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Quick Link: Manea interviews General John Allen

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. "zen"]


Octavian Manea, the David Frost of SWJ, interviews General John Allen, USMC on the lessons learned on the Post-9/11 military campaigns.

Lessons from the Post 9-11 Campaigns

Octavian Manea

General John R. Allen, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.) is a distinguished fellow in the Foreign Policy program at Brookings, working within the Center on 21st Century Security and Intelligence. Prior to joining Brookings, Allen commanded the NATO International Security Assistance Force and United States Forces in Afghanistan from July 2011 to February 2013.

“The outcome in Afghanistan was not going to be decided by military operations alone. It was to create the security platform operating in the hard end of the hard-power spectrum that then permitted us to leverage those outcomes in governance, economic development and civil society, which was going to deliver the knockout blow to the Taliban.”

SWJ: In the past, the US military trained for high-end maneuver warfare and intensive firepower – historical key ingredients of the American way of war. Since 9/11 we’ve seen a totally different approach. What has changed, in your experience, in the nature and the character of war, in how you wage war?

General John R. Allen: War is fundamentally a human endeavor; the character of war may change, but not its nature. Conflict may be characterized by high intensity firepower and maneuver dominated operations and campaigns or we may find that the character of war is dominated by counterinsurgency operations, or even cyber operations. But the nature of war still continues to remain the same, a human endeavor. What was unique about Iraq and Afghanistan was what we undertook after the decisive phase of the campaign, because both of them were seen as part of a paradigm that emphasized the traditional application of the American way of war. In the aftermath of those campaigns we ultimately undertook the kind of capacity building and nation-building that would be necessary for that state to endure. We wanted to make sure that what emerged after the destruction of both central governments is something that we could live with. That required and caused us fundamentally to change the manner in which we conduct operations in both theaters.

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Sunday surprise 18, for sufferers from Jihadi Obsessive Disorder

Sunday, March 9th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- who is admittedly more of a mental treadmill kind of a guy ]
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I have no, no, no idea whether this is, as it claims, video of an Al-Qaeda training camp fitness test or just — okay, way way more likely — a silly prank video —

— but we’ve all seen videos of actual muj trainings in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnya, Somalia and elsewhere in which aspirant or actual jihadists demonstrate that they can play leapfrog, make their way across simple obstacles, and do mild acrobatics — sometimes with some martial arts or weapons training thrown in.

**

What I want to know is: how do those clips compare, think you, with the formal training offered by the Georgian National Ballet

— or the sweet-flowing informality of parkour

??

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Education: on Engineers, the Navy — and excuse me, Jihad

Sunday, March 9th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- a minor contribution to the discussion about STEM-to-stern education ]
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Adm Grace Murray Hopper

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I really don’t want to put too much weight on this — for one thing, John Boyd was, if Wiki is not mistaken, the possessor of a Batchelor’s in Industrial Engineering from Georgia Tech — but I do think it’s a bit foolish for the Navy to put most all of its eggs in the engineering basket.

**

Food to chew on…

Lt. Alexander P. Smith, USN, Navy Needs Intellectual Diversity:

To me, diversity is more than gender, race, religion and sexual orientation; it also includes the intellectual background each officer brings to the force. Starting in 2014, however, the vast majority of all NROTC graduates will be STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) majors with minimal studies in humanities. Our Navy is about to go through unprecedented compartmentalization, but not many officers seem to realize it. [ … ]

Few metrics are considered when determining who gets an interview in the nuclear-reactor community. Most midshipmen certainly have strong grade-point averages, but the principal criterion was how they performed in calculus and physics, not their major.

This begs the question: Does the tier system produce better submariners or more proficient naval officers? If less than 35 percent of our Unrestricted Line Officers possess the unique quality of comprehensive thinking through critical reading and reflection, what will the force look like in 20 years?

These are questions to consider when discerning the benefits and disadvantages of STEM graduates. We should not forget the value of future officers developing a keen interest of foreign affairs, history or language.

LCDR Benjamin “BJ” Armstrong, Engineering and the Humanities: The View from Patna’s Bridge

:Cultural understanding, emotional intelligence and empathy are fundamental parts of good leadership, and also a part of modern naval concepts like international partnerships. They come from experience. It is my great hope, however, that I will never have to experience all of the trials and challenges my fellow sailors face in life in order to help them. What a tragic life that could be. Instead, I’d rather read my share of Shakespeare, Hemingway, or O’Brian, which might help me learn a thing or two about emotion and about the way people face different challenges in their lives, even at sea. Reading the biographies of great leaders, the histories of battles both large and small, and the classics of strategy, helps me learn from the mistakes and successes of others rather than have to learn only from my own multitude of mistakes.

