This will be short. It’s a notice of sorts, my own commentary and opinion (of which there is no shortage!) on the continuing so-called ‘modernization’ of the US Military and potential pitfalls of war planners. As usual I can’t help but find myself asking is it truly poor strategic consideration or are there wolves in the hen house?
At question is the application of a concept I use to teach all of my survival, martial arts, and even music and other classes - DST. Doctrine Strategy Tactics defines training per end use goals so we can be efficient with assets such as time and other resources. For example, you wouldn’t teach classical piano to someone preparing for a jazz ensemble unless you had extra time. You wouldn’t teach MMA cage fighting to a female wanting a one day self defense survival course of lethal techniques. Likewise you wouldn’t learn lethal techniques and train weapons combat for a peace officer charged with civilian restraint until foundations were covered. And so the question of how the US Military evolves and is built is related to the end use scenario.
The United States military decided over a decade ago that the fundamental doctrine of warfighting would be relatively small engagements requiring high precision munitions near civilian populations. “Policing” of sorts would constitute much of the soldiers duty, and small, lightweight teams of elite personnel would be capable of bearing much of the mission load. Manpower needs could be met through a combination of guard and reserve units, contractors, and full time service men and women. From the beginning of this development which I observed in the 90’s, I have had concern. We are all so easily taken in by movies with daring elite soldiers, our video games revolve around “Spec Ops” and kids grow up wanting to be Navy Seals. There is nothing wrong with these incredible soldiers but the fact is they do not win wars. Not against a conventional enemy anyway.
As the US diminished its air force to under 25% of what it was only 30 years ago and planners invested in a new model of warfighting designed to combat terrorism, I have warned consistently that the real enemy is still actual armies. Bearded guys in toyota trucks with an RPG may strike “terror” into people, but the fact is terrorism at large is more useful for engineering the population and shaping domestic policy than actually defeating nation states with advanced military capability. We have grown accustomed to ‘kind war’, the type where we expect certain behavior from soldiers and governments and think our opinion is strong enough to protect civilians and infrastructure. All out war is not something my generation is familiar with in any way. And all out war is exactly what the US Military should have the responsibility of defending against. High technology is vulnerable in many ways from hacking and EMP destruction to operator error and system failure. It is an efficient investment for global contenders to find weaknesses in existing systems rather than develop their own high tech attack systems. If technology and special operations are the icing, conventional forces are the cake. The world is not subjugated and unified to the point where military doctrine and strategy can safely convert to tech based special operations and offer security against massive conventional forces.
The parade of US vehicles that drove through East Europe, intended to warn Russia and strengthen allies, was comical to me and only surfaced on my radar because I was there in person when it began.
Below is an excerpt from Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor:
“For those villagers eagerly snapping pictures on the side of a road in the Czech Republic in late September, the appearance of the line of U.S. “Stryker” armored fighting vehicles must have seemed more like a parade than a large-scale military operation. The movement of some 500-plus soldiers of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment from Vilsack in Bavaria to a Hungarian military base was intended to strengthen U.S. ties with the Czech, Slovak and Hungarian militaries and put Russia’s Vladimir Putin on notice.
But not everyone is convinced. “This Stryker parade won’t fool anyone in Moscow,” says retired Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor. “The Russians don’t do many things well, but they have been subverting, destabilizing, invading and conquering their neighbors since Peter the Great. And what’s our response: a small unit of light armored trucks.”
Viewed by many of his colleagues as one of the most innovative Army officers of his generation, Macgregor, a West Point graduate with a Ph.D. in international relations (“he can be pretty gruff,” a fellow West Point graduate says, “but he’s brilliant”), led the 2nd Cav’s “Cougar Squadron” in the best-known battle of Operation Desert Storm in February 1991. In 23 minutes, Macgregor’s force destroyed an entire Iraqi Armored Brigade (including nearly 70 Iraqi armored vehicles), while suffering a single American casualty. Speaking at a military “lessons learned” conference one year later, Air Force General Jack Welsh described the Battle of 73 Easting (named for a map coordinate) as “a stunning, overwhelming victory.”
In the wake of the battle, however, Macgregor calculated that if his unit had fought a highly trained and better armed enemy, like the Russians, the outcome would have been different.
In early September he circulated a PowerPoint presentation showing that in a head-to-head confrontation pitting the equivalent of a U.S. armored division against a likely Russian adversary, the U.S. division would be defeated.
“Defeated isn’t the right word,” Macgregor told me last week. “The right word is annihilated.” The 21-slide presentation features four battle scenarios, all of them against a Russian adversary in the Baltics — what one currently serving war planner on the Joint Chiefs staff calls “the most likely warfighting scenario we will face outside of the Middle East.”
Macgregor isn’t doubting our men and women or their resolve. He is critiquing the fundamental organization of the US Army which has evolved against terrorist threats in recent decades and slowly, steadily, reduced preparedness for a more traditional war with trained regular armies. At the same time our infrastructure has become more reliant on fragile technology and the population less resilient, aware, and capable of weathering periods of conflict and scarcity. At the end of the day the result goes back to an old concept I once argued in a college class - equality equals violence. That is, between dogs leading a pack, between kids on a playground, between nations - dominance creates peace. The moment a hostile Bravo pack member senses he can take the Alpha position, a fight ensues. If the contestants are unequal the fight is quick. If the contestants are truly matched then the conflict is highly destructive and engulfs the area. In modern military terms this means nuclear weapons. As always, after writing a sobering report on unpalatable realities which modern philosophy would spurn as obsolete and less evolved, I only hope the possible outcomes are for the highest good. I hope the idealism of the modern mind can bear fruit and we can avert disaster through communication, clever leadership and foreign policy. I can’t help but feel that like the wolfpack humans haven’t changed that much.
Spencer Bolejack directs LOTSWild school / martial academy and Full Spectrum Tactical in western North Carolina. Both are geared toward civilian education and training. Bolejack offers year round classes for all ages in Canton and Black Mountain. For more information visit www.lotswild.com and fullspectrumtactical.org
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