Author Topic: Strategic Policy: Global War on Terror  (Read 1047 times)

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Offline Journeyman

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Strategic Policy: Global War on Terror
« on: January 22, 2019, 10:25:12 »
We have several threads on terrorism, which generally focus upon either Jihadist and Extreme Right/Anarchist forms, and not overarching counter-terrorism thinking. This thread has therefore been opened based on the attached article, which addresses higher-level strategic thoughts on our [poorly named] "Global War on Terror," and why we're losing.  While many of their examples are drawn from Iraq and Afghanistan, the premise holds true across the spectrum of motivations for terrorism and our responses.

Quote
David Betz and Hugo Stanford-Tuck, “Teaching Your Enemy to Win”, Infinity Journal, Vol. 6, No. 3, (Winter 2019), pages 16-22.
LINK  [Note: you must register to read Infinity Journal articles, but there's no charge]

Abstract:  The recent poor performance of the West in the various expeditionary campaigns of the Global war on Terror is often explained as a case of good tactics let down by bad strategy. We argue differently. The situation, in fact, is that our tactics are also poor and strategy is essentially irrelevant because the policy that it is meant to serve is nonsensical. It is bad strategy and poor tactics to engage in conflicts that are doomed to failure from the outset— and immoral to boot. The object of war ought to be the creation of a better peace, for that is all that can justify the violent infliction of death and destruction which is its metier. We, though, go through the motions of war but without conviction or plausible aim. In the process we teach our most highly motivated enemies a thousand tactical lessons and one gigantic strategic one: how to win, against us.

It's an interesting article, and many here can likely share the point attributed to General Leslie (yes, Canadian content): "I often get asked… why are you there? We’re there because you sent us. As a soldier, it’s not my job to explain why you sent us. Soldiers don’t do that. We tell you what we’re doing, we tell you how we’re doing it, but we should not be in the position of explaining to the people of Canada why we’re there. The responsibility for that lies with the political leadership and those who sent us."
[Quoted from David Betz, Communications Breakdown: Strategic Communications and Defeat in Afghanistan’, Orbis, Vol. 55, No. 4 (Fall 2011), p. 619].


Mods: if there's a suitable thread already up and running, feel free to merge this.

There’s nothing more maddening than debating someone who doesn’t know history, doesn’t read books, and frames their myopia as virtue. The level of unapologetic conjecture I’ve encountered lately isn’t just frustrating, it’s retrogressive, unprecedented, and absolutely terrifying.
~Chris Evans

Offline Old Sweat

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Re: Strategic Policy: Global War on Terror
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2019, 14:00:45 »
Thanks for that.

I would appreciate your thoughts on trying to transfer a strategy that worked in one set of circumstance to another completely different theatre. The bug may have been planted in my brain by Sir Robert Thompson, who addressed my staff college course back in 1971. At the time the Americans were trying to use the strategy that had worked for the Brits in Malaya to Vietnam. Sir Robert suggested, as far as I can remember, that this was unlikely to work because the physical conditions, and the society, and the standard of the civil institutions, were too different.

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Re: Strategic Policy: Global War on Terror
« Reply #2 on: January 23, 2019, 10:49:30 »
I think there a couple of problems with trying to apply a "strategy" to different conflicts. 

Firstly, western doctrine writers often attempt to codify 'lessons learned' into overly simplistic, check-list format.*  The result quite often conflates tactics with operational art with a complete disconnect from strategy; the 'DS solution' seldom includes the necessary higher-level policy input -- which includes back-and-forth discussions between political and military leadership of what is achievable, at what cost, to what degree will the requirements be provided, etc.... Providing a one-liner of guidance from 'two levels higher' seldom meets the aim.

