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TRANSFORMATION CONCEPTS FOR NATIONAL SECURITY IN THE 21ST CENTURY
published by Strategic Studies Institute, Williamson Murray, editor

8:00 a.m. January 15, 2003 PDT
The following is excerpted from an extensive work provided by the Strategic Studies Institute. The full .pdf document (3,426 kb) may be downloaded here.

The views expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, the U.S. Government or the e11th hour editorial staff.
Those thinking about Army transformation over the coming decade would do well not to forget that the past is crucial to understanding the future of combat, no matter what technological changes may occur.


FOREWORD

The famous Confederate General Stonewall Jackson noted that "To move swiftly, strike vigorously, and secure all the fruits of the victory is the secret of successful war." This observation is at the very heart of the current discussion and experimentation on how the transformed joint services of the United States should employ force in the 21st century. The services are exploring concepts such as Effects Based Operations and Rapid Decisive Operations to move swiftly and strike vigorously to secure victory in the coming decades. At the same time the nation and its armed forces are developing new concepts of homeland security to defend the country in the war on terrorism. The following chapters represent some of the thinking by students at the U.S. Army War College, considering the nature and direction of transformation concepts that deal with these issues.

Officers who participated in the Advanced Strategic Art Program (ASAP) during their year at the U.S. Army War College wrote these chapters. The ASAP is a unique program that offers selected students a rigorous course of instruction in theater strategy. Solidly based in theory, doctrine, and history, the program provides these students a rich professional experience that includes staff rides, exercises, and the best instructional expertise available. The program is designed to provide the joint community with the best strategists and planners in the world. In the case of these officers and their work, they have already begun to make a difference. They and their fellow graduates of the U.S. Army War College will continue to serve the Army and the nation for many years to come.

ROBERT R. IVANY
Major General, U.S. Army
Commandant
. . . . . . . . . .

CHAPTER 1
TRANSFORMATION: VOLUME II

by Dr. Williamson Murray

This is the second volume of essays written by the students in the Advanced Strategic Arts Program at the U.S. Army War College.[1] Like last year's volume, it addresses the question of transformation, but this time within the larger framework of joint concepts and capabilities that are likely to drive processes within the Army and other services over the coming decade. Already joint or service concepts such as effects-based operations and operational net assessment are having considerable influence over how the Department of Defense (DoD) is conceptualizing the problems of transformation. In one form or another, the Army must address those concepts from the perspective of its history—a history that encompasses the whole strategic and operational framework of the U.S. military from the American War of Independence to the present. With that historical framework in mind, it must become an active partner in bringing substance to what has so far, more often than not, represented processes of conceptual development long on claims and short on serious intellectual content.

In the 1990s, as the services began to address the question of transformation seriously, a number of concepts emerged that aimed at utilizing rapidly advancing technology and new capabilities to realize a future revolution in military affairs—or, in the view of some, revolutions in military affairs.[2] Among the more recent concepts that have emerged are those of effects-based operations and operational net assessment. Unfortunately, these efforts have for the most part remained immature. It is the purpose of this introductory chapter and the following essays to address some of the questions that such concepts should raise, as well as the potential role they might play in the processes of Army transformation.[3]

In the largest sense, the development of viable concepts of operations demands a symbiosis among the worlds of the intellect, the tactical and operational, and increasingly advanced technology.[4] As Michael Howard has suggested, this is because the military profession is not only the most demanding physically, it is the most demanding intellectually of all the professions. The latter is the case because military organizations rarely have the opportunity to practice their profession—not necessarily a bad thing—and military organizations can rarely, if ever, replicate the conditions of war in peacetime—particularly the fact that our enemy is trying to kill us.[5] As Clausewitz suggests:
[W]ar is an act of force, and there is no logical limit to the application of that force...War, however, is not the action of a living force upon a lifeless mass,...but always the collision of two living forces...if you want to overcome your enemy, you must match your effort against his powers of resistance, which can be expressed as the product of two inseparable factors, viz. the total means at his disposal and the strength of his will.[6]
This places a difficult burden on military organizations on whose wisdom in preparing for war, a nation's survival can depend. Consequently, the development of concepts, relevant and useful to thinking about and preparing for future war, is of crucial importance.

In fact, the concepts of effects-based operations and operational net assessment are not new, as many of their advocates claim. They are a consistent theme through the conduct of military campaigns by great commanders throughout the military history of the Western world over the past 3 centuries.[7] When tied to the historical framework and the evolution of American doctrine, particularly as it emerged in the late 1970s and 1980s, these concepts offer the opportunity to expand the understanding of the U.S. military on the fundamental and unchanging nature of war, with its constraints both in terms of politics and the impact of friction. At the same time such concepts could allow the incorporation of the technological and computer revolution, clearly taking place in the external world, into service and joint doctrinal and operational frameworks as well as the education of future officers.[8]

