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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.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

TOO MANY MANAGERS, TOO FEW COMMANDERS


Of late, there seems to be a tendency to believe that we ought to “manage” troops instead of commanding them. I know the SADF of old almost fell into the trap of “Management” as opposed to “Command”. I have my own very pretty management certificate to prove the point.

There is however differences between a marketing plan and a design for battle.

“Unity of Command” is a golden albeit a forsaken principle of war. The word “command” is used and has been for years – not “Unity of Management”. The military has senior commanders and not senior managers – or at least it ought to have senior commanders.

In my view, commanders issue orders and managers issue instructions. Although some may view this as hair-splitting, the principles of management are somewhat different from the principles of command. The circumstances under which orders vs instructions are issued are also vastly different. When orders are not followed, disciplinary action – usually severe - takes place. When instructions are not followed, managers reprimand the guilty parties. That in itself is a difference.

In the field, a commander will issue an order: “Place the machinegun there and engage targets!” A manager will issue an instruction: “Please move the machine gun to that position and then open fire”. There are differences in how these actions are requested and enforced and they differ from one another.

Orders are obeyed as a result of discipline. This discipline is taught on parade grounds across the world. Soldiers are taught to immediately react to an order without question – unless it is of course an order that is not legitimate – such as killing an unarmed civilian or executing a POW for no reason. I have yet to see a manager tell a worker to “give me 30 push-ups” if the worker has not complied with an instruction – or confine him to his office for a lengthy period.


Situations like this cannot be “managed”

 Some may consider the strict discipline of an army as being too harsh and vicious. Wars are harsh and vicious and there is not time for niceties when it comes to doing battle. Men who do not instinctively obey orders are a danger not only to themselves but to everyone with them. Disobeying a simple order can mean the difference between victory or defeat. To get soldiers to carry out their orders requires commanders and not managers.

The military is not a business entity dressed in uniform and armed with assault rifles and other weapons. It is an organisation that is tasked to carry out missions as required by the Grand Strategy and the Military Strategy. These missions ultimately require the army to win battles, not manage them. In the process of winning the battles, soldiers are required to do things they would not normally do – such as killing people. It is especially here that soldiers need to instinctively follow orders and react – if not, they are dead.

 Some academics, management consultants and other non-combatants are keen to enforce their ideas of management on the armed forces. Whereas there are times that some management skills can be exercised in the military, for example in headquarters or administrative offices, we cannot “manage” an army as they wish us to. We cannot “manage” a firefight or a mechanised infantry assault on an enemy target.

If commanders continue to fall into the trap of wanting to “managing” as opposed to “commanding”, they risk an identity crisis – a crisis a wily enemy will rapidly exploit.

The time has come to stop trying to follow ideas that are aimed at making war more politically correct and politically palatable. That will never happen as wars are vicious and destructive. Ask any soldier – they will tell you so. By trying to make war and conflict more businesslike is only going to degrade the efficiency of the armed forces. 

It is time for the real commanders to step forward and those who want to manage, to rather leave and find a job elsewhere.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

WARS IN AFRICA


Africa has been at war with itself for centuries.  

I believe that this is not likely to end within the short or even the medium term. There are numerous reasons for this continued state of conflict and it will not lessen, no matter how hard the outside world wishes it to as there are many agendas that drive this continued state of conflict.   

Many countries on the African continent have faced numerous types of warfare in the past – and will face similar – or expanded - threats in the future. Over decades, the continent has witnessed hot wars as well as cold wars – all aimed at achieving political-ethnical, tribal, religious, economical and even criminal goals. Countries will go to war with one another over water, food, resources, territorial disputes and so forth. Others will use proxy forces to achieve their aims and ambitions. Some will resort to the tactics of terror to achieve their aims. But they all have one common aim: Power. 

This places the senior command cadre of the African armed forces in a position of having to contend with both regional and domestic political, social and military matters.

The threats that governments in Africa face are diverse, multi-layered and complex. Countering these threats, therefore, extends beyond the normally accepted role of the armed forces. This requires military strategists and planners to have access to intelligence as well as foresight and vision (based on sound intelligence) of the geo-political and military developments in the region. If they cannot “see over the hill”, they will be caught unawares by what comes down the valley.

In the African context, the armed forces are an instrument of not only foreign policy but also of domestic policy. Therefore, to conduct effective military operations, the armed forces must be organised, trained, postured and correctly equipped and prepared for deployments and actions both within and/or beyond the country’s borders. These actions must cover the ambit of Military Operations Related to War (MORW), Military Operations other than War (MOOTW) and also Military Intelligence Operations (MIOs).

Most African armies are structured along the lines of the old colonial armies, ie sections, platoons, companies, battalions and so forth. Whereas this structure gives some continuity to the rotation of units and sub-units, it is in my opinion, not the type of structure that is entirely valid for Africa.  Added to this are numerous fractured colonial-era doctrines mainly unsuitable for war and conflict in Africa. In turn, this hampers the operational effectiveness of the armed forces more than is given cognisance to.

With few exceptions, most wars in Africa tend to be so-called small wars. Most African armies tend to be “conventional heavy” with little emphasis given to unconventional warfare units. The terrain in many countries is unsuitable for mechanised and armoured warfare. Where terrain allows it and the infrastructure exists, these units tend to be mainly road-bound, making them easy targets for ambushes and IEDs.

I am not advocating that African armies do away with their conventional units. These units need to be kept but reduced in size to make them more efficient fighting units. Conventional units remain important as African armed forces must be able to carry out multiple missions in order to give the government options.

