Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Wake Up: America Can't Afford Its Military

AOL Defense
December 27, 2011

By Doug Macgregor

Through the last year the defense industries and their supporters in Congress worked overtime to ensure the federal government kept the armed forces in a perpetual procurement cycle. Inside the Pentagon, the generals and admirals who lead the defense bureaucracies worked to minimize procurement costs. This was not altruistic behavior. It's the only way to protect the armed forces' outdated force structures from more debilitating cuts; cuts that threaten the single service way of warfare along with the bloated overhead of flag officer headquarters.

Meanwhile, public pronouncements from the office of the Secretary of Defense on cost savings initiatives or about imminent strategic disaster if defense spending is reduced fell flat. In fact, everything in 2011 related to defense, from the controversial F-35 program to the multi-billion dollar contracting fiascos in Iraq and Afghanistan, looked like window dressing designed to buy more time for an anachronistic, insolvent defense establishment.

It's no secret what's required in 2012 and beyond: an efficient and effective organization of military power for the optimum utilization of increasingly constrained resources. More specifically, a serious audit of the U.S. Department of Defense, along with a national reset where the roles of politicians, bureaucrats and four stars are recast as servants, not masters, of the national interest. Unfortunately, inside the Beltway where accountability is a dirty word, political and military leaders are free to conflate their personal and bureaucratic interests with the national interest.

As a result, there is still no willingness to comprehend or, at least, admit the truth: America's current national security posture is fiscally unsustainable. Today, the United States' national debt is so large it will swallow almost any legislation the President and Congress agree to pass. It is only a question of time before the U.S. government is compelled to make drastic cuts in federal spending.

Despite this reality, like the politicians in both parties, the four Chiefs of Service are desperate to save the military status quo from significant reductions in defense spending, a policy stance that could easily lead to a serious degradation of American military power after the 2012 election. In the midst of America's fiscal crisis, Congress is equally inept. The best Congress could do in this legislative season to was announce its intention to add yet another four-star (this time from the National Guard) to the Joint Chiefs of Staff; an action comparable to adding a fifth wheel to a car that's already got four flats.

Instead of adding more generals to an already top-heavy force, America's ignominious withdrawal from Iraq should help sober up politicians of all stripes and parties. It should impart the timeless strategic lesson that the use of American military power, even against weak opponents with no navy, no army, no air force and no air defenses -- can have costly, unintended strategic consequences. Today, Iran, not the United States, is the dominant power inside Iraq and Americans are beginning to understand why.

Iranian interests prevailed in Baghdad because Tehran's agents of influence wore an indigenous face while America's agents wore foreign uniforms and carried guns. Regardless of whatever the US decides to do, Iran will remain the dominant actor in Iraq so long as it maintains even the thinnest veil of concealment behind the fa├žade of the Maliki government and its successors.

While these unassailable facts are ignored inside the Beltway, "Main Street" is figuring things out. According to a recent CBS poll 77 percent of the American electorate approves of President Obama's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. Two in three Americans say the Iraq war was not worth the cost, and only 15% of Americans support military intervention to stop Iran's nuclear program.

More important, nearly one-half of American voters now think the United States can make major cuts in defense spending without placing the country in danger. They see no risk in cutting way back on what America spends to defend other countries. The old notion that the United States should maintain expensive military bases in foreign countries, just to ensure troublesome foreigners do not get "out of hand," is rapidly losing support.

Conventional wisdom says American society's broader consciousness is shaped by the forces of hype and publicity, and national defense is often subject to it, but the recent polling data suggest a different explanation. Americans are focused on economics, not national defense. Perhaps, the American electorate perceives the Federal Reserve is running out of ammunition to restart America's stalled recovery?

Perhaps, Americans are concerned the collapse of the Eurozone will eventually lead to a serious financial crisis in the United States, wiping out the savings of many millions of Americans? Or, perhaps Americans are worried the sudden termination of "free services" in America's largest cities would lead to a surge in poverty and violence, putting American society on a collision course with itself. It's hard to tell.

What we can say is that Americans are signing up for President Eisenhower's philosophy in the aftermath of the Korean War. He insisted the nation deserved both "solvency and security" in national defense. Like Eisenhower, Americans seem to understand the nation's vital strategic interests are only secure when the United States' scientific-industrial base is productive and our society prospers. Predictably, there is also a growing recognition that the million dollars a year it costs to keep one American soldier or Marine on station in Afghanistan makes no sense when, for a fraction of the cost, the U.S. Army and other federal agencies could easily protect America's borders from the wave of criminality, terrorism and illegal immigration washing in from Mexico and Latin America.

Looking forward into 2012, American voters seem to understand what many of the men running for President do not: Given America's fragile economic health, 2012 is no time for uninformed decisions regarding the use of force. The deficit Americans worry most about is not fiscal; it's a national deficit of integrity and reason.

Col (ret) Douglas Macgregor, a member of AOL Defense's Board of Contributors, is a decorated Army veteran and author of important books on military reform and strategy including, Breaking the Phalanx (Praeger, 1997), and Transformation under Fire (Praeger, 2003). He is executive vice president at Burke-Macgregor Group, LLC, in Reston, Va.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Thoughts on Force Design in an Era of Shrinking Defense Budgets

By Douglas A. MacGregor


No force design can guarantee success, but an agile design may reduce risk and maximize options across today’s range of security needs. Smaller force packages that can be adapted to fluid situations will court disaster less than large, costly installations in fixed locations such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly in this age of proliferating WMD. A maneuver-strike-sustainment complex is outlined that will reduce expense and at the same time be the foundation of a unified view of warfare that is missing at present. The new vision will lead to strategic power that will endure even in the face of the WMD threat that makes current force configurations so dangerous.

Force design is an essential tool in the hands of national political and military leaders to counter uncertainty in conflict or crisis. An agile force design can both create options and reduce risk should events take unexpected turns. No force design or national military strategy can address or eliminate all uncertainties, but an agile force design that provides national and allied political and military leaders with the means to comprehensively direct military power can dramatically reduce risk across the range of alternative future national security needs.

Colombian army special forces at Tolemaida Air Base during technical demonstration

In recent remarks to the Corps of Cadets at West Point, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates implied the need for fundamental change in force design when he insisted that "any future defense secretary who advises the President to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,' as General [Douglas] MacArthur so delicately put it."1 When Secretary Gates's remarks are viewed in the context of reduced Federal spending on defense, they reinforce the criticality of developing the right force design to ensure policymakers avoid shortsighted solutions that sacrifice critical current and future capabilities on the altar of near-term economy.

Put differently, today, the greater Middle East, Africa, and Southwest Asia are at the center of U.S. and allied security concerns. Tomorrow, far more serious military challenges to U.S. and allied security may emanate from Northeast Asia, Central Asia, and Latin America. In contrast to the recent past, these crises are likely to involve interstate conflicts for regional power and influence that overlap with the competition for energy, water, food, mineral resources, and the wealth these create.2

This article argues that American political and military leaders have an opportunity to expand the Nation's range of strategic options while reducing costs by finally breaking with the industrial age paradigm of warfare. The United States can do this by building a 21st-century scalable "Lego-like" force design, one structured and equipped for dispersed mobile warfare inside an integrated maneuver-strike-intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR)-sustainment complex that combines the Nation's ground maneuver forces with strike, ISR, and sustainment capabilities from all of the Services. To construct this new force design, America's political and military leaders should take the following steps:

  • recognize that current and future strategic environments require changes in U.S. and allied force development strategies
  • devise a new operational concept for the Armed Forces appropriate to current and future strategic environments
  • within the fiscal means available, reorganize existing U.S. forces into a more efficient and integrative force design under regional unified commands to execute the new operational concept
  • use the resulting annualized savings—between $100 billion and $150 billion3—in manpower and resources both to pay down the national debt and to reorient our investment in military power to support the development of future military capabilities and new operational concepts.

The trendlines are unambiguous: military establishments that integrate functions and capabilities across Service lines, and, in the allied context, across national lines, while simultaneously eliminating unneeded overhead not only are less expensive to operate and maintain,4 but they also are likely to be far more lethal. If adopted, the recommendations outlined in this article will create the foundation for an enduring American strategic military advantage at a point in time when the United States must economize on defense—saving hundreds of billions of dollars in the years ahead.

