Tag Archives: war

Hard Lessons from America’s Longest Wars

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lessons longest wars“BREAKING DEFENSE”  By James Kitfield

“American troops have been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for so long that the public doesn’t even celebrate their victories or mourn their defeats any more.

When U.S.-backed forces this year recaptured the twin capitals of the self-proclaimed caliphate of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria hardly anyone in America noticed.

When reports noted earlier this year that a resurgent Taliban had regained control of roughly 40 percent of Afghanistan that warranted only passing mention in the American media.”

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“There’s an old axiom that democracies, with their fickle political winds and short attention spans, are just not well suited for long wars. With the post-9/11 fight against violent Islamist extremists already well into its second decade, with no end in sight, it’s little wonder that many Americans believe the longest wars in U.S. history have been costly mistakes.

James Kitfield, who’s won more Gerald Ford Defense Reporting awards than anyone else (3)

Despite their unpopularity in a war-weary America, the post-9/11 wars looks very different to the men and women who have been in the middle of the fight. Not necessarily better, but more complex and nuanced than the narrative of an endless and futile slog against an unfathomable foe. U.S. military, intelligence and law enforcement agencies have learned and adapted constantly during a decade-and-a-half of fighting this “global war on terrorists,” as have our determined and adaptive enemies. After covering those wars, I spent recent years interviewing many of the top U.S. leaders in this long conflict in an effort to capture those lessons for my book, “Twilight Warriors: The Soldiers, Spies and Special Agents Who Are Revolutionizing the American Way of War” (Basic Books, 2016). Among their many insights the following lessons stand out.

Know Thine Enemy

China’s legendary military strategist Sun Tzu cautioned: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.” Yet from the beginning of these long wars U.S. officials have been slow to grasp the ideology, motivations and strategies of our enemies. The resulting miscalculations have cost the nation dearly.

President George W. Bush infamously saw a connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq which just didn’t exist. We invaded in 2003 and created a self-fulfilling prophecy. President Barack Obama wrongly believed the killing of Osama bin Laden and many of his top lieutenants spelled the end of Al Qaeda, leading him to prematurely withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq and Afghanistan and to underestimate ISIS as the Junior Varsity team of terror. For his part President Donald Trump routinely reacts to new terror attacks with calls to build a border wall and ban immigrants and refugees from Muslim-majority countries, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of jihadi attacks are conducted by Americans or legal immigrants.

Congress also seems dangerously disengaged from the nature of the war it authorized so long ago. Many lawmakers reacted with incredulous questions when four U.S. Special Forces soldiers died in Niger. What were U.S. troops even doing in that African nation, some of them wondered publicly? Of course, U.S. forces have been killing terrorists and helping to combat Islamist extremist groups and Al Qaeda affiliates in Africa for many years. It’s a familiar list: Al Shabab in Somalia; Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen; Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in the Sahel region; and Boca Haram in Nigeria. Perhaps too few lawmakers read newspapers or watch TV news.

Then there have been the seemingly inexplicable decisions by senior American policymakers. A cursory understanding of Iraq’s sectarian dynamic should have stopped Coalition Provisional Authority head Paul Bremer from his disastrous early decisions to disband the regular Iraqi Army and launch an aggressive “de-Baathification” campaign. That single act is believed by many to have driven Sunni officers and troops into the hands of Al Qaeda in Iraq, where they swam in a swamp of Sunni grievance. The resulting terrorist insurgency took the better part of a decade to subdue.

“The single biggest lesson we should have learned is that before you invade a country, you need to really understand in a very granular and nuanced way what is going on inside that country,” retired Gen. David Petraeus, the former leader of the Iraqi and Afghan counterinsurgency campaigns and former director of the CIA, told me in an interview. As the former commander of the 101st Airborne Division during the Iraq invasion, Petraeus remembers being given “Iraqi experts” who couldn’t tell him if the towns he was entering were majority Sunni or Shiite, or where the ethnic border lines were on a map: “Which means they didn’t know anything.”

Then we did it again. We withdrew in 2011 and ISIS simply repeated the cycle, forming its own alliance with former Baathist military officers and stoking Sunni grievances against Iraq’s Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

“By 2009-2010 we had essentially crushed Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), and we had a competing narrative to what the extremists were offering ideologically, which was a more inclusive government in Baghdad and a region moving in a positive direction,” said retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who led Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in defeating AQI and killing its leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and later commanded all U.S. and allied troops in Afghanistan. “Then the ‘Arab Spring’ started and you had all this instability spread throughout the region, and [leader Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi and ISIS adapted to those conditions and filled that vacuum. As a consequence ISIS became something like Al Qaeda 3.0.”

Al Qaeda Is An Ideology First, Not A Group

Knowing your enemy means understanding his core motivations and goals. After U.S. counterterrorism forces killed Bin Laden and nearly all of his chief lieutenants in the 2010 – 2011 timeframe, President Obama plausibly argued that “core Al Qaeda” as it existed at the time of the 9/11 terrorist attacks had been decimated. But the bond that truly unites core Al Qaeda with its far-flung affiliates and other Sunni extremist groups is not like a regular army’s bonds of patriotism, discipline and training. They are bound by a transnational ideology, Salafi jihadism. Salafis are fundamentalists who interpret the Quran literally and believe the only true Islam is a mythic version they say was practiced in the days of the Prophet Mohammed and his acolytes in the 7th century. They believe it is their duty to impose this medieval version of Islam on “apostates” and “non-believers,” by extreme violence if necessary.

ISIS = Al Qaeda 3.0

In the Darwinian selection process of the terror strikes survivors get stronger as they learn and adapt. So it was with al-Baghdadi, the former chief of foreign fighter operations for Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), the most lethal of the many affiliates that constitute “Al Qaeda 2.O.” After the 2011 Arab Spring protests and the Syrian regime’s iron-fisted response to a sectarian civil war, al-Baghdadi realized that the same ratlines that AQI had used to funnel foreign fighters from Syria into Iraq to fight the U.S. military could be reversed, sending AQI’s Sunni jihadists the other way to carve a sanctuary out of the rotting corpse of Syria.

Baghdadi had served prison time in a U.S. detention center, where he formed bonds and alliances with a network of former senior Baathist military officers in Saddam Hussein’s army. In 2013-2014, Baghdadi and his jihadists launched a series of daring prison breaks in Iraq to free them. Working together, they launched ISIS’ lightning offensive in the summer of 2014, stunning the world when they overran numerous Iraqi Army divisions and captured roughly a third of both Syria and Iraq, bringing ISIS’ terrorist army to the outskirts of Baghdad. What looked like a military offensive by a ragtag army of ISIS irregulars was actually the result of an unprecedented alliance between Salafi jihadists and former Sunni Baathist military officers whose networks reached deep into corrupted Iraqi Security Forces.

