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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.

Monday, November 9, 2009

HAS WAR CHANGED THAT DRASTICALLY?

I often read essays on the “modern” conflict and find myself totally confused. New words and phrases abound to the point where I am not actually sure of what the author is writing about.

As a young soldier, I learnt about conventional warfare and unconventional warfare. Counter Insurgency (COIN) was viewed as a part of warfare utilising unconventional methods and tactics. Today I read about “asymmetrical warfare”, “hybrid warfare” and “kinetic” and “non-kinetic” actions. Even soldiers are no longer soldiers – they are now warfighters. The soldier’s rifle has become a Personal Defence Weapon (PDW) or an Objective Individual Combat Weapon (OICW).

Where will all of this end? – or is the aim to confuse ourselves more than we are able to confuse the enemy?

In my mind, “war” has always been war – and it has always been fought by “soldiers”. Whereas the weapons have evolved, the aim has always been the same: annihilate the enemy or exhaust the enemy to a point where he no longer desires to continue with the conflict. Today, I find myself exhausted just trying to understand the new terms, phrases and acronyms that abound and confuse me.

I was about to give up on the subject of war until I stumbled across William F Owen’s excellent article about the new language that has become part of the military make-up. (http://www.armedforcesjournal.com/2009/11/4114043)

Somehow, this all reminds me of organisations that when faced with a task they cannot accomplish, create a new impressively-sounding term or phrase along with a new department and then simply continue with their incompetence. This gives them an excuse to waste time and money whilst trying to discover adaptive and complex solutions to the overcome the hybrid actions against them.

Military commanders - or perhaps one should call them “warfighter managers” - no longer command men – instead they “manage” them. Surely, there is a very distinct difference between an army and a commercial enterprise?

If I were still a serving soldier, I would much rather have a commander than a manager.

The discipline in a commercial enterprise cannot match that of a military unit where instructions and orders are to be obeyed the instant they are issued. Is the military not shooting itself in the foot by trying to turn commanders into managers, despite the fact that this softly-softly style of command can never succeed? Although the armed forces may serve a democracy, they cannot be run along democratic or commercial enterprise lines.

Bad military strategies cannot be rectified by Fortune-500 management styles.

Despite enormous developments in weapons and battlefield technology, the nature of war hasn’t changed that much. Why try to develop a new language to cope with age-old military problems that have been faced before by soldiers – or are these words and terms simply there to make excuses as to why strategies are failing?

Throwing around new words, phrases and acronyms does not make one competent or efficient. It is practicing the basics in a disciplined, planned and controlled manner that leads to success.

43 comments:

Diamond Dallas Rage said...

I agree - I also believe the current definition of "failure" or "defeat" in a variety of worldwide stretched-out wars is "impending victory". ;)

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A good point, Diamond Dallas Rage.


But a term such as that is an indication that the strategists are so unsure of their own strategy that they are unwilling to commit to the term “victory”. That is also part of the reason why these wars are so stretched-out and seemingly without end. This “just-around-the-corner” claim of victory is something they seem to propagate from D-Day onwards. Eventually, it is just a hollow echo – much like a lot of the new terms they have devised.


Rgds,


Eeben

tyhz1995 said...

I cannot resist.West Point typically creates an "engineer"type of officer.Mental masturbationists that have nothing in common with the rank and file.They also have unbridled contempt for the men under them."I know better than you"(despite not necessarily having been in combat).War has not changed,war is eternal because young men love it and old men love it in them.There is no outside chemical that can recreate the thrill of combat.Destroy the enemy shatter his culture smash them so badly they will never trouble one again.The simple fact is only certain personality types are actually good killers.And you are right Eeben true discipline cannot be instilled by a manager.A commander must be hard.Hard but fair and willing to do what the men under him do.Parallels can be drawn from every single conflict that has preceded the current conflict.The US will fail in Afghanistan and I do not make that statement lightly.I say it with a heavy heart because young American soldiers will die while the dickheads devise an exit strategy and I'm gonna say it combat units are overwhelmingly white.Signing off.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I know they type you refer to, Tyler.

As far as I am concerned, “exit strategy” is just another term for “we are losing because of a bad strategy and now we better get out before we lose completely”. The very sad thing is that due to these managers, good soldiers are dying while they decide on how the warfighters should approach “complex terrain” without the correct equipment but with a whole new military language.

Rgds,

Eeben

tyhz1995 said...

