A battle lost…

Don’t Use the ‘D’ Word: They’re ‘UAVs’ or ‘RPAs’ But Definitely Not ‘Drones’

I came across this article on the Information Dominance Corps Self Synchronization (yes, it is bit of mouthful) Facebook feed…once upon a time this argument may have mattered but now it is nothing more than ambient noise. We have far more important things to worry about in the UAS world than mindless semantic games…

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Does it matter really if I call this a plane, an aircraft or an airplane?

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Or this a helicopter, a whokka, a helo, a rotary-wing aircraft or a whirlybird.

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Or this, a car, an automobile or a vehicle?

No…it doesn’t, not in normal colloquial speech and writing…many years ago, I remember great battles ranging over whether vehicles like LAVIII and Stryker were medium infantry, mech infantry or some weirdo thing called heavy infantry. This went on for months and about the points of agreement were that they were neither the light infantry or tanks so dear to our hearts. In the end, the general issued an all-points stating that he didn’t care if they were called the Third Pink Flying Pig Brigade and that he was more interested in what we could do with these things.

Dictionaries have already added the unmanned aircraft definition of ‘drone’ so there is not much point arguing the toss anymore. What is important is that we use the correct terminology when we talk about unmanned aircraft within our community and when we engage with external audiences. The general public can quite happily refer to them as drones, just all of us equally happily refer to cars, planes and choppers…

Personally I think that we need to stop treating UAS as something mystical and special and start to treat them simply as what they: unmanned aircraft…aircraft that do not normally operate with an onboard pilot…and within unmanned aircraft, we have , in our  technically correct lexicon, remote-piloted aircraft, optionally-piloted aircraft, remote control aircraft, drones (in the technical sense), etc,etc…

The more that we treat UAS as something special, the harder we make it employ properly and integrate them in to our airspace. Do we really need Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle or UCAV, or would unmanned combat aircraft suffice? …and unmanned fighter, unmanned bomber, unmanned transport etc? Hmmm…

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Just call me Al

Ten truths

I was motivated to write something this morning by this item from Tom Ricks  10 truths from the last decade that you could tattoo on an arm — or maybe a leg, based in turn on an article in the August issue of Marine Corps Gazette.  I’ll get to them in a minute.

As you all know, I like to head up each post with a picture (adding, of course, considerably to the drafting burden but a that’s a sacrifice I’m happy to make for you the reader!). In searching for a truth-themed image that was neither religious nor X Files in nature, I stumbled across Tip Top Tens, specifically it’s take on 10 Truths10 Truths That Will Change Your Life:

01 : The full name of Donald Duck: Donald Fauntleroy Duck.

02 : A giraffe can clean its own ears with its tongue.

03 : Millions of trees in the world are accidentally planted by squirrels who bury nuts and do not remember where they were hiding them.

04 : Eating an apple is more effective than drinking coffee to stay awake.

05 : blue tooth brushes are used more than the red.

06 : Nobody can lick his own elbow, it is impossible to touch it with his tongue.

07 : The pig is the only animal that burns with the sun more than man.

08 : Right-handers live, on average, nine years longer than lefties.

09 : Laughing during the day makes you sleep better at night.

10 : Approximately 75% of people who read this article try to lick your elbow.

And, no, I neither attempted 02 nor 06! I take no issue with any of these truths however I can not quite say the same with the ones summarised by Tom Ricks:

— Take the high ground at night so you own it in the morning.

Yep…an oldie but a goodie…

— It may be counterintuitive, but you are probably safer dismounted than in your vehicles, preferably before contact.

Situational – depends on the vehicle and the war; also very land-centric thinking (shame, Marines!) aviators and sailors would probably not agree…except for the old Iraqi doctrine of flying with one hand on the stick and the other on the little yellow handle.

— The bait and ambush is a classic from the ancient Greeks up to today.

Yep…because people STILL keep falling for it.

— Why do we keep using the column formation in what is clearly an advance to contact, rather than using wedges and echelons?

Because we are fixated on staying on the roads? Or…the roads are the only places our vehicles will go? Every in the J, there is an overwhelming temptation to follow tracks and trails – never a good idea…

— Every Marine a rifleman, and every NCO a leader and fire support coordinator.

Marine/soldier/sailor/airman when on the ground ‘someone else’ will not bail you out…!

— These are seasoned fighters with a wealth of experience fighting against Jomini-type tactics and a sense of personal honor and bravery that means they are looking to close and kill, not snipe and run.

The difference between a war and peace support…don’t go to either seeking to do the other…

— If you are not using Small Wars Journal and Company Command, you should be.

If no one is giving you PME, then DIY…only you can make you smarter…

— Afghanistan is a battle for the provision of governance from the ground up, from the outside in, not from the top down, Kabul out.

True, but not really a ‘truth’ per se…fight the war you’re in, not the war you want…

— The Taliban, while at some level perhaps associated with al Qaeda, is not al Qaeda.

As above…fight the war you’re in, not the war you want…

— Is this the right war?

