The dominant theme of this blog, “Arguing the Operational Environment,” has been to establish the importance of understanding the full range of sociopolitical and ethical factors that compose the environment wherein we apply military force to accomplish military and political objectives.
This appreciation requires first an understanding that while we–as a military force–develop objective-strewn lines of effort and lines of operation to realize desired end states, so too are many other agents in the environment crafting strategies to realize end states. Moreover, other systems, whether human, man-made, or natural, also exert various types of accidental and intentional agency on the battlefield, and it is the naive officer who presumes that, if we do everything according to plan, the probability of success is in our favor. It is a simple fact that our campaign plans tend to depict only us (the military force) and them (the adversary or, what is more questionable, its center of gravity), thereby leaving it to the officers’ and our Unified Action partners’ imaginations or surprise to see what else might disrupt our campaign plans.
This appreciation requires also that, if we are to operate in the midst of nonmilitary/sociopolitical factors, then professional military education should contribute to the cultivation of this understanding. Hence, I advocate for a closer relationship between scholars and military professionals, particularly during the time that military professionals are in school. Civilian scholars are writing every day about the sorts of factors and operations that we–as troopers–must consider and execute. However, we–as military professionals–seldom, if ever, consult these literatures relating to interstate war, civil wars, insurgencies, ethnic conflict, humanitarian interventions, economic development, etc.
General Odierno, the U.S. Army Chief of Staff, has a piece in the current issue of Foreign Affairs that is relevant to some of the foregoing themes. He explains how we–as an army–must posture ourselves with respect to (a) smaller budgets, (b) pivoting to the Pacific, and (c) a broader mission set. His opening paragraph is:
After six months as chief of staff, I can see clearly that the coming decade will be a vital period of transition for the U.S. Army. The service will have to adjust to three major changes: declining budgets, due to the country’s worsened fiscal situation; a shift in emphasis to the Asia-Pacific region; and a broadening of focus from counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, and training of partners to shaping the strategic environment, preventing the outbreak of dangerous regional conflicts, and improving the army’s readiness to respond in force to a range of complex contingencies worldwide.
I encourage you to read the entire piece. For now, I post three excerpts of relevance to the theme of my blog. The question to keep in mind as you read the excerpts is: To what extent is our military doctrine-focused PME contributing to an in-depth appreciation of the factors General Odierno describes below?
(i) “The army will also make sure it firmly embeds one of the most costly lessons it has learned over the last decade: how to deal with the challenge of hybrid warfare. In the future, it will be increasingly common for the army to operate in environments with both regular military and irregular paramilitary or civilian adversaries, with the potential for terrorism, criminality, and other complications.”
(ii) “Advanced technology and the information revolution have fundamentally altered the battlefield. Now, any activity a soldier undertakes can rapidly evolve into a combination of combat, governance, and civil support missions, and any individual, military or civilian, can alter the trajectory of an operation with the push of a button on a cell phone.”
(iii) “Finally, the army needs to prepare for doing many different things well. In addition to combat of all kinds, possible operations in the next several years will include everything from helping victims of a flood to restoring order in a collapsed state with large-scale criminal activity, violence, and perhaps even unconventional weaponry.”
Celestino Perez, Jr., Ph.D.
Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army Strategist
Seminar Leader: ILE Scholars Program on the “Local Dynamics of War”