Understanding What Is Changing

At the heart of all national military strategy is the desire to increase the state's capacity for independent action. Independent people and organizations enjoy greater latitude for action at a time and place of their choosing. The same is true for the United States and its allies. However, to craft a force development strategy to achieve this goal, America's political and military leaders must understand what is changing in military affairs.

Colombian army special forces at Tolemaida Air Base during technical demonstration

First, military power is no longer based on the mass mobilization of the manpower and resources of the entire state. Conscript armed forces, the norm in the 19th and 20th centuries, are gradually being replaced with professional military establishments inundated with technology.

Second, precision effects (kinetic and nonkinetic) using a vast array of strike forces enabled by the rapid and timely dissemination of information through networked ISR capabilities point the way to a fundamental paradigm shift in the character of warfare. For example, a military contest on the model of Kursk in July 1943—a battle that involved nearly 940,000 attacking German forces and 1.5 million defending Soviet forces in a geographical area the size of England—would result in catastrophic losses for the defending side. Today, any ground combat force that immobilizes itself in prepared defenses on this World War II model would be identified, targeted, and annihilated from a distance.

Third, integrative command structures and new organizations for combat are essential features of this shift. Aircraft and ships involved in strike operations, both manned and unmanned, have excellent sensors that can be linked to other elements of the fighting force to support the translation of collected information into actionable intelligence. As a result, ISR and strike are mission areas that cut across all domains (land, sea, air, and space). In addition, ISR and strike capabilities now have the capacity to influence not only tactical strike and maneuver operations, but also the operational and strategic conduct of warfighting operations.

Colombian army special forces at Tolemaida Air Base during technical demonstration

Fourth, the conditions shaping dispersed mobile warfare do not eliminate the close fight in ground combat operations whether these operations involve interstate or subnational conflicts. Nor do they eliminate uncertainty, surprise, or confusion from warfare. Regardless of how well new technologies are networked, they cannot provide perfect situational awareness or perfect information. Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen will never know everything that happens inside their battlespace, and what they do learn will often be of fleeting value. Commanders must still think and act on short notice with incomplete information within the framework of a known operational intent.

Mines, rocket-propelled grenades, machineguns, mortars, chemical agents, barbed wire, and air defense systems are still effective against ground forces, even in this era of precision strikes. Mobile armored firepower inside the ground maneuver force will be more important than ever given the speed with which information must be assimilated, synthesized, and delivered in time to be exploited. A ground force that cannot take hits and keep fighting will collapse quickly. Networked information systems cannot replace killing power or organic survivability in the form of armored forces, especially in close combat. Ground maneuver forces (light, medium, or heavy) that cannot rapidly disperse to avoid presenting lucrative targets to the opposing force risk destruction.

Fifth, surprise in warfare is still attainable. Countermeasures in many forms including cyber warfare ensure the fog of war will persist. Many nation-states are acutely sensitive to these trends, and they are preparing to fight under these conditions in the future.5 The more advanced scientific-industrial powers are building a large, diverse, and reliable range of conventional ballistic missiles for deep precision strikes designed to operate within terrestrial- and space-based sensor networks.6

Smaller powers with competent armed forces but less sophisticated technology are adapting to these changing conditions as well. For instance, the Yugoslav army adjusted with considerable success to cope with U.S. and Allied striking power during the Kosovo crisis. Thousands of small, mobile elements, skillfully concealed in rough terrain and aided by marginal weather conditions, were difficult to target from high altitudes. Overhead surveillance turned out to be more limited and more susceptible to deception than anticipated. In the absence of an attacking North Atlantic Treaty Organization ground force, the Yugoslav ground forces were never compelled to mass or concentrate.7

All of these points suggest an enormous strategic advantage will accrue to military establishments with an integrated military command structure and the right force design to orchestrate military capabilities across Service lines in the conduct of decisive operations. As the global experience in the private sector demonstrates, fewer but smarter people with intelligent technology can accomplish more than masses of troops with the brute force tools of the past.8

Defining a New Concept

Form defines warfare more than numbers or technology. The interaction of technology with organizational paradigms creates powerful new military capabilities. Embracing new technology is important, but it should not be done indiscriminately, out of fear of being left behind. Technology should be chosen for integration on the basis of what it can do today, as well as its potential for future development. It is therefore vital to establish the form that warfare will take, then, to determine the right joint operational concept and the appropriate force design to exploit technology.

Ubiquitous strike capabilities and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), nuclear or nonnuclear, now make the concentration of large land, naval, or air forces dangerous. As a result, dispersed mobile warfare—a condition that elevates tactical dispersion to the operational level of war—is replacing warfare on the World War II model of defined continuous fronts as the dominant form of combat. Moreover, in dispersed mobile warfare, integrated "all-arms" warfare is the overarching joint operational concept for warfighting operations.

Colombian army special forces at Tolemaida Air Base during technical demonstration

All-arms operations integrate the functional capabilities of maneuver, strike, ISR, and sustainment across Service lines inside a seamless unified command and control (C2) operational framework. In fact, success in contemporary and future warfare on land, at sea, or in the air demands the ability to maneuver from a dispersed configuration, concentrating effects and, for brief periods, ground combat forces at decisive points in time and space when conditions demand it.

Clearly, the most favorable conditions on land exist when ground forces operate within the framework of an integrated network of maneuver-strike-ISR-sustainment functions, hereafter referred to as the complex. Within the complex, attacking ground forces compel opposing enemy forces to mass in response or else risk defeat in detail.

To effectively and economically defend U.S. and allied interests in the 21st century, forces should be organized to operate inside this complex to ensure responsive and accelerated decision cycles at all levels. Precision strikes from the air and sea can incapacitate enemy command and control, but the confusion and paralysis thus engendered are always temporary. Without the experience of warfare, people (including those in uniform) forget that the enemy is a reactive system.

Future adversaries, regardless of national identity, will work hard and rapidly to restore communication connections. They will also seek other ways to communicate that are less vulnerable to strikes and discover ways to preserve operational coherence without being detected. Over time, future nation-state and nonstate opponents should be expected to recover from the initial disruption that strikes cause.

It is essential, then, to destroy the opponent before recovery, which is why ground combat forces with tactical mobility, devastating firepower, and effective armored protection must be tightly integrated within the complex. Achieving this outcome requires the establishment of an integrated military command structure designed to employ dispersed and distributed combat elements as capability-based forces from all of the Services inside the complex.

Reorganizing Forces

Because the simplest tasks in war are difficult, complex command arrangements involving fragmented authority must be avoided. How information is used during conflict or crisis reflects the structures of the information flow, as well as the thinking and mentality of the people who use the information. The two influence one another and are inextricably intertwined.

World War II battles in which the Soviet Union was involved were generally decided in favor of the Soviet Union in part because its leadership organized and employed its armed forces under a unified military command structure that compelled integration of core service capabilities under a single operational commander. But the Soviet leadership wasable to maximize combat power (land, sea, and air) where it was needed and economize where it was not needed. The branches of the Soviet armed forces were thoroughly subordinated to the Stavka (General Headquarters) and its subordinate command echelons—front and army—ensuring uncontested unity of action on the strategic and operational levels of war.9

It is also fair to characterize the Soviet command and control structure that triumphed in World War II as a highly centralized, top-down, ground force–dominated, attrition-based, mechanized/industrial one that squandered human life and resources on a scale beyond Western comprehension. However, regardless of the profound cultural differences that separated the United States and Europe from the Soviet Union, these are virtuous military outcomes worthy of emulation by U.S. and allied forces.