Under al-Baghdadi’s leadership ISIS is certainly an innovative organization. Understanding that it would resonate powerfully in Salafi ideology, Baghdadi proclaimed an Islamic caliphate, and declared himself its caliph, or ruler, attracting an unprecedented 40,000 foreign fighters from across the globe to ISIS’ black banner. Adopting Bin Laden’s strategy of attacking the West as a path towards greater legitimacy in the terror pantheon, he formed an “external affairs unit” that was behind terrorist “spectaculars” in Paris and Brussels. Many former Al Qaeda affiliates switched their allegiance to ISIS.

“The Paris attack was a nightmare, and of particular concern because of the direct connectivity between ISIS and the perpetrators. It had all the hallmarks of a centrally planned, organized and directed attack involving top ISIS leadership,” Nicholas Rasmussen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), told me in a recent interview. The Paris and Belgium attacks were proof that as long as ISIS enjoyed sanctuary from which to recruit and plan attacks on the West, it would remain a mortal threat.

“Safe haven is always high on the list of a terrorist organization’s sources of strength, and ISIS exercising state-like dominion over much of the territory of Iraq and Syria, with all its economic and energy resources, was in many ways the ultimate safe haven. That was incredibly dangerous from a counterterrorism perspective,” he said. “Combine that with ISIS’ unique ability to attract fighters from outside Iraq and Syria, which was far beyond anything Al Qaeda ever aspired to, and suddenly we were dealing with a mass terrorist movement.”

It Takes a Network to Defeat a Network

At their pinnacles, Al Qaeda and ISIS acted not as discrete terrorist organizations but as central command for a globe-spanning terrorist insurgency, with both groups funneling fighters, resources and “lessons learned” among a far-flung network of affiliates that stretched across an arc of instability from Southwest Asia all the way to North Africa.

Under the pioneering leadership of Gen. McChrystal, JSOC (the secretive war-fighting subcomponent of U.S. Special Operations Command), adapted by incubating its own network-centric model of military operations. That model relied on an unprecedented synergy that developed in the war zones between Special Operations Forces, intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and conventional military forces. The model of operations that McChrystal helped pioneer was most closely associated in the public mind with drone strikes and the relentless counterterrorism raids such as Operation Neptune Spear, which brought Osama bin Laden to justice. At its hot core, this new, network-centric style of warfare is predicated on hunting individual terrorists and other extremists who hid in the dark corners of the world, and in plain sight as well.

The intense battle rhythm behind that new style of warfare was unlike anything that had come before it. JSOC’s multiagency joint task forces and intelligence fusion centers combined the skills of disparate national and international players into a unified, mission-focused whole. The streamlined operations enabled by the network greatly condensed the traditional military-targeting cycle of “find, fix and finish” by constantly incorporating intelligence “exploitation and analysis,” creating what the counterterrorism community called an “F3EA” style of operations. Within that operational model the once bright lines between intelligence gathering and operational targeting disappeared.

The synergies required of that new style of operations explained major reorganizations of the Central Intelligence and Defense Intelligence agencies, the emergence of the National Counterterrorism Center as a major, multiagency coordinating node in the network, and the National Security Agency’s (NSA) storage of vast amounts of electronic metadata in search of “patterns of life” among terrorists and their networks. JSOC’s mantra “it takes a network to defeat a network” became the rallying cry of a man-hunting juggernaut that McChrystal described to me as “the Amazon.com of counterterrorism.”

“The epiphany for me came as we were studying Al Qaeda operations and realized that it didn’t act like a typical hierarchal terrorist organization, with ponderous, top-down execution. It moved so fast that we were constantly asking ourselves, ‘How did they do that?’” McChrystal recalled. After that it became all about building a globe-spanning U.S. counterterrorism network along with allies, he said, and connecting far-flung military, intelligence and law enforcement entities together focused on a common contextual understanding of the threat, and on winning this one fight.

“The biggest epiphany of all was that once we connected all these nodes and the network was working, I didn’t have to make a lot of big decisions,” he said. “The network learns and it knows what to do! Through the wisdom of the crowd, the network adapted organically and figured out the right strategy.”

Counterterrorism vs. Counterinsurgency

Four times in this long war U.S. military commanders have confronted a dangerous tipping point where a campaign of terrorism transforms into a much larger and more widely-supported insurgency powerful enough to compete with government forces for control of territory: Iraq in 2006-7; Afghanistan in 2009-10; and Iraq and Afghanistan again in 2014-2017. At that point a strictly counterterrorism campaign of targeted strikes on terrorist leaders becomes ineffective in countering a determined and dug-in insurgency. A more  manpower intensive counterinsurgency campaign is required to clear enemy-held ground, hold it to protect the local population, and build governance as a means to win the populace to the government’s side.

Disagreements about the efficacy of counterterrorism versus counterinsurgency strategies, both between military and civilian leaders and among the military fraternity itself, led to some of the costliest mistakes of the post-9/11 wars. U.S. commanders and their civilian masters in Iraq 2003-2005 were slow to even recognize the insurgency there until it was almost too late. Disagreements over a counterterrorism versus a counterinsurgency strategy between the White House and McChrystal’s team in Afghanistan in 2009 eroded critical trust between them, ultimately leading to McChrystal’s dismissal. If the Iraqi government does not rebuild and project governance into the recaptured Sunni majority city of Mosul, then its recent victory there against ISIS is also likely to prove temporary.

Petraeus, who replaced McChrystal in Afghanistan after leading the successful counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq, understood the mission as keeping the country from once again becoming an Al Qaeda sanctuary, which required halting the momentum of the Taliban insurgency, and accelerating the training of Afghan security forces so they could defend their own country.

“And you can’t do that with a counterterrorism strategy of man-hunting alone! You can hunt men all day long, but if you don’t clear territory and hold it, then the enemy is just going to keep regenerating,” Petraeus told me in our interview for Twilight Warriors. “So anyone who believed we could win in Afghanistan with counterterrorism operations alone was mistaken. There is no foundation for that idea whatsoever.”

https://breakingdefense.com/2017/12/hard-lessons-from-americas-longest-wars/0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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America’s Military-Industrial Addiction

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Addition to MIC

President Dwight D. Eisenhower

“ZERO HEDGE”

“If Americans generally don’t support wars or engagement in the world, why do they seem to reflexively support massive military budgets?

