Sunday, November 14, 2010

Will Breaking?

The question at the core of the use of force, be it economic, political, kinetic or social is why such force induce others to accept the will of the guy at other end of the force. The beatings will continue until morale improves. "Bomber" Harris calculated that a few bombing raids of Germany would force Hitler to the bargaining table.

High Altitude Strategic Bombing was gospel in the US Army Air Force during WW 2. The theory, in addition to the "break their will" approach was to destroy key industrial complexes and communications centers with bombs dropped from 30,000 feet into specified "pickle barrels". The Strategic Bombing report done by the US Government after the war stated that barely five percent of the strategic bombs dropped by the USAAF on German or Japanese actually landed anywhere near their target. German production levels continued to rise throughout the war.

All the Anglo-American strategic bombing did of value was to divert Axis fighter aircraft from the front lines, which absence facilitated the forward advance of ground forces in no small war. The bitter aftertaste of the wreckage of German and Japanese homes is fundamental in understanding the popular resistance today in those countries for any further military adventures. In that regard, the bombing helped secure the peace.

The Japanese high command figured that the destruction of the US Fleet at Pearl Harbor and the invasions of the Philippines, Dutch East India, and the British would bring the Allies to the bargaining table. Their estimate was correct, of course, but the bargaining table was on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

This all goes to the heart of the question of what one is trying to do with using force against any political aggregate to get them to bend to our will. Military Theoreticians most revered today include Alfred Thayer Mahan, and Karl von Clausewitz. First for his work on Sea Power, the other on Ground Warfare. Both stress the concept of a massive engagement at a strategic time and place to win wars.

That's what the Japanese tried at Midway. Japanese submarines were not used as commerce raiders like ours and the Germans, and despite having some of finest subs and certainly the best torpedo, their submarine force did little significantly. The love affair with Clausewitz in the US Army has focused US military design, doctrine, and operations seeking to smash the "center of gravity" of the opposition.

The Concept of a Center of Gravity is holy writ in the US Army, mainly because Clausewitz didn't edit his book as it is a compilation of his writings gathered by his wife after he died. The book is long, and most I know don't read the book all the way through which shows there are several "centers of gravity" but leaves the instructions on how to find them in the wind. Centers of gravity are best thought of as a cross between the Emperor's New Clothes, and a snipe hunt.

WW2 shows some very critical differences on how wars are ended. Hitler retained effective control over his military which had tried 42 times to kill him until the Red Army posted it's Red Flag on the Brandenburg Gate.

Hirohito, on the other hand, pulled off a palace coup and took advantage of his status as a god, to end the fighting despite a last ditch attempt by members of his guard to stop him. Hirohito's mind and that of many other senior Japanese political and military leaders knew the jig was up as Soviet forces blitzed Manchuria and landed on Japan's Northern Territories.

Our operations in the Middle East have been driven by Clausewitzean logic, when the successes and failures of Hitler, Stalin, Lincoln, George Washington, Queen Victoria, and the Roman Empire provide a better selection of variables to study. In an effort to reduce the process to it's simplest form so that Sergeants and teach Generals and politicians where the cookies crumble. And it all has to start with how culture affects the structure, dynamics and cohesion and disintegration of groups be they simple aggregates or membership groups.

All too often the inner circle of the leadership core is solely concerned with it's own survival and aggrandizement. The security mechanisms to protect the leader are the link pins of the nation. Baghdad was virtually free of Saddam's Army as he feared the Army and Republican Guard would steal the nation if they could get Baghdad.

The Republican Guard was a counter weight to the Iraqi Army. The SS was the counterweight to the German Army, as was the KGB a counter to the Red Army. Our Constitution splits the military power of the nation between state and federal, and between Congress and the President.

The concepts of F4F and the Drama Triangle as applied to societies, organization and groups is the first place one looks for strengths and weaknesses and their susceptibility to pressure.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Shaft to Come

The future of the war in the Muddle East has been decided. We are not only pulling out, we are downsizing the Army by at least a third. The decision has been made, and implementation has commenced, as announced by the Pentagon to cut officer accessions by half through ROTC and OCS. The Pentagon does not want to be caught with it’s pants down by having more junior officers than the attenuated post conflict military establishment can handle.

The groundwork for this drawdown was anticipated a decade ago with the clear and present danger that Army Guard and Army Reserve units would displace the peacetime civilian logistics and personnel empire built by the careful transfer of a wartime logistics structure to the Guard and Reserve after Vietnam

The side effects of “The Warrior Ethic” eroticism used to paint anyone not directly involved with small arms something less erotic than “Warrior”. Since the Field Artillery kills large numbers from a distance greater than direct fire weapons, the erotic status of the Cannon Cocker was downplayed and the ration of gunner to grunt was cut in half. Thus, should the Army have to face another People’s Army, the gunners won’t be there to blow them away. God help us if we face an army with big guns.

The downsizing of the Artillery also reduced the logistic foot print of an Army in the field with corresponding cuts in expenditures for ammunition that now can be spent on comfort contractors and hamburgers. The cost (MPA, O&MA, and PEMA
Secondary) of a Vietnam combat division was about one billion dollars (Nixon-Ford) plus or minus half a billion depending on how much ordnance was expended. I was the XO of the US Army Field Operating Cost Agency, Comptroller of the Army during their study of this.

