Archive for the 'Hard Power' Category
The phrase “no boots on the ground” has become a constant refrain when this country contemplates the use of military force. This phrase relies on the myth that air power alone can resolve a crisis. As a policy it sees boots only as people vulnerable to victimization by the enemy. However, the boots are actually grunts, people who dedicate their lives to defeating our enemies and are not afraid to get their hands dirty in the process. Militarily they increase the effectiveness of airstrikes and bring capabilities to the fight that aircraft do not possess.
Grunts possess not only boots but also optic, audio, and olfactory sensors. These sensors gather information which the grunt’s brain housing group develops into an awareness of the situation. While remote electronic sensors such as drones and satellites can be substituted to a degree, the grunt provides a more complete picture. This allows for quicker and more accurate target identification for aircraft.
Recent history shows the problems from a failure to deploy grunts. In Kosovo, NATO attacks were wasted on decoys, the Chinese Embassy was mistakenly bombed, all while civilians continued to suffer below. In Operation Desert Storm, Saddam Hussein continued to launch SCUD missiles from mobile launchers in Western Iraq until Special Forces grunts were deployed. In Pakistan, mistaken attacks by drones on civilians undermine our efforts in the Global War on Terror.
Grunts also possess a unique capability that aircraft do not. While aircraft can influence events on the ground, grunts control them. Aircraft fly over the battlefield. After the initial shock subsides, the enemy adapts their tactics and becomes acclimatized to the bombing. (Despite years of strategic bombing by the U.S. and Britain, German production continued to increase throughout World War II.) In contrast, a grunt occupies the ground they stand on and the enemy must first push our grunts off the ground before they can act as they wish. Massacring civilians is not as easy when you must first defeat the grunts protecting them.
Like in Kosovo, after Desert Storm the U.S. attempted an air only approach to protect Iraqis who revolted against Saddam Hussein by imposing a no-fly zone over portions of Iraq. Those revolts were brutally suppressed. In the 1980’s, French air attacks stalemated Libyan advances into Chad but never defeated them. Finally, after a decade of fighting, the Chadian ground forces assimilated the surface-to-air and anti-tank guided missiles provided to them into their natural fighting style and decisively drove out the Libyans within a year.
By attacking with both air and ground forces you impose a dilemma on the enemy. If they concentrate to engage your ground forces, your air attacks become more effective. If they disperse their forces to minimize the effects of your air attacks, they become vulnerable to your ground forces. With boots on the ground supported by air attacks you inflict a defeat on your enemy, without them you can only hope he gives up.
Above all a no boots on the ground policy is a moral failure. Defeating an enemy requires convincing them that they cannot obtain victory. Accepting the risk of deploying ground troops demonstrates your resolve to seek victory. In contrast, attacking from the air and setting deadlines for withdraw indicates that you are more interested in reducing your risk and leaving as quick as possible. Showing this kind of weakness emboldens your enemy, not only by lifting their morale, but also because you tell them exactly what they have to do to win. The Greatest Generation did not ask for a no boots on the ground policy after seeing the pictures from the Tarawa beaches of the carnage of battle. They won World War II with a policy of “for the duration”. If we are committed to acting militarily, we should state clearly the goal we intend to accomplish, obtain Congress’s authorization for military action, and deploy the forces, including some form of ground component, necessary to accomplish our goal.
By Mark Tempest
Believe it or not, this week is our 250th Episode of Midrats.
In celebration, we’re clearing the intellectual table, going to open the mic and see where it takes us.
From Kobane, to Coastal Defense, to Ebola and everything in between and sideways that’s been in the national security news as of late, plus whatever else breaks above the ambient noise – we’ll be covering it.
As with all Midrats Free For Alls, we are also opening the phone lines for our regular listeners who want to throw a topic our way.
Come join us Sunday as we try to figure out how we got to 250.
For the moment, the U.S. military can still apply overwhelmingly decisive force – whether we’re talking lethal Special Operations teams or waves of bombers. At the same time, no one has our logistical reach for responding globally to natural disasters and other unforeseen catastrophes like Ebola.
We should build on these dual strengths. Indeed, the real shift that is needed in the defense budget and in national security debates isn’t about who or what we have, but about what we deploy our forces to do. Forget trying to re-make the military to fight violent extremists the way violent extremists want us to fight them. Instead, we should re-build foreign policy to fit our military capabilities and re-tilt the playing field to advantage us.
How about “don’t tread on me” married to “to each his own.” Just consider: if the U.S. got out of the business of telling other people how to live their lives – which is what respecting others’ sovereignty should mean – then the U.S. could demand of other governments the other quid pro quo sovereignty promises: namely, no one hailing from any other country should seek to cause us harm.