The military and the vast economic network it feeds presents a “complex” issue that involves millions of self-interested Americans in much the way Eisenhower predicted, but few are willing to truly forsake.”

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“Polls show that Americans are tired of endless wars in faraway lands, but many cheer President Trump’s showering money on the Pentagon and its contractors, a paradox that President Eisenhower foresaw…

The Military-Industrial Complex has loomed over America ever since President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of its growing influence during his prescient farewell address on Jan. 17, 1961. The Vietnam War followed shortly thereafter, and its bloody consequences cemented the image of the Military-Industrial Complex (MIC) as a faceless cadre of profit-seeking warmongers who’ve wrested control of the foreign policy. That was certainly borne out by the war’s utter senselessness … and by tales of profiteering by well-connected contractors like Brown & Root.

Over five decades, four major wars and a dozen-odd interventions later, we often talk about the Military-Industrial Complex as if we’re referring to a nefarious, flag-draped Death Star floating just beyond the reach of helpless Americans who’d generally prefer that war was not, as the great Gen. Smedley Darlington Butler aptly put it, little more than a money-making “racket.”

The feeling of powerlessness that the MIC engenders in “average Americans” makes a lot of sense if you just follow the money coming out of Capitol Hill. The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) tabulated all “defense-related spending” for both 2017 and 2018, and it hit nearly $1.1 trillion for each of the two years. The “defense-related” part is important because the annual National Defense Authorization Act, a.k.a. the defense budget, doesn’t fully account for all the various forms of national security spending that gets peppered around a half-dozen agencies.

It’s a phenomenon that noted Pentagon watchdog William Hartung has tracked for years. He recently dissected it into “no less than 10 categories of national security spending.” Amazingly only one of those is the actual Pentagon budget. The others include spending on wars, on homeland security, on military aid, on intelligence, on nukes, on recruitment, on veterans, on interest payments and on “other defense” — which includes “a number of flows of defense-related funding that go to agencies other than the Pentagon.”

Perhaps most amazingly, Hartung noted in TomDisptach that the inflation-adjusted “base” defense budgets of the last couple years is “higher than at the height of President Ronald Reagan’s massive buildup of the 1980s and is now nearing the post-World War II funding peak.” And that’s just the “base” budget, meaning the roughly $600 billion “defense-only” portion of the overall package. Like POGO, Hartung puts an annual price tag of nearly $1.1 trillion on the whole enchilada of military-related spending.

The MIC’s ‘Swamp Creatures’

To secure their share of this grandiloquent banquet, the defense industry’s lobbyists stampede Capitol Hill like well-heeled wildebeest, each jockeying for a plum position at the trough. This year, a robust collection of 208 defense companies spent $93,937,493 to deploy 728 “reported” lobbyists (apparently some go unreported) to feed this year’s trumped-up, $700 billion defense-only budget, according to OpenSecrets.org. Last year they spent $128,845,198 to secure their profitable pieces of the government pie.

And this reliable yearly harvest, along with the revolving doors connecting defense contractors with Capitol Hill, K Street and the Pentagon, is why so many critics blame the masters of war behind the MIC for turning war into a cash machine.

But the cash machine is not confined to the Beltway. There are ATM branches around the country. Much in the way it lavishes Congress with lobbying largesse, the defense industry works hand-in-glove with the Pentagon to spread the appropriations around the nation. This “spread the wealth” strategy may be equally as important as the “inside the Beltway” lobbying that garners so much of our attention and disdain.

Just go to U.S. Department of Defense’s contract announcement webpage on any weekday to get a good sense of the “contracts valued at $7 million or more” that are “announced each business day at 5 p.m.” A recent survey of these “awards” found the usual suspects like Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics. The MIC was well-represented. But many millions of dollars were also “won” by companies most Americans have never heard of … like this sampling from one day at the end of October:

  • Longbow LLC, Orlando Florida, got $183,474,414 for radar electronic units with the stipulation that work will be performed in Orlando, Florida.
  • Gradkell Systems Inc., Huntsville, Alabama, got $75,000,000 for systems operations and maintenance at Fort Belvoir, Virginia
  • Dawson Federal Inc., San Antonio, Texas; and A&H-Ambica JV LLC, Livonia, Michigan; and Frontier Services Inc., Kansas City, Missouri, will share a $45,000,000 for repair and alternations for land ports of entry in North Dakota and Minnesota.
  • TRAX International Corp., Las Vegas, Nevada, got a $9,203,652 contract modification for non-personal test support services that will be performed in Yuma, Arizona, and Fort Greely, Alaska,
  • Railroad Construction Co. Inc., Paterson, New Jersey, got a $9,344,963 contract modification for base operations support services to be performed in Colts Neck, New Jersey.
  • Belleville Shoe Co., Belleville, Illinois, got $63,973,889 for hot-weather combat boots that will be made in Illinois.
  • American Apparel Inc., Selma, Alabama, got $48,411,186 for combat utility uniforms that will be made in Alabama.
  • National Industries for the Blind, Alexandria, Virginia, got a $12,884,595 contract modification to make and advanced combat helmet pad suspension system. The “locations of performance” are Virginia, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

Sharing the Largesse

Clearly, the DoD is large enough, and smart enough, to award contracts to companies throughout the 50 states. Yes, it is a function of the sheer size or, more forebodingly, the utter “pervasiveness” of the military in American life. But it is also a strategy. And it’s a tactic readily apparent in a contract recently awarded to Raytheon.

On Oct. 31, 2017, they got a $29,455,672 contract modification for missions systems equipment; computing environment hardware; and software research, test and development. The modification stipulates that the work will spread around the country to “Portsmouth, Rhode Island (46 percent); Tewksbury, Massachusetts (36 percent); Marlboro, Massachusetts (6 percent); Port Hueneme, California (5 percent); San Diego, California (4 percent); and Bath, Maine (3 percent).”

Frankly, it’s a brilliant move that began in the Cold War. The more Congressional districts that got defense dollars, the more votes the defense budget was likely to receive on Capitol Hill. Over time, it evolved into its own underlying rationale for the budget.

As veteran journalist William Greider wrote in the Aug. 16, 1984 issue of Rolling Stone, “The entire political system, including liberals as well as conservatives, is held hostage by the politics of defense spending. Even the most well intentioned are captive to it. And this is a fundamental reason why the Pentagon budget is irrationally bloated and why America is mobilizing for war in a time of peace.”

The peace-time mobilization Greider referred to was the Reagan build-up that, as William Hartung noted, is currently being surpassed by America’s “War on Terror” binge. Then, as now … the US was at peace at home, meddling around the world and running up a huge bill in the process. And then, as now … the spending seems unstoppable.