When such concepts are not tied to the historical framework, then they become nothing more than "slogans and bumper stickers" that represent the re-invention of the wheel—a wheel rickety, insubstantial, and incapable of bearing any weight.[9] Without an historical perspective, the theorist of future war is left to dream of things that have not happened without any reference to the real world of human experience and understanding. Those who believe that history offers no useful support to theories of future war would do well to remember Clausewitz's sharp words on the relationship between military theory and history:
[theory] is an analytic investigation leading to a close acquaintance with the subject; applied to experience—in our case military history—it leads to thorough familiarity with it...[When it does not, the result is that theories become] absolutely useless...in the rules and regulations they offer...they aim at fixed values, but in war everything is uncertain, and calculations have to be made with variable quantities.[10]
Effects-Based Operations
Over the past decade, there has been increasing interest in a concept termed effects-based operations. The actual derivation of the term comes from the design for the initial night of the air campaign at the start of OPERATION Desert Storm. Planners in the Black Hole, the center of planning for the air campaign against Iraq, aimed do something more than simply listing targets and then attacking them one after another, with little regard for the overall effect. The emphasis of the planners in the Black Hole, harking back to air power thinking in the U.S. Army's Air Corps Tactical School before World War II, was on achieving second and third order effects beyond the simple destruction of targets, which had reflected so much of the U.S. Air Force's approach to air campaigns throughout much of the Cold War.[11]

The end result of this effects-based planning was that a mixture of stealth, precision, and electronics countermeasures destroyed Iraq's integrated air defense system in the opening hours of the Gulf War.[12] To many, that success heralded a new age of air power employment, one characterized by an emphasis on the effects and the outcome rather than the inputs. Unfortunately, that emphasis on air power employment has tended to give the concept itself the flavor of an air force procurement program, which has all too often been justified.

Moreover, advances in conceptual thinking have not matched the advances in technology and precision over the past two decades. Instead, much of the thinking about the potential uses of precision to create effects-based operations has focused on the tactical employment of weapons systems, while the emphasis on precision has led most to focus on target destruction instead of on the larger implications of the conduct of effects-based campaign. Yet it would seem that the most significant contribution that effects-based thinking could make to the conduct of American military operations in the 21st century would lie in the strategic realm. No matter how impressive the conduct of effects-based operations might be at the tactical or operational levels, there is no guarantee that linkages will exist to the operational and strategic unless there is a coherent effort to develop those linkages. The actual planning of an effects-based campaign demands an intellectual effort to think through the potential effects of policy decisions and strategy, as well as the eventual contribution that tactical actions might make to the achieving of operational or strategic effects. The cruise missile attacks on Osama bin Laden's terrorist camps in the 1990s hit their targets with exquisite precision. Undoubtedly, those attacks killed a number of potential terrorists. However, they achieved little or nothing at the strategic or operational levels—at least as far as America's war on terrorism goes, a fact that the events transpiring on September 11, 2001, underlined all too graphically.

If the political and strategic decisions are the crucial element in the utilization of military power to achieve national goals, then how might strategic decision-makers use the concept of effects-based operations to further the articulation and conceptualization of strategy?[13] First, the development of a campaign that rests on effects-based operations must begin with development of a realistic set of strategic goals that could lead to an understood political outcome. In other words, policymakers must have a coherent vision of the strategic outcome towards which the employment of military force must aim in order for planners to think through the potential effects their military actions might achieve. Thus, the processes of policy must develop a coherent and adaptable strategic framework that provides realistic guidance to the joint force commander responsible for developing an effects-based campaign.

In the past, the creation of such a vision has often represented a difficulty that has bedeviled policymakers. And yet without some coherent and intelligent strategic vision towards which policy and military action aim, the results, more often than not, have been disastrous. In 1914 none of the major powers embarked on war with a clear idea of the strategic outcome or the potential cost their societies might have to pay.[14] Once committed, they discovered themselves in a conflict, the cost of which was so horrendous they had no choice but to continue. The immediate political price of admitting that the war had been a mistake was so high that European political leaders simply soldiered on, risking even greater catastrophe, rather than adapt politically to the strategic and military realities.[15] It is the political and strategic outcome towards which policymakers aim that must exercise the greatest influence over the development of military actions and effects. As Clausewitz suggests in On War:
The political object—the original motive for the war—will thus determine both the military objective to be reached and the amount of effort it requires. The political object cannot, however, in itself provide the standard of measurement. Since we are dealing with realities, not with abstractions, it can do so only in the context of two states at war. The same political objective can elicit differing reactions from differing peoples, and even from the same people at different times. We can therefore take the political object as a standard only if we think of the influence it can exert upon forces it is meant to move. The nature of those forces therefore calls for study. Depending on whether the characteristic increase or diminish the drive towards a particular action, the outcome will vary [italics in the original].[16]
Nevertheless, the devising of an outcome towards which national policy aims is not enough. Policymakers and military leaders must also develop a realistic understanding of the nature of their opponent if they are to determine a sensible strategic course. What might be the enemy's goals? What are his political, economic, and military strengths? What are his weaknesses? How do his culture and his political system influence the choices his leadership will make? What is he willing to sacrifice in the pursuit of his political objectives? What does history suggest about his potential courses of action? And how will he react to actions taken against him? In effect, such questions must connect effects-based operations to some form of net assessment in devising the strategy, means, and ends equation.[17]

The answers to such questions should certainly have suggested to senior policymakers in 1964 that the United States should not involve its military forces in Vietnam. And there was evidence available to answer such questions. In 1964 the SIGMA II war game:
Ultimately...predicted that the escalation of American military involvement would erode public support for the war in the United States. Continued political instability in Saigon drew into question the worthiness and dependability of America's ally, and the subtlety of the Communist strategy made it difficult for the U.S. government to sustain the case for military intervention...[Thus] SIGMA II questioned the fundamental assumption on which graduated response depended.[18]
But in 1964 and 1965, no one in Washington at the highest levels of strategic or military policy was willing to ask such questions, much less hear the dismal answers that such questions would have elicited.