The squiggly bit on the end (?) makes this not a truth at all but a question – clearly not enough attention paid (nor wooden ruler applied) during Miss Brown’s Year 2 English classes…

So only five truths really and five elements of political grandstanding that aren’t really that useful at the tactical level…the first five though are well worth picking up and running with as they are proven, if not learned or applied…

The magnificent seven ride again…

…through the streets of Wellington…

…but we looked a lot better than these guys…yes, really…

A group of us who had all been young (and in some cases, not so young) officers together, concentrated in Wellington last night for a bit of a get-together, in some cases we had not seen each other for a good seven or more years…apart from a grey hair or two, we were all as slim and sharp as we’d been back then…

Josh from CDSS and I drove down together yesterday afternoon and the drive both ways gave us a good opportunity to discuss a bunch of current affairs topics – we stayed at the Halswell Lodge in Kent Terrace: as Josh said, we really want to be focussing about where we want to end up and less about where we’re starting from. A very good point as my thought had been to stay at someplace like the James Cook but the natural progression of a staff ride through night-time Wellington is invariably towards the bottom end of Courtney Place i.e. just round the corner from the Halswell Lodge…

It’s a good lesson and one that obviously links directly into the Princess Leia Doctrine  – before you come in, have a plan for getting out!! Somewhat topical in a week where the US recognises the rebel “government” in Libya, just as France states that it can see a path where Ghaddafi stay in power…as some have said, a clear application of two of the three stages of the France Doctrine:

– Start war.

– Surrender.

– Claim all glory.

It’s not actually clear who or what the US has actually recognised or what the mid- to long-term results will be when that “government” comes to power – almost assurably there will be a number of score-settling activities to ensure that any and all Ghaddafists are dealt to as well as anyone else that the new “government” feels they need to square away as part of their consolidation of power…It is pretty certain that one of the big lessons of Iraq, that existing governance and other structures should be kept in place as much as possible during transitional phases, will be learned again should this “government” come to power…

It’s interesting to note as well that NATO’s appetite for social and moral justice has yet to extend to Syria where protest and suppression continue unchecked; and that hardline Islamic elements may be gaining the whip hand in Egypt…will the call be made “Hey, Hosni! Holiday’s over, dude! Get back in there and sort your country out again!” ?

Anyway, back to the Seven…we’d hoped a few more might come out of the woodwork but it was a crappy Wellington winter night and there’s a rematch tonight but we could only do the one night…so very good to catch up again with some of those who helped make me who I am now (Yes, guys, it’s all your fault!!) and to have a night out in NZ – normally any big nights I have out are ‘post-dinner networking’ activities while I am working overseas. Very impressed to see that there are still pubs in NZ that not only serve beer in jugs but big glass jugs as well – good effort, the Green Man Pub – great pizzas and fries too!! Of course, we almost didn’t get to the Green Man after leaving St Johns in Cable Street as our SOF rep ‘led’ us in the opposite direction!! “Yeah, I know where I’m going…trust me…” Never a Tui billboard around when you need one…

I think we finished up around 2-30ish after a fun few hours in Boogie Wonderland, a retro disco-era bar (“Don’t touch the glitter balls – puhleeeease!!” Well, don’t put them in arm’s reach then!). Post-pizza I’d had a top-up pie along the way but Josh hadn’t and we grabbed some horrible Chinese food from someplace at the bottom end of Courtney Place – the sole redeeming thing about that was that I bought a bottle of Coke that was well sited for post-crash out dries this morning…

So bit jaded this evening with an early start to get back to the Lodge before it gets snowed in – probably our first snow there this year…watching the reports coming out of Norway…just one nutjob…as one tweet stated ‘Oklahoma City, not 911’…a brutal reminder than in this environment of complexity, you can’t predict and interdict all ‘the people’…sometimes the measure of success is how well you respond…

Getting it….

Not getting it…

One of my ongoing beefs with ‘modern’ COIN is the misperception is that successful COIN is all about being nice, of waging war without casualties (although casualties amongst one’s own soldiers appear to ‘OK’), and having this great expectation that one day ‘the people’ will just rise up, out of gratitude for the niceness shown them by the security forces and cast out the insurgents…

The simple fact is that this ‘doctrine’ is all lala-land, cloud cuckoo vunderland fantasy. That’s pretty much the theme of Wilf Owen’s article in the Spring 2011 edition of the British Army Review (I’d post a link to BAR but it seems that it is a highly classified publication and not one suited to easy intuitive location via the Power of Google), titled Killing Your Way To Control. He takes particular issues with statements like

Effective counterinsurgency provides human security to the population, where they live, 24 hours a day. This, not destroying the enemy, is the central task. (from Kilcullen’s The Accidental Guerrilla)

Unlike in general war, the objective is not the defeat or destruction of the enemy, but neutralisation of a threat to stable society. (from JDP 3-40)

And guess what? He is absolutely 100% correct! Was it Douglas MacArthur, addressing the cadets at West Point, who said something like “Your duty is clear and inviolate: to win our nation’s wars”? Something about “Victory, always victory”? Even if victory might mean achieving your objectives on your terms as opposed to victory always equating to absolute, grinding under the steel-shod boot, unconditional victory…

Use of the military is, should be, the final option in execution of national policy to achieve national objectives…because it is brutal and unpleasant – and effective when employed properly. The military should be used when other instruments in the DIME construct are not effective. That is not to say that once the military deploys, the rest of DIME takes for some time out; it just means that the lead agency has changed.

And what is it about the military that both makes it an option of last resort and one so effective? Simply…the use of force…brutal force, whether blunt or surgical, but brutal none the less because force can only be brutal. Who talks about let alone attempts to develop and  apply ‘nice’ force? And this is Wilf’s point, and, for an irregular environment,  encapsulated nicely in the extract he selects from the UK’s 2005 Land Operations

Neutralising the insurgent and in particular the leadership forms part of a successful COIN strategy. Methods include killing, capturing, demoralising and deterring insurgents and promoting desertions. This is an area in which military forces can specialise and should be a focus for COIN training. The aim should be to defeat the insurgent on his own ground using as much force as is necessary, but no more.

