Small Wars Journal

Prism Friday

Getting the Next War Right: Beyond Population-centric Warfare - Thomas A. Marks, Sebastian L.v. Gorka, and Robert Sharp; Prism, National Defense University.

... With the end of the Cold War - and especially since 9/11 - we have been faced with a still more complex world. From Afghanistan to Mexico, irregular threats have replaced the classic nation-on-nation or bloc-on-bloc confrontations we had grown comfortable with. Afghanistan, Iraq, and Colombia catapulted the United States and its allies back to irregular efforts spanning the gamut from the high tempo operations inherent to counterinsurgency and counterterrorism to the seemingly more sedate but often no less intense commitments required for whole-of-government stability operations and nationbuilding. Ironically, despite efforts to push forward in our "full spectrum" capabilities, we remain hampered by legacy attitudes of compartmentalization and linear thinking. Even more problematic and disturbing is our willingness to engage in operations and deploy forces without fully grappling with the implications of the shift to population-centric warfare as prominently assessed by General Sir Rupert Smith in The Utility of Force. As a result, our leaders can place the military in harm's way without knowing what it is they should achieve and whether it is in fact achievable through military means. This constitutes a denial of strategic thought and results in a subsequent disjunction between the operational level of force employment and the national interests of the country...

More at Prism.

Do Three Ds Make an F? The Limits of "Defense, Diplomacy, and Development" - Ethan B. Kapstein; Prism, National Defense University.

... On its surface, the notion of joining the 3Ds into a more comprehensive whole-of-government strategy toward the world's trouble spots is more than enticing; it seems downright obvious. After all, did the United States not match the Soviet threat in postwar Europe through the purposeful employment of all three tools, as exemplified by the Marshall Plan and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)? Why, we may ask, are we not executing a similarly holistic approach toward the challenges we face in such places as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen?

Unfortunately, the idea that the arrows of defense, diplomacy, and development can be joined into one missile, much less hit a single target, may be misleading. To the extent that this concept seeks to replicate the contours of American foreign policy in the late 1940s, it suggests the limits of historical knowledge in the U.S. Government, for it is solely with the benefit of hindsight that a narrative of a seamless and coherent U.S. approach to the bipolar world can be constructed...

More at Prism.

Mindanao: A Community-based Approach to Counterinsurgency - William A. Stuebner and Richard Hirsch; Prism, National Defense University.

... Since the U.S. incursions into Afghanistan and Iraq, scholars, strategists, and policymakers seem interested in discovering how to fight smarter or, preferably, how to win without fighting. Americans have been rediscovering writers such as David Galula, author of Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice, whose experiences in the Algerian civil war helped guide counterinsurgency thinking during the Vietnam War. They have also unearthed long-forgotten publications such as the U.S. Marine Corps Small Wars Manual and issued a plethora of new doctrines, manuals, joint publications, and directives. More recently, David Kilcullen's The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One offered an indirect approach to counterinsurgency that emphasizes local relationships and capacity-building in light of efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. This approach, he asserts, is most effective in complex environments that include accidental guerrillas - individuals who enter into conflict not as an existential threat to another nation-state but as defenders of their own space...

More at Prism.

Military Planning Systems and Stability Operations - William J. Gregor; Prism, National Defense University.

On September 21, 2009, the Washington Post published an article entitled "McChrystal: More Forces or 'Mission Failure.'" The basis for the piece was a leaked copy of General Stanley McChrystal's "Commander's Initial Assessment," dated August 30, 2009. In asking for additional forces for Afghanistan, General McChrystal stated that his conclusions were supported by a rigorous multidisciplinary assessment by a team of civilian and military personnel and by his personal experience and core beliefs. A week before the Washington Post article appeared, Senators Lindsey Graham, Joseph Lieberman, and John McCain made a similar call for more forces in the Wall Street Journal. In an editorial labeled "Only Decisive Force Can Prevail in Afghanistan," the senators argued that General McChrystal was an exceptional commander and that he, the new Ambassador, and a new deputy commander composed a team that could win the war...

More at Prism.

... and many more thought provoking articles in the current issue of Prism.