And as an unnamed “arms-control lobbyist” told Grieder, “It’s a fact of life. I don’t see how you can ask members of Congress to vote against their own districts. If I were a member of Congress, I might vote that way, too.”

Essentially, members of Congress act as secondary lobbyists for the defense industry by making sure their constituents have a vested interest in seeing the defense budget is both robust and untouchable. But they are not alone. Because the states also reap what the Pentagon sows … and, in the wake of the massive post-9/11 splurge, they’ve begun quantifying the impact of defense spending on their economies. It helps them make their specific case for keeping the spigot open.

Enter the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), which notes, or touts, that the Department of Defense (DoD) “operates more than 420 military installations in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico.” Additionally, the NCSL is understandably impressed by a DoD analysis that found the department’s “$408 billion on payroll and contracts in Fiscal Year 2015” translated into “approximately 2.3 percent of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP).”

And they’ve become a clearinghouse for state governments’ economic impact studies of defense spending. Here’s a sampling of recent data compiled on the NSCL website:

  • In 2015, for example, military installations in North Carolinasupported 578,000 jobs, $34 billion in personal income and $66 billion in gross state product. This amounts to roughly 10 percent of the state’s overall economy.
  • In 2014, Coloradolawmakers appropriated $300,000 in state funds to examine the comprehensive value of military activities across the state’s seven major installations. The state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs released its study in May 2015, reporting a total economic impact of $27 billion.
  • Kentuckyhas also taken steps to measure military activity, releasing its fifth study in June 2016. The military spent approximately $12 billion in Kentucky during 2014-15. With 38,700 active duty and civilian employees, military employment exceeds the next largest state employer by more than 21,000 jobs.
  • In Michigan, for example, defense spending in Fiscal Year 2014 supported 105,000 jobs, added more than $9 billion in gross state product and created nearly $10 billion in personal income. A 2016 study sponsored by the Michigan Defense Center presents a statewide strategy to preserve Army and Air National Guard facilities following a future Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round as well as to attract new missions. 

Electoral Impact

But that’s not all. According to the DoD study cited above, the biggest recipients of DoD dollars are (in order): Virginia, California, Texas, Maryland and Florida. And among the top 18 host states for military bases, electorally important states like California, Florida and Texas lead the nation.

And that’s the real rub … this has an electoral impact. Because the constituency for defense spending isn’t just the 1 percent percent of Americans who actively serve in the military or 7 percent of Americans who’ve served sometime in their lives, but it is also the millions of Americans who directly or indirectly make a living off of the “defense-related” largesse that passes through the Pentagon like grass through a goose.

It’s a dirty little secret that Donald Trump exploited throughout the 2016 presidential campaign. Somehow, he was able to criticize wasting money on foreign wars and the neoconservative interventionism of the Bushes, the neoliberal interventionism of Hillary Clinton, and, at the same time, moan endlessly about the “depleted” military despite “years of record-high spending.” He went on to promise a massive increase in the defense budget, a massive increase in naval construction and a huge nuclear arsenal.

And, much to the approval of many Americans, he’s delivered. A Morning Consult/Politico poll showed increased defense spending was the most popular among a variety of spending priorities presented to voters … even as voters express trepidation about the coming of another war. A pair of NBC News/Survey Monkey polls found that 76 percent of Americans are “worried” the United States “will become engaged in a major war in the next four years” and only 25 percent want America to become “more active” in world affairs.

More to the point, only 20 percent of Americans wanted to increase the troop level in Afghanistan after Trump’s stay-the-course speech in August, but Gallup’s three decade-long tracking poll found that the belief the U.S. spends “too little” on defense is at its highest point (37 percent) since it spiked after 9/11 (41 percent). The previous highpoint was 51 percent in 1981 when Ronald Reagan was elected in no small part on the promise of a major build-up.

He says it when he lords over the sale of weapon systems to foreign powers or he visits a naval shipyard or goes to one of his post-election rallies to proclaim to “We’re building up our military like never before.” Frankly, he’s giving the people what they want. Although they may be war-weary, they’ve not tired of the dispersal system that Greider wrote about during Reagan’s big spree.”

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-12-03/americas-military-industrial-addiction

 

 

 

Why America Loses Every War It Starts

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Why America Loses Every War It Starts

President John F. Kennedy meets with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor and Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara at the White House on Oct. 2, 1963.

“DEFENSE ONE” By Harlan Ullman

“Tragically, the U.S. started these wars for reasons that proved wildly wrong, or intervened based on lack of knowledge and understanding that led to failure.

The reasons for failure span generations of leaders and apply equally to both political parties, suggesting that somehow this predilection for failure has become part of the national DNA.”


“Most Americans believe that their military ithe finest in the world, a belief well-founded by several measures. Yet if the U.S.military were a sports team, based on its record in war and when called upon to defend the nation since World War II, it would be ranked in the lowest divisions.

Consider history. The United States won the “big one”: the Cold War. But every time Americans were sent to wars that it started or into combat for reasons that lacked just cause, we lost or failed. Korea was at best a draw, ended not by a peace treaty but a “temporary” truce. Our record in subsequent conflicts was too often no better, and too often worse. Vietnam was an outright and ignominious defeat in which over 58,000 Americans died. George H.W. Bush’s administration deserves great credit in the first Iraq War and in handling the collapse of the Soviet Union. But the Afghanistan intervention begun in 2001 is still going with no end in sight. The Second Iraq War, launched in 2003, was rightly termed a fiasco. Even far smaller interventions — Beirut and Grenada in 1983, Libya in 2011 — failed.

Americans need to know why. Notably, failure was not the fault of the Pentagon. My new bookAnatomy of Failure: Why America Loses Every War It Starts, analyzes and explains why this record of failure has occurred and why these setbacks, if uncorrected, will continue.

Failure begins at the top. Americans elect presidents who, too often, are unprepared, unready and too inexperienced for the responsibilities of arguably the most difficult office in the world. This has led to flawed strategic judgment made worse by an absence of sufficient knowledge and understanding of the conditions in which force is to be used.

President John F. Kennedy tartly observed that there is no school for presidents. Yet both he and his successor Lyndon Johnson became trapped in the Vietnamese quagmire because of poor strategic judgment and a near-total lack of knowledge and understanding of that conflict.

Ronald Reagan wrongly believed he could bankrupt the Soviet Union by engaging in an arms race. Along the way, he blundered into Beirut, which cost the lives of 241 American servicemen blown up in a barracks; and Grenada, where he sought to protect American medical students who were in no danger and to stop the construction of a “Soviet air base” that was in fact a government effort to increase tourism.

