One of the speakers in the recent Army War College Strategy Conference, Session II made a comment to the effect that the US Constitution by its checks and balances makes the development of a “national strategy” difficult. As a simple matter of fact, a national strategy consensus of sufficient detail to pass through the operational design process has never happened in the US, and very few times elsewhere. At best, national strategies are wish lists subject to the winds of war.
One of the best examples in US history is that adopted by Abraham Lincoln whose strategy carefully avoided the appearance that the Confederacy actually existed as a legal entity. He did not wish to run the risk of France and/or Great Britain would openly support a bona fide nation recognized under international law. His objective was to reunify the nation, bind up its wounds, with charity for all and malice for none.
|Birth of a Nation-CSA|
John Wilkes Booth fired the shot that destroyed the South for a century by killing Lincoln, giving the Radical Republicans cause to nullify Lincoln’s strategy of binding into one of tearing the bonds that lingered in the South in Reconstruction. As a result, the South did not celebrate the 4th of July nor sign the National Anthem until the Spanish American War when old Confederate units and officers were called to the colors.
The assertion that the Union fought to free the slaves is a post war approbation, as slavery was not ended until the 13th Amendment. At the present time, fruits of Reconstruction carried by Confederate diaspora have produced a political monologue that excludes all Amendments to the Constitution after the 12th as genuine. Regardless of the merits of this argument, the salient fact is that it is still in play 150 years after the fact.
The “national strategy” of the US in the Spanish American War morphed from a revenge on the Spanish for the “sinking” of the USS Maine, now seen as an accident, into a global war between Spain and the US. Theodore Roosevelt, CMOH, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy issued orders of no authority for Admiral Dewey to attack Spain in the Philippines allegedly to support Aguinaldo and his Filipino Insurrection against Spain. My grandfather was a cavalryman in the continued operations against Aguinaldo.
|Oil for the lamps of China?|
The US wound up with a Pacific empire that included several other islands and a concession in Shanghai governed by a US governor, a regiment of US Marines and a regiment of US Infantry, that plus the Asiatic Fleet on Chinese rivers. What national interests in this relatively brief period of American Imperialism, came after the fact of individual initiative in the best interest of American commerce, the life blood of nations. Like “Oil for the Lamps of China”:
When it became clear that Japan was going to sail south to compete the encirclement of China, and weeks before Pearl Harbor, the US pulled its troops out of Shanghai and its fleet from China and transferred them to the Philippines. Britain shifted theirs to Singapore where they and American troops became prisoners of war of the Japanese While the Navy had plans to relieve the Philippines in case of a Japanese seizure by a drive across the Pacific to meet the Japanese fleet in a head to head surface battle in which round eyes shot better than those with a cant. The Japanese had the same plan in mind with a different cant in mind. Yamamoto had a different plan in mind which upset everyone else’s designs.
The usual pre-war budget struggle of the Army Air Corps (USAAC) of bombers versus battleships, had a boost from FDR, who instead of sending the Atlantic Fleet then conducting anti-submarine exercises with U-Boats as training aids, decided to send 100 B-17 bombers to cover the South China Sea from the depredations of the Japanese fleet. About half the bombers made it. In order to strengthen the ferry routes for the B-17’s to fly from Hawaii to the Philippines the Navy transported Army fighters to the islands of Wake, Midway and Guam to protect the bombers.
That is why the Carriers and the fast battle fleet was not in Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. The Wild Card Trumps All Bidding.
US fleet submarines were forbidden to raise their periscopes to attack “enemy” ships in exercises on pain of relief of command. On December 8, they were let loose on the Japanese with a vengeance truly poetic. Then again, the Mark XIV torpedo failed more often than not based on Navy acquisition policies in Washington, DC.
Field Marshal Douglas MacArthur, Commonwealth of the Philippines, returned to active duty as a LTG, ordered US forces not to open fire on the Japanese unless bombs were actually seen to be landing on Philippine soil. This was nine hours after Japan had attacked. B-17 bombers aloft with bomb loads ready to fly to Formosa where Japanese bombers and fighters were still grounded, were told to return to base. They were caught on the ground being refueled and re-armed.
As of December 8, 1941 the Congress voted that a “state of war (had) existed” between the US and Japan. There was as of that date not a sufficient majority in the Congress to declare war on Germany. Hitler solved that problem, which allowed FDR to place a higher priority on defeating Germany than the Japanese who had started the war. The national strategies became subject to a series of conferences, the first of these was on HMS Prince of Wales on August 14, 1941 between Churchill and FDR that resulted in the Atlantic Charter that outlined some of the principles that eventually developed into the UN Charter by War’s end. The Allied Conferences in Casablanca and Yalta served as adjustments in national interests followed by the Potsdam Conference to define the next half century.
The Conduct of WW2 from an operational or tactical point of view were not affected by these conferences while the reverse is closer to the truth. WW 2 started with an invasion of Poland by the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany who split Poland as they chose. WW 2 ended on a battleship in Tokyo Bay while Hiroshima and Nagasaki were radioactive with Soviet representatives as allies.
