2 November 2012

Your Favorite Army General Actually Sucks

October 31, 2012

Gen. George Casey, left, the retired Iraq commander turned Army chief of staff, is one of the villains of Tom Ricks’ new history of the modern Army, The Generals. Photo: U.S. Army

The U.S. Army only seems impressive. Yes, it’s got plenty of tactically competent and physically heroic enlisted soldiers and low-ranking officers. But its generals are, on the whole, crappy, according to a new book that’s sure to spark teeth-gnashing within the Army.

That book is The Generals, the third book about the post-9/11 military by Tom Ricks, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security and the Washington Post’s former chief military correspondent. Scheduled to be released on Tuesday, The Generals is a surprisingly scathing historical look into the unmaking of American generalship over six decades, culminating in what Ricks perceives as catastrophic failures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The basic problem is that no one gets fired. Ricks points back to a system that the revered General George Marshall put into place during World War II: unsuccessful officers — defined very, very liberally — were rapidly sacked, especially on the front lines of Europe. Just as importantly, though, getting relieved of command didn’t end a general’s career. Brig. Gen. “Hanging Sam” Williams, was removed as the assistant commander of the 90th Infantry Division in western France in 1944 for lacking “optimism and a calming nature” in the view of his superior. Six years later, Williams commanded the 25th Infantry Division in Korea and retired as a three-star. Marshall’s approach simultaneously held generals accountable for battlefield failures while avoiding a zero-defect culture that stifled experimentation.

Over the course of six decades, Ricks demonstrates at length, the Army abandoned Marshall’s system. It led to a culture of generalship where generals protected the Army from humiliation — including, in an infamous case, Maj. Gen. Samuel Koster covering up the massacre of civilians at My Lai — more than they focused on winning wars. On the eve of Vietnam, “becoming a general was now akin to winning a tenured professorship,” Ricks writes, “liable to be removed not for professional failure but only for embarrassing one’s institution with moral lapses.”

It’s not an airtight case. Ricks is sometimes at pains to explain why good generals who probably should have been fired under Marshall weren’t (George Patton) or why adaptive generals later on weren’t driven out of the Army (David Petraeus). And it’s overstated to blame dumb wars on dumb generals. But the fact is, the Army almost never fires generals for cause, unlike the Navy, to the point where a lieutenant colonel famously wrote in frustration during the Iraq war that a private who loses a rifle is more likely to be disciplined than a general who loses a war.

Ricks explains how it got to be that way. And it’s something the Army has to reckon with as it deals with its future now that its decade of perpetual warfare is ending, and ending inconclusively. He spoke with Danger Room right before The Generals dropped its bomb on the Army.

Danger Room: So how poor are today’s Army generals? What percentage of them would you say need to be fired outright? Is the public wrong for seeing the Army as an uber-competent institution, a learning organization and a meritocracy?

Tom Ricks: The U.S. Army is a great institution — tactically. Our soldiers today are well-trained, well-motivated, cohesive, and fairly well equipped.

But training is for the known. For the unknown, education is required. You need to teach your senior leaders how to address problems full of uncertainty and ambiguity, and from them, fashion a strategy. And then be able to tell whether it is working, and to adjust if it isn’t.

Gen. George C. Marshall, right, fired a ton of WWII-era generals — but also gave them second and third chances. Tom Ricks praises that forgotten system for cultivating the excellence of generals like Dwight D. Eisenhower, left. Photo: U.S. Army

Our generals today are not particularly well-educated in strategy. Exhibit A is Tommy Franks, who thought it was a good idea to push Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda from Afghanistan into Pakistan, a larger country that also possesses nuclear weapons. Franks also thought that he had won when he took the enemy’s capital in Afghanistan and Iraq — when in fact that is when the wars really began.

When generals don’t know what to do strategically, they tend to regress back down to what they know, which is tactical. That’s one reason why in Vietnam you saw colonels and generals hovering over company commanders giving orders. It is also why our generals were so slow to adapt in Iraq. By the time they became operationally effective, it was 2007, and we had been fighting in Iraq for nearly four years, longer than we had during all of World War II.

What percentage of them need to be fired? All those who fail. That is how George Marshall ran the Army during World War II. Failures were sacked, which is why no one knows nowadays who Lloyd Fredendall was. Successful generals were promoted — which is why why we know names of younger officers of the time such as Eisenhower, Ridgway and Gavin. This was a tough-minded, Darwinian system that reinforced success. Mediocre wasn’t enough back then. It is now, apparently. Back in World War II, a certain percentage of generals were expected to be fired. It was seen as a sign that the system was working as expected.

DR: How would George Marshall’s system of relieving failing generals and placing them in remedial positions work today? Wouldn’t a relief inevitably be seen as an irredeemable black mark?
‘All those who fail need to be fired.’

TR: Relief today is indeed a black mark. The system only works if relief is so frequent that it isn’t seen as a career-ender. Of the 155 men who commanded Army divisions in combat during World War II, 16 were fired. Of those, five were given other divisions to command in combat later in the war. Many others who were fired got good staff jobs, or trained divisions back home.

That said, Marshall was pretty hardnosed about this. He didn’t run the Army for the benefit of its officers. In a war for democracy, he wrote, the needs of the enlisted came first. He believed that the Army owed its soldiers competent leadership. That was not the case with the Army in Vietnam, where officers were rotated in quickly to get some time in combat command and then rotated out.

DR: Isn’t it too simplistic to blame bad generalship for lost wars and good generalship for successful ones? Tommy Franks may have been “dull and arrogant,” as you write, but he didn’t decide to invade Iraq; David Petraeus may have been his polar opposite, but Afghanistan is in shambles.

TR: Yes, it would be too simplistic. That’s why the major second theme of the book is the need for good discourse between our top generals and their civilian overseers.

By good discourse, I don’t mean everyone getting along. I mean dialogue that welcomes candor, honesty, and clarity, and is guided so it does two key things: explore assumptions and dig into differences. For example, the Vietnam War was guided on the assumption that the enemy had a breaking point and that it would come before ours. Turns out that was wrong. Likewise, the 1991 Gulf War was run on the assumption that giving Saddam Hussein a good thumping would remove him from power. Didn’t happen.

I came away from the book thinking that the quality of civil-military discourse is one of the few leading indicators you have of how well a war will go. George Marshall was not the natural choice for Army chief of staff (Hugh Drum probably was) but FDR picked him in part because Marshall twice had stood up to Roosevelt in the Oval Office, respectfully but forcefully dissenting on key military issues.

DR: Isn’t relieving generals when they’re generals too late? Why shouldn’t the relieves and reassignments you describe in the book come earlier in their tenures as officers? Or can you really teach a general new tricks?
‘We shouldn’t fight our wars based on what the cool kids think.’

TR: Yes. And yes — if generals see that getting promoted requires some prudent risk-taking, some adaptation, they will do so and learn those tricks. But they won’t if they see that cautious mediocrity is rewarded equally.

DR: Can you make up your mind about Gen. Ray Odierno already? He was a villain in your first book about the Iraq war, a hero in your second, and now he’s a villain again, for giving one of his subordinate commanders a slap on the wrist for obstructing an inquiry into his soldiers’ abuse of Iraqis. Is Odierno fit to serve as Army chief of staff?

DR: I am of two minds about Gen. Odierno. I do think he screwed up when he commanded the 4th Infantry Division early in the Iraq war. But the bottom line is he adapted. You got to learn to live with a little ambiguity, Spencer!