Sir Robert Thompson's out-of-print book, No Exit From Vietnam,  lays out his argument specifically regarding transferring UK Malayan experience to the US efforts in Vietnam.  In addition to the points you raise about cultures, institutions etc, he's pretty scathing about how the US cherry-picked what they wanted to apply.  In the end, the American campaigns devolved into simple attrition warfare emphasizing their technological advantages -- bombers and naval blockade -- which proved less effective than Robert McNamara's Ford Motor Co, bean-counting methodology forecast.

We're seeing a similar recurrence in Mali, where I have yet to find any coherent, agreed upon strategy.  The Malian President proclaimed the problem to be simply Jihadist terrorism, completely denying any other factors: disaffected, illiterate/unemployed youth, food shortages, military oppression against differing ethnicities, crime & corruption, etc, etc.  France and the US in particular are more than happy to play 'insurgent wack-a-mole,' much to the frustrations of MINUSMA HQ staff (including Canadians) who are trying to get anyone  to effectively address the other, underlying issues.

I think overall though, the problem is more clearly addressed in a separate article in the Infinity Journal  volume initially cited:  Colin S. Gray, "Can Strategy be Taught?"  He argues that while strategy is informed by tactical and operational choice and behaviour,  strategy itself cannot be taught.  He doesn't come right out an say it, but there appears to be an underlying assumption that because tactics and operational art can be taught, strategic thinking is wrongly assumed to be simply more of the same with a bigger hand on a smaller map (with the assumption that the civilian political leadership will be equally informed and contributory to the process).

* A separate point may be some of the people we post in as doctrine writers.  I watched the initial draft of Canada's COIN doctrine get handed off to two staff officers:  the Anglophile officer deleted every example or lesson that was not British;  the Int O essentially replaced the entire Int chapter with a rehashed explanation of the Int Cycle.  It's since been revisited, but it remains overly simplified and lacks the aforementioned political/strategic requirement, I guess so that "mere" Combat Arms people can understand.



Kind of a long-winded 'stream-of-consciousness' response, but I hope my point got across.   ;D

There’s nothing more maddening than debating someone who doesn’t know history, doesn’t read books, and frames their myopia as virtue. The level of unapologetic conjecture I’ve encountered lately isn’t just frustrating, it’s retrogressive, unprecedented, and absolutely terrifying.
~Chris Evans

Offline Old Sweat

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Re: Strategic Policy: Global War on Terror
« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2019, 12:15:45 »
Thank you. You summed up what I have long thought is a weakness in internal security, counter-insurgency, or what ever you want to call it theory.

Offline Thucydides

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Re: Strategic Policy: Global War on Terror
« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2019, 13:57:12 »
This is entirely correct. There is no "strategy", not even a real understanding of what terrorism is or what motivates or activates people into becoming terrorists.

I suspect that the only real way to deal with this is to completely reshape the forces tasked to deal with terrorism into something more resembling antibodies in the body politic, and capable of engaging at all levels, including political, economic, cognitive and so on. This is likely to resemble the Chinese idea of "unlimited warfare", engaging at all levels and at all times to paralyze and overwhelm the enemy before they an take action.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline tomahawk6

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Re: Strategic Policy: Global War on Terror
« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2019, 22:27:44 »
The real issue is terrorism a police issue or a military one ? Or both ? In Paris I think its a police problem.But in Afghanistan or Syria its a military problem. If the goal of the enemy is global jihad then its guerrilla war. There can be no negotiation. People are being brainwashed just as the communists were determined to take over the world. Yet they failed. They could not outspend us. Ideology was something we could confront but a religion is something we have trouble confronting, although the Brits dealt with it in Ireland effectively.

Offline Thucydides

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Re: Strategic Policy: Global War on Terror
« Reply #6 on: January 25, 2019, 00:37:45 »
The real issue is terrorism a police issue or a military one ? Or both ? In Paris I think its a police problem.But in Afghanistan or Syria its a military problem. If the goal of the enemy is global jihad then its guerrilla war. There can be no negotiation. People are being brainwashed just as the communists were determined to take over the world. Yet they failed. They could not outspend us. Ideology was something we could confront but a religion is something we have trouble confronting, although the Brits dealt with it in Ireland effectively.