Now we know that there are times, especially immediately following an intervention and lodgement when the only people who can realistically maintain and provide essential services like power, water, electricity, sewage and security are the military. Forget about some imaginary gendarmerie with shovels that will miraculously appear and relieve the military of such onerous and unpleasant tasks…never happen…

Nor is anyone saying that forces optimised for high-end force on force  major combat operations can successfully instantly reconfigure, collectively and individually, into an irregular warfare scenario. If there was one myth that was majorly debunked in the last decade it was the “If you train up (for MCO), you can easily step down (for COIN)”. Thus, a choice must be made between a dual force optimised one side for MCO and irregular warfare on the other: just to be real clear, two forces – NOT one size fits all; or a deliberate acceptance that one’s forces will only be capable of engaging in one form of conflict OR the other. Most nations forced towards the latter choice will probably tend towards a specialisation in irregular warfare up to a limit of national capability on the spectrum of operations.

And while the logical threads in population-centricity unravel, this does not mean that the military should isolate itself from ‘the people’. GEN Petraeus was right in Baghdad in 2006 when he brought the troops back in amongst ‘the people’ and ended the daily tactical commuting/sallying from the FOBs. The military is not some horde to be hidden away – if ‘the people’ is where the adversary(s) are, then that’s where the military should be – configured and trained for the application of force in that specific environment just as they would/should be for any other unique environment.

And on the spectrum of operations…let’s not forget that it is NOT the linear progression from peacetime to all-out warfare that is it portrayed as…a more accurate model would have peace in the middle, surrounded by a ring that includes peacetime engagement (a smidgen up from peace), peacekeeping, peacemaking, irregular warfare, HADR, limited war (e.g. the Falklands War), major war (DESERT STORM, OIF Part 1) and full-on all-out war (Red Storm Rising).

Imagine that ring being like a trembler switch (who didn’t used to watch Danger: UXB or The ProfessionalsSteady, it’s a trembler!?) from which a nation can flick from peace to any state around that ring, and from that state then flick to another and another or back to the stable centre. Accepting that there are two clear extremes, peace and all-out war, most nations would assess the planning for one, peace, carries too much risk as it would naïve to expect peace to remain constant in the most benign scenario. Similarly few nations can afford to truly step up to the full range of capabilities required for the other extreme. Thus most opt for a point in-between.

But regardless of where that point may lie, the primary role and output of that national military force is the application of force. That is why the lead group in the Air and Space Interoperability Council is the Force Application group, with six important but supporting groups. That is why, in the continental staff system, the staff branches are NOT all created equal – operations leads, supported by whatever combination of numbers floats your boat – whoever heard of logistics or intelligence supported by operations? That is because the ops branch is all about creating and delivering effects – and the effect that the military delivers best…is…force.

So you might imagine just how it felt as I scrolled through my ‘most recent’ view on Facebook to see the link to Wilf’s paper first from DoctrineMan! (still not sure about people who include punctuation in their name) and a ways further down, the original post at Small Wars Journal.  Even more so when I realised that Wilf, who I have spent more time at Small Wars disagreeing with than ever agreeing, had authored it.

What was disappointing was the number of people on both DoctrineMan! And Small Wars fixated on pulling every literal point of contention from the article. I was sadly reminded of the 45k+ morons who ‘liked’ the Boycott Macsyna King Book page; or the moral minority who all ‘just know’ that Casey Anthony killed her daughter and that there was no need for all that legal dues process stuff: let’s just string her up!! Wonder sometimes if western society is descending to a point where the capacity for independent thought is lost…and we all just become drones circling the brightest, loudest light…

The irony in his article that he does not point out is that while British Army doctrine in 2005 included the quote above from Land Operations (now that I think about it, I was working at Uphaven on CLAW 1 when it was released and got to bring the first copies back home), this was the same period that the UK was trumpeting the success of Malaya and the triumph myth of ‘hearts and minds’ that set irregular warfare back decades. If only the UK had read and applied its own doctrine… (What’s that? You read doctrine? And apply it?)

So where does this leave us? Wilf has articulated what we have probably known along, what the dead Germans told us is right, that the military is about the application of force, not the application of ‘nice’, as an extension of policy. That force may be applied to create the conditions where others can see to the building of a stable society, hopefully where such existed at some stage before; equally as much it may be applied to simply attrite an adversary to the point where further resistance is either untenable or impossible.

But, harking back to the dead Germans again, the ultimate target for force is one specific part of what is popularly accepted as the Clausewitzian Trinity: of ‘the people’, the action arm and the leadership of any collective entity, military force ultimately targets the leadership to either eliminate it as the driving force behind the organisation, or convince it to consider and change its ways. That’s what the military is for….

The Princess Leia Doctrine

(c) 2011 Graham Art Productions

Doctrine Man!’s Facebook page this morning links to a Politico article Robert Gates’s Final Act: Slow Afghan Drawdown

As his final act before leaving the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is working to build support for what he is calling a “modest” drawdown in Afghanistan, even though a war-weary Capitol Hill wants more.

Gates, who retires June 30, is hoping that his 12th and final trip to Afghanistan will help steer the Washington debate subtly away from the number of troops that will come home next month — a figure that is almost certain to disappoint the growing number of Washington critics of the war.