DR: You write that “It seems a good bet that there will not be a ‘Petraeus generation’ of generals.” I took that to mean a more competent and far-sighted general officer corps, but you might also have meant one steeped in counterinsurgency. If you mean the former, why shouldn’t we expect one, since Petraeus remains a remarkably influential figure in the Army even to soldiers who never served under him? If you mean the latter, why is that something to lament? There’s an argument to be made that one of the reasons Afghanistan remains a mess is because the Army and Marines drank the counterinsurgency Kool-Aid too deeply.

TR: Nah, I mean competent, adaptive generals. But one aspect of being adaptive is being able to think critically. I think COIN worked for Petraeus during the surge, but it was a very tough-minded, violent COIN strategy. And it involved risk-taking — like Petraeus striking a private ceasefire with the Sunni insurgents and putting 100,000 of them on the American payroll, and doing it all without asking permission from President Bush.

An aside on COIN: It was in fashion a few years ago. It is out of fashion now. But we shouldn’t fight our wars based on what the cool kids think. We should use what works, and be willing to try other things if what we try doesn’t work. That’s my gripe with Petraeus’ predecessor in Iraq, George Casey [who later became Army chief of staff].


Is Army 'Design' methodology over-designed? There are trust issues, too

Posted By Thomas E. Ricks Thursday, November 1, 2012 

By Richard Buchanan

Best Defense office of mission command

Currently there is a raging debate in the Force over Army Design Methodology (ADM) which the field has shortened to simply "Design." Design is being currently taught to selected officers attending the School of Advanced Studies (SAMS), the War College, and in a general population Design training course developed and taught by Booz Allen Hamilton (BAH). There is currently not a single course teaching Design to NCOs and or Army Civilians other than the course offered by BAH. There is as well a ongoing debate as to whether Design is strictly for the Strategic and Operational levels and should not be used at the Tactical level.

If one researches ADM you will see it defined and explained in ADRP 5.0 in roughly eight pages complete with terms and charts which attempt to describe the process. In further research of ADRP 5.0 you will see that the discussion of Design and military decision-making (MDMP) takes all of two paragraphs. If you take the BAH course you will be struck by the sheer weight of terms and charts (and a very large Powerpoint slide deck) all trying again to describe Design. In ADRP 5.0 section 2-23 you will notice that by doctrine the Army now has a total of three standalone planning methods all attempting to address the scope of the problem the unit is facing, i.e. the Operational Environment (OE).

The result of all of the above is that the Force now perceives Design to be complex, highly technical (complicated terms and charts with its own language), and Design can only be conducted by those who have attended the Design training mentioned above and our Design doctrine has reinforced that perception.

If we look at the core ADM requirements mentioned in the eight or so pages of ADRP 5.0 one starts to see mentioned over and over; critical and creative thinking, collaboration and dialogue, framing (another term for simply communication), narrative construction, and visual modeling (simply another set of terms for communication/whiteboarding).

Now the over designing of Design kicks in -- if in fact the concept of Design demands communication, dialogue, free flow of ideas, critical discourse -- are we not suppose to be doing that already inside MDMP? Wait thoug,h as per paragraphs 2-61 and 2-62, Design is conducted independently, in parallel to or after MDMP by the Commander and selected Staff all under the guise of helping the Commander understand the OE. Literally a Catch-22 moment.

Just as we often discuss the Army values and what it means to the Force, Design to has one key critical element that is missing, just as it is missing in the Army Values. That is, trust. Steven Covey in his book Speed of Trust wrote that:

There is one thing that is common to every individual, relationship, team, family, organization, nation, economy, and civilization throughout the world-one thing which, if removed, will destroy the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy, the most influential leadership, the greatest friendship, the strongest character, the deepest love. On the other hand, if developed and leveraged, that one thing has the potential to create unparalleled success and prosperity in every dimension of life. Yet, it is the least understood, most neglected, and most underestimated possibility of our time. That one thing is trust. . . . It under girds and affects the quality of every relationship, every communication, every work project, every business venture, every effort in which we are engaged.

Likewise, Col. Tom Guthrie in his 2012 article said that, "If we intend to truly embrace mission command, then we should do it to the fullest, and that will require commitment to changing a culture from one of control and process to one of decentralization and trust."

I think (as I said in my previous BD article) that we in fact do have a serious issue in the Force -- namely a glaring lack of Trust at all levels and between individuals.

If we look at the argument that Design cannot be conducted at the Tactical level -- then we really do need to ask ourselves why is it not in the MDMP planning cycle? My answer is Design has always been in MDMP in multiple areas -- Mission Analysis, COA Development/Decision, Wargaming, and even in the Rehearsal phase.

In Mission Command it is the "art of command" where the responsibility rests for the commander to lead the development of teams using Understanding, Visualization, Describe, Direct, Lead, and Assess UVDDLA). If the Commander is responsible for team building then why is he, per doctrine, supposed to lead Design independently, in parallel to or after MDMP? What staff officers are to be pulled out of the MDMP process to focus on Design robbing Staff sections of their own team leader, when is the Design plan to resynchronize back to the MDMP process, and which plan has precedence -- the MDMP plan or the Design plan?

If the commander as the team builder and leader does his job effectively as a leader should -- that is, building trust, and creating an open dialogue free of fear which automatically allows critical thinking/discourse -- then Design will occur on its own and it is not a forced process full of terms and charts that no one seems to understand.

Secondly, the debate around Design has opened an interesting discussion -- namely if we take a Command Post and or a Staff section, there will always be NCOs and/or lower ranking subordinates. Not a single one of them have been taught MDMP nor Design and yet they are handling data that has to be transformed into Information/Understanding as per the doctrinal concept of the Cognitive Hierarchy. Or they are substituting as reps to Working Group meetings where MDMP is in progress or should be in progress or they are contributing to running estimates which also feeds into the MDMP process.

I have often wondered while observing Command Post operations, WG meetings, or Staff meetings, what do the NCOs/junior subordinates think about during the ongoing discussions and do they really buy into the decisions made during those meetings or do they simply nod north and south and go about their business?

Now, we are having a Force discussion on whether Design does work or not work, what level should it be used at, should Design planners be additionally trained, should there be a separate Design planning Staff section, and the list goes on. To me, these are examples of over engineering.

My opinion is that Design is the way forward, especially when coupled with Mission Command, but it must be taught together with MDMP/Mission Command to all individuals working in Staffs at all levels and in Command Posts at all levels. In reality, they do a mini version of UVDDLA MDMP when performing their CP or Staff functions.

If everyone who works in a Staff section and/or in a Command Post fully understands MDMP, fully understands Design/Mission Command and the commander has in fact built his team using Trust in an open dialogue manner -- then Design/ MDMP/Mission Command will be able to handle any future ill structured "wicked" problem set. Until then the Force will continue to tread water.

Richard Buchanan is mission command training facilitator with the JMTC/JMSC Grafenwoehr, Germany training staffs in the areas of mission command, MDMP/NATO Planning Processes, MDMP/Design, and Command Post Operations. The opinions here are his own and not those of U.S. Army Europe, the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, the U.S. government. But Bobby Valentine does agree, we are guessing. How did the Red Sox go so wrong in recent years


The Crisis That Dare Not Speak Its Name

Why Obama and Romney are both afraid to talk about the mess in Europe.


LONDON — In a campaign dominated by serious domestic policy concerns, perhaps it's no surprise the only person asking the presidential candidates about the greatest threat to global financial stability is a comedian.