Planning factors for the kinds of war we fought in both world wars, Korea, and Vietnam called for an average expenditure of ten tons of ammo per artillery piece per day. That works out to one ten ton truck trailer combo on the road per day per gun. The entire field logistics structure was built around the effort to move artillery ammo.

Well, say the petulant pundit, our guns are more accurate than those old messy guns and we don’t have to shoot so many shells anymore. And, since artillery is so inaccurate, they can’t be used in counter insurgency. Huh? If we don’t need so many shells per target, why not increase the targets per guns? Of more often?

Napoleon once said that a soldier marches on it’s stomach. Someone else said that amateurs talk about tactics, professionals talk logistics. Today’s stomach is run by contractors eighty percent of whom are local nationals according to a CRS recent report, most of which support is base operations.

The Soviet Combined Arms Army was 100% truck or track mobile. The counterpart US Corps were about thirty percent wheel/track mobile. Now we don’t have corps support commands where soldiers control their own logistics. Now we don’t teach logistics to soldiers, we teach contract management.

What would the contract Army have looked like in the withdrawal from Chosin, or the breakout from Normandy, or the Normandy across the beach logistics. What would the battles of the South Pacific looked like with Brute and Scoot in charge.

The shape of things to come in the Post Terror War military establishment is before us. The shredding of the Division, Corps and Field Army structures to be replaced by the Senior Executive Service (SES – the old GS 15+) raises the question as to whether we need flag rank officers at all.

Why spend billions grooming field grade officers though schooling and assignment manipulation if they have no real role in war fighting? Or maybe we ought to take a serious look at letting tenured weasels manipulate war for job security.

Gordon S Fowkes

Lt Col, US Army (Ret)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Modular Lies and Distortions

Unit of Action, the BS BCT

I have just read a tepid and distortive allegation of the wonderfulness of the Brigade Combat Team aka “Unit of Action (UA)” in the latest edition (July-August, 2010) and it confirms many of the misgivings I have had concerning this aberration. Read here no further, as I have attached the article or you can get it at:

This article spends a lot of space trying to refute the allegations of the Field Artillery in their quest to put Humpty Dumpty back on the battlements. The article dismisses the loss of FA command positions with the assertion that there isn’t enough brass around to supply the cannons, and that the BCT can handle what little fire support needs they have. The needs of combat arms career development in promotion timing and opportunity is exposed perhaps unwittingly … or not.

The article cites the organic artillery battalion found in the Armored Cavalry Regiment since the late Thirties was justification that organic tubes were viable. The original reason that cannons were made organic was that the reconnaissance, security and economy of force missions for an Army Corps (XXX) was at a greater distance that the divisional or corps artillery medium guns could cover. The actual experience in Vietnam of these battalions was that they the lost fire direction sophistication found in divisional artillery units. The Blackhorse Regiment’s cannons were used in direct fire or short log over the trees mode.

The article misrepresents that task organization of the combat divisions since the triangular division was adopted on the eve of WW2. It’s predecessor was a “square” division of two brigades of two regiments each. The article uses slight of word in saying that the brigade is the constant. The Square Divisional Brigade had six maneuver battalions plus support instead of the two or three that the BDT has. It’s the new math, I guess.

The article goes on the misrepresent the prevailing doctrine and practice of Army divisions in combat, the field, or in the school solutions of the day:

On a mission-by-mission basis, the division headquarters would briefly attach small, specialized units such as military police, air defense, and military intelligence to subordinate brigades. This transient organizational arrangement reduced the unity of command and complicated operational synchronizatio

In fact, the Division commander (as per doctrine in the entire Army school system from Benning to Carlisle and back, would task organize the division’s assets however he wanted it to meet conditions of METT. This was not limited to “small units” but normally to two to five maneuver battalions of any type of combat units (infantry, mech infantry, armor, armored cavalry, engineers plus the number and type of companies and detachments for combat service support plus the allocation of artillery in Direct Support, General Support Reinforcing and General Support (all terms now forbidden). A division usually had three DS battalions, one General Support battalion of mixed calibers, and a rocket, missile or really big gun battalion.

Artillery is never put in reserve, and when a brigade, regimental combat team (RCT WW2 – Korea), Combat Command (WW2-Korea-JFK armor division) or divisional ROAD brigade was put in a reserve position as was the rule in Armor to retain a big chunk for counter attack, the DS FA battalions were placed is a reinforcing role either under division control or more likely seconded to a DS artillery battalion.

The task organization of the Army division since before there were Army divisions is to assign what ever is available to whomever needs it. I served in the JFK-LBJ era in the 3rd Armored Division (Spearhead) at the Fulda Gap area and witnessed companies, even platoons being switched between battalions and other companies on the fly. As a mech aka Armored Rifle platoon leader, I could expect to change the company I supported at least once a day, sometimes more often as the war game shifted.

My experiences in the 1st Infantry Division in an intelligence capacity with the 2/2 Mech on QL 13 (Thunder Road), the same applied to the battalion task force. I have seen the battalion task force go from two companies of different battalions in the morning to five or another mix by sunset, and back again even at night. This was done effortlessly and was a standard I observed for that level of command even as I returned to the 1st Air Cavalry in I Corps and later in III Corps Tactical Zone (CTZ).

I was a G2 Operations officer in the DTOC of the 1st Air Cavalry Division in which I posted the battle maps, coordinated with the G3, Fire Support, Air Support,, and briefed the Commanding General (MG George I Forsyth) and staff each morning in a duet with the G3 briefer. The G3 briefer and I would coordinate the sequence of events to brief which either began with an enemy event resulting in a combat response (my brief) or the other way around (G3).