In the 21st century, U.S. policymakers cannot afford to make such mistakes. If effects-based operations can make a difference in the waging of the American "way of war," then military leaders must have a clear understanding of the outcome towards which their military actions are to aim. If they do not, they cannot design an effects-based campaign. To achieve such clarity, military leaders may well have to engage in extensive discourses with policymakers to force political leaders to clarify their aims as well as the ends and purposes for which they wish to employ military forces.

The Joint Advanced Warfighting Program at the Institute of Defense Analyses is at present defining discourses in its briefings on effects-based operations as: "a continuous exchange of ideas or opinions (with feedback), 1) on particular issues, 2) to seek clarity, and 3) with a view to reaching a dynamic agreement." The nature of the discourses that a joint force commander should conduct will "take many forms," "occur at many levels," "should be ongoing (circumstances and environments are ever changing, so agreements are ever changing, end state is rarely [if ever] reached),...should be intellectually rigorous (encourage debate, require honesty between all participants, create effective feedback loops)."[19]

Such discourses, by their very nature, will not be easy or without considerable pain but in the end, they are the only means by which policymakers and military leaders can connect the political ends and the military means that are available to achieve the national objectives. In the evolution of the strategic framework, military leaders must contribute to the understanding of strategic decision-makers as to the potential costs as well as the limitations on the employment of force. This understanding is in fact a two-way street, for it is the operational commander, the joint force commander in current parlance, who must also gain a clear understanding of the strategic aim that policymakers seek. And in the end, he must translate the strategic and political outcome for which a war is being fought into its operational context, which in turn will determine how military forces will be used.

This translation of strategy into hard campaign plans that seek the creation of effects to achieve the desired outcome and the execution of those plans in the light of strategic guidance is essential to success in war. The discourses between the military and strategic decision-makers are the essential heart of the process of developing an understanding of the required effects. Only by such discourses can a real understanding of the strategic framework for effects-based operations be developed. Those at the highest levels must begin by asking sharp and penetrating questions as to the possible strategic and political effects that potential military courses of action might have.

Those discussions must never abandon a recognition that the potential enemy may react differently than expected, or that international opinion may exert an unexpected influence over the course of events; or that chance, as always in human affairs, may exercise its baleful influence. Man lives in an uncertain and ambiguous universe,[20] where chance can affect the best laid strategic and operational plans for military action in the most disastrous way.[21] Clausewitz best described the importance of the interrelationship between the strategic and the operational in thinking about the future conduct of war:
war plans cover every aspect of war, and weave them all into a single operation that must have a single, ultimate objective in which all particular aims are reconciled. No one starts a war—or rather no one in his senses ought to do so—without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it. The former is its political purpose; the latter its operational objective. This is the governing principle which will set its course, prescribe the scale of means and effort which are required, and make its influence felt throughout down to the smallest operational detail.[22]
To a certain extent, in thinking through the implications of effects-based operations, strategic decision-makers and military leaders are solving a complex maze. To do so, like the solver of amaze, they must solve their puzzle by starting at the center with the goals they wish to achieve and then work backwards. It is the thinking through of a clear, understandable outcome that provides the road map for the potential uses of military force that can best achieve effects that will contribute to that end.[23] The greater the war and the commitment, the easier will be the designing of the strategic outcome. By 1941 even the democracies were clear on the strategic outcome they sought from the great war they were waging—the complete defeat of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. The clarity of that awesome task made the choice of means—massive mobilization of economies and population as well as the projection of military forces into the depths of the Japanese and Nazi Empires—relatively easy to make.[24]

The great strategic conundrum that confronts U.S. policymakers and military-leaders in the 21st century is both an advantage and a disadvantage. It is unlikely that the potential challenges confronting the United States over the next half-century will be on the scale of World War II, or even some of the conflicts that marked the Cold War. However, the very ambiguity and uncertainty of future threats will make it that much more difficult for policymakers to develop strategic outcomes that are relevant and acceptable to the majority of the American people. And in this regard, it is worth remembering that virtually the entire Democratic Party in fall 1990 saw no reason for the United States to intervene militarily to reverse Saddam Hussein's rape of Kuwait and his potential threat to the world's oil supplies—a tyrant whose nation was on the brink of achieving nuclear capabilities, which only defeat in the Gulf War was to prevent.

