Thursday, March 28, 2013
Misled by America’s colonial wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this officer thinks maneuver is impossible, that concentrations of force on any scale larger than a squad are all impossible. This is worse than misleading. It’s wrong. Army and Marine Forces need to build self-contained combat forces designed for high mobility with armored protection and accurate, devastating firepower, but these formations need not come in WW II configuration. Putting Marines on ten speed bikes with digital radios and laser designators is not a solution inside today’s lethal battlespace. In fact, the easiest target to find and kill is a dismounted, unprotected human being. SEA DRAGON in 1997 demonstrated both the vulnerability of his concept, as well as, its ineffectiveness. The officer should go back and study the findings.
Static forces like the ones he advocates are easy to identify, target and destroy. During the Kosovo Air Campaign, it was the Yugoslav Army’s mobility that kept it intact and ensured it would not be simply decimated from the air as so much of the Iraqi Army was in 1991. In 78 days of incessant air strikes by the best air force in the world, the Yugoslavs only lost 13 of more than 300 tanks! Thermal blankets reduced thermal signatures when stopped, and armored forces moved constantly making targeting extremely difficult. When integrated with competent air defenses (Yugoslav Air Defense were never degraded below 83 percent effectiveness) these forces remained in a state of readiness to repel any ground assault.
What planet is this man on? In a real war with a real enemy equipped with air defenses, air forces, armies and some modicum of coastal naval defense, small teams of Marines, along with SOF, SEALS and other theoretically stealthy forces in smaller than squad strength will end up being arrested or simply executed on the spot as the SEALS in Panama that Panamanian Forces captured were in 1989.
Field Marshal Slim raged against the stupidity of the Chindits, brave men who were either killed or ruined physically in a series of pinprick raids behind Japanese lines that changed nothing on the ground. Even Hitler was appalled by the terrible casualties his paratrooper sustained in their airborne assault on Crete, a victory that cost more than it was worth.
But there is a need for what former CMC, General David M. Shoup called a “Light Strike Force” that goes ashore to seize key points ashore for brief periods, a force that can conduct punitive raids and protect U.S. citizens. The question is how to equip this force--a force arguably smaller than today’s MC.
Americans should appreciate what SOF capabilities offer along with their extreme limitations, but we should increasingly rage against the kind of foolish non-sense outlined in this article.
March 26, 2013
Can The Marines Survive?
If America's amphibious force doesn't adapt, it'll be dead in the water.
By Lt. Col. Lloyd Freeman
On one day in 1965, a large sortie of U.S. Air Force F-105s dropped over 600 750-pound bombs on the Thanh Hoa Bridge, just 70 kilometers south of Hanoi. The result was the loss of five U.S. aircraft and a complete failure to destroy the bridge. Amazingly, the bridge would withstand over 800 more sorties from U.S. aircraft in the next seven years and receive the moniker "The Dragon's Jaw" because of its seeming indestructability and the nearby air defenses that stymied U.S. forces. Finally, in 1972, a sortie of F-4Ds carrying the new Paveway laser-guided bomb destroyed the Thanh Hoa Bridge.
Although not obvious at the time, the advent of the Paveway marked the beginning of a dramatic transformation in U.S. military technology that would change warfare forever. The revolution in precision munitions that began then has so accelerated in recent years that enemy forces can no longer operate in formations and in mass. They simply present too big a target.That, in turn, means that the days of U.S. corps, divisions, and brigades maneuvering on a battlefield with tanks, artillery, and motorized/mechanized infantry are numbered. Our surveillance capabilities allow us to sense everything on the battlefield. Any sizable vehicle formation, or single vehicle for that matter, can be destroyed with the click of a button half a world away. On today's battlefield, movement means death.
A lively debate is taking place within the Pentagon these days over how to adapt to this new reality. The Air Force and the Navy have come up with a new concept called Air-Sea Battle, which focuses on integrating naval and air forces to defeat adversaries with precision weapons backed by robust intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets. Simply put, the Air Force and the Navy are embracing new technology and have come to understand that with an integrated approach they should be able to defeat an enemy that is hundreds, perhaps thousands of miles away.