It took Bill Clinton 78 days to force Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to stop the killing of Kosovars through a bombing campaign that, if accompanied by the threat of ground forces, might have done the job in hours. George W. Bush invaded Iraq to change the “geostrategic landscape of the greater Middle East” by democratizing the region — and produced arguably the greatest American catastrophe since the Civil War. And Barack Obama touched off civil war in Syria by bombing Benghazi, leading to the death of Muramar Qaddafi and regional violence.

Tragically, the U.S. started these wars for reasons that proved wildly wrong, or intervened based on lack of knowledge and understanding that led to failure. While Donald Trump, fortunately, has not suffered a crisis such as 9/11, his strategic judgment and understanding seem as poor as or even worse than his predecessors’.

To prevent or mitigate future failures, we must discard our 20th-century thinking and adopt a new, brains-based approach to strategic judgments. Deterring the Soviet Union was far different from deterring a Russia that has no intent of attacking NATO or al Qaeda and the Islamic State that lack armies and navies. Moreover, our policymakers must have far greater knowledge and understanding of conditions in which force is to be used. And the focus of policy and strategy must be to affect, influence, and even control the will and perception of friends, foes and enemies.

Unless and until Americans recognize why we fail too often in using force and correct these flaws, the chances of future reverses may not be inevitable. But it is highly likely.”

Dr. Harlan Ullman is a Distinguished Senior Fellow and Visiting Professor at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I.; a Senior Advisor at Washington D.C.’s Atlantic Council and Business Executives for National Security; chairman of two private companies; and principal author of the doctrine of shock and awe. A former naval officer, he commanded a destroyer in the Persian Gulf and led more than 150 missions and operations in Vietnam as a Swift Boat skipper.

http://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2017/11/why-america-loses-every-war-it-starts/142646/?oref=search_Why%20America%20Loses%20Every%20War%20It%20Starts

US Could Have Almost 16,000 Troops in Afghanistan Next Year

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“MILITARY TIMES”

“The expected deployment of hundreds more U.S. Army trainers to Afghanistan early next year will probably increase the total number of American forces there to almost 16,000, according to U.S. officials.

 There are about 6,000 troops in Afghanistan from other NATO and partner nations.”


“At least 15,000 U.S. forces are in Afghanistan, after President Donald Trump decided to send about 3,800 troops to the country this fall to strengthen efforts to advise Afghan forces and conduct counterterrorism missions. All those extra troops are already in the country, U.S. defense officials said.

The Army’s new security force assistance brigade is being built and trained at Fort Benning, Georgia, and will head to Afghanistan early next year. Senior U.S. defense officials cited ongoing discussions about whether other American forces would leave when the training unit arrives or whether the trainers would add to the U.S. military footprint already there.

The officials said Pentagon leaders, primarily U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, had initially set a tentative cap of about 15,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. But they said Mattis has made clear he is committed to a force level based on military needs, not an arbitrary number. As a result, the officials said they believe the trainers will add to the total U.S. force number in Afghanistan, and not come in as replacements.

The officials weren’t authorized to publicly discuss the troop numbers and insisted on condition of anonymity.

Calculating the actual number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan has been an ongoing problem.

The Pentagon in August acknowledged having about 11,000 American troops there, after long camouflaging the total in misleading accounting measures and red tape. Under the Obama administration, troops were capped at 8,400. But that limit was routinely exceeded. Commanders shuffled troops in and out, labeled many “temporary” and used other personnel accounting tactics to artificially keep the public count low.

Trump has changed the policy, giving Mattis the authority to adjust troops levels based on military requirements and effectively eliminating the cap. Both Trump and Mattis have insisted repeatedly they don’t want to talk publicly about troop numbers in Afghanistan because they don’t want to give information to the enemy.

The influx of U.S. trainers underscores the military’s renewed focus on building up Afghan forces so they can better fight the insurgents and take control of their own country’s security. The goal is to reverse setbacks experienced by Afghan forces in recent years, as the Obama administration steadily reduced U.S. troop levels.

At the same time, however, the U.S. has been pressing NATO allies to increase their troop commitments to Afghanistan to help train and advise the Afghan forces and bolster the U.S.-led counterterrorism fight against Taliban, al-Qaida, Islamic State and other fighters.

In addition to the U.S. forces, there are about 6,000 troops in Afghanistan from other NATO and partner nations. The NATO mission focuses on training Afghans, and not combat or counterterrorism operations.

NATO defense ministers are meeting in Brussels this week to discuss the effort in Afghanistan and hear from allies on how many more troops they’re willing to deploy to the war.

Speaking to reporters after meetings with northern European leaders in Finland on Tuesday, Mattis said he sent letters to some allies, asking them to increase their troop commitment in Afghanistan.

“There was feedback from a number of nations, both formally and informally,” he said during the flight to Brussels. He said some are increasing their numbers, while others are working through their government processes to get decisions.”

https://www.militarytimes.com/flashpoints/2017/11/08/us-could-have-almost-16000-troops-in-afghanistan-next-year/

 

Report: Full Cost of U.S. Wars Overseas Approaching $6 Trillion

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“MILITARY TIMES”

Cost of Wars Project”

“The annual analysis from Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs shows a steadily growing tally for the 16 years of wars overseas.

Overseas combat operations since 2001 have cost the United States an estimated $4.3 trillion so far, and trillions more in veterans benefits spending in years to come.”


“Study author Neta Crawford said the goal of the ongoing project is to better illustrate the true costs of overseas military operations.

“Every war costs money before, during and after it occurs — as governments prepare for, wage, and recover from armed conflict by replacing equipment, caring for the wounded and repairing infrastructure destroyed in the fighting,” she wrote in the 2017 report.

Of the total, only about $1.9 trillion has been reported by defense officials as official overseas contingency operations funding.

But the research includes another $880 billion in new base defense spending related to combat efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Pakistan since 2001, as well as about $780 billion in boosted Department of Homeland Security costs in that time frame.

Veterans spending has increased by almost $300 billion so far as a result of those conflicts, and future spending on those benefits over the next four decades is estimated to top $1 trillion more.

Crawford noted that all of the costs could rise with President Donald Trump’s recent decision to boost U.S. end strength in Afghanistan.

“There is no end in sight to the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and the associated operations in Pakistan,” she wrote.

Administration officials have already requested about $70 billion more in overseas contingency spending as part of their fiscal 2018 budget proposal. The entire federal budget plan, including mandatory benefits spending, totals about $4 trillion.

 

The U.S. And North Korea – Warpath Paved With Rational Decisions?