There is, of course, no simple, clear framework for establishing effects-based operations at the strategic level. Rather, the aim must be to establish habits of thought and processes that whether, at the onset of some great crisis or in its midst, policymakers and military leaders have the possibility of asking the right questions. What are America's strategic goals? What should the outcome look like? What kind of political as well as military effects do we need to seek? How might military effects best achieve those political ends? What realistic possibilities are open to the enemies of the United States? How can the nation best react to unexpected courses of action by its adversaries? And how might it best adapt, as the context, whether political, strategic, operational, or tactical, proves resistant to its efforts, or even to rest on faulty assumptions and preconceived notions?

Operational Net Assessment
Slightly over a year-and-a-half ago, Joint Forces Command developed the idea that a crucial enabler for effects-based operations to succeed against an adaptive adversary was something its theorists termed "operational net assessment." Unfortunately, the term has not been provided any significant theoretical examination or even an historical vetting. Nevertheless, it has come to enjoy widespread currency throughout that command, if not throughout the remainder of the American military, or in the world of intelligence agencies. It was given a rather unsuccessful first examination at the command's UV01 war game in May 2001. Significantly, despite the over 30 years that the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment has existed under the directorship of Mr. Andrew Marshall, there are no indications that anyone in Joint Forces Command has bothered to check with that office as to the complexities and ambiguities involved in performing a net assessment, much less an operational net assessment. Nor is there any indication that its "theorists" have examined the historical record as to how nations and their intelligence agencies have managed to perform net assessment of their opponents in the past.[25]

Yet, however superficial Joint Forces Command's examination of operational net assessment has been thus far, it has at least made the crucial point that traditional methods of intelligence and battle damage assessment are no longer satisfactory. Simply totaling up the number of tanks, armored personnel carriers, numbers of brigades and divisions, number of fighter aircraft by types, etc., in the traditional order of battle yields little useful knowledge on what matters: the enemy's will and staying power. As the Gulf War against Iraq underlined, all of the best Soviet technology was useless in the hands of ill-trained and prepared conscripts led by an officer corps throughout which Saddam's brutal tyranny squelched every sign of initiative.[26] As in Homer's day, Patrocolus was not the equal of Achilles. Similarly, as the planners in the "Black Hole" intuitively understood before the launching of the air offensive against Iraq's integrated air defense system in January 1991, the Air Force's traditional method of wracking up targets and destroying them one at a time made little sense in the era of precision and stealth.[27] The current interest in conducting effects-based operations suggests that a more sophisticated understanding and picture of the enemy are required on which to base planning.

Again, Joint Forces Command has been correct to emphasize that since the enemy will be by his very nature a complex adaptive system, then operational net assessment demands continuous assessment and reassessment of the enemy, as he changes and adapts to U.S. military actions. Finally, the command has performed a real service in underlining that much more than just military actions must form the equation of operational net assessment: the enemy's culture, his political system, and his economic structure, all are factors of considerable importance in the creation of an operational net assessment. That said, Joint Forces Command has not moved much beyond the placing of interesting ideas on the table for examination. Put simply, its theorists are either incapable or unwilling to examine the full implications of what a true operational net assessment might actually involve. To think through how U.S. military forces and intelligence agencies might actually perform operational net assessments requires an understanding of how difficult such estimates have proven in the past and the difficulties that would be involved in gaining not only deep knowledge of the enemy armed forces, but also the mentality and culture that drive his political processes, as well as motivate those who will fight.

The most fundamental problem is that intelligence agencies throughout the 20th century have proven woefully inept at anything more than counting the numbers and suggesting the technological sophistication of potential opponents. In actual fact, more often than not the numbers have proven largely irrelevant to the actual results. What has mattered have been the intangibles such as the enemy's will and the ability of his military organizations to place competently trained and motivated troops on the battlefield and to provide them with competent guidance at the operational level.

Intelligence agencies consistently have proven either enthusiastic worse casers of enemy capabilities, or all to optimistic on the actual balance of military forces. In the former case, British strategic policy in the late 1930s foundered not only on the misreading of Hitler's aims by leading policymakers, but on the worst casing of military appreciations by their military advisers.[28] By providing the appeasers with specious worst case arguments about the inferiority of Allied military forces, British and French intelligence ensured the surrender at Munich.

On the other hand, there are even more cases where military leaders and their intelligence agencies have posited optimistic prognostications that actual events soon proved to be depressingly off the mark. German estimations as to the ability of Britain to stand up to military pressure in summer 1940 represents a particularly good case. At the end of June 1940, Operations Deputy for the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (armed forces high command) General Alfred Jodl calculated that the war was already won.[29] Two weeks later, Luftwaffe intelligence produced an assessment of the RAF's capabilities that was wrong in every single one of its estimates, except for the number of Spitfires and Hurricanes available to Fighter Command at the beginning of the battle.[30] Eleven months later, German intelligence would get virtually everything wrong in estimating the capabilities of the Red Army and Stalin's regime to resist the Wehrmacht in Operation BARBAROSSA.[31] Americans have been no less susceptible to cultural arrogance and overconfidence; in 1965 the U.S. military had so much contempt for the Viet Minh that had defeated the French in the First Vietnam War that the services paid virtually no attention to the French experience.[32]

