Your phone, laptop and i-pad are dead. Can you make it through an entire day?

Just for a day…

The WordPress Daily Post challenge…I usually don’t play but this one is easy – and it’s 0449, I’ve just had a mega-coffee and can’t go back to sleep after an early start to listen in on Dr Sarah Sewall’s presentation at the COIN Center on civilian casualties and their mission effect. It references her recent report ‘Civilian Casualties’ however the link provided for the report either either broken, mistyped or CAC access coz it doesn’t work for me…

I was sufficiently intrigued by her comments that reducing civilian casualties is not a binary ‘me or them’, ‘either/or’ equation and that there are ‘win/win’ approaches that do not prescribe operational effectiveness in reducing civilian casualties. An insight gleaned from some of the text comments made during the presentation is that there has to be a balance between force protection and achieving the mission which I think we all accept but what do you do when your force protection measures themselves jeopardise the mission i.e where those measures undo or erode the force’s credibility or acceptance with ‘the people’…? More to follow on this if I can source a copy Dr Sewall’s report….

Anyway back to the Challenge “...Your phone, laptop, tab, ipad and desktop are dead. Will you make it through a normal working day and evening? What would you miss the most?...” The answer is so simple…quite simply: none of the above…it’d a be a great opportunity to catch up on professional reading, go to the gym, go for  a staff wander and doing some face-to-face networking and maybe even tidy my desk (apparently there is one there somewhere under the accumulated detritus) but I only have a day so maybe not…

I remember a few years back an organisation-wide email asked for feedback on the likely impact if email got switched off for an unspecified period…every other response including much gnashing of teeth and predictions of the collapse of civilisation as we know it…our boss simply asked if the ‘switch-off’ could start that week: “…we’ll just have to fall back on good old-fashioned written correspondence, signal traffic, and maybe even picking up the phone or getting out of the office to actually talk to people…don’t see it as a biggie at all...” As handy and convenient all this e-connectivity may be, we should be letting it endanger personal communication nor should we rely on it to such an extent that we become dysfunctional if we lose it…I wonder if the drop-off in physical letters is one reason that NZ Post is set to close shops…? I don’t practise what I preach here but I firmly believe that there is a ton more value in a physical written letter than the tending-to-casual nature of email….

Today’s COIN Center VBB

As below, Dean presented at the COIN Center’s Virtual Brown Bag session this morning…the slides and audio file will be posted on the Center’s website in the next few days…I may be offline for a week or so as I am off globetrotting again but will link them in when I get an opportunity…in the meantime I strongly recommend that anyone with a personal or professional interest in contemporary intel issues, key an eye of the site and download both files when they become available. This is very good stuff and at least on a par with MG Flynn’s Fixing Intel paper from earlier this year…

Top effort from Dean and it is great to see a compadre’s efforts paying off like this….

As a taster, here’s some of the questions that were asked during the session (to hear the answers, you’ll need to download the files…)

MAJ Decker BCTP – guest: Coming in loud and clear

Peter Sakaris – guest: To understand the environment over time shouldn’t we be getting better more reliable HUMINT through increased population interaction? I would think that the example of a new officer working with a veteran police officer in the CONUS as you described would help to do this in the COIN environment. Obtaining the institutional knowledge of an environment can come from people that live in that environment because they live it every day and are in areas of the local community where it would be difficult for us to get into.

Kevin Frank JIWC – guest: Not will ing give up on the analysis issue- believe that if we collect the correct data and present it to the analyst correctly, we’ll get better analysis at the current training levels, especially if the commander is asking the right questions…comments?

DK Clark, DTAC/CGSC – guest: Did you use the pattern-analysis plot, activities matrix, association matrix, and societal considerations in FM 3-24.2? If so, could you comment on problems with these methods/techniques of framing and displaying the intel analysis in COIN?

MAJ Decker BCTP – guest: Afghanistan Reintegration Program (ARP) is now doing the same as the Boston Gun Project by providing retraining opportunities to former insurgents

HOMBSCH, DAVID G Lt Col : Comment only (no need to repeat):   I love the quote – “analysts to be historians, librarians, journalists” – spot on.   I also totally agree, with exploiting reach back – generate staff with expert knowledge on specific regions, who understand normality, and can interpret important changes (indicators and warnings) to cross cue counter insurgent forces.  Hypothesis – there is a place for more foreign nationals in analysis teams in CONUS and allied intelligence agencies?

CPT Linn – guest: how are we integrating analysis into Data collected from FETs and HUMINTs in theater?

