The Government Accounting Office came out with an interesting report a few days ago, “Hybrid Warfare“. The scope of their research was:

– Whether DOD has defined hybrid warfare and how hybrid warfare differs from other types of warfare.
– The extent to which DOD is considering the implications of hybrid warfare in its overarching strategic planning documents.

They spent nine months working on the report (JAN10-SEP10), spoke with the folks from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Defense Intelligence Agency, Combatant Commanders, Joint Forces Command and its analogues; reviewed a number of publications to include to 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (which uses the term Hybrid Warfare, more than once). With all this, what did they come up with?

– DOD has not officially defined “hybrid warfare” at this time and has no plans to do so because DOD does not consider it a new form of warfare.
– DOD officials from the majority of organizations we visited agreed that “hybrid warfare” encompasses all elements of warfare across the spectrum. Therefore, to define hybrid warfare risks omitting key and unforeseen elements.
– DOD officials use the term “hybrid” to describe the increasing complexity of conflict that will require a highly adaptable and resilient response from U.S. forces, and not to articulate a new form of warfare.
– The term “hybrid” and hybrid-related concepts appear in DOD overarching strategic planning documents (e.g., 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review Report); however,“hybrid warfare” has not been incorporated into DOD doctrine.

So, what do I take out of this? We’re arguing over taxonomy and semantics, not war itself. Those we’re giving the mission of studying warfare are talking past each other. In the end, it doesn’t matter a hill of beans if warfare is called hybrid, 5th/6th/xth Generation. What matters is a clear description of what is going on in the battle field and an accurate depiction, nothing else. Further more, and I may well be wrong about this but, is looking at the tactics used in combat and adding them all up together a good way to create strategy? Strategy isn’t just a summation of tactics, it is something unto itself. Is it right that we are taking this approach to strategy? Methinks not. I read somewhere once, in Battle Ready by Toni Zinny I think, that field grade officers end up on cable news commenting on strategy and general officers end up commenting on tactics. This seems to be the same sort of situation here, where we’re looking at the world almost inside out in terms of warfare–calling tactics strategy and vice versa.

As much as my meager experience and reading can qualify me to say it, I think we’re in the midst of a significant crisis of lack of strategic thought in the Armed Forces. Not because we’re all stupid. But, because we do not allow ourselves to go past step one in the process of describing war–defining terms.

Is it that it isn’t just the enlisted side of the house that needs to get brilliant on the basics? </snide comment>


UPDATE: Crispin Burke over at his blog Wings Over Iraq links to a Stars and Stripes article stating that the Army was revamping their training to focus more on hybrid war.

Posted by CTR1(SW) H. Lucien Gauthier III in Strategy, Tactics

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  • Replacing strategy with tactics? The acronym for that is COIN.

  • Matt Yankee

    Al Qaed/Extreme Islam is the perfect example of getting the tactics and strategy backwards. The war is now NOT called the War on Terror (strategic fight) and now we say the fight is just against Al Qaeda (tactical fight).

    The biggest down side to being rich and having everything you want, you lose the perspective of knowing what it is like to do without. It’s like the environmentalists who do not exist in the old days when finding food was more important than keeping the whales safe in the arctic. These are the problems of the rich who have too much time to think.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    One advantage to inventing your own lexicon and describing it as revolutionary and profound is that it spares you the effort of reading, much less mastering, the classics and the principles they illuminate. You can skip all that boring history, too. Why, you don’t have to study the past hardly at all…

    Declaring a revolution in military affairs…gets you to the evalution step without the pain of acquiring knowlege and comprehension, or learning how to do valid analysis or effective synthesis of what you have learned. All the better to criticize the low level practicioners and their annoying requests for support(manning, training, maintenence, realistic contingency planning, and a viable long range capital investment strategy).

    Just the thing for those in a tearing hurry to achieve great ambition on the force of glib speech,a winning personality, and a series of powerful mentors.