Oh, and to throw some high-grade jalapeño into the stew…

Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog, in their hugely contested paper Engineers of Jihad:

The only other case in which we find a trace of engineers’ prominence outside of
Islamic violent groups is, consistently with the mindset hypothesis, among the most
extreme right-wing movements, especially in the US and in Germany, where it is all
the more striking again given the general low level of education of the members of
such groups. Here we have perhaps the only other case in which the mindset alone has
activated engineers into resorting to violent action – their absolute number is tiny, but
disproportionate relative to other types of graduates.

Oops — too much pepper, pehaps?

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Look, I come from the arts side of the house.

In Education: a call for actors, directors, composers, conductors, I’ll get as deep into why arts and humanities training might be important — particularly for analysts and decision-makers — as the two naval writers cited above suggest it might be for the future of the Navy.

And no offence to engineers, please. It’s thought I’m hoping to stir up, not trouble.

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Pictured atop this post:

  • Admiral Grace Hopper, USN, was among other things the first person to write a compiler for a computer programming language.
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    In Search of Strategy(s), a Voice, a Narrative because, ‘Gentlemen, We Have Run Out Of Money; Now We Have to Think’

    Friday, December 13th, 2013

    [by J. Scott Shipman] [Warning: Maritime in flavor]

    No matter how far humanity may go in seeking to foster the arts of civilization and the ideals of civic peace, there will come times when acts of war are required in order to defend world order and sustain the peace of civilized peoples. Charles Hill’s, Grand Strategies, Literature, Statecraft, and World Order, page 48

    The lift quote in the title is attributed to Winston Churchill, and in this period of uncertainty with sequestration and deep cuts in defense commanding the attention of military leadership, one thing is becoming crystal clear: we have no cogent or explainable military strategy. Sure, we have “concepts” like Air-Sea/Air-Land Battle, A2/AD, and Off-Shore Control, but our most recent unclassified Navy strategy document A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower was written in 2007 may be a bit dated.

    This week I attended the U.S. Naval Institute’s annual Defense Forum, Shaping the Maritime Strategy and Navigating the Budget Gap Reality and given the title, there was a lot of talk about funding and in that light/context, strategy was that thing “we’re in the process of doing.” Several people I spoke with expressed concern about “telling the navy’s story,” “why we have a navy,” and one member of Congress encouraged us to build an engaged constituency to put pressure on Congress to knock-off the schizophrenic approach to appropriations, so that a bit of certainty will allow the development of a strategy. Since DoD hasn’t been successfully audited in a long, long time (if ever), I wouldn’t hold out hope for a grass-roots rescue. As Mr. Churchill wisely advises, “now we have to think.”

    Strategy Defined

    Since strategy is a hot topic, offered here are several definitions ranging from the classic to practitioners and academics, with the goal of framing the elegant simplicity of strategy as a theory, and challenge of defining in reality. As Colin Gray points out in his National Security Dilemmas: “The United States has shown a persisting strategy deficit.” (page 170) Dilemmas, written in 2009 before the budget axe fell in earnest he offers: “One would think that the following definition and explanation must defy even determined efforts of misunderstanding:” (he then quotes Clausewitz)

    Strategy is the use of engagement for the purpose of war. The strategist must therefore define an aim for the entire operational side of the war that will be in accordance with its purpose. In other words, he will draft the plan of the war, and the aim will determine the series of actions intended to achieve it: he will, in fact, shape the individual campaigns and, within these, decide the individual engagements.” (On War, page 177)

    The definition of strategy from the Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, Joint Publication 1-02:

    strategy — A prudent idea or set of ideas for employing the instruments of national power in a synchronized and integrated fashion to achieve theater, national, and/or multinational objectives. (JP 3-0)

    Other definitions:

    J.C. Wylie, RADM, USN, Ret., Military Strategy, page 14

    “A plan of action designed in order to achieve some end; a purpose together with a system of measures for its accomplishment” 

    Henry E. Eccles, RADM, USN, Ret., Military Concepts and Philosophy page 48:

    Strategy is the art of comprehensive direction of power to control situations and areas in order to attain objectives. (emphasis in original)

    Bernard Brodie, Sea Power in the Machine Age, page 78

    “Tactics may be distinguished from strategy by the criterion proposed by Mahan—the fact of contact. “Tactics” refers to localized hostilities that occur where the adversaries are in contact; “strategy” refers to those basic dispositions in strength which comprise the entire conduct of a war.” 

    General André Beaufre, Introduction á la stratégie, 1963, page 16. (note: I don’t read/speak French, I found the quote in Edward Luttwak’s Strategy, The Logic of War and Peace)

    “…the art of the dialectics of wills that use force to resolve their conflict.” 

    Paul Van Riper, LtGen, USMC, Ret, Infinity Journal, Volume 2, Issue 3, Summer 2012

    “…strategy is specifically about linking military actions to a nation’s policy goals, and ensuring the selected military ways and means achieve the policy ends in the manner that leaders intend.”