During the seven months I served in the DTOC added to the four in the field, the task organization of the division changed in a matter of a few hours. The division had twenty seven organic rife companies which on the map looked like some very serious fleas, hopping from LZ to LZ. Not only did we have 1st Air Cav units, but units from the 25th Infantry Division, 101st Airborne, 1st Infantry, the 14th ACR, plus ARVN and Vietnamese Marines deployed widely to meet divisional needs.

The trick was using the 1/9th Cavalry (three troops of air cavalry and a troop of wheeled cavalry) screening across the division front and in areas between firebases, The 1/9th used “Pink Teams”, an OH6 paired with an AH-1 Cobra. The OH6 zipped around at grass top level, in between trees and around them looking for trail sign of the VC, or hope that the VC fired. One fired upon the OH6 went up, the Cobra pounced.

As the battle developed the Cavalry Troop Commander would send in more aircraft, call in air strikes, or “insert the Blues”, the organic infantry platoon. If this didn’t resolve the issue, the battle was passed up and more assets just “piled on”.

During my tour in Vietnam I saw divisional brigades detached for extended service elsewhere in the country either working for the division or for higher headquarters. The 101st Airborne had a brigade in the III CTZ which we replaced and they returned to 101st control. The 1st Cav routinely detached brigades to cover the Parrots Beak area in III CTZ to work with the 9th Infantry Division and/or the US Navy on the branches of the Saigon River delta in “NavCav” operations.

In the twenty years of service in the Army and Army Reserve after Vietnam, the doctrine of task organizing on the fly was default. In fact, during another one of the computer simulation driven doctrines, the division commander started with a clean slate and allocated battalions to brigades depending on the number and width of avenues of approach in the division’s battle space. The problem with this simulation driven approach had was assuming that the infantry fought in the green, and the tanks in the white. Having served in Germany including Grafenwohr, Hehenfels, and Widlflecken and in large scale winter exercises from Kassel to Nurnberg, I found the woods in Germany were actually farms and that access roads big enough for the M113 and often the M60 tanks traversed the extent of the woods.

The author of this article acknowledges that the design of the UA or BCT was done in computer simulations. The problem with egg head simulation is the lack of fog and happenstance of field or combat operations. And I have a lot of experience in conducting command post exercises from rifle platoon to headquarters of every level of command up to an including Corps, Army, Theater and national level assets (Congress, DA headquarters, and NSA>

There is no solid evidence to prove that the UA/BCT is the basic building block of anything other then personnel. It is a fake, it is a fraud. One cannot become more flexible if one cuts up the whole into bigger parts than before. One cannot meet the changes of METT-TC with the smallest unit is brigade.

And, no one does. Nor have they ever. No one in command or in authority in combat is that stupid. Wars are fought with ad hoc formations, rarely organic clusters, There has always been cross attachments based on METT, even back in the Roman Legions.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Why Do We Need Two Marine Corps?

The Army turns green with jealousy over the existence of the Marine Corps, particularly their elan, panache, esprit de corps, and sang froid (French for cheeky upstart). The Marine Corps stole a march on the Army with the Banana Republic Two Step (Expeditionary Warfare) which folks forget is their traditional role going back to their 1776 raid in the Bahamas to disrupt British operations.

As long as there are American interests that span the Seven Seas, both the Navy and the Marine Corps are front and center in the ranks of the long serving professional force, particularly in those years in between Big Wars which tend to be Bananas and Nuts.

The Army and Air Force understand at a visceral level that the absence of a serious clear and present danger, there is no pressing need for a long standing professional Army or Air Force. What reinforcements needed by the Navy/USMC can be provided by Reserve and/or Guard forces. The fact that no serious big war threat faces the US is impressively documented by the return of Air Force and Army units to Festung Kansas where their forces are closer to the Middle East than either Europe or Asia (Globe please).

What is also damning is the Pentagon effort to Navalize the Army by creating Brigade Combat Teams be deployed like LGBs (Large Gray Boats). Rotating brigades is a copy cat of rotation of ships, except that some ships swap crews and go back to sea.

Wanted: Military Industrial Complex

A military-industrial complex is necessary for a well arned and equipped miilitary force. Some one makes horseshoes, arrows, saddles, gunpowder, and fighter planes. Without industry, one has bo foraee for one's own rocks. Industry, left to it's own technological niche will produce something better than a Pentagib staff curcke, What has happened in the last four administrations is the civlianization and privatization of military combat, combat support, combat service support, and service support agenicies and operations.

The latest manual FM 5-0 abolishes there terms so as to render a century's worth of combat experience in logistics null, void, and unintelligible. This is the same gimmick used by Chariman Mao who had Chinese characters used in writing simpified with fewer srrokes and other abbreviations which renders the ancient texts of China unintelligible to modern Chinesse,

The Army Reserve was the repository of units trained in logistics and support at levels from Army and Corps. As OIF and OEF started, the Army Reserves were stripped down, combined, and reorganized into a logistic structure alien to American military history, but now afrer a decade of war, has gelled around a heirarchy of civil servants, contractors and a token military presence. While this may work at present, it will have no shelf life once shut down.