Peter Sakaris – guest: The Stability Academy, Kabul (formerly the COIN center of Excellence) is a COIN Academy that the leadership of deploying BCTs cycle through as part of their RIP/TOAs. They recommend the ASCOPE/PMESII-PT crosswalk as an analytical tool for helping gain the needed detailed understanding of the “complex human terrain”. Are you familiar with this, or other tools like it such as TCAPF and do you find them useful for this purpose? Have you seen other approaches not discussed that are/have been in use?

CPT Linn – guest: also how is that data utilized in targeting packages?

MAJ Allen Smith – guest: Do you vet and confirm info from gang leaders using SIGINT?  How do you build trust on a Narc?

Kevin Frank JIWC – guest: There are many units out there reporting data (CATs, FETs, PRTs, unit reports etc) . But are they getting the right information? ASCOPE is one guide- are there other collection guides out there that can help us get better data? Does the LE community have anythi

Kevin Frank JIWC – guest: anything that can help?

RODRIGUEZ, ISMAEL R USA  2: Any thoughts on the application of GIS in a police intelligence role? Do you think these techniques could translate well in COIN?

Getting it right

Just snippets today…

A couple of interesting comments (edit: made by visitors to his page – I just omitted the names for privacy reasons) on one of Michael Yon’s Facebook threads…

I’ve been in the army since Regan was president. i lived through the drawdown and saw how within several years the Army culture changed dramatically. zero defects was the norm… PC culture was jammed down our throats by new “sensitivity” initiatives. anyone that dared cross a PC line was slammed and pushed aside. when i attended the Strategy program at CGSC, we were fed a steady diet of liberal internationalist philosophy by Barnett, Nye, Fukuyama , and surprisingly the failed Sec of State Kissinger. these aren’t the people that are going to solve our strategic problems. in fact, they are the problem. we need to return to the classics of Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, Clausewitz, etc.

Personally I despise Sun Tzu, or certainly the popular pulp interpretations of his philosophies…I always mentally deduct marks when I see Sun Tzu quotes in papers and books I am reviewing…it’s, like, couldn’t you apply yourself enough to find a supporting quote with some substance behind it? But that’s just me…I do however support a return to study based upon the classic thinkers, especially as a foundation upon which to consider more contemporary works…

The government of South Vietnam was inept and corrupt … so it was illegitimate as far as the population was concerned. The South Vietnamese gov’t never won the support of its people and could not stand on its own without massive U.S. financial and military support. So the end was inevitable. I don’t know how much effect we can have on Karzai and his clown posse, but without an effective government in Afghanistan the fight is already lost.

The positive and negative parallels with the war in Vietnam continue to grow…on the positive side we see the incredible dedication and professionalism of individuals at the sharp end, regardless of the direction and reasons for the conflict; and we see the opportunity to get it write through the writings of people like Jim Gant, Josh Wineera and Steve Tatham, all of whom have identified key aspects that might make this war winnable – although chance is becoming slim indeed as the US prepares to meet its 2011 drawdown target…On the negative side we see war in an environment we do not understand; the top-down political meddling in the campaign plan; and the bolstering of a government that only serves to reinforce the opposition…

The Enemy Within

As I type this morning, the news is covering a taxi driver’s murderous rampage in Whitehaven in the UK…already here, commentators are noting the difficulties faced by UK Police due to their unarmed posture and linking this to our own unarmed police force. The anti-gun lobby hasn’t arced up yet but it must be winding up already…the simple fact is that the UK already has very strict gun control laws ans still something like this occurs…

More guns, less guns is not the core issue…if someone wants to go out like this, they will find a way, guns or no guns…and while I support the arming of Police (why not? everyone else is armed), that is a response whereas I think that we need to be looking at how to interdict this threat before it ever gets played out…

On the run…

Right that it for now…have to dash as I have a big day ahead maximising the sun while it has been out…we have had a lot of rain over the last few days and everything is drenched. Fortunately we live in top of a hill and have escaped the floods that hit Whakatane and Oamaru this week…

I have made considerable progress this week is identifying potential options that might finally get us (affordable) broadband access at home – I do so miss being able to listen in on the monthly Virtual Brown Bag sessions at the CAC COIN Center – either through the miracles of satellite or mobile technologies…

I also am steeling myself for the inevitable jabbing and stabbing medical assessments as part of transferring across to the Air Force…so long as there’s no pysch assessments, I should be OK…!!

