Monday, August 25, 2008

Zen and the Warrior Mind

“Zen” is a word recently used to criticize counterinsurgency doctrine, as if “Zen” were some kind of touchy feeling kind of thing. One thing is clear is that the author of these remarks is that he knows zip about Zen, ground warfare, or for that matter warfare itself, in particular that of the fighter pilot.

Zen Buddhism was adopted by the Japanese Samurai during the twelfth century as a formulation of a comprehensive philosophy of life including earlier techniques to quiet the mind for effective combat. These techniques exist to combat adverse body reactions to stress such as hyperventilation, narrowed field of view, muscle strain that slows reaction time, and the misdirection that an excited mind has on combat efficiency. The most common techniques include deep breathing, lowering the center of gravity (both used to maximize air intake using the diaphragm instead of the chest), and clearing the mind of distracting chatter. The breathing techniques are called “Zazen” and involve mental visualization to assist in calming the mind.

These techniques are also included in Western medicine in such practices as bio-feedback, and have been described for athletic endeavor as being “in the zone”. The deep breathing and visualization processes in Zen are used in the Lozanov accelerated language learning used successfully in the Soviet Union, and at the University of Houston.
The use of these techniques is counter intuitive for what one expects for combat. It is very much of the mythical role of the “Warrior” to be red eyed blood mad and ferocious. Aside from the Nordic Berserker, this sort of madness is a good way to be cut down by the cold eyed (Zen) killer.

As a Military Channel addict, the accounts of fighter pilots recounting their exploits display far more accuracy and detail concerning what happened when and who did it to be from a maddened mind. The simple fact of the Zen state of mind is that time appears to slow down. This is exactly what most of us have experienced in accidents, a sudden awareness that time slowed down, and a corresponding feeling that the body isn’t moving fast enough … the latter is a matter of training.

This is the state of mind that fighter pilots live or die on. It has saved my life a number of times
at the edge of death. And,

Beware of the opponent who calms down before the fight.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Plug and Play Not

The tepid response of the Pentagon to the Russian invasion of Georgia should not have come as a surprise to readers of my humble blog for it has been obvious that the Rotational Expeditionary Modular force which was created without regard to changing conditions of battle wouldn’t fit facing bears in Georgia. It should be equally obvious that the Russians took this into consideration. In short, it’s time we ought to review the usefulness of the “plug and play” rotational modular mentality.

The fact that the US failed to act decisively in this particular case has added to a growing sense in the world that the US isn’t up to it anymore. As a corollary, many are going through the decision process of whether to rearm, or realign. Kazakhstan is considering pumping their oil and gas through Russian pipelines instead of the BTC pipeline to the Mediterranean. Some of the other “stans” are less inclined to host US forces in the War on Terror. Even some of our older NATO allies have allowed their military establishments to wither, and are no longer able to posture with power, while the newer East European NATO members are feeling threatened.

Aside from my diatribes against the Light Transformational, the key question professionals should ask is why did we take so long to adapt to counterinsurgency warfare? It usually takes two years to get up to speed and another to start running the table, based on our record since the Mexican War through Vietnam. The learning curve in Vietnam for conventional forces started in late 1965 and by the Tet Offensive in January 1968 had stabilized and by the end of 1969 had driven the enemy main force units out of Vietnam.

The US started to mobilize for WW 2 in the summer of 1940 after the Fall of France with the passage of a National Defense Act calling for a 35 division Army and a two ocean Navy. The draft started and the National Guard mobilized in October 1940. After Pearl Harbor, the Battle of Midway was in June 1942, and the Marines landed on Guadalcanal in August a month later. A year later, we invaded Sicily. From a sleeping start to Sicily in three years!

We had a running start at Iraq, plus experience in counterinsurgency, and it took from March 2003 to late 2007, four years, to adjust, and another year to start running the table. The failure to plan for a post invasion strategy, of governance, and for counterinsurgency was not for the lack of experience or trained units in those areas, but of the adaptation of the Light Transformation of plug and play modules.

Consider how long it took to plug the brigade communications systems to higher levels to give both reach back and reach down information access for those in the field and in the chain of command. Consider how long it took to get a truly responsive fire support system by using UAVs in the traditional role of the FAC in a bird dog.

Relocating combat forces from forward areas where they were mission oriented to stateside bases brought them closer to the flagpole than the battlefield. This becomes an open invitation to micromanagement and competing staff driven requirements that can render an infantry unit inert. It took less than four years for our victorious and mighty forces of WW 2 to become poorly trained, led and equipped on deployment to Korea.