It takes about a decade for the rot to spread to catastrophic potential. The old fashioned notion that every Guard and Rsserve unit had to have a connecion to a real war plan or two left a basis for training in a focused manner. The civlian base that ususrrp Discom, Coscom, and TAACom units will leave those in battle without gas, ammo, food, and spare parts.

Funeral of Combat Service Support

Unplugging from the Muddle in the East may leave the Army unable to fight without heavy contractor support. Contractors, by and large, cost three times the cost of soldiers, The knowledge base of operational and strategic level logistics, formerly known as combat service support (CSS), is becoming lost to the uniformed, and will atrophy with the end of contracting for CSS in a post war cost cutting environment.

The Army Reserve was the home of combat service support units trained to support the contingencies of the Active, Guard, and Reserve fighting forces. The doctrine has virtually disappeared. The Army Reserve was home to CSS as there is little to do on full time active service to justify the expense. The Pentagon's visceral fear of Weekend Warriors has gutted the Army before, and it appears that national survival or defeat in battle in the future is a more acceptable outcome that restoring combat service support to those in uniform, and subject to military orders.

A solid nail in the coffin is the recent deletion of the term "combat service support"" from the lexicon of official Army terminology.

Full Time Amateurs vs Part Time Professionals

I believe there is a saying that amateurs talk about tactics, but professionals talk about logistics. The Army's decisions on force balance between components prior to Transformation put all the logistics in the Army Reserve with some rear area assets such as MP brigades in the Guard. If one accepts that, we had full time amateurs, and part time professionals.

I worked as the Intelligence Officer of a Combat Service Support Exercise Group of the 75th MAC (now 75th Division) which gave command post exercises to Corps support logistic units prior to Transformation. We gave exercises to such units as Petroleum Groups, Ammunition Groups, Support Commands, Area Support Commands, and Rear Area Operations Centers. We became the Army's expertise on logistics and rear area operations.

We wrote a manual to fill in the gap of doctrine on the subject of rear area operations, which manual was later published by CAC including the misspellings.

During the three years I was in the unit, I went on over fifty exercises (leave Friday afternoon, set up Friday night, start the war on Saturday morning, end on Sunday at noon, and fly home).

AS it was, the Materials Management Center (MMC) would determine who needed what supplies then the Movement Control Center (MCC) set up the convoys, and notified the MP's and the RAOC who was going where and when. In addition, the Engineers in the rear area, were largely responsible for maintenance of the lines of communication.

The RAOC (mostly National Guard) plugged into the Corps command network to assess the enemy threats in the area and recommend or actually control assets needed to preclude, prevent or protect the corps logistic structure.

The number and scope of major exercises I am personally familiar with included a Theatre medical exercise, a Theater MP exercise, several Coscom exercises, and a whole number of RAOC exercises, I wrote and managed the bad guy scenarios.

In the short time we had to test the decision making skills of the exercised command, it was necessary to either increase the demand for supplies, or cut the amount available. I used Soviet style airborne operations in blocking positions west of the Rhine to provide the work load necessary for staff coordination. I later found out from the Consul General of Germany in Houston that the drop zones I selected were the same the Soviets had selected but that my estimate of two divisions was low, as the Soviets intended to use ten airborne divisions to cross the Rhine.

What I read about the fact that convoys were sent willy nilly into Indian country fits with other sources which leave me aghast at the really stupid things done by Transformation. The damage is permanent, with a civilian control structure being crafted by the Pentagon including contractors and Civil Servants in the place of what we had trained to do since the end of WW 2.

Given a few years of no war, or low war, the necessary expertise to launch major operations will wither and die, along with God knows how many grunts.

Changing PSYOP to MISO

It's a name change which will fool no one. The most important PSYOP/MISO function is a staff function to shape combat operations with the optimum impact on the other sides' culture and politics to change behavior in a direction favorable to us. This has to be taught to combat types all along the career stumble upwards.

The name change is also associated with a power grab between the official press, public relations, and psyop. There are legal restrictions in using PSYOP units on Americans, it's prohibited by law. Deception operations in the Pentagon are first, directed against the Pentagon, then against the Congress and the People. Renaming Renaming PSYOP to MISO may be intended to boost deception operations against Americans.

The term, "against" may be translated into other bullshit words like "information operations", "public affairs", and "educating the public". Renaming PSYOP is also a perception that PSYOPS is essentially deceit, and that propaganda is a lie. It can be, but not necessarily nor inherently.

Deception is a staff function of the S3/G3, but the lack of experience in PSYOPS in combat staffs renders our combat operations transparent. Sun Tsu famously characterized all war as based on deception. He was an optimist. Basic combat doctrine on operations orders stresses the everyone should know the commanders intent which is included in the mission statement.

Stonewall Jackson quoted Frederick the Great when he said that if a hair on his head know what he was up to, he would cut it off. The very notion of the commanders intent is destructive to the mission. This may also account for the fact that combat operations in area warfare (Vietnam, Afghanistan, and much of OIF) often go astray as the enemy knows our intent.

The combat advantage that we have leveraged successfully has been due to the fact that we can make a combat decision and implement it faster than most of our enemies. We can get inside the ODA Loop, the Observe-Decide-Act, developed by Colonel Boyd, USAF dogfight guru.

There is no principle of civilian leadership of the Military

There is no principle of civilian rule over the military in the Constitution. It may be a political tradition, but nowhere is it stated so in the Constitution. What it does say is that the President is Commander in Chief, the Congress has the authority to raise, equip, staff, and provide for the regulation of the military, and the Senate has the authority to approve the appointment of officers.