Until Tonight Show host Jay Leno raised the European debt crisis with President Barack Obama last week, the Eurozone was almost completely absent from the presidential campaign. Indeed, the closest the candidates got to discussing the issue in any of the debates was Romney's admonition that the United States would end up like Spain -- or Greece -- if it doesn't trim its spending.

Perhaps it took a late-night jokester to finally talk about Europe because, well, it's complicated. The eurozone is a $17 trillion behemoth, the largest economic bloc in the world, whose members are struggling to solve a complex crisis across 27 countries and nearly as many different economic cultures. And the debt crisis consuming the United States' largest trading partner is arguably a much more immediate threat than Iran, Libyan terrorism, or any other foreign policy issue the candidates have discussed. What's more, while the two candidates tend to spar on style rather than substance when discussing Iran, al Qaeda, or Afghanistan, Obama and Mitt Romney genuinely disagree about how to fix the debt crisis. In Obama's view, austerity is part of the problem; in Romney's, it's part of the solution.

In the last year, Obama's Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has been in repeated contact with European officials, urging them to consider infusing struggling economies with government stimulus -- and not just impose German-led programs of austerity. And over the summer, when the European crisis was so acute that it threatened to derail the U.S. economy and the president's reelection bid, Obama surrogate Bill Clinton reshaped the administration's message toward Europe into a pointed political attack against Romney.

"Who would have ever thought that the Republicans who made a living for decades deriding 'old Europe' would embrace their economic policy?" Clinton said at a $40,000-a-plate fundraiser in June as he introduced Obama. "But that's what they've done. Their economic policy is austerity and unemployment."

Two weeks later, Romney economic advisor Glen Hubbard used a newspaper op-ed in Germany -- Europe's largest creditor -- to accuse Obama of "ignorance of the causes of the crisis." Romney understands that European governments needed to cut spending, he wrote, noting that the governor "advises a gradual fiscal consolidation for the U.S.: structural reform to stimulate growth."

The debate over Europe seems to echo perfectly the one over domestic economic policy, by far the most critical issue in this year's election. So why is neither campaign talking about the European debt crisis? (Indeed, a Romney spokeswoman declined to comment for this article and Obama campaign spokespeople ignored three requests for comment.) The answer, it seems, is that both sides benefit from not speaking about it at all.

Earlier this year, when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) went, hat in hand, to the richest countries in the world asking to double the size of an emergency fund for Europe, the United States refused to pony up. Brazil, Mexico, and India contributed to a $500 billion "second line of defense" fund, but Washington said it was helping in other ways that were "most effective for what Europe needs right now," as Geithner put it at the time.

European officials expressed some sympathy that the Obama administration -- struggling with its own economic crisis -- was in no political position to offer assistance publicly, though it continued pushing for solutions behind the scenes. And yet the underlying reality marked a clear turning point: America no longer had the finances to tell Europe what to do.

The European response was equally clear. "This remains a sovereign European problem and they certainly will not take any lectures about this, beyond what they've already had to listen to from Obama," Jacob Funk Kirkegaard, a research fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and a former member of the Danish government, said in a phone interview.

David Gordon, a former director of policy planning under Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, had a similar take: "This is one of these cases where you pay to play, And we are not paying."

In the past, the United States might have led the IMF into battle, putting up most of the financial and political capital to ensure a pro-American result. But today, with a "fiscal cliff" looming and economic approval ratings threatening Obama's second term, the president can't dare admit that U.S. economic strength is waning. And Romney surely doesn't benefit from acknowledging that Europe's mess could imperil his plan to kickstart the American economy -- and that there's little he could do about it.

"The reality is that both the campaigns won't have that much influence," said Kirkegaard. "Therefore it's not something that either of them wants to highlight, this degree of U.S. overseas economic impotence."

If "impotence" is a little strong -- Obama would argue he has kept the issue on the table -- the United States has surely lost much of its ability to shape European economic policy, particularly during this extended campaign season.

"The candidates aren't talking about it partially for the same reason that they're not talking about Afghanistan," said Gordon, who is now the director of global macro analysis for the Eurasia Group. "They have an implicit bargain to keep these things where the U.S. is not in the drivers' seat -- and where neither of them has an effective plan -- off the table."

When it comes to the markets, there is nothing an incumbent president hates more than risk. The Obama administration has pushed Europe -- often in private, sometimes in public -- to make bold choices, convince the markets that it is confronting the problems, and reduce volatility in Americans' 401Ks. If that's the goal, might Romney act similarly if elected president?

Matthew Goodman, a former director of international economics on Obama's National Security Council, argued that Hubbard's endorsement of German-led austerity and Geithner's push for stimulus actually have a lot in common.

Both sides are equally concerned about "providing greater certainty to the marketplace that Europe is on top of this and that they're going to move forward in addressing the risks to the financial system," said Goodman, who currently holds the William E. Simon chair in political economy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "The U.S. is in some sense agnostic about specifically how Europe manages these issues.... The U.S. may have some opinion, but it doesn't have any particular national interest in defining for the Europeans what choices they should make."

At least, not in public. Europeans bristle when told what to do during U.S. press conferences. And despite the optics, both candidates know that there's little to be gained by criticizing European leaders openly during the campaign -- since whoever is president will need their cooperation in the future, much of which will happen behind closed doors.

And that's where some argue that Obama benefits. European love for America's first black president has barely diminished since 2008. Seventy-five percent of Europe says it would vote for Obama, according to a poll released last month by the German Marshall Fund and the Italian foundation Compagnia di San Paolo. Romney fails to hit double digits.

A popular American president, suggests Kirkegaard, might have more influence in Europe than an unpopular one. "A Vice President Ryan describing the economy to Europe," Kirkegaard quipped, "would meet with a very skeptical audience."

But if the debt crisis has been largely seen in the United States as an economic challenge, most Europeans now would argue it is now a political problem. Can German Chancellor Angela Merkel ease the draconian austerity measures the EU imposed on Greece when she is fighting for reelection amid a voting public that rejects conciliation? How much austerity can Greek Prime Minster Antonis Samaras push onto his public when youth unemployment is already over 50 percent?

This is a "transformative moment" in both the United States and Europe, said Heather Conley, a former deputy assistant secretary of state who oversaw bilateral relations in northern and central Europe during the Bush administration. In her view, it's time to strengthen the transatlantic relationship rather than squabble over it. "This is the moment we really need to think about bigger, bolder thoughts about the political relationship, not the tactical thoughts about the economic relationship," said Conley, who is currently the director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

But both campaigns have focused mostly on the economics of Europe -- rather than the politics. And both have used Europe as a foil. Romney threatens a Greek-style future if Obama's level of government spending continues, while Obama ties Romney's economic plan to Greece's soaring unemployment and increasing inability to provide basic requirements.

The curtains have not drawn on the Greek tragedy currently unfolding in Athens -- and the European threat to the global economy remains high. If the United States has any hope in finding a stable economic path within its own shores, the next administration will have to figure out a way out of the Eurozone debt crisis. Maybe it's time they started talking about it.

Nick Schifrin is a correspondent for ABC News in London. Before his current assignment, he served as ABC News' Afghanistan and Pakistan correspondent.


