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I saw active service in conventional, clandestine and covert units of the South African Defence Force. I was the founder of the Private Military Company (PMC) Executive Outcomes in 1989 and its chairman until I left in 1997. Until its closure in 1998, EO operated primarily in Africa helping African governments that had been abandoned by the West and were facing threats from insurgencies, terrorism and organised crime. EO also operated in South America and the Far East. I believe that only Africans (Black and White) can truly solve Africa’s problems. I was appointed Chairman of STTEP International in 2009 and also lecture at military colleges and universities in Africa on defence, intelligence and security issues. Prior to the STTEP International appointment, I served as an independent politico-military advisor to several African governments. I am a contributor to The Counter Terrorist magazine. All comments in line with the topics on this blog are welcome. As I consider this to be a serious look at military and security matters, foul language and political or religious debates will not be entertained on this blog.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

THE DEVELOPMENT OF MILITARY STRATEGY

Another bit of blatant advertising – an abridged extract from my in-process book Techniques of War (a working title).

If we arrive, as our forefathers did, at the scene of battle inadequately equipped, incorrectly trained and mentally unprepared, then this failure will be a criminal one because there has been ample warning — Michael Elliot-Bateman

In the modern, conflict-ridden world, Elliot-Bateman’s comment remains as relevant as ever. After all, part of battle orders are to ensure that the correct men (unit), arrive at the correct time and place, adequately prepared and equipped to do battle with the opposing forces – and win. But these orders are derived from the battle appreciation. This appreciation is a thorough assessment of all the factors that can impact on the plan and include factors such as the enemy, terrain, climate, weapons, deployments and so forth. The appreciation, in turn, leads to the formulation of the commander’s tactical plan. This plan encompasses the deployment of forces under his command and is taken right down to section and sub-section level.

Getting to the tactical plan requires careful thought and an in-depth appreciation of the situation – all based on good, sound and credible intelligence. But the tactical plan is rooted in the military strategy, a process that is on-going and constantly adjusted.

The development of the military strategy is descendent from the grand strategy of the state. It is the grand strategy that defines how the state would like to position itself in the world and how it will want to be perceived. Additionally, the grand strategy comprises the government’s action and/or reaction to real or perceived threats, opportunities, weaknesses and strengths.

From the grand strategy is born the National Security Strategy (NSS) – considered by many strategists to be part of the grand strategy and by others as a strategy developed with the aim of supporting the grand strategy with all of the security components at the state’s disposal. It is the NSS that ultimately defines “who” and “what” the enemy is.

If viewed as a separate strategy instead of a continuum of the grand strategy, the NSS entails the art and science of assessing, developing, applying, coordinating and monitoring all instruments of national power to achieve objectives that will enhance and ensure the national security of the nation. Additionally, it gives rise to the creation of an ability to deter an enemy threat and when necessary, to project force (usually military force) in order to secure the state’s national security interests and goals. The projection of force can be overt, clandestine or covert in nature.

The NSS (or alternatively the grand strategy) provides the guidelines for the development of the military strategy. This strategy consists of the planning, preparation, implementation, execution and coordination of the military forces at the disposal of the state to pursue its desired strategic goals. The formulated strategic goals may be offensive, defensive or containment in nature and will involve the military, intelligence, law-enforcement, diplomatic and economic resources at the disposal of the state.

The aim of the military strategy is, ultimately, to gain supremacy over the opposing forces/state(s) and reduce or destroy their will to fight. It is therefore the application of military resources aimed at achieving grand or national strategic objectives. As a strategy, it culminates in a violent act and should, in the main, be tested against the principles of strategy. These principles are often viewed as similar to the principles of war.

Constant changes in the operational environment will shape the military strategy and, therefore, such changes need to be constantly monitored and the military strategy adapted to these changes. These changes may, additionally, impact on any broad, pre-set tactical plans.

In Africa, many governments have neglected the formulation of, and adherence to, a grand strategy. In such a scenario, the development of the military strategy needs to be carefully coordinated with the government’s general policy. These policies, in turn, tend to be very party political in nature and it is, therefore, necessary to confirm the strategy at the highest level, pointing out all realistic advantages and disadvantages – as well as the potential political impact, both nationally and internationally. It needs to be pointed out that the political impact of a military strategy in Africa will differ from that of a Western nation.

Given the complexities regarding ethnicity, language, culture, tradition, beliefs and so forth, African military strategies tend to be very theatre-bound and usually re-active in nature inst4ead of pre-emptive. Many of these complexities are part of the historic legacy of drawing country borders during times of colonisation and splitting tribes into different countries.

Considering the battle for resources that is currently being waged in Africa, another part of the problem lies with the physical location of the natural resources, especially where a particular resource straddles international borders or is located within the domain of a specific grouping of people or tribe.

Adding fuel to this volatile mix is the funding of a specific group of armed guerrillas/rebels or terrorists who use the natural resources to fund their actions. It is especially in this area of interest that the military strategy should focus – deprive the opposing forces from their source of funding but in such a manner that the NSS or grand strategy remains intact.

61 comments:

hardnose said...