The states have the right to maintain a well regulated militia but no standing troops or ships of war in peace time, which forces may be called to Federal service. That the President is Commander in Chief seems to me that the President has a military rank, and is not a civilian insofar as the military is concerned........

There is no provision anywhere else, save by law passed by Congress, that requires or places a civilian anywhere in the chain of command. Given the disastrous terms of such Secretaries of Defense as Louis Johnson, McNamara, and Rumsfeld, one could build a real good argument to place qualified military personnel in those positions.”

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

F4F: Culture is People Doctrine

METT-TC is doctrine outlining the basic factors in planning military (Army) operations. It includes Mission, Enemy, Terrain, Troops Available, Time and (most recently) Civilian considerations. Of the six of the factors of METT-TC, half (three) deal with people: that of the enemy, troops available and the civilians. Of the remaining three, Time and Terrain are affected by how people use them leaving only the Mission. Mission is couched in terms that normally include the people on all sides, as in surrender, withdraw, or die.

The rebirth of Stability Operations standing alone or with Offense and Defense Operations have added five Logical Lines of Operation including: Security, host nation security force training, effective basic service, governance, and a viable economy. All five of these are culture centric, especially the last three.

Culture is (People) Doctrine

The rules by which people operate is culture, and, for the warrior, culture is doctrine for people. It includes their military doctrine as well. Even if the weapons, military doctrine, and terrain are the same, two sides of a conflict will have their cultural differences. The is current doctrine, published doctrine (Torah, Bible, Koran, Building Code, Traffic and Tax Law. FM 3-24), operating doctrine, revolutionary doctrine, and old fashioned doctrine that conflicts, conjoins, empowers or emasculates other doctrines.

Cultural awareness isn’t always about being touchy-feely. It may be that the touch and feel includes shell fragments, napalm, and interlocking bands of grazing fire. A fire fight is a cultural exchange in which the outcome isn’t always the results of interacting kinetics. Some people don’t know when to quit, and some use death to kill.

A warrior’s cultural awareness has to cut to the chase in short order. The cultural experts, like any other important asset, won’t be there, or if so is for the wrong culture, or creates a weed patch of irrelevant trivia when one needs to clear a field of fire to push the right buttons.

Apologies to the handful who are in the right place with the right pitch and have proven the concept. And it is to those who have walked in both worlds that have the answers. What the warrior needs now are the questions, and that is what F4F is for.

It has become painfully obvious of late that some folks like the way they do things their way, and as long as they plant IED’s in our public places, It is way past time for the United States to consider culture as a prime factor in the determination of courses of action.

The Erroneous End State:

It is often an underlying assumption that the desired end state of our wars or major operation is the conversion of the enemy to some variation of the American Way as defined by what happens to be politically correct at the time without regard to what is politically or culturally correct in the Area of Operations. It has been an unstated assumption that what works in America is the latest and greatest, and nonconformance is backwardness. It has not been necessary to adapt our objectives to the conditions and standards of different cultures because at the bottom line, we had greater firepower than the others. We are not alone in miscalculating.

The Germans assumed that Britain would come to the negotiating table if the RAF was destroyed. That didn’t happen. The Japanese assumed that destroying the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor would bring the US to the bargaining table. That happened, but the table wasn’t about bargaining and it was in Tokyo Bay. Likewise, Stalin and Kim Il Sung assumed that the US would not defend South Korea. What wasn’t considered was the cultural importance of Face, Fate, Fame and Fortune to the receiving party of various and sundry slaps thereto.

We are engaged in Afghanistan trying to install a unitary form of governance in a culture that survives because of its fierce dedication to decentralization. What become ironic folly is that the United States has a decentralized federation in which each of the fifty states has it’s own army and air force. And our governors aren’t appointed by Federal authority.

Assumptions are the Mother of all Screw Ups. When Assumptions are tied to Murphy’s Law, Screw Ups are an improvement. Likewise, bravery is not a condition of mission success in combat except when somebody, somewhere screws up. If you think it won’t, you obviously missed something, usually an Assumption. Making water going upstream gets one wet.

Family, the People’s Template:

Human nature, like the rest of the natural world, is predicated on the means and measures supporting the survival of the species, the core of which is the family. All human organizations derive key elements from the basic model of Father, Mother and Child, the Child being the membership and future of the family unit. There are fraternal orders, brotherhoods, paternal leadership, baby sitters and surrogate company.

The Father role is akin to that of protector and is engaged with the external world, The Mother is more internally focused on nurturing the family. The distinction of protective and nurturing roles equate roughly to that of the commander’s duty: Mission and the Troops. The First Sergeant is more concerned with the welfare of the troops, while the Company Commander is more concerned about the Mission. There is lot of overlap, and that is one of the key variables one looks for in studying culture.


In the military, the Mission outranks the Troops, but not always. Civil society ranks survival higher. Culture is doctrine and is composed, like doctrine, of Values, Beliefs, Behaviors, and Modes aka VBBN (pronounced V’BBN). Of these, those that prescribe and describe the relations between people and their environment with intent to enhance survival of the individual and society are the most likely to have a strong emotional content.

To make it simple, easy to remember and actionable for troops from fire team to field force to White House, there are four principle sets of survival related Family V’BBN:: Face, Fate, Fame, and Fortune, and four which are related to the physical world: Time, Distance, Ground and Body. In short, the aggregate is called F4F.