By contrast, the marines -- and the Army -- are still trained in infantry tactics that would be recognizable to a World War II vet, organized to fight big land battles with heavy tanks and armored personnel carriers. There's an elephant walking around the Pentagon these days and everyone is trying to ignore it. No one wants to talk about the fact that land forces, as currently organized, are becoming increasingly irrelevant. This is not to say that there is no use for ground troops. They are needed, but in future conflicts they will only play a secondary role. Land forces will no longer win wars. Computers, missiles, planes, and drones will. If the marines want to survive, we're going to have to adapt -- and fast.
Struggling for Relevance
The marines are a door-kicking service, designed to breach enemy territory and establish an [amphibious] entry point for the Army's strategic land capability. [EDITOR: Army has its own door-kicking forces for airborne entry points: Rangers and Paratroopers] But the U.S. military's development of unmanned aircraft, combined with stealth technology and unmatched ISR capability, makes it almost impossible for an enemy today to significantly impede the landing of U.S. forces on a beach or at a port. Forcible entry no longer requires landing forces -- it takes precision strikes, coordinated by special operations forces as needed. But if the door is going to be kicked in by a cruise missile, an unmanned aircraft, or other platform delivering precision munitions, why does the Marine Corps insist on maintaining such a large amphibious forcible entry capability based around the same marine who stormed ashore at Tarawa? Because to argue that the United States does not need an [amphibious] forcible-entry force would be to question the very necessity of having a Marine Corps. Unfortunately, that is the question the Corps must now answer.
The marines could have pushed for change 10 years ago. Following the 9/11 attacks, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld approached the marine commandant and asked if the marines could take on a special operations role within the Department of Defense. For the secretary, it seemed logical. The Marine Corps is designed to operate independently when necessary; it can sustain itself with a well-oiled logistics organization, and it even has its own air wings. At the time, most special operations forces resided in the Army and in Navy Special Warfare and there was an emerging shortage of operators. The Corps could have filled the gap in special forces that existed right after 9/11.
The Marine Corps leadership balked at this proposition. A compromise with Rumsfeld did lead to the creation of Marine Special Operations Command, which now operates under U.S. Special Operations Command, but it was slow to get off the ground and has had trouble establishing credibility within the special operations community. The Marine Corps then focused on fighting the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for the next 10 years. With Iraq over and Afghanistan drawing to a close planners can now focus again on what the United States will need in a possible unlimited war. But the Marine Corps -- and the Army -- have been caught flat-footed, unable to truly grasp the superiority of U.S. technology and how ground forces must adapt to harness its potential.
So what should the Marine Corps do?
First, it needs to recognize that future wars will be very different. Firepower will be brought to bear by unmanned surveillance aircraft and by small, highly trained teams. These teams will be fast, exceptionally physically fit, able to operate independently, but also able to operate with larger forces when necessary. Teams will be inserted by parachute, landing zone, or over the horizon from the sea. They will be backed up by a robust logistics tail and continuous, round-the-clock air support that provides security to compensate for their small size. Air support will consist of fixed-wing assets at sea, national assets based around the world, and fleets of unmanned aircraft that constantly surveil each team and the area in which they operate. That means teams are unlikely to be surprised or ambushed, and when threats are identified, they can be quickly neutralized by precision munitions launched from drones, manned aircraft, and ships. The teams will be able to conduct precision operations and a variety of raids, or hundreds of operators can be employed in coordination with each other during high-intensity conflicts.
In short, the future of warfare is in special operations, and the Pentagon will need a lot more operators. The future of the Marine Corps is as a special operations force that functions in a sustained combat mode.
