"Friends of Ours" at Armed Forces Journal

Lot's of good stuff in the most recent edition of Armed Forces Journal to include the following by SWJ friends and la familia:

The Founders' Wisdom by LTC Paul L. Yingling.

The U.S. faces a number of difficult challenges in civil-military relations that carry with them profound effects on our national security. Among these issues are declining popular support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, growing isolation between the U.S. military and the society it serves, and unresolved disputes over the limits of executive authority. However difficult these problems may be, they are neither unprecedented nor insoluble.

The underlying issues in these debates were explicitly addressed by America's Founders in drafting the U.S. Constitution. Winston Churchill famously observed that "America will always do the right thing, but only after exhausting all other options." Having today exhausted all other options to provide for our security, Americans would be well served to return to the system of war powers established by the Constitution...

What Civil-military Crisis? by COL Joseph J. Collins.

More than 15 years after Gen. Colin Powell's tour as chairman of the Joint Chiefs, pundits and scholars are again worried about cocky generals "playing politics." For his decisive outspokenness, some critics have assigned Gen. David Petraeus the role formerly played by Powell. At times, the media's need for drama approaches the ridiculous. In one such example, Petraeus' quieter, lower profile after he gave up command in Iraq led the New York Times to speculate that he may be gearing up to run for president.

On other fronts, scholars such as Notre Dame's Michael Desch are still trying to come to grips with the Rumsfeld years, where the defense secretary aggressively guided the preparation of a new-style war plan and later micromanaged the deployment of individual units, which subsequently contributed to problems in Iraq. Compounding that controversy, a few years later there was a noisy - and for many uncomfortable - "revolt" by several retired generals who called for Donald Rumsfeld to be fired...

An Alternative to COIN by Dr. Bernard I. Finel.

The U.S. military is a dominant fighting force, capable of rapid global power projection and able to defeat state adversaries quickly and at relatively low cost in American lives and treasure. Unfortunately, American leaders are increasingly trying to transform this force into one optimized for counterinsurgency missions and long-term military occupations. A fundamental problem with the adoption of population-centric counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine as an organizing principle for American military operations is that it systematically fails to take advantage of the real strengths of the U.S. military.

It is true that not all political goals are achievable through the use of conventional military capabilities. However, "victory" in war is not dichotomous, and the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan - often seen as proving the necessity for COIN-capable forces as well as a commitment to nation-building - demonstrate in reality that the vast majority of goals can be accomplished through quick, decisive military operations. Not all political goals are achievable this way, but most are and those that cannot be achieved through conventional operations likely cannot be achieved by the application of even the most sophisticated counterinsurgency doctrine either...

The War of New Words by William F. Owen.

War isn't just transforming - it's ushering in a whole new language to describe conflict, and this language is used in a way that pays little attention to logic or military history. Thus the forces we used to call guerrillas are now "hybrid threats." Insurgencies are now "complex" and require "complex and adaptive" solutions. Jungles and cities are now "complex terrain." Put simply, the discussion about future conflict is being conducted using buzzwords and bumper stickers.

The evidence that the threats of the 21st century are going to be that much different from the threats of the 20th is lacking. Likewise, there is no evidence that a "new way of war" is evolving or that we somehow had a previously flawed understanding. In fact, the use of the new words strongly indicates that those using them do not wish to be encumbered by a generally useful and coherent set of terms that military history had previously used. As war and warfare are not changing in ways that demand new words, it is odd that people keep inventing them...

Much more at Armed Forces Journal.

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"Dubious. Having deployed to Korea in July of 1950 and to Viet Nam in late 1965 in both cases as a member of of Armed Forces that had conscripts, it did not seem to slow down the then Presidents one ounce. "

Quite. And lacking conscripts just made Presidents call up state volunteers (see Mexico, the Philippines, etc.) without curbing their ambitions one jot. We also conducted a number of less-than-popular interventions during the first decades of the 20th Century without a large military or any sort of declaration of war. Some of those were conducted for economic reasons, and were certainly what we'd now call "economy of force" missions.

When it comes to the smaller, less professional argument, I'd suggest a review of our own military history. Smaller does not always mean less professional (although it can at times), and we saw a fair amount of technological development and advancement during the small military eras. Also, lest we forget in the shuffle, the armies that fought both world wars were based on those small, professional forces.

MAK Keith Clipp:

"the modern day ability of the US President to mobilize the US Military without much scrutiny from the Congress has assisted in the creation of the current operational environment - that of persistent conflict. Returning our military deployment decision-making to Constitutional original intent (and conscripted service) would certainly limit the number and length of engagements the US would enter."