I’m a big fan of Doctrine Man! – and not just because he is a ‘doctrine’ guy (clearly some very very bad karma in a previous life!!) – his ‘life on the staff’ cartoons are great,and  his FB output is not only prolific, but also spurs robust debate. Some of the comments on the Gates’ article include:

 I don’t think we are going to get a choice here. Politically these wars have been milked to death, and I think regular old Americans are actually pushing this. A collective “sick and tired of war” let’s bring them home has settled in. I remain on the fence as to whether it is good or not, but I count myself in the “sick and tired of war”. You know some idiot will start spouting about win/loss war, but we all know it’s just ego. Military did their job, state department failed miserably.

With other examples of leaders making some very negative comments on their way out the door, this is one that can be seen as very consistent with the profile of the man (who, by the way, warned against Libyan intervention). Good stuff.

 However brilliant one might think Gates is, you never hear any of this drawdown talk discussed in the same context with objectives. Either we are saying objectives are unachievable and we drawdown anyway, or we are drawing down for the pure political gain the appearance gives. Either way, the American people need to hear specifically what we are trying to achieve, in clear, unambiguous terms.

Of course, that comes on the heels of being asked (by a planner) what the difference was between tasks and objectives. For the third or fourth time. If deep-seated rage is a symptom of PTSD, then DM probably needs to get checked out.

It would help me be a little more positive about staying if I knew in measurable terms (a) what the desired end-state is, (b) how much that’s likely to cost in death, injury, and treasure, (c) how long it’s likely to take, and (d) where the money is going to come from.

To those who say “this is war, we can’t tell you these things,” I say that we do these kinds of multi-variable plans all the time in the civilian economy; now go back and get us some answers.

Failing those sorts of answers, I’d rather see us stick to the drawdown plan we have — or accelerate it. I don’t want to see one more American service member or NGO person come home in a box or on a gurney than is absolutely necessary and the thing that haunts me most is the memory of those who died in my war while Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho were arguing the merits of round table vs. square table in Paris.

Re tasks and objectives, whatever happen to the Princess Leia doctrine “When you broke in here, did you have a plan for getting out?”

The last comment is, of course, mine…I have been a staunch proponent of the Leia doctrine for years and wonder  if, with the fall of Saigon only two years previous to the release of Star Wars, George Lucas was actually slipping in some very insightful commentary on recent history…some ammunition for pub trivia: Saigon fell on April 30 1975, Star Wars was released on an unsuspecting world on May 25, 1977.  His 1973 American Graffitti has clear parallels today of a nation in war but possibly not at war in Vietnam, as perhaps it is today with Afghanistan…

In conducting my typically superficial research for this article (Google is our friend, as is Wikipedia) I was caught by this paragraph from the Wikipedia item on the Fall of Saigon…

Among Vietnamese refugees in the United States and in many other countries, the week of April 30 is referred to as Black April and is used as a time of commemoration of the fall of Saigon. The event is approached from different perspectives, with arguments that the date was a sign of American abandonment, or as a memorial of the war and mass exodus as a whole.

No one can argue that South Vietnam was abandoned in 1975 but it is unfair and inaccurate to label this as solely ‘American abandonment‘ . America was not the only nation involved in Vietnam, nor the only one that walked away…let’s not forget that the only nation that was there to the very end was America…everyone else had just quietly drifted away…With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, the application of US air power (like anyone else was going to ante up) in 1975 would only have prolonged the pain of and for Vietnam…

Abandonment is also the word that springs to mind when discussing drawdowns in Afghanistan…the true failure in Afghanistan has not been one of tactics or capability but quite simply one of having no clear idea what it’s all about. If there is only one lesson we learn from a decade (come November this year) in a nation that NO ONE have ever managed to pacify over millennia, it surely must be the Leia Doctrine…

Before you go in, have a plan for getting out.

This is such a fundamental of life, NOT just the military…as any teenage boy in his girlfriend’s room knows where he hears her father’s footsteps outside the door…how can it be that it has been purged from our doctrine and our thinking for so long? Of conflicts since the end of WW2, the 1982 Falklands War and DESERT SHIELD/ STORM in 1991 are the only two that I can remember  where the strategic objectives were clearly stated, adhered to and achieved…

And while contemporary planning doctrine may prattle on about metrics and measureables, it rarely if ever links these to decision points and from there to exit strategies. During one of my irregular warfare engagements in this trip, we used an analogy of the campaign plan as a freeway and each off-ramp along the journey being both a decision point and a potential exit…depending upon how well a driver understands where they are going and why, they will consider off-ramps along the way and opt to drive off or stay the course…

It also just struck me that the freeway analogy also works quite well as an analogy for unilateral, alliance and coalition warfare:

When you are the only driver on the freeway, it is quite easy to select your course, speed and direction.

When you are driving with habitual partners of which you normally only have a small number and who all generally sing off the same sheet of music, it’s much the same.

When you have a coalition, all driving with different national rules and customs, most if not all free to join and depart the coalition at will, and many for whom the use of indicators is totally alien, you have potential chaos, traffic jams and pile-ups..

That’s something I will explore further in another item…today’s takeaway is to promote and encourage adoption and application of the Leia Doctrine to hopefully avoid replays of this…

Never again?