But the business of net assessment is not just a matter of underestimating one's potential adversary. It can also result in overestimates of enemy capabilities as well as a general lack of understanding of the enemy's historical and cultural framework. A true understanding of the nature of the enemy and his potential to resist requires a real knowledge of his strengths as well as his weaknesses. In the summer and fall of 1990, U.S. policymakers and military leaders assessed the strength of the Iraqi regime as lying in its military institutions, and its weak points as lying in the stability of Saddam Hussein's regime.[33] That assessment, as events soon proved, was 180 degrees out of kilter. The miscalculation of Iraqi strengths and weaknesses at the political and strategic levels had a serious impact on the conduct of the war, as well as the armistice that U.S. negotiators accepted in February 1991. Simple military defeat, even of the most catastrophic kind, will not, in the end, result in the overthrow of a ruthlessly efficient political tyranny such as that run by individuals like Saddam Hussein.[34]

One should also not forget that during the prolonged 40-plus years of the Cold War, U.S. intelligence agencies had extraordinary difficulty in estimating the actual military and economic strength of the Soviet Union. In fact, they even failed to pick up the deep difficulties that the Soviet regime had fallen into by the 1980s—so much so that they were not able to predict the collapse of the Soviet system until the actual collapse was well under way. Much of the problem lay in the inability of intelligence analysts, military experts, and policymakers to understand the Soviets from any other perspective than that of the United States. Throughout the period of the Cold War, "mirror imaging" was the bane of the U.S. intelligence system, even though there were indications that the Soviets were running their system under fundamentally different measures of effectiveness and calculations than Americans ran their system.

The Office of Net Assessment in the Office of the Secretary of Defense did struggle against the tide, but in the end, futilely, to bring a more coherent understanding of the Soviet Union. It argued that, if one were really to comprehend what the Soviets were doing, then one had to understand how they actually thought in calculating issues such as the military balance, or the strategic competition with the United States. In 1982 Andrew Marshall noted the following about the Soviet methods of assessment:
Since the major American objective is deterrence of the Soviet Union from a wide range of activities, a major component of any assessment of the adequacy of the strategic balance should be our best approximation to a Soviet-style assessment...But this must not be the standard U.S. calculations done with slightly different assumptions about missile accuracies, silo hardness, etc. Rather it should be, to the extent possible, using those scenarios they see as most likely and their criteria and ways of measuring outcomes. This is not just a point of logical nicety since there is every reason to believe that Soviet assessments are likely to be structured much differently from their U.S. counterparts. The Soviet calculations are likely to make different assumptions about scenarios and objectives, focus attention on different variables, include both long-range and theater forces (conventional as well as nuclear), and may...perform different calculations, use different measures of effectiveness, and perhaps use different assessment processes and methods [in reaching their conclusions].[35]
Marshall's understanding of how to think about net assessment, of course, reflected his thinking over the period of more than a decade at the time. There is no reason to believe that this view has changed over the subsequent two decades that he has held the position of the Director of the Office of Net Assessment.

The work that the Office of Net Assessment has performed over the past three decades suggests how far Joint Forces Command and the U.S. military actually are from realizing an operational net assessment, which aims not just at a direct, current snapshot, but at a rolling operational net assessment that calculates how military actions from both sides affect the actual military balance in war. The ability to perform an operational net assessment will require a fundamental shift in the cultures and focus of America's civil and military intelligence agencies. An operational net assessment requires more than intercepted and translated messages, overhead satellite imagery, calculations of enemy numbers and dispositions.

Instead, it will require a deep understanding of the enemy's cultural and political framework for making decisions, his underlying religious and ideological motivations, his conception of the military options on the table, and, above all, language competency and historical perspective. If American policymakers and intelligence analysts found it virtually impossible to achieve such an understanding of the motivations and rationale of their Soviet opponent in the relative calm of a Cold War that lasted over forty years, how much more difficult is it going to be to perform a rolling net assessment of an opponent which most likely has only recently appeared to challenge some major American interest?

The basic requirement for the ability to perform operational net assessment must be a revolution in the culture of intelligence. The knowledge of language, culture, and history are going to be as important, if not more so, than the kinds of expertise that American intelligence has been emphasizing over the course of the last half-century. And U.S. intelligence is going to have to move away from the search for the predictive to an emphasis on a broader, intuitive understanding of potential opponents. As one recent commentator has noted about the difficulties involved in the making of strategy in the 21st century:
Patterns do emerge from the past, and their study permits educated guesses about the range of potential outcomes. But the future is not an object of knowledge; no increase in processing power will make the owl of history a daytime bird. Similar causes do not always produce similar effects, and causes interact in ways unforeseeable even by the historically sophisticated. Worse still, individuals—with their ambitions, vanities, and quirks—make strategy...Finally, conflict is the realm of contradiction and paradox.[36]
Thus, it would seem the Joint Forces Command has set for itself a difficult agenda—one that most in the command have yet to fathom.

Conclusion
The problems that confront the U.S. military and the Army in particular are daunting. In a time of revolutionary change, driven to a great extent by technological transformation in the external society, the American military at the same time confronts the trying business of preparing for war and carrying the burden of worldwide strategic responsibilities. There is a real reason why the U.S. military became interested in the concept of a potential "revolution in military affairs" at the end of the Cold War.[37] To a great extent, this situation presents challenges that the American military have never before confronted.

