08 December 2010

Wikileak-er: Activist vs. Terrorist

I realize that I am about to raise a thorny issue... Yet the sheer mass of events unfolding in the news in the last two weeks around the WikiLeaks release of DoS cables is difficult to ignore. Word of a pro-WikiLeaks cyber-attack started to filter into the media (here and here) showing a group of so-called "hacktivists" performing denial of service attacks on websites of companies that have broken contact with WikiLeaks over its recent actions. The attacks appear to be organized by a group of sympathizers who have been actively tweeting their intent, resulting in disabling attacks on MasterCard, Visa, PayPal and Amazon.com over. Interestingly, they are following on the heels of an anti-WikiLeaks attack on Nov 29th (see here).

Concurrently, the infamous founder of WikiLeaks is in some legal hot water in Europe over some interestingly ambiguous sexual assault charges coming from Sweden.

So this is the situation, but what is the context? A foreign organization (WikiLeaks) has been actively disseminating USG secret documents after receiving them from sources internal to the USG.

This is where it gets thorny. Throughout the on-line world there is intense forum and media discussion around a deceptively simple question...what do you call what WikiLeaks is doing? Is it journalism? Is it espionage? Is it, maybe even terrorism? The first amendment is often invoked and just as often countered by a security prerogative. And then you have the active interlocutors in the discussion (aka hacktivists), who contribute to the debate with their actions. Even the USG is painfully confused with Attorney General Holder claiming "intense investigations", Senators throwing around espionage, and the President mysteriously silent on the whole thing (example). So round and round we go...what do we do with a foreign man who has taken it upon himself to damage American interests and has a rag-tag army of loosely organized, volunteer supporters?

Wait...that is the question, isn't it?

While it might sound as hyperbole, there is a real issue of precedent here. Precedent set not on hijacked aircraft but in electrons. For a decade we have heard of the emerging threat of cyber-terrorism and cyber-attack from China or Iran. For a decade we have speculated that it might come as an attack on the banking system, electrical grid, or even the DOD networks. Yet we are inexplicably confused about what to call WikiLeaks. Does good faith make one's actions less damaging to the interests of the country we live in? If Al Qaeda got a hold of a laptop with US secrets and released them for the world to see how evil America is would we not call that an act of terror? What exactly is the rule for defending American interests? Perhaps there are no rules and at the end of the day we are just winging it (as the Administration's frustrating-to-watch confusion seems to imply)?

Those are the questions that come to mind. But allow me a moment to indulge in my own conclusions. There is no issue of freedom of speech here. There is no issue fairness or journalistic privilege here. In fact, there is no issue of due process here or justice. In Iraq the US Bill of Rights no more applies than the Iraqi Constitution in the US. Even Julian Assange himself notes the irony of charging an Australian with betraying the USA (
here). What we do have is an issue of a foreign citizen acting knowingly against US interests around the WORLD! Not even in just Iraq or Afghanistan or any other single issue. But an outright effort to discredit the United States. That is what we call in the US Army, an IO campaign (Information Operations). That is also what we would call a non-lethal weapon. So, why do we not insist that Australia attempt to control its citizen? To be frank, until today that would have been enough, in my opinion, as otherwise it would mean taking action against a citizen of an ally, an issue all its own. Yet with the hacktivists carrying out cyber-attacks, the WikiLeaks campaign has taken on a new dimension. After all, a cyber-attack is as much a weapon system in our arsenal as an IO campaign. Except enterprising hackers can do a lot of damage. So perhaps Julian Assange is a wayward citizen of an ally that needs to be brought in line. But the hacktivists are bona fide terrorists that need to be pursued as such if the US is serious about protecting its interests and not just winging it. After all, all of us that have put on a uniform and gone to war were doing just that, so it must be important...no?

As to the issue of the press. There is none. WikiLeaks is foreign. The NYT has published what WikiLeaks published and no action is even contemplated against them. But then again, the NYT also shows us the occasional Al Qaeda motivational also. There is a broader issue than speech, and that is mens rea. The idea that WikiLeaks and the hacktivists are intending to harm US policy and at least for those of them who are not US persons there needs to be a swift, multi-avenue response. For those that are, we have plenty of hacker laws on the books. And for those that leak, they are the ones that take the risk of Espionage.

A few thoughts..............so much more to say.......