Not all tactical actions have 'obvious' strategic implications. The actions of Colonel Mike Hoare and his Commando in the Congo during the early sixties or the PMC Executive Outcomes in Angola are were clear examples of strategic outcomes that were favorable to the natiional interest. Yet tactical actions as in bombings of embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were actions with major strategic implications although less 'obvious'. Baron Jomini points out that "...armies have been destroyed by stategic operations without the occurrence of pitched battles..." Eeben, could you address this in terms of modern warfare.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I most certainly will address it in a later post as it is quite a complex argument, Hardnose.

Whereas 5 Commando and EO had both set strategic goals which were achieved by means of tactical actions, not every tactical action on its own will lead to meeting the strategic goals. It may thus happen that a single tactical battle may meet a strategic objective within a specific theatre of operations – but it may also require a series of successful tactical manoeuvres and battles to achieve the objectives. These strategic objectives were, as you point out, aimed at securing the national interest of the governments that employed them.

What we witnessed in Kenya and Tanzania were actions by the enemy aimed at achieving a series of advantages. These range from mass media coverage of their actions to killing anyone who is not “with them” – and sometimes even those who are “with them”. Whereas their strategic objective may have been to ensure a draw-down of forces facing them elsewhere – very similar to a diversionary attack and thus lead to the deployment of additional resources, two single tactical actions achieved this and changed the perception of their abilities.

In a terrorist war, this is a very typical strategy aimed at causing confusion, terror and more importantly given them some form of credibility in the media. Engaging in a more conventional battle is something they will avoid at all costs. These actions influence national will and morale and they play upon that.

Rgds,

Eeben

hardnose said...

Eeben,
I can appreciate the complexity of the topic and I thank you for your response. It brings to mind of course a second question - the concept of what's being called 4th dimension warfare. Staying on the theme of Africa - for the moment - looking at Somalia,Eritrea,Sudan - these destabilizing tactics, while seeming isolated are also like links in a chain, individual in appearence but part of a lengthening global trend. This has a direct affect on the National Security Strategy of more stable society.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Absolutely correct, Hardnose. While many of these incidents may appear to be isolated incidents, they are most certainly not. Whereas some of them may be purely criminal (terrorist) in nature, they nevertheless all add to an overall strategy of the opposing forces – which tends to create fear and uncertainty. This in turn may lead to the deployment of forces which could actually be used elsewhere…

But, as you know, war in the fourth dimension is really aimed at destroying the political will of those it is aimed against and it is not aimed at seeking direct confrontation with armed forces. Added to this is the manipulation (witting or unwitting) of the media in propagating their “cause”, co-opting by direct and indirect means opposition leaders and destroying the economy as much as possible. The citizenry become so fearful that they will ultimately give in to the enemy without the enemy having to engage in any decisive battle.

In my opinion, fighting in the fourth dimension requires skill and not technology. The skill can only come from good training and by striking the enemy where it hurts most – ie at the leadership elements. But this again requires good intelligence – and not technology.

Africa has become the ideal battleground for war in the fourth dimension. If one looks at the countries you mention, it is obvious that this is part of an overall strategy – but the peacekeepers have yet to realise this.

Rgds,

Eeben

Aethyr said...

This is an very interesting and promising extract of your book. When you first mentioned you would write a book about warfare I exspected somekind of technical handbook, but as it appears this will be so much more.

I'm curious about this 4th dimension warfare as it appears to be an aspect of the so called "new wars" and asymetric warfare.

Either way, you already have one book sold...

regards

borr1945 said...

Eeben,

Mostly, my comments are to hardnose. I think in terms of "armies being destroyed by stategic operations without the
occurrence of pitched battles" I would have to look at the allies
stategic bombing raids of ww2. In which, the german war machine was
slowly ground down by the lost of
war supplies/natural resources. Even though this did not win the war (ground forces still had to go in) it did help in eliminated the
enemy resources to wage war. I believe America tried this again in
the first gulf war. However, air
power alone will never win a war. You always need the ground pounders to go in and do the dirty work.
As far as countries changing their NSS. Just look at America declining the funding of the new
f-22 fighters. After training and
planning for over 50 years to fight
russian rifle batallions. America is changing to fighting wars of
terror and counter/insergency and
urban warfare. F-22 fighters don't
fit the plan or needs of that kind
of warfare. I just hope we will still prepare on some level to fight chinese rifle battalions.

regards ken

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the comment, Ken, Over to Hardnose…

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I am trying to write something that can be used by students and soldiers alike, Aethyr. Only time will tell how successful I am.

Perhaps I ought to write something on the fourth dimension?

Rgds,

Eeben

hardnose said...

I'd like to expand the image for a moment. Issues of NSS include control of natural resourses or of access to those resourses. Support of UNITA in the early 90's by elements the British and SADF were not becouse Savembi was their best friend. Nor are the refugees of Sudan front page news becouse Multinational Corporations want everyone to hold hands and sing Kumbiaya and feel cozy. Military Stratagy is as you point out derived from a much larger national focus.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

The war in Angola was purely about access to and control over resources, Hardnose – diamonds, hardwoods and ivory. The SADF had to bear the brunt of the West’s anger at its involvement there while corporations raked in the money with SADF blood. Savimbi was no friend of SA, despite what he kept saying – and of course he would have said he was as long as the SADF fought his war for him and the SA taxpayer funded his war and lifestyle. I still believe our support to UNITA was a strategic blunder by the government – we could have achieved a better strategic outcome by not supporting UNITA.