Moreover, the onrush of technology has exacerbated the tendency, always present not only in the American military but American society as well, to dismiss the lessons of the past as irrelevant to the challenges of the future. The problem with such approach is that, since military organizations cannot replicate the conditions of war, the past represents the only laboratory available for understanding the actual conditions under which war will always occur. A recent paper on thinking about joint warfare has commented on the implications of the Prussian victories in 1866 and 1870 in the following terms:
[T]he adaptation of military method to changing requirements and capabilities is neither automatic nor trivial. At stake are not only expensive and difficult to replace weapons and equipment, but also the ingrained mental sets of soldiers and leaders that will give their behavior in battle. And yet...even recognition that change is necessary offers no assurance that competing military institutions will adapt to it in the same way or to equal advantage.

Typically,...those militaries that have coped with change most effectively have grasped the future from a firm foothold in the past. What many call military revolutions often turn out on closer examination to have been revolutionary only in retrospect, and then only to their victims. From the perspective of those making the changes in question, what was taking place was thoughtful and deliberate adaptation. The crucial difference between adaptive and revolutionary change, in short, is respect for history. War remains above all a violent struggle between independent and hostile human wills, and the essential dynamics of that struggle, however variable the means by which it is conducted, change as slowly as human abilities, desires and fears...

Respect [for history], however, need not mean imprisonment. In 1866 and 1870, the Austrians and French were trapped by history, the Prussians empowered by it. The difference was in the way history was interpreted, evaluated, and applied. The Austrians and the French, having taken little trouble to study the past, were in no position to gauge the effect of new capabilities on the future. Whereas, the Prussians, steeped in a meticulous examination of war's enduring dynamics confidently could estimate how new tools would alter future military operations.[38]
Those thinking about Army transformation over the coming decade would do well not to forget that the past is crucial to understanding the future of combat, no matter what technological changes may occur.


Download full document; Table of Contents includes:
  • The Army, Transformation, and Modernization, 1945-91: Implications for Today
    by Colonel Arthur W. Connor, Jr.

  • Effects-Based Operations: The End of Dominant Maneuver?
    by Colonel Gary H. Cheek

  • Effects-Based Operations: A New Operational Model?
    by Lieutenant Colonel Allen W. Batschelet

  • Effects-Based Operations: Theory, Application, and the Role of Airpower
    by Lieutenant Colonel Brett T. Williams

  • Rapid Decisive Operations: The Emperor's New Clothes of Modern Warfare
    by Lieutenant Colonel James L. Boling

  • Operation Just Cause: Concepts for Shaping Future Rapid Decisive Operations
    by Lieutenant Colonel James H. Embrey

  • Transforming the Intelligence Community
    by Lieutenant Colonel Steven L. Salazar

  • The Army's Role in Homeland Security
    by Lieutenant Colonel Daniel J. Shanahan

  • Military Transformation for Warefare in the 21st Century: Balancing Implications of Urban Operations and Emerging Joint Operational Concepts
    by Lieutenant Colonel Charles L. Taylor

  • A US Government Interagency Structure to Combat Transnational Terrorism
    by Lieutenant Colonel George J. Woods III

  • Rapid Decisive Operations: The Search for the Holy Grail of Joint Warfighting
    by Lieutenant Colonel David R. Hogg

  • About the Authors


[1] Last year's volume: Williamson Murray, ed., Army Transformation: A View from the U.S. Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, 2001.

[2] The significant milestone in this effort was Joint Vision 2010 (JV2010) which, whatever its defects, represented a serious effort to push transformation to the top of the services' agenda. But the leading intellectual father of the idea of major transformation was Andrew Marshall, whose Office of Net Assessment first developed the idea of potential revolutions in military affairs and encouraged a wide number of individuals to examine the processes of transformation: See in particular Williamson Murray and Allan R. Millett, Military Innovation in the Interwar Period, Cambridge, 1996; MacGregor Knox and Williamson Murray, The Dynamics of Military Revolution, 1300-2050, Cambridge, 2001; and Thomas C. Hone, Norman Friedman, & Mark D. Mandeles, American & British Aircraft Carrier Development, Annapolis, MD, 1999.

[3] . "[W]e understood that the first year was about building momentum for transformation and then looking for opportunities to keep building it." General Erik Shinseki, quoted in Jason Sherman, "Momentum, Mo' Money," Armed Forces Journal, October 2000, p. 46.

[4] For an example of how these processes worked properly to develop the Prussian military machine that devastated its opponents in the Seven Weeks' War against Austria and in the Franco-Prussian War against France, see, particularly, Geoffrey Wawro, The Austro-Prussian War, Austria's War with Prussia and Italy in 1866, Cambridge, 1996; and Dennis E. Schowalter, Railroads and Rifles, Soldiers, Technology, and the Unification of Germany, Hamden, CT, 1975.

[5] As a result of this state of affairs, military organizations receive little feedback on how well they are adapting, or not adapting to the changes in technology and tactics that occur during times of peace. The audit of war, however, suggests that all too often military organizations do not do all that well in the crucial processes of transformation and adaptation.

