of the Sonny's "Expeditionary" Library. (No folks, I don't travel with the whole self when I actually go overseas. Not very tactical. Small paperbacks are the only ones allowed to travel overseas.) Will I read all those books before the winter when I (hopefully) go back to Virginia. Probably not. Do I feel more at home having all those books with me? Absolutely. Among the holdings (in no particular order):
- The Sling and the Stone by Col Thomas X. Hammes. I read this when it first came out about two years ago. I brought it for reference purposes.
- Insurgency and Counterinsurgency in Iraq by Ahmed Hashim . I am currently reading this one. Good reference too.
- The Tiger's Way by H. John Poole. I bought this book last year at the BX in Al Udeid Air Base when I had nothing else to read at the time. Not for everybody.
- On Killing by LtCol Dave Grossman. I am re-reading this one. I was a first lieutenant the first time I read it, a lot has happened since.
- Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. My good charm book.
- Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad. I read Heart of Darkness a while back. I liked HoD so I decided to read this one before the end of the year.
- Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins. I don't really know what to expect from this book, but the title grabbed my attention.
- Veinte poemas de amor y una cancion desesperada by Pablo Neruda. My favorite poet (in any language) is Pablo Neruda. I am fortunate that I can read it in Spanish. Another good charm book that has been with me since I was a freshman in college back in 1992.
- D-Day by Stephen Ambrose. After reading (and watching the awesome HBO mini-series) Band of Brothers, I decided to pick this one up. I might read it before the winter.
- Military Misfortunes by Eliot Cohen and John Gooch. I read Supreme Command by Cohen a few years ago when it was in the Air Force Chief of Staff reading list. This book by Cohen was republished last year and the topic is always fascinating.
- Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke. I bought this paperback in a used bookstore down in Key West a few years ago. I never finished reading it while I was down there, so I brought it along. It's always good to have light paperbacks for when I go "forward".
- War and Destiny by James Kitfield. I saw a Kitfield interview on C-Span last year talking about this book. I enjoyed the interview and I liked Prodigal Soldiers so I decided to get this one too.
- From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas Friedman. This book came out a while ago, but I never read it. I might get to it later this year.
- What Went Wrong? by Bernard Lewis. I finished reading this book on 27 Jun 2004 while I was overseas. Don't ask me how I remember that. I don't know why I even brought it here.
- The Brand You 50 by Tom Peters. I bought this book at the airport in Tampa last year. Good motivational book. I am a Tom Peters fan and this is the one Tom Peters book I decided to bring here.
- Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. Two of my friends, independently, recommended me this book. I took it as a signal and bought the book.
- Competitive Karate by Adam Gibson and Bill Wallace. Good advice for the dojo (when I get back to VA). Not so great for "real-life" fighting. Still, I always like to read good martial arts books.
- Almost a Woman by Esmeralda Santiago. Always good to carry a book by a fellow Boricua. Esmeralda Santiago grew up not too far away from where I grew up in beautiful Puerto Rico. There's also a version in Spanish (Casi una mujer), but Esmeralda originally wrote the book in English. There's very little lost in translation with the way she writes.
- The Coming Anarchy by Robert D. Kaplan. I am saving this from where I go back overseas in a few weeks. It's light and easy to carry with my gear. After reading Imperial Grunts last year I decided to get this one too.
- Once an Eagle by Anton Myrer. This is a paperback I bought a few years ago, but its intimidating size has prevented me from even starting to read it. Maybe next month I'll start. No way this is going with me overseas. Too bulky.
- Developing the Leader in You and Failing Forward by John C. Maxwell. My friend Ida, gave me these books not too long ago. Thanks babe! I finished the first one. Don't know when I'll get to the second one.
- The Marine Corps Way by Santamaria, Martino, and Clemons. This is a business book that tries to apply some USMC principles to civilian business. It's actually pretty good although I've read some bad reviews.
- Platform by Michel Houellebecq. I read this book last year. Somehow I packed it with the rest. Not for everybody. Good book to read at the beach. I might read a few pages when I feel too cheery and want to sprinkle some nihilism to my day.
- Global Brain by Howard Bloom. I bought this book after reading Dan's review at tdaxp. I'll start reading it when my mind clears up a bit more.
- Weapons of Choice by John Birmingham. I bought this paperback after Eddie mentioned it on Live from the FDNF. Fun read so far.