07 December 2010

Pearl Harbor Day

Today is December 7th. For a historical reminder of the importance of this day read DP’s post from last year here. One of my favorite posts from our team.

Also fully encourage you check out CS Monitor’s photo gallery titled, “Pearl Harbor remembered”; moving and motivating images.

02 December 2010

Leadership Failures, Command Importance and Counseling. Seriously, all of that's in here.

Received this article a couple hours ago, written by the famous “PowerPoint Ranter” COL(R) Lawrence Sellin, from a buddy. Good article overall, however the first couple paragraphs of this article are spot on and warrant recitation.

“I think that there are serious problems with the culture of Army leadership: close-mindedness, careerism, an aversion to innovation or creativity born of the fallacy that everything can fit into a step-by-step procedure, and a task-oriented mindset that creates an atmosphere of anti-intellectualism...and not only those who can think, but those who possess the moral courage to stand up for the hard truths that their bosses are unwilling to accept. I think this is going to be especially important as we transition away from Iraq and Afghanistan and attempt to prepare for unknown future conflicts.


It has always seemed odd to me that the US military spends billions of dollars on service academies, war colleges, graduate programs and other forms of education in order to train people to think, but then places them inside a bureaucracy that prevents them from doing so.The step-by-step procedures and task orientation methods like the Military Decision Making Process can create a mindless group mentality that inhibits discussion and stifles innovation. Although intelligent people may be embedded within such a system, all can be dragged downstream by the same aimless bureaucratic current.”


What specifically struck me was the comment from the first paragraph, written by a Lieutenant, was the aversion to innovation and creativity. I don’t think a single person in the Army will tell you they haven’t seen this. It takes a good Commander to change this mindset and atmosphere; and one who cares about nothing more than winning each and every day while bringing his men home safe. *Eagle 6, if you’re reading this (which you better be; otherwise I think we’re down to only our mothers and significant others reading this blog), I really miss being in your unit. We didn’t always see eye to eye but at least you let mine, or Eagle 2, or Eagle 3A’s voices be heard and honestly assessed our opinions and recommendations. I wish I saw more of that these days. Innovation was a strong suit of the entire Battalion under your leadership.* This is unfortunately largely lacking and undoubtedly one reason we struggled in Iraq for so long and continue to struggle in Afghanistan today.

Enough about PowerPoint and COL Sellin’s distaste for it has already been written. Instead, I finally have a way to recommend a book I read last spring in Iraq titled, “A Question of Command”. If you haven’t read it, go
buy it now and put away the latest Harry Potter or Twilight book that you’re currently pouring your heart and soul into. Mark Moyar’s thesis is outstanding; it’s well written with good case studies and really should be somewhere on the CMH Recommended Reading List. If you haven’t already, read it now. Moyar provides excellent historical reference on the importance of leadership in a counterinsurgency. COL Sellin’s article accurately spells out what is lacking and what we’re actually dealing with for the most part. Before I go any further, I’m not saying it’s like this everywhere, just most places.
Now on to my somewhat connected but not really rant of the week.

At the Battalion and below level, an organization is really only as good as its Commander. You can have bad Majors; a bad staff, bad Company Commanders even, but what keeps it all together and moving forward is that dynamic Battalion Commander. You can have the best Companies and staff in the Army and it’s all for naught if your Battalion Commander is lacking. As young Lieutenants and surly (and frequently disgruntled) Captains we are constantly reminded of a leaders’ responsibility to counsel subordinates, Officer and Non Commissioned Officer alike. Counseling is a very important part of the military culture. If you think I’m wrong ask a Commander or First Sergeant the importance of counseling when it comes to chaptering a Soldier out of the Army. Paramount. After nearly five years on various Battalion staffs, I have become increasingly concerned with the lack of counseling of Junior Officers. I say this strictly to highlight that it’s not an isolated incident but is endemic across the Army. In this almost half decade of toiling (read: rotting) away on staff I have received one counseling that came in the form of an Officer Evaluation Report (OER) counseling from my senior rater for an annual OER. These are great when utilized along with the other theoretically mandatory counseling’s. At the bottom of the first page of an OER is Part IV, Block d: Officer Development (requiring a mandatory yes or no entry for CPTs, LTs, CW2s and WO1s. It asks a simple question, “Were developmental tasks recorded on DA Form 67-9-1a and quarterly follow-up counselings conducted?” Yes that misspelling is straight from the form. TFor those of you not in the Army a DA Form 67-9-1a is an OER Support Form where we essentially highlight all the things we were supposed to do, all the things we did throughout the rating period, what special skills we have that better the Army and what jobs we’d like to have in the future. But before you get to the “pat yourself on the back” portion of the OERSF, there’s Part III which is verification of face-to-face discussion, i.e. counseling sessions with your rater (boss). There are spaces for an initial counseling and three periodic (quarterly) follow-up counseling sessions. This, unfortunately, is largely a hand jam as counseling sessions are rarely conducted for Company Grade Officers. This constitutes an absolute failure by our leaders in developing the next generation of leaders and sets a dangerous precedent for the perpetuation of poor leadership, laziness, non-confrontation, whatever you want to call it. I call it an epic failure and I believe it’s one of the many reasons droves of young Officers eligible to REFRAD continue to submit their paperwork. Frustration can come quickly if you have no idea what’s expected of you in a new job, or you just have a scatter-brained boss whose priorities for you continue to morph and change on a daily basis. Developmental counseling’s lead to far less confusion and clearly delineate what is expected of that young Officer, Sergeant or Soldier. Besides that, it’s a disservice not only to the young Officer or Sergeant, but also to his subordinates and it could contribute to the stunting of his professional development. We’re all busy but it does not relieve us of our responsibilities as a leader or supervisor.