However, in containing future wars and conflicts, I believe the time has come for African armies to seriously assess the validity of small war units, ie unconventional forces capable to operating in smaller sized units with sufficient helicopter support to sustain deployments, conduct air assaults and the leap-frogging of units as well as conduct casevac missions. Where necessary, terrain permitting, they must be supported by mechanised and armoured units. Close air support using sophisticated strike aircraft may have a significant role to play in a conventional clash of arms but in most unconventional operations, soldiers need slower low-flying aircraft to provide close air support.

Nations don’t need a military that can only do one mission at a time. They need a military that can conduct multiple missions to give the nation’s leaders and general officers as many options as possible. To achieve this, there needs to be a carefully assessed balance between conventional units and unconventional units, this balance being guided primarily by the threat and the terrain.

However, a lack of focus on both the enemy and the political objectives that need to be attained will result in a strategic failure.

What remains a fact is that wars will continue in Africa and the armed forces of African governments will need to carefully asses their future missions and responses. They will also need to reassess the structure, training and equipping of their armed forces.

Until this balance is achieved, many conflicts and wars in Africa will simply continue to simmer.

Friday, January 13, 2012

HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR 2012

As I will not be home when the Chinese New Year of 2012 begins, I would like to wish all of my Chinese friends a very Happy Year of the Dragon – even though my wishes are about a week too soon.

The Chinese New Year (also known as the Lunar New Year) takes place in the early months of our calendar year, typically in January or February. In 2012, the Lunar New Year begins on 23rd January and its beginning marks 15 days of celebration and the start of the Year of the Dragon.

In Chinese tradition, each year is dedicated to a specific animal, these being the following 12 animals:  Boar, Dragon, Dog, Horse, Monkey, Ox, Rat, Rabbit, Ram, Rooster, Snake and Tiger. It is believed that each of these animals bestow their characteristics to the people born in their year.

The Year of the Dragon (2012) heralds the end of the Year of the Rabbit (2011).

May you all have a very happy, healthy and prosperous Lunar New Year.

Friday, January 6, 2012

THE ART OF WAR GIFT

As a young officer – and later – I read just about every version of Sun Tzu’s Art of War I could lay my hands on. Resting in my bookcase, I have six different copies and interpretations of this incredible work. The last edition I bought was Sun Tzu’s Art of War by General Tao Hanzhang in 2011.

Now I have seven – and the latest edition is the most special edition I could ever dream of having. Besides, as I said to LP a while back, I am not an e-book type; I love the feel and smell of books. However, the latest addition to my Sun Tzu collection is an incredible piece of art in its own right albeit somewhat very different from those normally found in bookstores. 

My very good friend Raymond Cheung presented me with this version of Sun Tzu’s Art of War over dinner at the Ye Shanghai restaurant on the 26 December 2011 and it is an edition I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Although my photographs can never do justice to this amazing gift, I would nevertheless like to share it with you all.

This version of the Art of War is presented in its own redwood presentation case:
 

Once the presentation case is opened, this is what one finds:



Inside is a bamboo scroll, a stand, a pair of surgical gloves and a magnifying glass with which to read the scroll with as the print is very small. The surgical gloves are included to ensure that sweaty hands do not degrade the writing on the scroll.

When the scroll is removed, it can be placed on its own stand:



The scroll has Sun Tzu’s Art of War in both Chinese and English and can be opened and read at will:
 

Obviously, the print is very fine, hence the magnifying glass.

I look at this incredible gift daily and marvel at the skill it took to produce this edition.

Thank you, Raymond!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A BLESSED, HEALTHY AND SAFE 2012 TO ALL

To all who sent my family and I Christmas and New Year messages and blessings, I need to apologise for not having responded sooner but I was not near my computer...Thank you very much for your messages of friendship, good wishes and support.

Having arrived back home today (3 January 2012), the new year has already started but I wish to offer you and your loved ones my (belated) best New Year’s wishes. I hope that your coming year will be filled with good health, much happiness and that you will all be kept safe.

I was very fortunate during 2011 as I was able to travel to new(ish) places, meet new friends and work alongside them. Of course, there are also those elected officials who believe that they were never elected but born into their positions who severely frowned upon my friends and I. However, it was good to meet them as well – or at least to discover who they are – as it is always better to know who your enemies are than be blissfully unaware of their existence.  

I wish all followers and visitors to my blog a very belated yet blessed Christmas season. To those who did not celebrate Christmas for whatever reason, I hope you had a peaceful festive period. To those who are trapped in the numerous conflicts around the world, I hope that you were able to have some peace.

Thanks again to everyone who took time to read and contribute to this blog throughout the year. Your comments continue to be appreciated and highly valued and continue to allow me to broaden my own scant knowledge base.

To everyone who wrote letters of encouragement re this blog – my thanks to you. To those who continue write “private” mails to me, I hope that you will be able to get rid of the ghosts that haunt your lives. To the many students, I hope that the blog has been able to give you some positive input re your studies.

To all who are deployed in the conflict zones around the world, beit as soldiers, sailors, airmen, law enforcement officers, spooks or PMC contractors, keep your heads down, your eyes peeled and be ready at all times to do what needs to be done. However, let us never forget those who paid with their lives so that others may taste freedom. We must never allow them to be forgotten.

Finally, I would also like to wish each and every one of you – and your loved ones - a great 2012. May the coming year be filled with good health, happiness and safety.

PS: I will soon get to the blog responses I have received. My apologies for not being able to post and respond sooner.