21 September 2009

Around the Milblogosphere…

Okay, it's the end of the deployment, and things are getting relatively busy. I won't go too in-depth into these links—but I feel obliged to pass some of these along to you.

  • Your "Universal Camouflage Pattern Sucks" link of the day brought to you by the Small Wars Council. Today we examine one of the interesting design features of the UCP—its lack of the color black, due to the fact that the designers claim that it is not found in nature. This post comes complete with a picture of a Soldier in a typical woodland environment which proves how grossly inaccurate this statement is.
  • Acolytes of John Boyd are familiar with using texts from Samurai fighters such as Miyamoto Musashi (A Book of Five Rings) in order to train their minds for battle and gain strategic insight. However, it hasn't become common place in the US military—until now (Time Magazine reports, courtesy of Jenna).
  • World Affairs Journal ran a recent article (featuring commentary from Col. Gian Gentile), entitled "The Birth of Modern Counterinsurgency", regarding the re-discovered art of counterinsurgency in the US military. Amazingly enough, it argues that the attention paid to counterinsurgency was even greater in the 1950s and 60s than it is today—particularly in light of Maoist-style insurgencies in Vietnam, China, Algeria, Greece, and other hot-spots throughout the world.
  • An article in Columbia Journalism Review entitled "Forgetting Iraq" discusses the near-disappearance of Iraq in the local news. It also brings up some interesting points about journalism in Iraq. Namely, that Public Affairs Officers (and to a lesser extent, many military officers) have trouble truly getting a lot of valuable human intelligence and news due to the extraordinary force protection measures they are forced to put up with. Journalists, on the other hand, aren't always subjected to as many force protection measures, and thus, can report on stories that the military's public affairs units can't.
  • Don't rely on pundits to tell you what General Stanley McChrystal will ask for in Afghanistan—read the McChrystal report (de-classified) for yourself. In the hustle, I haven't been able to read this yet, but it should be a valuable document.
  • Also check out a summary of President Obama's latest interview regarding Afghanistan with CNN's State of the Union. Some select quotes from the summary at DefenseLink:

The president acknowledged what he called "mission creep" in Afghanistan where the United States is tied up in missions there that are not directly tied to defeating al-Qaeda. He said there is a better chance of finding and killing bin Laden if the mission is refocused and the overarching strategy is bent on defeating al-Qaeda.

Any request for more troops will be weighed against this strategy, he said.

"There's a natural inclination to say if 'I get more then I can do more.' But right now the first question is 'Are we doing the right thing? Are we pursuing the right strategy," Obama said in an interview with CNN's State of the Union.

Before he commits any additional troops, Obama said he wants a new strategy in place. This will come as the administration weighs in the outcome of the Afghanistan election review, as well as a resource request expected from McChrystal in the next few weeks.

"If by sending young men and women into harm's way we are defeating al-Qaeda, and that can be shown to a skeptical audience, namely me … then we do what is required to keep the American people safe," the president said on ABC. "You don't make decisions about resources before you have the strategy right."

Wow, it's as if he's been reading Small Wars Journal! I particularly like how President Obama is concentrating on strategy first, and crafting the operational framework to match, instead of the other way around like a number of COINdinistas seem to be doing.

On CBS' Face the Nation, Obama said that rebuilding the government in Afghanistan, and working with the government of Pakistan, are both critical elements of securing Afghanistan, but at the core of the strategy should be efforts to "dismantle, defeat and destroy al-Qaeda."

"The only reason I send a single young man or woman in uniform anywhere in the world is because I think it's necessary to keep us safe," he said. "Whatever decisions I make are going to be based first on a strategy to keep us safe, and then we'll figure out how to resource it. We're not going to put the cart before the horse and just think that by sending more troops we're automatically going to make Americans safe."

Obama called the war in Afghanistan "complicated terrain," and he said any strategy would be reviewed every six months to ensure it was on the right track.

On NBC's Meet the Press, the president said he did not have a deadline for withdrawal from Afghanistan, but that he did not believe in an indefinite military presence in the country.

Obama said that any continued military efforts in Afghanistan should align with the overall national security interests of the United States.

"How does this advance America's national security interests? How does it make sure that al-Qaeda and its extremist allies cannot attack the United States homeland, our allies, our troops who are based in Europe? That's the question that I am constantly asking because that's the primary threat that we went there to deal with," he said.

Systemic Operational Design, anyone?

If supporting the Afghan national government and helping build capacity for their army advances that strategy, then the United States will move forward, Obama said.

"But if it doesn't, then I'm not interested in just being in Afghanistan for the sake of being in Afghanistan or saving face or, in some way … sending a message that America is here for the duration. I think it's important that we match strategy to resources," Obama said.

This, my friends, is the beginnings of strategic thinking at work.


karakapend said...

Thanks for the link to the McChrystal memo.

Regarding the second Obama quote, I'm still struggling with reconciling SOD with Objective 3b in the benchmarks memo (link just in case). If the goal the administration is articulating is to craft a strategy that makes effective use of our resources within Afghanistan, working towards the security of the US & Allies and disabling al-Qaeda, but one measure by which that goal is reached is to implement a level of political legitimacy within Aghanistan istelf...it seems like the one has less to do with the other. Even if the interests of effectively disabling al-Qaeda interlocute with the efforts in partnership with the Afghan governemnt, the legitimacy of that government isn't a de facto measurement of the lack of success of al-Qaeda.

Still working on thoughts. But that's the initial one, anyway.

Eric C said...

Nice link dump. I'll be tweeting this.