This degeneration was repeated after Korea which was arrested by JFK to prepare for a more vigorous Soviet presence. After Vietnam, the Army adopted mission oriented performance based training that stressed a holistic tactical environment described as Condition, Action, and Standard for Mission Essential Tasks. Training was concurrent, as opposed to the failed concept of the building block approach.

Were it not for the constant stress of battle over the last six years and of the operations in the Balkans, our forces would not be combat ready in any realistic sense. The concept of plug and play modules makes it difficult to deploy forces quickly at levels larger than a brigade and most likely would result in “pick up” teams, the kind the Navy found wanting in the early stages of WW 2.

War is an awful mixture of the profound and the profane, of genius and the idiotic, and it is hard to tell then or later which was which.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Bears and Cossacks

The bear that invaded Georgia isn’t the same bear that we faced during the Cold War. It’s much older and shaggier bear, a bear that Catherine the Great would recognize. This bear doesn’t follow orders from the Kremlin like the Cold War Red Bear. A couple of calls on the Red Phone or over coffee in Georgetown, and nuclear submarines or border guards would respond immediately. Both Kremlin and White House knew that in a few minutes, both could be incinerated under nuclear mushrooms.

What makes this different is the use of irregulars from outside Georgia. In the Cold War, irregulars would have been taken from disaffected elements inside Georgia as was done when the Red Army conquered the Caucasus during the Russian Civil war. This time, a call went out for the Tsar’s favorite irregulars, the Cossacks. This time, even the Chechens were invited as well as the familiar thuggery of Serbian irregulars used in ethnic cleansing in the Balkans.

The open invitation for Cossack participation in the “return” of the Caucasus to Russian hegemony is a significant signal of the Kremlin’s interest in restoring the historic connection between Russian ambition and the Cossack Hosts that served well in the original conquests between the Ukraine and the Caspian region. Under the Romanov’s the Cossacks formed special units for internal security and personal protection of the Tsar.

During the Russian Civil War, the Cossacks fought on both sides, with a majority favoring the White forces. At the end of the war, the Cossacks were persecuted savagely by Stalin in what were called Decossackization, a classic Soviet style genocide of death and deportation. During WW 2, many of the surviving Cossacks joined the Germans in revenge, and others joined the Russians to regain some post war benefits. After the war, thousands of Cossack POW’s were returned to the Soviets in accordance with an Allied-Soviet agreement where they were promptly executed.

The Kremlin’s best interests lie in controlling the delivery of oil from the Caspian Sea basin, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, control they lost to enterprising oilmen from the West returning to the birthplace of global oil, and the newly unchained people of those lands who wish to benefit from their own oil. The Kremlin’s objective is to force the delivery of that oil through Russian pipelines. The actual destruction of a key railroad bridge that controls the delivery of oil by rail cuts the Georgians out of the fuel delivery business, at least for now.

But the control of pipelines does not need ethnic cleansing, terror tactics, or direct confrontation with the West. The addition of Balkan, Chechen and Cossack tactics is a terror tactic, and terror tactics often backfire. Britain did not fold in the face of the Blitz, nor did Hanoi fold in the face of massive B-52 strikes, nor did Hitler fold in the face of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, nor of the Red Army at the gates. Pearl Harbor was intended to scare the US to negotiate a peace with Japan, which was done …, in Tokyo Bay.

That Georgia bit off more than it could chew is clear, but whether the bite was induced by desperation, deception or delusion, is of less importance than maintaining an open global market for oil. This time, diplomacy with the Kremlin may not work as well as in the old days, as it appears that the Kremlin doesn’t have the control of the military establishment which has been expanded by the use of independently minded Cossack, Chechen, and other factions in the fractious Caucasus region.

Georgia needs to be rearmed, reinforced, and admitted to NATO posthaste and forthwith. Nothing less than a Western military presence will do, be it NATO and/or US. The Soviet’s Kremlin could be dealt with given harsh alternatives, but this Kremlin doesn’t have the same control and, as a result, is relying on the unreliable, unpredictable, and irrepressible in a strife addicted mountainous region. And mountain people are notorious for contention and conflict. Even ours.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Tail's Tale Tells

The rapid deployment of Russian mechanized forces into Georgia was clearly the results of long preparation and planning of which the deployment of railroad troops to rebuild the rail lines of communication into Ossetia was a necessary step to support Russian offensive operations. The Russian logistic tail depends heavily on rail as the Russian road network is less dense than in Western Europe or North America.

