Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Obama’s choice to head Joint Chiefs, is a low-tech soldier

Discussion in 'Academy/Military News' started by bruno, May 30, 2011.

  1. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    http://www.washingtonpost.com/natio...w-tech-soldier/2011/05/29/AGPaKPEH_story.html
    )
    I guess that I agree with Gen Dempsey's approach. When I was at Newport- the thinking at the time was focused on a theory called "Netcentric warfare" which basically emphasized us using our hi tech capabilities to focus on and decapitate the enemies critical nodes to their infrastructure rendering them incapable of resistance. What it didn't take into account IMO was that our critical nodes were not aligned with the enemies that we were likely to fight, and that our focus on the technology left us vulnerable at the lower end of the spectrum. Nobody flies aircraft against us and they typically don't communicate thru the airwaves where we can intercept and disrupt them. The history of technologists it seems to me is that they always overestimate the affect that their disruptions cause, they mistake their control of the medium for actual control of the situation and always underestimate the resilience of the enemy to work around those disruptions. (They also seem to always underestimate the cost of the technology- more and more the cost of the capabilities that they are searching for explode in cost to the point that we can afford nothing while we search for the equivalent of the hi tech Holy Grail
     
  2. usnabgo08

    usnabgo08 USNA 2008/BGO

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    bruno, tpg...

    What is the scope of your definition of "technology?"
     
  3. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    What I mean- and what I think Dempsey means is approaching technology as changing the nature of warfare itself. Nobody would argue that technology has enhanced the efficiencies of the military- you can physically move and control a great deal more terrain than in the past. But it's a tool and it doesn't negate an awful lot of warfighting truths. Centralized decision making hinders not enhances warfighting. Electronic intelligence is not the same as perfect intelligence of the enemy's intent. Human ingenuity and motivations will overcome almost all technological obstacles and control of key terrain isn't accomplished remotely- it's accomplished by a physical identifiable presence.
    At the unit level- it's a frequently repeated fallacy that says - physical ability isn't required anymore because wars are pushbutton affairs (any popular new source repeats this a lot and plenty of folks believe it.) But Infantry units will still need to physically find and control the terrain, and they can't rely on higher to tell them where to shoot and precise intel on who and when to shoot or how to deploy their units or forgo controlling terrain because it's covered by eyes in the sky. Those things fail and it still requires the basics.

    At the strategic level: An awful lot of the RMA (a term now out of fashion) futurists at least prior to OEF and OIF essentially presumed that our ability to precisely target selected items from afar was the equivalent of being able to fight a war from remotely , and that the basic calculations of victory and how we impose our will on the enemy really are changed. There have been a lot of folks over the years who have greatly overpromised the abilities of new technologies to perform -and they have been wrong in every single war. That's not to say that they haven't contributed, but that the victory has never been won by viewing the enemy from a distance and lobbing high explosives from farther and farther away without remaining to control the area that the war is fought over. True in WW2 ,Korea, Vietnam and certainly in the last 10 years. We don't judge the countries and cultures that we are going to war against well enough and the RMA people look in the mirror and see the enemy and plan accordingly. An over reliance on and technological approaches would be much more dangerous if employed against us or a western country than against Afghanistan, (or any 'stan or Sub-Saharan country) Take out the critical communications nodes and we are in trouble- much of the world though still functions without that stuff (why did it take 10 years to find OBL? Becasue he didn't use hi-tech commo anymore - he used messengers to pass messages.)
    So why do I like Dempsey's observations? Because I believe that betting the future of the military on a fundamental Revolution in warfare would leave the military badly positioned to fight a real as opposed to theoretical war. Case in point- Donald Rumsfeld was a huge believer in the whole RMA concept- and he couldn't believe that basic low tech IEDs, murder and kidnapping would unhinge a society and that we would not be able to control what went on with gadgets. The surge succeeded because we went out and did low-tech things - basic warfare blocking and tackling that we should have planned for but didn't.
     
  4. usnabgo08

    usnabgo08 USNA 2008/BGO

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    Thanks.

    The reason I was asking with scoping is because technology is a very very broad term. I wasn't sure if you were talking about technology in the context of employing "smarter" equipment to do the job (possibly in place of human operators) or technology in the context of employing devices that protect the ability to command and control (comms/networks) -- more along the lines of cyber.
     