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Stratfor U.S. and N. Korea War

“STRATFOR”

“Neither wants war; each side strongly prefers an alternative path to resolve the core issues underlying the crisis.

Yet their differing strategic imperatives and desired end states leave little room for compromise.

War is rarely the first option for countries trying to preserve or enhance their strategic positions. The United States and North Korea alike would rather avoid a conflict on the Korean Peninsula, which would be complicated and costly for all parties involved.

As North Korea draws closer to achieving long-range missile capabilities, something it sees as a security guarantee, the United States faces mounting pressure to act. But as Washington tries to coerce North Korea to end its quest for more sophisticated arms, Pyongyang feels compelled to accelerate its nuclear weapons and missile development. Each country is merely acting to preserve its interests. But their interests are driving them closer to a physical confrontation.

The Rational Assumption

Geopolitics teaches us to assume rationality on the part of actors on the international stage. The assumption doesn’t suppose that individual leaders are somehow beyond the influence of emotion, misinformation or miscalculation. Rather it acknowledges the deeper forces at work, from the interactions of place and people that shape national characteristics and strategic culture to the systems and structures that develop in countries over time. No leader operates free of these constraints and compulsions. Though they still have leeway to shape their policies and actions, leaders, as individuals and as a collective group, do so within limits defined in large part by the environments in which they emerged. The rationality we assume from leaders is not universal; it is the product of their place and time under the influence of factors such as history, geography and economics.

The key, then, is to understand what guides the rationality of a country’s leadership, on an individual level and in the government as a whole. After all, no one individual rules a country, since no single person could extend power over an entire population without the help of intermediaries. And each layer of leadership adds another set of constraints to the exercise of power. Disagreements arise in governments and in the populations they preside over. But the forces that influence the options available to leaders are far larger than the concerns of the individual. It is an analyst’s job to understand and explain these factors, and a policymaker’s job to take them into account when considering how to achieve a desired outcome.

Even so, it is sometimes simpler in international relations to assume one’s adversaries are crazy. They don’t follow the desired path or react in the anticipated way, so they must be acting irrationally. If one makes the wrong assumptions of an adversary (or even of an ally), however, the response to a given action may be far from what was intended.

Of course, understanding the other side doesn’t guarantee the desired outcome, either. Irreconcilable differences in interests and perceptions of risk can get in the way of compromise. The most viable solution often is to constantly adjust one’s actions to manage these contradictions, even if they prove insurmountable. At times, though, the differences can be so intractable as to drive nations into conflict if each side’s pursuit of contrary interests leads to fear and insecurity for the other. Moves by one nation to constrain the threatening behavior it perceives from another then perpetuate the cycle of action and reaction. In the case of North Korea and the United States, the contradiction in their interests is growing ever starker as Pyongyang accelerates its nuclear weapons program and nears its goal of developing a missile capable of striking the continental United States.

As Pyongyang draws closer to the deliverable long-range nuclear weapon it has long pursued, Washington will be forced to decide whether to accept North Korea as a nuclear-armed state and live with that reality or to take the necessary steps to disarm it.

A Mutual Misunderstanding

Misunderstandings, misapplied assumptions and mismatched goals have characterized relations between the United States and North Korea for decades. Washington expected — or at least hoped — that North Korea would collapse on its own under the force of economic and social pressures. The evaluation misjudged the country as the Asian equivalent of an Eastern Bloc state waiting for the Soviet Union’s demise to break free from the shackles of a foreign-imposed power structure. North Korea hasn’t collapsed. In fact, in times of trouble, its neighbors (and even the United States) have helped stabilize the government in Pyongyang for fear that the consequences of the country’s failure would be more dangerous than the risks entailed in its survival. North Korea, meanwhile, considered itself a fixture on the United States’ target list, a remnant of the Cold War that Washington was trying to toss on the ash heap of history.

The two have had many opportunities for some form of reconciliation over the years. Time and again, though, progress has run afoul of perceived threats, diverging commitments, changing priorities, domestic politics and even extraregional events. As Pyongyang draws closer to the deliverable long-range nuclear weapon it has long pursued, Washington will be forced to decide whether to accept North Korea as a nuclear-armed state and live with that reality or to take the necessary steps to disarm it. The cost of action is high, but so is the perceived threat of inaction.”

STRATFOR – On a Warpath Paved With Rational Decisions

Wars to Keep the Military Industry in Demand

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Image: Batr.org

The defense industry in America has utilized the threat of war and self-fulfilling prophesies to promote engagements by our country in several countries over the last 15 years. They pay more in lobbying costs each year than they pay in taxes.
There have been two major factors in the U.S. approach to undeclared warfare:
1. The motives of the U.S. and International Military Industrial Complexes, USAID and other western USAID counterparts in fostering continued warfare during this period, netting billions in sales of weapons to the war fighters and massive construction and redevelopment dollars for international companies who often operated fraudulently and fostered waste, looting and lack of funds control.
It is common knowledge that many of these corporations spend more each year in lobbying costs than they pay in taxes and pass exorbitant overhead and executive pay cost on to the tax payer in sales, thus financing their operating personnel riches while remaining marginally profitable to their stockholders.
I watched this from the inside of many of these companies for 36 years. Here is my dissertation on that subject. You can read it on line at:
Here is an example of how the lobbying and behind the scenes string pulling worked:
2. The complete lack of cultural understanding between U.S. and Western decision makers and the middle east cultures they were trying to “Assist” by nation building.
The only real understanding that existed during the period was in the person of General Schwarzkopf who spent much of his youth in the Middle East with his father who was an ambassador to Saudi Arabia. He was fascinated by the Arab culture, commended their respect and like Eisenhower led a coalition during the Gulf War. He then astutely recommend no occupation of Iraq, went home and stayed out of government. Norman, like Ike, knew the power of the MIC and he wanted no part of it.
The U.S Tax payer has funded billions in USAID and construction projects in Iraq and wasted the money due to a lack of cultural understanding, fraud and abuse. POGO documents many:
There is history repeating itself here – much like Vietnam the above two factors are deeply at play with the lack of astute learning in our government as we look back over our shoulder.
We must come to the understanding, like a recent highly respected war veteran and West Point Instructor has, that military victory is dead.
“MODERN WAR INSTITUTE AT WEST POINT”
“Victory’s been defeated; it’s time we recognized that and moved on to what we actually can accomplish. “
Frank Spinney is an expert on the MIC. He spent the same time I did on the inside of the Pentagon while I worked Industry. You may find his interviews informative.