If foreign leaders were held accountable for the actions of their citizens, if they were made to understand that in exchange for the deference they receive as heads of state their duty is to guarantee security to their citizens and to us, they’d have to deliver better services. Otherwise, they risk an insurgency or worse. Meanwhile, let just one non-state actor harbored in another country attack the U.S. again, and here’s what violating our sovereignty would mean: that government would have to root out our attackers or we would be obliged to consider it complicit, too.
In other words, if people elsewhere prefer to live under a Caliphate or under a leader like Vladimir Putin, so be it. If they don’t want to, however, let them do the lion’s share of the fighting. Let them organize. Let them demonstrate that they are capable of uniting under a more viable alternative – one that can govern effectively, deliver services equitably, and will be a steward of regional peace. Then, ‘we the people’ can decide: is this an entity we want to support, in which case the U.S. Senate can ratify a treaty that makes clear to everyone what our support consists of.
No doubt this will strike some readers as too unrealistic and far-fetched. Clearly, we wouldn’t declare war on Russia over irredentism in its backyard. But, if not, why are we lending desultory support to Ukraine? Ditto for our positively schizophrenic treatment of Bashar al-Assad; we wanted him gone, encouraged the rebels, but refused to help them remove him, and now we need his help.
Imagine if we instead had a far clearer “don’t tread on me, or else” foreign policy. And say we had applied such a policy in the wake of 9/11. Mullah Omar either would have turned over Usama bin Laden or Mullah Omar would no longer be alive. Afghans would have chosen their own next leader in their own way. We wouldn’t still be in Afghanistan, still trying to cajole Afghans into a form of government and democracy that suits us.
One reason the U.S. should get out of the business of propping up regimes is that by doing so we prolong chaos and uncertainty. Cutting off the aid spigot is critical for two additional reasons. First, what too few Americans appreciate is the extent to which foreign aid projects don’t just corrupt, but corrupt absolutely. After all, why should a foreign government have to provide for its own citizens if we are willing to do so for them?
Second, our serial experimentation hasn’t really worked. The ‘developing world’ has been the developing world for decades. Have any of our taxpayer-funded aid projects really made a sufficiently significant dent?
Pilferable projects and cash feed the dysfunction we say we want to stop. Which isn’t to say that we should halt efforts to offer education or training. Those are unstealable. Nor should we stop delivering assistance in the immediate aftermath of unforeseeable natural disasters.
Indeed, there are numerous reasons why the United States should strive to remain the globe’s most robust First Responder. Not only is this what all good neighbors should do and what American citizens always seek to do anyway, but there is no surer way to show people elsewhere how well democracy and a free market economy can work, since without them we wouldn’t be able to deliver the mountains of assistance we do.
Assisting during the triage phase of an earthquake, tsunami, or pandemic is one thing. But prolonged assistance or a lengthy intervention is something altogether different. We Americans are unbelievably generous as a people. And we are great logisticians. But we don’t have what it takes to undo others’ chronic problems. Also, despite what many might think, we are too egalitarian and too impatient to successfully make people over in our image since that takes an imperial ruthlessness we don’t possess.
Our greatest strength? Directness – ideal for getting to the scene quickly to do immediate good, but also ideal for getting to the scene quickly to do immense damage. Reflect on our dual capabilities of relieving people from, or introducing people to, devastation, and we would save untold blood and treasure by re-calibrating our foreign policy to make the most prudent possible use of the Navy, Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps we have.
At the same time, reinvigorating sovereignty would liberate others to make much more of themselves, too. It would force those heads of state in the path of ISIL, Boko Haram, al Shabaab, or you-name-the-armed-group to live up to their obligations to their citizens. They (too) would have to make far better use of the resources they already have – or succumb.
Consider what else Washington would gain if it took the military’s core strengths and made more (rather than less) of them. Members of the military would be able to concentrate on their comparative advantages, which come from being impatient, generous, capable, and direct. These are among the attributes that non-Americans used to admire in us – exactly the attributes that prolonged un-declared, fitful counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency campaigns squander.
Power projection, sea control, access, denial, and the ability to impose your will on the enemy from the sea – or depending on your perspective – prevent them.
If the comparative advantage of American military power includes the use of the world’s oceans as a basing area from projecting power and national will, how can other nations design systems and tactics to trump that advantage? What are in place now, and what can we expect to see in the near future?
Our guest for the full hour will be Sam J. Tangredi, a defense strategist whose studies of future warfare prompted Defense Department officials to label him “the Navy’s futurist.” His thirty-year naval career included command at sea, service in key strategic planning positions in the Pentagon and overseas, earning a PhD in international relations, and research fellowships at two think tanks.