Masterchef Update

Serious advertising for NZ Masterchef 2011 has now kicked in…hopefully I’ll be able to schedule myself to follow it again this year – due to work commitments, I missed almost all of the last Aussie Masterchef except the final…

Meanwhile, here in the heartland, we continue to investigate buying a local cafe so that Carmen can live at home again and also do what she is so good at for a living…

In Colour Me Scared last year, I mentioned my foray into the scary world of combining chili and sardines – pretty safe really as chili, like tomato sauce, is a great ‘coverall’ for culinary not-quites…I hadn’t actually tried it again since then but late last night after a crap afternoon wresting with connectivity issues and losing the better part of a day’s productivity – and thus forgetting to take something out of the freezer to thaw – I gave it another shot… definitely a great but very simple and fast (longest thing is waiting for the rice to cook) meal for when you really don’t want to put yourself out…what’s left will be combined into a fried rice tonight…so is one less thing to worry about while I’m doing the home alone thing…

The big difference between home along last year and this year is that this year I actually have work to do and don’t quite so much have the luxury of time to spend in the kitchen experimenting…the absence of any fast foods in easy distance means that I still have to look after myself and plan ahead…my major culinary issue at the moment is what to do with so many damn eggs …

Secret Stash

Since we keep stealing, them the chickens have taken to concealing their eggs around their run…this one was buried beneath layer of blackberry and is a good week and a half to two weeks work for them…24+ eggs recovered here! Carmen took a bunch back up the road but, combined with what we had already, I’m really scratching for good simple egg recipes…had a great omelette on Friday night after I got back from a meeting with Hawkeye in Palmerston North that afternoon (and resisted the temptation to treat myself in Mr Models) that meet two key objectives: a. it took five eggs and b. it very neatly wiped out most of the leftover vegetables and venison left in the fridge…I can see scrambled eggs coming back onto the breakfast menu which will go nicely on a slab of freshly-made bread, followed up with muesli and homemade yoghurt (well out of the packet but just as good, if not, better than the prepackaged stuff)…just so long as I don’t become a creature of habit…

As you probably guessed, I having a  bit of a no news day today – I’ve spent most of the day doing ASIC administration, psyching myself up to complete the draft doctrine review I had planned for yesterday…we’ve taken to using the NATO doctrine review template, which, although, involves more typing, promotes a far deeper review of a publication and which also provides the author feedback in a standard format that can be combined with similarly-formatted feedback from other reviewers…one of these days, I WILL complete that touch-typing programme…

Not quite

I mentioned in My Fellow Americans that I had first met Martyn Dunne while working on a number of Army clothing and personal equipment projects; one of these was reviewing the camouflage pattern then in use, especially the colours (of which there had been 17 distinct variations since it was first introduced)…needless to say, our testing and evaluation wasn’t as dedicated as this…talk about taking your work home with you…

Still…I guess if you’re looking at optimising for urban combat…

Apply with Judgement

It took a while but a couple of weeks ago I was finally able to take down all the dust clothes that we had put up around the library to protect the books from dust and mess during the renovations. It’d been a couple of months since I’d actually laid eyes on the books in the library, concealed as they were behind layers of old sheets, and it struck me that there were a large number (albeit a small proportion) of books that I hadn’t actually ready yet. For some time prior to that point, I had been doing a lot of nostalgic recreational reading…Ice Station Zebra, Cyborg (the original Steve Austin story),  various lite-works from Steven Coonts, Dale Brown, etc and I decided to commit to clearing some of the backlog of unread books – after all, there not much point having books if you aren’t going to read them at least once…so Wing Leader was the first that caught my eye as an ‘unread’…

Like many of the books in our library, I have no idea where I acquired this from…as much as possible I try to log all new acquisitions into our Book Collector database and record where each acquisition came from – the Collector software is actually quite good and we used it to track all our books, DVDs and my paper model collection: check it out @ http://www.collectorz.com. Anyway, this is the second printing of Wing Leader from September 1956 and seems to have spent an earlier part of its existence, from 18 October 1962 until 21 June 1963, in the Wairoa College Library. Where it was in the 47 years before appearing in our library is anyone’s guess.

It is what I call a ‘ripping good yarn’ starting with Johnson being turned away in various attempts to join the RAF until war broke out and there was a desperate need to build up the RAF to face the oncoming Nazi juggernaut. On only his second flight in a Spitfire, Johnson fudged his landing and drove the main gear up through the top of the wings – hardly an auspicious start for the pilot who ended WW2  as a Group-Captain and the RAF’s highest scoring fighter pilot with 38 confirmed kills. Wing Leader follows Johnson through the war through squadron and wing command and the dark days of the Battle of Britain through D Day and the advance across Europe. It ends with a celebratory air show in Denmark soon after VE Day.

One of the principles that emerged from our work in doctrine management over the last couple of years is that doctrine is something that can never be a set of hard and fast rules that applied dogmatically; to be effective doctrine must be applied with judgement. While, perhaps and only perhaps, in more simpler forms of warfare there might be a place for the soldier or commander who blindly follows without thinking, in the contemporary environment, facing complexity, irregularity and uncertainty, there is no place for a non-thinker: we must ALL think and apply our judgement. Wing Leader had what I thought were a couple of great examples of this.

…throughout this day and on all subsequent operations in the Falaise gap the Luftwaffe failed to provide any degree of assistance to their sorely pressed ground forces. faced with the threat of losing their forward airfields to our advance, they were busily occupied in withdrawing to suitable bases in the Paris area, so our fighter-bombers enjoyed complete air supremacy over the battle area. Quick to exploit such a great tactical advantage, Broadhurst issued instructions that until such time as the Luftwaffe reappeared to contest our domination of the Normandy sky all his aircraft would operate in pairs. This was a wise decision, for it meant that pairs of Spitfires and Typhoons could return to the fray immediately they were turned around on the ground. Detailed briefings were not necessary since all pilots knew the area and the position of our own ground troops. Valuable time was saved and it was possible to put the maximum number of missions into the air.