We are in accord sir.The nomenclature was one of many things that bothered me in the past.One example of pretty lies that cover horrendous truths.Exit strategy forgive me I should have said surrender.We need to beat these bastards,radical islam is in fact a threat.Ft Hood?The media(the cowardly swine!).But the US is too busy apologizing for it's success.Heavens forfend we cannot hurt anyone's feelings.We need to do a hell of a lot worse than hurt their feelings.We need to be unequivocal.Let's start with the language.Yes overanalyzing ne'erdoells that are loathe to admit so they create pretty,intelligent sounding words to hide their lack of performance.They make me wanna wretch.that's all.

graycladunits said...

Dear Eeben:

I have been away doing college work and not posted in awhile, but I have continued reading. I think that what your blog entry represents is the infiltration of political correctness into the military realm. This will kill the western powers when fighting the war on terror. This and the fact that Afghanistan never had a long period of exposure to western colonial rule. For example, South Africa and India had some form of colonial rule for more than 150 yrs. each before independence. They have the two best economies of all the former colonies of the western powers (albeit SA's economy and infrustructure seem to be deteriorating due to "mismanagement" by the new regime). Afghanistan was always the buffer between the British and Russian Empires. Between politically correct western forces and a foe unexposed to our "civilized" or polluted form of warfare we will not win in Afghanistan unless we stay for 150 yrs. and slowly expose the noncombatants to western culture/rule continuously while fighting.

Also, on a lighter note, are you still speaking at colleges? If so, would you consider speaking at James Madison University, in Virginia, if they were willing to invite you? I think I might be able to ask some of my old professors and get more information for you, if you like.

Sincerely, graycladunits

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I trust that your studies are going well, GCU?

I am no specialist on Afghanistan but it has never been a united country in the Western sense of the word. With many different tribes, factions and languages, it is a fractured society at best. But, when under threat from outsiders, there seems to be common goal to drive them out. It is not known as the graveyard of powers for nothing. But how long it will take to “pacify” them and make them turn towards the West is a question that may evoke many arguments.

Yes, I do still speak at colleges and other institutions. In fact, I shall shortly be leaving SA again for exactly that purpose. If your college professors think I can make a positive contribution, I shall be willing to do so.

Rgds,

Eeben

drew8ear said...

Most of the different branches of the US military had leadership training at different levels when I was in. Some may have been called leadership, but where actually management classes in the “New America”.

In the Marine Corps you would have to do the “Marine Corps” leadership module before you could be promoted to Lance Corporal. You were sent to “Corporal’s Course” when you became an NCO and learned to conduct inspections, drill (march), and understand you responsibility and authority for your rank. As a Sergeant you’d go to “Sergeant’s Course” where you’d learn to lead a squad, create a fighting position, and how to write patrol orders and learn extensive field craft. Ambushing and patrolling coordination was also taught. A Staff Sergeant or above had to attend SNCO Advanced Academy before they could be promoted further. The officers in the Marine Corps had similar leadership training. All Marines had to go even if you worked in an office. There were always some politically connected who got out of attending, but they were generally not respected. It’s the only branch I know that still emphasizes leadership strongly. The other US branches may in certain commands, but not across the board.

Many of the people who write papers on war in the US now are college professors who get their rocks off on being “subject matter experts” on “national security”, “military theory” or “C4I” when they’ve never suffered a day in their life. Many of the dupes called General’s now are valued for their theories and political connections instead of a record of successful military actions or campaigns. Some of the terms aren’t from the US, such as, “asymmetric warfare” and “4th Generation warfare” are coined by Martin Van Creveld I believe who is Dutch, but works for the IDF.

“War fighter” was created by a Marine General I believe, because every Marine is a rifleman, but most Marines like to be called, “Marine”, “Devil Dog” or “Motivated Killer” and if your Sergeant doesn’t love you are a “Devil Dick”.

A lot of the weak strategy out of the US is due to so many civilians who have never served in the military and some civilians who dislike the military intensely. Seven in ten men served in the military during WWII, but about three out of ten serve in the military currently. You have US politicians and diplomats from all political backgrounds who are removed from reality due to their Ivy League education and wealth. They are too worried about being offended, so “annihilating” the enemy is a “no, no”, so we can only exhaust the enemy which means we’ll loose in a protracted war with local force.

I love the United States, but it is dying because of split loyalties, “management” with a globalist focus from political parties, massive immigration without integration, political correctness and a moral decay in society that generally follows great success.

