4 April 2015

Enemies Wanted: No Experience Necessary - The Army’s Addiction to Enemies Inhibits Analysis of the Operational Environment

April 1, 2015

A boxing match is not a punching contest. In any bout, there is a wide range of skills on display. A fighter wants to land punches, but there is no telling how the match will unfold even after he lands them. So he trains to defend, to avoid, to counter, to clinch. Between every round, he makes an assessment of his opponent’s strategy and tactics, and draws upon his hard-learned skills to find the right way to fight thisfight. He doesn’t stand flat footed and punch away because he’s stronger. He doesn’t train only to perfect his own strengths irrespective of what else may happen in the ring. That is a recipe for defeat. And it is exactly how the U.S. Army approaches modern conflict.

The Army knows the future fight will be waged among the people, but has been unable to adopt the correct toolkit for that fight. Recognizing that adversaries are unlikely to meet U.S. forces in a country-sized engagement area, as Iraq’s forces did in 1991, concepts such as Full Spectrum Operations and Unified Land Operations clarified that punching hard will not secure the victory. Below the level of the operating concept and senior leader speeches, however, the idea that “the population decides who wins,”1 to quote retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has not taken hold institutionally. The Army has a hard-wired preference for punching it out with enemies.

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