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Thread: Sir Carl Quote of the Week

  1. #61
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    Quote Originally Posted by zraver View Post
    How do you mass against an insurgency?
    Hold on! First you need to answer, What is the political objective of the counter-insurgency campaign? This shall determine if a COIN campaign has to be fought at all. If the same objectives may be achieved by more direct means, then there is no need for the question of massing at all.

    Stephen Biddle argues that the political objective most threatened by switching from a COIN to CT campaign in Af-Pak Region is that it will destabilize Pakistan and make the Pakistani nuclear arsenal accessible to AlQ and Co.

    The most direct solution to this problem seems to be to: 1. Empower the four most highly vested interests in Pakistan (the Armed Forces, the Bureaucracy, the Feudal Landlords and Industrialists) and let them handle the immediate stability/instability, and 2. Make contingency plans and build capabilities to deal with the special weapons question if #1 fails.

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    Thoughts By An Outside Observer

    We've discussed CvC. We've discussed a bit of COIN along with center of gravity. We've mentioned the in-direct approach. Shek and I held a discussion earlier regarding EBO (Effects-Based Operations) vs. SOD (Systemic Operational Design).

    I'd like to offer these comments by Dave Maxwell made on SWJ as food for thought-

    "Before reading the linked article (Our Double-Edged Sword by Thomas H. Henriksen in the Hoover Digest) I offer a few comments for consideration. I think the author's critique is really with the doctrine of population centric COIN vice the Indirect Approach. I do not think we should throw the baby out with the bath water here and lump the Indirect Approach with population centric COIN.

    And I really do have to take exception to this statement from the article:

    'Some of Carl von Clausewitz’s writings have, for longer than a century, influenced generals to see the object of war as simply destruction of adversaries in detail.'

    I guess I can accept it if emphasis is placed on the word 'Some' because not all of Clausewitz writings emphasized this. I would also caveat this and say "It is the misreading of some of Clausewtiz' writings" or it is the misunderstanding caused by those who only read the bumper stickers of Clausewitz and do not really read (and more importantly study) On War.

    Just to make a point we should not forget this quote from the chapter in People in Arms (Book 6 , Chapter 26):

    'In a national insurrection the center of gravity to be destroyed lies in the person of the chief leader and in public opinion; against these points the blow must be directed.' Clausewitz, 1832.

    The other point we should be concerned with in this article is the premise that the indirect approach is somehow equated only with a softer, kinder, gentler approach. If we are going to twist the Indirect Approach in such a way then we should perhaps throw it in the dust bin along with Effect Based Operations (EBO) (which, by the way, is the only term to be struck form the lexicon since 9-11 when GEN Jim Mattis ordered it out of Joint Doctrine – in contrast we have had a proliferation of new terms, many of which are redundant and overlapping, but I digress)

    But we should consider the evolution of the indirect approach as follows (an excerpt from a paper I have not finished writing).

    The Indirect Approach, first written and practiced by Sun Tzu and later codified and further developed by Captain Sir B.H. Liddell Hart in the 20th Century remains a key tactical concept, one of the pillars of operational art, and an important part of strategic theory today. It is a very popular term and is used by military and diplomatic strategists as well as politicians in theoretical writings, professional military journals and in the popular press.

    However, since the attacks of September 11, 2001 and the resulting, so called Global War on Terror, military and strategic thinkers in the United States have put forth numerous concepts to explain conflict in the 21st Century. Such terms include Irregular Warfare in contrast to Major Combat Operations; Complex Contingencies, Hybrid Warfare and Full Spectrum Operations to name some of the major ones.

