This was taken from the Professional Soldiers Board. (SF) The article generated an excellent discussion there on these subjects. If you are a member check it out. TW


June 29, 2006 Thursday


LENGTH: 3618 words






Statement of Max Boot Senior Fellow, National Security Studies The Council
on Foreign Relations

Committee on House Armed Services Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities

"Chairman Saxton, Congressman Meehan, members of the Subcommittee: Thank you for inviting me here today to discuss the future of the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and the war on terror, along with two men for whom I have great admiration Wayne Downing and Mike Vickers. I will begin by suggesting what kind of force we need to defeat our Islamist enemies, then review the deficiencies of our current force structure, and finally conclude with a suggestion for how a major organizational overhaul the resurrection of the Office of Strategic Services--could address some of these shortcomings.

My starting point is the assumption that in the years ahead key competencies for the U.S. armed forces will be knowledge of foreign languages and cultures, skill at counterinsurgency warfare, and the ability to work with a wide range of foreign allies, ranging from advanced NATO militaries and constabularies to primitive militias in places like Afghanistan and Somalia. All of these needs are dictated by the nature of the global war being waged on the U.S. and our allies by Al Qaeda and various other Islamist terrorist groups. Our enemies in this struggle cannot be defeated with conventional military force. Indeed, there is a distinct danger that indiscriminate application of violence will only create more enemies in the future. To defeat this Islamist insurgency we must be able not only to track down and capture or kill hard-core terrorists but also to carry out civil affairs and information operations to win the "hearts and minds" of the great mass of uncommitted Muslims. We are very good at eliminating top terrorists, once they have been found (witness Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's death); less good at finding them (Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are still at large); and less skilled still at changing the conditions that breed terrorism in the first place (look at the continuing violence in Iraq and Afghanistan).

Focus on Counterinsurgency

We are paying the price for this skills-deficit in places like Iraq where it has been difficult for a conventionally focused Army and Marine Corps to say nothing of the Navy and Air Force-- to pivot to counterinsurgency operations.

There is widespread concern, including within the armed forces, that a predilection for "kinetic" solutions has made the situation in parts of Iraq worse, not better. In this regard, I was stuck by an op-ed published recently in the Baltimore Sun ("Military Must Share the Blame," June 20, 2006) by a Marine officer named Erik Swabb who served in Fallujah in 2004-2005. He writes that prior to deployment, "We did not understand certain dynamics at play, such as the notion that excessive force protection alienates the populace, reduces intelligence and, therefore, makes one less secure. We knew how to raid a house but not how to build local relationships and learn where insurgents were hiding.

We did not know these crucial aspects of counterinsurgency because we had never received training about them."

Keep in mind that Swabb went to Iraq more than year into the guerrilla war, and that he served in the Marine Corps, which has traditionally placed more emphasis on "small war" skills than have the other services. And yet, by his own testimony, he did not understand the most basic tenets of counterinsurgency warfare especially the fundamental paradox that too much aggression can be counterproductive, and that a "softer" approach can actually produce better results.

The armed services, in particular the Army and Marine Corps, are now doing a better job of training for such missions--but not good enough. That is why General George Casey Jr. felt compelled to set up his own counterinsurgency school in Iraq for newly arriving officers, a job that should have been done before they shipped off to war. Clearly there is a need for more training focused on this critical subject, as there is for more language training.

Anything this Committee could do to further prod the armed forces in this direction would be extremely useful. The Quadrennial Defense Review made the right noises about the need to focus on stability operations, language training, and related areas, but the defense budget remains overwhelmingly focused on conventional programs. Much more needs to be done to turn the rhetoric about irregular warfare into reality.

No one suggests that we go too far in the opposite direction and focus our military exclusively on waging "small wars." There is still a need to be able to fight large, conventional conflicts against potential adversaries like China and North Korea, if only to prevent them from happening in the first place. And while the regular armed forces must gain greater competence in counterinsurgency and related disciplines, they should not become the main focus of most soldiers, sailors, airmen, or marines.