His over one hundred publications—which include four books–have won awards, including the U.S. Naval Institute’s Arleigh Burke Prize and the U.S. Navy League’s Alfred Thayer Mahan Award. He is currently the director of San Diego operations for the planning/consulting firm Strategic Insight.
Please join us on Sunday, 21 September 14 at 5pm (EDT) for Episode 246: When the short snappy war goes long, with Chris Dougherty
As we once again face the promise of a conflict with a limited mission and a strangely ill-defined Strategic and Operational design – what do we need to keep in mind not just from recent history, but the longer term record?
History shows us that military and political leaders either over or under appreciate changing technology, outmoded doctrine, and the imperfect correlation between past experience and present requirements.
From the national psyche to stockpiled war reserves – what happens when the short and splendid turns in to the long slog?
Using his latest article in The National Interest, The Most Terrifying Lesson of World War I: War Is Not Always “Short and Sharp,” as a starting point, but expanding to a much broader discussion, our guest for the full hour will be Chris Dougherty, research fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA).
Mr. Dougherty graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in Security Studies from the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington and received an M.A. in Strategic Studies with distinction from John Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. He also served as an airborne infantryman with the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment from 1997 to 2000.
In a time of budgetary pressure, a shrinking fleet, and an ongoing discussion of their relevance, how are we keeping out legacy Aircraft Carrier’s in shape for the regular demands for extended deployments while at the same time bringing the new FORD Class CVN online?
What are some of the lessons we have learned in our decades of operating nuclear powered aircraft carriers that we are bring forward to serve the Fleet in the coming decades so we always have an answer to the question, “Where are the aircraft carriers?”
To discuss this and more, our guest for the full hour will be Rear Admiral Thomas J. Moore, USN, Program Executive Officer for Aircraft Carriers and is responsible for life cycle management for In-Service Carriers as well as the design and construction of the Future Class Carriers.
A second generation naval officer, Rear Adm. Moore graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1981 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Math/Operations Analysis. He also holds a degree in Information Systems Management from George Washington University and a Master of Science and an Engineer’s degree in Nuclear Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
By Mark Tempest
Please join us live on Sunday, 7 September 2014 at 5pm EDT US, for another discussion on the fight against terrorism, especially the terrorism and action of radical jihadist groups, as we host Episode 244: Long War update with Bill Roggio
If you fell asleep on Memorial Day and woke up on Labor Day, your head is probably swimming. The situation in the Muslim world from Libya to the Iranian border has turned in to some strange chaos if you have not been paying attention – but when you look at the details and trendlines, the logic is a lot clearer.
The long war has not gone anywhere, like a field untended, the weeds have returned and are prospering.
To help us understand developments over the summer, coming back to Midrats for the full hour to discuss this and more will be Bill Roggio, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Bill is also the President of Public Multimedia Inc, a non-profit news organization; and the founder and Editor of The Long War Journal, a news site devoted to covering the war on terror. He has embedded with the US and the Iraqi military six times from 2005-08, and with the Canadian Army in Afghanistan in 2006. Bill served in the US Army and New Jersey National Guard from 1991-97.
As noted, Bill was with us recently (Episode 225: The Long War Becomes a Teenager), but recent events suggested that it would be good to have him back sooner rather than later.
Join us live if you can or pic the show up later by clicking here.
On March 7, 2014, a self-directed study was emailed to Vice Admiral Bill Moran, the U.S. Navy’s Chief of Naval Personnel. Titled “Keep a Weather Eye on the Horizon: A Navy Officer Retention Study”, the paper provided Vice Admiral Moran with a canary in the coal mine, describing a looming retention downturn using historical data and, perhaps most importantly, timely and relevant information based on primary source interviews with hundreds of U.S. Navy Sailors.
Within days, the paper leaked from the Navy’s Personnel Command and made its way throughout the Navy. The message resonated with Sailors at the deck plates — officer and enlisted alike — and caught the attention of senior leaders throughout the U.S. Government. To their immense credit, Vice Admiral Moran and other senior Navy leaders have responded to decreasing retention indicators with personnel changes designed to improve morale and a Sailor’s ‘quality of service’. These changes provide commanding officers with greater flexibility to prescribe uniform wear, increase sea pay for Sailors on extended deployments, and reduce general military training requirements on commands, just to name a few.