But, as one of many soldiers who fought there, it was that war that shaped our perceptions and honed our skills. So, despite not agreeing with the policies at that time, I was a soldier and fought where the government sent me. That is the lot of the soldier.

But, the wheels fell off the military strategy when the-then political masters interfered with the strategy and wanted it changed according to their whims. Then they lost the will to support the SADF.

No military strategy can be executed with any measure of success without political and national will.

Rgds,

Eeben

Monkey Spawn said...

Eeben, your statement that "the war in Angola was purely about access to and control over resources, ... diamonds, hardwoods and ivory" is distinctly contrary to your normal thoughtful discourse and cannot go unchallenged.

The key resource at stake in Angola is oil, and ivory, as an item not traded as a commodity, is relatively worthless as a national resource. The involvement of the main international protagonists - Cuba, Russia, South Africa and USA - was for ideological reasons rather than resource acquisition. The internal conflicts were over power and not dissimilar to other power conflicts in Africa. And then combined and interlaced with multiple layers of additional complexity, as befits politics in Africa.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A good argument, Monkey Spawn, and I take the slap across my cheek.

However, at the time SA sent troops into Angola, it was not about oil but in shoring up the FNLA – who was also supported by the CIA and assisting the Portuguese refugees that Portugal had abandoned. When the CIA suddenly switched support from FNLA to UNITA (SA quickly followed suit), it just so happened to be that UNITA had control over vast diamond fields – and the FNLA was quickly relegated to the scrapheap. (It was from the FNLA’s ranks mainly that 32 Battalion was born). From that point-of-view, it was about supporting UNITA’s ideology – who at that time also happened to be Maoist (Savimbi was a Maoist).

In exchange for diamonds, UNITA was able to get equipment. But it also happened that a huge amount of SA tax payers money went to UNITA – it was known as “Operation Silver” and also “Operation Spyker” – money that can from the special defence account. At that time, the diamond market was all powerful and some in SA made huge amounts of money from the diamond fields of UNITA. You may recall some time ago that there were reports of companies who specialised in UNITA diamonds in the 1980s and 1990s. These companies even admitted it.

It was no secret that the deal with UNITA was that once they had won the war and come to power, SA would have been given access to Angolan oil – a resource we needed then as we do now. But at that time, it was not about oil. Had UNITA however come to power, oil would have been the resource we would have also wanted.

Likewise, the ivory and hardwood trade reaped millions for certain select companies – they too have been exposed.

I therefore stand by my comment that at that time it was about diamonds, ivory and hardwoods. I also stand by my comment that the overall strategy became flawed once the politicians decided to step in and play soldier.

Rgds,

Eeben

hardnose said...

Ken,
If you'll look at the number of bomber aircrews lost during those raids, you will see that indeed very fierce pitched battles were fought. Germany was over extended and the Wiermacht general staff heavly divided. The german industrial centers offered a 'Target Rich Environmnet' to quote a much over used phrase. The defeat of Nazi Germany was an execellent use of combined arms warfare. Given that for Europe the war had been going on for years before America got involved, I'd have to disagree that we slowly ground them down, we kicked their A. But then we were fresh and they were tired, and except for the lives lost in both the Pacific and on the continent it was no contest.

The current problem in both Iraq and Afghanistan stems more from a failure to convince a people that a invading army of accupation is a benevolent army. General Petraeus' co authored "Counterinsurgency" - FM 3-24 was a good step forward, but tactically there is very little new from material written earlier, or from what is taught in the advanced operational schools.

It took thirty years to get the Pentagon to form Special Operations Command, and that had to be ramroded into place. They're still fighting it at command level today. As for the F-22, it's hard to spend what you don't have, when you've borrowed so much as it is.

Rgds.

hardnose said...

Eeben,
My apologies re SADF. I was specifically referring to elements within England and the DE Klerk gov't who as you yourself know supported UNITA after they took up arms again rather than use the ballot box. As the old saying goes "I have close friends" who served with SADF, and I wasn't attacking their service. As soldiers we serve and that service is 'selfless' service. The same is true for me as it was for you. There are people and goverments that I will never support, but at the end of the day a job to be done is just a job.

Regards,
Hardnose

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

No need to apologise Hardnose. Whereas there was much support for UNITA after they took up arms again but at that time it really had nothing to do with a strategy and more to do with economic reasons.

Angola as a conflict is still the cause of much bitterness in SA and I can understand that. But, politics aside, soldiers serve the government of the day and not the political party. It is when those lines become blurred that problems arise.

Rgds,

Eeben

graycladunits said...

Dear Eeben:

I read the words that you and hardnose were saying. I don't think the argument was so complex. Feel free to correct me if I am missing something. The only times that I can think of where an army might be destroyed by strategy in any form would be where it is ill-supplied or overstretched while waiting/training for battle or sent to conquer an area with an extreme climate like a swamp or desert. Both scenarios happened to the US Army from 1808-1810 in Louisiana. This instance resulted from a national strategy to create the most well-trained, tough army by putting in the worst possible place in order to toughen it up while training. The army ended up stationed in the middle of a swamp and living on rancid beef. Our nation nearly destroyed its own army through desertion and malaria that quickly ensued. This was the best example I could think of.

graycladunits

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A good example, GCU. Strategy is many times viewed as the “big picture”. The implementation of the strategy becomes actions at the operational and tactical levels. Being ill-supplied or overstretched is part of the supporting elements role in the implementation of the strategy, thus in essence tactics. If one looks at the structure of military orders, there is a section devoted to Administration and Logistics.