My two COIN-related priorities remain completing my review of the Mandelbrot book and offering my two cents to the incredible amount of great insights that Dean @ Shiloh brought back from the COIN Symposium at Ft Leavenworth last month…

Edit: This Just In…

Hawkeye UAV in action

This came in just as I hit the Publish button…it’s some of the imagery captured during Hawkeye UAV sorties in the South Island last week that shows off the Hawkeye capability – like Transformers, ‘more than meets the eye’…it is way more than just a little UAV with a camera…the true value to the client is the real time geo-referencing and overlay of imagery over 3D terrain models and subsequent analysis using the Hawkeye suite of tools…all this happens in the field in real or close to real time…very cool…

Hanging in there…

Take you to our leader?

Man, the Russians come up with some cool looking machines…this is the…Obyekt 279, a Soviet prototype heavy tank developed in the Kirov industrial plant, Leningrad. Work on the tank started in 1957, and was based on a heavy tank operational requirements developed in 1956. The special-purpose tank was intended to fight on cross-country terrain that was inaccessible to conventional tanks and act as a vehicle to break through enemy defensive positions….(cheers to Wikipedia)…

I came across this beast in a Paper Models thread asking for ideas for new armour models so if it tweaks a designer’s imagination, maybe it’ll be a builder…I’d have a crack at the design myself but at the moment I am running at capacity doing year-end accounts, working with Hawkeye UAV, gearing up for the Winter season, and completing some of my COIN-related review commitments…I finished Benoit Mandelbrot’s The (mis)Behaviour of Markets on Monday, am almost done with Amanda Lennon’s Fourth Generation Valkyries, and have a local work on hybridism to read…

So, the blog has taken a back foot for the last week or so and this state of affairs will most likely last until next week when normal services should be resumed…

In the meantime, Dean @ Travels With Shiloh has returned from the COIN Symposium at Fort Leavenworth and started to upload this thoughts and findings..please head on over and value-add to the his comments and observations…it’ll be interesting to see what Kiwis attending the symposium took away from a  national perspective…

PS…forgot to mention that Michael Yon has left Afghanistan (probably best for all concerned) and is currently in Bangkok covering the troubles there…if you’re on Facebook, it is well worth subscribing to his page where he has been delivering a steady commentary – a dozen + feeds each day – on the situation there…he offers an interesting counterpoint to the more sensationalist news media ‘reporting’ and depicts the human side of this drama very well…it is great to see that Michael has returned to the type of .boots on the ground’ that he is so very good at…

Friends in High Places – review

The cover raised such expectations

Friends in High Places – Air Power in Irregular Warfare was published in July 2009 by the RAAF Air Power Development Centre. It has been edited by Dr Sanu Kainikara, a former Indian Air Force pilot who is now the Air Power Strategist at the Air Power Development Centre in Canberra. Including the preface and glossary, the book has 267 pages divided into nine sections:

  • Foreword. Group Captain Rick Keir, AM, CSC. July 2009.
  • Introduction. Dr Sanu KainiKara. July 2009.
  • The War of the Running Dogs: The Malayan Emergency. Air Commodore Mark Lax, CSM (rtd). An edited version of the paper originally presented at the RAAF History Conference in Canberra, 1 April 2008.
  • Offensive Air Power In Counterinsurgency Operations: Putting Theory Into Practice. Wing Commander Glen Beck. An edited version of Air Power Development Centre Paper #26 published in August 2008.
  • Air Power and Special Forces: A Symbiotic Relationship. Wing Commander David Jeffcoat. An edited version of Air Power Development Centre Paper #14 published in February 2004.
  • Taking It To The Streets: Exploding Urban Myths About Australian Air Power. Wing Commander Gareth B.S. Neilsen. An edited version of Air Power Development Centre Paper #23 published in October 2007.
  • Air Power and Transnational Terrorism: The Possibilities, Advantages and Limits to using Australian Air Power in the ‘War on Terror’. Mr Sam Gray-Murphy. An edited version of Air Power Development Centre Paper #20 published in October 2005.
  • The Role of Air Power in Irregular Warfare: An Overview of the Israeli Experience. Dr Sanu Kainikari.
  • Conclusion. Dr Sanu Kainikari.