New Army Unit -The Multi-Domain Task Force

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Army Multiple Domain Master Sgt Baumgartner, Air Force

Image: Master Sgt Baumgartner, Air Force

“The Army is creating an experimental combat unit to develop new tactics for lethally fast-paced future battlefields.

While small, it will have capabilities not found in the building block of today’s Army, the 4,000-strong brigade.

The Multi-Domain Task Force will be “a relatively small organization…1,500 or so troops,” the Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, told the Future of Warfare conference here this morning.  “That organization will be capable of space, cyber, maritime, air, and ground warfare,” he said, extending its reach into all domains of military operations to support the Air Force, Navy, and Marines.

“It’s got a bunch of capabilities, and that’s what we’re going to play with to figure out what’s the right mix,” Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, the deputy chief of staff for operations (G-3/5/7), told reporters at last week’s Association of the US Army conference. “It’s got some aviation. It’s got some maneuver. It’s got signal. It’s got cyber.” In English, that means it has helicopters, infantry and/or tanks, communications troops, and technical troops to protect (and perhaps attack) computer networks. By contrast, a typical Army brigade today, a much larger formation, has maneuver and signal, but no helicopters or hackers.

The eventual goal of this experimentation may be permanent units that are so self-sufficient. The old Cold War-era Armored Cavalry Regiments had their own in-house helicopters, as well as tanks, signallers and supply to conduct reconnaissance at high speeds over large areas in the face of armed opposition. Army reformers from Doug MacGregor to H.R. McMaster, both veterans of ACRs, have seen these self-sufficient units as a potential model for future forces. The Army recently explored reviving them, but “we don’t have the stuff to build it,” in particular the helicopters, Anderson said.

“There’s still not consensus about what this thing” — the revived ACR or Reconnaissance-Strike Group — “should look like, how big it should be,” said Anderson. “That doesn’t mean we’re not going to keep striving to build that kind of capability….I think in the meantime this Multi-Domain Task Force may provide pieces, parts, of what that RSG was going to be.”

Why the drive for smaller units with a wider range of capabilities? The Army increasingly worries that big units will just be big targets. Russia and China, in particular, have developed their own smart missiles, plus the sensors to find targets and the networks to coordinate strikes. These Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) systems have the range and accuracy to potentially make wide areas of Europe and Asia — including the territory of allies like the Baltics, Poland, and South Korea — a deadly no-go zone for conventional US forces.

“There are several nations around the world who have developed very complex, very sophisticated Anti-Access/Area Denial sort of capabilities,” Milley said. “Obviously Russia and China, to a lesser extent Iran and North Korea…. That A2/AD structure is highly lethal and operating inside that structure, in large formations, will also get you killed.”

“So smaller dispersed, very agile, very nimble organizations — that are networked into other lethal systems that delivered by either air or maritime forces — will be essential to rip apart the A2/AD networks,” Milley said. “These organizations would be highly lethal, very fast, very difficult to pin down on a battlefield.”

The Army can’t maneuver this way today, emphasized Maj. Gen. Duane Gamble, the logistician heading the Europe-based 21st Theater Sustainment Command. “We don’t have the mission command capabilities that can do that. We don’t have the sustainment capabilities,” he told me at AUSA. “But where we’re getting the reps in is widely dispersed operations at the company level, sometimes at the platoon level, training with our allies, and we’re learning the vulnerabilities of our heavy formations (i.e. tank units). Their internal logistics are designed to operate in battalion sectors… So all that is informing what we need to do in the future.”

Not everyone is excited. At the AUSA conference in Huntsville, an analyst, historian and top aide to Milley’s predecessor, retired Col. David Johnson, warns we may have already overloaded Brigade Combat Team commanders with too many capabilities that once were managed by divisions or even corps. “The BCT has become the division… the focal point of just about everything. We ought to challenge that assertion,” Johnson said. “Should we keep pushing capabilities down to the BCT or relook the role of divisions and corps, and focus the brigade on the close fight?”

The head of Training & Doctrine Command (TRADOC), Gen. David Perkins answers: “You’re (still) going to have to have echelons of command that synchronize and deconflict. That won’t change — but how those responsibilities and authorities are divided may have to. A whole generation of Army leaders grew up with Airland Battle doctrine’s clear demarcations between the close fight, conducted by short-range weapons; the deep fight, conducted by Air Force strikes, attack helicopters, and ATACMS missiles; and the supposedly safe rear area.

“A lot of it was determined by range of weapons. It was determined by physics, it was determined by geography, (e.g.) here’s a bridge crossing, who’s in charge of it?” Perkins told me at AUSA. “What we’re finding with multi-domain battle (is) that construct doesn’t work…. What’s the range of cyber?…You can’t define the battlefield framework by the range and/or limit of your weapons.”

“What we tried to do with a two-dimensional construct, AirLand Battle, was impose some order on the chaos that is battle(:) I own this part of chaos, you own this part of chaos,” Perkins said. “Now… instead of trying to control chaos, we have to thrive in it.”

http://breakingdefense.com/2017/03/new-army-unit-to-test-tactics-meet-the-multi-domain-task-force/

 

The Overweight Infantryman

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“THE MODERN WAR INSTITUTE AT WEST POINT”

“The Infantry has a weight problem. The amount of weight soldiers or Marines are asked to carry has grown exponentially while their ability to carry that load has not. This issue was brought to the forefront recently when retired Army Col. Ellen Haring wrote an opinion piece for the Marine Corps Times in which she was critical of the requirement for Marine Corps infantry officers to carry a load of up to 152 pounds for more than nine miles, at a twenty-minute-per-mile pace—a standard that Haring argues is unrealistic and prevents women from successfully completing the Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course. At first glance this may seem like a reasonable argument: 152 pounds seems like more than most humans can carry.

Many of the rebuttal articles, including one on Tom Ricks Best Defense blog by former Marine infantryman Aaron Ferencik, state that not only is this a realistic requirement, it happens regularly in Afghanistan. Ferencik writes that he was required to carry almost 200 pounds of gear, armor, and weapons.

Despite the robust back-and-forth argument related to the 152-pound Marine Corps standard that was spawned by Haring’s piece, one fundamental question was never answered: What is the right amount of weight an infantryman should be reasonably asked to carry? And how do we get these loads down to a reasonable weight that allows the infantry to be a flexible and agile force?

How did we get here?

From the ancient Greek hoplite all the way up through the American Civil War infantryman, the overall weight carried by a foot soldier changed very little, holding steady at about forty pounds. Infantrymen didn’t see a significant jump in their load until the beginning of the twentieth century. During World War I infantry loads increased by 50 percent, up to over sixty pounds. World War II saw those loads increase again, to 80–100 pounds, depending on the type of weapon system the soldier carried.