Rgds,

Eeben

hardnose said...

Eeben,
GCU's example allows for a change of tack, if I may. The role of the Operational Commander or Ground Forces Commander, can be hampered by control from the top. National Security Strategy can include Peace as a major component. During the Second Indochinese War, political considerations guided military srategy, causing Task Force Commanders to often adopt a defencive war of attrition rather than taking the fight to to the enemy as most good tacticians prefer.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Your change of tack is still very relevant, Hardnose. Many a good commander has had his intensions scuppered by the political machinery. The entire aim of the NSS is to ensure a platform for peace – but peace sadly comes at a cost. Adopting a defensive posture in order to carry out a war of attrition is only feasible if one has the initiative. Without the initiative, there is no balance and no balance will usually lead to a defeat.

Rgds,

Eeben

sugarmaple said...

I wonder if resource-rich African states are considering how to better leverage their natural resources to serve their NSS.

I find Russia's "political tool" OAO Gazprom an interesting case. Controlled by the Russian state, the company owns much of the nation's natural gas reserves. Gazprom supplies Europe, and is gradually extending its influence across the world. The U.S. is concerned of the fact that Russia can practically control events by turning on and off the gas.

Although Angola and Nigeria are members of OPEC, do you believe for many African countries, the interests of multinationals and the party elite are central, while the NSS of the state is on the back burner?

Regards,

Charles

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Gazprom is indeed an interesting case, Charles, and your comment certainly raises several questions. If one looks at the situation Gazprom (almost) caused a few weeks ago regarding gas to Europe and the near panic it caused, it shows how the tight control over a resource such as gas can ripple across Europe.

Africa’s curse seems to be its resources. Resource rich countries in Africa are leveraging their resources for credit lines. Where multinationals are active, efforts are made to involve the political elite in profit-sharing and the cycle of money equals power simply escalates. While in the short-term the financial benefits may appear to be a stabilising factor to the politics, in the longer term, they do breed resentment from those that are not in the money chain. It is this very resentment that usually impacts on the NSS.

But, when things appear to be going well on the surface, little or no thought is given to the NSS. When the situation escalates into conflict, strategies are usually hastily formulated and therefore become unrealistic or unachievable. Usually we witness an uncoordinated response with massive collateral damage.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Eeben:

Just finished reading this string. Hat tip to Hardnose, graycladunits, sugarmaple, and the others. Most excellent comments and dialogue.

Follows is a very dated but related article with a most applicable and worthy concept. Too bad for all of us it never caught on.

http://fmso.leavenworth.army.mil/documents/alexpape/alexpape.htm

Regards, Alan

Robby Noel said...

FYI: U.S. Army Set to Recruit Citizens

Kampala — Ugandans who want a career in the United States military, can sign up at the annual convention of the Uganda North American Association, organisers say.

American military recruiters will set up a booth at this year's UNAA convention in Orlando, Florida, and seek out professional Ugandans, said Lt. Frank Musisi, himself an officer in the US Army.

Lt. Musisi, who comes from Kalangala District on Lake Victoria, is the current president of UNAA. He said the US military would also advise Ugandans on the "proper channels" to follow in enlisting. The announcement, which is also on the UNAA website (www.unaa.net), is set to cause a rush to this year's convention that takes place from August 29 to September 1.
Relevant Links

UNAA is encouraging interested Ugandans to book flights to Orlando and take a shot at joining the US military. The organisation says it has made a deal with Kenya Airways/KLM for a discounted return ticket at $1,200 (Sh74,400). The conference fee is $190 (Sh11,700).

"All registered Kampala travel agents have been authorised to book intending members," Lt. Musisi said in an email interview.

More.....

http://allafrica.com/stories/200804070356.html

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

There have been some really great comments from the visitors, Alan. More than anything, I enjoy reading them as they give me a lot to think about, even when they don’t agree with my views or take me to task. But again, that is part of the enjoyment I have, especially when we can agree to disagree in a civilised manner.

Many thanks for the link. Although I never met Col Alexander, he was known to be an “intellectual soldier” and wrote many very interesting articles which I always enjoyed. A pity no-one ever seemed to read this particular article and put it into practise. Also, an even greater pity that the units he wanted to deploy are no longer up-to-scratch.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A most interesting article, Robby – thanks for passing it on.

It certainly raises some questions as to why the US wants to recruit foreigners. The Ugandans I met and know are good guys and with motivation, training and leadership make fine soldiers.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

"why the US wants to recruit foreigners"....who knows in Africa's case it maybe to counter the Chinese dragon a little to late I might add...here in the US we have this thing going on right now that's very strange and it includes foreign troops on US soil


http://www.fema.gov/media/fact_sheets/nle09.shtm

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

It is indeed a strange situation we are witnessing, Robby. Someone from “up north” said to me that he believed that as AFRICOM was struggling to get a foothold in Africa, the next best option for the US is to train African troops in the US. Whereas I cannot confirm the validity of his statement, it certainly seems as though that might just be what the US is trying to do. I do however have my doubts as to how successful such a venture will be.

It may also just cause some problems for those governments who send their troops there. In Africa, fingers are quick to point.