My initial visual impression of this book was “Yes! the Aussies have ‘got it’!”: the cover very positively shows a C-130 at low level over a Bushmaster Infantry Mobility Vehicle and not the F/A-18 and M-1/ASLAV combination that might be indicative of a conventionally focused publication. Unfortunately this warm buzz did not last beyond the second page of the foreword which notes the ‘…predilection towards precision strike…‘ in the collected papers as ‘…one of our key asymmetric capabilities against a typically asymmetric foe…(1)’

These comments set the scene for the remainder of the book. While various CIA(2) truisms appear through the papers, they are not supported by the text which largely drives towards supporting the maintenance and further development of current air power capabilities with continuing focus upon kinetic operations. Although it makes a case of a balanced spread of air power capabilities, the truth today is that only a very small number of nations can actually do this – the rest of us have to make some tough decisions about what capabilities we need to maintain nationally and what we may have to give up to do so.

Friends In High Places does not consider the lessons of allies and partners in coalition operations since WW2. Its conclusions focus on what was i.e. offensive kinetic air power and not upon what is and will be: a blended mission-specific capability mix drawn from national and coalition military, government and civilian sources – to use an obsolescent but appropriate term: Joint, Inter-agency, Multi-national and Public (JIMP)(3).

This publication has been written around a pre-assumed conclusion: that traditional kinetic air power will remain as the premier ADF air power output. While this may or may not be the case, by approaching this publication with that belief as a given, all the content is badly skewed from the reality of the COE. A more effective approach would have been to consider the COE and what makes it different from  the more comfortable traditional forms of warfare and then apply these findings to the employment of air power. Applying an open mind to the complexities and nuances of the COE may have produced a volume that lives up to the promise of its cover.

Although the foreword notes the minimal consideration of air power in contemporary COIN doctrine like FM 3-24 and LWD 3-0-1, there does not seem to have been any attempt to engage the COIN/CIA(2) community of interest (COI) in Australia or offshore. This is doubly disappointing as agencies like Force Development Group in Puckapunyal, the NZ Army’s Interbella Group, or the COIN Center at Ft Leavenworth could have added considerable value to relevant aspects of this book without detracting from its air-centric theme. As a result, both the land and CIA aspects of this book are very weak. Similar comment can be made regarding the Special Operations and Urban Operations chapters.

The editorial staff has not included any discussion of maritime considerations, from general or air-specific perspectives which is a significant omission for a nation surrounded by water, which is reliant upon the sea ways for trade and industry, and whose major military operations are far more likely to be expeditionary than domestic.

In considering how air power can best operate in a CIA environment, there has also been no mention of the aviation branches of either the Australian Army or RAN apart from a couple of inaccurate paragraphs on ARH (the Eurocopter Tiger Attack Recon Helicopter adopted by the Australian Army). There is also no mention of integration with other government or civilian air assets or those of likely operational partners like New Zealand or Singapore; nor any acknowledgement of the vital role of all sources fusion when discussing aspects of ISR.

The papers included in this collection do not have a good nor consistent grasp of the irregular environment and thus any conclusions they may draw are developed on a somewhat shaky foundation. By the time that the original portions of this book were drafted i.e. those that are not rehashed staff papers, vast quantities of analysis, comment and intellectual horsepower had been expended on defining the COE. Had these resources been tapped, Friends in High Places would be a must-read. As it stands at the moment, its most effective message is the cover photo.

(1) Page xii
(2) The UK term Countering Irregular Activity (CIA) is used instead of the more popular but less accurate term Counterinsurgency (COIN) to describe the complex Contemporary Operating Environment (COE).
(3) I think that I may have inadvertently helped kill off this term a few years back when I made a number of public comments along the lines of ‘Bring out the JIMP‘ from Pulp Fiction.

Manage is a good word

This is a picture of happier slower days.

Those happier slower days have gone now and we need to adjust to a new environment, one in which we must manage more information at far higher levels of resolution than ever before. I use the word ‘manage‘ deliberately – it has had a bit of a thrashing over the last decade or so, especially in the military, where management is a term reserved for stuff that people out of uniform do e.g. ‘…they’re just a manager…‘ Well, girls and boys, if you can’t manage, then it is unlikely that you will ever be much chop at command or operations. Here’s what one source thinks ‘manage’ is:

In 2005, the USMC’s Michael Scheiern posited a shift from platform-based tracking to individual-based tracking and was pretty positive that, in terms of the complex contemporary operating environment, tracking at the individual level was realistically achievable. But, here we are in 2010 already, with knashing and wailing over yet another failure of intelligence. The problem, as I see it, is that we simply don’t want to change: despite the thousands of lives and billions of $$ expended in this war, too many people are still too wedded to the nice safe days of the Fulda Gap and nowhere is this more apparent than in military information  management (which, by the way, is NOT the realm of the 6 community any more than it is that of the 2 weenies).