In the West, neither the Germans nor Western Allies created similar arrangements. For the Americans and British, Sir Winston Churchill's complaint that the "chiefs of staff system leads to weak or faltering decisions—or rather indecision"10 went unheeded. In the United States, the Service chiefs together with policymakers in Washington set out to institutionalize the way that the United States fought World War II in the 1947 National Security Act. Subsequent legislative attempts to reduce the excessive bureaucratic power of the separate Services to fund and equip themselves independently, as well as the influence of single-Service warfare doctrine and organizations, have been limited in terms of how operations are conducted, as well as in terms of staggering American defense costs.11

The point is unambiguous. For reasons of cost, as well as survivability and lethality, less overhead and more combat power at the lowest level are organizing imperatives in 21st-century dispersed mobile warfare. Part of the solution is to implement a new integrated operational military command structure designed to conduct U.S. and American-led allied operations at home and abroad.

Establishing the Construct

In the United States, Armed Forces operational decisionmaking in other-than-ground-maneuver headquarters was generally focused on supporting operations, not on determining their course.12 Today, this Army-centric approach with its roots in World War II is no longer relevant. The degree of capability integration required in dispersed mobile warfare cannot be achieved inside restrictive, hierarchical, single-Service Cold War command systems suffering from information overload and too many levels of command.

On land, simply breaking existing corps and divisional structures into smaller pieces will not change the industrial age warfighting paradigm, reduce or eliminate echelons of unneeded C2, or advance integrative, seamless jointness on the operational level. Geographically dispersed land-, air-, and sea-based forces require a high level of command coherence through technologically and intellectually shared battlespace awareness. This condition dictates the requirement for integrative command structures on the operational level that magnify the larger fighting power of the integrated joint force.

The proliferation of WMD and related strike weapons now compels the transfer and integration of capabilities once found only at the Army division and Marine Corps/Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) levels, or only in the naval and air forces down to lower command echelons (see figure). These new command echelons must also be tightly integrated with the war-winning ISR and strike capabilities found in all of the Services. In this sense, ISR must be viewed as the key integrating function for warfighting and operational design, planning, and execution.

U.S. forces are in a position to integrate current Marine Corps/MEF and division C2 into a joint C2 structure such as the notional joint task force (JTF) command. This operational-level headquarters is designed to orchestrate the effects that will compel the internal collapse of an opponent through maneuver and strike without reliance on destructive time- and resource-consuming attrition warfare or mass armies.

Colombian army special forces at Tolemaida Air Base during technical demonstration

Combining strike and maneuver into a single joint operation inside a JTF command is the core of operational art. Striking the enemy throughout the entire depth of operational deployment simultaneously and, at the same time, introducing rapid, mobile, mutually supporting air and ground forces through the disrupted force to fight a series of actions for which the enemy is not prepared is the essence of this form of warfare. These conditions are no less applicable to the defeat of loosely organized guerrilla forces operating in complex or urban terrain.13 The mission to implement this operational concept in the information age falls to the lieutenant general or vice admiral in JTF command headquarters.

Battlefields have been emptying for the last 50 years in response to new and more lethal weapons technologies. Supporting these dispersed forces will not be easy. For these reasons, a two-star flag officer focused exclusively on sustainment functions is a deputy commander for sustainment inside the JTF command structure.

With the expansion of strike and information assets, it is critical to supply the JTF commander with deputies and staffs committed to employ the full complement of ground, air, electronic, and information operations capabilities. The emergence of a deputy commander for ISR marks a shift from the World War II/Cold War mindset that treats ISR as a supporting function to a new understanding that, in the 21st century, ISR integrated with strike and maneuver operations can be both operationally and strategically decisive.14

One major general within the JTF leads the close combat forces deployed to the conflict area. The deputy commander for maneuver directs the operations of the ground maneuver elements in ways similar to what division or MEF commanders do today. He brings an appreciation of the critical role that positional advantage plays in the calculus of war to the planning and execution of operations.

Another major general or rear admiral (upper half) commands strike operations. With the emergence of U.S. and allied strike complexes inside the regional unified commands, the links from deputy commander for strike to ground combat formations, as well as to the strike assets in all the Services, are pivotal.15 With his links to strike coordination officers in every ground maneuver force and across the Services, he is simultaneously the critical connection to air and naval strike capabilities. The evolution from deployable teams to liaison officers to permanent party experts was a key element in increasing the effectiveness of space capabilities as geographic theater commanders gained more influence over space requirements and integration.16 Strike capabilities should be employed by similar officers with specialized expertise. In this capacity, the deputy commander for strike can exploit capabilities residing in all Service strike and maneuver forces to support maneuver and suppress or defeat enemy air defenses as well as enemy missile attacks.

In addition to these JTF "force employment" headquarters, two sets of future resource pooling or management headquarters could be formed to provide capabilities across the various theaters of operations to the combatant commanders, as well as to the JTF commands. These functionally based commands would include:

  • Theater Strike and Missile Defense Command
  • Theater ISR Command
  • Theater Maneuver Command
  • Theater Sustainment Command.

Two sets of these resource management headquarters would be capable of managing the force and asset management tasks on a global basis.

These JTF commands would exist in sufficient quantity to command and employ U.S. and allied forces on land, at sea, or in the air. All forces would be designed as mission capability packages organized for employment under one-star commanders. American air and naval forces routinely assemble forces organized around ISR, strike, sustainment, and maneuver tailored to specific missions. Sometimes these are composite wings or surface action groups. However, ground forces have only recently begun to think in terms of mission-focused capability packages. Movement toward harmonization—and away from Cold War notions of C2 synchronization—has been critical to this outcome. Increasingly, the sort of intelligence that Soldiers and Marines need is fleeting, and traditional Army and Marine command structures that cannot jump on this intelligence and exploit it have been compelled to change thinking and behavior.17

What emerges from the experience of the last 9 years is the growing recognition inside the Army (and, more recently, inside the Marines with the standup of a large, independent Marine brigade battle group in Afghanistan) that a new self-contained combat formation is needed18—one smaller than a division, but larger than a standard brigade, a formation capable of limited independent action that eliminates unnecessary command levels and drives jointness to a much lower level.19

All of these points suggest that in land warfare, the next logical step in force design is a 5,000- to 6,000-man formation called a Combat Maneuver Group (CMG). The CMG combines the command element, fighting power, and support element into a stand-alone, mission-focused capability package. The CMG is commanded by a brigadier general with a robust staff, including a deputy commander and a chief of staff, both of whom are colonels.

Colombian army special forces at Tolemaida Air Base during technical demonstration

The CMG drives the joint command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) plugs to lower levels, compressing the tactical and operational levels to the point where maneuver and strike are integrated at a much lower level than is currently possible. Maneuver, strike, ISR and sustainment formations become clusters of joint combat power that have the capacity for operations on land reminiscent of the way ships operate at sea. Translated into terms that Soldiers and Marines understand, the new force design must offer the following features:

  • ready on call, quickly deployable, and employable by joint force commanders
  • adaptable for a range of operations
  • easily integrated and networked within the joint force
  • supportable despite distance and dispersion
  • survivable against any adversary
  • trained with the other Service components so that they are capable of "integrated joint warfighting" on short notice.

In the new C2 organization modeled on the JTF command structure, there is a Strike Coordinator. These coordinators supplant existing fire support officers in the ground forces and become specialists in all the Services with joint training to qualify them to direct strike operations on behalf of ground combat groups or similar mission-focused capability packages from the air and sea. They are designed to be an extension of the strike structure into every land, naval, or air formation.20

The end result of this process is a module of combat power that can deploy in smaller configurations below 5,000 to 6,000—of 2,500, 1,100, and 500—or with augmentation from allies or other combat groups for small-scale operations. They can also deploy with other modules (ISR, strike, sustainment) for larger contingencies. However, they do not require augmentation from higher echelons to be joint interoperable. With joint C4ISR, these formations become building blocks that are federated to create larger forces as required.

Transforming all Service forces into mission-focused force packages that can be assembled into larger joint operational forces is essential if maneuver, strike, ISR, and sustainment capabilities are to be effectively integrated to pose more complex threats to new enemies. In practice, this scheme for military power depends on evolving integrated, joint systems and a technical architecture (a set of building codes) for successful aggregation.

There are many benefits to this approach. Eliminating some of the career gates on the Service ladder changes career patterns, allowing more time for lieutenant colonels and colonels (as well as naval equivalent ranks) to become educated and qualified for joint operations—something current Service career patterns obstruct. Reorganizing ground maneuver forces into 5,000- to 6,000-man combat formations under brigadier generals provides a larger, ready, deployable, joint combat force of Soldiers.