Military to Military CBMs

Centre for Land Warfare Studies

Military to military CBMs were held in Lahore from 23 – 25 September 2012. They were attended by the following : - 
(a) India
Air Chief Marshal (Retd) Shashi Tyagi. 
Lieutenant General (Retd) Aditya Singh.
Lieutenant General (Retd) Arvinder Singh Lamba.
Lieutenant General (Retd) BS Pawar.
Vice Admiral (Retd) A.K. Singh.
Brigadier (Retd) Arun Sahgal.
Brigadier (Retd) Gurmeet Kanwal.
Ambassador (Retd) Lalit Mansingh (former Foreign Secretary of India).
Ambassador (Retd) Vivek Katju.
Mr Rana Banerji (former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, India).
Mr Ajai Shukla (Journalist).
(b) Pakistan
General (Retd) Jehangir Karamat.
General (Retd) Tariq Majid.
Admiral (Retd) Tariq Khan.
Lieutenant General (Retd) Tariq Ghazi (former Defense Secretary of Pakistan).
Lieutenant General (Retd) Sikander Afzal.
Air Vice Marshal (Retd) Shahzad Chaudhry.
Ambassador (Retd) Riaz Khan (former Foreign Secretary of Pakistan)
Ambassador (Retd) Maleeha Lodhi.
Ambassador (Retd) Aziz Khan.
Major General (Retd) Qasim Qureshi.
Subsequent to the above, a Round-Table discussion was held at CLAWS on 15 Oct 2012 wherein Lt Gen (Retd) BS Pawar, Brig (Retd) Gurmeet Kanwal and Capt (IN) Alok Bansal, Senior Felow CLAWS presented their views on the Track II Dialogue process in Lahore. Capt (IN) Alok Bansal was not part of the military to military CBMs but took part thereafter in a track II meeting discussing CBMs over the Indus Water Treaty. 
The discussion at CLAWS was attended by select officers from the Army and members of the CLAWS faculty. 
Lt Gen BS Pawar, PVSM, AVSM (Retd)
The third round of the Track II process between retired military officers of India and Pakistan was held at Lahore recently with the previous two rounds being held at Dubai and Bangkok respectively.  The two sides have reached an agreement on resolving the Sir Creek and Siachen disputes. The proposals are doable and are awaiting the government’s approval. It appears that the Track II process has the blessings of the Pakistan Army. On Siachen, the Pakistan Army is conscious of the fact that the Indian Army enjoys a  tactical advantage and can dictate terms. 
Brig Gurmeet Kanwal (Retd)
Track II efforts are nothing new and hundreds of such initiatives have been undertaken ever since the conclusion of the Second World War. A recent example was the Norwegian mission in Sri Lanka. The India-Pakistan Track II has held several discussions of the general situation, both in the region and bilaterally, and how this affects the prospects for progress on the CBM file. It was reported that the relationship between the two countries is going through a relatively positive phase. Diplomatic and business contacts are improving across a range of issues. At the same time, suspicions remain concerning each side’s view of the other’s objectives and alleged actions in Afghanistan, and in the area of military doctrines and deployments. There has been another round of Track 1 discussions on both conventional and nuclear CBMs, but both sides found it disappointing. The 2007 accord “Reducing Risk Relating to Nuclear Weapons” has been renewed for another five years. However, there was no progress on other proposals to develop new CBMs. In contrast, some participants pointed to lower profile examples of confidence-building measures at work between the two countries. For example, when there was an inadvertent helicopter crossing of the LC into Pakistan, the matter was managed quickly and effectively.
The project reviewed the status of existing CBMs between the two countries. Based onpresentations from the two sides, it was agreed that the main existing military CBMs are:
• DGMO Hotline
• Non-attack on nuclear facilities (1988)
• Advance notice of military exercises and maneuvers (1991)
• Informal ceasefire along LOC/AGPL (2003)
It was by and large agreed that most of the above CBMs were working well. 
The following CBMs could be further strengthened:-
• Prevention of Airspace Violations (1991) 
• Link between the Indian Coast Guard and the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (2005) 
• Joint patrolling along the international border and periodic flag meetings. Non
development of new posts
• Biannual meeting between Indian border security forces and Pakistani Rangers (2004) 
• Advance notice of Ballistic Missile tests (2005)
Several CBMs which have been proposed between the two sides, but not yet agreed, were identified. These are:
• A Prevention of Incidents at Sea Agreement
• The development of a Pakistan Air Force-Indian Air Force Communications link and of a Communications link between the two navies;
• Exchange of military delegations and also participation of senior military officers in
• Mil-to-mil exchanges and “cultural” activities (such as: exchanges of guest speakers;
visits by military bands; sports teams and adventure activities)
• Quarterly flag meetings between sector commanders along the LOC; and
• Speedy return of inadvertent line crossers.
On Sir Creek, Pakistan is willing to forego its claim on the southern line and the dispute is ripe for resolution. 
The following clear package of integrated and inter-linked stipulations were laid down for the demilitarisation of Siachen and delineation of the AGPL.
Set up a joint commission to delineate the line beyond NJ 9842, consistent with existing Agreements;
The present ground positions would be jointly recorded and the records exchanged;
The determination of the places to which redeployment will be affected would be jointly agreed;
Disengagement and demilitarisation would occur in accordance with a mutually acceptable time frame to be agreed;
Prior to withdrawal, each side will undertake to remove munitions and other military equipment and waste from areas of its control; and
Ongoing cooperative monitoring of these activities and the resulting demilitarised zone would be agreed to ensure/assure transparency.
It was agreed upon to hold further discussions on crisis stability and terrorism. Beyond military CBMs, it was recognised that intelligence-sharing is a key issue. It should be noted that information is being shared on lists of terror groups which both sides wish to see stopped but cooperation on investigations regarding these groups should be more intensive and transparent. 
Capt (IN) Alok Bansal
The dialogue on water issues between India and Pakistan was organised by the Atlantic Council, USA and Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi. This was the first Track II dialogue on the subject and was more of an effort towards breaking the ice. The Indus Water Treaty (IWT) is a perfect mechanism which has withstood the test of time. Yet, public perception in Pakistan on water issues is quite mis-guided and ill-informed. The common man is not aware of the principles of the IWT and perceives India to be deliberately trying to curtail the flow of water into Pakistan. In recent years, Pakistan has seen a tremendous increase in its population and this is an important factor which has led to hardening of stand on the water issue. The mis-management of canals in Pakistan has added to the problem of water management. 
The IWT lays downs conditions for use of river waters for consumptive use, agriculture and for building run of the river hydroelectric power projects. The IWT does not limit use of water for domestic consumption. There is a perception in the Kashmir valley that excessive exploitation of the rivers is leading to the receding of glaciers thereby creating environmental issues. Over the years, land area under horticulture in the valley has increased while that under agriculture has come down. Pakistan’s major concern against India is that the latter does not share information on damming projects on the Indus and its tributaries. On the other hand, India feels that sharing information with Pakistan has led to troubles and delays in implementation of projects on the river waters. For instance, the re-designing of the Salal hydel project on the river Chenab led to silting which rendered the dam useless. The Pakistani objection to the Kishanganga project is on the ground that India is diverting waters of one tributary of the Indus to another – river Jhelum. The Pakistani aim is to prevent the building of hydro-electric projects to stall the economic development of J&K. 
The argument that Siachen must be demilitarised because of the high costs involved in maintenance of troops and to minimise casualties is flawed. India has to defend its borders and there are other areas also which present a challenge similar to the one experienced in Siachen. It would be setting a wrong precedent if troops are to be withdrawn on such frivolous grounds.
Building confidence and trust between the two countries is necessary if India- Pakistan relations are to improve. However, Siachen cannot be a start point for the above process. Withdrawal from the Glacier will not lead to any improvement in ties bewtween the two countries. What can improve the environment is for Pakistan to stop sending terroists into India and to close the 42 terrorist training camps which are supported by state patronage. Unless Pakistan is prepared to give up its policy on supporting terrorist organisations which they maintain as their strategic assets against India, no improvement in relations can take place. Better confidence building can be done by stopping the hostility displayed by the police forces of both countries at Wagah, and by exchanging prisoners, thousands of whom are rotting in each others jails. 
The resolution of the Sir Creek issue is doable and should be de-linked from having an agreement on Siachen first. 

