This was a year long project when I was a student at the US Army War College. It was required to be a group project. The picture is of Signal Knob at the north end of Massanutten Mountain in the Valley. pl
LTC Michael Eisenstadt (USAR) has written this excellent article on tribal engagement in Iraq. It has been published in the "Miliary Review." In civilian life he is a scholar at the "Washington Institute for Near East Policy." I recommend it. pl
This is the regimental coat of arms of the 1st Special Forces Regiment.
The United States Army has never liked Army Special Forces. The Green Berets started as a reincarnation of part of the OSS' World War 2 military mission. This was the part in which the OSS worked in occupied territory against the occupier using the locals as guerrillas. JFK adapted the unit to the counterinsurgency role when he was president. The men and officers were always selected for suitability in those roles. The job required a professional who did not need the psychological support of being in a big unit, was endlessly adaptable and innovative, good at languages and cultures and who liked working with foreigners. Special Forces sergeants are trained to command battalions of troops as required, irregular troops.
Over the years since VN there has been a steady infiltration of men into SF who are not the same breed. Fifteen years ago, the Army began to promote officers with this background to general officer rank. They tended to pick the ones with whom they were the least uncomfortable.
My friends tell me that the "rangerization" of Special Forces is nearing completion. What is left over after that process is complete will probably be made up into just another intelligence unit.
This general decided not to go quietly into "that good night." pl
"My own units in Vietnam were occasionally the victims of errant rifle fire, mortar rounds and bombs — indeed, the very success of an infantry attack is dependent on leaning forward into friendly supporting fires.
But, after the fact, the Tillman death played out differently. His unit reported that he was killed in a ferocious engagement with the enemy, and the truth was hidden by the chain of command until, as is almost always the case, the truth escaped. As has been proved repeatedly, bad news doesn’t get any better with age. Lt. Gen. Philip R. Kensinger Jr., who was responsible for the cover-up, has been censured and faces demotion.
Sadly, Corporal Tillman’s death comes with another unhappy legacy: a ludicrous change in the Army regulation that deals with reporting casualties. With this change, the Army now requires a formal, independent investigation into the death of every American in a hostile area.
If this provision had been in place when we began our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, there would have been about 3,700 investigations by now. The American losses in Vietnam would have required more than 58,000 inquiries. And if the regulation had existed in World War II, we would have conducted 400,000 investigations, requiring perhaps as many investigating officers as we now have troops in Iraq." Jack Jacobs
Jack Jacobs is a retired infantry colonel who holds the Medal of Honor. That makes him a kind of military saint, a marja' for soldiers.
What he is really saying in this oped is that if this new regulation is applied fully there will be no more combat operations. Indeed there will be no wars involving ground forces other than little teams of Special Operations people. That might not be a bad thing, but it is highly unlikely in light of the unchanging nature of humanity.
Major ground forces, doing major fighting inevitably suffer major losses. Sometimes these losses are so heavy that there are not enough survivors to deal with the wounded, much less the dead. I have seen rifle companies loose a third of their strength in killed in a day or two. That would be over fifty men. Another third were wounded. People these days sometimes say that no one should be left on a battlefield. Should the wounded carry the dead? This question often has to be answered in the presence of the enemy.
The point is that there are always a lot of dead. It is a natural circumstance of war. Individual investigation of combat deaths implies that these deaths are analogous to civilian deaths, perhaps to civilian police deaths. They are not.
CDI Science Fellow Haninah Levine has translated and summarized the findings of Israel’s Winograd Commission Interim Report that studied a selection of Israel’s failures in its recent conflict with the Hezbollah in Lebanon. The report goes into several issues, some of them indirectly, and it would seem to have ignored some other controversies. However, a few of the findings are very relevant to the defense debate – such as it is – in America. The report is bad news for the advocates of the so-called “revolution in military affairs” here. We provide a summary of some of Levine’s findings and a copy of his complete analysis of the Winograd Commission Interim Report.