Long story short, if you haven’t read Moyar’s book, you need to. And for Christ’s sake, if you are behind in your counseling’s, get on it.

28 November 2010

Beaver Nation and (Unrelated) Cyber Attack

Quite a few developments over the Thanksgiving weekend. Unfortunately not a ton of time to delve into them as I have a long, snowy drive back to Western Washington ahead of me.

Tip of the hat to the FBI for their work in
Portland. Some are calling it entrapment but the kid was motivated. Remember Minneapolis? Another reminder that the Somali diaspora is probably the most at-risk segment of our population for radicalization. The fire this morning at the Salman al-Farisi Islamic Center was an interesting development; I’m pretty stoked to learn who is responsible for this vengeful act. And finally, the kid’s (or was now that he’s behind bars) a Beaver, so his sanity should have been checked prior to enrollment. Just sayin.

WikiLeaks. Lots of articles and analysis of the information being released this round; Starbuck’s is definitely worth a
read most for his insightful analysis linking the State Department to the movie Mean Girls (which is likely giving the State Dept. too much credit). All I can add is that I fully support any attack on the WikiLeaks site. I can’t believe it took us this long to respond (assuming it was us that is).

04 November 2010

Ibrahim Hassan al Asiri

Ibrahim Hassan al Asiri, assessed to be the lead explosives expert for AQAP.

In the wake of the recent interdiction of two potential "printer-bombs" on flights bound for the US, I wanted to briefly call attention to a post I wrote back in February about Ibrahim Hassan al Asiri - who I assessed at the time to be the top explosives expert for AQAP. Recent comments from high-level government and intelligence officials seem to confirm my original assessment that he is in fact serving in this role and likely has been since as early summer 2009 (when his brother Abdullah blew himself up in a failed attempt to kill Saudi Prince Muhammad bin Nayef). For an excellent updated biography of Ibrahim al Asiri, check out this story from the BBC.

The question I have to ask is why we haven't used our extensive HUMINT network (courtesy of the Saudis - who by the way tipped us on this latest planned attack) and SIGINT network to kill/capture this guy over the course of the last year? Although the interdiction of the explosives was a success story, if we had done our job more effectively in the first place, we could have potentially removed the key individual from the network who possessed enough knowledge to construct these devices in the first place.

01 November 2010

PM Maliki Is My Hero

Not sure how I missed this since it was in my inbox courtesy of Google Alerts, but Maliki having a well trained direct action force at his fingertips is probably not a bad thing. I’ve seen the Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) operate on multiple deployments and they truly have developed into an impressive CT force. The fact that Maliki wants them at his personal finger tips is umm… well, a little disturbing. Or maybe I’m just being paranoid. Read more here, http://bit.ly/dle4SX .