The Chinese may soon start training African troops in Africa – what will happen then?

Thanks for the link.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

My days in the US are numbered it's turning into to it's own worst enemy...in it's on going "war on terrorism" the head of DHS yesterday called for citizens to report all "suspicious behaviour"something is afoot what it is I'm not sure but history tells me it won't be good,I suspect it has something to do with the economy ...as in the past when all else fails war's are the result

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

It reminds me a bit of the Stalinist-approach to report all “suspicious citizens”, Robby. But such a request can backfire rather badly as the law-enforcement agencies could get bogged down investigating nonsense while the real baddies continue with their plans and actions. I hope it is not really going to get that bad.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

I guess you can file this under " unintended consequences of the "war on terror" as is usually the case in America whenever bohemiath government agency's are formed in this case DHS they never go away and end up trying to justify there reason's to exist.Has America become "Stalinist"... it happened a long time ago brother!

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I have been reading quite a lot about the US’s GWOT, Robby, and I must admit that – as far as I am concerned – it is vitally necessary to take action against threats to the State. However, I think that the manner in which the State approaches these threats and how it reacts to such threats needs to be to the benefit of its citizens. Again, this is where adherence to the grand strategy enters the picture and how the military strategy ties in with it. All of this is based on the ability to “see into the future” – a function of intelligence. When intelligence failures occur, the strategies are not dynamic and thus suffer from being stagnant. The results can be catastrophic.

My comment about “Stalinist” was tongue-in-the-cheek.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

I understand the need to protect the State from both internal and external threats however as you have pointed out that is based on factual intelligence ...

and there lies the rub...

the intelligence community in America is influenced by two very far left-wing organizations the ADL and Southern Poverty Law Center both who view anyone right of center to be potential terrorist....for the record the ADL worked very closely with SA in the 70's and 80's reporting on the anti-apartheid movements in the US how it went from far right to far left is a mystery.

As for America being “Stalinist” I'm sure you have read the 10 planks of the "Communist Manifesto" today's America meets all of those requirements...a case of if it walk's like duck!

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Yes, intelligence always remains the key, Robby. But, it is not derived from SATINT and TECHINT alone.

A danger any intelligence agency faces is becoming politicised. When that happens the agency serves the government’s politics and not the state’s interest. Whereas intelligence failures are not uncommon, such policies give rise to more failures than successes.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

That is the problem here intelligence has been politicised.Everything done in America has a political motive mostly for domestic consumptions with adverse effects thousands of miles from it's shores as you well know...on a related topic...caught this today....sad but not unexpected

SA army is 'unravelling'

The SA National Defence Force is in an "appalling" state of readiness. It could not handle much beyond the most trivial crisis, experts and politicians say.

Despite the purchase of big-ticket items in the controversial arms deal, the defence force is "unravelling" rapidly.

They blame ageing equipment, a skills shortage and the lack of a budget to match the increasing demands being made on the force.

"Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has expressed happiness with the readiness of the defence force," says Jane's Defence Weekly Southern Africa correspondent Helmoed-Romer Heitman.

"The reality is that the state of readiness is appalling: The SANDF is in no way capable of handling anything but the most minor crisis."

http://www.int.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=13&art_id=vn20090802062434798C127223

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

It is indeed sad, Robby, but also a disgrace. However, this is but one of the many dangers of politicising the armed forces, as is when politicising the intelligence services.

The destruction of the “old” SADF was something the West actively encouraged the SA government to do - that and of course making political appointments. What could have been a feather in the cap of BMATT training the “new” SANDF instead showed their utter lack of understanding of what was really going on in South Africa. Instead, they dismantled the SADF, a highly-effective fighting force with unparalleled experience and in its turn, created a bloated, incompetent, undisciplined force. Regardless of what the propaganda said, it was not a politicised force but served the government of the day. It would still have served the government had it not been so unfairly maligned by all and sundry. Of course, there were people in the SADF whose political sympathies lay with the then government but that didn’t make us a political force.

Again, this reflects on a poor current national strategy. The unravelling of the army is symptomatic of a lack of foresight, planning and a wayward strategy.

Rgds,

Eeben

PS: I would love to be given the opportunity to “fix” the SANDF but I am afraid that will never happen.

Robby said...

FYI...CommonDreams.org is a left of center website(I read everything) but thought you would find this of interest

Blackwater Founder Implicated in Murder

by Jeremy Scahill
A former Blackwater employee and an ex-US Marine who has worked as a security operative for the company have made a series of explosive allegations in sworn statements filed on August 3 in federal court in Virginia. The two men claim that the company's owner, Erik Prince, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company. The former employee also alleges that Prince "views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe," and that Prince's companies "encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life."

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/08/04-8

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Indeed one should read everything, Robby. If not, how can a decision really be taken?

An interesting article – one wonders how much substance is in it? If it is true, then it is a really bad story for PMCs. But, they certainly won’t get away with that in Africa – where they (Blackwater/Xe/Graystone) are angling for work.

But, given Jeremy Scahill’s book on BW – which had some errors in it, I do wonder about this. Let’s see what happens if and when it reaches the courts.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

The part that is very disturbing is this

"Prince "views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims"

Reason I say that is because it is no secret that the US Military has been taken over by a evangelical movement during the past 8 years as I have mentioned before

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

That is somewhat disconcerting, Robby. It will be interesting to see what Erik Prince does about this or how he responds.