Larger initiatives are in the works although they have not been publicly announced. Some initiatives, like expansion of the Career Intermission Pilot Program, require Congressional approval. There is also a desire to better understand the current retention downturn before acting. This is understandable. The Navy is a large, diverse, and dispersed organization and more information is required to ensure the next round of changes provide the greatest return on investment. However, the time to act is now.
So, how do you determine the right course of action to provide the greatest return on investment?
Senior decision makers are asking important questions. First, is there really a retention problem? Is it possible we are retaining the right quality of Sailor, just in fewer numbers? Are previously cited retention factors — an improving economy, significant operational tempo, perceived reductions in quality of life, among others — truly impacting our Sailor’s “stay/go” decisions? If so, in what ways?
The desire to further expound on the tenets of the paper — in a thoughtful and deliberate way intended to benefit senior leaders — led to the creation of an independent 2014 Navy Retention Study Team in March 2014. The team is comprised of a volunteer group of high-performing active duty Sailors and select civilians who have dedicated their off-duty time to create a first of its kind retention survey — created by Sailors for Sailors. All of our members are upwardly mobile, highly-placed individuals who want to measurably contribute to the continued success of the U.S. Navy. The success of this initiative is due largely to their sense of ownership for the Navy and their correspondingly impressive efforts.
This report details the results of this year’s survey, including a broad analysis of factors which are assessed to affect retention and additional recommendations to avoid the shoal waters of a multi-year retention shortfall for several communities. Further, it is important to provide relatively unfettered access to the survey data (as appendices in this report) with more raw data to be made available throughout Fall 2014.
While our analysis of the data is presented for your use, I suggest you don’t take our word for it — read and assess the data for yourself. Then read widely, think deeply, write passionately, and act decisively to help retain our most talented Sailors in uniform.
We must continue to cultivate a strong sense of ownership within the U.S. Navy. Reassuringly, many Sailors have stepped forward with innovative ideas to improve processes and policies, whether as a Yeoman, a Lieutenant in the F/A-18 community, or as a pre-major command surface warfare officer. In the end, no matter your rank or position, it’s about asking ourselves what type of Navy we want to dedicate some portion of our lives to … and what type of Navy we want to leave for those that join 5, 10, 15 years into the future and beyond. It’s easy to lay problems at the feet of our senior leaders, however it’s incumbent upon all of us to take part in solving this issue.
At the end of the day, the Navy cannot directly hire uniformed personnel into positions of responsibility, nor can it surge leadership, trust, and confidence. Instead, we must explore changes to legal statutes and internal policies in order to retain our very best, brightest, and most talented — the continued success of the U.S. Navy depends on nothing less.
The 2014 Navy Retention Study report may be downloaded at: www.dodretention.org/results beginning Sept 1, 2014.
General Robert H Scales (USA Ret.) discusses firepower and the American way of war, specifically: firepower’s use, effectiveness, and place as a cultural phenomenon in American military thinking.
Please join us at 5pm (EDT) for Episode 242: “Lost Opportunities: WWI and the Birth of the Modern World”:
A hundred years on, in 2014 what insights can we gain from the war that started 100 years ago in August of 2014? What are some of the lessons we need to remember in all four levers of national power; diplomatic, informational, military, and economic – in order to help steer our future course as a nation, and to better understand developing events?
Using his article in The National Interest, World War I: Five Ways Germany Could Have Won the First Battle of the Atlantic as a starting point for an hour long discussion, our guest will be James Holmes, PhD, professor of strategy at the Naval War College and senior fellow at the University of Georgia School of Public and International Affairs.
Jim is former U.S. Navy surface warfare officer, graduating from Vanderbilt University (B.A., mathematics and German) and completed graduate work at Salve Regina University (M.A., international relations), Providence College (M.A., mathematics), and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University (M.A.L.D. and Ph.D., international affairs).
His most recent books (with long-time coauthor Toshi Yoshihara) are Strategy in the Second Nuclear Age and Red Star over the Pacific.
Jim has published over 25 book chapters and 150 scholarly essays, along with hundreds of opinion columns, think-tank analyses, and other works. He blogs as the Naval Diplomat and is an occasional contributor to Foreign Policy, The National Interest, War on the Rocks, CNN, and the Naval Institute Proceedings.
Join us live at 5pm (EDT) if you can or pick the show up later by clicking here.
- The Lost Intellectual Capital of a STEM Dominated Navy
- Join Us for Midrats 26 Oct 14 at a Special Time for Episode 251, “DEF2014 wrapup, and the budding question of veteran entitlement”, starting at 6:30pm EST
- No Boots on the Ground, No Victory
- Join Us for the Midrats’ 250th! 19 October 14 at 5pm (EDT)
- Sea Control Podcast 56 – Forgotten Naval Strategists