This was a dramatic deviation from extant doctrine which held that, while pairs of aircraft might be able to penetrate enemy airspace and attack opportunity targets along their way, if a lone pair of fighters ran into a group of enemy fighters it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that both pilots and aircraft would be lost. The cold hard lesson learned from the early days of sweeps over France was that there was quite definitely safety is numbers i.e. sweeps of at least squadron and more commonly wing strength that could hold their own against Luftwaffe defenders.

Since WW1, the commonly-held wisdom was to watch for the Hun in the sun with the corollary that higher altitude was always a great, almost necessary advantage over an aerial adversary. Thus is was with some concern that Johnson…

…watched Jamie when he drafted an operation order for the wing to sweep the Rouen area at 12,000 feet.

“12,000 feet seems a little low, Jamie,” I commented. “The boys are certain to get bounced at that height.”

“That’s right,” briefly answered the New Zealander.

“Then why don’t you put them higher?” I suggested.

“Because, dear boy, Ray Harries prefers to below the Huns. In fact, his tactics depend on the Huns starting the attack.”

I expressed profound disbelief, for I had always been a firm believer in the old axiom that the leader who has the height advantage controls the battle…Ray and I walked to our Spitfires. before we climbed into our cockpits, I said:

“I always though the chap with the height held all the cards, Ray.”

“Yes, he does,” replied the wing leader. “But 12,000 feet is our best fighting height. Somehow we’re got to pull down the Hun to our level. once he’s down, our Spits are so much better that we can break itno him, out-turn-him and soon get on top of him…”

Johnson explains that…

The Luftwaffe had modified some of their Focke-Wulf 190s so that they had a very good performance at low-level…Our answer to this was the Griffon-engined Spitfire 12…At low and medium altitudes the Spitfire 12 was faster than its contemporary, the 9, and could cope with the low-flying 190s…

Wing Leader cites other examples including that of two Lancaster heavy bombers peeling out of formation after the post-D Day daylight bombing of Caen to strafe Germany ground transports along the roads…

Majestically, it ploughs along over the straight road with rear and front guns blazing away. Enemy drivers and crews abandon their vehicles and dive for the shelter of the hedgerows…There is a considerable amount of light flak, but the pilot obviously scorns this small stuff, since he is accustomed to a nightly barrage of heavy flak over the industrial cities of Germany…

It’s all about avoiding dogma – continuing always to think and too learn…to quote Dr Michael Evans from the Contemporary Warfare course last week “Who Learns, Wins”


Good Answer

Nice one, Mike!!

Just when I was about to write Michael Yon off after his disembedment, he comes up with a comment that is both insightful and relevant…

The father of a veteran now in Afghanistan emailed with a question: “Michael: What would you say to a group of US soldiers if you were a company commander (and it’s easy for me to imagine you in this role) if after a briefing you gave them as you and they were about to participate in the BfK – when after inviting questions a soldier asked: “Sir, are we being asked to risk our lives to prop up Wali Karzai and if so, is he a good man or just my generation’s Diem? (Or some such question.) A beneficiary of the drug industry, a thug, feared and hated by the people of Kandahar City? How would you Michael Yon answer this US soldier?”

Answer:
I would likely say, “Yes, we are being tasked to prop up a drug lord. That’s our orders. Let’s get to work.”

It’s a good point – as much as some elements continue to portray the war in Afghanistan as a ‘nice’ war in which no harm really befalls anyone, except the bad guys, and which is conducted according to the highest moral principles….which, of course, is totally false…if what is going on in Afghanistan was anything close to nice, then there would be no need for the thousands of combat troops, strike aircraft, etc, etc, etc…NGOs and aid agencies could run rampant over the country to do-good their little hearts out…but it’s not like that and we shouldn’t be kidding ourselves that it is…

On the same theme are the bedfellows that we might have to partner up with in order to achieve our national objectives…let’s NOT forget that the reason that all these forces are in Afghanistan in the first place is not an overwhelming concern for the wellbeing of the nation or people of Afghanistan…some nations are their for flag-waving purposes, others because the rest of their gang is there, others again perhaps hoping to secure trade or commercial gains…whatever the underlying motives, there is little room for altruistic partnerships based on niceness and the moral high ground. To be blunt about it, most of the nice people that you might be able to partner up with are probably amongst the least effective…

To get the job done, your partners of opportunity will more than likely be those whom you would NOT bring home to meet Mother or the voters but they are way more likely to advance your aims and objectives…

The other insight that falls from Mike’s comment is that these issues of lawful or unlawfulness generally exist at levels stratospherically above the tactical level where the down and dirty fighting occurs…as Mike implies, these issues are not things that the troops on the ground need to be worrying about – so long as someone has taken the time out to remind them why they are face down int eh dirt and the sand, listening to bullets zing by, just over their heads…the direction and ownership of said bullets is largely irrelevant when you’re face down in the sand and the dirt….

Sallying Forth

My brief foray out into civilisation last week went very well. I had (another) great visit to the Air Power Development Centre @ RNZAF Ohakea and am looking forward to doing a lot more work with them. I overnight in Ohakea this time and must comment on the standard of the rooms in the Mess, even for a casual guest like myself…my room had all the amenities necessary for someone working away from home…especially the little details like an alarm clock, towel, bathrobe, iron and ironing board, even a Do Not Disturb sign for the door and some of those little soap and shampoo thingies…all the little details that are such a PITA to lug around with you on the road…very nice…

The following morning I drove down to Wellington – catching the early bird parking deal @ the James Cook by less than two minutes – to listen in on Josh Wineera’s lecture The Contemporary Operating Environment to Victoria University’s Counter-Terrorism course; after which I delivered  Doctrine, COIN and Kilcullen (critiquing The Accidental Guerrilla). It went OK but only OK and I am really annoyed that I ran overtime (despite numerous rehearsals to the big dogs at home) and had to skim over the Kilcullen section. Hopefully I will have other opportunities to polish up my delivery for this type of work as I think that part of the problem is that I haven’t had any opportunities this year to practise let alone hone presentation skills.

