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Should There Be a Human Warfighting Domain?
Until recently, Warfighting Domains were based on elements such as the Air, Land, and Maritime Domains. Recently, the military has added the Cyber Domain to join the other Domains. The Cyber Domain, unlike its elemental based brethren, is a domain whose key terrain crosses elemental barriers. In doing so the military has created a whole command devoted to this Warfighting Domain with the basic understanding that the conventional military units within the Navy, Army, or Air Force should not be expected to dominate this domain. The addition of the cyber domain begs the question: What about when the human terrain is the Key Terrain and control of it represents the decisive point? Should there be a Human Warfighting Domain? Who would be the proponent of the Human Warfighting domain?
In the process of analyzing force capabilities the U.S. military recognized the growing importance of cyberspace and as a result in 2005[i], the military made it a domain on an equal footing with the elemental based domains: Land, Sea and Air. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have also shown us the importance of the human domain. In these campaigns the control of elemental based terrain features meant little to nothing above the tactical level. The Human Warfighting Domain would be in effect when human factors are the decisive point in winning a war. The JP 2-0 defines human factors as "The physical, cultural, psychological, and behavioral attributes of an individual or group that influence perceptions, understanding, and interactions." A slight modification to this already accepted definition can give us a definition for the human domain. I propose that the definition for the Human Warfighting Domain be "A global domain where the influencing perceptions, understanding, and interactions of physical, cultural, psychological, and behavioral attributes of individuals or groups determines victory or defeat."
Some analysts surmised that in Afghanistan "We failed to deny the enemy the most important factor in any insurgency: human terrain."[ii] Key Terrain is sometimes non-doctrinally referred to as the 'Decisive Terrain'. For example, Gen Petraeus referred to the human terrain as the "Decisive Terrain" when talking to congress.[iii] The elemental warfighting domains are based on the key terrain that needs to be dominated within the domain in order to achieve success. According to JP 2-01.3 Key Terrain is "Any locality, or area, the seizure or retention of which affords a marked advantage to either combatant." (For the rest of this article the doctrinal term key terrain will be used instead of Decisive Terrain.) This is more easily defined and understood by all conventional forces whose responsibility it is to dominate those domains; for example seize Hill XXX or Control the Straight of X. There are certain abstract forms of key terrain that transcend basic elemental functions. Some of these are in the Cyber Domain, where the transmission and receipt of electronic signals can drastically effect outcomes and even cause physical damage. Some of these are in the Human Domain. In COIN, controlling Hill XXX means nothing if your enemy controls the Human terrain surrounding the hill.
A Human Warfighting domain (HWD) does not mean a reinstatement of the Human Terrain System (HTS). The similarities end with the names. HTS was supposed to be an intelligence gathering function a HWD references the decisive point of an operational or strategic level campaign. Gathering of intelligence on the human terrain will always have a place in all phases of Unified Land Operations (formerly Full Spectrum Operations). The purpose of HWD is to focus on where the fight will happen.
When deciding on a supported supporting command relationship the Key Terrain that forms the Decisive Point should be the deciding factor. That Key Terrain will fall into a Warfighting Domain, the command responsible for that Warfighting Domain should be the supported command. For example, during the Battle of Brittan, the Royal Air Force was the supported command and the entire battle was fought in the air.[iv] Another example of this is when we are conducting either an Insurgency or Counter Insurgency (COIN) campaign. The military already has a purpose built command with expertise and command structure in place in the1st Special Forces Command (1st SFC). 1st SFC commands the only units in the Department of Defense specifically trained to conduct both COIN and insurgency campaigns commonly referred to as Unconventional Warfare (UW).
Over the last decade and a half our COIN operations were predominantly run by conventional military commanders. That is to say that the subject matter experts (SME) were the supporting command, and not the supported command. This is roughly the equivalent of putting the Air Force in charge of formulating ground campaign plans. I propose we make the part of the military most capable of achieving the theater campaign plan's decisive point be the Decisive Operation and therefore by doctrine the supported or weighted command. By establishing the Human Domain as a warfighting Domain there will be a clearly delineated command with responsibilities within that domain. Just as no one questions the Air Force's lead in planning air campaigns, there should not be a question on who is in the lead for Human terrain based campaigns.
This idea fits within current joint military doctrine. According to JP 3-24 the "Counterinsurgency Mindset" is "Warfare that has the population as its focus of operations requires a different mindset and different capabilities than warfare that focuses on defeating an adversary militarily. In COIN operations this means an adaptive and flexible mindset to understand the population, anticipate insurgent actions, be comfortable among the population, and appreciate the comprehensive approach of unified action." 1st SFC has the soldiers trained for and a task organized specifically for all the aspects of the COIN and insurgency mindset.
The Human domain is not a malleable medium, it is a mobile medium that may occupy and abandon the other elemental domains at will. This makes the elemental Warfighting Domains epiphenomenons of the human domain and should be treated as such at the strategic level. Only at the tactical level will terrain such as hill tops still retain a greater value as Key Terrain than the Human domain and the physical terrain is only important for a limited time. As the level of planning rises control of the Human Domain will be of greater value regardless of the other warfighting domains occupied.