Joined at the head of F4F is a related analysis, that of the Drama triangle of Victim, Rescuer, and Prosecutor. The Drama Triangle prescribes the trigger and reaction of transgressions and obligations of the V’BBN in F4F,

F4F: Social (Face, Fate, Fame & Fortune):

FACE: Face issues are those of the mask that the individual or group must wear to preserve place, pride, status, dignity, honor as well as the negatives of shame, and humiliation.. The importance of Face varies between cultures. Cultures that have suffered in the past often are touchy about Face issues.

Face in well trained military units is found when the individual trooper’s principle value is not the let his or her buddies down, even to the point of death. Likewise, it is an important issue that buddies in danger will take risks, even that of death. Face can be both an individual trait and collective one.

A unit that lacks such confidence in others is more likely to place individual survival ahead to the unit. The irony of this is that a unit that breaks under fire usually takes more casualties that the unit with higher cohesion..

FATE: Fate is what happens and why. It is code and consequence.

Fate also describes consequence in terms of rewards and punishments. American troops are loath to leave the body of a comrade on the battlefield, even to the point of losing more to enemy fire in order to retrieve the remains of a fallen comrade.

The customs and traditions of the Marine Corps, or of the 1st Cavalry, or the King’s Guard, provide the basis for collective action that provides the mutual confidence between the individual and the unit. In WW2, the plans for a military action against the German troops depended a lot about whether the Germans were Waffen SS, Volks Grenadier, or regular Wehrmacht units. The SS had considerable tight cohesion in which individual death was as much a sacred sacrifice as it was a loss.

Likewise, the fate of a martyr is describes in teachings, training, and recruitment in the creed of the terrorist. Young men generally see death as am abstraction and give up life to obligate God into admission into the choicer regions of heaven. Qualified love by Allah was a major incentive used to control the killers of Mumbai constantly coaching these killers to kill here and there and to take their own life in order to ensure Allah’s approval.

Face and Fate are closely entwined. Insulting the head of a Afghan family by placing boot to neck is generally balanced only with the bloods of one or more Americans. Kicking down doors is a loss of face to the head of a family, and insulting of the family and even in Texas requires a vigorous response.

FAME: Fame is the opprobrium (or blame) in the context of the group, even outside groups. Fame is not always welcome. The collective value culture in Japan has a tendency to hammer down the nail that sticks up. Like public recognition of a snitch.

The Fame accrued to the victor in a struggle has the purpose of attracting members of the opposite sex, as such victory is usually transcribed (right or wrongly) into a mating value of a successful protector or nurturer of a budding family.

FORTUNE: Fortune in F4F has more to do with the human factor in economics as in what do these folks do for a living, Different strokes for different trades. It matters whether they are doctors, lawyers, candlestick makers, hookers, or truck drivers. Each profession or trade has its own system of ethics, rewards, and punishments.

Having a fortune has mating values which makes the fortunate more useful in providing for a future family. The knowledge of one sex of the cultures significant symbols of success for the other sex includes the right car, the right apartment, a quantity of cattle or goats, in addition to being strong and/or comely.

F4F: Physical (Time, Distance, Ground & Body):

TIME: The very concept of time may be consecutive, repetitive, circular, mutually exclusive or overlapping. The relative importance of past, present and future varies. Some cultures are stuck in a long lost past, some want to forget it.

If a meeting is called for eight PM, in Japan the attendees will be there early. In parts of Africa, it is the time one leaves for the meeting. In certain parts of Latin America, the hosts aren’t dressed yet. In other parts, it is of no significance.

The timeliness of military forces is a mark of high discipline, but some cultures have considered other values as of greater importance. Should an attack be launched when it is time to do so, or should it wait for the arrival of someone of high status? The time of an attack may be adjusted until the attacker is ready, or that the defender isn’t.

DISTANCE: Distance issues attests to how close and distant individuals and their works should be. Americans like arms length, while Arabs prefer elbow distance. Elbow distance to an American is “in your face” and subject to fisticuff. Urban crowding and rural separation set different values as comfortable or not.

GROUND: Ground issues are neglected in most of our maps for it is only the shape (maybe the image) of the roof tops that one sees. It matters to a rifleman how thick the walls of the buildings and fences are. A stone wall at the base of Marye’s Heights in Fredericksburg, VA and a wooden fence at the foot of Seminary Ridge in Gettysburg, PA made the Blue, then the Grey die in numbers.
Mountainous regions restrict access and the amount of arable land making the control of passes and valleys a high social value. Mountain people tend to be touchy and contentious, something that folks living in the Alleghenies, Alps and mountains of Afghanistan in common. The schism between the Highlanders and the Lowlanders of Scotland are in the same vein.

BODY: Body issues include body language, but also include the whole manual of arms, legs, stomach, chest, mouth, eyes and other parts south. How one sits, stands, walks, and looks about is important. One does not stare at a woman in a number of cultures without consequence, sometime lethal. In South East Asia, squatting, not sitting is a very common posture when meeting.

Taken together, F4F is not a check-list, it is not a matrix, or a mesh. F4F is designed for specific focus on a specific mission without wading into the weeds of the myriad details of an entire culture. F4F is designed for on the spot use as a part of the Military Decision Making Process from tactical to operational to the national.