I’m now converting the elements of that PowerPoint brief into a loose paper, combining the images with the accompanying words, for Jim Veitch at Vic as a record of those thoughts. I found last year that both MS Word and OpenOffice’s Writer are sub-optimumal tools for this and have opted to try this using a dedicated desktop publishing application called Scribus. It’s open source as well and like much of these open source apps has an almost vertical learning curve (the reason I uninstalled it last year) but I cracked it last night and am now making pretty good progress. The result for this project probably won’t win too many marks for prettiness as I am learning as I go but progress is progress….

You turn your back for just a second…

Exhibit 1

Exhibit #1 - authorities believe Grasshopper is just an innocent victim, in the wrong place at the wrong time...the usual suspects (both of them) are being lined up...

We had the twins for the weekend – it’s always fun but full-on and this is just a none-too-subtle reminder of how quickly they are growing up (literally)…the jar was only about one-third full when one of them swiped (the evidence is difficult to argue with) it off the kitchen bench after lunch. It was quite a good effort as they managed to keep most of the jam off themselves (something they refuse to do at actual meal times) and were only busted when the penny dropped for me that there was simply way too much jam around the house to have come from the jam on toast we had for lunch (with healthy stuff as well) in the lounge…

It’s a lesson that one can never become too complacent that little hands will not extend their reach, the guy you install as president of Afghanistan will not decide to go his own way, or that the service you dedicate 18 years to will not dump you like a hot and embarrassing potato…I refer here to the case of Royal Marine Sergeant  Mark Leader who was court martialed and dismissed, after 18 years of top quality military service five times decorated with campaign medals , after throwing a Wellington boot at a Taliban terrorist. The Taliban in question had been found burying an IED just 50 metres from base  where Leader had witnessed his best friend and two other mates blown up by an IED just prior to this.  There is more information available on the Facebook page established for this issue…

It’d be interesting to see the full facts of this case – perhaps there is way more to it that was has been reported to date – but this certainly seems to be yet another application of the perception that we, the good guys, can fight nice wars. Unfortunately the price of niceness is the blood of US and NATO soldiers…The opposite of ‘nice’ is not ‘brutal’ – it is ‘practical’ and ‘pragmatic’ – and this seems to be totally lost on British leaders who seem think this war (lower case) is simply an over-resourced exercise in flag-waving and a great gesture of unity with the US (which, after all, might be required to sail across the Atlantic and bail out the UK for a fourth time)…

Eon

I’ve just finished a great book, Greg Bear’s Eon, which is one of the main reasons that blog updates have dried up over the last few days. Carmen picked it up for me at the Sally Army shop in Hamilton for a dollar at the same time as she bought me The Star Trek yarn Garth of Izar…I must have read another Bear story in the dim dark past as I have always avoided his books for well over two decades but Eon really gripped me right from the start and I will probably have to go off and ferret out some others once the ‘have-to’ reading list gets a little shorter….

The fractal guy…

Benoit Mandelbrot’s The  (Mis)Behaviour of Markets was recommended to me as a fresh look at irregularity and uncertainty, and as such, a possible source for some out of the square illumination on the complex contemporary environment…I haven’t even got to the end of the preface and already I a. love it, b. have dredged out some really good material, and c. taken off on some wild tangential thoughts…once the employment situation becomes a little more stable, I think that this one will be a permanent addition to the library.

Kilcullen again…

The other recent tome that I have decided to add to the physical library is David Kilcullen’s The Accidental Guerrilla. I am speaking on doctrine, COIN and Kilcullen this Friday and have had to wait for the library to reloan me a copy to use as an aid for any parts of my review notes that I can’t, read or remember why I wrote what I did. Dr Kilcullen has secured a place for himself as one of the most influential figures of the last decade and as such is deserving of a place on the shelves in the study here at the Raurimu Centre for Thinking About Stuff (CTAS). He’s just released a new book but I think I’ll test read this from the library first as the abstracts for CounterInsurgency @ Oxford University Press and Small War Journal sounds a little too much like a rehash of previous works…

Ginga Ninja

Andrew Inwald released his 1/33 Yokosuka P1Y Ginga at Paper Models last week…and it surpasses even his Judy and Il-14…those who are into this sort of creative expression might want to download it just to see how it’s done…you can do that here at Paper Modelers although you will need to register and make one post on the forum to get to the downloads…

Yes, it's paper...!

In other paper news, Ken West of XB-70 Valkyrie and B-58 Hustler fame has announced the start of the design phase of a 1/32 Lockheed SR-71, although the exact model or models is still TBC e.g. A-12, YF-12A, D-21 drone carrier etc…

The Little Orange Book

I visited the Centre for Defence and Security Studies (CDSS)at Massey University a week or so ago. The nice people there loaned me a copy of Roberto J. Gonzalez’ American Counterinsurgency: Human Science and The Human Terrain so that I might gain a better understanding of those who oppose Human Terrain Systems (HTS). Gonzalez (RJG) is one of the main opponents of HTS and the application of social science techniques in counterinsurgency campaigns.