Levine, an Israeli citizen and CDI science fellow, writes in his summary of the Winograd Commission Interim Report that the failures the Israel Defense Forces encountered “stemmed, according to the commission, from ‘excessive faith in the power of the Air Force and incorrect appraisal of the power and preparedness of the enemy, amounting to an unwillingness to examine the details.’” More precisely, the failure can be attributed to a new twist in the decades-old agenda of the advocates of air power. Levine’s analysis connects what some in this country call the “revolution in military affairs” to a “new doctrine [in Israel] which emerged as stating [according to the commission] that ‘success can be achieved by means of ‘effects’ and indirect ‘levers,’ in place of classic concepts of success….’” Later, Levine writes, “Faith in advanced air and artillery system as magical ‘game changing’ systems absolved the [Israeli] General Staff from the need to consider what capabilities … the enemy possessed, and led the IDF into a strategic trap….”
It is a trap, one might add, that America now finds itself enmeshed in Iraq and Afghanistan in large part for the same reasons.
Levine’s summary of the interim commission report also goes a step further: the inappropriate reliance by Israeli’s Chief of Staff Gen. Dan Halutz and others on their new doctrine was complemented – rather exacerbated – by a low state of readiness in the backbone of the Israel Defense Force, the reserve ground forces. Levine writes, “the annual training given to reserve combat units was slashed dramatically [before the war].” Moreover, he writes, “the military’s emergency supply depots witnessed a steady decline in equipment levels, such that by the outbreak of the war in July 2006 supplies of both ammunition and medical equipment were dangerously low. ‘Even more worrisome,’ according to the commission, ‘is the lack of awareness within both military and civilian echelons regarding the factual state of matters.’”
The commission stated specifically, “the quality of equipment in the depots sent a message about values to the reserve soldiers. And in fact, missing, obsolete or broken equipment told the reservist that there was no one making sure that he would be equipped in a manner … that would allow him to operate in an optimal way….”
Given the shortages in many categories of U.S. equipment before and during the American invasion and occupation of Iraq (such as tactical radios, small arms ammunition, first aid kits, machinegun repair parts, M4 carbines and much else – to say nothing of body armor) and the backlogs of unrepaired equipment lining up at American military depots, the Israeli commission’s findings have a particularly unpleasant ring all too close to home.
Levine sums up the witches brew of high tech fantasies and basic unpreparedness: “as the conflict unfolded, Halutz’s optimistic assessment of the military’s state of readiness merged with his false confidence in the abilities of its advanced weapon systems … to create a state in which the chief of staff’s concept of what his forces were capable of achieving was completely divorced both from reality and from what the information available to him suggested.” One could, of course, substitute the name Donald Rumsfeld for Halutz in this conclusion.
Because the Winograd Commission failed to address them, two major issues are not discussed. There is a potential, perhaps even direct, connection between Halutz’s preoccupation with Israel’s version of the “revolution in military affairs” and the low preparedness of the Israeli ground forces: to pay for the high cost of high tech wizardry, it seems very possible that military readiness was selected as the “bill payer.” Secondly, the Winograd Commission’s interim report apparently did not address one of the most controversial elements of the campaign in Lebanon: the apparent “collective punishment” of civilian targets in Lebanon by Israeli artillery and air systems.
In the United States, the “revolution in military affairs” is being recognized as an abject failure only dimly and only in some corners; the Winograd Commission would seem to indicate that in Israel the matter is being faced a little more directly. On the other hand, in both countries it is not clear when, even if, the body politic will confront the issue of the civilian deaths resulting from domestic military forces and the very likely huge and long lasting ramifications that “collateral damage” (an atrocious euphemism) will incur, and already has.
The entirety of Levine’s summary of the Winograd Commission Interim Report follows; it also addresses other issues; it is worth reading.