Thank you for your writings; I enjoy them a lot. Would you ever post you top ten military writings or books that have helped you command?

Andrew - PDX

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I suppose there are times when a new terms or word is valid, Tyler. But in this instance, I think we have tied ourselves up in words and forgotten how to put them into practice.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I think we have become so politically correct with our militaries that we are no longer able to distinguish between leadership, command and control and so forth, Andrew. Instead, we are replacing time-honoured values and traditions with non-sensicle gobbledygook that has no positive influence on our actions – instead, it is to our disadvantage.

The desk-borne “military scientists” who write from a position of weakness remind me of those who wrote so-called “intellectual papers” on EO – without ever speaking to us, or those who became country specialists on countries that they had never set foot in.

It is indeed sad to read your take on what is happening in the US military. Unfortunately, we had much of the same before the SADF disintegrated – senior officers who had political connections instead of experience. Yet, their “theories” were accepted at the expense of military history and experience. Some of these so-called officers weren’t sure if they were politicians and some of the politicians wanted to be senior officers. I suspect that you are experiencing much of the same. However, to prove their intellect, they develop these new words and phrases to impress those who don’t know better – and those who should know better accept them without question. The end result is that we lose sight of the mission whilst we are trying to decipher what they are talking about.

I will take a look around my bookcase and see what books I have found inspirational in terms of military leadership and command.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

The possibility of doing a talk at a college in the US was a question GCU put to me, Private. That does not mean it will happen at all as I get a lot of such requests that ultimately fall through the mat. Should that ever happen, I too would be honoured to meet you.

Rgds,

Eeben

borr1945 said...

Eeben,

I agree with you on alot of points. I am highly disappointed in the powers that be trying to tame down the military by making it more politically correct and less threatening to civilian ears. I also agree that I would serve a commander but never a manager. Mcdonalds is a fortune 500 company here in america but getting my fries before they are cold is not the same as pulling off an L shaped ambush. However, with technology evolving warfare by the
means in which we fight it. So to, I must evolve to meet those challenges. Hence, I must read up and learn about the new ways of fighting by means of robots, cyperwarfare, and kinectic weapon
systems.

graycladunits said...

My studies have been going well. In fact, I had a unique assignment for one of my teacher certification classes. The assignment was to "write a 600 word paper on motivation." That was literally all the syllabus said. I came up with a simple thesis: regardless of where and when people have existed they have always had motivations for their actions in life. For one part of the paper, I actually wrote about you and your company. I said that your motivation was survival in a time when the SA economy had gone down hill and you were out of a job. I cited all my sources, including your book, of course. I got a 100% on the assignment.

As for Afghanistan, my study of it is limited. Alexander the Great once conquered that area and considering that country held together under the dynasty of one of his generals after his death, it was united at one point, but I cannot remember for how long. I think it was actually hundreds of years, but when this kingdom deteriorated, outsiders migrated in (some settled peacefully and others went to war with the natives for land on which to settle) and they make up the modern day inhabitants along with the native Afghani tribes. Owing to this occurrence, the nation may forever exist in a state of disorganized choas. Very sad. Maybe some of the other bloggers can add a name to this kingdom, tell how long it lasted, and remember the name of Alexander's general in charge of the place?

Also, I think you hit upon something. The only sources of unity in this country is driving out foreign invaders. Ironically, Islam has not acted as a source of unity (and therefore peace) for folks in Afghanistan as it has in other Muslim countries.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

My concern is that by “taming” the military, countries are losing the initiative on the battlefield, borr1945. Commanders need to be able to instantly assess a problem, devise a plan of action and implement it with aggression and speed. A manager will want to call a board meeting and have everyone help decide what to do.

Technology is a force-multiplier and should be used as such. But, it can fail and it is when it fails that soldiers need to be able to know that they have the basics in place to continue with their mission. You are correct: the modern soldier must be able to apply the technology to its maximum and must therefore understand it. But, he should never rely solely on it.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Well done, GCU – I am pleased that the book was also able to add to your excellent score.

I believe that the difference is that when Alexander the Great conquered those lands, it did not consist of a demarcated area as it does today. The boundaries of modern Afghanistan are actually very recent. It would be interesting to see what others have to say in response to your questions.

I think that unity in Afghanistan is something we will not see in our lifetime.

Rgds,

Eeben

matt said...

