Monday, December 19, 2005

Transforming at Glacial Speed

According to the CS Monitor, "U.S. doctrine moves away from solely emphasizing the waging and winning of wars". Here.

Key details:

With little fanfare during the past few weeks, the Pentagon has rolled outone of the most significant changes to military doctrine since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The policy directive recently signed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declares that the job of planning and training to win the peace after a war is now virtually as important to the military as the conflict itself.

The document marks a sea change from the ideals of the past, when the military was loath to take on any responsibility beyond waging and winning wars. Indeed, it suggests that the Pentagon increasingly sees Iraq and Afghanistan as templates for wars of the future, with success hinging not only on military superiority, but also on the ability to reconstruct failed states.
***
"The [Pentagon] directive will help ensure that the Department of Defense develops the capabilities required to meet future stability operations challenges as part of an integrated US government effort," says Jeffrey Nadaner, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for stability operations, by e-mail.
***
The Pentagon has so far rejected the idea of special stability-operation units in favor of plans for a more general indoctrination of all troops. And that should not interfere with the military's dominance on the battlefield, writes Mr. Nadaner: "The effort to improve the balance between stability and combat operations should not undermine the warrior ethos, which is the foundation of armed forces."

But there are some doubts:

But especially at a time when the Army is accepting more recruits who make substandard scores on aptitude tests, some analysts wonder whether the new approach asks too much. "There is a point beyond which it isn't practical to expect so many different things from the same group of people," says Loren Thompson, a defense expert at the Lexington Institute in Arlington.

Already, the Army has been asked to become more flexible, more agile, and more intelligent to make up for the decreased size of the force since the end of the cold war. The new directive could call on it to fundamentally change its culture and training: Each new hour of stability-operations training could mean an hour of combat training lost. No longer are they simply machines of war, grinding toward some military objective. Now, they are to be intermittent instruments of peace, as well.

The problem, suggests Dr. Thompson, is that "people who are good
killers tend not to be good mediators."

Remember kids we don't "do" nation building except when we "do" nation building. It's good that DOD is acknowledging the need for this change. How it reflects in how units are structured, trained, and equipped remains to be seen. The quote that "people who are good killers tend not to be good mediators" probably has some validity. One of the key points that has come out of some of the Katrina after action reviews that I have heard is that the "tactical" types were not always a good fit for operations in the disaster zone. Jailers tended to work better because they had more experience dealing with people and their myriad problems. So do paratroopers make good peace keepers? Maybe not.

I think the military ought to invest more in creating units that are capable of operating in the "three block fight" environments. We somehow have to bridge the gap between the Special Forces teams that are built for this fight, but are too few to handle a large chunk of territory like Iraq, and the larger civil affairs units which are mostly concentrated in the Reserves and not build for combat. The Provincial Reconstruction Team concept may be a good start. The military ought to begin to formalize these topics in its training. I've graduated from a ton of Army schools, and not one of them had a formal civil military operations component.

I also think the federal government beyond DOD has a role to play in this. Our government has no "expeditionary" component beyond its military, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies. However, there is certain expertise that does not reside in any of the entities. USAID does some heroic things, but does not particularly function well in non-permissive environments. Perhaps we need to start looking at military units that have a mix of federal civilians on them.

Change is coming, but we'll have to see how fast.

3 Comments:

At December 19, 2005, Blogger Mr Bob said...

Sir,
nice post (article rather!)I wanted to comment on the comment about the Army recruiting more people with lower scores. While this is definatly a problem, it isn't indicative of the intelligence of the potential recruit, just the educational level, which means they can learn. The Public School system is to blame for the lack of standards and letting people continue through without learning certain things, too bad the military (and colleges) have to now make up for that slack.

 
At December 20, 2005, Blogger J. said...

I wonder if Thomas Barnett will be disappointed that the SysAdmin idea isn't taking hold. Well, it will give him more grist for his books and lectures.

 
At December 20, 2005, Blogger hank_F_M said...

It is common to accuse Armies and Armed Forces generally of preparing to fight the last war. Some time about mid 2008 plus or minus our Armed Forces will be completely prepared to fight the last war – IRAQ. Can’t really be helped one as fight the war one is fighting. Where do we go from here?

The problem is until the new and improved M2 Ball, Crystal gets past the acquisition system it is hard to know just what the next war will be like. There are always a number of possibilities including the possibility that the next war will be like the last. And as the 3d Infantry Division found out after capturing Baghdad the nature of the war can shift virtually overnight.

I just love the occasional article that based on recent experience assumes that IED’s will be the wave of the future and we should shift the whole army structure to deal with them. (/SarcastismMode=off)

I think that a problem is that the political class want a one size fits all solution keyed to specific problems, not a general pupsoe force that adjust to the situation found.

 

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