Iran and the Gulf Military Balance

By Anthony H. Cordesman
Nov 1, 2012

The Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies has recently updated a two-part analysis on Iran’s growing military capabilities, Part I: The Conventional and Asymmetric Dimensions and Part II: The Missile and Nuclear Dimensions.

The two-part report draws on the most recent information available, including updated sources and analyses, and provides new insights on Iran’s conventional and unconventional forces. It responds to growing tension in the region with current data on what a military confrontation would entail from Iran’s standpoint. It incorporates the major strategic components of each side, illuminates Western concerns over developments in Iran’s nuclear program and details its growing emphasis on economic and asymmetric warfare.

Part I: The Conventional and Asymmetric Dimensions, available at http://csis.org/files/publication/120221_Iran_Gulf_MilBal_ConvAsym.pdf, focuses on Iran’s ground, sea, air, and air defense forces, with a renewed emphasis on the ability of the Revolutionary Guard to undertake offensive action against the sea lanes in the Strait of Hormuz. Major updates include a far more comprehensive view of Iran’s air-defense network, including Iran’s deteriorating long-range SAM coverage and Iranian efforts to rebuild and reinforce that coverage with imported and domestically-improved foreign systems.

Part I of the analysis also includes sections on nascent direct components of US-Iranian competition – Iran’s use of direct proxy attacks, the (rarely discussed in public) cyber strikes by both sides, and the hydrologically-determined threat of mines and submarines.

Part II: The Missile and Nuclear Dimensions, available at http://csis.org/files/publication/120222_Iran_Gulf_Mil_Bal_II_WMD.pdf, addresses the unconventional aspects of Iran’s military including its research into advanced ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. The updated ballistic section includes technical specifications on the major classes of Iranian liquid- and solid-fueled missiles, and analyses their potential role within a conventional campaign and as carriers for CBRN weapons.

Part II assesses Iran as having a capable force for short-range massed bombardment, but lacking the precision, munitions, and range to yet threaten forces more than a few hundred kilometers from its shores.

The nuclear program section contains updated figures and charts detailing the recent history of Iran’s nuclear program, its possible military dimensions, Israeli and US strike options and their impact. This section illustrates the continually expanding character of the Iranian nuclear program and demonstrates that Iran has nearly doubled the number of centrifuges at Fordow, increased its output of 20% enriched Uranium, converted nearly 1/3 of its stock of 20% enriched material to fuel plates, and has thus far refused IAEA access to the Parchin facility.

The Iran and Gulf Military Balance Reports Part I & II reassess the likely role of Iran’s growing military capabilities. While it notes that the program is publicly aimed at Israel and the US, and some of Iran’s upgraded technology is oriented toward these states, it concludes that the target of these conventional forces is at least as much Iran’s Arab neighbors as it is extra-regional interlopers. It holds that many of Iran’s anti-Western abilities are aimed at denying the West access as a means to a hegemonic regional end, not as an end itself.


Oh, History, you Bitch

on 1 November 2012

Tom Ricks has written a new book The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today, which I’ve not read yet because it’s not out in the UK. Also I don’t have time. So this is not a review. Anyway, there are a lot of those already out there from Neil Sheehan (enthusiastic) to Spencer Ackerman (very enthusiastic–interview with Ricks at the link also) to Andrew Roberts (kind of bitchy) to Robert Scales (quite critical) to James Jay Carofano (disappointed). I look forward to making up my own mind on it when I get some time to read it (ca. 2014 to judge from the ‘to read’ pile on my desk). In the meantime, I was struck by a couple of things said in the reviews and with Ricks’ interview with Danger Room.

The gist of the book, I gather, is that we have quite a few more bad generals than we ought to because not enough of the demonstrative failures among them get the sack. I am pretty sympathetic to that argument, myself; but Scales in the review above gives a sharp and smart rejoinder to it. Judge for yourself. I was drawn, however, to this line from the interview:

Our generals today are not particularly well-educated in strategy. Exhibit A is Tommy Franks, who thought it was a good idea to push Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda from Afghanistan into Pakistan, a larger country that also possesses nuclear weapons. Franks also thought that he had won when he took the enemy’s capital in Afghanistan and Iraq — when in fact that is when the wars really began.

When generals don’t know what to do strategically, they tend to regress back down to what they know, which is tactical. That’s one reason why in Vietnam you saw colonels and generals hovering over company commanders giving orders. It is also why our generals were so slow to adapt in Iraq. By the time they became operationally effective, it was 2007, and we had been fighting in Iraq for nearly four years, longer than we had during all of World War II.

Maybe it’s just a personality quirk of mine but the more people criticise Franks the more I want to defend him. Now let’s not take this too far, but the commander of CENTCOM’s job is to implement policy with the means at his disposal, right? And American policy was, still is, in effect: prevent another 9/11 occurring by chasing Osama bin Laden to the ends of the earth, smashing up his organisation and demoralising his followers and potential followers, and pulverising anyone mad or bad enough to get in the way. Bad policy, maybe; but what’s the general to do? He’s the clunking fist not the executive agent who decides whose face gets hammered by it. Danger Room gets this, as it would seem does Ricks, from the tone of this Q and A:

DR: Isn’t it too simplistic to blame bad generalship for lost wars and good generalship for successful ones? Tommy Franks may have been “dull and arrogant,” as you write, but he didn’t decide to invade Iraq; David Petraeus may have been his polar opposite, but Afghanistan is in shambles.

TR: Yes, it would be too simplistic. That’s why the major second theme of the book is the need for good discourse between our top generals and their civilian overseers.

To which I say ‘hear, hear’. I’ve always liked the little vignette with which Eliot Cohen begins his book Supreme Comand: Soldiers, Statesmen and Leadership in Wartime where he describes the epiphany of one of his students on his course at the US Naval War College:
The Strategy Department there, to which I belonged, engaged senior military officers in a discussion of the fundamental issues discussed here through the study of the history of war from ancient to modern times. One day a frustrated officer remarked to me, ‘This isn’t really a course about strategy at all, it’s a course on civil-military relations.’ He had gotten to the heart of the subject, little though it pleased him to do so. In fact, the study of the relationship between soldiers and statesmen (rather different from the relationship between the soldier and the state, as a famous book has it) lies at the heart of what strategy is all about.

I had come to the same conclusion but from a different angle while working on my PhD on civil-military relations. (It’s in the sidebar there. Go buy it. Routledge will only charge you the equivalent of your first born child). The study of civil-military relations is the study of strategy. Anyway, to get to the point (surely there’s a point here), it seems to me somewhat tenuous historically to blame bad generalship for lost wars. Don’t get me wrong, there is decidedly a link between losing battles and losing wars. But history serves up so many examples of terrific generals winning all the battles and still not really ‘getting it’. In fact, arguably the two greatest commanders of all history Alexander the Great and Hannibal both blew their wars pretty spectacularly. I mean, Alexander conquered Afghanistan more than two thousand years ago and it’s still a shambles. OK, kind of a joke there but Hannibal… now here’s a question that has vexed historians for ages: after slaughtering the Roman army at Cannae why did he not take Rome? Here’s what Livy wrote:

…To Hannibal the victory seemed too great and too joyous for him to realise all at once. He told Maharbal that he commended his zeal, but he needed time to think out his plans. Maharbal replied: ‘The gods have not given all their gifts to one man. You know how to win victory, Hannibal, you do not how to use it.’ That day’s delay is believed to have saved the City and the empire.