Second, the Marine Corps needs to start thinking in terms of what the military calls "jointness" -- the ability to operate with other services. The Department of Defense is now joint through and through, and yet the Marine Corps still prides itself as an expeditionary force, able to deploy with limited external support. That has been a strength of the Marine Corps, but today it may be a liability. One problem is that the Marine Corps does not own most of the precision weapons platforms that are needed to operate on future battlefields. It needs to accept that it will have to rely on its sister services (particularly the Air Force) for ISR and close-air support to ensure the viability of small teams. Yes, there is probably some benefit to having a marine pilot supporting marine ground forces, as we were always told at The Basic School. But is a Navy or Air Force pilot really unable to adequately support marines on the ground? Just maintaining the command, control, communications, computers, combat systems, and intelligence structure that will eventually connect every marine on the battlefield will require Air Force platforms. The Marine Corps will not be able to maintain the data connectivity needed to manage the future battlefield. Instead of fighting jointness, the Corps should articulate how it can be leveraged to make marines even more lethal.
Third, the Corps will have to completely change its approaches to doctrine, training, and equipment. Organizing for land battles or amphibious forcible entry is outdated, because U.S. firepower can obliterate any enemy force that dares to occupy the battlespace. Quite simply, there will be nothing for tanks and large troop formations to fight. The future belongs to small teams who will not be supported by air power and precision munitions, but who will actually support air power and precision munitions. The doctrine of close-air support will be reversed, turning into "close-ground support" whereby marines will be a supporting component in a much larger campaign of missiles and guided munitions.
To operate in small teams that can coordinate a massive precision-engagement campaign, marines will have to change the way they fight and train. The ethos of "every marine a rifleman" will shift to "every marine a JTAC," or joint terminal air controller. A marine or team that cannot communicate on the battlefield will die. Marines will manage and become experts on dozens of different communications platforms ensuring double and triple redundancy. The battlefield of the future will be wired with data pipes bigger than the Alaskan Pipeline. If commanders today worry about information overload, they haven't seen anything yet. Every warrior on the battlefield will have access to the common operating picture, able to call in dozens of precision strikes from multiple platforms at once. Graduation exercises at infantry school will be based around scenarios that test the ability of the individual and team to operate in austere environments under physically grueling conditions -- while maintaining continuous communications over several waveforms. The Crucible will look like a day at the fair.
Organizationally, the marine rifle squad as we know it today will no longer exist. Each squad will have a signals intelligence specialist, data and communications specialists, demolitions experts, one or two corpsmen, a sniper, and two or three machine gun teams -- only one or two team members may be certified "JTACs" but all must know how to coordinate the use of precision munitions and air assets via multiple radio and data waveforms. From the lowest-ranking member of the team to the general officer leading the joint task force headquarters, live video feeds will stream continuously, giving every warfighter a clear, concise picture of the battlefield. Rarely will the marine of the future use his personal weapon; "rifleman" will become an antiquated term.
Leadership organization and manpower management will all have to be addressed if the Marine Corps is to conduct a significant re-organization. Marines operating in small teams will probably require over a year of training, probably more. A normal four-year enlistment might not be cost effective. Force structure may have to be reduced in order to ensure there are enough recruits with the qualifications and physical abilities to make the cut as operatives in the new elite marine teams. Suffice it to say, the changes will hit every area of the Corps from recruiting to training to organization to equipping. The Marine Corps has been historically infantry-centric; to remain so could mean its eventual irrelevancy.
We will never fight another war in the mud. However, special forces can currently operate only for short periods of time; they cannot operate in a sustained mode in the face of significant opposition. The Marine Corps is in a position to fill the gap that currently exists within the special forces community. The Marine Corps must recognize the change that is sweeping the U.S. military and be the trailblazers we have always been when it comes to innovating and providing the most bang for the nation's buck. Failure to act could mean increasing irrelevance for a force that has been one of the United States's most storied and effective fighting organizations.
Lt. Col. Lloyd Freeman is a marine infantry officer and has served three combat tours, two in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He currently serves as the Deputy Executive Assistant in the Expeditionary Warfare Division of the U.S. Navy.
Thursday, March 21, 2013
By Douglas A. Macgregor
This achievement seems to pass unnoticed among the Army’s generals.
In a Defense Daily article entitled “Army Senior Leaders Consider Strategic Landpower AT UQ 2013 Seminar,” Ann Roosevelt quotes Army Lieut. General Keith Walker as saying, “For example, an important lesson from World War I is that the allied failure to occupy a defeated Germany allowed militarism to survive, he said. The German people never felt themselves defeated, thus World War II came within two decades.”