Another benefit is the appointment of a brigadier general to command on the tactical level. Here, the historical record is illuminating. Accompanying the first infantrymen ashore on June 6, 1944, was Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, the only American general officer who arrived with the first wave of troops on D-Day. When Roosevelt realized that the initial assault force had landed 2,000 yards south of where they should have on Utah Beach, Roosevelt adjusted the plan, telling the company commanders precisely where they were and directed their movement inland along new routes. The result was rapid penetration, in a few hours, by American infantry several miles inland that Army intelligence analysts predicted would take several days.

On Omaha Beach, where there was no general officer present, the situation was far more confused and more costly in terms of American dead. The proposed model for Force Employment within the New Operational Concept will similarly improve the effectiveness of American tactical operations and their efficient integration into operations designed to support national strategic objectives.

Reorienting Modernization

The compression of reduced C2 overhead while combining existing single-Service echelons into a flatter, multi-Service integrative C2 structure will definitely contribute to long-term cost savings. The point is to reduce the bloated C2overhead, a legacy of the Cold War, while maximizing ready and deployable combat power. Combining the implementation of the integrative command resource management structures inside the regional maneuver-strike-ISR-sustainment complexes with the compression of today's six regional unified commands (U.S. European, Central, Pacific, Southern, Northern, and Africa Commands) into four (potentially U.S. Pacific, Atlantic, Northern, and Southern Commands) would accomplish both objectives: increasing capability while achieving annualized savings in current defense spending of at least $100 billion.

Implementing the Navy's rotational readiness model across American (and potentially allied) forces would also result in additional efficiencies, while simultaneously improving unity of effort and rationalizing the training, modernization, deployment, and reconstitution of U.S. and allied forces. Rotating U.S. forces through four readiness training, deployment, recovery, and reconstitution phases of 6 to 9 months each guarantees a larger portion of the current U.S. joint force is ready to fight on short notice than is the case today. The importance of making routine deployments more predictable, ensuring regular periods of rest for American troops, cannot be overstated.

The cost savings involved in reducing unneeded wear and tear on equipment and people should now be self-evident, but these savings do not entirely address the probable savings in manpower and equipment. For instance, sea control is no longer a mission that demands a large surface fleet on the World War II model. America's nuclear submarine fleet augmented with fewer surface combatants employing long-range sensors, manned and unmanned aircraft, communications, and missiles can dominate the world's oceans, ensuring the United States and its allies control access to the maritime domain that supports 91 percent of the world's commerce.

Annualized savings resulting from change associated with the maneuver-strike-ISR-sustainment complexes in the various regional unified commands would also run into the tens of billions of dollars as combatant commanders and Service chiefs restructure the conduct of overseas presence missions and determine those overseas facilities they no longer deem operationally useful. The method used to identify and capture these savings is a detailed blueprint for change in a Force Design Roadmap. For every capability gap identified, selected equipment sets and supporting jobs will be identified for elimination to liberate resources for investment to close those gaps.

Closing Thoughts

To leverage uncertainty and judiciously select from the warfighting concepts and technologies of the present to field new innovative organizations and capabilities for the future within the fiscal constraints imposed by economic stringency, the United States should chart a new course into the future. As implied at the beginning of this article, change in military affairs is inevitable. Bill Gates stated it best, warning that when waves of change appear, "You can duck under the wave, stand fast against the wave or, better yet, surf the wave." Put another way, the faster you can accurately assess a situation, make "good enough" decisions on what to do about it, and act decisively to deal with it, the more competitive you become.21

The time has come to begin reorganizing the manpower and capabilities inside the Nation's Armed Forces within an integrated, joint operational framework to provide a larger pool of ready, deployable fighting forces on rotational readiness. Building maneuver-strike-ISR-sustainment complexes inside the regional unified commands is a way to create the foundation for enduring American military power on a global level at a time when the Nation's public debt—if honestly calculated to include $7 trillion of additional deficit spending through 2015—will approach $18 trillion.22

Enduring strategic power is vital in a world where the proliferation of WMD makes future operations from large, expensive fixed installations like those in Iraq and Afghanistan extremely dangerous. Instead, land, naval, and air forces must mobilize organic combat power that is disproportionate to their size and numbers inside an integrated framework. The future points toward smaller but more lethal force packages designed for missions of limited duration and scope, not mass armies created for territorial conquest and occupation. In this sense, the implementation of integrated all-arms operations within the maneuver-strike-sustainment complex outlined here not only promises to save money in national defense, but also provides the basis for a coherent, unified view of warfare that is missing from today's Armed Forces.


  1. Quoted by Colin Clark, "The Gates Doctrine: Avoid Big Land Wars," DoDBuzz.com, February 27, 2011.
  2. Miriam Elder, "President Dmitry Medvedev said that Russia should unilaterally claim part of the Arctic, stepping up the race for the disputed energy-rich region," Reuters, September 17, 2008.
  3. "Debt, Deficits and Defense: A Way Forward," Report of the Sustainable Defense Task Force, June 11, 2010, 16.
  4. Scott Gebicke and Samuel Magid, Lessons from Around the World: Benchmarking Performance in Defense, McKinsey on Government (Pittsburgh: McKinsey & Company, Spring 2010), 12–13.
  5. John Depres, Lilita Dzirkals, and Barton Whaley, "The Timely Lessons of History: The Manchurian Model for Soviet Strategy," Report Prepared for the Assistant Secretary of Defense and Director of the Office of Net Assessment, R–1825–NA (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, July 1976). Translated Soviet after action reviews identify tracked armored fighting vehicles as the only equipment capable of operating and surviving in Manchuria's diverse desert, mountain, swamp, and forested terrain. The Soviets point to tanks as having been the decisive weapon platform in all of Manchuria.
  6. For instance, the Chinese counter U.S. military strength in "asymmetric" ways. Instead of trying to match U.S. Air Force deep strike capabilities, they are building a large, diverse, and reliable range of conventional ballistic missiles for deep precision strike. Instead of trying to match the U.S. ability to develop and operate advanced aircraft, they are investing in technologies or entire aircraft and adapt them to their own needs, and complement them with similarly obtained advanced surface-to-air missiles. Instead of trying to match U.S. Navy aircraft carriers, they are building long-range conventionally armed ballistic missile systems designed to attack those carriers and are deploying a network of sensor systems to target them.
  7. Benjamin S. Lambeth, NATO's Air War for Kosovo: A Strategic and Operational Assessment (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Project Air Force, 2001), 242–248.
  8. Alvin Toffler and Heidi Toffler, War and Anti-War: Survival at the Dawn of the Twenty-first Century (Boston: Little Brown, 1993), 77.
  9. Michael Deane, Ilana Kass, and Andrew Porth, "The Soviet Command Structure in Force Design," Strategic Review(Spring 1984), 64–65. Notice, however, that fronts (equivalent in size to American armies) were also fully joint commands. When the Soviet Union's 40th Army deployed to Afghanistan in 1979, it did so as part of a joint task force (JTF) structure that was fully joint. On the other hand, jointness stopped at the JTF level, which caused serious problems on the tactical level.
  10. Sir Winston Churchill, quoted by Steven F. Hayward, Churchill on Leadership (Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing Forum, 1997), 40.
  11. Nathan Hodge, "Pentagon Looks to Save $100 Billion Over Five Years," TheWall Street Journal, June 3, 2010, A11.
  12. For instance, during Operation Desert Storm, divisions had organic military intelligence (Combat Electronic Warfare Intelligence) battalions and signal battalions, while Third Army had a military intelligence brigade and a signal brigade. An example of a parallel external headquarters is U.S. Air Forces Central (CENTAF), the Air Force component of U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) during Operation Desert Storm. CENTAF was responsible for integrating the offensive air function throughout USCENTCOM headquarters.
  13. Nancy A. Youssef, "Pentagon Rethinking Value of Major Counterinsurgencies," McClatchy Newspapers, May 13, 2010.
  14. David A. Deptula and R. Greg Brown, "A House Divided: The Indivisibility of Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance," Air Power Journal (December 2008), 21.
  15. Richard Hart Sinnreich, "Air-Ground Integration Requires More Than Patchwork," Lawton (OK) Constitution, October 6, 2002, 1.
  16. Keth W. Balts, "Intell, Satellites + Remotely Piloted Aircraft," Air and Space Power Journal (Fall 2010), 19. Balts writes, "While this evolution occurred at the junior-officer level, a similar one occurred at the senior level, although it lagged the junior-level process by several years. Senior space officers served as liaison officers, deployed, and then eventually became permanent members of theater headquarters as directors of space forces, positions created to facilitate coordination, integration, and staffing activities in support of space-integration efforts for the combined force air component commander."
  17. "Deptula: ISR Surge Will Overwhelm Military's Ability to Process Intel," Inside the Air Force, October 23, 2009, 5.
  18. Jason Sherman, "Army Plans ‘Comprehensive' Review of How to Modify Brigade Design," Inside Defense.com, October 26, 2010.
  19. Richard E. Simpkin, Race to the Swift: Thoughts on Twenty-first Century Warfare, (London: Brassey's, 1985), 290.
  20. Clearly, the Air Force will need to be convinced that these new strike coordinators know how aircraft, manned or unmanned, fly, how they fight, how they are at risk if misused, what aircraft can and cannot do, and how to use them with minimal fratricide/collateral damage risk. In addition, the Army will need to be convinced that the strike coordinator knows artillery, rockets, mortars, and unmanned combat aerial vehicles, what they can and cannot do, what tools are available, and how to use them with minimal fratricide/collateral damage risk.
  21. Robert L. Cantrell, Outpacing the Competition: Patent-based Business Strategy (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2009), 260–261.
  22. David Stockman, "Four Deformations of the Apocalypse," The Wall Street Journal, July 31, 2010.