Rgds,

Eeben

matt said...

I have waited a bit, before commenting on this wonderful post, just so I can absorb all the discussions. Bravo to everyone that has participated.
So getting back to the meat and potatoes of this entry, as it equates to the private military company, I think it behooves a company to pay strict attention to the various strategies of that nation. Arguably, your tactics and objectives could totally screw up a nation's grand strategy, or that country's military strategy, and to me, this seems like a very fine balancing act that a company must play. I am sure your experiences in Sierra Leone or Angola required an examination of all the various regional strategies and politics, along with the strategies of your client, all with the idea of protecting company and not embarrassing or worse, harming your client. Also, to not get into trouble with surrounding countries with motives of their own. Lots of geopolitical complexities to navigate.
Which leads me to a question Eeben. With EO, did you deal with countries that were forth coming about their true intentions, or did you guys depend more on what you found out through independent research? Did countries give you the run down about their strategies, both politically and militarily? Or was it mostly a lot of your own research because either you did not trust them, or that they just didn't have advanced strategies like that? (you did mention that most African Nations neglected this, but what of those that didn't)
I also mention the grand strategies of the region, and then there are the global strategies of countries (like the US) that impact strategies in these African countries. I imagine any company that wants to do business these days in Africa, has to look at the big picture and continue to adapt, or potentially get caught up in some trouble. For that reason, that is why I really think it is important for companies to pay heed to what you are talking about here. Thanks.

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Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

There have been some very good comments on this post, Matt.

One needs to pay particular attention to the strategy if it exists. If it does not exist, one needs to determine the political aims and objectives of the government – as they see them to be. This will give you an idea of what its national strategy ought to be. Based on the ought-to-be strategy of the government, the military strategy is devised.

As no two countries are similar, the transference of the military strategy to tactics through doctrine needs to be very carefully assessed as the operational environments are so vastly different. What works in Angola will not necessarily work in Sierra Leone. In such scenarios, bad tactics can cost the government its power-base and lead to its demise.

EO was fortunate that the governments we worked with and for were very explicit about their goals and what they wanted to achieve. To be successful and achieve these goals, one needs to analyse the operational environment in depth and then look at the transnational implications, both militarily and politically. Thereafter follows the international (read “the West”) political implications and how that can impact on the military strategy. From my own experience, the West wanted EO out of all countries we worked in as there was so much to lose if the rebels lost control. Plus, there were of course the mining interests, the trade, the cheap resources and so forth. But, ironically, when EO left, the bigger losers were initially the West.

Added to the mix is of course those who closely follow conflict for their pockets, ie many NGOs and the UN’s Peacekeeping efforts. So, it does get quite complex.

Ultimately, one needs to decide if:

1. You can absorb the pressure
2. Are comfortable with your client’s end goals

We were comfortable with them and continued with our work until the West’s pressure ended our involvement in those countries.

I hope this answers the question?

Rgds,

Eeben

hardnose said...

The recent comments regarding Blackwater/Xe PMC seem to reflect a rather narrow view of what is actually possible in the real world. On the corporate stage they are a small player (though admittedly they take up a lot of news space). Whatever the personal beliefs of the founder, to go to war single handedly against the roughly six billion people in the world would be quite a feat. The modern PMC/PSC's have been around since the early sixties and hopefully will continue as they have in many cases proven their value vis a vis their peacekeeping counterparts. Unfortunately stalwarts exixt in the extremes of both left and right politics, fortunately most of us ( the majority of the six billion) just want to live well and be treated with everyday common courtesy, otherwise it would just be a free for all with every man for himself.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Indeed, Hardnose, hence my comments on the subject.

The sad reality is that currently Blackwater/Xe are the hunted game by the media. A few years ago it was EO, so I have an idea of what they are going through. So I agree with your comment. However, PMCs/PSCs need to know and realise that the media will do anything and everything to be able to report negatively on them. For that reason, PMCs/PSCs ought to keep their own houses in order and their noses clean. Anyone who acts contrary to such policies should be gotten rid of as soon as possible.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

Eeben with all due respect there is no comparison between BW and EO.

BW is made up of wannabe Rambo's who could give a crap about doing what is right rather pushing a misguided foreign policy for cash.If Chuck Prince goes down and he should I will be the first to celebrate.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

It is difficult for me to really comment sensibly on the BW story Robby, but I see that it has now hit the UK’s Daily Mail, so I am sure there is some inkling of truth in it.

There are many differences between BW and WO, I agree. We were never “given” a contract on a plate – we had to earn it. No one supported us except the govt’s that contracted us. We were subject to a massive disinformation onslaught…and more.

We won every war for our clients. I don’t think BW can say the same.

Rgds,

Eeben

hardnose said...