Over on the CAC COIN Blog (which I have been somewhat remiss in not visiting more often), there is an article entitled I Know Something You Don’t Know: Intelligence and COIN which touches on this topic, inspired by the 25 December Undies Bomber. Not only should we ensure “…every civil servant/diplomat/aid worker a collector…” in addition to “…every soldier a collector…”, we should be extending this to ‘every one an analyst‘ as well. This means that everyone out in their respective field must be sufficiently  trained and aware of their environment to act, when needs be, upon that information that, so far, we only want them to collect. And, by the way, “…every soldier a collector…” is not a theory as stated on the CAC blog – it is doctrine and as such should, indeed must, be part of the training regime.

One of the reasons that we are still not getting into this (after EIGHT years of war!!) might be those alluded to here on Coming Anarchy, or more specifically, this Wikipedia page referenced in the CA article. I’d never heard of Baconian method (not that that means much) – I have heard of bacon jam though – but it identifies four obstacles (idols) in considering a problem:

  • Idols of the Tribe (Idola Tribus): This is humans’ tendency to perceive more order and regularity in systems than truly exists, and is due to people following their preconceived ideas about things.
  • Idols of the Cave (Idola Specus): This is due to individuals’ personal weaknesses in reasoning due to particular personalities, likes and dislikes.
  • Idols of the Marketplace (Idola Fori): This is due to confusions in the use of language and taking some words in science to have a different meaning than their common usage.
  • Idols of the Theatre: This is the following of academic dogma and not asking questions about the world.

Sound familiar? Seen any of these in YOUR work place? Perhaps even subscribed to one or two yourselves…?

This is the problem – we talk up the need for learning organisations, lessons learned, better information and intelligence but here we are – having just bumbled through someone trying to blow up a plane with his undies…

But as much as the intelligence world may be long overdue for a shake-up, we also need to have a good hard look at the rest of the organisation and ask ourselves just why it is that we have to rely on the ‘2’s (sounds a bit like Battlestar Galactica: the 2s versus the 6s….) for analysis instead of applying some common dog common sense ourselves…uh-oh it’s that old Information Militia thing again. The intel weenies and command geeks together need to get out on the streets and see what police officers do and how they do it in thinking things through on the spot…what was it we found in the COIN Review? Oh, yeah…intelligence in the COE may be closer to CRIMINT than that required for conventional high-intensity operations e.g. the Fulda Gap…

Interbella asked the question: What’s in the price of bread? Changing how we look at intelligence may help with the answer…

Back in the office…

…after the better part of five weeks away. I find that I didn’t really miss it that much…some interesting new content in the inbox though and this week will be largely occupied by book reviews I think:

  • MAJ Jim Gant has completed his  Tribal Engagement Team paper and the full text is available with a broad range of comments on Steven Pressfield’s blog. The closing paragraph says it all: ” There may be dozens of reasons not to adopt this strategy. But there is only one reason to do so—we have to. Nothing else will work.”
  • JFCOM has released JP 3-24 Counterinsurgency, the US DOD’s joint slant on COIN which should encapsulate and further develop the themes in FM 3-24. There is some comment on JP 3-24 on the COIN Center blog.
  • The US Army is developing its Army Capstone document Operating under Conditions of Uncertainty and Complexity in an Era of Persistent Conflict for a planned release date of December 2009. For all those who have been happy to sit back and snipe at US policy and doctrine here is your chance to have some input: the draft document has been published online and comments may be submitted through the Small Wars website (you do have to join up). The news release has more information.

In other COIN-related news

The UK is reroling four armoured and mechanised battalions into light infantry for service in Afghanistan on the understanding that these units will be able to revert back at a later date and noting that this will take possibly up to five years. This move is somewhat unusual in light of public comment in the UK this month regarding the overly-light nature of British vehicles in Afghanistan and the perception of a direct link between this and a number of battle casualties. The Canadians not only swear by their LAV3s in this theatre but also reversed a decision to get out of the tank game and are spending some billions of dollars for the rapid acquisition of Leopard 2A6M tanks. The US has deployed SBCT 5/2 into Afghanistan as well and initial reports indicate that Stryker is as effective here as it has been in Iraq. One wonders if this move is driven more by efficiency than by effectiveness?

I am (really, I am) making some progress in redrafting the paper on Countering Irregular Activity and it might even be complete next month…after that, Josh has been cracking the whip for the Future War rewrite/update…