Archive Logo.jpg

February 10, 2005

Food for thought, Part I.

CAPT H sends this bit along. True words.

Quotation of the week:

Many years ago, as a cadet hoping to someday to be an officer, I was poring over the "Principles of War", listed in the old Field Service Regulations, when the Sergeant-Major came up to me. He surveyed me with kindly amusement. 'Don't bother your head about all them things, me lad,' he said. 'There's only one principle of war and that's this. Hit the other fellow, as quick as you can, and as hard as you can, w'ere it hurts him most, when he ain't looking'!

Sir William Slim
From the RMC weekly newsletter

Goes along with Clausewitz's line from On War:

"In war, everything is simple, but. even the simplest thing is difficult."

The simple thing: "w'ere it hurts him most" is oft times a most diffcult thing to determine, at any level above immediate tactical. It is there, most often, that plans fail at a strategic or operational level - the inability to determine what is the true 'center of gravity' of the enemy - and where you most often then lose control of how you are going to achieve your ends. Unless, as in the Russians dealing with the Finns in the Winter War, or the North, in the Slaveholder's Rebellion Against Simple Decency (that'll generate some heat...) you just overpower them with mass. Another example is the Plains Indians. Until we figured out the Buffalo was the center of gravity, all we were doing was nibbling around the edges.

Of course sometimes, you know what you need to do - but then the enemy usually does, too. And then it's just hard. Like Germany and Japan. And while we seemed to have figured it out for Operation Enduring Freedom... I'm pretty sure we initially missed the boat on Iraqi Freedom.

The rest of this long, boring dissertation is in the Flash Traffic/extended post.

In the 1993 edition of FM 100-5, Operations, the Army looked at war (at the operational level and below) via the prisms of the Tenets of Land Combat and the Principles of War. The tenets used the mnemonic VAIDS - though I'm going to go out of sequence.

Agility - being able to act inside the bad guy's decision loop.
Initiative - gain and maintain the initiative - keeping the other trying to catch up.
Depth - the extension of operations in time, space, resources, and purpose.
Synchronization - arranging activities in time and space to mass at the decisive point.
Versatility - this was the 'add' of the 1993 manual. This was the tenet added to acknowledge the fact that the Army wasn't going to be able to limit itself to just fighting big, decisive wars against conventional forces. And, in fact, hadn't done that since, at best, Korea, but really, WWII. Versatility was defined as the requirement for units to have the ability to handle diverse missions. Thus, a dim glimmer of the "Strategic Corporal" was born.

I still remember the US Army's current "Principles of War" via the mnemonic, MOSSMOUSE.

Mass -Mass the effects of overwhelming combat power at the decisive place and time.
Objective-Direct every operation toward a clearly defined, decisive, and attainable objective.
Surprise- D-uh, eh?
Simplicity-One of the toughest things to do. Keep it simple, stupid.
Maneuver-Place the enemy at a disadvantage through the flexible application of combat power.
Offensive- Seize, retain, and exploit the initiative.
Unity of Command- One boss, one effort, per objective (the essence of Jointness, actually).
Security- Don't let the other guy surprise you - his manuever.
Economy of Force- Employ all combat power available in the most effective way possible: allocate minimum needed assets to secondary efforts.

This is the distilled wisdom of centuries of conventional conflict. What they really represent is a sense that whoever screws up the fewest number of them generally wins, all other factors (such as the "Mass has a trumping effect" on the others if you have enough of it) being equal.

You can also see therein threads of the Abrams and Powell doctrines as assimilated to try and give the Army leadership cover when they tried to get the political leadership to stay away from Vietnam-style conflicts.

Of course, that produced its own set of problems, didn't it? The Powell doctrine caused much dithering about the Balkans and similar missions - and the Abrams doctrine gave us the basis of the force structure we have now that is putting such stress on the Reserves. But, at the same time, both have forced the military and the political side of the house to look harder and deeper than they otherwise might. You really can't ask for much more.

So - that's what got us to where we are - but are we in need of a new look at things? Something to account for the impact of the "Information Age" and how that technology applies to war?

The Army made a stab at that via FM 3-0, Operations, that came out in 2001.

I'll go into that one tomorrow.