Eeben,
Agreed, whole heartedly as far as developing realtime ROE, and Operational Methodology. Though I need to relate a story from my own past regarding attitudes and learning curves. During AIT prior to deployment my shelter-half buddy was a former motorcycle gang member who was given the choice of joining up or hard labor (it was common in those days). He decided to sign up. After a hard slog, while setting up camp he related to me how he "hated, niggers, jews, and indians (his words not mine). I started laughing which got the discussion going for the night, ..."we're in America..., in the modern military,... bill of rights, etc...." Several months later , my gang member friend had his life saved by an African American while their squad was in heavy contact while sweeping through a village. Though severely wounded he survived. Unfortunately several days later the African American paid the ultimate price with his life in a continuation of the same action. Years later I visited my gang member tent mate, and for most of the weekend as we rememberd and reminisced he kept telling me how he has spent his life doing everything he could to repay the guy who saved his life, and how he wished he'd been able to thank the man. My point here that the learning curve is often very steep (Human lives are often at stake). While we need to be firm in setting standards it pays to remember what the cost of being a winner really means. I don't give free passes to anyone, and I have several close friends at Blackwater/Xe, but I also remember where I came from to get here. My first rule is "never punsih a man for what you havn't tought him". After that all bets are off. Hmmm... if the worlds' decending into choas I guess better find my slingshot.

Robby said...

Connect the dots on the reason BW got huge defense contracts....this was reported by James A. Haught

George W. Bush told French President Jacques Chirac in early 2003 that Iraq must be invaded to thwart Gog and Magog, the Bible’s satanic agents of the Apocalypse.

Honest. This isn’t a joke. The president of the United States, in a top-secret phone call to a major European ally, asked for French troops to join American soldiers in attacking Iraq as a mission from God.

Now out of office, Chirac recounts that the American leader appealed to their “common faith” (Christianity) and told him: “Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East…. The biblical prophecies are being fulfilled…. This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a New Age begins.”

This bizarre episode occurred while the White House was assembling its “coalition of the willing” to unleash the Iraq invasion. Chirac says he was boggled by Bush’s call and “wondered how someone could be so superficial and fanatical in their beliefs.”

Recently, GQ magazine revealed that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld attached warlike Bible verses and Iraq battle photos to war reports he hand-delivered to Bush. One declared: “Put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground.”

It’s awkward to say openly, but now-departed President Bush is a religious crackpot, an ex-drunk of small intellect who “got saved.” He never should have been entrusted with the power to start wars.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A wonderful story I can fully relate to Hardnose. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Once, after an ambush we had sprung, we were sweeping the area when one of my men jumped sideways, knocking me off balance whilst opening up with his PKM. He had seen a wounded Angolan soldier in the grass (I didn’t see him) who was taking aim at me and he put himself in the line of fire to protect me. He was black. But as a young soldier I learnt early on that there is no colour bar amongst soldiers.

I like your quote – too often we are quick to blame others for our failings.

A hint if I may: Never take a slingshot to a gun fight.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

When I initially read that some time ago, I was very surprised, Robby.

I think one failing many people make is to let faith or political beliefs dictate the military strategy. When it becomes an emotional issue before the start of war, we miss the clear picture and believe we become bullet-proof. We must NEVER underestimate the opposing forces but we should also not over-estimate them – hence the need for good intelligence. There is a fine balance between the two. But all too often we allow ourselves to become over confident – and lose sight of the end goal – as well as our own vulnerabilities, all because of what we believe.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

I think one failing many people make is to let faith or political beliefs dictate the military strategy.

That's the reason the Iraq war has lasted longer than any other war and Afghanistan will destroy another super power....I swear these people have s##t for brains

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

To someone on the outside, I must confess that the strategy appeared flawed from the beginning, Robby. When I witnessed the shock-and-awe of the opening shots in Iraq, I said as much to some people.

Deciding any strategy on emotions rather than intelligence can be a very dangerous gamble. It becomes even more dangerous when an enemy can exploit this. The situation is made worse when the common-soldier is then called upon to mend the strategy as he goes along – something he should never have to do.

Rgds,

Eeben

matt said...

Ultimately, one needs to decide if:

1. You can absorb the pressure
2. Are comfortable with your client’s end goals

We were comfortable with them and continued with our work until the West’s pressure ended our involvement in those countries.

I hope this answers the question?

Eeben, that summed it up beautifully. Thanks for taking the time to clarify, and making heads or tails of my questions.
What is interesting with the BW thing, is that operations out in the field ended up impacting the customers strategy in Iraq negatively. Perhaps if there was better monitoring and leadership in the field, and better understanding of the negative strategic implications of reckless actions, then maybe BW would never have gotten into their mess.

I also explored this topic on a grand scale with the current war effort. There are over 246,000 contractors in the war (security and non-security), and I have yet to hear any talk of getting us all in line with a grand strategy in the war. And with COIN, many of us are interacting with the local populations, and therefore we are all somewhat at risk of endangering the strategy with stupid acts.

When a contractor rolls down a street, and is rough with other drivers do to an overly aggressive operational convoy or PSD plan, then how is that helping with the grand strategy of convincing the local populations that we are a good idea? It takes leadership at the top to hammer this through, and it takes leadership in the companies to recognize that their actions certainly do impact strategy in the region.

And because BW did not think in these terms, adjust their posture and procedures, implement quality control measures and insure good leaders were out in the field to manage this stuff, a nisour square incident happens. Then the whole world takes a crap on them, the enemy and the Iraqis take advantage of this hatred and amplifies it for personal gain, and BW loses a major contract in Iraq and completely brands the industry as a pariah. They also embarrassed the customer, which is a big 'no no' in any industry.