  5. Malachy Marine

    Malachy Marine Member

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    I would favor the low-tech approach to warfare. So Gen Dempsey seems like a good choice. Though I don't like how Gen Cartwright was dropped for allegations that we proven to be untrue. But perception is everything right! :mad:

    IMHO, there are only two tenets of WAR:
    (1) Destroy and Annihilate the Enemy before He Can Do the Same to You

    (2) Maneuver is the Key to Victory

    Now, I would say I'm a fairly avowed Maneuverist. For those of you who are unfamiliar, I suggest you pick up a copy of MCDP-1 Warfighting. While not the worlds greatest book on warfare, it is short, sweet, and to the point. Maneuver, either spatially, temporally, doctrinally, or whatever, is what wins battles, campaigns, and wars. Every now and again, some self-ordained "smart-guy," comes up with this "new" idea and says its going to change "everything" about the nature of warfare.

    War is bleak and miserable and despicable. This has never and will never change. But some think new technologies will drastically change the manner in which war is conducted. Look to cavalry, gunpowder, rifling, artillery, the Maxim gun, the automobile, tanks, airpower, nuclear weapons, "net-centric warfare." Each have been touted as fundamentally shaking the principles of warfare to their foundation. In the end, one man is locked in hand-to-hand combat with another fighting for survival. The advantage can go to the UNIT attacking from the flank or the rear. But ultimately any attack becomes a frontal attack for the individual Infantryman, as he shoots, claws, and fights against the Enemy directly to his front.

    N.B. An interesting note about "net-centric warfare," look up an old Marine, Gen Van Ripper in reference to the Millenium Challenge. The exercise was designed as a proof of concept for "net-centric warfare." They had already declared it a success before they began the exercise. Van Ripper played the part of a Middle Eastern despot with an aging but still capable Soviet/US equipped/trained military (sound familiar anyone?). He utterly decimated the BLUFOR. The big-wigs cried foul, changed the rules to the exercise to their advantage, removed Van Ripper, and... big shocker... the BLUFOR now WON!!! Hooray! Victory for Net-Centric Warfare! But bottom-line Gen Van Ripper understood the human nature of combat and exploited the fog-of-war leveraging it against US technological superiority.
     
  6. Bullet

    Bullet Member

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    Bruno, tpg, malachy

    Much respect and even greater love for my ground-pounding brothers in arms, but allow me to provide the “other perspective” in your hate-against-the-machine view of the future of our DoD.

    Much has been stated here on the evils of over-reliance on technology, with plenty of examples of how today’s conflicts should be rightfully focused towards success with the proverbial grunt on the hill planting the US flag, proudly proclaiming “this piece of land now under the control of the US Government”. Like I said, rightfully so. And many can understand your exuberance as you cheer the selection of a new CJCS that you hope will place the priority on this form of warfare. And while I share your hope that our new CJCS will fully understand the role of the lonely soldier / marine in achieving victory, I also hope Gen Dempsey also brings a balance in understanding the importance the technologies you bemoan also play in the modern battlefield.

    Bruno, I’ll add another lexicon to the discussion with the letters “R” and “M” in it: ROMO (Range of Military Operations). While the conflicts you mention do demonstrate the need for a well equipped and highly motivated “soldier at the front”, you seem to forget that the next war may or may not be like today’s battlefield. (You also seem to have forgotten our relatively recent conflict in Bosnia and our current conflict in Libya, neither of which saw a prominent (if any at all) role for that proverbial soldier on a hill). As a DoD, we need to be prepared for EVERY range of conflict, from the peace-keeping / counter-insurgency mission, to the nightmare scenario that is the defense of Taiwan. What is and what will be used all depends on the scenario and the Commander’s intent.

    Technology is an enabler for all these missions, and the level of technology required is all dependent again on the scenario and intent. Small scale, ground-centric combat like we are in today in certain theaters? Well, you all pretty much covered that. But I will say that the freedom of maneuver which is such a critical part of our current battle strategy that malachy mentions has been greatly enhanced and ensured through the assurance of air dominance in the theaters in question. Without those “Hi-tech” toys in the air, space, and on the ground, much of the freedom of maneuver that was enjoyed in the early stages of Desert Storm, OIF, and even to a certain extent OEF would not have been achievable. Technology, and the pursuit of advancing our technological advantages over any potential enemy, have proven to be KEY to America’s military success and this will continue to be so.