Walker is expressing a widely held view in the senior ranks: that the U.S. Army must be postured to repeat the multi-trillion dollar folly of Iraq by repeating the disastrous mistake of occupying countries when there is no need to do so.
These neocon inspired statements exemplify the ignorance and the delusional mentality of the Army’s senior leadership.
The real lesson of America’s participation in World War I — a war that cost the United States 318,000 casualties in only 110 days of fighting — was for the U.S. to stay out of the war. Once in, Woodrow Wilson’s neocon-like commitment to an ideological crusade, mired in the worst sort of wishful thinking, resulted in a postwar treaty and a set of international financial arrangements that guaranteed a second world war that might otherwise had been avoided.
When U.S. Army forces did occupy Germany in 1945, the Army did so under conditions that favored success: the Germans knew that 15 million Soviet troops were poised to advance westward spreading terror, rape and communism in their wake. Even more important, we were occupying people like ourselves, people with the culture, history and economic foundation to rapidly return Germany to the path it was on before the Depression and Hitler changed direction.
These points aside, the more profound difficulty with Walker’s statement is the obvious unwillingness to come to terms with the devastating failure of our military occupation of Iraq.
In this connection, the jury is not out, it’s in:
The occupation of Iraq was a strategically self-defeating operation from the moment we dismantled Iraq’s army, police and administrative apparatus, and insisted on treating any Arab hostile to the foreign Christian army on his soil as an al Qaeda sympathizer.
Instead of recognizing the futility of imposing Western concepts of governance, social order and economics with the use of American soldiers on deeply troubled, non-Western societies, the Army generals want to repeat this failed policy in perpetuity. The lesson that whenever military occupations drag on for years, military power becomes an engine of destruction not just for its intended enemies; but for its supporting society and economy too.
The Army generals that emerged from the catastrophe of Vietnam learned this lesson and harbored no such illusions.
Most Americans will simply dismiss Walker’s remarks, but they should not. Walker’s statements mirror a mentality in the senior ranks that presents a clear and present danger to the American people. Why?
There is an inexhaustible supply of future “Iraqs” waiting to happen if only the American people will sleep quietly while the Army four stars empty the U.S. Treasury yet again.
First, there is Pakistan, a state that from its inception was torn apart by competing tribes, sectarian violence and corruption. Blanketing Pakistan with troops would not only be costly and provide further reinforcement for the jihadist cause, but any intervention in Pakistan puts U.S. troops at risk of exposure to nuclear strikes.
Second, there is North Korea, a failed state poised to implode rather than attack the South. The North Korean forces can’t even hit Japan with a nuclear warhead, much less the United States. North Korea’s current displays of belligerence are part of a desperate ploy to persuade the U.S. to sign a treaty with North Korea underwriting its continued existence, and bad behavior, in perpetuity.
Fortunately, China’s growing frustration with the failed North Korean state suggests a readiness to cooperate with Seoul to manage North Korea’s inevitable implosion. If the delicate process of managing North Korea’s disintegration is left to the Koreans, Chinese and Japanese, regional war will be averted and Korea reunified with the United States in quiet support of Seoul’s interests.
But China will not tolerate an aggressive U.S. military posture aimed at intervention north of the DMZ. Any such plan should be shelved immediately.
And, there are always Syria and Mexico. Syrian society is at war with itself, with roughly a third of the population struggling to escape the dark age of Sunni Islamism that is engulfing North Africa, much of the Middle East, and now threatens to engulf Syria. An American military intervention in Syria would definitely rid Damascus of Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s secular dictator, but U.S. military intervention would also set the stage for an Islamist alliance from Algeria to Anatolia, presumably led by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his nation’s Islamists, powerful advocates for intervention in Syria. Erdogan is the same man who publicly describes Zionism as a crime against humanity.
Closer to home, there is Mexico, a country with domestic ingredients similar to those in the Middle East: widespread corruption, criminality, and a large, impoverished underclass. As in Egypt, these conditions are conducive to convulsive, violent unrest, disorder and instability that American military intervention could exacerbate, but not alleviate.