The bulk of this task should fall to specialists the men and women who will be on the front lines of the war on terror for decades to come. They must be experts in such fields as ethnography, linguistics, geography, history, economics, politics, policing, public relations, public administration, diplomacy, low-intensity conflict, and human intelligence collection and analysis preferably at the same time. Merely to state the list is to make obvious our shortcomings in all of these areas. We do not have nearly enough Gertrude Bells, T.E. Lawrences, Charles "Chinese" Gordons, or Richard Francis Burtons, to name only a few of the area experts from the heyday of the British Empire who immersed themselves in foreign cultures in order to advance Whitehall 's interests across the globe.

Experts Needed

Such learned men and women can be invaluable "force multipliers." Consider the case of Colonel Robert Warburton, who spoke fluent Persian and Pashto and spent 18 years (1879-1897) as the political officer in the Northwest Frontier province of what is today Pakistan. He kept this volatile region (now a Taliban and al Qaeda stronghold) quiet through his personal influence. "In an area where every male was habitually armed at all times," historian Byron Farwell wrote in Queen Victoria's Little Wars, "he went about with only a walking stick."

Within a month of his retirement, the area was swept by an Islamic fundamentalist revolt that took thousands of British soldiers to put down. I daresay we would have more luck pacifying the Northwest Frontier now a key task for our forces in Afghanistan if we had more Warburtons of our own.

Unfortunately the personnel system employed not only by the armed forces but also by State Department, CIA, and other government agencies makes it practically impossible to develop such expertise. Diplomats, soldiers, and spies alike are shuffled from post to post with dizzying rapidity. The average army officer spends an average of only 18 months at each assignment over the course of a 25-year career. The army rotates units out of Afghanistan and Iraq every year, the Marines every six to seven months. The State Department and the CIA move their employees just as often, if not more so. So just when our people on the spot start to figure out what's going on in these complex cultures, that's when it's time for them to go home and for novices to replace them.

The logic behind this system is that soldiers and other government employees are supposed to be nearly interchangeable cogs in a giant machine a tank driver ought to be able to drive an M-1 whether in Alabama or Anbar. But cultural knowledge cannot be so easily taught or transferred. In tribal societies, influence is entirely personal; the relationships cultivated by one soldier, spy, or diplomat cannot easily be passed along to a successor.


Sounds like it is turning from counter Terrorism to the
Grand Empire of the United States of America :eek:
Max Boot said:
The bulk of this task should fall to specialists the men and women who will be on the front lines of the war on terror for decades to come. They must be experts in such fields as ethnography, linguistics, geography, history, economics, politics, policing, public relations, public administration, diplomacy, low-intensity conflict, and human intelligence collection and analysis preferably at the same time.
Given the "Know your Lane, Dominate your Lane" philosophy currently in vogue with US forces this seems to be a big ask.
This will take an immense shift in US military training. Take the US Marines for instance, they are hard and fast fighters, get in do the job and wait to be relieved by other units. Does this mean that the Marines will have to have their volume turned down a bit and at times have a softly softly approach. How long would it take to change the mind set of the Marines alone. The Army seems to have the nucleus, but do they have the the ability to spread the wealth of this ability from their SF forces and apply that to the broader army populace. Im my mind that will take a generational change.

What are the chances that the US Military could ask the UK for military advisors to assist? The UK has so much experience in this through multiple conflicts and "police" actions. Maybe the US cant see this, or at present are not of the correct mind set to adopt the "Low Intensity Conflict" abilities of the UK. That is what we are talking about for Iraq and Afghanistan, they are not full blown conflicts, although the media may paint a darker picture. After all, the UK has fought many "small wars".

The US Military is based on maximum violence, even if it isnt called for. Speed and aggression won the two Gulf Wars but failed to meet the aftermath. I had the chance to work (on exercise) with the US Army some 25 years ago, my opinion then was that the gung-ho attitude was great for morale, but useless for fighting. They couldnt quite get to grips with the idea of switching off the aggression when the task had been completed and making sure your guys were ready for the next task. I wonder if things have changed?

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