    And while it is easy (and short-sighted) to focus on the stabilization efforts in OIF and OEF (i.e today's fight), you must remember the role technology played in how quickly the US the initial fight against Sadam’s forces and the Taliban. The opening round of OIF (Phase III) was a SPECTACULAR success, and will be studied for generations of future warriors to come as the text-book example of fast-maneuver warfare. A success only achieved through the technological superiority of our air power and Command and Control in the early stages. Granted, the “stability” stage saw spectacular failures as well, to include the lack of sufficient ground forces in the early going to ensure that stability. Again, a lesson in how the scenario changes, and how priorities need to change with it.

    You bemoan Rumsfeld’s push for a high-tech military focused on airpower as the means to future victory. Please forgive me if I am mistaken in my memory, but I thought Rumsfeld was instead pushing more for the Army (and to an extent, the USMC) to get past a Cold-war mentality that emphasized heavy (and slow to deploy) armor, and to instead focus on a ground fighting force that was lighter, more agile, and more responsive. Combined with combat effects provided through airpower, missiles, and (yes) even artillery, Rummy wanted the Army to move away from the Abrams and Crusader, and move more towards the Ranger. A strategy that has proven to be highly effective in the current conflict. Was Rummy too focused on the high-end, high-tech war? Debatable. I do, however, feel has been vindicated in his belief that technology is an enabler that can greatly influence overall chances of success on the modern battlefield.

    As to the incoming CJSC? Well, since the time (eons ago it seems) when I raised my right hand and swore to protect and defend the US Constitution, I’ve seen the pendulum swing both ways. From a time when Armor and the closing of the Fulda Gap was King, to the glorification of airpower, to today’s praise for Private Snuffy and his M4 patrolling a village square. MY Hope? That Gen Dempsey realizes that the pendulum needs to be neither full right or full left, but instead should be rightfully dead-center. We can’t afford to expect tomorrow’s war to be like today’s. And across the ROMO, technology plays its part.

    I hope he understands that….
     
  7. Malachy Marine

    Malachy Marine Member

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    Balance is an important part of it. Technology and the continued development of new weapons and technologies is one of America's biggest advantages, militarily. However, there is a strong pervasive amount of people within the culture that consider it a "cure-all." Which it is not. These are the same people who think to better protect our troops on the ground means loading them down with more gear. For an example, look at the Army body-armor suits that some were wearing circa 2004-2006 with the shoulder pads and the "hockey pad" style thigh protectors. Granted they were worn mostly by turret gunners, but what if he had to dismount of quickly get out of his vehicle because it was on fire?

    There were still ground troops involved in Bosnia and Libya. They were the ones seizing and holding ground. They may not have been American, but they were and are the Main Effort. Just like you say, we "enabled," them to carry out their offensives. (and defensives). In terms of the ROMO concept, take a look at the 3 Block War concept. Granted the specific example used in its development is flawed, but... 1 block is kinetic warfare (non-permissive), the next block is SASO (semi-permissive), and the third appears to be more HA/DR in nature (permissive).

    The Marine Corps does a decent job of preparing its personnel to be prepared to execute and of these missions. I would argue that the SASO and HA/DR capabilities have a greater ability to effect National Security/Foreign Policy interests than traditional ground combat.

    But the big key thing in Maneuver Warfare is Commander's Intent. Because technology will fail, comm will go down, and it will be up to the commander on the frontline to evaluate the changing situation, and apply Higher's Intent. Mission-type tactics are a huge component to Maneuver Warfare because the provide the commanders at all level flexibility, creativity, and independence; but requiring violence of action to seize the initiative. The Germans (circa WWi and WWII) were superb at this. They called it Auftragstaktik.

    I agree, we have benefitted greatly from our near absolute dominance of the air over the last several decades. As such, time and money still needs to be devoted to maintaining (and improving if practical) this capability. However, I believe this is one example of why DOD is having so many issues with money, because some people come up with these great weapons programs. Hundreds of millions and billions of dollars are sunk into them, with only marginal or no returns in terms of increased capabilities. This wholes time money is siphoned away from other more practical and simplistic things that have proven capabilities on the ground/in the air.

    While air dominance played a significant role (I wonder what it would have looked like if Sadaam's Air Force had fought it out in the skies), the success was due to the maneuver executed with violence. The maneuver was enabled by airpower, but the Soldiers and Marines on the ground in their vehicles, driving day and night, following their Commander's Intent were the reasons for our fantastic success.

