Thursday, August 24, 2006

Random (and Very Personal) Observations and Some Tips for Operating in "Developing" Countries

I admit the title of this post is awkward. The following observations and some tips are based on recent experience (meaning early 1990s to the present day) traveling in what some might still call the Third World, some call "the Gap", and some call "developing countries". The last thing I want to do is lump all this countries into one big pile. Each country (and each region within each country) is unique. I might narrow down my focus to particular areas in the future, but for now (partly due to OPSEC) I want to stay way from mentioning specific countries. My observations are based on "official business" and vacation trips, informal interviews with colleagues and some perspective that comes from growing up outside of the US. For the most part, these are not hard and fast rules and variations apply depending to where you go. These observations apply to areas where there is no actual combat, but where warfare is never far in terms of time and space.

FX-Note: One of my favorite activities is scuba diving. When you dive, you always need to keep in mind that you are operating in a foreign and potentially hostile environment. Look at yourself: you are clumsily swimming wearing fifty pounds worth of gear while all the fish are swimming freely and without gear. You and your other human buddies are the only ones that need air tanks down there and you are vastly outnumbered by the fish, other sealife and, possibly, sharks. No matter how fast you can swin, you can't outswim a shark. He will get to you. The shark has been there since he was born and will probably die in the ocean. You are there for only a few minutes and you probably don't want to die there. Most sealife will not attack humans if you treat them with respect. Don't poke sticks at the fish and they probably won't bite you. Sharks are usually loners and very independent creatures, but once they smell blood in the water, they will all go after the blood together as if they have been planning the attack for years.

FX-Note: If possible have an "undercover interpreter", a trusted guy in your group who knows the language but fakes ignorance of the language. He might be useful in letting you know of any inconsistent translations if you don't really know your guide that well. Also, he might get a chance to listen to the locals speaking among themselves thinking that nobody knows what they are saying. What they say among temselves might be vastly different from what they are telling you.

Other stuff:

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.

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):

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.

Even from this fuzzy picture, you can tell that I have to concentrate real hard to read Joseph Conrad's Lord Jim. Maybe I've been hit in the noggin too many times.

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.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Field of Jihad: Part 1: On Sacred Ground

Iraq is currently the most active field of jihad. A place where militants can train and openly fight those they see as their enemies.

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

AMZ. Dead.


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.

Who's next?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Chinese Grand Strategy: Part I: China and Iran

China's developing relationship with Iran is geared towards creating long-term influence in the region. This relationship is considered by both Beijing and Tehran to be one of their pre-eminent ways of dealing with the US in the next decade. China still has to compete with Russia for a part in Iran's defense market. Beijing's defense industry still lags behind Moscow's, of course and the Iranians rely on the Russians more than they do on the Chinese to fulfill their conventional weapons requirements. One of China's long-term goals is to alter that equation and become at least equal with Moscow. Before the Iranians actually develop nuclear weapons, (still in the future), the Iranians see a robust conventional capability as a way to deter US attacks in the meantime. Both Iran and China know that the US will probably have to undergo a significant strategic rearrangement before it can attack Iran in any significant manner. At any rate, the Iranians will probably see any US strike (no matter how limited or "surgical") as the beginning of a very prolongued war and will act accordingly. In the meantime, Russia and China will be the main providers of enhanced military capabilities to Iran. China will also help out Iran in dealing with international pressure from the US, the EU, the IAEA and the UN Security Council.

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:

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.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?