Boy did you hit this one on the nail. Like you, I sift through the piles of acronyms and new 'catch phrases' coming out of this war, and it is all retread stuff when you really break it down. An IED is just a homemade 'land mine', is a really classic example. A duck is a duck is a duck I say.
In fact, it kind of gets in the way of finding the really revolutionary stuff. Nothing like reading something that was re-packaged from an old concept, thinking that it was all shiny and new, and then come to find out that it has been around for awhile and had a different name. Such is life.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

The more I look at this system of “catch phrase development” the more I realise that we have lost the plot, Matt.

No wars have ever been won by deploying smart words – they were won through good strategies, doctrine and tactics and with soldiers who could apply the basics in terms of tactics and by good commandership – not management techniques. As long as we continue down the slippery slope of replacing commanders with managers, we will not do too well in combat.

Such is war.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

Eeben I guess the best explanation is "it's not your Dad's military anymore" as American honour Veterans Day today the thing that really get's me is the constant repeated phrase"they died for our freedoms" no grunt goes into war wanting to die for anyone's freedom they go because they want to get it over with and get back home in one piece.I could go on about how the US Military has been hijacked by various interest groups groups but I'll save that for another day

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I do agree no-one goes to war to die, Robby. But many know that they are going to die and this is what makes them so brave. As you rightly say, their sacrifices are hi-jacked by those who wish to promote their own interests as the “interests of others”. Now that really gets my goat.

We should never forget the sacrifices the men and women, both living and dead, made – and still make - for all of us. But, I do doubt that they would have wanted to see what has become of society since they made those sacrifices.

Seeing how so many war memorials have been desecrated by some of the youth today is truly sad. I ascribe that to many young people not knowing and understanding the history of their respective countries and what it took to get where they are today.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

I don't think you can make a case for what we did vs what Americans are doing today I may be biased here but I don't recall we were lied to as to the reason why we went to war the recent Ft Hood incident aside the amount of suicides and cronic cases of PTSD reported from Ft Hood IMHO are a direct result of grunts being told they were fighting for Americas freedoms only to discover on their return those freedoms had been lost and they had been lied to...I stood at the Nam memorial in DC looking at 58,000 names carved in black granite at first I was moved by emotion then I got pissed off knowing full well they died for nothing...

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

You are quite correct, Robby. There is no comparison between what we did and what the so-called coalition forces are doing today.

But, sadly we were lied to when we went to war – not so much in the beginning of the war but towards the latter stages of it. The SADF could have ended the war but the politicians, due to both their own desires and international pressure, prevented us from doing so. In the end however, a lot of people made a lot of money on the back of the SADF who bore the brunt of the fighting.

When I go to the SADF memorial I often wonder how many of the names carved out there should never have been there. I recall thinking the same when I visited the Vietnam Memorial in DC several years ago.

But, as soldiers, we all understood that we were simply an extension of a foreign policy, no matter how messed-up it was.

As attributed to Plato: “Only the dead have seen the end of war”. How sad that is.

Rgds,

Eeben

Jake said...

Eeben,
Great points all the way through. I think there are 2 primary reasons why so many of these 'high speed' terms have become popularized in the past decade or so.

1. Let's be honest. The vast majority of this mumbo-jumbo comes out of the U.S. military and it is later grasped by our allies in NATO and other places. The Pentagon seems to continuously drink its own bathwater and in an effort to continuously confuse the Congress into funding new programs often old programs simply get newer more sexy nomenclature. Microsoft Office products have never had a better customer than the U.S. Dept of Defense. Someone should fund a study to find out what the average cost is per taxpayer for every PowerPoint presentation that gets created in D.C. It seems the culture at the DoD is to develop new ways of describing the same old thing.

2. More seriously, somewhere along the path about 2 decades back U.S. policy makers started using the U.S. Military as its first, primary and only foreign policy problem solving tool. (Often it is used as the 'problem creation method' which allows it to then be further employed as 'the solution'). This has resulted in our military taking on all kinds of missions which are not suitable to any military and as such a new language was created to describe all of these missions which were being tasked.

This subject is partly addressed in Thomas Barnett's presentation here: http://www.ted.com/talks/thomas_barnett_draws_a_new_map_for_peace.html where he talks about the need to have military force separated from 'everything else'. Military = death/destruction/enemy capitulation. 'Everything else' should be done by 'Everyone else'.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A very interesting comment, Jake – and as someone who has been a victim of US foreign policy, it makes perfect sense to me. This new language has primarily been aimed at baffling anyone who is, and who is not, in the military.