About the Author

Colonel Douglas A. Macgregor, USA (Ret.), is the Executive Vice President at Burke-Macgregor Group, LLC.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Limits of the Surge: Petraeus' Legacy in Afghanistan

Monday, Aug. 08, 2011

By John Wendle / Kabul

Cars are backed up for a quarter mile on the road leading to the bridge over the Arghandab River in Kandahar province as people head home after a Friday spent picnicking on the riverbanks. But just last year, this area was the scene of some of the war's heaviest fighting as troops moved in to take territory during the surge.

The influx of troops, requested by General Stanley McChrystal, approved by President Barack Obama and overseen by General David Petraeus, brought stability to some areas in the south. And that is part of the narrative Petraeus, who has given up command of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan to become head of the CIA, wants as his legacy. But the surge — and other initiatives of the general — have not been the unalloyed successes they have been made out to be. Indeed, the downing of a U.S. CH-47 Chinook helicopter in Wardak province on Saturday, resulting in the single deadliest day for American troops in Afghanistan, shows how fragile the situation is. The chopper may have been brought down by a lucky hit, a well-aimed blast from a Taliban rocket-propelled grenade — David's slingshot felling Goliath, with the U.S. on the wrong side of the story. (See the tightened rules enacted by General Petraeus.)

"The surge has not worked, despite all the statistics doled out, which I think very often are selective," says Thomas Ruttig of the Afghanistan Analysts Network. Others acknowledge some progress, but in general, the consensus is that the surge has failed as a general strategy. "There have been improvements in the military situation in the south. But what about the military situation in the east and the north and across the border in Pakistan? Those areas are unraveling. If you look from two years ago to now, the situation has deteriorated," says a foreign analyst working in Afghanistan who asked to remain anonymous in order to speak freely.

In part, the surge has failed because the U.S. civilian side, under U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, was never brought to the table. "Petraeus came at a time when the policy here was in crisis, in large part because the players were unclear on the boundaries of the chain of command, and he did nothing to change that element of the relationship with the White House," says another foreign analyst working in Afghanistan.

Because Petraeus' "inner circle pretty much disregarded the civilian side," says Mike Capstick, a retired colonel in the Canadian army and analyst with experience in Afghanistan, the interlocking mantra of counterinsurgency — "clear, hold, build" — could not be carried through to completion.

"The surge cleared quite a few districts. They did 'clear and hold,' but they were not able to do the transfer, 'build' part," says the first analyst. "So, you'd give Petraeus good marks on managing the surge and, from a military point of view, 'clear, hold.' But 'transfer, build' has not been really successful. It is really a civilian-surge point and the civilian surge never really showed up." (See the rise and fall of Stanley McChrystal.)

Douglas Macgregor, a retired U.S. Army colonel who is a leading critic of counterinsurgency theory and who attended West Point with McChrystal, says, "These observations directly and obviously contradict the popular counterinsurgency mantra of 'protect the population and rally the people to their government.' In truth, Petraeus and his generals moved in the opposite direction."

Other issues have dogged Petraeus as well, chief among them the creation of viable Afghan army and police forces that would theoretically allow the Afghan government to take over security from foreign forces. Though numbers have increased, attrition rates remain extremely high and a lack of qualified noncommissioned officers means leadership remains absent. "Over the past one or two years, there has been a major effort to expand the army and police. But while there has been an increase in numbers, quality will take some time," says Ali Ahmad Jalali, a former Afghan Interior Minister and now a professor the National Defense University in the U.S.

Macgregor has more criticism. "Petraeus and his staff frequently complained about the shortage of NATO trainers by at least 900 men," he says. "This continued after the arrival of an additional 40,000 troops. However, the truth is this: Petraeus is responsible for the shortfall. He could have committed an additional 10,000 troops to the NATO training mission had he wanted to do so. In the view of many officers on the ground in Afghanistan, using the general-purpose troops in this way would have provided a greater return on investment than the way the 40,000 were employed. The International Security Assistance Force [ISAF] and the NATO mission were short 900 trainers because Petraeus chose not to utilize the troops at his disposal in support of that mission," says Macgregor.

Another issue has been continued night raids and air strikes — tactics that have enraged both Afghan civilians and Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai and that have left hundreds dead. "Despite his acumen of American politics, Petraeus has been, by and large, completely tone-deaf in how he's dealt with the Afghans, and that has created distance," Joshua Foust, a prolific blogger on registan.net and fellow at the American Security Project, tells TIME.

At the same time, in a place as complex as Afghanistan, even success can breed failure. A number of analysts over the past months have warned that the elimination of "mid-level Taliban commanders" — part of ISAF's strategy — could have second- and third-order effects. Besides speculation that older, more moderate leaders would be replaced by younger, hard-line elements, Ruttig of the Afghanistan Analysts Network says, the surge has "closed off the opportunity for dialogue with the Taliban. In 2008-2009 there was a clear tendency within the Taliban, a readiness to explore talks. And that's just been destroyed by the surge."

Interestingly, some believe that the perception of Petraeus having had many successes during the war in Iraq — such as the surge there and the Sunni Awakening movement — has played a part in his continued problems in Afghanistan. "It may have taken Petraeus time to understand that Afghanistan is not Iraq and that it is, in fact, a hell of a lot more complicated," Capstick tells TIME. "For the first few months after he arrived, almost every member of his new team in ISAF headquarters would drop the phrase, 'in Iraq we ... ' into conversations — a recipe for disaster in Afghanistan."

In the end, although Petraeus' time was more positive than Ambassador Eikenberry's, the general may have been more successful at advancing his career than at bringing the war to a successful conclusion. Now, with President Obama talking about a shift from counterinsurgency to counterterrorism in Afghanistan and with Petraeus heading the CIA, the general may again be calling the shots there. But this could have benefits. "Petraeus' experience in Afghanistan may finally get the CIA out of their dependency on Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI]," says Capstick. "The CIA-ISI relationship has been a disaster since the Soviet occupation and has been a major obstacle to the rise of secular, modernist Afghan leaders to positions of power."

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Response to crisis shows deepening ties, Seoul's new ambassador says

The Japanese-Korean Alliance is becoming more and more inevitable with each passing day. An American withdrawal of its ground force from the ROK will accelerate this process dramatically.



Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Staff writer

Cooperation between Japan and South Korea in the aftermath of the Tohoku triple disaster proved that ties between the two nations have never been stronger, Seoul's new envoy to Tokyo said Monday.

Speaking at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo, South Korean Ambassador to Japan Shin Kak Soo, who assumed the post last month, said it was becoming increasingly important in the shifting landscape of East Asia for the two neighbors to further strengthen their partnership.

Shin, who visited hard-hit Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate prefectures less than a week after he was appointed to the new post on June 12, said the largest-ever amount of donations were collected in South Korea for disaster victims.

He also said officials from South Korean consular offices across Japan were also dispatched to the consulate in Sendai to help with relief efforts.

"The governments and people of South Korea and Japan have confirmed through the recent disaster the two nations' close ties," said Shin, who was stationed in Japan in the late-1980s as first secretary at the South Korean Embassy in Tokyo.

"Coming back to Japan after 22 years, I am amazed with the Korean boom that is taking Japan by storm," he said, referring to the massive inflow of South Korean TV dramas and popular music into Japan, adding that such cultural exchanges have helped deepen understanding between the two neighbors.

Shin said that while only 10,000 people annually traveled between Japan and South Korea back in 1965, when diplomatic ties between the two nations were established, that number has ballooned, with roughly 5.5 million people making their way over the border last year.

"We need to expand this number to 10 million as soon as possible," he said.

Shin also said that it was important that Japan and South Korea resume and conclude talks regarding a free-trade agreement.

Serious negotiations on an FTA first began in December 2003, but were suspended in November 2004.

"I believe that a general consensus regarding the necessity of an FTA has already been formed," he said.

And with a rapidly growing China and North Korea's nuclear threat changing the region's landscape, Shin stressed the importance of Japan and South Korea deepening their strategic cooperation "in order to establish a peaceful and prosperous East Asia."

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Two Articles of Interest

As you can see from the first article below, China is anxious to do what the US can no longer afford to do -- prop up the Euro and the EU. In addition, the Chinese need to invest their cash reserves somewhere after largely pulling out of the US sovereign debt market. That said China is actually interested in buying technology from Europe’s high-tech firms (particularly, Germany, UK, Switzerland and Sweden) in an effort to obtain what they cannot steal or buy from the US.

However, China’s intervention will change nothing. Greece is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Portugal and other southern and Eastern EUrozone members are also on the brink of financial failure -- their economies have been developed on the basis of unlimited credit subsidized by northern and Western Europe, vastly bloated government ministries, heavily subsidized agriculture and "white elephant" industries producing uncompetitive products, along with cradle-to-grave social security and medical care regardless of citizenship or employment. Europe has all of the problems the US has without the unfortunate American habit of overspending on hegemonic military adventures in places that don’t count. Still, European Social democracy is not fiscally sustainable. I suspect it must decline into socialist authoritarianism with democratic trappings or straightforward fascism where this evolution has already carried Russia, Ukraine and Belorussia.

It is also entertaining to see signs in English carried by the Greeks that declare their Prime Minister, “Goldman Sachs Employee of the Year.” As others in this discussion have pointed out, a Greek default, if properly structured and managed by the French and German Banks may turn out to be the best solution for Greece, but it’s very much open to question whether such an event can actually be managed in the political, as well as, financial sense. Throughout history as seen in France in the decades leading up to the revolution and Europe after WW II, these events tend to gather strength, then, run out of control.

The now seems likely that Europe is on the verge of making a sharp political and economic turn to the right. It is too soon to tell what this turn will mean, but it’s obvious that “more of the same” in economic terms is nearing its end. Bernanke’s “deer in the headlights” performance at the last press conference may work here, but it is not something the German-speaking peoples or their neighbors in the Netherlands and Scandinavia will tolerate. And hardship in any form is something Europe’s Latins and Greeks utterly reject.

In this connection, see the article that describes what may or may not be the case – the German Bundesbank is printing Marks as a contingency plan. I am unable to confirm the efficacy of this article’s claim, but my contacts in Germany and Austria confirm the widespread public sentiment for a restoration of German and Austrian sovereignty along with control of their own borders and migrant labor. Germany and Austria’s contemporary political leaders are viewed as transitional figures at best.


China: We'll spend billions to prop up the stricken euro

China has vowed to increase its support of the eurozone after pledging to spend billions of pounds propping up the single currency.

Premier Wen Jiabao said it will keep buying government bonds – the debts of stricken European nations.

In a boost for Greece ahead of a pivotal vote on greater austerity cuts tomorrow, Mr Wen said Europe could count on his ‘unremitting’ support.

However, according to billionaire speculator George Soros, the debt crisis has pushed the eurozone to the ‘verge of an economic collapse’.

It was all but ‘inevitable’ that at least one stricken member will have to exit the euro because of massive debts, the hedge fund tycoon warned.

Mr Soros said the EU had to come up with a ‘plan B’ to avert a catastrophe.

‘Fundamental flaws’ in the design of the currency union would leave crippled nations with no choice but to withdraw, he added.

Mr Soros warned: ‘The euro had no provision for correction. There was no arrangement for any country leaving the euro.’

In a devastating critique of the European response to the Greek crisis, Mr Soros accused political leaders of being in denial about the need for far-reaching reforms to avert the disintegration of the euro.

He said: ‘We are on the verge of an economic collapse which starts, let’s say, in Greece but could easily spread.’

His warning came just days after Bank of England’s Governor, Mervyn King, branded European attempts to shore up Greece as a ‘mess’.

Huge demonstrations are once again expected in Athens as the government there makes a final attempt to approve almost £25billion of cuts which are a condition of the latest bailout.

If the Greek parliament does not pass the austerity budget tomorrow, the nation will receive no more support and is likely to run out of money by the middle of next month.

But the turmoil engulfing the region has not diminished China’s desire to buy up more European debt. China has foreign reserves of around £2trillion and is the largest creditor to the United States.

At the start of a three-day visit to Britain yesterday, Mr Wen said: ‘China is a long-term investor in Europe’s sovereign debt market. In recent years, we have increased by quite a big margin our holdings of government bonds. We will consistently continue to support Europe and the euro.’ Mr Wen, who will meet Prime Minister David Cameron today, flew into Birmingham Airport for a trip intended to boost China’s commercial, economic and political links with Britain. Business deals worth up to £1billion are expected to be announced during his visit.

As a lover of Shakespeare’s plays, the Chinese leader started with a tour of the house where the playwright was born in Stratford-upon-Avon.

He was escorted by Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who said: ‘We want to have a broad-based relationship with China which encompasses political, economic and social dialogue.

‘But this visit is saying it’s not just about jobs, it’s about a broader cultural relationship which is the best possible way to make sure we understand each other and avoid the kind of misunderstanding that so can bedevil relationships, as has happened in the past.’

As human rights protestors demonstrated outside, Mr Wen also visited the MG car plant at Longbridge, which is owned by China’s Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation.

The visit coincided with the launch of a new car, the British-designed MG6 Magnette, which will be assembled in the UK using parts from China.



By Martyn Brown

ALMOST three-quarters of Germans doubt that the euro has a future, a poll reveals.
They also believe rescue attempts are futile as billions more euros will be paid to bail out Greece.
A poll by German newspaper, the Frankfurter Allgemeine, found 71 per cent had “doubt,” “no trust” or thought there is “no future” for the euro. Only 19 per cent expressed “confidence” in it. Sixty eight per cent said they did not think the emergency bail-out of Greece would work.

A separate poll last week showed more than half of Germans thought that Greece should be thrown out of the euro. Rumors are also rife in Germany that Deutsche Mark bank notes are being printed again in preparation for ditching the euro.

It is said Germany’s central bank, the Bundesbank, has been ordered to print marks as part of contingency plans to leave Europe’s single currency.

The Bundesbank has been ordered to print marks

This would be an extraordinary step for Germany and would deepen the growing divide between Europe’s leading states.

Since its introduction in 1999, the euro has had a tough time trying to win over a skeptical German public, who saw the mark – one of the world’s most stable currencies – as a symbol of post-war prosperity, second only to the US dollar as the reserve option for investors.