F4F as Narrative:

F4F is used by asking or observing one of the F’s and extrapolating into mission relevant conclusions. Most often it winds up as a narrative, or story showing how the parts work. Americans can be described as placing a high value on individual responsibility, which shows up in timeliness, in individual space, and credit for individual progress. In this Americans are at one end of a spectrum with the rest of the world valuing groups higher than the individual, particularly family, village, tribe, or sect. Once under pressure, however, Americans can reverse polarity for an emergency, and can do so without much risk as once the emergency is resolved, a critical mass of Americans revert to looking out after Number One.

Many a Villain has made the mistake of assuming that American individualism was a weakness that could be exploited with threats of fear.

The other half of F4F (aka Cultural Weed Whacker) is what happens when one or more of the other “Fs” are pushed or pulled. What happens is drama. Or, when needed, the lack of it. A cup of tea is sometimes, just a cup of tea. At others, as in Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan, three cups of tea are a contract.

Karpmann’s Drama Triangle:

The Drama Triangle aka Karpmann’s Drama Triangle is drawn from the field of Psychology called “Transactional Analysis (TA)”. Developed for individual therapy, the triangle consists of three roles “Victim, Rescuer, and Prosecutor”. In TA, transactions are grouped into Games which involve switching between these three roles sequentially and repetitively. For collective application, however, these role switches can be done simultaneously.

The Real Drama Triangle:

Of equal importance is to bring the drama trilogy into synch with that of the Family and its survival. The role of victim is that of helplessness, as in helpless infant. An infant requires the protection and nurturing of parents. In order to have a victim, one must have Villains, and Villains are best dealt with by Heroes. Mothers and Fathers are heroes to children. Or, al least they should be.

There is a fuzzy line between real threats and threats blown out of proportion for the purposes of making a trip around the Drama Triangle. Being a Hero can be intoxicating and desirous of emulations. That is why we have baseball, video games, jihads, crusades, and global thermonuclear warfare. That’s why we have rooting sections, political parties, and cheerleaders to cheer the heroes on, and villains to boo at.

Dysfunctional Drama Triangle:

This leads to the Dysfunctional Drama Triangle of which there are two types: the Heroic and the Villainous. As portrayed in legend, and lore, there are the Heroic: Knight, Nurse, and Infant. And likewise, the Villainous Vicious, Vindictive, and Voracious take the place of father, mother, and child.

Unlike drama that goes with survival, the purpose of the Dysfunctional Drama is the collection of emotional “payoffs” or “justifications” Most of us know people who go through life as victims, putting themselves in one predicament after another, in order to sucker in a rescuer whose efforts seem never to work. One way to gain victim status, under law, is the frequent jail house flyer who victimizes others in order to become a victim needing the services of a rescuing attorney. Thus, the daily grind in the court house has all the players of both sides of the Dysfunctional Drama Triangle.

The Law of Inverse Relevance:

The Dysfunctional Drama Triangle has some very sharp edges as the two triangles don’t move in concert, and take some analysis to separate the Survival (True) Drama Triangle in which there are real victims, real villains which require ordinary heroes. The Drama Decoder works on the Law of Inverse Relevance in which states:

1. Brag with weakest virtue.
2. Blame with strongest vice..

Common day examples are found in popular advertising. Ads for paper towels brag about their strength when cost is their strongest virtue, and comparison testing clearly shows the best buy is the one being blamed. Used car dealers brag about the price, which covers a number of defects expensive to fix.

The Vast Conspiracy:

Another key to decoding is the simple fact that the parental roles of protection and nurturing present the presence of a vast foreboding villainous presence aka vast conspiracy. Historical examples include the Yellow Peril, Fascism, Communism, Fundamentalism (of all sorts), Capitalism and the Special Interests. To a child, things adult seem vast, uncontrollable and untrustworthy and/or trust worthy. He/She who cries that the big bad wolf is loose, is a child looking for parental attention, more than reporting a threat

Politics is the grand theater of the Dysfunctional Drama Triangle. It is in this arena, that warriors need a wary tread, wary of the Passionate State of Mind as Eric Hoffer stated in his book of the same name, for True Believers (another of his books) play the Dysfunctional Drama Triangle for keeps.

Don’t Believe Your Own Cluster

F4F and the Drama Triangle are bread and butter stuff for Psychological Operations and Civil Affairs, but it is essential in the application of force and violence.. Before we fire a time on target on a suspected villainous position, one must ask what sort of reaction those targeted will make once shot at.

In Vietnam we used to calculate the number of casualties the VC must have taken given the number of rounds fired. Even if remotely accurate, it did not take into account that casualties were a price the VC would take, even if they chose to leave. Our current operations against “terrorists” have been based on how much terror we can unleash before the suicidal terrorists give up.

Drama, The Jihadi Jackpot

The Drama Triangle is exemplified by the rationale the suicide bomber uses to justify and glorify killing others by self destruction. The requisite Villain status against infidels, unbelievers, crusaders, and apostates is assigned, and the bomber become a heroic knight, and nurturer of the purity of Islam as well as a passport to heaven. The bomber hits the six pot, all six roles both heroic and villainous at the push of a button.

Training for Cultural De-Obfuscation

F4F is designed to fit into existing military doctrine, particularly the Military Decision Making Process (MDMP). It only requires a pair of hands as training aids, as it can be illustrated by point at head, upwards, wave hand(s) and thumb rub (as in counting money) to represent Face, Fate, Fame and Fortune. The physical environment takes two hands to point at watch for Time, spread hands apart for distance, and point at the ground and one’s body.