    If you haven't, read the article TPG put out there about Gen Van Riper. Rumsfeld push for high-tech came before 9/11. That forced his hand and he came up with something "transformational" :unhappy: for the Army. He wanted to make the Army expeditionary. This makes Marines cringe, because we feel that is our role. It feels like someone is trying to replace us (something which has been argues off and on for nearly our entire existence). But more importantly this "transformation" or "revolution" of the Army into Brigade Combat Teams was heavily dependent on new technologies and vehicles that hadn't been proven yet. Then he ignores the recommendation from the Army Chief of Staff, that Iraq would require 100,000 troops in order to adequately stabilize, post-kinetic operations. A man not schooled in the ways of war (not even through any identifiable personal attempt to educate himself) cast aside the recommendations of a professional, who had spent years educating himself, and who had looked to history at the requirements such a stability effort would require.

    Rummy's big things were the BCTs and the Stryker. He emphasized mechanized forces which is neither light infantry nor quick to deploy. In fact, it has the potential to encourage troops to not dismount. Stay safe in the vehicle. You don't need to get out and talk to the tribal leader.

    The change came with the intellectual approach, provided by Gen Petraeus, LtCol Nagl, Col Kilcullen, Gen Allen, Gen Mattis. These gentlemen are students of War, who focused America's efforts towards developing smarter Marines and Soldiers, rather than favoring better more advanced technologies.
     
  8. Bullet

    Bullet Member

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    Excellent analysis and words throughout, Malachy. Makes me smile knowing that the young men and women on these threads who read the posts provided are given such insight and thoughts to read, assess, and most importantly THINK for their own about.

    You know, shortly after I posted, I re-read this part and said "Dooohh! Stupid statement there, Bullet." Of course airpower played a huge part, but again its purpose was to be an enabler for maneuver. (albeit a very potent enabler that made life a heck of a lot easier for those pushing North along the Euphrates). Thought to go back and correct myself, but work caught up to me. My apologies for some poor choices of words there...:redface:

    Couple of other points:

    - Old battle rattle and 40 pounds of US steel and Kevlar? Yeah, it wasn't the easiest to live with (says one who lived with it). But an example of worshipping the throne of technology? Not so sure this is a good example of that. Asking a trooper to add individual Blue Force Tracker gear would probably be a better example of higher ups not considering the consequences of adding additional individual soldier gear.

    - Not sure what ground troops you're referencing in regards to Bosnia. Pretty sure the only ones involved were what my buddies and I were calling "targets". Perhaps a few special forces teams involved from our side. The reasons the Dayton Peace Accords came about are debatable, but no one is citing American (or coalition) "boots on the ground" as the reason. As to Libya? Well, yes there are two opposing ground forces in this conflict, neither of which contains troops from the US or our NATO partners (publicly). US presence there is strictly air support and Naval logistical support, based on OUR objectives and priorities, not the Libyans.

    - You brought up the Marine's latest doctrinal push. The Navy and AF are also exploring new Doctrine: "Air Sea Battle". Mostly as a solution for the Anti-Access / Area Denial battle space. Just another example of ROMO, and how the different scenarios, all dictated by threat capabilities and political will to engage, require different capabilities and different focus on our part. Scale of effort required and encountered plays a significant factor as well.

    - The key to maneuver warfare is ensuring you have the ability to maneuver and the enemy doesn't. The Commander can order you to move all he wants based on his intent, but the enemy has a very clear vote on whether he will try to stop you from doing that or not. And of course technologies and C2 can fail;which is why a key tenet of air power is centralized control (i.e. giving you the CC's intent) and de-centralized execution (aircrews reacting as necessary to complete the mission). This also requires violence of action to seize the initiative as well.

    - The cost of new technologies IS very worrisome. To say these technologies achieve no or only marginal increases in capabilities is just plain incorrect, however. Its very easy to see the world (and the future of combat) exclusively through the prism of today's battles and what new technologies bring to the valleys of Afghanistan and the alleys of Iraq. But you don't use a hammer to rip a piece of wood in two (but I've met a few Marines who find this to be a perfectly acceptable, if messy, solution :biggrin:). You use the right tool for the right mission. And at the high end of ROMO, those tools become expensive if you want to guarantee success. Effective, but expensive. The question when trying to balance risk versus cost in today's tight budgets (that are only going to get tighter) should be: what is more likely? And I'll grant you, I see it as FAR more likely that in the future we'll be facing similar scenarios as today (my guess: Africa), than the potential "stop the Chinese from invading Taiwan" scenario. But I wouldn't want to have to go into that battle using the same methods we are currently using in the Khobar province...