    Emerging as a major operational construct to support strategy in these new operating environments is the Indirect Approach. This approach has been broadly characterized as working “through, by and with” friends, partners or allies to achieve US objectives and has formed the basis for the development of what the United States military now calls Security Force Assistance (and what gas long been called Foreign Internal Defense). The assumption is that if the U.S. military can “build the capacity” of the indigenous security forces then those forces can achieve security objectives for the U.S. However, is this really the meaning of the traditional Indirect Approach? (as an aside ("through, by and with" should really be written as "through and with" because the "by" really does not add anything to the meaning except to make it grammatically awkward, but I digress again)

    Of course B.H. Liddell Hart is the man who brought the concept of the Indirect Approach to the fore in the 20th century. Fundamentally, his strategic concept can be summed up in his own following words:

    “In strategy the longest way round is often the shortest way there; a direct approach to the object exhausts the attacker and hardens the resistance by compression, whereas an indirect approach loosens the defender's hold by upsetting his balance.”

    “The profoundest truth of war is that the issue of battle is usually decided in the minds of the opposing commanders, not in the bodies of their men”


    Some would apply the Liddell Hart’s concepts to purely the maneuver of military forces and the psychological effects on military commanders. This would seem to be a narrow use of the concept and perhaps render it no longer relevant. Even in current U.S. military doctrine (Joint Pub 3-0) it is used in a similar manner:

    “In the event that a direct attack is not a reasonable solution, Joint Force Commanders should seek an indirect approach until conditions are established that permit successful direct attacks.”

    The emphasis remains on the direct attack as decisive and the indirect approach as a means to getting to and setting the conditions for the direct attack. However, in literature by some of today’s senior military leaders the Indirect Approach takes on a different meaning:

    'The primary contribution of Special Operations Forces (SOF) in this interagency activity is to organize, train, and assist local security forces. The indirect approach relies heavily on the SOF capability to build host nation defense capacity, provide civil affairs forces to give humanitarian and civic assistance, and offer information operations assets to aid the partner.'

    The Indirect Approach describing the activities of Special Operations Forces appears to be a strategic contrast to the operational and tactical action the indirect approach by regular maneuver forces."


    Our Double-Edged Sword-Hoover Institution Jan. 12, 2011 Thomas H. Henriksen

    "The military’s “indirect approach”—battlefield restraint, cultural savvy, the use of local troops—means a big shift in the way U.S. forces operate. It demands a close look"

    Thomas H. Henriksen
    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski
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  3. #63
    Global Moderator Defense Professional JAD_333's Avatar
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    I wonder how you take a great military leader's mind and render it on paper so lesser minds can use it to fight wars? In reading your post above, Steve, i was musing not only about that, but the large number of terms and the to-and-fro discussion on what the great military writers actually mean, etc., and I began wondering how the Taliban do it...do they have books and manuals, do they theorize and debate, who are their great thinkers? Is having neither a strength or a weakness? Are they doomed to fail because of it?

    Still, I am inclined to believe that our military's attention to theory and analysis is a strength in the long run. But I wonder whether at times it also distracts, delays or prevents us from getting on with business.
    Last edited by JAD_333; 16 Jan 11, at 18:20.
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  4. #64

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    JAD_333 Reply

    "I am inclined to believe that our military's attention to theory and analysis is a strength in the long run. But I wonder whether at times it also distracts, delays or prevents us from getting on with business."

    Are you kidding?!

    Careers are at stake, an industry built and there's money in them thar' words.

    We remain in search of the next "great idea" couched in the guise of rigorous self-examination. No stone left unturned. No simple, immutable truths either. Everything a shade of grey and nuanced in boundless plentitude.
    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski
    "The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool." Lester Bangs

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cactus View Post
    Hold on! First you need to answer, What is the political objective of the counter-insurgency campaign? This shall determine if a COIN campaign has to be fought at all. If the same objectives may be achieved by more direct means, then there is no need for the question of massing at all.
    That was not part of your question on the last page and regardless I posted my thoughts on Biddle's premis.

    Stephen Biddle argues that the political objective most threatened by switching from a COIN to CT campaign in Af-Pak Region is that it will destabilize Pakistan and make the Pakistani nuclear arsenal accessible to AlQ and Co.
    CT or COIN is destabalizing, when people die violent deaths in large numbers society's fabric frays.