Conventional (peer to peer) military operations depend heavily on artillery and its ammunition. Planning figures for artillery in support of offensive operations range from five to fifteen tons of ammunition per gun per day, or one ammo truck for every gun. Depending on weighting the offensive by maneuver unit, there can be as much as one gun per rifle squad/tank to one gun per platoon that is actually at the forward edge of the battlefield.

Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan call for fewer guns and ammunition, although some say that more are needed. There has been criticism in the professional press that artillery assigned to Brigade Combat Teams instead of to a Division or Corps artillery as is the custom, has led to a degradation of the quality of fire support compared to conflicts of this kind in the past. A de-emphasis on artillery and its supply lines may also lead to similar downgrading of its significance when watching Bearish preparations.

I have found that military intelligence analysts worry about watching avenues of approach for the arrival of tanks and infantry moving towards friendly positions. Waiting for enemy maneuver forces to show up on templated overlays is waiting too long. By the time the enemy has been spotted deploying, it is very difficult to shift priority of fires and reserves to counter the threat.

At the tactical level, the guns move first. The movement of guns forward plus ranging shots into the forward area is a good sign that the Bears are restless. The activities along the South Ossetian borders fit this profile.

At higher levels, the tail moves first before the guns and the tail is carrying ammo, ammo, gas and spare parts. Included will be maintenance personnel, engineers, and military police to sustain the lines of communication. As an old photo interpreter aka “squint”, I would have looked for ammunition handling equipment, ammo trucks, bridge components and vehicles. Preparations for crossing gaps and rivers is essential for sustaining a rapid advance.

The “Hail Mary” in Desert Storm was preceded by a cloud of trucks and the placement of supply points forward of the line of departure. The VC and NVA in Vietnam built supply lines with food, fuel, and ammo dumps positions at ten kilometer intervals along their axis of advance from Cambodia into Vietnam. The movement of railroad engineers in Ossetia plus road construction of tank trails is classic examples of preparations to build an offensive capability.

It is not unreasonable for analysts to look for alternative explanations for these obvious Russian moves, since the Russians haven’t done this outside Afghanistan since the operations to keep Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and East Germany in the Soviet Bloc. To do so violates an old intelligence dictum to deal in capabilities instead of intentions. Dealing with intentions gets into guessing happenstance, idiosyncrasies, coincidence as well as one’s own biases.

In this case, it appears that the Georgians may have read the indications correctly and tried to move to better positions to confront the Russians forward of their attack positions. This is a very tricky operation, as it depends on forces equipped and trained in meeting engagements on unfriendly positions. The alternative would have been to defend in place, hope for a chance to maneuver against a superior force and call for help. Neither option was good.

It leaves the question of how much did we know of Russian capabilities, and what our assessment was. Properly done, it should have called for both diplomatic preemption, and military counter-preparations. In both cases, Turkey would be a major player.

The Turkish proposal for a Trans-Caucasus union is along these lines, and which may have encouraged the Russians to move first. This is a very old game in these parts, and one which for the sake of oil, needs to be addressed.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bear's Trap

The speed at which the Russians reacted not only suggests that the Putin reforms of the military are bearing fruit, it suggests that the Russians trained for this mission over a period of a bunch of months.

Included in their preparations must be considered that the whole thing was a set up from the start, that Ossetian provocations, and disinformation to the Georgian and US command and intelligence systems and personnel.

It is a wakeup call to US intelligence as to why we didn't know of the readiness of the Russian military. If my experience is any guide, it is most likely that there were those who read the signs accurately and that thier conclusions were dismissed as not fitting the predetermined estimates of the situation, or was too threatening to the respective milicrat's sense of self.

Douglas MacArthur ignored the warnings of the Chinese incursion into Korea as did Westmoreland ignore the signs warning of the Tet Offensive. Hitler ignored warnings of the Normandy invasion. Each respectively believed in no Chinese in Korea, a conventional NVA threat up north,and that the Allies would land at Calais.

Of concern also is the degree to which the Georgian high command was snookered into advancing into South Ossetia. It would not have happened if there was a reasonably accurate estimates of the political, governmental and military situation did not convince them that the South Ossetians would fold, and that the Russians would not counterattack.

As for what kind of response the US could have used, the first factor is that Turkey could have been approached to allow US fores to move or that Turkish forces could mass and move around.

The US Army's ARFORGEN training cycle for US combat units dumbs down the returning units for two of a three year cycle for Active Army units, and a four of a five year cycle for Guard and Reserve units. The reduces the forces trained to deploy on short notice are reduced to roughly a third or less of the forces not deployed overseas already.