I started to read this book, The Little Orange Book, at Massey while I was waiting for a meeting to wrap up (not one that I was in!). It’s only 130 pages and I managed to chew through 80-odd then. I use the term ‘chew through’ deliberately as some of the first three chapters was pretty difficult to digest. It’s published by Prickly Paradigm Press which claims to give “…serious authors free rein to say what’s right and what’s wrong about their disciplines and about the world, including what’s never been said before…” The result, certainly in this case, is not as the Prickly Paradigm website claims “…intellectuals unbound, writing unconstrained and creative texts about meaningful matters...” This Little Orange Book, is more a soapbox for a rambling rant than a considered exposition of  RJG’s professional or intellectual opinion.

There are many logical disconnects and inconsistencies in the first three chapters and I think that some rigorous external editing could have helped make this flow and read much better. Part of the problem is that RJG does really define his objections to HTS until the last few pages of the book, forcing the increasingly frustrated reader to wonder ‘where’s this guy coming from?’.

It was a week later that I took a deep breath and dove into the second half of the book. Chapter 4 is certainly a step up from the previous chapters, possibly because I found myself in broad agreement that the US DoD is in cloud-cuckoo-wonderland in its desire for a technologically brilliant system that will take in all the relevant information and punch out all the answers for the complex environment. Maybe it will – someday – but only once a person gets off their butt, gets their boots dirty and figures out what the questions are.

Such a system might have been possible in the heyday of the Cold War when the moving parts were mainly based on platforms with easily quantifiable measurables – had the necessary computing power been available. In fact, had this system been available to Cold Warriors, it probably would have foreseen the Soviet invasion of Iceland that so surprised Pentagon planners when Tom Clancy and Larry Bond released Red Storm Rising in 1986. But the Cold War is over and, as Michael Scheiern identified in 2005, we have now shifted from platform-based tracking to tracking individuals. Not only has the number of trackable entities increased by a factor of hundreds but the individual ‘measurability’ of each entity has increased by a similar amount, and the entities lack the centralised direction inherent in platform-based conflict.

This is not to say, though, the social sciences, anthropology and HTS’ don’t have a role to play in the complex contemporary environment – anything but. What it does mean is that we will have to accept and take risk, develop and rely upon judgement to employ and apply this information. It also means that we need to evolve away from thinking of complex intelligence as being predictive in nature as it may have been around the Fulda Gap. In their place we must develop more responsive intelligence systems support responses to the largely unpredictable activities that erupt across the operating environment.

Organisations like the FBI’s Behavioural Analysis Unit are founded upon a blend of the principles and practices of social sciences and this responsive philosophy. Rarely if ever will the BAU predict the first in a series of attacks, although once on the trail of a specific adversary will often very rapidly develop accurate profiles of that adversary, be it an individual or group. Yes, I watch Bones too and am well aware of the timeless struggle between the forces of anthropology and psychology to prove which isn’t merely pseudo-science. This is a false distinction and both disciplines must work together, focusing on individuals AND groups in order to provide a commander with employable insights.

Herein lies the problem with This Little Orange Book. RJG is so intent on ring-fencing social sciences that he can not see that no science or discipline can usually function in isolation. He is so fixated on HTS in Iraq and Afghanistan that he forgets that social sciences are subject to (potential) abuse across society every day: as I remarked at Massey after reading the first half of this book, it would be interesting to compare the outputs of the schools of marketing, politics and anthropology at Massey and see whether they are more alike than different.

RJG states again and again that the deployment of HTS to support military operations breaches various understood ‘contracts’ in that social science should do no harm. He totally misses the point that, regardless of how or why these wars started, HTS might actually be doing more good than harm in adding elements of precision, if not perfection, to campaigns where blunt force may be one of the few viable options.

It is not until the Chapter Five that the readers finds the real reasons for this. RJG is making a standing on moral principle – he’s up on a political soapbox to attack the American Empire which he sees as an evil bent on taking over the world. If the evilly bad American Empire was not involved in its evil wars in the Middle East , RJG would be quite happy for social sciences to feed the same predictive machine he denounced in Chapter Four – which would of course only be used for good.

It’s ironic that an ardent proponent of social science is intent upon suborning these tools that focus upon ‘the people’ to the same technological philosophy that drove the platform focussed Cold War. Conceptually this evolved into the Powell doctrine that built upon the false lessons of the 1991 Gulf War and culminated in the ‘shock and awe’ campaigns that failed to produce the goods in Kosovo, Serbia or Iraq. RJG’s campaigns against HTS has driven the Government to seek more technical solutions towards understanding the contemporary environment and to steer away from the blindingly obvious truth.

That truth is that it’s all about people and that includes people doing (at least some of) the collection and people applying judgement to that information, raw and processed, to develop useful (timely, relevant) information. An example is the enhanced Video Text & Audio Processing (eViTAP) tool that was successfully trialed on CWID in 2007. Evitap is a very sharp tool that processes video, audio and digital files for predetermined cues that have been identified (by a person) as potential indicators of an impending incident. When those cues are identified, a person is notified in order to make a decision on actions that may or may not be taken.

Where is all goes wrong is that we have become so fixated on the technology providing the answers that we have stopped teaching people to think critically, to apply professional judgement, make a decision and run with it. By using This Little Orange Book as a soapbox for a raving rant (or ranting rave) instead of coherent consideration of the issues, RJG has actually scored more points for the technocrats and undermined his beloved social science…