In short, it is entirely possible that a lot of our current generals stink for whatever reason (the poor quality of military education, our careerist promotion system, venality: pick one) but surely the key reason for our failings in recent military campaigning is that the policy being served is misconceived.


Net Security Provider: India’s Out-of-Area Contingency Operations

Publisher: Magnum Books Pvt Ltd
ISBN: 978-93-82512-00-4
Price: Rs 395 [Download E-book]
About the Book

India's economic growth and prosperity are increasingly being shaped by circumstances outside its borders. Most prominently, trade and access to energy are now critical components of the Indian economy. In addition, the Indian diaspora, which is a source of significant remittances, also needs protection and evacuation. Thus, India's economic and national interests are gradually spreading outwards from its borders. Also, at times, the Indian military has been deployed for security operations – for instance, in anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia and in overseas humanitarian and disaster relief operations. In light of its capabilities and possible overseas role, the Indian military has been called a 'net security provider' in the region. This report, therefore, focuses on examining the Indian military's Out-of-Area Contingency (OOAC) operations.

In examining this topic, the report analyses previous deployments of the Indian military outside its borders, including in United Nations Peacekeeping Operations (UNPKO), evacuation of Indian citizens from conflict zones and in active operations like Sri Lanka from 1987–90 and the Maldives in 1988. It then examines the current capacity and trends for executing such operations. Finally, it makes recommendations not only for the Armed Forces but for other relevant agencies as well, such as the Ministries of Defence and External Affairs, the National Security Council and the Cabinet Secretariat.

DH-ell: The Logistical Nightmare of Withdrawing From Afghanistan

Contributor: Defence IQ Press
Posted: 10/30/2012

The volume of voices calling for a quicker withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan is getting louder as the 2014 deadline looms. Earlier this month it was reported that George Osborne spoke up at a National Security Council meeting, lending his voice to the increasingly popular belief that the British drawdown from Camp Bastion should be sped up. What are the motives behind this stance?
Probably for George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, the foremost reason is the economic impact.
Recent figures released by Parliament indicate that the mass-scale logistical operation would cost far in excess of what was originally planned for. To move a standard 20 ft. ISO container by road or rail the government calculated it would cost around £4,000 and to travel by air it would be £8,000. However, new data suggests that these figures could be as high as £12,000 and £30,000 respectively. To put that in context, the equipment in Afghanistan could fill as many as 15,000 containers along with another 500 vehicles.

And that's just Britain – an Associated Press report disclosed that the U.S. could have 100,000 containers worth of equipment and upwards of 50,000 vehicles.

In short the withdrawal from Afghanistan will not just be a logistical challenge; it will be a high-cost, high-pressured logistical nightmare.

A new passenger terminal is under construction at Camp Bastion, indicating that the transportation by air – which avoids concerns of enemy interference on the region's road network – is the preferred exit strategy. Perhaps that's not surprising since Afghanistan is land-locked, meaning that it's unlike when the U.S shipped out of the first Gulf War and used Kuwait as a staging area to load the equipment onto boats.

While air may be the best practical route, that's not to say it is without complications. Francis Tusa, the defence analyst, looked at the complexities in his recent article.

"…key airlift assets are already in short supply, making them even more important—and expensive," Tusa explained. "Antonov An-124 airlifters have been extensively used to transport outsized loads, mainly mine-resistant, ambush-protected and armoured fighting vehicles into theatre—a role they will have to reprise on the way out. While there are around two dozen An-124s readily available for charter, more than a dozen NATO nations will be bidding to rent them. And they will have outside competition—they are also sought by Formula One teams to move between races, and by China-based toy and computer companies to get products to Western markets in time for the holidays."

"We are leaving [Afghanistan] in 2014, no doubt about that," said Vice President Joe Biden in his recently televised debate with Paul Ryan.

No doubt? Time, cost and practicality are all hurdles suggesting otherwise.

Littoral Combat Clip

The U.S. military needs to prepare for more operations along the world's coastlines.


The United States may be winding up over a decade of war, but the military is facing significant challenges -- in no small part because it is expected to prepare for a wider range of contingencies at a time of shrinking budgets. Among other things, the Department of Defense's 2012 report, Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense, asserts that the U.S. military must strengthen its power-projection capabilities to assure access to contested regions and unfettered freedom of movement.

Protecting such freedom of movement has been a near-constant mission of naval forces since strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan first defined the "wide commons" in the late 19th century. But, confronted with such an ambitious task, it may be useful to conceive of the wide commons more narrowly. Consider that an increasing majority of the world's population, more than 80 percent at last count, resides within the littorals -- that narrow strip of coastline that rings the world's continents. Increasingly, this is where the world's transactions and interactions occur. This concentration of people, political power, and economic dynamism means that the littorals are where the world's future crises will take place.

Since World War II, the United States has sought to avoid the tragedy of war. There has been a continual effort to find technological solutions to deter our adversaries (nuclear weapons) or to fight a "clean" war (precision strike). Yet the nation has repeatedly called on its Marine Corps to protect its citizens and interests. In particular, the demand for amphibious forces to engage forward and respond to crises has risen dramatically since the end of the Cold War. The critical employment of these forces in uncertain and austere environments where access is challenged is exemplified by the more than 50 amphibious operations that have taken place since Sept. 11, 2001.

Ongoing budget constraints and force reductions will test the ability of all the military services to meet today's missions while preparing for tomorrow's threats. As access to the littorals is further complicated, expeditionary naval forces must be able to respond with what is immediately within reach and available -- "come as you are." And that in turn means that the Marine Corps -- which, among other things, specializes in projecting power in coastal areas -- is going to be increasingly central to U.S. national security. But it must adapt to the new environment.***

The United States has entered an expeditionary era, one in which it does not enjoy ready access to overseas bases in the regions where conflict is most likely to occur or unchallenged access to all regions -- not unlike when the nation first began trading globally and lacked the capability to adequately protect its foreign trade. The United States remains a global power, but it now competes in a world where many regional powers, nation-states, criminals, and extremists are expanding their influence. This challenge requires Marines to engage forward and build partners, create access where adversaries challenge us, and protect U.S. interests and citizens when necessary.

Today, new threats emerging in the littorals include piracy, area-denial weapons, and competition among populations for scarce resources, to name only a few. The littorals are where the action will be in the coming years -- indeed, they will only become more important as the global flow of commerce increases. Specifically, a handful of strategic maritime chokepoints scattered across the world's littorals must remain free and open to all commerce. For example, consider what impact closing the Suez would have on the world's economy when the shipping of two to three million barrels of oil was interrupted or trade from Asia was delayed from reaching the Mediterranean.