Of course, not all of the Army’s senior leaders are so easily beguiled by the neocons. Many privately have another purpose in mind: to preserve a bloated general-officer overhead and a large, amorphous mass of soldiers and Marines on active duty. These points are no less dangerous because they reflect a complete failure to recognize that the future will be different from the recent past. It’s also evidence for another serious malady widespread inside the armed forces: single-service thinking and behavior.
Walker’s interpretation of history ignores the criticality of integrating capabilities resident in each of the services to achieve strategic objectives as economically and rapidly as possible. All wars are catastrophes, but long, inconclusive conflicts involving hostile occupations are national misfortunes. Occupations negate maneuver. They make it impossible to achieve the same objective in warfare as in wrestling; to throw the opponent by weakening his foothold and upsetting his balance without risking self-exhaustion.
Unfortunately, the Army generals provide the same answer again and again: flood the battle space with American soldiers and muddle through. This mentality is buttressed by the delusion of limitless national power. It failed in Vietnam and it failed in Iraq.
“In war,” British army officer J.F.C. Fuller observed, “It is absolutely true were other things equal, that numbers, whether men, shells, bombs, etc., would be supreme. Yet it is also absolutely true that other things are never equal and can never be equal.” The point is in war, quality counts, perhaps more now than at any time in history, given the complexity and lethality of military technology. It is the quality of America’s professional soldiers and the technology they employ the Army must cultivate and develop, not masses of troops.
Change in military affairs points to a capable, professional Army of lethal self-contained formations organized around Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance, Strike, Maneuver and Sustainment, not masses of citizen soldiers mobilized for industrial warfare. These formations must be designed from the bottom up for employment within the framework of the Joint Force under Joint Command.
For the indefinite future, these “forces-in-being” must be ready to deploy on short notice to conduct Joint punitive military operations to neutralize or destroy unambiguous threats to U.S. national-security interests wherever they are and whenever they emerge. However, long, unrewarding and expensive occupations on the Iraq model are things Americans want to avoid, not repeat.
Finally, the Army’s four stars are expected to expand, not constrain, the nation’s range of strategic options. The disappointing revelations in this article suggest the opposite is the case.
Monday, March 4, 2013
CPL. JEREMY ROSS
The M-1 tank proved itself in the battle of 73 Easting 22 years ago.
Fear-mongering is a common practice inside the Beltway.
Sequestration is simply making things worse.
Twenty-two years ago, a chorus of political pundits and generals engaged in fear-mongering, warning the American people that U.S. ground forces would suffer heavy casualties at the hands of Iraqi forces who allegedly knew how to hold ground from years of fighting Iranians.
But the fear-mongering pundits and generals were wrong.
At about 4:10 in the afternoon of 26 February 1991 — 22 years ago today — the two lead cavalry troops of an 1,100-man Armored Cavalry Battle Group, “Cougar Squadron,” the 2nd Squadron of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, charged out of a sandstorm and caught Iraq’s Republican Guard Corps in the open desert along the North-South grid line of a military map referred to as “73 Easting.”
Taken by surprise, the numerically superior Iraqi armor brigade, supported by mines, artillery and infantry with anti-tank weapons, was swept away in salvos of American tank and missile fire in what turned out to be a battle of annihilation.
However, instead of exploiting Cougar Squadron’s stunning success, an attack with almost no U.S. losses, the Army generals and colonels remote from the battlefield ordered Cougar Squadron to halt, to break contact with the enemy, and withdraw behind a meaningless limit of advance, the 70 Easting. Cougar Squadron did not withdraw. It stayed and fought firing 1,100 artillery rounds and hundreds of MLRS rockets at the fleeing Iraqi enemy, but its attack was halted. Contact thus broken, the Republican Guard Corps’ main body continued its withdrawal over the Euphrates River.
The Iraqi Army did, indeed, flee from Kuwait. But there the truth ran out.
Most of the Republican Guard Corps, the 80,000-man organization that kept Saddam Hussein in power, was allowed to escape in defiance of clear orders to destroy it.