    The most direct solution to this problem seems to be to: 1. Empower the four most highly vested interests in Pakistan (the Armed Forces, the Bureaucracy, the Feudal Landlords and Industrialists) and let them handle the immediate stability/instability, and 2. Make contingency plans and build capabilities to deal with the special weapons question if #1 fails.
    I dissagree, the most highly vested interest are the Pakistani people. They can't flee if things go south. The Islamist made in roads in the areas outside the NWFP/FATA precisely becuase the attention was directed at your 4 key interests. Ultimately it looks as if the TTP overplayed its hand- for now.

    AQ and Taliban managed to convince the Pashtuns that the war was a war on them, not terrorists. This is why we have seen such a resurgence in violence since the gloy days when the US and its Northern Alliance allies chased the Taliban and AQ out of Kabul.

    Winning in A-stan and by extension Pakistan means de-fanging the Pashtun's reasons to fight and the Taliban's ability to finance the battle.


    To prevent Pakistan's slide into anarchy requires Pakistan adopting an unified vision that has the widest possible appeal to the greatest number of groups including moderate religious groups. Moderate religious groups offer the most direct competing voice to the radicals. However they have to be able to bring the people direct temporal benefits to compete with the radicals promise of martyrdom.


    Thus, improving the Pakistani economy at all levels will achieve more long term in the battle of ideas than military aid. After all men with jobs are far less likely to go off to war with the intent to die. Even the Taliban only has a few die-hards, and most fighters are rent-a-bombers.

    So short term military action has to do a balancing act to keep radical power in check without inflaming passions. The drones are a good example of this in the short term. But drones cannot win the war alone.

    This makes Islamabad the national center of gravity. While Karachi or other cities might seem a better choice, Islamabad's location places it closest to the danger zone along the Afghanistan frontier. Low unemployment and a (relatively) high standard of living here would serve as a hope magnet to outlying areas as young people flooded in looking for jobs. Success here also directly lends the government credibility.

    In A-stan I have already discussed using local culture to attempt to strip AQ of its local protection and make peace with the Pashtuns. I also discussed a possible idea to strip the Taliban of its funding. While S-2 talked about other tribal groups, I do not think they matter as much. For the most part I think they fight us because we are there. Pulling out after a formal peace with the local tribal groups might well have the same effect a deal with the Pashtun groups would in rendering the area unusable to those who would harm us.

  6. #66
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    Quote Originally Posted by S-2 View Post
    "I am inclined to believe that our military's attention to theory and analysis is a strength in the long run. But I wonder whether at times it also distracts, delays or prevents us from getting on with business."

    Are you kidding?!

    Careers are at stake, an industry built and there's money in them thar' words.

    We remain in search of the next "great idea" couched in the guise of rigorous self-examination. No stone left unturned. No simple, immutable truths either. Everything a shade of grey and nuanced in boundless plentitude.
    Lol...Eisenhower would cringe.

    In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
    Well, he wasn't exactly talking about research and thinking, but you have to admit these days a lot of contract research orgs are out there with a lot of influence over policy and firmly attached to the fed $$ teat.
    To be Truly ignorant, Man requires an Education - Plato

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cactus View Post
    This counter-intuitive approach is indeed confusing to an average person like myself.
    I'd hardly call you an average person - you are being too modest here.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cactus
    Can you provide your thoughts on the "indirect approach" vs CvC's dictum of "economy of forces"?

    It seems to me that the "indirect approach" almost always ends up tallying a bigger bill in the long run (hence uneconomical). The "indirect approach" must be resorted to only when there are absolutely no resources in the immediate present to do a "direct approach", and one is resigned to footing the bigger bill as and when additional resources are generated/freed-up in the longer run.