These chokepoints represent the archipelago of action for American naval forces:
The Malacca Straits are arguably the most important chokepoint in the world. Located midway between Australia and India and bisecting the Malay Peninsula and the island country of Indonesia, the straits are a 500-mile-long narrow body of water that directly links the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Described as the "Fulda Gap" of the 21st Century, its geographic and strategic significance has drawn the attention of India, China, Japan, and the United States. Tanker traffic in the straits is expected to increase by 50 percent by 2020. The threat posed by non-state terrorist groups and pirates has increased in recent years. Regional states like Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia have increased naval patrols, which have stymied the piracy surge. This "triad" of littoral states, however, has asserted it is solely responsible for security in the Malacca Strait, making it difficult for other nations to assure safe passage.
Approximately 35 percent of all oil traded by sea transits the Persian Gulf via a maritime chokepoint: the Strait of Hormuz. Recent Iranian statements and activities across the region threatening harassment at sea only escalate security concerns. For example, the well-publicized Iranian "swarming" fleet of small boats armed with rockets and anti-ship cruise missiles poses an operational challenge to access through the strait. The importance of both the Malacca and Hormuz straits, situated at each end of the Indian Ocean, will only increase in strategic value in coming decades as trade and commerce continue to expand across the region.
The Arctic Ocean could soon emerge as a new strategic transit route, as the polar ice cap recedes and more nations eye its sea lanes to shave valuable time on shipping cargo from Asia to Europe. Shipping companies could save as much as 35 percent using Arctic routes compared to using the Panama Canal or transiting the Horn of Africa. Within 30 years -- possibly sooner -- the Arctic Ocean could be ice free for up to two months of the year, allowing dramatically more shipping and exploration for large oil, gas, and mineral deposits.
The Panama Canal is growing in strategic importance as a huge revitalization effort nears completion in 2014 that will dramatically increase the size of cargo vessels the canal can handle. The canal will soon be able to accommodate dry bulk cargo ships of up to 180,000 tons, compared to only 80,000 tons today. This will increase the number of cargo vessels in the Caribbean Sea and enhance the strategic importance of Panama and its surrounding waters.
The waters off East Africa have become pirate-infested in recent years, negatively affecting global shipping. The pirate scourge has forced the world's navies to devote considerable assets to protecting the free flow of commerce. Piracy has been steadily increasingsince 2006, with an 11 percent increase from 2010 (489 incidents) to 2011 (544 incidents). Piracy off the Somalia coast impacted commercial shipping at a cost of $7 to $12 billion dollars in 2010. According to the International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Centre, there were 13 vessels and 185 hostages being held by Somali pirates as of June 2012.
At the onset of the 1967 Six Day War, Egypt closed the Suez Canal without warning, locking 15 cargo ships in the canal for the next eight years until it finally reopened. This act significantly affected trade patterns and in many cases forced trade partners to more than double their transit distance. Oil, food, and other goods rose in price as shipping companies adjusted to the additional time and fuel costs associated with longer routes. What would the effect be today if Egypt closed the Suez? The turmoil associated with the Arab Spring, including political uncertainty in Cairo, is reason to pause and contemplate the possibility. If commercial shipping were forced to reroute south around the Cape of Good Hope, it would further exacerbate piracy issues not only on the eastern coast of Africa, but the western coast as well.
The Gulf of Guinea on Africa's western coast is emerging as a globally significant region because of its economic development. Estimates that the region could eventually provide 25 percent of U.S. oil imports within the next five years provide ample reason to ensure the stability and security of its littorals. While West Africa shares many characteristics with East Africa, the focus of piracy is quite different. Ransoming of crew, goods, and vessels challenges the local West African pirates more so than in the East due to the lack of secure sites for the vessels that have been seized. Instead, kidnapping of high-value individuals or stealing of goods, to include oil to be sold on the black market, is the modus operandi. The lack of regional stability affects security both ashore and at sea and warrants further examination as the United States ramps up economic interest in this region.

The inherent flexibility built into every Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) -- a unit that integrates infantry, aviation, and logistics support into a coherent force -- provides U.S. leaders with a uniquely adaptable force that is fully prepared to deal with the challenges emerging in the world's littorals and maritime chokepoints. As Gen. James Amos, the Marine commandant, has said, the Corps is the nation's middleweight force, "light enough to get there quickly, but heavy enough to carry the day upon arrival, and capable of operating independent of local infrastructure."

In the maritime environment, Marine Corps Amphibious Ready Group/Marine Expeditionary Units (ARG-MEUs) are forward deployed every day, providing a ready response force that is ideally organized and equipped to operate in the littorals' unique land-and-sea environment.

During deployments, the sailors and Marines that make up these amphibious teams routinely conduct security cooperation exercises and activities with partner nations, provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and undertake combat operations ashore. When operating forward deployed in the littorals and a terrorist attack or some other crisis erupts that threatens one of the strategic maritime chokepoints, Marines on Navy amphibious ships are specially equipped to respond immediately. They can undertake such tasks as port security; visit, board, search, and seizure; incident response; humanitarian assistance; and combat operations.

The composition of this team enables it to accomplish such a wide variety of missions. The amphibious group brings both seaborne maneuver and a sea base for the embarked Marines. Additionally, its tie into the Navy's global logistics capability provides the amphibious team with theoretically endless sustainment, allowing unrivaled time on station in a crisis area. Complementing the amphibious ships, the embarked Marine units bring a general purpose combat force whose inherent ground, air, and logistics elements provide a highly capable force ready to respond immediately and stay indefinitely.

While a fully equipped Marine amphibious team is most formidable when operating as a cohesive unit, certain instances require "disaggregated" operations, in which individual ships and Marine units break off from the larger group and operate in separate locations under potentially separate chains of command. This disaggregation is another element of flexibility embedded in the Marine amphibious force, and the ability to operate in multiple areas over larger distances provides commanders with a richer set of options to meet national interests.

For example, in 2011 the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit carried out three distinct missions, all on the same day:
Operating off the coast of Yemen, Marines boarded the Magellan Star, a German-owned commercial shipping vessel, in order to neutralize pirates and liberate the crew.
Launching from and recovering to the USS Kearsarge, Marine Harrier aircraft conducted strike operations in Afghanistan.
Responding to the worst flooding in more than a century, Marines airlifted humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to Pakistan citizens.

Maintaining this capability in the littorals is vital to U.S. interests, as demonstrated during Operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya. As Vice Admiral Walter Skinner emphasized in recent Senate testimony, having Harriers offshore "slashed transit times to the battlefield by two-thirds and kept close air support aircraft on station without strategic tanking assets." That allowed Marine MV-22 Ospreys to rescue a downed F-15 pilot, who had been shot down by Qaddafi forces. "Twenty minutes from the time he was evading capture in hostile territory, the rescued pilot was safely back on American territory aboard USS Kearsarge."***

As the world's littorals increase in importance, the United States requires a force that is forward-deployed, engages locally, creates relationships and develops access, and is poised to quickly respond to crises. Since the turn of the 19th Century, that force has been naval, and our capabilities today are impressive. But change is required. As Admiral John C. Harvey, Jr. and Colonel P.J. Ridderhof recently wrote, the Navy and Marine Corps "must break out of the ARG-MEU mold to explore the possibilities and fully take advantage of the flexibility and combat power of a larger MAGTF."

As states and non-state actors increasingly challenge our ability to project power across the global maritime commons and access contested regions, our naval forces must be able to operate in scalable and adaptable formations. The ARG-MEU is one tool, but larger naval forces, including forward-deployed and amphibious forces, may be needed -- for example, to secure one of the world's chokepoints or sea lanes. Marine amphibious forces may also be required to seize an advance base for use by U.S. air forces or for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) operations -- or simply to deny the use of terrain to the enemy.

