The model for military intervention would be the 200 Special Forces "horse soldiers" who beat the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan late in 2001. Such teams would deploy quickly and lethally, with ample reserves for relieving "first waves" and dealing with other crises.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
John Arquilla, the self-anointed prophet of net-centric warfare and proponent of the Rumsfeldian RMA, has a strange piece in the March/April edition Foreign Policy modestly entitled 'The New Rules of War.'
In it he decries the alleged myopia of the modern US military for remaining wedded to outmoded force structures, technology and doctrinal concepts, and proposes three new rules to kill by:
1. 'Many and small' beats 'Few and Big'
2. Finding matters more than flanking
3. Swarming is the new surging
I'll leave it to you to read his arguments in their original (and relatively concise) form rather than rehashing them here, but a couple of contradictions seem to to leap out.
First, at various points Arquilla applauds the Army for expanding the number of brigades and points to the limited pre-Surge establishment of small JSS/COPs as a positive example, but then proposes massive cuts in the number of personnel, arguing that:
Are we really back to citing a sort-of operational success that abjectly failed to achieve our strategic objectives as a model for the future? Aside from that absurdity, I find it bizarre that Arquilla seems to ignore the requirement for 'many' in his own construct of 'many and small.'
Second, he professes great admiration for the 'social networking' by US forces in Iraq that allowed them to hunt down insurgents, holding it up as an example of how the military should adapt to become a 'sensory organization.' Yet he manages to ignore the fact that quantity mattered: in general, Iraqis began providing information when there were enough American and/or locally trusted Iraqi troops around to convince them they'd be safe from insurgent reprisals. In some cases Iraqis took chances and reached out to the US before those troops were fully in place, but seemed to do so in the expectation that they were on their way. Moreover, such 'networking' isn't technological - it's human! Yes, linked databases, social network mapping software, biometric population control measures and other technological tools are important, but they aren't a replacement for the people who employ them effectively.
Finally, in all the discussion of ending heavy US investment in the capability to overmatch near-peer competitors in a conventional fight, I feel like we're kind of missing an obvious point. As Shawn Brimley and Vikram Singh's now legendary whiteboard scribblings depicted, the move to adopt hybrid warfare, anti-access strategies, and cyber-warfare by our adversaries represents strategic adaptation to American dominance of the conventional battlefield. While we clearly need to adapt in turn to deal with those threats, it shouldn't be at the expense of conventional dominance: that would just create a new gap for adversaries to exploit. Of course this is easier to say than to do, particularly in the age of multi-trillion dollar wars, global financial crises and fundamental changes to the world economy. But it should at least be acknowledged in the ongoing debates about the future threat environment that if the US is to remain the global hegemon, it's got to be able to deal with entire spectrum of threats, not just the bits that interest one pundit or another.