    - I'll have to read up some more on Rummy and the logic he used for his madness. I freely admit he has a well deserved sense of revile from those with a ground centric focus. But I was under the impression his push for BCTs was based on the vision for the Army to get lighter and more agile. More responsive to the realities of the present time, as it were. I will agree his arrogance that he knew better than the men who wore the uniform for decades in regards to strategy is a little hard to ignore or label as an endearing quality. But I have to ask, how much of that proposed 300,000 troops were part of the logistical tail, and how much were "the pointy end of the stick"? His view IMO, (and I ain't saying he's right or wrong in his assessments) was the need for such a large logistical tail was neither desired or acceptable, because it would tie America down in that theater too much. And granted, it happened anyway, but there is much blame to go around for some of the spectacularly stupid decisions made in those days after Sadam's statue toppled.

    Ultimately, let's just say we both believe in balance, with our respective pendulums just slightly off center in opposite directions. :smile: I can live with that! :thumb:
     
  9. goaliedad

    goaliedad Parent

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    I am closer to Dempsey than not. So much of our technology is focused on taking ground or isolating and eliminating single threats, which is in my book something we are so far ahead on (as compared to our current foes) that we can take a break here and focus our dollars on supporting the holding of ground more effectively.

    It seems that much of this type of spending today is about building a more effective IED defense, which is understandable considering how many young men and women are being harmed, but to me it seems that this ultimately is a losing strategy as we seem to have to spend on a scale of thousands to one against our enemy in this regard and we are constantly on the defensive which has a draw as the best outcome.

    If our objective is to hold ground (as opposed to destroy), ultimately we must make the local politics and popular thought friendly to our presence. This is always difficult as when we enter any locale, our presence has probably diminished or threatened someone's position of power. Our tactics for holding ground must be geared towards managing the local political changes that comes from these changes brought on by our presence.

    Yes, you can buy (or should I say rent) loyalty from those pushed aside, but usually these folks are pretty corrupt (hence the ability to rent) and with good intellegence, we can identify the current political hierarchy and structure (much like law enforcement diagrams mafia relationships) and exploit this knowledge to manage the political balance of power to be friendly towards our presence.

    Unfortunately, we tend to do this only at a national level (and not very successfully looking at the lack of cooperation we are getting from the 2 national governments we helped to create) where the alliances are formed by aligning local power structures. This top-down political management is driven by our impatience in getting a friendly figurehead to show off to the media.

    Getting back to managing the local level politics (on which the national coalitions are built), we need to invest in a balance of low-tech (language and culture training of our troops to build trust and respect) and high-tech (I am a firm believer in electronic listening devices to gather soft intellegence for the officers in the field to exploit). If this is done subtly, most of the guys we manage to get the goods on won't know where the threat is coming from and by the time they figure out how we got inside, their ability to react will be eliminated if we isolate their operatives.

    If you've ever wondered how the Chinese central government can keep a lid on dissent over such a large country, it is entirely through layers of soft intellegence from the local to the regional, with the politics carefully managed at each level from the one above. While it is impossible for the central government to micromanage each locale, their structure seems to isolate each unit so any single failure (rebellion) will not spread. We might consider that strategy (divide and conquer) when dealing with cultures where there is wider spread social interaction (think Iraq more than Afghanistan).

    Yes, this goes against the "build a democracy based upon open discussion of ideas", but quite frankly, democracy and freedoms are developed slowly as traditions of absolute control are broken down and trust is built between opposing political camps. Politics abhors a vacuum and turning newly "liberated" people who don't trust each other to "democratically" elect a government is a recipie for a return to a large scale power grab.

    We Americans wish to project our development as balanced political system on other societies and are puzzled as to why people who seem to want democratic rule end up with yet another autocrat in charge when we set up "instant democracy". American democracy is good for Americans. It took a couple of centuries with a civil war in the middle for the trust of people with very different cultural norms to develop enough trust to have a reasonably strong central government. And even that comes under a lot of suspicion to this day. The ebb and flow between centralized and decentralized government is a sign of a healthy political system that evolves to match the ever-changing sub-cultures and their degree of trust.

    We've done a great job of producing a large, stable political system but vastly underestimate how hard and how long it takes for a nation (however poorly defined by previous conquerers or the UN) to sort out its issues of trust to find a balanced political power management system. So we send in the troops (after the AF eliminates any "organized" military) to try to do this in a couple of years and scratch our heads when it doesn't turn out like we planned. If we actually did the long hard work of building it from the local unit up, we would probably build more stable (and probably more democratic) results.
     

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