Chancellor Angela Merkel now faces her biggest crisis. The opposition is speculating her government may fall as Germans become more vocal in their opposition to bailing out Greece.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011


By M K Bhadrakumar

There might have been a difference of opinion between the classical Greek dramatist Aeschylus and British romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley regarding the circumstances of the release of the Titan god Prometheus from captivity: whether it followed reconciliation with Jupiter, as the classicist thought, or a rebellion, as the romantic insisted. In either case, Prometheus was "unbound".

The exact circumstances of the endgame in Iraq and Afghanistan will remain a moot point, but the outcome is certain to be that the United States, which like Prometheus was chained to a mountain where he was daily punished by Jupiter's eagle and underwent immense suffering, is being "released" to normal life.

For Prometheus, it came as an existential moment and when Hercules came to unbind him, he was so relieved at the freedom "long desired/And long delayed" that he pledged to his love that they "will sit and talk of time and change/As the world ebbs and flows, ourselves unchanged".

The United States, too, is re-emerging "unchanged". There is a flurry of activity as if making up for lost time - "unilateralist" military intervention in Libya; deployment of a F-16 squadron in Poland; establishment of military bases in Romania; resuscitation of the George W Bush era plans for deployment of a US missile defense system in Central Europe; revival of the entente cordiale among "new Europeans"; threatened "humanitarian intervention" in Syria; renewed talk of military action against Iran; a push for a long-term military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan; revving up of the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) into Central Asia; violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan; the threat of "regime change" in Sri Lanka; and last weekend the announcement of the deployment of light combat ships in Singapore.

All this has happened within a 100-day period. It was almost inevitable that the Caspian great game would be revived, too. After the unexplained hibernation in the period since the exit of the Bush presidency in the beginning of 2009, Richard Morningstar, the US's special envoy for Eurasian energy, has returned to the arena.

If his testimony at the hearing conducted by the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs last week had one single message, it was that the US's Eurasian energy strategy remained "unchanged" in its core agenda, namely, to challenge Russia's potential to use its vast reserves as an energy exporter to re-emerge as a big power on the world stage.

Cold War rhetoric surfaces

The geopolitical agenda of the US's Eurasian energy strategy was spelt out with characteristic bluntness at the same congressional hearing by noted Russia expert Ariel Cohen. There may be nothing strikingly new, arguably, in Cohen's thesis about Russia's "expansionist agenda" reflected in its energy policies, but nonetheless it merits reiteration by way of providing the backdrop to Morningstar's testimony. He was constrained by the norms of diplomatic practice to hold back on direct criticism of Russia, with which the Barack Obama administration is engaged in a "reset" at the moment:

· The Kremlin views energy as a tool to pursue an assertive foreign policy.

· Europe's level of dependence on Russia for energy is unacceptably high.

· Russia's attempts to exclude the US from Central Asian and Caspian energy markets.

· Russia is using energy to "re-engage" India, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.

· Russia forces neighboring countries to direct their energy exports via its pipeline system.

· The absence of a "rule of law" blocks Western companies' entry into Russia's energy sector.

· Russia remains disinterested in developing energy ties with the US.

Cohen candidly spelt out the geopolitics. One, European demand for energy is projected to grow further and it could lead to greater dependence on energy from Russia, which has serious implications for Moscow's ties with Europe.

The point is, the US apprehends that Moscow will exploit the growing energy ties to stabilize its relationship with the countries of Western Europe, and that could weaken the spirit of Euro-Atlanticism and incrementally loosen the US's trans-Atlantic leadership.

Two, Germany has taken a strategic decision to abandon nuclear energy and to instead increase its energy imports from Russia. From the US viewpoint, steadily growing Russo-German ties have not only a historical resonance of great significance for European security but they could eventually weaken European unity and the underpinnings of NATO itself, which the US commands as its principal instrument for the pursuit of its global strategies.

Three, Russia is aspiring to graduate from the role of energy exporter to Europe to participation in the continent's energy distribution system and retail trade as well. Europe may eventually "face tough choices between the cost and stability of their energy supply, and siding with the US on key issues".

Conversely, Cohen anticipates, "As oil prices rise, it is safe to expect Russia's cockiness to return." What is this "cockiness" about? In geopolitical terms, it means a more assertive Russia in global politics. Cohen mentioned India more than once as a worrisome prospect for the US.

Chalk circles in South Asia

In essence, countries like India, where the US hopes to become entrenched as a strategic partner, may choose to be autonomous or "non-aligned" if Russia succeeds in developing stronger energy ties with them. With regard to India, in particular, the implications are far-reaching since the US's Asia-Pacific strategy and its containment policy toward China would become seriously debilitated if New Delhi opted out.

Interestingly, Cohen brings in Syria in this context. He claimed that Russia was "seeking to re-engage in a centuries-old balance of power in the Middle East" and Syria - like India in the Asia-Pacific - is pivotal, which is the reason why Moscow is rebuilding naval bases in Tartus and Ladakiye and is "supplying modern weapons" to it - like it does with India.

Four, Russia is fostering the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as an exclusive preserve to keep out the US, especially in the grouping's energy club. The SCO comprises China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

The US is getting frantic that the SCO is gearing up to admit India and Pakistan as full members and Afghanistan as an observer. So far, the US had banked on the reservations of Russia and China over the SCO membership claims of Pakistan and India respectively, but the rethink in Moscow and Beijing on this score has set alarm bells ringing in Washington.

Moscow is outflanking the US by rapidly building up ties with Pakistan. A crucial vector in this accelerating relationship is energy cooperation. Moscow has begun discussing with Pakistan the nuts and bolts of its participation in the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) gas pipeline project.

The countries are restoring their air links; they have held two summit-level meetings within a year; and begun closely coordinating their approach to the stabilization of Afghanistan (which is integral to the execution of TAPI). Incidentally, Russia's special representative on Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov (the Kremlin's ace hand on Afghanistan) visited Islamabad last week for in-depth consultations.

The thrust of the Russian approach is to augment Pakistan's strategic autonomy so that it can withstand Washington's bullying. And Moscow estimates that Pakistan is keen to reciprocate. As a prominent South Asian scholar in Moscow, Andrey Volodin, wrote last week, "[Pakistan President] Asif Zardari's visit to Russia has shown that Pakistan is actively diversifying its foreign economic ties and foreign policy. This attitude is welcomed by Pakistan's main all-weather ally, China, which is pursuing a policy of 'soft reverse containment' of America in Asia, including Pakistan."

No more a Turkmen pipedream

Thus, the Russian-Chinese initiative to induct Pakistan and India as full SCO members holds out the prospect of dealing a devastating blow to the US's strategy to get "embedded" in Asia. The underpinning of a regional energy grid tapping into Turkmenistan's energy reserves gives a profound character to the matrix.

The fact is that the US all along paid lip-service to the TAPI, but its real interest has been in the so-called Southern Corridor for transporting Turkmen energy to Western Europe so that Russian dominance of the European market would be whittled down.

Russia is killing two birds with one stone. By diverting Turkmen gas to the huge energy guzzlers of South Asia - India is potentially one of the world's two or three biggest consumers of energy in the coming decades - Moscow is on the one hand undercutting the US's Eurasian energy strategy to evacuate the gas to Europe, while at the same time retaining its pre-eminent footing on the European energy market from being challenged by the Turkmen gas.

The big question mark on TAPI has been all along two-fold. First, there was doubt regarding Turkmenistan's energy reserves. However, the confirmation by British auditor Gaffney, Cline & Associates last week that Turkmenistan is sitting on the world's second-largest gas field - South Yolatan - completely changes the scenario. (Afghan President Hamid Karzai made an air dash to Ashgabat as soon as he heard the news.) The vast South Yolatan field covers an area of about 3,500 square kilometers - bigger than the country of Luxembourg - and as a top executive of the British auditor put it, "The South Yolatan field is so big that it can sustain several developments in parallel."