- Chasing the Silver Bullet by Kenneth P. Werrell. It's always interesting to read about weapons development. This book is about Air Force weapons development from Vietnam to Desert Storm. I actually finished reading this book two years ago. It's a good reference though.
- The Transformation of American Air Power by Benjamin S. Lambeth. The best book I've read on airpower history from Vietnam to the Allied Force campaign.
- Airpower in Small Wars by Corum and Johnson. I read this book back in 03. The copy that I have has seen better days, but I still like to have with me as a reference.
- The Battle for Pusan by Addison Terry. I always like to read war stories. I read many WWII and Vietnam war stories, but not too many Korean War ones. That's too bad because my grandpa and my great uncle were veterans of the Korean War.
- Blueprint for Action by Thomas P.M. Barnett. I actually finished reading this book on a plane going to Vegas earlier this year. It's a good book, so I decided to bring it along.
- Beyond Baghdad by Ralph Peters. Yes, I read Ralph Peters' books. I am not buying the new one though. I already read most of it at a Barnes and Noble when I was TDY in Nebraska last December. (I had nothing better to do on a Tuesday night in Omaha. Actually, I think there was something better to do. Heck, doing snow angels out in the parking lot would have been more enlightening.)
I realize that I probably will not be able to finish reading all of those books. (As you can tell from the picture above, there are more books that I did not list.) I just did not feel good leaving them behind in VA for six plus months. I am also working on my PME (Professional Military Education for the civilian readers) by correspondence and learning about my new job. I will also be flying out of here shortly and going back overseas for several months. I might post some pictures of my adventures.
Sunday, June 18, 2006
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).
"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.
"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.
"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?
"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.
"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.
Sunday, June 11, 2006
Field of Jihad: Part 1: On Sacred Ground
Contact with a cruel ideology
Even after the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (AMZ), the fighting in Iraq will still be permeated by his brutal ideology. AMZ's philosophy will still be an important part of life for jihadists living and fighting in Iraq. AMZ's beliefs will live on, and his proponents in Iraq (and elsewhere in the Islamic world) will make sure that young jihadists come in contact with his pernicious ideology. They will try to keep "hope" alive. The good news is Zarqawi is dead. He is not going to put out new "material". His main output was destruction through the spread of his ideology. From now on, others will have to "carry the torch" for him. AMZ can't produce any new videos or recording to spread his message. How much of an inspiration to jihadist will AMZ be after his death? Who will fill the void as the face of the insurgency in Iraq? AMZ represented only one part of the complex insurgency in Iraq. But he was the most recognizable face of the insurgency; the "front man" of the insurgency. (I haven't done any scientific reasearch on this, but I bet that most Americans can only name one Iraq War insurgent by name: Zarqawi, a dead guy.) Any "emergent leader" trying to fill the "void" left by AMZ is facing an uphill battle at this point. AMZ was able to establish himself as a credible leader in the eyes of jihadists by taking advantage of the post-Saddam regime environment in 2003 and 2004. At that time, the new Iraqi security forces were just being established and the US was still in denial and stumbling to fight the nascent insurgency. The environment is much different now for jihadists. The US and Iraqi forces facing the insurgency are a far more capable adversary than they were two or three years ago. As a pragmatic choice, the Salafist in Iraq have shifted from attacking US hard targets as their main effort and have elected to focus on the "near enemy" represented by Iraq's Shia population, and Shia-led government and security forces.
AMZ exposed many potential jihadist to a particularly violent brand of jihad. Other jihadist and radical preacher will try to perpetuate his message across the Arab world through different media outlets, mainly television and the Internet. Once foreign jihadists get to Iraq the process of indoctrination into AMZ's ideology continues on a much more immersive manner. AMZ's message will still be, for some time, part of the milieu for jihadist in Iraq.
