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Armed Forces Journal en Fuego!

AFJ has an intellectually provocative set of articles up. Bravo to the editors!:


The geo-strategist Halford McKinder once divided major states between Land and Sea Wolves. States that have an expeditionary capability are not limited to either/or status. They crossbreed their wolf packs to swim if needed and conduct operations ashore far from home when called upon. This expeditionary capability allows a state to apply strategic leverage across the physical domains. Most critically, expeditionary capabilities allow powers to deal with or minimize geographical and environmental constraints. Expeditionary forces allow maritime powers the opportunity to exploit their mastery of the seas to their advantage. Equally important, expeditionary forces can help offset the disadvantages of a purely maritime-based approach and provide even Continental Elephants the ability to project power when their interests are served by that capability 

….Combinations. The neat distinctions or intellectual bins we make between conventional and irregular warfare are useful, but only to a degree. The future portends potentially aggravating circumstances that will make the neat distinction between state and nonstate moot, and the delineation between conventional and irregular adversaries irrelevant. Thanks in part to globalization and the rapid transmission of ideas and technology, there is a recognizable fusion or blurring of regular and irregular modes of combat, into what might be called “combinational” or hybrid warfare.

Hybrid threats incorporate combinations of different modes of warfare including conventional capabilities, irregular tactics and formations, terrorist acts including indiscriminate violence and coercion, and criminal disorder. These multimodal operations display a novel degree of operational and tactical fusion in time and space. They may confound purely conventional approaches and kinetic solutions, and may also foil today’s emphasis on population-centric counterinsurgency strategies.

This article will probably aggravate the Big Army Clausewitzians. Not because Hoffman does not take their concerns seriously, he does and sides with Colin Gray over the more utopian predictions of the end of interstate warfare, but because Hoffman regards their concerns as only one significant nodal point on a wide spectrum of national security threats.


….Unfortunately, even though the U.S. military improved its ability to develop emergent strategies in recent years, particularly when it comes to dealing with tactical and operational challenges, the Pentagon’s formal strategic planning process remains grounded in the outdated premises of the rational design model. Despite its repeated manifest failures in achieving the integration of strategy, programs and budgets, the Planning, Programming and Budgeting System (PPBS), a holdover of the McNamara era, continues to represent the management approach used to build up defense budgets. Similarly, the QDR exercises, another attempt to “make strategy” through a top-down rational design model, have been so overtaken by the bureaucratic rivalries among the military services that they served little strategic purpose once they were finalized. Despite the frustration with this traditional form of planning, both among civilian and military participants, the Defense Department at an institutional level has not yet found a way to adapt its strategic planning mechanisms to meet the demands of today’s rapidly changing external environment.

….This focus on “competitive strategy” has been advocated in the debates on U.S. defense strategy by Andrew Marshall, Barry Watts and Andrew Krepinevich, among others, who have urged the U.S. military to focus on creating and exploiting asymmetrical advantages as the key to successful strategy-making. While these authors’ have been remarkable in their attempt to shift the focus away from the 1950s and 1960s traditional model of planning, recent developments in the business literature in the past decade have now moved away from this emphasis on competitive advantage (prevalent in the 1980s and 1990s) to an emphasis on strategic innovation and planned emergence.

The “learning model” of emergent strategy formation is based on Mintzberg’s premise that the “complex and unpredictable nature of the organization’s environment, often coupled with the diffusion of knowledge bases necessary for strategy, precludes deliberate control; strategy making must above all take the form of a process of learning over time, in which, at the limit, formulation and implementation become indistinguishable.”

Sharp work by newcomer Popescu. Most discussions of strategy are left disconnected from the cloying morass of Pentagon internal bureaucratic process, which ultimately needs to be addessed is performance and operational capabilities are to improve. Popescu excavates the intellectual origins and limitations of current planning models that hail from the salad days of IBM’s man in a gray flannel suit.

Joseph J. CollinsEssay: Afghan reconciliation

….Negotiators will have to deal with a number of complicating factors. For one, the Taliban has many factions. In the South, we have the original Taliban, but in the East and the Northeast, the fighters come from the Haqqani network and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s faction of Hezbi Islami, which has been at war since 1978. Complicating the issue, there are now multiple Pakistani Taliban factions, some of which operate in both countries. When we talk to the Taliban, we will have to deal with its many parts. The divisions provide us opportunities for divide-and-conquer tactics, but it also means that some factions may reconcile while others continue to fight

….Third, the Taliban regime also conducted numerous crimes against humanity for which there has never been an accounting. In addition to the extreme repression of the entire Afghan citizenry – no kites, no music, no female education, bizarre human rights practices, executions at soccer matches etc. – thousands of Afghans, especially non-Pashtuns, were killed by the Taliban. Compounding that problem, the contemporary Taliban usually try to win hearts and minds through terror tactics and repression. Even today, when they are trying to attract more followers with propaganda and Sharia-based dispute resolution, the Taliban’s approval ratings in most polls does not reach 20 percent. The Taliban rule of about five years was also a practical disaster for Afghanistan. Along with their bloody record as insurgents, the Taliban’s leaders no doubt remember that five years into their “rule,” only three countries had recognized them.

…. Political reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Taliban (or any of their factions) should require a number of key conditions. First, the Taliban must verifiably lay down their arms. They must accept the Afghan Constitution and agree to operate within it. War criminals and close associates of al-Qaida will be ineligible for reintegration. The Taliban must also forsake the criminal enterprises that have become their lifeline and agree to become a legitimate political party inside Afghanistan. There can be no offers of territorial power sharing or extra constitutional arrangements, but later, Taliban cabinet officers and appointed provincial or district governors should not be ruled out. Taliban fighters could clearly be integrated into the ethnically integrated Afghan security forces after retraining and indoctrination. Taliban farmers can be given stipends or even land as an incentive.

Col. Collins is offering a strong dose of realism regarding talks with the Taliban(s) and possible outcomes. In my view, negotiations might be better regarded as “peeling an onion” than an all-or-nothing deal.

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