As long as the creators of this nonsense are only required to talk the talk, they will cause the deaths of those soldiers who they expect to walk the walk which they are incapable of.

Maybe they believe that they will out-manage the situation – which of course will never happen. But, as you say, they get paid the dredge up this drivel. And of course NATO will grasp at this as it explains everything so beautifully that they cannot actually understand what needs to be done.

Whereas we all understand the role of the armed forces in foreign policy, your take on how the military is being misused by government is becoming very apparent in several hotspots around the world. But, as usually when the military are unable to accomplish their mission due to a lack of equipment, commanders as opposed to managers, poor political judgement and so forth, the military offer a convenient scapegoat.

Sad but true.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Eeben

Once again, an excellent article and follow-on comments. Would a pox fall on the feckless technocrats who take such pleasure in meaningless terms of reference. I suspect it all began during the Korean War or "Police Action" as it came to be known in polite circles.

Today in the U.S. we honor our Veterans. It has been said that "All men should have a second country." I suppose mine might well be France, the Alsace specifically. But further north near the village of Logueval in the Somme lies Deville Wood or Devil's Wood. Upon the arch of one of the most beautiful soldier memorials in the world stands a bronze of a spirited horse held by mortal Kastor and immortal Polydeuces (Greek mythology) who, upon the death of Kastor, were united in eternity. The message here is simply two different people who share the same destiny.

Delvillebos is die gewyde ruspek van Suid-Afrikaners wat die hoogste offer vir die behoud van vryheid gebring het.

(Deville Wood is hallowed as the resting place of those South Africans who made the supreme sacrifice to preserve freedom)

On Veteran's Day I salute the South African Brigade. There can be no sanctuary for tyranny.
However confused and hopeless the cause, we like the Brigade nearly 100 years ago, must not forget that we share the same destiny.

Regards, Alan

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I suspect you are correct about where it all began, Alan. Somehow I still think it has got out of hand and is like a snowball rolling down a hill, picking up more rubbish on the way down. Soon they may even replace words such as “offensive”, aggressive” and so on with softer words and hope that somehow we will win wars with confusion.

Ah, Delville Wood: It has been described as the bloodiest battle of 1916 and the men of the 1st South African Brigade suffered 80% losses yet held their positions. Yet, when other allied units suffered 30% losses, they were considered incapable of further combat and withdrawn. The 1st SA Bde stayed and fought on. Today, very few of our allies remember that battle or the sacrifices of 1st SA Bde. Thank you for remembering and honouring them.

Rgds,

Eeben

Monkey Spawn said...

Let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. Many of the new terms (for whatever they are worth) are attempts at progressing the thinking in defence and combat. If we're not vigilant for new opportunities and ruthlessly focussed on constant improvement in our weapons systems, tactics, training, battle management and other aspects of war, we can be sure our significant enemies will be.

No matter how disciplined and trained soldiers are, if they lack the right equipment - for the circumstances or the time - then best bring the body bags.

The most profound conflict is the conflict between statis and improvement. The nomenclature is irrelevant; what matters is being open to improved ways of winning a war, or securing preventive defence. Quicker, less loss of life, fewer unintended consequences, and of course, cheaper.

You warn against running a military like a business. In the area of leadership, this may well be correct, but in something like logistics this thinking is foolish. If a world-changing terrorist attack can be executed for +USD5,000, how much more can we do to avoid the profligacy and waste of militaries all over the world.

War has changed. As each age of conflict unfolds, we see different ways of waging war. Nations require different commanders who require different troops who require different equipment. We can't fight today's wars with yesterday's leaders, training, weapons or thinking. The victors will be those who figure out what to leave be and what to change.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A valid observation, Monkey Spawn. However, my argument is not with new terminology related to new weapons but to reinventing new words for old actions. Whereas we ought to move with the times, we ought not to forget that what many consider to be “new” is in fact “old”.

I wholeheartedly agree with your comment on troops that are disciplined and trained but lacking in the correct equipment. However, there are exceptions to the rules: Mogadishu being but one example. Many of us also encountered an enemy in the old days who outgunned us and whose equipment in certain areas exceeded that which we could field. We didn’t lose the shooting-war.

Whereas management has a place in certain military functions – such as logistics - it must still be enforced with effective command and control systems. This allows everyone to operate off the same page, especially when those loggies are operating close to the front-line.