Complexity of Iraq
Iraq is a complex environment not only for our troops but for the jihadists as well. The Salafi jihadists are only one part of the multifaceted insurgency and, like us, they have to deal with all the different groups across the country. The jihadists do not operate in isolation and they have to survive in a demanding environment in which there are several players, including the US, intent on their demise. Insurgencies being Darwinian affairs, only the strong and smart survive this environment. We might see the overall number of foreign jihadists being reduced, but the ones that survive will probably be very capable fighters. Iraq is not also complex, but it is also a unique environment and some of the methods that proved useful to the jihadists in this setting might not be effective in other countries. The significance of Iraq as a training ground for jihadists is still very much in question. That being said, for several reasons, Iraq has more potential than Afghanistan had in the 1980's to inspire young jihadists to join the fight against the "enemies of Islam": while Afghanistan is located in what could be considered the periphery of Islam, Iraq is an Arab country, the former seat of the caliphate and the first Arab state to be threatened with Shia rule.
The insurgency will not just go away because we killed AMZ. Like the emergence of the new Iraqi government is a step in the right direction, but we will probably witness more horrific violence during this year. The insurgency in Iraq has deeper origins and motivations that will remain after AMZ's death. Part of the insurgency's resilience lies of the fact that no single entity controls it. Although Zarqawi's death should be accorded the great significance that it deserves, the immediate post-Zarqawi environment would probably not see a diminution of the insurgency. However, the death of Zarqawi is a decisive turn against the insurgency, a breakthrough that needs to be exploited. A tactical breakthrough is only useful if you can convert it into a breakout, a shift in momentum, a strategic advantage.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
500-pounders can always ruin somebody's day.
Good job by everybody involved. Celebrations are in order my friends.
AMZ. I am glad you are gone and burning in Hell right now, pal.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Chinese Grand Strategy: Part I: China and Iran
China is not necessarily seeking "world domination" at this point. But they are pursuing regional dominance in the Middle East.
China has been very firm in their stance of keeping the Iranian quandary out of the UN Security Council after, earlier this year, Europe united with the US in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to report Iran's nuclear activities to the UN Security Council (UNCS).
Beijing has two main goals in Middle East:
- Secure better access to the region's oil
- Gradually curb (and eventually displace) US power in the region
In order to achieve this two objectives China working its way into crucial strategic relationships with both Iran and Saudi Arabia. For the Chinese accomplish their goals both Iranians and Saudis need to see their strategic relations with Beijing as vital (almost necessary) to their respective nation's security and well-being.
China will try to calm the US by outwardly agreeing with the US (and Europe) in taking preliminary measures, i.e. signataries of the IAEA report to the UNSC, but when push comes to shove, i.e. agreeing more stringent sanctions against Tehran, they will probably back down and try to stall the passing of any additional UNCS. Both Tehran and Beijing understand that inciting the US into a more confrontational stance is counterproductive to both their goals. In this respect, the Chinese will become a "soothing" agent in the crisis. They'll be on-board with the US, but they probably won't support UN economic sanctions. China, of course has veto in the UNSC.
China and Iran probably coordinated some of their actions earlier this year prior to Tehran's removal of the IAEA seals at its Natanz uranium enrichment facility as a meeting between Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister with China's Foreing Minister the day before the removal of the seals seems to indicate. Coincidence? Shortly after the removal was revealed, the Chinese Foreign Ministry insisted that the issue had to be decided within IAEA channels.
The Chinese will probably not support UN sanctions against Iran as a way of applying pressure to Iran, but they will push for the issue to be resolved at the lowest level possible, e.g. within the IAEA framework.
No matter what Beijing says to placate any potential crisis (including economic sanctions and US-led military strikes), it is been proven that they will assist nuclear proliferators if it benefits their interests. North Korea, Pakistan, and Iran all have been beneficiaries at one point or another of almost unnoticeable "under-the-table" exports of nuclear technology. The Chinese are not stupid; they are not going to ship a finished product (or missile) to Iran trough the Strait of Hormuz, much less via land. But certain missile technologies can be easily transferred without hardly anybody noticing.
China can be seen as the hub of a nuclear cooperation network between North Korea, Pakistan, and Iran. If you look at each of those countries' nuclear deveploment programs you will see that Chinese designs emerge as a common denominator. In terms of missile development, the Chinese are suspected of providing solid fuel technologies to the Iranians for use in enhanced versions of their Shahab missile.
The Chinese probably helped the Pakistanis in the development of their Babur land-attack cruise missile and it is possible that, given Iran's interest in enhancing its missile force, the Chinese will probably help the Iranians develop an indigenous cruise missile capability.
The Iranians are also interested in developing space satellites, a technology in which the Chinese have experience and can provide launch vehicles and facilities for any Iranian indigenous satellite.