Dubious. Having deployed to Korea in July of 1950 and to Viet Nam in late 1965 in both cases as a member of of Armed Forces that had conscripts, it did not seem to slow down the then Presidents one ounce. Note that both deployments were without a Congressional declaration of war. Note also that the first war is still a de jure conflict to this day and the second lasted from 1955 to 1975 for all practical purposes.

"If pain is the only true way to modify behavior, has the American public been hurt enough to change?"

The probable answer is "Not even close..." The American public is a lot more resilient than some of their leaders and others seem to wish to think.

Regarding LTC Yingling's article, I agree with his analysis, but am curious at what this would mean in practice. I believe that implementing his ideas would create two specific outcomes that the US public may not accept.

I believe that many of us would agree that the modern day ability of the US President to mobilize the US Military without much scrutiny from the Congress has assisted in the creation of the current operational environment - that of persistent conflict. Returning our military deployment decision-making to Constitutional original intent (and conscripted service) would certainly limit the number and length of engagements the US would enter.

My first thought is that a future limitation on conflict engagement will inevitably equate to a diplomatic, political, and economic contraction of power for the US. I do not believe that the majority of Americans would have much concern for a contraction of diplomatic or political power across the globe. However, I am not certain that the majority of the American public would be tolerant of an economic contraction. Specifically, what will occur if the US suddenly needs more access to oil but it has not been militarily assisting (interjecting)in the conflicts that have arisen in those locations?

My second thought is that a smaller, less "professional" military will be much less capable of performing "total war" or conflict actions should that unfortunately occur. With a smaller "peace time" military only, I am curious about the quality of training, doctrine, materiel, etc. I believe one of the benefits of a volunteer "professional" military is that the military drives martial technological advances because of the profit motive. With a smaller military, would there be less profit to be made? Would this mean there are less military technological advances? Would this give an advantage to a future peer competitor?

If pain is the only true way to modify behavior, has the American public been hurt enough to change?

Four interesting articles. The second and third are well stated logical essays, each with a very with valid premise.

The first and fourth, however are more complex in their approach. LTC Paul Yingling is as always thoughtful and provocative. I have enjoyed and agreed with every article he's published. This one, however, gives me significant pause.

Fighting in two of our earlier wars with Draftees in an Army -- and Marines in the earliest of those -- I'll be the first to acknowledge that those forces were generally competent and could do anything today's volunteer force does given the same equipment. In fact, I'd say they could do some things better because they were trusted (indeed expected) to act as needed and do so sensibly. that appears too often not be the case today...

I believe however that is more attributable to the fact that our personnel system has changed little and our training processes have in many respects regressed than it is attributable to personnel quality which is an order of magnitude better today. Those failures adversely impact the potential quality of today's forces.

That said, I thus have little disagreement with much of his argument for national service other than the involuntary servitude aspect which I believe to be a far more serious impediment than he seems to think. I also suspect that Congress would not develop a cross spectrum, national service plan that involved all our young people with total objectivity and fairness. that probable failure would adversely affect the attainment of the advantages he cites. That however, is a minor disagreement.

Where strong disagreement erupts is with his perception of the skills and ability of the Congress. I certainly agree that the Constitution as written mitigates for his approach. However, the series of laws (and Amendments to that Constitution) enacted by various Congresses in the last 120 years or so and particularly in the last 40 have changed the character of that institution and not for the better.

These are people who swear as did LTC Yingling and I, an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the US and who yet flagrantly disregard that document in the drive to be reelected while placing constituent gratification well ahead of the national interest.

In short, they are a part of the problem. I am very doubtful they as currently structured and operating are capable of doing what he suggests. Indeed, I suspect they would -- will? -- do more harm than good.

William F. Owen's Essay minces few words and strikes home at a disease that contributes to the issues raised in the other three articles -- the proliferation of terms and adaptations to justify actions specific to the desires of the writer. As he says, little if any of the new verbiage contains anything that is actually new, it's just repackaged for sale to a new and mostly ill informed audience.

What he knows, I suspect but was too polite to say, is that much of that repackaging in the US is to influence Congress and the Budget. Specious logic, that.

As he correctly states we or others have confronted all these minor problems before. Generally, we successfully solved them -- and the few that we did not solve we learned enough to avoid repetitions. Mr. Owen says:

"It may be that there is a generation of serving soldiers who do not understand war and warfare as well as past generations, but that is not to say that war today is more complex."

I believe that, sadly, to be correct.

That also is even more true of our Congress. LTC Yingling mentioned the Militia. The founders, mostly, had served in that. So had most later members of Congress. That is no longer true and that is problematic for the Yingling prescription and the rationale for much of the specious terminology Mr. Owen correctly impugns