[6] Carl von Clausewitz, On War, Michael Howard and Peter Paret, ed. and trans., Princeton, NJ, 1976, p. 77.

[7] For the continuities and discontinuities in Western military history, see, particularly, Victor Davis Hanson, The Western Way of War: Infantry Battle in Classic Greece, Berkeley, CA, 1991; and Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power, New York: Doubleday; Russell F. Weigley, The Age of Battles: The Quest for Decisive Warfare from Breitenfeld to Waterloo, Bloomington, IN, 1991; Geoffrey Parker, The Cambridge Illustrated History of Warfare: The Triumph of the West, Cambridge, 1995; and William H. McNeill, The Pursuit of Power: Technology, Armed Force and Society Since A.D. 1000, Chicago, 1984.

[8] That technological revolution in computers and information systems may represent what historians are now terming a "military revolution"—a revolution so all encompassing and vast in its scope that it changes the entire social, economic, and political landscape within which wars occur. Previously such vast revolutions have included the creation of the modern state, the French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, the symbiosis of those two revolutions during World War I, and the nuclear revolution in 1945. In these great tidal waves of change, military institutions have no chance to mold or determine the course of the revolution. Only in relatively discrete areas, such as the development of armored, mechanized warfare, or the development of carrier war, have military institutions been able to mold the landscape to their advantage. Historians are now terming such occurrences "revolutions in military affairs." For a further examination of these issues, see MacGregor Knox and Williamson Murray, The Dynamics of Military Revolution, 1300-2050, Cambridge, 2001, chap. 1.

[9] I am indebted to Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper, U.S. Marine Corps (retired), for the formulation of "bumper stickers and slogans."

[10] Clausewitz, pp. 136, 141.

[11] The reason for this state of affairs had much to do with the nature of the Cold War's strategic confrontation which was largely framed by the threat of thermonuclear weapons. Thus, the planners, preparing for nuclear war did not have to think very long or very deeply about effects—beyond deterrence—because the extent of direct destruction was going to be so great that second and third order effects would be largely irrelevant.

[12] For a discussion of the successes as well as the difficulties involved in the air war against Iraq, see Williamson Murray, "Air War in the Gulf: The Limits of Air Power," Strategic Review, Winter 1998; see also Williamson Murray, "Operations," Vol. 2, Report 1, Gulf War Air Power Survey, Eliot Cohen, ed., Washington, DC, 1993. See also Barry D. Watts, "Effects and Effectiveness," Vol. 2, Report 2, Gulf War Air Power Survey.

[13] For the complex processes involved in the making of strategy through the ages, see Williamson Murray, MacGregor Knox, and Alvin Bernstein, The Making of Strategy, Rulers, States and War, Cambridge, 1994.

[14] Winston Churchill commented thusly on the outbreak of the Great War in his masterful history of that conflict published in the early 1930s: "events got onto certain lines, and no one could get them off again. Germany clanked obstinately, recklessly, awkwardly towards the crater and dragged us all in with her." Winston Churchill, The World Crisis, Toronto, 1931, p. 6.

[15] In the case of the Germans, in one of the few cases of strategic insight by one of their military leaders, General Eric von Falkenhyn, chief of the Greater General Staff and Prussian War Minister, argued in November 1914 that Germany could not win the war, given the failure of the Schlieffen Plan in September 1914, and that it would be advantageous to make peace sooner rather than later. The German Chancellor, Theobold von Bethmann Hollweg, simply refused to consider the proposal and "informed Falkenhyn that he was prepared to fight to the bitter end, no matter how long it might take." Holger Herwig, The First World War, Germany and Austria Hungry, 1914-1918, London, 1997, pp. 116-117.

[16] Clausewitz, p. 81.

[17] During much of the nearly five long decades of competition with the Soviet Union, the Office of Net Assessment in the Pentagon struggled to get the DoD and service bureaucracies to understand the Soviet Union and its military forces in terms very different from the processes of military and strategic decision-making in the United States. That office's noble efforts were rarely marked with success, which should suggest how difficult it will be in the 21st century to perform net assessments, much less "operational net assessments" against nations.

[18] H. R. McMaster, Dereliction of Duty, Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, The Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam, New York, 1997, p. 157.

[19] Joint Advanced Warfighting Program, Institute of Defense Analyses Brief: "Discourses and the Joint Force Commander," December 2001.

[20] For a clear depiction of why friction and ambiguity will always remain a basic element in not only the conduct of war, but also of the whole international arena, see Barry D. Watts, Friction in Future War, Washington, DC, 1996. Clausewitz commented on the role of chance in war in the following terms: "No other human activity is so continuously bound up with chance. And through the element of chance, guesswork and luck come to play a great part in war." Clausewitz, p. 85.