Trying to understand what we are dealing with and the multi faceted way they are operating is why I was using the "antibody" metaphor, or the Chinese Unrestricted Warfare model. The only current way that I am aware of that seems to be very effective at targeting insurgent forces is "Attack the Network" (AtN) which was developed or at least brought to fruition by General Stanley McChrystal. The combination of all source information fusion and being able to attack insurgents at all kinds of levels (bagging couriers and money men was just as important as vapourizing actual shooters) certainly dismantled much of the AQ in Iraq infrastructure and their ability to operate, however, my understanding of the model is it is very resource intensive and highly centralized. This may limit its applicability, particularly given the time lag in setting up intelligence and sensor networks, joint and interagency groups and especially processing data and developing workable information out of it.

And AtN likely requires even more "inputs" like highly detailed understanding of religious and social backgrounds, intensive link analysis across all kinds of domains and huge amounts of HUMINT. Getting quick or getting good seem to be opposing goals in AtN methodology.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline tomahawk6

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Re: Strategic Policy: Global War on Terror
« Reply #7 on: January 25, 2019, 00:58:19 »
The US Army is trying to develop a gun that can fire at targets 1000 miles away. This might make artillery a strategic weapon if those targets were ships or islnda in the south China Sea.

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Re: Strategic Policy: Global War on Terror
« Reply #8 on: January 25, 2019, 09:36:38 »
The US Army is trying to develop a gun that can fire at targets 1000 miles away. This might make artillery a strategic weapon if those targets were ships or islnda in the south China Sea.
Is there some implied relevance to counterterrorism policy?   ???
There’s nothing more maddening than debating someone who doesn’t know history, doesn’t read books, and frames their myopia as virtue. The level of unapologetic conjecture I’ve encountered lately isn’t just frustrating, it’s retrogressive, unprecedented, and absolutely terrifying.
~Chris Evans

Offline daftandbarmy

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Re: Strategic Policy: Global War on Terror
« Reply #9 on: January 27, 2019, 14:22:12 »
Is there some implied relevance to counterterrorism policy?   ???

Yes. It's time we took the GWOT out of the hands of the Air Force drone program and give it to the Artillery :)
"The most important qualification of a soldier is fortitude under fatigue and privation. Courage is only second; hardship, poverty and want are the best school for a soldier." Napoleon

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Re: Strategic Policy: Global War on Terror
« Reply #10 on: January 28, 2019, 08:14:59 »
Yes. It's time we took the GWOT out of the hands of the Air Force drone program and give it to the Artillery :)
:facepalm:  (unless you simply forgot the 'sarcasm' emoji ...then it's still   :facepalm: )

         ;D
There’s nothing more maddening than debating someone who doesn’t know history, doesn’t read books, and frames their myopia as virtue. The level of unapologetic conjecture I’ve encountered lately isn’t just frustrating, it’s retrogressive, unprecedented, and absolutely terrifying.
~Chris Evans

Offline daftandbarmy

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Re: Strategic Policy: Global War on Terror
« Reply #11 on: January 28, 2019, 09:54:18 »
:facepalm:  (unless you simply forgot the 'sarcasm' emoji ...then it's still   :facepalm: )

         ;D

Yeah, I forgot  :sarcasm:

'War Tourism' is never a great counter-insurgency approach, unless you just want to keep kicking the Hornet's nest of course.

For example, if you were to ask what the strategy for 'victory' in Northern Ireland was, I'm sure that national survival was in there somewhere. It didn't help though that the overall strategy changed all the time, and was a complete screw up on a continual basis for a couple of decades until the terrorists adopted a 'bullet and ballot box' policy, having failed to win the tactical war outright, which fortunately pushed them into the political sphere.
"The most important qualification of a soldier is fortitude under fatigue and privation. Courage is only second; hardship, poverty and want are the best school for a soldier." Napoleon