For example, if an adversary were to disrupt a strategic chokepoint, ship-based aviation and ISR, patrol craft, and Littoral Combat Ships with detachments of Marines could be employed to counter fast attack craft. Simultaneously, other Marines could maneuver to prevent enemy use of islands or littoral areas or to destroy specific anti-access sites or capabilities. The entire naval force would operate in this contested maritime domain, which increases the importance of exercising up-front command arrangements before a crisis occurs.

Training as a larger, aggregated naval force is required now in order to surmount the evolving threats of tomorrow. By exercising and training to larger force compositions, the United States will be better postured to counter the increasing capabilities of potential adversaries throughout the world. Often the discussion about amphibious assault focuses too much on ship-to-shore movement. Regardless of the means of ship-to-shore movement, the proliferation of anti-access and area denial challenges, such as the Iranian capabilities in the Strait of Hormuz, requires an assessment of the whole littoral maneuver challenge. This includes a future amphibious vehicle to provide maneuver and lethality; long-range, high-speed, and large-capacity connectors (craft that move cargo and personnel from larger ships to a beachhead); and multi-functional, sea-based platforms to increase our ability to aggregate amphibious forces in crisis response.

This expanded look at the littoral maneuver challenge requires more attention and effort focused on the selection, reconnaissance, and control of the air and surface landing sites before the assault force arrives on station. Meeting this requirement places a premium on deception, ISR, and cyber operations. It also demands an amphibious force capable of maneuvering throughout the depth and breadth of the littorals to enlarge the operating area, confuse the enemy, and dilute their "home field" advantage in order to exploit the Marine Corps' and Navy's own asymmetric advantages. Achieving this edge requires embracing sea control and power projection from what the U.S. military calls a Single Naval Battle perspective, closing gaps between Marine and Navy operations, and providing flexibility to maneuver throughout the littorals with speed, agility, and capacity.

Maritime nations make up 80 percent of the international community, increasing the likelihood that the next crisis or regional conflict will occur within the operational reach of U.S. naval forces. With the initial response capability and decision room it provides, the naval force represents the leading edge, forward operating force called for in the nation's power projection strategy. As a critical element in that strategy, the Marine Corps conducts operations to deter and combat adversaries or deny them the ability to exert their will on U.S. interests. However, further refinement of aggregated operations and littoral maneuver is required to exploit our at-sea advantage.

Lt. Gen. Richard Mills is commanding general of the U.S. Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Quantico, Va. This article was prepared with the assistance of the Ellis Group, an internal Marine think tank focusing on how the Corps can meet current and future challenges.


One Storm Away

10 major world cities that could end up underwater.

OCTOBER 31, 2012

Forget America's shining "city on a hill" -- it's by the ocean where most of the world's greatest cities lie. For centuries, water has meant strategic advantages, like access to food and trade. But as Frank Jacobs writes in Foreign Policy, rising sea levels and disappearing coastlines mean that in many places what was once an advantage has become a liability. Could these 10 major cities soon vanish beneath rising tides?

Mumbai, 2.8 million inhabitants exposed

Mumbai sits on the western coast of India, on the edge of the Arabian Sea. A report this year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change noted that the city was facing increased risks from floods, storms, and rising seas. The city suffered massive flooding in 2005 when nearly three feet of rain fell over 24 hours, killing over 1,000 people. Above, Hindu devotees carry an idol of the elephant-headed Hindu God Lord Ganesha into the Arabian Sea for immersion in 2007.


Shanghai, 2.4 million inhabitants exposed

Shanghai -- the name in Chinese means "above the sea" -- is a low-lying city in the Yangtze River Delta. Researchers warn it is particularly vulnerable to climate change due to both its geography, and because of human factors: with upwards of 23 million people in the metro area, the city's drainage system needs improvement and lack of regulation has encouraged excessive construction in exposed areas. In the meantime, rising sea levels continue to wear away at the delta soil on which the city sits. Above, people take photos along the Bund as storm clouds gather over the Huangpu River in Shanghai.


Miami, 2 million inhabitants exposed

Miami and other southeastern cities in Florida are among the most vulnerable to climate change in the United States. The average elevation in Miami is just six feet above high tide; scientists predict sea levels could rise as much as five feet by 2100. At greatest risk are the city's power plants, airports, waste disposal sites, prisons, and hospitals. Above, a woman walks along the ocean as blustery winds blow through the palm trees with the approach of Hurricane Sandy.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Alexandria, 1.3 million exposed

Alexandria is strategically located on the Mediterranean Sea and is named after Alexander the Great, who made the city his capital. It's still Egypt's second-largest city, an industrial center, and its port handles four-fifths of Egypt's trade. But with the Mediterranean expected to rise between 1 foot to three feet over the course of this century, this ancient Egyptian city is now looking dangerously exposed. Above, a view of Alexandria's al-Manshiya Square on Egypt's northern coastline in July 2002.


Tokyo, 1.1 million exposed

Tokyo is located on a floodplain of three large rivers, and sits next to Tokyo Bay. But the 35 million people who live in the Tokyo metropolitan area have more to fear than rising sea levels; a study from 117 weather stations around the city showed that there's been a recent increase in the kind of highly localized, intense rainfall that can also lead to flooding. Above, the Rainbow Bridge connects Tokyo and Odaiba over the port of Tokyo.


Bangkok, 900,000 exposed

The Thai capital sits on the Chao Praya river. Nearly the entire city, once called "The Venice of the East" is built on swampland, and experts have warned that it is slowly sinking. Bangkok residents were besieged by flooding last year and some see it as a sign of what may come. Above, the Thai Royal Barge procession cruises down the Chao Praya river to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Thailand King Bhumibol Adulyadej's accession to the throne in 2006.

Paula Bronstein /Getty Images

Dhaka, Bangladesh, 850,000 exposed

Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, is only 13 meters above sea level at its highest point. It sits between four flood-prone rivers and at the foot of the Himalayas. Researchers are concerned both about the impact of rising sea levels and also increasing snowmelt with higher average temperatures. Above, Bangladeshi boat men wait for passengers on the Buriganga river in Dhaka in September 2012. Thousands of Dhaka residents use the river to commute.


Abidjan, Ivory Coast, 520,000 exposed

Abidjan is the former capital of the Ivory Coast, and is still the country's economic capital. It sits, however, on the Gulf of Guinea, and rising sea levels have been steadily encroaching on houses and other infrastructure. Above, a view of Abidjan's coast in 2006.


Jakarta, 500,000 exposed

Jakarta sits near the sea, and is criss-crossed by 13 rivers; it experiences annual flooding almost every rainy season. But the Indonesian capital was hit by its worst flood in centuries in 2007. The water covered more than 70 percent of the city, sent 450,000 residents fleeing to high ground and were estimated to have caused nearly $700 million in damage. The Indonesian capital was paralyzed for days, prompting leaders to consider how climate change has made the annual floods even more treacherous. Above, heavy clouds hang over Jakarta on Feb. 18, 2010.


Lagos, 360,000 exposed

Lagos is one of West Africa's chief manufacturing and port cities. But teeming with more than 21 million people in the metro area, a lack of infrastructure, inadequate drainage, and uncontrolled buildup of settlements means that it is also among the places most vulnerable to climate change. Those most at risk are the people living in Lagos's poor urban slums, which already flood regularly, sometimes for days at a time. Above, people navigate through the waterways of the Makoko slum in Lagos, in September 2011.