The concept of maintaining a short fuse reaction time for all units of all components of the Army was abandoned under Rumsfeld to favor a training cycle approach which had failed when it was on a yearly basis before Vietnam to one where that cycle is stretched out for years. Deployments under the ARFORGEN concept are predicated on the precise prediction of enemy actions five years hence, and which actions are divisible into Brigade Combat Team (BCT)bites, and which are evenly distributed over time. The Russians probably read our training and rotation schedules.

The Pentagon inner circle (GSF 15 super grades and their clerical phalanx of civil servants) will likely trumpet this event as justification for bailing out of Iraq (and earn favor from an Obama Administration).

During my half century of military exposure (33 in service), there has always been a strategic force available for take off for deployment anywhere in the world in a matter of hours. At one time there was an infantry company at the airfield at Ft Bragg ready to go in minutes to be followed by the rest of the battalion in a few hours. One might look to see if this capability still exists.

Rumsfeld set a standard for strategic reaction of 10-30-30 (ten days to deploy, thirty to win, and thirty for awards and decorations). This is far below the standard in place in the time of Ike and JFK.

Pictures from Stratfor.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bears in the Pipeline

The gloom and doom scenario bandied about for Georgia may very well turn out as predicted. There are other scenarios quite different, given the unmistakable fact that the Russian Bear has bared it's claws ... again. This is shaking those who thought that Russia could join the global family of nations formed on the realization that economics is not a zero sum game as it was, or was seen to be, for thousands of years where land ownership was a zero sum game. If you had it, some one else didn't.

For the last couple of decades, the developed nations have been disarming, reducing the size of their regular military establishments, reducing or eliminating their reserves, and selling off military equipment. This trend may very well come to a screeching halt with the prospects of a resurgence of an expansionist Russian bear and all the images of Tsarist and Soviet conquest.

At present, serious discussions of what to do about the Big Bad Bear are going on in capitols east, west, and in between. Should the Bear be appeased, pleased, or confronted. Unlike ages past, the value of European, Baltic, Caspian and Black Sea nations isn't their land or booty, it's their markets for Russian oil. or products needed in the Russian economy. This blatant attempt to strangle the BTC pipeline in conjunction with other manipulations of gas and oil delivery may backfire on Russian long range interest.

Those nations formerly behind the Iron Curtain have clear reasons not to return, reasons once for plain freedom, are now rooted in their own economic success once out of the oppressive blanket of socialism, and Russian imperialism. And not all of these nations are as exposed as they once were.

One issue to watch is Georgian admission to NATO which isn't as dead as many think. An accelerated admission would check the Bear without the need for direct confrontation.

A NATO membership might facilitate Turkish backing, which is also in their national interests, the Turks having some experience in these matters.

The disconnect during the operation between Russian official pronouncements of a limit to Russian advance or of intentions and the actual movement of Russian forces in Georgia, is not unique to this conflict or, for that matter, of Russians in general. It is a good bet that Russian forces exceeded their orders. The chance to redeem the honor of Russian arms after the debacles of Afghanistan and Chechnya is far too tempting by any red blooded Russian to ignore.

Conquering armies, like wild horses or bears, do not like the constraints of reins, chains, and home office blather. Admiral Dewey was directed to destroy the Spanish Fleet on the orders of Teddy Roosevelt the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, given without the approval of the Secretary of the Navy or of State Department or White House.

The Japanese sinking of the USS Panay in China on December 12, 1937 was done by Japanese Naval on the orders of the Operations Officer in defiance of the orders of the Imperial Chain of Command. The Japanese incident at the Marco Polo bridge incident on June 7, 1937 was also done contrary to orders from Tokyo and of the orders of Japanese flag rank officers at the time, but the incident was used by the Japanese Army to justify conquest of Central China. .

In the winter of 1846, John C Fremont on a mission to map the sources of the Arkansas River, made an unauthorized detour to California to stir up American settlers which eventually added California to the Union over some circumstances not taught in California history books.

The French governm

ent repeatedly ordered French troops in Africa not to take this town or that by name, to which the towns were renamed by the troops in the field.

The end results of these adventures are rarely overturned by the national government, but it does happen. This is the situation faced today. If allowed to stay in the open, too many egos, and national sentiments will be aroused.

What we should look for is how Condi and Gates handle things, which they have been very much behind the curtains and in smoke filled rooms. For those on the outside looking in, we can only watch and wait and hope those on the inside can play some serious poker.