    From John Boyd’s Strategic Game of ?And?

    What is strategy?

    A mental tapestry of changing intentions for harmonizing and focusing our efforts as a basis for realizing some aim or purpose in an unfolding and often unforeseen world of many bewildering events and many contending interests.

    What is the aim or purpose of strategy?

    To improve our ability to shape and adapt to unfolding circumstances, so that we (as individuals or as groups or as a culture or as a nation?state) can survive on our own terms. (emphasis added)

    Our own Lynn Rees

    Politics is the division of strength. Strategy, its tool, squares drive, reach, and grip while striving for a certain division of strength.

    Drive falls between too weak and too strong. Reach falls between too short and too far. Grip falls between too loose and too tight.

    How strategy squares the three is open ended and ongoing. Outside friction, deliberate or not, always conspires with inside friction, intentional or not, to keep things interesting for strategy.

    Drive is the certainty you want. Reach is the certainty you try. Grip is the certainty you get. Grip can be a little sway over certain minds. It can be big hurt carved in flesh and thing. Amid uncertainty, strategy strives for certain grip. The varying gulf between certain want, uncertain try, and not certain getting is the father of strategy.

    Observations

    Paradoxically, complexity is easy to design.  Colin S. Gray, The Strategy Bridge, page 25

    All of these definitions have merit, and most coalesce around: power, conflicting wills, violence, and control. Lynn recently had a post on “Grip” where he offers a guide to physically grasp strategy (I do admire his imagery). Admiral Eccles also has a similar and complementary list:

    A strategic concept is best expressed in explicit statements of

    What to control,

    What is the purpose of this control,

    What is the nature of the control,

    What degree of control is necessary,

    When the control is to be initiated,

    How long the control is to be maintained,

    What general method or scheme of control is to be used. (page 48)

    Both of these lists are unambiguous. (One of the biggest complaints about Air-Sea Battle and A2/AD is the ambiguity. Sam Tangredi wrote a book on the latter which I’ll review soon.) Bernard Brodie in A Layman’s Guide to Naval Strategy, page 14-15 (emphasis added), reminds us:

    There is no need for a complicated terminology. However, to say that the basic principles of war are easy to understand is not to say that it is easy to comprehend the finer points, or what is more important, to determine upon a wise plan of strategy and then carry it out. The great commander must of course have a profound insight into all the ramifications of strategic principle, but that is only the first requirement of military leadership. He must thoroughly understand tactics, which with modern arms is bound to be exceedingly complex and require long training and experience. He must know how to solve problems of supply or “logistics,” he must know human nature, and he must have certain qualities of character and personality which transcend mere knowledge. He must be able to stick to his course despite a thousand distractions and yet be sufficiently elastic to recognize when a change in circumstances demands a change in plan. He must above all be able to make adjustments to the inevitable shocks and surprises of war.

    Unfortunately, the very preoccupation of commanders with specific and inevitably complex problems sometimes tends to make them impatient with the age old verities. Long-tested doctrines which are utterly simple are rejected in part because of their very simplicity, and in part too because of the dogma of innovation so prevalent in our age. The French High Command in the summer of 1940 found out too late that the side which carries the ball makes the touchdowns, and that all the maxims of great military leaders of the past relative to the merits of initiative had not been outmoded by modern arms. We live in an age when basic theories of naval warfare are being rejected out of hand by responsible officials on the wholly unwarranted assumption that they do not fit modern conditions. One can say about theory what Mahan said about materiel: “It is possible to be too quick in discarding as well as too slow in adopting.”

    There’s a lot to digest in those two paragraphs, but one take away is that whatever the Navy presents as a strategy should be easy to understand and explain. The strategy should also explain how it plans to maintain control or “command the seas.” And finally, as Wylie reminds the planner:

    Wylie’s assumptions in a General Theory of War:

    Despite whatever effort to prevent it, there will be war

    The aim of war is some measure of control over the enemy

    We cannot predict with certainty the pattern of the war for which we prepare ourselves

    The ultimate determinate in war is the man on the scene with a gun

    As we build our strategies and plans, these decidedly old-fashioned and many cases very simple guides can help us get it right.

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    USNI Press to Rerelease J.C. Wylie’s Classic

    Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

    [by J. Scott Shipman]

    Military Strategy, A General Theory of Power Control, J. C. Wylie

    Mark your calendar; March 15, 2014, the USNI Press will rerelease J.C. Wylie‘s classic Military Strategy. A couple years ago I reviewed here.

    If you have not read Wylie, I strongly recommend adding his little book to your list.

    And a big “Thank You!” to the USNI Press!

    POSTSCRIPT: A representative of the USNI notified me that an eBook will be forthcoming, too. 

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