23 October 2010

The Growing "Re-Insurgency" in Iraq

I continue to be disturbed by reports from Iraq that indicate the beginnings of a Sunni "re-insurgency." One of the op-eds in Wednesday's New York Times does a good job of summarizing the two primary drivers of instability:

1) The movement toward formation of a unity government that will essentially be controlled by Shia interests - leaving the Sunnis with little to no representation. The recent announcement of an alliance of convenience between the Maliki's party and Sadr's party puts the Shia within striking distance of a majority in parliament, with the Kurds essentially serving as kingmakers. The Kurds are likely to join the alliance (after extracting as many concessions as they can), leaving Allawi (and the majority of the Sunnis who voted for him) hanging out to dry. Thus, in the eyes of the Sunni populace, even though their candidate won more seats than any other candidate in the March 7 elections, they are somehow being almost completely disenfranchised. This doesn't exactly incentivize participation by the Sunnis at any level (local, provincial, national) and fuels growing feelings of disappointment, resentment, and anger amongst the Sunni populace.

2) The failure to effectively transition members of the Awakening ("Sahwa") movement into follow-on jobs (whether within the ISF or other government-provided jobs) - creating a cadre of military-trained, unemployed, and disaffected Sunni males. As this exceptional article in the New York Times points out, this creates the ideal conditions for AQI to recruit these young men back into the insurgency. As the article points out:

"Although there are no firm figures, security and political officials say hundreds of the well-disciplined fighters — many of whom have gained extensive knowledge about the American military — appear to have rejoined AQI. Beyond that, officials say that even many of the Awakening fighters still on the Iraqi government payroll, possibly thousands of them, covertly aid the insurgency...

As of July, less than half — 41,000 of 94,000 — of the Awakening’s fighters had been offered jobs by the government, according to the Department of Defense. Much of the employment has been temporary and involved menial labor. The government has hired only about 9,000 Awakening members for the security forces, with officials blaming budget constraints."

The case of Nadim al Jabouri, one of the former Awakening leaders quoted in the article, illustrates the ongoing efforts of Maliki's government to weaken the Awakening movement (and thereby the larger Sunni bloc) across the country. Nadim, born and raised in the Sunni stronghold of Duluiyah in Salahadin Province, was a top leader within the AQI organization from 2003-2006 - serving as both a military and media emir at various points during those years. During my first deployment to Iraq in 2005-06, Mullah Nadim (as he was known at the time) was my Battalion's #1 high-value target (HVT) - driven by a massive amount of confirmed intelligence reporting linking him to attacks against US and Iraqi forces across the province. Nadim had been the imam of the Khulafa Mosque in Duluiyah, using his street cred as a self-proclaimed imam to rally the local Sunni youth (and coerce the Jabouri tribal leadership) into fighting both US forces and the Shia-dominated Iraqi Army units in the area.

When I returned to Iraq at the end of 2007, Nadim had essentially switched sides and was the leader of the local Sahwa group - actually living and working from an office on an American base. Although this was initially a tough pill for me to swallow, I recognized the need to work with historically unsavory characters to provide some measure of security. Unsurprisingly, attacks, violence, and intimidation dropped dramatically in the area as Nadim's group of 200-300 Awakening members continued to receive pay from US forces and then for a time from the national government. However, as time progressed and US forces began to shift their attention to other matters and the impending drawdown of troops; and when the Shia-dominated national government took over responsibility for maintaining the Awakening program (on 01 Apr 09), they began a deliberate campaign to weaken and dismantle Awakening groups across the country.

In April of 2009, Nadim was the target of a massive suicide vest attack, which missed harming him but ended up killing five locals and wounding 18, including one of Nadim's brothers. The attack was likely the work of AQI leaders who were upset that Nadim had switched sides and was now helping US and Iraqi forces target AQI. Only one month later on May 4, Nadim and two of his brothers were arrested by Iraqi Security Forces in what was a fairly blatant, sectarian attempt to limit the growing strength of Nadim's group - and to check his growing political power (he was a leading local candidate for provincial/national office within a small Sunni party). Within two months time, Nadim had been targeted by both sides (AQI and the Iraqi government) and with US forces drawing down, he had few people to turn to for support and protection.

Events like this are occurring all across Iraq as Awakening leaders and fighters are arrested, intimidated, and left with no pay. This situation has created a group of trained, armed men who are now extremely disillusioned and angry with the government and left with little or no options for redress. As Nadim explained in the most recent New York Times article:

“The Awakening doesn’t know what the future holds because it is not clear what the government intends for them...At this point, Awakening members have two options: Stay with the government, which would be a threat to their lives, or help Al Qaeda by being a double agents."

