The Shape of Things to Come Always is an illusion at best. Some get parts of it right, some miss it completely, and forever, and some are in the right spot at the right time. Innovation cannot be institutionalized, and where it is, is a booby hatch, This particularly applies to the profession at arms where the life of the state can be decided on whim, whimsy, and wishful thinking. I refer to our booby hatch, known as the Pentagon as it is walled off from reality by pipe dream and Byzantine intrigue,
It’s not that our Pentagon is particularly venal or stupid, it’s that no ones Pentagon is that smart. The correlation of factors of mission, enemy, terrain, troops available, technology, time and culture between multiple players is far too complex and shifting with technological tides to be all that predictable. Yet, there are constants in the continuum of war by other means that go to the hearts, minds, body and terrain that demand that understand, from the outset, the secrets of Hannibal, Napoleon, Robert E Lee, Abraham Lincoln, Adolf Hitloer, and others whose foot prints sink deep in the shape of things that are.
Consider the “Light Fantastic” concept of battle in which heavily armed wonder weapons cut, slash and run faster than the enemy could bring fires to bear. Thus British “battle cruisers” intended to hunt cruisers were used in the battle line at Jutland in WW1 and the HMS Hood against the Battleship Bismarck in WW2. They blew up.
Consider the US Army Air Force’s justification of the B-17 as the perfect battleship sinker in order to win the budget wars. No battleship was ever sunk by the B-17, but bigger targets like cities were flattened with no particular impact on enemy war production and the cost of a third of the air crews.
The Defense Department specifically forbad the Army to have helicopter gunships until the AH-1 Cobra was fielded behind their backs as a UH-1 modification, which itself was a modification of a Medical Corps requirement for an evacuation helicopter. Another ambulance modification is the M113, now the most ubiquitous armored personnel carrier in the world.
Our Pentagon has latched onto a particularly flawed concept of the continuation of politics aby other means, principally that one ends and the other picks up instead of the other way around, that politics is war continued by other means. The misnomer COIN (Counter Insurgency Operations) used in Afghanistan misses the essential point that iSAF is the insurgent trying to foist a foreign misdeology on an ancient culture that has it’s own ways of doing things. The older concept of “stability operations” focuses not only on the stable not the unstable. Stability operations only work when the locals fall in line without the omniscient presence of greater firepower.
Mrs Clausewitz edited and published her husband’s personal blog, after his death in a pompous tome that lacks the sharp professional snap of General Clausewitz’s other publications. The most illusory item taken out of context is the concept of a “Center of Gravity” which is the center of malevolent attention. World War 1 was fought over entrenched centers of gravity, the collapse of which left the combatants permanently drained of their precious bodily fluids.
Today’s Centers of Gravity are firmly founded in PowerPoint presentations, particularly with interactive links to animated avatars. The Briefing Wars contend with Back Room Bargains by brokers of power often too ugly to prance and preen in front of the screen. Such is the fate of collective debate, be it corporate, Parliament, Palace, or Princely Court. The fate of this nation now is more dependent upon courtly demeanor than the Congressional exercise of Specified Powers as written in Article 1, Section 8 of our Constitution.
Warriors wince at the mere mention of Congressional “oversight” of professional operations, but Congress has the specified (exclusive) powers to shape the force. Yet the constancy of error and arrogance in the Pentagon is of a durability that exceeds to duration of rotation of flag ranks and field. Or, the limited impact of the appointed anointed of political party, It is not in our Constitution that career Civil Servants be the superior civilian in charge of military affairs. There is no reason why our military be administered by corporate wonders and whiz kids with the administration of sharp objects that go boom in the night.
Our Founders did not envision a large long serving professional military force as the minions of defense. In fact, they were quite specific in allocating powers that made a large standing force temporary. The default defense of the US is the National Guard (Air and Army) and a Federal Navy. States are prohibited in keeping standing forces or ships of war in time of peace, save in times of invasion and disorder. The onset of the Cold War demanded a larger standing force that was customary, and a large temporary force including the Army of the Untied States, faced off against the Evil Empires of the Red Flag. In the mid Sixties a plan was hatched to purge the ranks of those pesky long term professionals of uncertain certification (reservists) and restore the Nineteenth Century paradigm of a separation of components on the battlefield.
The Vietnam War stalled the onset of the purge until post war force reduction provided a cover for the purge, which took place in 194-76. Since the purge of professionals in their second decade of service went down, there has been a critical shortage of Captains (O-3) for the last thirty years. The current solution to the Captain shortage has been to reduce the ration between Colonel and Captain by reducing the numbers of battalions per Colonel. Modularization as its basest.
And the future of the national defense is now spoken of by the anointed is focused on the shape of “the officer corps” which means the regular officer corps as if were vested by God the saviors of the American state. This is a very normal occurrence in other nations such as Argentina, Turkey, China, Prussia, and Tsarist Russia. It’s human nature, but a nature which doesn’t always work out, and is not in our Constitutional sytem.
Nor is it in the best interests of our foreign policy. It is a bit sad to see our prancing purveyors of princely advice to foreign powers, such as I have seen in my own tired eyes in Europe and South America of the wonderfulness of power projection by expeditionary expedience. Little do these clowns realize that these words are evocative of Pax Britannica, the Glory of France, and what these misinformed souls see as American Imperialism. Absent the Red Menace, is it any wonder that our former allies are forming different constellations of power that gives them more control over their own fate, without Pentagon and Foggy Bottom meddling.
We need to reverse the imbalance of full time career and the citizen professional to the latter, keeping on full time service those forces specifically required to extant threats from outside CONUS, and restore an integrated structure of follow on and mobilization forces based on the Guard and Reserves. The basic plan is one leading to full mobilization, and the determination of which parts need to be full time, part time, half time, and stomped out of the ground. In this regard the planning is more important that the plan. Any forces allocated in whatever mix, should have plans in hand, plans on the shelf, and plans on the drawing table.
If necessary, a dart board should be used to determine the combinations of threats and forces for a given set of parameters. Battles are won by those who can react to a totally unique set of circumstances with forces able to adapt as quickly. Think of Task Force Taffy Three in the Battles off Samar in 1944. Think of Patton’s Third Army at the Battle of the Bulge. Think of the Berlin Airlift, put together on the fly by Curtis Lemay.
The present task organization of rotational expeditionary forces supported by contractors and civil servants isn’t suitable for any kind of operation. The successes of our troops today is in spite of “transformation”, not because of it.
Gordon S Fowkes