The Score Card Shifts: Serbia started WW 1 with the assassination of Arch Duke Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo, and the war ended with Serbia on the Allied side. Germany had to admit guilt at Versailles for starting the war started by Serbia. The key issue that put Cousin George vs Cousin Wilhelm was that of Grand Fleet versus High Seas Fleet, the latter mutinied and brought Germany down, and which ‘saved face” by scuttling at Scapa Flow”. Go figure.
On January 12, 1950 Secretary of State Dean Acheson made a speech before the National Press Club in Washington DC that did not include Korea as within US “defense perimeter”. Accordingly Stalin and Kim Il-sung invaded South Korea on June 15, 1950.
|Korean War, an Oversight of Oversight|
South Vietnam was created and dissolved by International Conferences which did not involve South Vietnamese involvement. A successful air was and Stability Operation in Vietnam were defeated by domestic activists of the enemy cause in our national capitol.
The national interest then shifted with a vengeance to the defense of the Fulda Gap which had laid open with hollow forces for a decade. High on the national priority was the defense against Soviet forces across the North German Plains which is really a swamp drained by extensive canals and irrigation systems.
The point of all this is that Murphy’s Law is the First Law of War. Everything that could go wrong went except when the wrong thing was done first that turned out right. The pre-War national strategy was built on bars of soap, that when whetted became slippery. Nothing should be taken for granted. The real questions are what capabilities are needed to achieve what effects on selected populations to achieve what ends (threats included).
In Laying Plans, para 18, Sun Tzu said that all war is based on deception. That necessarily includes inducing self-deception in the right minds to do the wrong thing at their wrong time. In even broader terms, all conflict is biologically oriented and psychologically bent in accordance with the culture and technologies at hand. Any "cross domain synergy" that does not leverage the psychological and sociological paradigms of the target audiences is not going to be pretty. For exemplars, please note the successful North Vietnamese sabotage of the US will to win, and the current sophisticated renovation of the Comintern in Russian national interest, the Russian energy and defense industries.
A retired US Army LTG on BBC recently noted that some rotational forces might be needed in the current imbroglio with Russia over the issue of Crimea and the Ukraine. The essence of rotational modular brigades is personnel management which trumps effects, threats and capabilities. The bridging of gaps created by the stresses between effects, threat, and capabilities has fallen on the ingenuity of the troops involved to succeed in spite of modular management. Been there, done that.
What, then, is the purpose of so much time and energy over Logical Lines, Centers of Gravity, Design, and Strategy when the default deployment algorithm is a one trick pony? At face value, Parkinson’s Laws apply particularly the Law of Inverse Relevance also known as the Law of Triviality. This holds that the more effort spent in a decision process is inversely related to its importance. His fictive example is the corporate board that approves a massive plant rebuilding with minimal discussion, while the Employees Bicycle Shed requires a special committee after long and ardent discussions.
Based on the observations of over fifty years in public and military service, inverse relevance is only the tip of the iceberg. The more informative observation is that which is bragged about is of minor importance, and that which is complained about or blamed is the real agenda. In short, the current discussions over national interest and the design process is at best hot air, at worst, a smokescreen
In order to get military officers out of the critical path to combat effectiveness, Donald Rumsfeld put untrained and inexperienced civilian bureaucrats in the role of the General Staff. Where once, this extended down to the tactical level where the MDMP process resulted in a five paragraph field order including task organization. This eclectic process has been condemned as “stove pipe” and replaced with pre-packaged task organizations packaged on the A-Ring in the Table of Organization and Equipment. Now we have a four and a half paragraph order and no task organization. This notion is so farfetched that the field simply ignored it and cannibalized their units to restore task flexibility.
There was nothing broken in the MDMP until it was “fixed” by transformation. Un-fixing goes to an older more successful war fighting model, training and operations in a constant state of flux dictated by mandatory linkage of all units into real or contingency plans in real places with an audit trail from barracks to battlefield. This was once called the Capstone Program (pre-OIF) which linked all US and associated allied units to one or more real contingency plans. As exercised, this process created a laboratory in which internal processes were stressed with a change in resources or demands (missions).
These capabilities to task organize in chaotic circumstances in an all-inclusive task organization produced a refined Military Decision Making Process under specific and changing pressures. The restoration of mission orientation can be enhanced in individual and small units by linkages with ongoing virtual wars suitable for interface with larger units command post exercises (CPX). In these exercises, it is the planning that counts more than the plan itself. Desert Storm proved that, as did the original invasion of Iraq, before Transformation.
It is the Chain of Command and Coordination that is the Center of Gravity of war fighting, a chain that may be little more than chain than command, as it is the framework through task organization builds on. And it is the chain that must be kept primarily operational in anything except administrivia.
Gordon S Fowkes, KCTJ
LTC USA RET