The situation is not likely to improve as the Shia consolidate power in Baghdad and continue to undercut any efforts by the Sunni to secure themselves (and their towns) or gain more power through legitimate political means. In my opinion, we are seeing a perfect storm come together that gives Sunnis few options but to turn back towards an insurgency against the Shia-controlled national government. Unless the Iraqis (hopefully with US help) can figure out a more effective power-sharing deal at the national level and determine a better system to reintegrate Awakening fighters and leaders back into the workforce in a fair and legitimate manner, the situation could spiral out of control quickly and move towards an all-out civil war.

20 October 2010

Mobile Banking in Somalia

Something tells me this has more to do with HSM getting their slice of the pie than how un-Islamic it is. Anyone have more particulars on this trend? I know it’s being used in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I’d assume many other Muslim nations. Tip of the hat to Bill Roggio at LWJ for finding this morsel.

16 September 2010

AAFES Bans Video Game... Possible Punishment For Owning Medal of Honor?

Somehow this little gem from last week slipped past me. Last week AAFES (Army & Air Force Exchange Service, the military’s version of Walmart) announced it was banning the new Medal of Honor video game set to be released next month from its stores and GameStop’s operating on Army and Air Force bases. Honestly, I’m really not into video games. But anyone that’s spent more than five minutes around a Soldier in the US Army will realize that the overwhelming majority of our Soldiers are. But again, taken at face value the banning of selling this game by AAFES is no big deal. Most Soldiers who want this game will just go off base to purchase the game. Another good link to see how Soldiers feel about this decision by AAFES is available here.

Again, not a “gamer”. And I realize that saying this is no big deal opens me up to all sorts of criticism. But I’ll go ahead and say it anyway, this is not a big deal. I have lost friends and close comrades overseas. The game is set during early 2002’s Operation Anaconda; and while OEF continues to trudge on, how is this any different than a video game of WWII, Korea, Vietnam or any other war game or shooter? And anyone stupid enough to think that a video game is really like actual combat is just that, stupid. I am yet to meet a single Soldier who joined the Army because combat looked pretty cool in a video game. Not saying it hasn’t happened, but I am yet to meet this person.

Here’s where it may get better. Today a good friend (who is very well connected) told me that certain bases will make having this game on base a punishable offense. Not like, you have to rake some leaves or mow some grass kind of punishment, but paperwork in your permanent file kind of punishment. I have no idea whether this is actually going to happen, but if anyone else has heard about this, feel free to share. I’ll provide updates to this post if anything changes here.

Also, if playing a video game as Team Muj is insensitive, reprehensible, etc., would the Army also be right to ban training like Mirror Image because you learn how to think and act like a terrorist/insurgent/Mujahideen?

What do you think?

02 September 2010

Operation New Dawn or Yet Another Dawn?

First off, it’s great to be back in the US. After nearly three years of deployed time in Iraq, I’m fairly confident this was my last trip there. Obviously, after devoting the better part of my 20’s to either prepping for a deployment, or actually deployed, I have a fairly vested interest in Iraq; and also the American perception of our efforts in Iraq. Over the last week, there has been a tremendous amount of coverage regarding the formal end of combat operations in Iraq yesterday, 31 August. Yesterday Operation Iraqi Freedom ended and today brought the first day of Operation New Dawn and a new USFI Commanding General. Having worked extensively with the Diyala Provincial Reconstruction Team, I gained a solid and comprehensive understanding of the way ahead in Iraq. For the most part, I am a fan; it’s not perfect but I am just happy the State Department is finally taking the lead in Iraq.

Back to the topic at hand, the major headline in the news has been the end of formal combat operations and a transition to Stability Ops today (here, here and here). The reality though is that we really transitioned to stability ops as a force preemptively in December 2008 when conventional forces were bound to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). After SOFA, our ability to execute offensive operations was severely hampered by the Iraqi Security Forces, and pretty much the entire Government of Iraq (GoI). The post-SOFA reality for US Forces is that it has become more dangerous to operate with each passing day as our intelligence assets are pulled further away from its most important asset, the host nation population. Without good Human Intelligence the rest of our “int’s” become weaker and our ground forces suffer exponentially.