War has two simple aims: Annihilate or exhaust the enemy to the point where he throws in the towel. To achieve this, we cannot assume that to overcome the enemy, we need to attack the “centre of gravity” as the modern battlefield will contain more than one battle that may be deemed decisive. To overcome the enemy at all of these battles requires a much more focused appreciation of the situation and the accompanying planning – and insofar as is possible – decisive action on the numerous fronts, be they military or political. Hence the importance of knowing and understanding the political or grand strategy. But the days where two armies faced-off in the field are long gone. In many ways, the front is undefined – as is the enemy. That in itself (to me) indicates that a far more aggressive approach to intelligence collection and interpretation is called for. Without that, we will find $100 weapons causing massive casualties.

War has indeed changed but the art of manoeuvre and firepower has remained constant, albeit that conflict now involves far more technology that 50 years ago. Yes, weapons and weapon systems have changed but the art of developing a strategy and implementing the strategy in an operational theatre still requires effective commanders. Simply due to the pace of technology development, yesterday’s leaders will be somewhat lost in terms of battlefield planning but I am sure that they would still give a good account of themselves as commanders.

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

Army says morale down among troops in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON (AP) - Morale has fallen among soldiers in Afghanistan, where troops are seeing record violence in the 8-year-old war, while those in Iraq show much improved mental health amid much lower violence, the Army said Friday.

Soldier suicides in Iraq did not increase for the first time since 2004, according to a new study.

Though findings of two new battlefield surveys are similar in several ways to the last ones taken in 2007, they come at a time of intense scrutiny on Afghanistan as President Barack Obama struggles to come up with a new war strategy and planned troop buildup. There is also perhaps equal new attention focused on the mental health of the force since a shooting rampage at Fort Hood last week in which an Army psychiatrist is charged.

http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D9BUNR9G0&show_article=1&catnum=0

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the link, Robby – this needs to be addressed as quickly as possible.

A drop in morale is a dangerous element to contend with. If nothing is done to redress the situation, it can also become infectious with dire consequences.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Eeben and Robby:

When focused on a stated mission, achievable objectives, and the destruction of the enemy, morale is generally high. When perplexed by a feckless, genuflecting, Islamic apologist national leadership, things take a different turn in the ranks.

In the context Breitbart mentions, "attention directed toward the mental health of the force" is simply a convenient red herring. When affirmative action, cultural sensitivity and diversity trump the mission, reasonable thinking, and the correct identification for political purposes of a terrorist act, then there is a problem. I give you a comment made last week by the Army's top general officer.

“Our diversity, not only in our Army, but in our country, is a strength. And as horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that’s worse,” General George Casey said.

Regards, Alan

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I agree wholeheartedly with Genl Casey’s comment Alan. To use your quote “When perplexed by a feckless, genuflecting...” the plot becomes lost in its entirety. But, I also think that this type of problem leads to a new problem ie “mission creep” – in itself a poor appreciation of the current situation and an indication that plans laid were poorly laid.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Eeben:

I wholeheartedly agree with your "mission creep" assessment. Appears we in America now face a 'Rome 400 AD' international scenario while confronted with a concurrent 'Zimababwe on the Mississippi' situation at home. My late father used to muse, "look at the Swiss...no war in over 600 years, why, because they keep to themselves and mind their own bloody business." My hope is we will soon see the day when those in Washington recognize the utility of Darwin's process of 'Natural Selection' and end the futility of our endless meddling and foreign misadventure. The ron-da'val has worked quite well for thousands of years. To me anyway, nothing smells as sweet as new thatch. Lets not attempt to change or 'correct' what works for others. Just my 2 farthings worth.

Regards, Alan

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Your late dad, bless his soul, was a wise man, Alan. Too many problems are caused by too many do-gooders who have no idea what they are doing. They know what they want to do (without being asked) but due to ignorance, often make the situation worse than it was to begin with. They forget about the old saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

Rgds,

Eeben

Krijn said...

Isn't it all marketing and PC-ness? With ever more public (media) scrutiny and politicians unable to admit failure, vague definitions are the way to avoid having to admit failure.

Politicians are employing PR specialists and field grade officers become tied in to this. Their careers -and thus their incomes- are on the line when the politicians need someone to take a fall. That's when the vague definitions become buzzwords. I mean, terms like Inkstain Strategy just mean 'playing it safe' and reflect fear of cold water by the brass.

