This is Kirk, the “…55kg of concerned canine citizen…” I referred to in Lex’s Angel post the other day. Kirk and his half-sister Lulu live with us. Kirk is concerned that readers understand that he is not responsible for the mess in the background and is really a gentle giant…
Kirk and Lulu are a bit miffed with me tonight as their dinner was an hour later as I had a catch-up call from a friend that covered an awful lot of ground. We bemoaned, as are a growing number in the US, that officer training especially seems to have been dumbed down in favour of operational deployments with the inevitable result that we have a great many officers experienced in operations, many of whom would rather go on more operations and avoid ‘boring’ activities like tertiary study, and who are losing their ability to think and articulate outside operational scenarios.
Apart from the value of just having a general catch-up, one of the outcomes of this chat was a link to a paper in the Fort Leavenworth Combined Arms Research Library (CARL) written by a Kiwi officer, MAJ ‘TJ’ Johanson, Changes in Maori warfare between the period prior to first European contact and the end of the New Zealand Wars. It’s an interesting read, although I am only half way through it at the moment. My thoughts so far are that I would extend the period of the New Zealand Wars out by another four years to 1872 to include the COIN campaign (does anyone still really think COIN was invented by the Brits in Malaya?) against Te Kooti; and that this paper begs for someone to overlay it with Jim Gant’s Tribal Engagement Concept and David Kilcullen’s Accidental Guerrilla model. While not essential, surviving a domestic COIN campaign is certainly a valuable keystone in developing not so much the tactics but the ethos of a capable COIN force, and, as per my comment a couple of days ago, this is one reason why I think that the Australian LWD 3-0-1 CounterInsurgency has trouble getting off the ground. It’s unfortunate that more Kiwis officers aren’t producing contemporarily relevant material like this.
Another important outcome of this chat was that it reminded of the value of mates. Yes, Kirk, you’re my mate too but this is different…and I find myself incredibly lucky to have friends that go out of their way to keep in touch, especially since I think they know that I’m not the greatest at reciprocating and have a tendency to allow the op tempo to distract me away from things that are truly important. Much as we love where we live, it is a bit isolated and more so while Carmen is working away from home. I’m not that impressed about being out of work and even less so by how this circumstance came to pass – but that’s another story that will probably keep for the memoirs – and so appreciate even more that contact with the wider world. Today I’ve made a conscious effort to re-establish comms with old friends and been rewarded by renewed contact with a guy I first met on an RNZAF 727 bound for Singapore in August 1987, when he and his wife were struggling with three small and very unhappy toddlers, and a friend in the USAF who I am absolutely rapt to find is now a Brigadier-General – and still flying fast jets…!
Training and education
@ Small Wars Journal yesterday there is a thread headed up “Army Learning Concept for 2015 – Thinking Soldiers – Learning Army!!” The aim is to “…augment the most effective aspects of our current learning system while ensuring relevant and rigorous training and education is available and accessible…” While I support the aim, I am not yet convinced that “…in order to prevail in future conflict we must first win in the competitive learning environment…” nor that the Army has “…a future characterized by its persistent learning environment...” While the future may be characterised by many things, outside the minds of a few chalkies, a ‘persistent learning environment’ is unlikely to be one of them. The learning environment is what may characterise the Army, for better or worse…whether or not it prepares it for the future is another story entirely.
For over a week I have been working on an item based upon two commentaries, one of which I quoted in The Plot Thickens. Speaking at an event hosted by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) last week, GEN James Mattis, Commander US JFCOM, cautioned that “…the only thing worse than obsolete weapons in war is obsolete thinking…” and advocated a broader more contemporary approach to education, especially for the officer corps. While clearly directed at the US military, his comments could apply with equal weight to the other members of the Anglosphere. He “…bemoaned that senior-ranking military members aren’t allowed ample time to reflect critically on important issues…” GEN Mattis’ comments cover an 80-page study released by CNAS at the same time, entitled Keeping The Edge: Revitalizing America’s Military Officer Corps.
The same week, William J. Astore criticises what he perceives as the US military’s ‘German fetish’ at TomDispatch.com. He attributes America’s poor performance in recent conflicts to its fascination with the operational art of war which he links directly to “…a flourishing “Cult of Clausewitz…” The strength of his argument seems to be that “… the German Blitzkrieg of World War II ended with Germany’s “third empire” thoroughly thrashed by opponents who continued to fight even when the odds seemed longest…”; applying the same logic one would wonder why we don’t all follow the French who, apparently, ‘won’ two world wars in the 2oth Century… While his discussion goes on to bemoan the apparent loss of America’s citizen soldiers, this essay does imply some significant gaps in training and preparing for the contemporary environment.
Astore is correct when he points out flaws in the technology-dominated ‘shock and awe‘ philosophy that arose from the coalition ‘victory’ over Iraq in 1991; and that operational philosophies succumbed to the lure of templatisation in the last decade of the 20th Century. Coupled with these flaws, was the distortion of the philosophies of directive control and mission command, allowing weak commanders an ‘out’ in lieu of intervention when subordinates head off the path of truth, light and their commanders’ intent.
The simple fact is that we have still to really make to philosophical shift from the familiar and more comfortable doctrine of the Cold War – in short, too many personnel are still lining up at the Fulda Gap Railway Station. In the past, I have referred to the Cold War as ‘easier’ than our contemporary environment…that’s not correct and I shouldn’t do it. Halting the Soviet juggernaut as it steamrolled across Europe was never going to be an easy task but it is a different task from those faced today. I’m also very conscious of the rapid rate of change in the contemporary world and the subjective nature of terms like ‘today’.
The nature of the differences between Cold War and contemporary is key to the issues identified by GEN Mattis and William Astore, for which the Army Learning Concept 2015 MAY be a solution. That these significant differences exist was also the first significant finding of the COIN doctrine review. At that time, late 2007, we considered it crucial that these differences be incorporated as a key element in the training and education foundation for operating in the contemporary environment. Soon after, these findings were independently validated by Josh Wineera’s early work on Interbella, challenging extant methods of considering the mission space in the IPB process.
Tomorrow, I’ll start to work through the differences that fell out of the review…
The reason that I have rather abruptly postponed the remainder of the previous item is that Michael Yon has just, in the past hour, released his Dispatch on the Tarnak Bridge bombing and subsequent drama vis-a-vis who was/is actually responsible for the security of this important link out of Kandahar. Regardless of his propensity for shooting from the lip sometimes, I have to admit that the guy can write and has made excellent use of graphics to illustrate the cloud cuckoo wunderland of coalition warfare in the 21st Century. One might even go so far as to wonder ‘how could this bridge NOT have been attacked?’ when you see the incredibly complex command and control arrangements in place around KAF.
I, for one, am comfortable with the apology to BGEN Menard…”In apology to BG Menard, I should not have demanded that he be fired so early in the process, despite that my assertion that he was responsible has proven true. I should never have mentioned hockey, as that created room for a diversion from the central importance. Brigadier General Menard clearly was not the only responsible party for this strategic bridge that his soldiers depend upon. To single out BG Menard was a mistake, despite that he was ultimately responsible for the ANP…”
This is an article well worth reading (both pages!!), if only to see how, not satisfied with the natural complexity of the contemporary environment, we have entangled ourselves in even greater complexity regarding the C2 arrangements under which a War is meant to be conducted… if I was heading to Afghanistan any item soon (I’m not, just in case anyone was wondering), I’d be wanting to read this Dispatch if for no other reason than to get a feeling for the command relationships in this theatre…