    Why/How is this reasoning unapplicable with regards to Pakistan and the threat it poses/may-pose to US interests?
    Just to make sure that everyone is tracking, CvC's "economy of force" is different than the modern conception of the term. He refers to idle assets that aren't being used at the decisive point as being a waste of effort, and as an extension, advocates for using overwhelming force, if possible, not just enough force. It's something that would have been informative for Rumsfeld during the planning for Operation Iraqi Freedom, where the just enough "efficient" force wasn't enough for the war, although Rumsfeld would have had to have also listened to CvC's advice to understand the nature of the war they were undertaking. Nonetheless, I digress.

    In terms of what CvC would have said about Af-Pak, I'm not sure. I haven't read CvC chapters that are more tactical in nature, and IIRC, he talk about people's war I believe falls in that category, but I could be mistaken. However, commenting directly on your commentary, with the nature of the internal politics of Pakistan, is it even feasible for the US to take a direct approach? I believe that there would be huge costs involved, and that this is very well a case where an indirect approach, while costly since the chances of success aren't great, may still be cheaper than a direct approach.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

  8. #68
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    Quote Originally Posted by S-2 View Post

    Careers are at stake, an industry built and there's money in them thar' words.

    We remain in search of the next "great idea" couched in the guise of rigorous self-examination. No stone left unturned. No simple, immutable truths either. Everything a shade of grey and nuanced in boundless plentitude.
    Stupid me.I thought this war stuff was about those who keep it simple and speak in a way that's understood even by those who don't want to understand.

    Sir ,my hobby is reading about war so I went through a good deal of what your brainiacs produce.The 'tellectuals who created all the craponym (my invented term)industry deserve a good beating with the rifle butt,IMO.

    JAD,wrt the brains of the other side the answer is simple.Most of them come from a warrior culture(as opposed) to our formal soldiering culture.They use the traditional approach,with only a few adaptations.Others like OBL and AL Zawahiri (if they are still alive) are not so much military men but embrace a more ancient duality of being both political and military leaders.Sophisticated individuals with some knowledge of the way the modern societies work with on the job military training.That's why,IMO their main effort is not on achieving a military victory in the true sense(however small that may be),but on the political front.Their military effort is more analogous to an economy of force mission.

    The fascinating thing,for me at least,is the way Western commanders like McChrystal and Petraeus try to follow their example by being diplomats ,chief political representatives and warlords at the same time.We even formalized in the manuals what they do on an intuitive basis.
    Those who know don't speak
    He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. Luke 22:36

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    Quote Originally Posted by zraver View Post
    That was not part of your question on the last page and regardless I posted my thoughts on Biddle's premis.
    To clarify, my primary interest has been: Why/How is an "indirect approach" (through the COIN campaign in Af-Pak border region) better than a "direct approach" to secure the Pakistani special weapons arsenal?

    Quote Originally Posted by zraver View Post
    I dissagree, the most highly vested interest are the Pakistani people. They can't flee if things go south.
    This is a contradiction with what you have noted before (and something I -and many others here- implicitly agreed with, and hence have been pushing for a more "direct approach"):

    Quote Originally Posted by zraver View Post
    We wanted a government that would operate along roughly western lines where ethical behavior by talented individuals would guide the nation. I think this was a mistake in conception.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shek View Post
    Just to make sure that everyone is tracking, CvC's "economy of force" is different than the modern conception of the term. He refers to idle assets that aren't being used at the decisive point as being a waste of effort, and as an extension, advocates for using overwhelming force, if possible, not just enough force. It's something that would have been informative for Rumsfeld during the planning for Operation Iraqi Freedom, where the just enough "efficient" force wasn't enough for the war, although Rumsfeld would have had to have also listened to CvC's advice to understand the nature of the war they were undertaking. Nonetheless, I digress.
    Interesting. I had indeed assumed the modern meaning of the word "economical", and had rather thought that Rumsfeld & Co. were being quite economical with the forces in the beginning days of Afghan Campaign.

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    Cactus Reply

    A lot of interesting questions arise from your thoughts, Cactus. There was a political component to OEF which entailed a requirement that we appear to be doing something quickly. This, despite, not having the means to rapidly insert and sustain a large combat force (think 10th Mountain Division) immediately. Thus the entry of the C.I.A. followed by Special Forces.