Unpopular missions cannot sustain casualties. They have no democratic support and the stragies -or lack thereof- are dictated as always by political necessity. Diplomats thus function as Party Commisars and the Newspeak accompanies them. 1984 anyone?

War hasn't changed. The realities out there are the same as always. Public scrutiny and political sensitivity to that has increased manyfold. The only way this can and will change is, in my opinion, when the integrity of the nations fighting the war is actually on the line. Those far off wars against abstract enemies, fought in low level combat don't threaten us, they threaten only political careers.

I'll be watching the Balie on Dutch TV tonight. Good luck!

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I think you may have hit the nail on the head, Krijn. No one takes responsibility for political failures but rather, fingers are pointed at the military for being unable to achieve mission closure.

As for PR, again I believe you are correct. The spin that is placed on vagueness to make it sound smart and clever is indeed astonishing. And yes, it definitely has an influence on all officers and NCOs who are expected to carry out these new words which actually have little meaning themselves.

True, unpopular missions cannot sustain casualties. It is precisely this aspect that gives the enemy in an unpopular war the advantage. I believe that one thus becomes engaged in a war of attrition that cannot be sustained indefinitely.

I suspect that I shall have a somewhat frosty reception tonight at De Balie. I nevertheless hope you will enjoy the show.

Rgds,

Eeben

Krijn said...

You might indeed be 'the enemy' and be made into a figure head for all that is wrong tonight. The Balie is a Leftie temple, so be prepared!

I think your remark that the inability of Western armed forces to sustain casualties in unpopular conflicts turns these conflicts into wars of atrition is very insightful. I'll keep that one in mind! It means we start of with a very visible disadvantage.

Do you think that the hero worship of casualties (both dead and wounded) that we see in countries like the UK and the Netherlands is a conscious counter to that vulnerability? It strikes me that our wounded are much more visible than they used to be.

I'm glad I found your blog and you can expect more visits!

Sincerely,

Krijn.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I was warned about De Balie and was expecting to be attacked at the debate but I have to admit that the people were incredibly open to discussing the topic, Krijn. Although the host made some last minute changes as to how it would be done, I found it very stimulating and rewarding. I think the day we can actually start talking about these issues is a good day for all concerned.

I believe that when an outside country intervenes in another country’s internal war, especially when it is a COIN conflict and thus devoid of any great classical battles, such intervention is started at a disadvantage due to numerous factors. That is why I believe the strategy and preparation of the forces is of such vital importance.

I think that more and more, people are beginning the realise that the armed forces too are victims of poor political strategies and that the dead and wounded were doing what they could to nevertheless try to implement those strategies. Given the use of technology today in reporting, those casualties are brought to our attention much quicker than in days of old. People also now realise that for their freedom, the soldiers were willing to give their life and limb.

Please do continue to visit the blog and comment.

Rgds,

Eeben

Krijn said...

The programme was broadcast live on the web, it is not yet online in the archives of the 'Balie's' website. When it does come online, it will probably be here:

http://www.debalie.nl/terugkijken.jsp

I must say that, given the way the Balie usually operates, it was a remarkably balanced discussion. Even the photographer, Karskens -some of my mates met him in Afghanistan and did NOT like the bloke! He still owes the RSM a photobook...- seemed susceptible for reason.

One of the things I missed in the discussion, but also in your interview with the host was this: Given the reality that PMC's are in the same operational area as regular armies, and that they are performing lots of logistical and combat support for those armies, how do you achieve proper integration and cooperation? This becomes even more important when the PMC's are in an operational role like the famous Blackwater / Xe and your own EO did. How do regulars and contractors train together and should they?

Someone a lot wiser than I am once said that fighting a professional soldier is easy, it's the amateurs that are dangerous. Knowing the track record of 'contractors' in areas like Iraq I would be nervous when there was a PMC unit along side me. There are only so many SAS and RLI veterans about, so impostors and wannabe's abound. How do I know whether the mercenary in the next shell scrape door is a proper soldier?

At least when the PMC's restrict themselves to bottlewashing and sock counting we can check up on them.

By the way, I liked the hat and too bad you didn't answer Arthur's question. Poor guy...


Sincerely,

Krijn.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I must admit that after all the warnings I was given prior to talking at De Balie, I was very taken with how I was received and the positive interest most people showed towards me, Krijn. It was a pleasure to have been associated with the discussion.