Central Command chief Army General Norman Schwarzkopf’s orders to Lieutenant General Frederick M. Franks, the VII Corps Commander, were not carried out: “Pin (the Iraqi Republican Guard) with their backs against the sea, then, go in and wipe them out…Once they’re gone be prepared to continue the attack to Baghdad.”
A month after the battle of 73 Easting, in a 27 March 1991 interview with the New York Times, Schwarzkopf admitted, “Major Republican Guard units had `bugged out’ before the main attack by American forces and crossed the Euphrates River…”
Unfortunately, thanks to the determination of politicians, journalists and generals to fill the vacuum of public knowledge and understanding with illusions of victory, the Desert Storm myth became institutionalized.
In the absence of any meaningful political oversight, the Army’s four stars were allowed to transform the Cold War Army into a smaller replica of itself, ignoring the immense power of the mobile armored force that smashed the much larger Iraqi Republican Guard and the potential for the development of a new, more potent, post-industrial Army.
What those of us involved in the fighting along the 73 Easting understood was the enormous fighting power that could emerge when a mix of mobile armored platforms, integrated with manned and unmanned aircraft and sensors, provided the coverage needed to exploit the formation’s accurate, devastating firepower and mobility. We saw the potential for new, mobile armored platforms ranging in weight from 25 to 40 tons to become the foundation for a dispersed mobile warfare design, explicitly organized for decisive operations inside the Joint force.
And, here is the tragedy. If both the critical weaknesses in U.S. Army generalship displayed in 1991 had been identified and remedied — not deliberately concealed — and if the implications of the 73 Easting had been objectively studied and exploited — the outcome after 9/11 might have been different.
Instead of waiting months for the XVIII Airborne Corps to show up with light-infantry forces dependent on air strikes for survival and effectiveness, mobile armored forces smaller than divisions, but larger than brigades — self-contained, cohesive combat formations led by young, energetic brigadier generals, men selected for performance, not careerism — would have been in Afghanistan early to ensure Osama bin Laden’s capture and al Qaeda’s destruction.
It is customary in America to blame the politicians—and they are rarely blameless—but the record shows that whereas bad policies can often be saved through effective implementation, the reverse is rarely true. In short, political rhetoric is a fine thing, but it is what the general officers on the spot do, or fail to do, that counts.
The record is not pretty.
The 2003 combat phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the disbandment of the Iraqi Army and State, the misguided policy of using American soldiers to establish a secular, Western-style democratic state in a region where for reasons of culture and economics it has no chance of surviving, and the Sunni Arab rebellion against the U.S. military presence, cost the American people 36,000 battle casualties and at least $3 trillion.
The much-vaunted “surge” in 2007 turned out to be the final act in a tragic series of events that replaced a secular Sunni Arab dictatorship hostile to Iran with a Shiite Islamist dictatorship tied to Tehran.
Predictably, no one in the House or the Senate cares to discuss Iraq.
For the moment, it’s far more rewarding to dwell on the errors in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including one U.S. ambassador.
Unfortunately missing is the critical insight that our political and military leaders must stop wasting lives and money in attempts to cure culturally dysfunctional societies. Missing is the crucial lesson that soldiers and Marines cannot drag backward societies through the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution.
And, it means remembering what the Army generals did, during and after Desert Storm, when they not only rejected the sea change in warfare, they preserved the anachronistic industrial-age status quo.
When the Army four stars protest the across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration, Americans should remember the four stars’ resistance to dispersed maneuver and nonlinear operations in a world increasingly shaped by WMD; their strident opposition for 22 years to new methods of command, fundamentally new modernization parameters, and innovative organizations for combat.
What difference does this make?
The difference will be profound when the fight is with an enemy that can fight back, an enemy with armies, air forces, air defenses and coastal naval power.
At that point, no amount of courage and competence at the soldier’s level will compensate for deficiencies of general officer leadership and the wrong equipment set or, for that matter, years of neglect in the halls of Congress.
Douglas A. Macgregor is executive vice president of Burke-Macgregor Group, LLC. He is also a retired Army colonel, decorated combat veteran and the author of four books on military affairs, including Warrior’s Rage: The Great Tank Battle of 73 Easting.