Authors Referenced Works Specific Recent Circumstances Discussed That Have Changed the Nature of Warfare Term Paper

Pages: 15 (4069 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Military


The More War Changes

War is always the same. And it is always changing. The basic goals of warfare -- to capture territory and resources, to reduce the enemy's ability to fight through whatever means necessary, including the killing off of enemy combatants, to ensure that defeat will be lasting -- have been in place since the very first people began throwing stones at each other tens of thousands of years ago. But the details of each war are so different that both to those fighting each new war and to those observing it, the entire nature of warfare can seem transformed. This paper examines three recent guides to the nature of how warfare has changed over the last generation and what it means in the current political, economic, and military climate for the United States to be enjoyed in combat against its enemies.

The first of these texts is the U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual by General David Petraeus and helped to fill a gap that had existed for decades. Looking back, it is hard to imagine why the United States military had not pushed to have such a summary of counterinsurgency tactics and strategy created before given the fact that all of the wars since World War II -- and especially the war in Vietnam -- had been heavily based on counterinsurgency tactics, tactics that had time and again left the United States at a disadvantage.

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However, at the time that Petraeus wrote this manual, the tactics that the U.S. military were using, and were recognizing in opposing forces, were outdated at best, essentially based in 19th century rules of warfare in which those rules were at least seemingly more clearcut.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Authors Referenced Works Specific Recent Circumstances Discussed That Have Changed the Nature of Warfare Assignment

Petraeus, like all educated military leaders, acknowledges that there has always been an insurgency element in warfare just as there has always been something of a blurring of the line between civilian and military. However, this basic acknowledgement did not help the United States when it invaded Iraq in 2003. That war would require an army that was capable of changing and adapting quickly and that would require integration with both foreign forces and foreign civilians in complex ways.

Petraeus based the manual (which was actually a collaborative effort among a number of military experts) on this doctrine of flexibility. That flexibility was based in large measure on decentralized decision-making, a fundamentally radical shift for an institution that defines hierarchy. Part of what both required and permitted that level of decentralization was that military strategy would be based on intelligence gathering. That intelligence gathering, in turn, was based on a concerted and consistent push to understand the culture and power dynamics of the communities where they were fighting.

In the Foreward, Petraus defines what he means by a counterinsurgency doctrine and why, in the face of counterinsurgency pressures in the field, flexibility in leadership and tactics is essential if the U.S. military is to have any chance of making significant progress in any of the conflicts in which it is now engaged and in which it is likely to become engaged over the next decades and indeed for the rest of this century.

Petraeus writes that the kind of counterinsurgency campaign that he believes it is necessary for the U.S. military to be able to engage is requires a "mix of offensive, defensive, and stability operations, conducted along multiple lines of operation," a combination that requires service members "employ a mix of both familiar combat tasks and skills more often associated with nonmilitary agencies, with the balance between them varying depending on the local situation."

This is not easy. Leaders at all levels must adjust their approach constantly, ensuring that their elements are ready each day to be greeted with a handshake or a hand grenade, to take on missions only infrequently practiced until recent years at our combat training centers, to be nation builders as well as warriors, to help re-establish institutions and local security forces, to assist in the rebuilding of infrastructure and basic services, and to facilitate the establishment of local governance and the rule of law (Petraeus, 2006)

Petraeus is careful not to trivialize the difficulty of such a task, of the dramatic ways in which both the leadership and the ground forces of the Army and Marines must shift from the ways in which they had become accustomed to doing things.

Indeed, the responsibilities of leaders in a counterinsurgency campaign are daunting -- and the discussions in this manual endeavor to alert them to the challenges of such campaigns and to suggest general approaches for grappling with those challenges. Conducting a successful counterinsurgency campaign thus requires a flexible, adaptive force led by agile, well-informed, culturally astute leaders. It is our hope that this manual provides the necessary guidelines to succeed in such a campaign, in operations that, inevitably, are exceedingly difficult and complex. Our Soldiers and Marines deserve nothing less. (Petraeus, 2006)

Petraeus also argues in the manual that not only does the maintenance of power require the top leaders to delegate some of that power, but sometimes the most effective way to protect American troops in the field is to relax some of the most obvious forms of protection. Tactics based on the realities of counterinsurgency fighting are replete with at-least seeming contradictions, such as the above. Another one at least as paradoxical and counter to long-standing military practice is that fact that sometimes pushing back against enemy forces is the worst response: Sometimes a show of force simply produces nothing more than a return show of greater force with nothing gained. Sometimes the most effective response is simply to stay put, to stand pat.

One of the most important innovations in the manual is Petraeus's emphasis on the importance of understanding the motivation of the opposition. This is something that has all-too-often been left out of military strategy. One of the casualties of war is that sophisticated understanding of "the enemy" tend to go by the wayside, replaced by simple caricatures and stereotypes. While the psychological power of such stereotypes is certainly formidable, the result is that the U.S. forces have sometimes been left with too little insight into the goals and motivations of those they are fighting.

This lack of insight can be crippling, Petraeus writes, especially in an era in which new forms of counterinsurgency are constantly evolving. He addresses this issue in the first chapter of the manual, arguing that the contemporary political and military environment "features a new kind of globalized insurgency, represented by Al Qaeda." This new kind of counterinsurgency has had an unprecedented success in integrating the local and the global by seeking "to transform the Islamic world and reorder its relationship with the rest of the globe," linking "link disparate conflicts through globalized communications, finances, and technology." Petraeus emphasizes that this strategy is ancient with its combination of subversion, propaganda, and military force, while also emphasizing that the scale on which this can be carried out in today's world, especially because of improved global communications technology.

Petraeus creates a typology of different forms of counterinsurgency that troops as well as military brass can use to help them determine the motivations and potential strategies of their opponents. This was something that had not been done before and that clearly distinguishes this manual from previous U.S. military efforts. Until such a typology was put into place, U.S. officials were often stymied by being unable to distinguish among different types of enemy forces.

Each insurgency is unique, although there may be similarities among them. In all cases, the insurgents' aim is to force political change; any military action is secondary and subordinate, a means to an end.

Few insurgencies fit neatly into any rigid classification. Examining the specific type of insurgency one faces enables commanders and staffs to build a more accurate picture of the insurgents and the thinking behind their overall campaign plan (Petraeus, 2007)

His typology made the following distinctions, urging officer to consider in each case all of the following factors about each insurgency:

Root cause or causes of the insurgency.

Extent to which it enjoys support, both internally and externally.

Bases on which insurgents appeal to the target population.

Insurgents' motivation and depth of commitment.

Likely insurgent weapons and tactics.

Operational environment in which insurgents seek to initiate and develop their campaign. (Petraeus, 2007)

Petraeus's manual focuses on the nuts and bolts of how the armed forces can respond in ways that are in the best interests of the United States as a whole. This includes providing both the best military and the best civilian skills too. Petraeus has the authority, which he has used to great good in this manual, to push for progress and change.

As the world tumbles forward into the second decade of the 21st century, everything about the ways in which war is waged (including the way that the U.S. wins the "hearts and minds" of those in the borderlands of the civilian-military… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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