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SWJ Blog Gets it’s Groove Back

Dave and Bill and the staff at SWJ went through a server migration/site upgrade recently and SWJ Blog is back to rocking and rolling on strategy, warfare and COIN. Two examples:

The Limits of our Ability to Practice War by Garrett Wood

….There are two complementary ways to describe the enormity of war. First, it is a human phenomenon whose complexities multiply according to the number of people involved. Active duty servicemen are generally a small segment of a society and yet an entire society can be transformed when faced with occupation. Then opportunities to fight increase, a farmer can become a part-time soldier relying on tools like ambush and community intimidation to grind out victory. War is open to as many changes and interpretations as there are lives it affects.

Second, as the most visceral human action war draws a response from all aspects of life. It siphons wealth from civilizations, it builds and destroys political credibility, and it polarizes the religious into zealots and pacifists. War’s effects rebound back onto itself creating criticism, support, opportunities, and constraints that were unexpected at its outset. The influence that even intangibles like faith and the economy have, combined with the endless changes wrought on the shape of war by individual participants, make for complexity beyond understanding.

War quickly exceeds our ability to know it, so we make it smaller. We discard approaches and possibilities until we have something we can grasp and practice at the expense of resources we are willing to sacrifice. In the United States we rely on a volunteer force, augmented by advanced technology and massive sums of wealth. Our military is tailored to quick decisive engagements with minimal casualties and reflects the American consensus on what war should be, even when not employed that way. The forces that shape the way we fight are numerous, powerful, subtle and beyond our ability to master completely.

Overcoming Our Dearth of Language Skills by Morgan Smiley

….Read Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order” and Thomas P.M. Barnett’s “The Pentagon’s New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century“.  In “Clash of Civilizations”, Huntington talks of potential conflicts arising along cultural “fault lines”, for example, where Christianity meets Islam (Central Asia/ Turkey/ Caucasus regions) or where Hindu culture meets Sinic culture (Himalaya/ Central Asian region).  In “The Pentagon’s New Map”, Thomas Barnett posits that the world is divided between the “connected” (primarily Western) regions/ countries and the “disconnected” or “Gap” areas, with many of those “gap” regions being in Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, etc.  Given these two authors & ideas they put forth, the Army may want to look at educating Soldiers in Turkish, Persian, Hindi, and Chinese as well as focusing on those areas for cultural/ regional education.

….Though quite radical, we may want to revive the British concept of a “shooting leave” (we’ll call it something else of course).  During the period of British rule in India, both Company and Government, a “shooting leave” involved a British officer taking a few weeks or months of leave in order to travel through potentially hostile lands and gather information and intelligence, which involved the possibility of shooting or being shot at.  For our purposes, our officers ought to be able to take a sabbatical, perhaps no more than 3 to 6 months, and embed themselves in non-governmental organizations (NGO) operating in one of the regions we are interested in (with Doctors Without Borders in Tajikistan for instance) so that he may use/ improve his language capabilities, learn first-hand information about the region he is in, and work with organizations that we may end up dealing with should we become involved in those areas.  We may also want to look at embedding in foreign militaries involved in combat operations (Indians in Kashmir, Russians in the Cacausus, etc) or with private military companies (PMCs) operating overseas.  These opportunities would allow one to immerse in a local culture, refine language skills, as well observe routine activities (whether in conflict or non-conflict zones) in those areas of interest (a similar idea was proposed by COL (R) Scott Wuestner in his paper Building Partner Capacity/ Security Force Assistance: A New Structural Paradigm, Feb 2009).

The last suggestion is worthy of Coming Anarchy.

6 Responses to “SWJ Blog Gets it’s Groove Back”

  1. Daniel Says:

    Wish I could remember which essay it was, but the military intelligence officer Ralph Peters has written about military officers taking "working holidays" into foreign war zones. I believe Peters also traveled in various places himself (pretty sure he went to Chechnya in the 90s). Also, a quick google shows he has a new book (2010) called ‘Looking for Trouble’ that seems to cover some of his trips into different countries.

  2. Daniel Says:

    Ugh, the date is actually 2008, so it’s not so new (new to me though).

  3. J.ScottShipman Says:

    Hi Daniel, Looking For Trouble is a pretty good read.

  4. Lexington Green Says:

    The Victorian and Edwardian approach worked well for its day.  I see no reason that the (similar) era of small wars and insurgencies we are living through now would not also be suitable for this.  One quibble, I think that shooting leave referred to hunting as an excuse to visit frontier locations, which opens it up beyond serving where there is intra-human shooting going on.  

  5. historyguy99 Says:

    ….Though quite radical, we may want to revive the British concept of a “shooting leave” (we’ll call it something else of course).

    Hey, isn’t this what most of NATO has been doing the past 9 years in Afghanistan?

    Seriously, a good idea as long as the probing eye of the 24/7 tabloid news cycle doesn’t pull a gotch-ya when our embeds, shoot back or get hit. 19th century British officers never had that to fear during their far ranging travels. They had to wait until a 20th century movie maker changed their role. http://willhutchison.com/blog/2010/01/21/british-military-observers-in-the-american-civil-war/

  6. zen Says:

    Excellent point, Professor.

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