Soldier loads stayed pretty constant from World War II through Vietnam. In the last thirty years, however, loads have skyrocketed. During the operation in Grenada soldier loads went unchecked by leaders, resulting in soldiers carrying over 120 pounds. In their paper Load Carriage in Military Operations, Joseph Knapik and Katy Reynolds quoted one soldier in Grenada: “My rucksack weighed 120 pounds. I would get up and rush for 10 yards, throw myself down and couldn’t get up. I’d rest for 10 or 15 minutes, struggle to get up, go 10 more yards, and collapse. After a few rushes, I was physically unable to move and I am in great shape.”

The story hasn’t changed much since then. In the video below, a soldier steps up on a scale to illustrate how much he carries on a two-day mission. With weapon, body armor, and pack his gear weighs in at over 130 pounds.

The British Army has had similar problems. In 2011, a senior British Army officer wrote that the Taliban refer to British soldiers as “donkeys” who move in a tactical “waddle” because of the weight they carried in Afghanistan, which averaged 110 pounds. The officer continued, explaining that “our infantry find it almost impossible to close with the enemy because the bad guys are twice as mobile.”

What should a combat load weigh?

How much should a soldier carry? Many studies have been done on this subject by both the Army and Marine Corps. The Marine Corps Combat Development Command’s 2003 Combat Load Report cites S.L.A. Marshall’s book Soldier’s Load and the Mobility of a Nation as the go-to source on the subject. Marshall concludes that a soldier could optimally carry 33 percent of his body weight. The same Marine Corps study determined the average weight of a Marine male was 169 pounds and the average female’s was 130 pounds. This would put their combat loads at 56 pounds and 42 pounds, respectively.

The Army field manual on foot marches, FM 21-18, which has not been updated since 1990, does not take into account individual body weight. It prescribes a fighting load of no more than 48 pounds and an approach march load of 72 pounds. There is, however, a caveat to those weights. The manual states, “The primary consideration is not how much a soldier can carry, but how much he can carry without impaired combat effectiveness—mentally or physically.” This essentially bases a determination about the amount carried on individual capabilities.

Bridging the Gap

Soldiers today are consistently carrying loads into combat that weigh 70–100 pounds more than what Marshall or the Army field manual prescribes. This over-burdening has significantly hindered soldiers’ and Marines’ ability to effectively maneuver on the battlefield. So how do we get soldier loads closer to these prescribed weights?

There are two potential technological solutions to this problem. The first is to provide assistance in carrying the weight. Up until World War I, armies used beasts of burden to assist in carrying some of their equipment. With the advent of the combustion engine armies turned to trucks and other combat vehicles. The problem is these solutions tie the infantryman to roadways, restricting movement. Getting the infantry away from roads is vital to their ability to effectively maneuver against the enemy requiring innovative solutions.

Several companies are working on robots that can follow behind a maneuver formation. These robots would carry the packs of several soldiers, leaving the infantrymen to carry only their basic combat load of ammunition and body armor. Reducing soldiers’ carried weight to this basic combat load would significantly increase their maneuverability on the battlefield and survivability in a fight.

Another concept under development is a wearable exoskeleton. This would allow soldiers to continue to carry their own loads but with the load-bearing assistance of a hydraulic-powered system attached to a soldier’s legs. Infantrymen would thus retain the same equipment they currently carry on the battlefield, but the exoskeleton would reduce fatigue and the consequent erosion of combat effectiveness.

Unfortunately, none of these systems are ready for combat. Problems with noise, the ability to traverse rugged terrain, maintenance, and the amount of actual weight they can carry have prevented these systems from being issued to combat units. Noise was the biggest concern for Marines. They felt, and rightfully so, that a robot with a lawn mower engine following behind their formation would easily give their position away. Until the noise and other problems are solved, these systems will remain impractical for soldiers on the battlefield.

The other way to attack this problem is to reduce how much the things a soldier carries weigh. On today’s battlefield the two main culprits are batteries and body armor. Almost everything a soldier carries today requires batteries, which can add almost 20 pounds to their load—a problem soldiers have only contended with in the past generation. One solution to the problem is the use of solar panels like the Marine Austere Patrol System being developed by the Office of Naval Research. These lightweight panels would allow soldiers to recharge batteries on the go and reduce the total amount of batteries needed per mission.

Body armor is another area where the military is looking at to reduce weight. The current Improved Outer Tactical Vest weights over 30 pounds. The Army is planning to begin issuing a new system of body armor in 2019 that weighs in at around 23 pounds. Additionally, plates can be removed to tailor the system to the mission, potentially reducing weight even more.

Where do we go from here?

The potential solutions identified above are great starting points but more can be done. Many of these technologies are still in their infancy and not quite ready for combat. While not as sexy as a new fighter jet or aircraft carrier, more resources should be allocated towards the objective of reducing a soldier’s load. Doing so will directly impact battlefield performance. A fighter jet cannot seize and hold terrain, but then neither can infantrymen who are so overburdened that they can’t maneuver effectively on the battlefield.”

http://mwi.usma.edu/the-overweight-infantryman/

 

 

Legally Speaking America Isn’t Fighting Any Wars

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“WAR IS BORING”

“There’s no draft — and only one percent of the U.S. population is in the military.

Most of these missions are classified.  U.S. citizens and lawmakers should shake off fears of appearing unpatriotic to challenge the government’s unchecked, unilateral and covert military activities abroad.

The government isn’t levying special taxes or issuing bonds to pay for the fighting. This “war” — drone strikes, Special Forces deployments, air strikes and aircraft carrier deployments — is happening with little public scrutiny.

More than 8,000 U.S. soldiers are fighting in Afghanistan right now. Military advisers are overseeing the war against the Islamic State and the battle to retake Mosul, backed up by American military equipment. Drones launch from bases in Africa and the Middle East to conduct targeted killings against high value targets from Djibouti to Pakistan. U.S. Special Operations Forces operate across the globe in various capacities.

This week on War College, we sit down with Rosa Brooks to figure out how America barreled head long into a permanent war without defining the terms or thinking about the consequences. Brooks is a former U.S. State Department official and the author of the book How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales From the Pentagon.

Brooks argues that U.S. citizens and lawmakers should shake off fears of appearing unpatriotic to challenge the government’s unchecked, unilateral and covert military activities abroad. If that doesn’t happen soon, she says, the United States may have to pay for the dangerous example it’s setting for Russia and China.”

https://warisboring.com/legally-speaking-america-isnt-fighting-any-wars-2577c518c373#.33u016kl2