I also put some blame on the state department for not caring about how BW was operating. They were involved to some degree, but not enough in my book, nor was the contracts written to protect the strategy of the region. If anything, State was very one dimensional with this, and that is too bad. Maybe if they clued into the fact that it is the 'population stupid', in terms of combating insurgencies, and that the way you use your protective details requires a little more oversight to ensure the populations are not harmed by your defensive PSD teams. And if civilians are harmed, to treat it with the utmost of attention and respect, so the enemy does not have that much to work with in terms of propaganda. This is chess, not checkers.

Alex said...

I've refrained from commenting on this post so far as I have little to add, whereas some of the comments, and your responses, have been quite fascinating. However, catching up last night I was reminded by your account of the post-ambush incident of a question I have, Eeben. What was the dynamic and structure in the SADF like regarding black and white soldiers? I know little of the history of Apartheid-era South Africa but I'm guessing there must have been a lot of black personnel and I'm curious as to how they were officially integrated into the forces; did they ever rise through the ranks to any degree or did politics and ideology keep them as just 'the men'? I remember you mentioning in your book that EO's black members outnumbered your white about five to one so I'm wondering if that was representative of the SADF mix as well, and how 'enlightened' the forces were regarding race at that time.

Again, thanks to both you and all the other posters, I've learnt a lot from this one! Looking forward to the new book as well; count another copy sold.

Regards

Alex

Robby said...

Response from BW...

The proper place for this case to be litigated is in the Court, and we will respond fully in our reply brief (which will be filed on August 17) to the anonymous unsubstantiated and offensive assertions put forward by the plaintiffs. Because the plaintiffs have chosen inappropriately to argue their case in the media, however, we will also say this:

- The brief filed by Plaintiff includes two anonymous affidavits state that their “information” has been provided to the Justice Department — we can gauge the credence given to those statements – which hold no water. When the indictments were announced, the United States Attorney the United States Attorney made a point of stating that “[t]he indictment does not charge or implicate Blackwater Worldwide”; “[i]t charges only the actions of certain employees for their roles in the September 16 shooting.” He emphasized that the indictment was “very narrow in its allegations”: “Six individual Blackwater guards have been charged with unjustified shootings . . . not the entire Blackwater organization in Baghdad. There were 19 Blackwater guards on the . . . team that day . . . . Most acted professionally, responsibly and honorably. Indeed, this indictment should not be read as accusation against any of those brave men and women who risk their lives as Blackwater security contractors.”

- It is obvious that Plaintiffs have chosen to slander Mr. Prince rather than raise legal arguments or actual facts that will be considered by a court of law. We are happy to engage them there.

‘Prince’ of War Going Down?
http://www.amconmag.com/blog/2009/08/05/prince-of-war-going-down/

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

In the “old days”, the SADF was largely a conscript army consisting of National Servicemen who, in the end, did a 2-year stint in the armed forces. Whereas the regular army element was relatively small, it made up the back-bone of the army as far as leadership and command and control was concerned.

The role of black soldiers was never really documented, apart from a few books but they played a huge role in the SADF. Units such as 32 Bn, 31 Bn, 101 Bn, Special Forces and so on were very reliant on our black soldiers. These units were known for their aggression and ferociousness in combat. Then of course there were units composed of ethnic groups such as the Zulus and so on.

The regular army “whites” who served in those units knew their men and trusted them. It was a bond forged between men who had seen extreme combat and who had shared many hardships, pain and fear. In general this relationship was outstanding as we viewed our men not as “blacks” but as fellow-soldiers. The white national service units that came into contact with these mainly “black” units had great admiration for them and viewed them with a certain amount of awe.

In the early days, the majority of black soldiers were simply infantrymen. Over time, those with leadership potential were recognised and promoted within their units – after they had done the necessary courses. Some of them ended their careers in the SADF (about 1993/4) as officers. When they got to those ranks (senior NCOs/Officers) they were well capable.

Of course, there were some elements (whites) who were racist but they never served in the top combat units. These were in the minority.

Unfortunately, the SADF had been so badly (and unfairly) maligned in the foreign and local media as an “apartheid army” that many of these men were axed as soon as there was a change in government. Many were transferred to units where they soon became frustrated and left. Some later joined EO.

In retrospect, I look back with fondness at the “black” troops who served with me. I think many of my fellow-soldiers do likewise.

The book…thanks Alex, but there is still quite a slog ahead.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

My pleasure, Matt.

As you correctly point out, this is chess not checkers. A PMC can most certainly taint and even wreck a grand strategy if there is no channel of communication making it very clear what is allowed and what not allowed. Stupid acts or unplanned, unthought-out and undisciplined acts by a single PMC is most certainly going to taint the entire industry. That, coupled to poor command and control is a disaster in the making. But it is also indicative of what can happen when a PMC is given a contract on a platter – without having to “earn” it.

Any COIN strategy needs to take the demographics of the area into account, as well the ethnic distribution in the area of operations. Just because someone lives in an area, it does not imply that he shares all beliefs and customs of that specific area. Again, the importance of intelligence.

You cannot win a COIN conflict without popular support, and there lies the key. PMCs should view themselves as guests in the country they operate in and not as if they own the country.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

This is certainly getting interesting, Robby. Thanks for the link.

As I said in a previous post – let’s see what happens when it reaches the courts.

Rgds,

Eeben

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Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for visiting as well as your kind comment, Agha H Amin.

Rgds,

Eeben

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