The Drama Triangle can be illustrated on the back on an envelope, business card, or some creative artwork.

Cultural task analysis should be done for all parties to a fire fight, good guys, bad guys, and those in between, including all major variants. As in task analysis of Condition, Action, Standard cultural V’BBN impact on action, conditions, and standard. The initial analysis is to determine which societal Fs (face, fate, fame, fortune) and physical (time, distance, ground and body) are relevant to your operations.

Setting up a road block involves issues of whose road the locals think this is. It includes the arm and hand signals that both sides must understand. Many an Iraqi has been shot for mistaking the MP hand sign of palm up and towards the target that means “stop”, “whoa”, and/or “hold up” as the Iraqi sign for “hi” or “hello”. The Iraqi smiles, waves back and drives into a hail of bullets.

Searching a village would be made easier if the design of walls, halls, corridors, and roads were known, as well as the proper etiquette for entrance. Door kicking is often counter production.

The cultural objective to train for in these cases would require a demonstration of adverse or positive feedback in accordance to the likely outcomes in a given culture. Of signal importance is the accurate drama that occurs in accordance with F’ing the Fs or not.

It is vital to not that Cultural Awareness is not necessarily about being nice. It might be the best course of action to enrage the other guy to do something stupid. Doolittle’s raid was a slap in the face that invited Yamamoto to bring his carriers in range of ours.

Ask the Right Questions

F4F is about asking the right questions to avoid making assumptions that get the wrong people killed. In the absence of the right people to give the answers you need, start checking out the Fs and the Drama in the AO.


1. The primary source of motivation and inspiration in this endeavor is the field of psychology, Transactional Analysis. For details, Google the phrases and terms used in the above text. Of special interest are the works of Stephen Karpman MD, and Dr Eric Berne who started it all with “Games People Play?
2. The TRADOC (Army Training and Doctrine Command), Culture Center’s superb “Subject Matter Experts” including David Tannenbaum whose fine works become limited by inadequate doctrine to plug their knowledge into effective military action.
3. Full Spectrum Drama as spelled out by the publications from Ft Leavenworth’s Combined Arms Center aka C&GSC which calls for an effective doctrinal link between the Logical Lines of Operation and the Cultures of the folks in the Area of Operations.
4. The F4F typology is directly inspired by Michel LeBaron’s work on Cross-Cultural Communications and the associated work found on Beyond Intractability website:
5. Eric Hoffer (July 25, 1902 – May 21, 1983) Longshoreman and Lecturer at the University of California. Author of: 1951 The True Believer: Thoughts On The Nature Of Mass Movements ISBN 0-06-050591-5 1955 The Passionate State Of Mind, and Other Aphorisms ISBN 1-933435-09-7 1963 The Ordeal Of Change ISBN 1-933435-10-0 1967 The Temper Of Our Time …..
6. C. Northecote Parkinson: Parkinson’s Law and other books that proclaim the work expands to fill the time available, expenditures will rise to meet income, and organizations grow regardless of work load
7. William James Haga: Haga’s Law, why nothing works and nothing anybody can do will fix it. Basic premise is that Anxiety begets organizing, and organizing begets anxiety.\.
8. Charles H Titus, Professor of Political Science, UCLA whose unorthodox views on political processes made his course on Politics a favorite for students (including myself in 1961) with a view of life after graduation.
9. Dilbert by Scott Adams. The Dilbert Principle The Dilbert Principle by Scott Adams, HarperBusiness 1996 ISBN 0-88730-858-9 . Incompetent employees are promoted to prevent harm or pass it on to others who need it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Rage Addict

Rage Addiction

Family (group) ethics, etiquette, values, norms, behaviors, and beliefs that are tied to the protection, nurture, and growth of the group often excite the passionate mind to fight, flight or freeze. The highs and lows of these emotions have a legitimate use, for heroics may be required for survival. Pity the clown who gets between a bear cub and the mother bear. Rage has a purpose, and a price.

Rage is addictive as are many of the emotions tied to group survival. So much so that the rage addict seeks out or invents an incentive for rage. The cycle of rage addiction can be described in Karpmann’s Drama Triangle in which the player rotates between victim, rescuer, and prosecutor. Victims require villains, of which there are three types: the vicious, vindictive, and voracious (formerly bastard, bitch, and brat) each the dark side of the protection, nurturing, and innocence. Villains require heroes of which there are three types: hero, heroine and helpless.

The rage addict wears hero’s masks and paints all others in villainous colors. Dressed as such, a single addict can rotate through all the roles. The suicide bomber hits the jackpot: plays rescuer, prosecutor and victim all in one blast. He strikes a blow a blow against the villains and is lauded as a hero. Or that may be the last thing that goes through his mind. Literally.

Rage addiction is contagious which normally excites counter-rage which differ only in detail from the donor, except the stakes get higher on each round of rages. Countering rage with more rage is like putting out a fire with gasoline. Not a good idea.

Nagasaki and Hiroshima plus the fire bombing raids over Japan in 1945 brought about a palace revolution by Emperor Hirohito who knew when enough was enough. Hitler stuck to his rage and raged at the German people for failing him, then taking his own life. It is fortunate for the world that Americans have as much compassion as passion, and enough reason to counter rationale.

The first step is to put the make public the cycle of rage addiction to show the sentient amongst us to reveal the real intent and purpose of rage addiction as peculiar to the addict, and not to the faithful at large.