    Secondly, there was no anticipation that these extremely modest forces would be decisive in this phase of the campaign. Instead, they were intended to keep afloat the N.A. through the winter for major operations the following spring.

    Third, CvC might argue that even with the inclusion of the 10th Mountain Division, U.S. Marines and follow-on allied forces (I believe Canada had troops in Afghanistan in 2002) we'd still failed to recognize the requirements for the overall campaign. The escape of OBL from Tora Bora because of reliance upon indigenous Afghan tribal forces might be offered as proof. Allowing for a bottleneck in our ability to insert and sustain adequate forces quickly, it can still be argued that Rumsfeld, et al. had concluded they wouldn't be necessary in any case. We'd inaccurately concluded campaign victory with the conquest of Kabul and that all which remained was "mopping up".

    As with, later, OIF we'd failed to apprise accurately what truly connoted victory (center of gravity) and provided inadequate forces to secure those ends.
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  12. #72
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cactus View Post
    To clarify, my primary interest has been: Why/How is an "indirect approach" (through the COIN campaign in Af-Pak border region) better than a "direct approach" to secure the Pakistani special weapons arsenal?
    OK, first I do not beleive we can secure the Pakistani nukes. They are too spread out and there are too many of them. It would be far more advisable to secure Pakistan in total through the defeat of extremism.

    This is a contradiction with what you have noted before (and something I -and many others here- implicitly agreed with, and hence have been pushing for a more "direct approach"):
    Could you provide the link? In discussion about Pakistan I generally urge an indirect approach aimed at strengthening the Pakistani politcal establishment vis a vis India and extremist. However this is a slightly different question but i stand by my ideas. Use soft power to build up a people that is both freindly to us and hostile to extremism.

    Ultimately that is the poeple of Pakistan. If we just cater to the 4 groups you mentioned and they focus on themselves then we leave a vaccum for extremist to fill- refrence the border areas of NWFP and FATA. Hard power and direct confrontation cannot defeat ideas, not with the restraints we place on the use of hard power. Modern laws of war limit the application of force in ways that work against winning in A-stan or Pakistan.

    We can't wipe out a village in reprisal for an IED attack. The is no disincentive for the rent-a-bombers of the Taliban before and after the act of actually attacking us. The attacks also give them a job- dangerous but still a job. Finally, they perceive us as enemies even when thier own side does most of the killing. The incentives in A-stan are to fight us not support us.

    Winning the hearts and minds is cliche but it has a root of truth to it. Hearts (will) and minds (means) are centers of gravity espeically vulnerable to attack by indirect means. In iraq the Sunni awkening was quickly co-opted in the wider American effort and AQI found itself denied the freedom to operate. The result was victory in Iraq.

    A simialr approach might well yeild simialr results in A-stan and Pakistan via the Pashtun tribal culture. If our ultimate goal is bringing Bin Laden to justice, then i fear we will fail. If the goal however is de-fanging him so long as he is shelterign among the Pashtuns, that we can do.

  13. #73
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mihais View Post
    JAD,wrt the brains of the other side the answer is simple.Most of them come from a warrior culture(as opposed) to our formal soldiering culture.They use the traditional approach,with only a few adaptations...
    Good point. But do they have an unwritten doctrine based on the reality of their strengths and weaknesses?
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  14. #74
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    Absolutely,IMO.Every similar culture has one,be they Chechens, Somalis Mongols or Norsemen.
    Those who know don't speak
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    The next installment of the CvC quote of the week follows, Book 1, Chapter 2 (page 92):

    Since war is not an act of senseless action but is controlled by its political object, the value of this object must determine the sacrifices to be made for it in magnitude and also in duration. Once the expenditure of effort exceeds the value of the political object, then the object must be renounced and peace must follow.
    Last edited by Shek; 17 Feb 11, at 03:22.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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