The other significant news last week was 4-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team’s execution of the last “combat patrol” in Iraq, which in all reality was a ground movement of their Strykers to Kuwait for movement back to the States. 4-2 SBCT was the last Brigade Combat Team in Iraq; now all that’s left are Advise and Assist Brigades. I love a good re-branding. A bunch of extra Field Grade Officers added to a Brigade Combat Team does not significantly alter the fact that these Brigades are still combat formations.

The reality: next week will be the same as last week for those living and serving in Iraq. There is still a lot of work to be done in Iraq. There is a significant ongoing SOF counter-terror mission that should not cease any time soon; evidence can be seen here. A new Iraqi government is nowhere in sight. Corruption and graft continue to plague the country. There is work to be done but we need a willing partner moving ahead, something that has been missing in Iraq for a long time.

01 September 2010

Misunderstanding Sets Back US-Pak Relations

I had to share this amusing (but unfortunate) story involving the temporary detention and interrogation of a delegation of Pakistani officers at Dulles yesterday. Sadly, the incident highlights the fact that a misunderstanding and poor decision-making by a flight attendant and security guards can set back relations between two countries. Despite the billions of dollars we donate annually in aid to Pakistan (particularly in the wake of the recent flooding), this incident is being viewed within Pakistan as a major "humiliation" that resulted from the "paranoia permeating US airports."

From the Washington Post:

"A delegation of senior Pakistani military officials visiting the United States for a major defense conference headed home in protest Tuesday night after they said they were interrogated and rudely treated by security officials at Dulles International Airport.

The nine-member group of high-ranking Pakistani officers boarded United Airlines Flight 727 from Washington to Tampa late Sunday but were pulled off the plane after one of them "made a comment to a flight attendant," said Mike Trevino, a United spokesman.

United did not provide details, but Pakistani officials said the remark came from a general in the delegation who - weary of a long day of travel that began in Islamabad - said, "I hope this is my last flight," or words to that effect.

That sparked a call to Dulles law enforcement officials, who detained the delegation for 2.5 hours and refused to allow the officials to contact their embassy or the U.S. military officials who had invited them to visit, according to a Pakistani military official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Pakistanis were finally released after police at Dulles determined they did not pose a threat. But instead of proceeding to Tampa, the delegation was ordered to return to Pakistan by their military superiors in Islamabad, in protest of their treatment, the Pakistani official said, adding that they were "verbally abused." The group of officers spent the next 48 hours in Washington, waiting for the next available flight home, and were scheduled to depart the United States on Tuesday evening.

The Pakistani officers were originally en route to U.S. Central Command headquarters in Tampa to attend the annual conference of the U.S.-Pakistan Military Consultative Committee, said Maj. David Nevers, a Central Command spokesman. He said Centcom officials hoped to reschedule the conference."

30 August 2010

Myopia: A commentary on military vogue

Recently, a string of articles on the milblog www.smallwarsjournal.com (note 1) has unintentionally highlighted a weak-link in the philosophical chains that string together the concepts and skills of the military profession. At first glance the debate appears to be a parochial, all be it professional, dispute centered on the future of the Armor Corps of the US Army and broadly on the state of the Army's high-intensity combat skills. Written mostly by career Army combat arms officers (mostly teaching at West Point, incidentally) the debate at first glance resembles the spirit of the rather intense branch infighting that characterized the US Army of the 1930's with the introduction of the battle tank (note 2).

The tank of old threatened the primacy of the Infantry and sides were picked. There were conservative voices and liberal 'revolutionary' voices. There were also the moderate ones who seem to have won and integrated both for 60 yrs without accepting the absolutisms of the poles. The focus now is COIN, supposedly an innovation, and the effect it has on the high-intensity, heavy weapons tactical skills in the Army. Again, one side says COIN has atrophied them all but irrevocably while the other insists that the new environment is something to be embraced unequivocally as the status quo. And again, there are the moderates, like LTC Thomas J Weiss (note 3) that suggest a middle ground, a synthesis, is the way to go. Both debates seem to deal with a "newness" that was/is at once threatening the old order and yet could be on the cusp of revolution. However, the otherwise praiseworthy middle-ground article by LTC Weiss betrays the philosophical fallacy that underpins the whole debate by asking the question "...how best do we organize and train our forces for future conflict?" This assumption, that there is something new that is unparalleled and unknown. Something that is "future" is different than the "past" in some fundamental and as-yet unappreciated way, is atrophying something far more critical than a tactical skill set, the profession of arms.