"For the second time in a generation, the United States faces the prospect of defeat at the hands of an insurgency. In April 1975, the U.S. fled the Republic of Vietnam, abandoning our allies to their fate at the hands of North Vietnamese communists. In 2007, Iraq's grave and deteriorating condition offers diminishing hope for an American victory and portends risk of an even wider and more destructive regional war.
These debacles are not attributable to individual failures, but rather to a crisis in an entire institution: America's general officer corps. America's generals have failed to prepare our armed forces for war and advise civilian authorities on the application of force to achieve the aims of policy. The argument that follows consists of three elements. First, generals have a responsibility to society to provide policymakers with a correct estimate of strategic probabilities. Second, America's generals in Vietnam and Iraq failed to perform this responsibility. Third, remedying the crisis in American generalship requires the intervention of Congress." Yingling
This is a visionary article written by a man who would rather tell the truth than be promoted. His appeal to Congress to reform the Army's promotion system highlights the system's inability to change itself. It is too dominated by a self perpetuating clique of conformists to be capable of that.
He insists that the great majority of Army generals still do not understand the war in Iraq. He is correct.
This post is about the ongoing process of transformation of the US Army. It will not seem so at first, but I will get "there."
There is a whole genre of enjoyable escapist fiction that "runs" under the rubric, "combat science fiction." The "Hammer's Slammers" series is one of the best. It was written by David Drake. A pioneering work of this type was "Starship Troopers" by Robert Heinlein. I read that as a teenager. The wretched movie inspired by it does not compare except for the shower room scene which IMO should be retained in any re-make. In the Heinlein book the Mobile Infantry platoon is informally known as "Racszak's Roughnecks" for a long dead platoon commander. This is great stuff to read at the beach or somewhere like that.
What does this have to do with US Army transformation? Maybe not much except that some of the conversations and writing about "the transformation" begin to seem after a while as though they were inspired by an early and persistent exposure to this kind of literature.
If you read the remarkably good Wiki piece below on transformation, you will see that what is being done is revolutionary, not evolutionary. The army that will emerge from the process described will have deployable forces centered on brigade combat teams that are essentially miniature "divisions" containing all arms and services and reinforced through "attachment" with whatever other modular support units that are deemed necessary for a given situation. These forces will have only a fraction of the artillery fire support available in the past and will be frighteningly dependent on the air forces for the close air support which is expected to substitute for the missing artillery. LOL on that one.
I had understood that all "that" was inspired by the need to deal with 4th Generation Warfare (4GW) enemies. If that is so, then why are the forces destined to emerge from this process and described in the literature not specifically designed to deal with 4GW enemies. 4GW enemies are supposedly enemies that are irregular, lightly armed and usually not representatives of a state, at least not officially. 4GW enemies can be combated with light infantry forces, SF types to organize and lead anti-irregulars, effective human oriented intelligence people, some Delta type "door kickers" to chase the "underground," and some light aircraft for fire support and transport.
The forces described in the "transformation" are mostly armored in one way or another. The Army is seeking the funds to buy a whole new "fleet" of multi-role combat vehicles, the Future Combat System (FCS) program, for the purpose, I suppose of re-equipping the mechanized BCTsof the "transformed force." The intelligence and reconnaissance elements of the "transformed" force are the same kind of electronic sensor "happy" technically oriented people who have done so poorly against a low-tech 4GW set of enemies in the last five years. The force described makes more sense if it is designed, in fact, to fight small to medium sized conventional wars in an "expeditionary" role. Maybe that is why Rumsfeld kept calling it an expeditionary army.
Now, I know that the Army will still have Green Berets to deal with the "natives," Foreign Area Officers (cultural specialists) (FAOs,) to do whatever it is that disdainful "line "officers" are willing to let them do, and some light infantry, but the "transformed" force is not maximized for the GWOT or whatever they are calling it these days.
It will be argued that the Army needs to be ready for a variety of enemies. That is true, but common sense would dictate creation of a force that is maximized against one's most likely opponents.