In short, Turkmenistan has the proven capacity to meet the energy requirements of China, India and Pakistan for many decades to come, and would still be left with a surplus for exports

to Russia. The prospect is shocking for US strategy if the so-called "SCO energy club", which is an idea that then-Russian president Vladimir Putin floated in 2005 a little ahead of time that is finally coming to fruition.

Thus, the robust Russian and Chinese diplomacy on Pakistan to encourage a paradigm shift in its Afghan policy; the growing US impatience over Pakistan's "recalcitrance"; the SCO's keenness to get involved in the stabilization of Afghanistan; the US's insistence that it must have direct dealings with the Taliban rather than through an "Afghan-led" peace process; Washington's push to establish a long-term military presence in Afghanistan; Russia's and China's hurry to get India and Pakistan on board as SCO members; the US's overtures to India with a partnership that US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates described last week in a speech in Singapore at a regional gathering of defense ministers (including from China, Russia and India) as the "indispensable pillar of stability in South Asia and beyond"; Gates' affirmation of US commitment to a "robust" and "enhanced" military presence in Asia, especially in the Malacca Straits - all these have a hugely important "energy dimension", too.

Cohen is a Russia expert, but he mentioned Central Asia more than once in this testimony and pointedly brought to the notice of US congressmen that Russia was attempting to "push the US out of Central Asia, and successfully limited US participation in new Caspian energy projects, excluding it from the SCO's energy club".

Containing the energy superpower

Ambassador Morningstar in his congressional testimony kept up the diplomatic decorum and neatly sidestepped the geopolitics, sticking to a detailed presentation of the US's Eurasian energy strategy, which he projected as a mix of continuity from the George W Bush era but imbued with new realities. The principal vectors of the US strategy can be identified in the following terms:

· The US's intention to be deeply involved in Europe's energy security is never in doubt since "Europe is our partner on any number of global issues from Afghanistan to Libya to the Middle East, from human rights to free trade.

· The US will work for Europe's "diverse energy mix" both in terms of its sources of supply and transportation routes as well as the type of energy - " diversity of suppliers, diversity of transportation routes and diversity of consumers, together with a focus on alternative technologies, and renewable and other clean energy technologies, and increased energy efficiency". (The US is entering the European market as a big exporter of shale gas, which competes with Russia's natural gas.)

· The US's aim is to encourage Europe to develop a "balanced and diverse energy strategy with multiple energy sources with multiple routes to market". (Read reduce the dependence on Russia which is supplying one-third of Europe's energy needs currently).

· The US will encourage and help Central Asian and Caspian countries to "find new routes to the market". (Read bypassing Russian territory and pipelines).

· The US will push for the energy sector to be privatized, and to this end, will "create the political framework" in the post-Soviet space within which "businesses and commercial projects can thrive".

· The Obama administration's commitment to the so-called Southern Corridor - to bring natural gas to Europe via Turkey from the Caspian and "potentially other sources beyond Europe's southeastern frontiers" - is no less than that of the previous US administrations of Bill Clinton and Bush. The US will actively promote the three separate European pipeline consortia - the Nabucco, ITGI and TPA groups - and is "confident that a commercially viable Southern Corridor will be realized. The investment decisions to make that possible should occur by the end of this year."

· Washington pays particular attention to promoting Turkmenistan as a major supplier of gas for Europe via the Southern Corridor.

· The US will pitch for the integration of the Baltic states into the European energy market so they do not remain vulnerable to Russian supplies and/or political pressure.

· The US will challenge Russia's efforts to get a monopoly hold over Ukraine's energy sector.

· Europe should develop a single market for energy so that the kind of bilateral relationships that are developing between Germany and Russia or Italy and Russia or France and Russia do not happen.

· Europe should have more focus on shale gas development, which can be a substitute for Russian gas.

· Europe should take initiatives for "unbundling the distribution and supply functions of energy firms" so that Russia's leviathan company Gazprom's efforts to penetrate downstream activities can be stalled.

It's the Eurasian heartland, stupid

The US's Eurasian energy strategy almost entirely aims at “containing” Russia's pre-eminent role as Europe's energy supplier and its vast influence over the Central Asian and Caspian energy-producing countries. Cohen spoke of a future role for NATO as provider of security for the non-Russian pipelines, but unsurprisingly, Morningstar didn't visit the controversial idea, which was first mooted by the Bush administration. What is of utmost interest is that Morningstar didn't say a word about the feasibility of Turkmenistan or the Central Asian region providing energy for the South Asian region, although US diplomats traveling to Delhi unfailingly profess a keen interest in TAPI. What emerges is that the US's one hundred percent focus is on Europe's energy security - how supplies can be developed from the Caspian, Central Asian and Middle Eastern regions for Europe - and it pays lip-service to the TAPI.

Clearly, the SCO summit meeting scheduled to be held in Kazakhstan next week becomes an historic occasion for the geopolitics of energy. The US congressional hearing in Washington last week was well-timed. The US apprehends a paradigm shift in the Asian power dynamic. The odds are heavily stacked against the US insofar as Russia and China are recrafting their South Asia polices that aim at harmonizing their ties with Pakistan and India respectively within the umbrella of the SCO.

A leading Chinese scholar, Yan Xuetong, director of the Institute of International Studies at Tsinghua University, stated at a recent seminar of the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, a branch of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences:

“If we can establish relations with neighboring countries like what we are doing with members of the SCO, we will also succeed in moving fast. The establishment of SCO in the 1990s was widely recognized as one of China's most successful diplomatic moves. The purpose of establishing the SCO is to challenge the American strategic intention of extending its military breach to Central Asia.”

It destroyed America's intention of making Central Asia its sphere of military influence. With the SCO, China's relations with countries in the region have been greatly improved. In order to establish SCO-style relations with surrounding countries, China must ... establish all-weather strategic partnerships with them. Or it will be impossible for China to have more and better friendly international relationships than America. Indeed, the Afghan endgame is inspiring the several tracks in the geopolitics of Eurasia and Central Asia and South Asia, some running tracks, some dormant, some visible, some others nor so visible, to begin to converge. But the focal point is Eurasia.

Indeed, Sir Halford John Mackinder (1861-1947), the great British geographer and scholar-diplomat, who is considered one of the founding fathers of the esoteric subjects of geopolitics and geo-strategy, based his famous Heartland Theory on the ida that Eurasia remains the heartland of international politics. Curiously, when Prometheus had his liver eaten out daily by Jupiter's eagle - only to be regenerated at night - he was also chained to a rock in the Caucasus.

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.


Though I don’t buy into everything this man asserts, his message should be heard. It sets the stage for the future and the kinds of conflicts we are likely to witness. In addition, we Americans cannot dominate Central Asia nor should we try. To do so is to involve ourselves in a competition we cannot win, as well as in wars we don’t need to fight.

Americans are constrained for reasons of economy to peripheral operations. In essence, “Inchon yes, Yalu no!” The point is our long-term strategic influence depends more on our economic productivity and our resulting ability to influence events through friendly states that share our strategic interests than on our military power.

Here is an example of how this strategic thinking works. In 1879, Disraeli and Bismarck cooperated to end Russia’s War with Turkey. Bismarck told the Russian Foreign Minister, Gorchakov that Germany had no real interest in who controlled the Dardanelles and, thus, declined to join Russia’s war with Turkey. Britain, of course did have such an interest and Bismarck knew it. Britain’s Army was of little strategic concern to the Russians. However, Disraeli and Bismarck agreed that without access to the German credit markets and technology, Russia could not hope to triumph in a lengthy war with Britain given Britain’s ability to blockade Russian ports with the Royal Navy. The outcome was a negotiated settlement that ended the destructive war and left the Dardanelles in Turkish hands. The Germans extricated the Russians from a war they did not need to fight and the British avoided a conflict with the Russians over control of the straits. Ultimately, everyone benefited including Turkey. Germany’s Army, the most powerful in the world, did not fire a shot.

In today’s world, this sort of thinking should shape our interaction with the great powers competing for resources and regional power on the Eurasian Continent. In the end, such thinking promises to reduce the destructiveness and duration of conflicts despite the absence of lofty, moralizing rhetoric so popular with the Liberal interventionist Left and the NEOCONs.

Doug Macgregor