I think part of the problem was that time was very limited and hence we could not cover as much as I would have liked to cover. To answer your question of integration: In EO we never had a problem as we became “part” of the forces we were working with and training. Also, given that the forces we were working with approached us and contract us directly – as opposed to us simply being given a contract – the military and political will was there to learn as much as possible from us and have us assist them to achieve their operational missions. I believe one cannot train and support an armed force if you place yourself at a distance from them – you need to have them accept you as part of them – this you can only do if you know and understand your client and make them realise that you are indeed helping them and want to help them achieve their mission(s).

I understand your reticence towards PMCs and given the amount of out-of-control companies running around today, I too am appalled and aghast. But, I like to think that we led by example and acted professionally. After all, our clients won their wars very quickly and the men of EO were right there beside them when the chips were down.

Refresh me on Arthur’s question? I cannot recall who asked me what...

Rgds,

Eeben

wesley said...

if you need an example of the mass confusion.. i call "generational warfare" exhibit A. "created" by martin van creveld... he does a fine job of muddying the water of what modern warfare is.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_generation_warfare

the problem is he makes the assumption that warfare has changed and yet his characteristics of generational warfare are straight out "The Prince" by Machiavelli. the only thing new about what he theorizes is the name. also, "non-state actors" supported by a state are not "non-state actors". this is wishful thinking or willful ignorance of where AQ gets it's funding and moral support.

Jake, Barnett is a liberal internationalist. take what he says with a grain of salt and sort out his pathological idealism. unfortunately, we studied too many liberal internationalist in my strategy classes at the Command and General Staff School at Leavenworth. It isn't surprising that our senior officers are confused.

Re: "victory". i've had conversations in my strategy classes that shocked me. when beginning a process.. i always asked my classes.. what does victory look like on our terms? by that i mean.. we achieve a lasting peace on our terms.. not the enemies. the reactions, especially from the european and african students and some of the US officers were surprising. they started calling me Darth Vader. When you can't or are unwilling to define victory, properly name your enemies, and are aghast at anyone that would suggest those things, you are probably on a downhill path to failure.

Krijn said...

Arthur was the weird guy at the end of the discussion. He was totally incoherent and flapping. The necessary comical note, I guess.

What I was hinting at was not so much being the client army -I am arrogant enough to consider that we don't need the kind of training PMC's have to offer; but working alongside PMC manoeuvre units. What kind of quality check can you do?

What kind of cooperation do you think would work? And perhaps: What kind of training can proper PMC's give to regular army units?

Sincerely,

Krijn Mout

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Now I recall who Arthur was, Krijn – thanks. Whereas his question was important to him, I am still not sure what his exact question was.

I don’t consider your hint to be arrogant. If you feel that your army doesn’t need any PMC input then that is good. However, in EO’s days, we spoke to a few NATO armies and they were very keen to hear what we had to say. To me it is always finding alternate options to common problems.

As far as working alongside PMC manoeuvre units: That is something I have never experienced as we were always integrated into those client armies. But I would suspect a clear mission delineation with a common command and control structure would be essential for any success.

In terms of training proper PMCs can give to armies, I believe there are numerous areas of expertise that can be exploited. Whereas I can only speak of my own limited experience, it can cover subjects such as tracking, sniping, raids and ambushes, small team operations, target and area reconnaissance and so on. Bear in mind that the men of EO (not me!) pioneered several new techniques of rapidly deploying and extracting stand-off bombardment teams, night raids and so forth. But, it would also be of little value to take a PMC such as EO and expect them to train an army in arctic warfare as they had no experience in such operations.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I must admit that when reading his work, I had to wonder what was really new about it, Wesley - a lot of new terminology but not so new strategies and tactics. All of this, as you rightly point out, simply adds to the confusion. This is one area that really concerns me as far as training is concerned – students are getting lost in terminology and confused when they need to implement it. The end result is a constant change of strategies, continually looking for the magic bullet.

In my days of training, war had two simple aims: annihilate or exhaust the enemy. There was no in-between area. Victory was achieved by either or and strictly on our terms. But don’t you think what we are seeing nowadays is a desire to be so politically correct that we have lost sight of what the enemies intentions are and as such are unable to counter them? That we have tied ourselves up so tightly that we cannot see the end goal?

My great concern with African armies is this influx of new terminology from their foreign (read Western) trainers. I think that perhaps we should go right back to the basics – and teach it correctly. If not, we will find ourselves on a path of self-imposed defeat.

Rgds,

Eeben