In many ways it is the same mental trend that gripped the Officer Corps post-Vietnam and produced the likes of the Powell Doctrine. The idea that first, America in the future will have a say in the types of conflicts it fights and secondly (and most dangerously) that America has the ability to predict those conflicts with a certainty that will define its capabilities. In the past it led to the insistence that America will not be involved in low-intensity conflict (LIC) or insurgent actions, therefore we will only develop heavy forces. Indeed, that focus has allowed us to steam roll Iraq, twice. Instantly occupy Panama and Granada and otherwise sail and fly around the globe seemingly at will. On the other hand, that focus brought us the absolute misery of Iraq 2004-2009. We invented terminology like COIN and Asymmetrical Warfare and decided that we must win hearts-and-minds and decided that there was a spectrum to warfare to cope with our glaring deficiencies in occupation skill sets and that this is a "new, modern, future war". Yet all this simply betrayed the multi-generational failure of our Officer Corps to understand our profession and to confirm that it has not learned the lesson well at all.

The Roman army spent the better part of a millennium patrolling and administering the Empire, not fighting set piece battles. But when it could no longer mobilize for those battles it lost the Empire. Likewise, the British Empire mostly spent its time floating about and dealing with this insurgency or that, with a major war every few decades that required massive armies. History goes on ad nauseam with examples that show that perhaps 9 out of 10 man-years of the professional civilized soldier are spent patrolling and dealing with rebellion. In other words, LIC is the historical norm. The slight problem with that understanding however, is magnitude. While it may be that the US Army conducting LIC is actually the historical norm (Indian-Wars, Philippines, etc) when it is waged poorly it usually drains coffers and kills men. But in the end the failure rarely has any immediate dramatic impact on the civilization deploying those men. Fail in high-intensity, however, and you may well lose everything (a dynamic illustrated eloquently by LTC Weiss in his concluding statements).

Unlike the battle tank, which revolutionized warfare technologically, COIN is not an innovation but a technique. Read Machiavelli for examples. COIN is a technique that is available to every Prince, President and Viceroy to deal with a rebellion; one of several techniques and for our liberal, enlightened dispositions perhaps the most palatable. Pacification and more specifically control of the population is its ultimate goal however. If you are resorting to COIN it means you already have a rebellion, you already lost control.

The medical profession is expected to regard human biological welfare in all spheres to better the health of the people. The legal profession is expected to regard the interpretation and application of the law in all spheres to manage the formal relationships of the people. The military profession is and must be expected to understand and apply the “full spectrum of operations” to enforce the interests of the state it serves and this means being able to do so everywhere on the spectrum. A medical system that trains orthopedic surgeons while presuming cardiologists and neurologists to be not terribly necessary because of frequency of case types would reset 1000 broken bones but fail to save 100 lives. Would the profession be lacking in that case? I think so.

History is full of high intensity and low intensity conflict. To presume that the next 20 yrs will be fundamentally different than the last 5,000 in terms of human behavior is the height of hubris. Alexander II of Russia was assassinated by a secondary IED in 1881 after the primary failed. The Algerian rebellion used IEDs and civilian population attacks to drive out the French. The US pacified a culturally alien and hateful Japan after WWII. USAMGIK secured and westernized a culturally alien South Korea (including putting down internal, non communist, rebellions as necessary) while the Chinese tried the same in the North. And a resurgent German Army energized by a hypercharismatic leader started a world war and fought for 5 yrs against an alliance led by 3 titanic nations to the amazement of all involved. A professional Officer Corps would have recognized and internalized those lessons in order to fulfill its professional obligation to its society. Yet, these examples that are snow flakes on the iceberg of history are not taught to the Corps as a competency either pre-commissioning or post. Instead these issues are left to the musings of CGSC Colonels and academics, while the Lieutenants and Captains rarely go beyond learning how to react to running over a mine in predeployment, all the while being told that they are the ground pounding leaders of COIN.


Note 1:

http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/2010/04/the-death-of-the-armor-corps/; http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/journal/docs-temp/447-smith.pdf; http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/2010/08/mostly-dead/

Note 2:

The Challenge of Change: Military Institutions and New Realities, 1918-1941. Harold R. Winton (Editor), David R. Mets (Editor)

Note 3:

. LtCol Thomas J. Weiss - Mostly Dead: Continuing the Discussion on the Reported Death of the Armor Corps, 26 Aug 2010