[21] Along these lines, it is worth noting that over the night of February 12/13, 1991, planners in the Black Hole had selected a wide variety of targets to impact on the political stability of the Iraqi regime. One of the targets, a newly operating backup bunker for the secret police, the Al Firdos Bunker, also happened to be the air raid shelter for a number of Iraqis. The resulting collateral damage in bombing the bunker—namely the death of several hundred civilians, most with close connections to the regime—sufficed to end the efforts to destabilize Saddam's regime by striking at its political command and control systems. One last effort to strike the political heart of the regime at the end of February was cancelled by a major storm that swept across Iraq during the last night of the war. For the Al Firdos Bunker incident, see Murray, Operations, Vol. 2, Report 1, Gulf War Air Power Survey, pp. 206-208.

[22] Clausewitz, p. 579.

[23] This is not to say that the means will not have to be adapted to the actual situation and enemy against which military action is used. As U.S. Grant notes in his memoirs:
up to [the Battle of Shiloh], I...believed that the rebellion against the government would collapse suddenly and soon, if a decisive victory could be gained by any of its armies. [Forts] Donelson and Henry were such victories. An army of more than 21,000 men was captured or destroyed...But when Confederate armies were collected which not only attempted to hold the line farther south, from Memphis to Chattanooga, Knoxville, and on to the Atlantic, but assumed the offensive and made such a gallant effort to regain what had been lost, then, indeed, I gave up all idea of saving the Union except by complete conquest.
Ulysses S. Grant, Memoirs, Vol. 1, New York, 1885, pp. 368-369.

[24] See Williamson Murray and Allan R. Millett, A War To Be Won, Fighting the Second World War, Cambridge, MA, 2000.

[25] For the historical background as to how net assessment was performed in the 20th century, two titles offer useful historical case studies on how to understand exactly what net assessment has or has not been in the past. See Williamson Murray and Allan R. Millett, Calculations, Net Assessment and the Coming of the Second World War, New York, 1992; and Ernest R. May, Knowing One's Enemies: Intelligence Assessment Before Two World Wars, Princeton, NJ, 1984.

[26] For the nature of Saddam Hussein's tyranny and why there was little possibility of military effectiveness in its military forces, see the penetrating study by Samir al Khalil, Republic of Fear, The Politics of Modern Iraq, Berkeley, CA, 1989.

[27] See Murray, Operations, Vol. 2, Report 1, Gulf War Air Power Survey, pp. 95-138.

[28] The dismal strategic appreciations of the military balance by the British Chiefs of Staff, and French military leaders as well) provided the Chamberlain government and French political leaders with almost irrefutable arguments in summer 1938 that Czechoslovakia could not be defeated. For an examination of this line of argument and why in actuality the situation was not nearly as advantageous for the Germans as British military planners thought, see Williamson Murray, The Change in the European Balance of Power, 1938-1939, The Path to Ruin, Princeton, NJ, 1985.

[29] Chef WFA, 30.6.40, "Der Weiterführung des Krieges gegen England"; International Military Tribune, "Trial of Major War Criminals," Vol. XXVIII, pp. 301-303.

[30] Francis K. Mason, Battle over Britain, A History of the German Air Assaults on Great Britain, 1917-1918 and July-December 1940, and the Development of Britain's Air Defenses Between the Wars, Garden City, NY, 1969, Appendix K, OKL, 16.7.40, Operations Staff IC, Intelligence.

[31] See Williamson Murray and Allan R. Millett, A War To Be Won, Fighting the Second World War, Cambridge, MA, 2000, pp. 115-118.

[32] In 1964 the French government, aware that the U.S. Government was about to commit its military forces to combat in Vietnam, provided a copy of its top secret after-action report on the defeat of French forces in Indo-China. That report was not only not translated, but was consigned to the archives of National Defense University where it remained unread throughout the war.

[33] Ironically, there were several works available in the academic world that would have suggested how wrong were the initial estimates of the intelligence agencies and policymakers, but none of them appear to have been consulted. Along these lines, Khalil's brilliant Republic of Fear would have underlined that, in every respect, Saddam's regime resembled that of Stalin, and consequently military defeat in the desert would have very little impact on the political stability of the regime.

[34] The great error of strategic bombing theorists between the two world wars did not lie in their belief that strategic bombing would have a significant impact on the enemy. In fact, it did. What they entirely missed was the ability of not only dictatorships but democracies to control their populations under the stress of wartime conditions. For the impact of the strategic bombing campaign, see Williamson Murray, "Reflections on the Combined Bomber Offensive," Militärgeschichtliche Mitteilungen, Heft 1, 1992.

[35] Quoted in Barry D. Watts, "'Thinking Red' and the Art of Net Assessment," Thinking Red in Wargaming Conference, National Defense University, Washington, DC, June 20-24, 1988.

[36] MacGregor Knox, "Continuity and Revolution in the Making of Strategy," in The Making of Strategy, Rulers, States, and War, Williamson Murray, MacGregor Knox, and Alvin Bernstein, eds., Cambridge, 1994, p. 645.

[37] For a discussion of the role of military revolutions and revolutions in military affairs over the course of the past 700 years, see MacGregor Knox and Williamson Murray, The Dynamics of Military Revolution, 1300-2050, Cambridge, 2001.

[38] Richard Sinnreich and Williamson Murray, "Joint Warfighting in the 21st Century," draft paper, Joint Advanced Warfighting Program, Institute for Defense Analyses, April 2002.

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