The HWD is different than the other Warfighting Domains. To treat it as a separate warfighting domain would open additional avenues to approach the problem. Also, the creation of an primary proponent for this Warfighting Domain would set the conditions for the force most likely to capture or defend this domains to be the supported command for any operations that exist primary in the HWD. This assumes that a set of doctrinal principles and a force designed to operate using those principles may need to be developed. However, as previously stated the need for this has not only been recognized, but already exists. What has not been accomplished is the application of this force and its doctrinal principles correctly; that is to say as the over arching command during a conflict to achieve desired end states within the HWD.
In contrast to other domains, the Human Domain is a mobile medium. This mobility can be used to the advantage by those that achieve control over it. To a degree the Human Domain can be used as camouflage for other portions of the Human Domain. As JP 3-24 puts it, "This allows the insurgent to exploit the terrain and population as cover and concealment for their operations."[v] The mobility achieved by this camouflage within the Human Domain allows either side to move forces, exerting influence, within other parts of this global domain. A current example of this is ISIS's ability to spread across the globe via mass migration of its forces disguised as refugees into Europe and other parts of the world.[vi] This allows ISIS to spread spore throughout the previously secured Human Domain using it to mask an ‘Ink Spot’ strategy.
What about the human domain is worth trying to dominate? The cliché answer is the "Hearts and Minds". However, this only alludes to a deeper focus that must be achieved; the dominating influence of the habits, beliefs and most importantly, the will of the enemy within the HWD must be friendly forces. This is what opponents are trying to dominate or preventing others from dominating. This requires not only the ability to shoot, move, communicate and medicate; but also the ability to move freely within the human domain to be dominated. It is from the long-term exposure of a Special Forces Operational Detachment Alphas that the local populations can be influenced and the objective laid out by the Combatant Commander achieved.
The adoption of a Human Warfighting Domain would allow a change in command structure and therefore strategy. It will overcome institutional inertia and political pressures shifting the onus of victory to units trained specifically for the war of the soul. A type of war where the winning of the 'Hearts and minds' of the populace will determine victory or defeat. The doctrine and force structure is already in place and therefore require no additional costs. All that is required is a change in supported supporting relationships and the application of existing doctrine. Creating a Human Warfighting Domain will better focus our military efforts, giving us a greater chance of achieving victory.
(2013). Joint Publication 2-0 Joint Intelligence. N.p.: Joint Chiefs of Staff
(2013). Joint Publication 2-0 Joint Intelligence Preparation of the Operational Environment. N.p.: Joint Chiefs of Staff
(2008). Headquarters, Department of the Army, comp. FM3-105.130 Army Special Operations Forces Unconventional Warfare Washington DC: Department of the Army.
(2013). Joint Publication 3-24 Counterinsurgency. N.p.: Joint Chiefs of Staff
Petraeus, General. General Petraeus Confirmation Hearing. C-Span. National Cable Satellite, 29 June 2010. Web. 22 Nov. 2015. <http://www.c-span.org/video/?294297-1/general-petraeus-confirmation-hearing>.
D.C. Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee. Hearings on the Cyberspace as a Warfighting Domain: Policy, Management and Technical Challenges to Mission Assurance. 111th Leg., First. Washington D.C.: GPO, 2010. Print.
Ricks, Thomas E., and Drew Shepler. "The Foriegn Policy Group." ForiegnPolicy.com. N.p., 11 Feb. 2015. Web. 23 Nov. 2015. <http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/02/11/jim-gourley-wanna-know-why-we-lost-in-afghanistan-failure-on-human-terrain/>.
Geoffrey Wellum. "92 Squadron." Battle of Britain Memorial Flight via raf.mod.uk.. Retrieved: 17 November 2010, archived 2 March 2009.
Burman, Jake. "400 ISIS Killers with hatred of West Among 20,000 Refugees Heading for Britain." Exspress 15 Sept. 2015: n. pag. Northern and Shell Media Publications. Web. 2 Dec. 2015. <http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/605238/Islamic-State-David-Cameron-Lebanon-Elias-Bou-Saab-Migrant-Refugee-Syria-Pope-Francis>.
[ii] Ricks, Thomas E., and Drew Shepler. "The Foriegn Policy Group." ForiegnPolicy.com. N.p., 11 Feb. 2015. Web. 23 Nov. 2015. <http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/02/11/jim-gourley-wanna-know-why-we-lost-in-afghanistan-failure-on-human-terrain/>.
[iii] Petraeus, General. General Petraeus Confirmation Hearing. C-Span. National Cable Satellite, 29 June 2010. Web. 22 Nov. 2015. <http://www.c-span.org/video/?294297-1/general-petraeus-confirmation-hearing>.
[iv] Geoffrey Wellum. "92 Squadron." Battle of Britain Memorial Flight via raf.mod.uk.. Retrieved: 17 November 2010, archived 2 March 2009.
[v] (2013). Joint Publication 3-24 Counterinsurgency. N.p.: Joint Chiefs of Staff P. II-2
[vi] Burman, Jake. "400 ISIS Killers with hatred of West Among 20,000 Refugees Heading for Britain." Exspress 15 Sept. 2015: n. pag. Northern and Shell Media Publications. Web. 2 Dec. 2015. <http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/605238/Islamic-State-David-Cameron-Lebanon-Elias-Bou-Saab-Migrant-Refugee-Syria-Pope-Francis>.