ALL BLOG POSTS AND COMMENTS COPYRIGHT (C) 2003-2020 VOX DAY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. REPRODUCTION WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION IS EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

In defense of civilian military theorists

There is long and documented history of military veterans being dubious about the wisdom of listening to so-called military experts who personally lack military experience. It brings one to mind of the famous incident of Machiavelli's visit to a mercenary camp:
While in Piacenza [Machiavelli] spent some time in the camp of the famous mercenary Giovanni delle Bande Nere, whose small army was the one truly capable fighting force in the anti-imperial league. According to the writer Matteo Bandello, who claims to have been there, the battle-tested general thought it might be amusing to teach the author of The Art of War a lesson. Opening Machiavelli's book to the chapter on infantry drills, Giovanni asked him to attempt to put into practice what he'd written by marching his three thousand men about the parade ground. Machiavelli gamely took up the challenge but, not surprisingly, proved hopelessly out of his depth. The troops were soon milling about in confusion and could only be disentangled by the prompt intervention of their captain.

"How great the difference is," Bandello sneered, "between womeone who knows and who has not set in operation what he knows and someone who, as well as knowing, has often rolled up his sleeves and... has derived his thoughts and mental view from outward deeds."
- Machiavelli: A Biography, Miles J. Unger, p. 324
There is, therefore, good reason to be initially skeptical of any intellectual whose ideas are both untested and rejected by those with practical experience. If nothing else, 80 years of failure to successfully manage the economy with Keynesian, Neo-Keynesian, and Ur-Keynesian theories should suffice to justify a considerable quantity of skepticism in this regard.

But skepticism is not always justified, particularly when there are more than a few experienced practitioners who recognize the intrinsic value in the theory, when the theory is successfully implemented, and when it is used as the basis of accurate predictive models. A Marine recently sent me a copy of William S. Lind's Maneuver Warfare Handbook and I was somewhat amused to read the Foreword by Colonel John C. Studt, USMC (Ret), written nearly 30 year ago, in light of the fact that some critics of maneuver warfare doctrine, to say nothing of 4GW theory, are still attempting to DISQUALIFY Mr. Lind's ideas on the grounds of his lack of military service.
The author of this book has never served a day of active military duty, and he has never been shot at, although there are no doubt some senior officers who would like to remedy that latter deficiency. Yet he demonstrates an amazing understanding of the art of war, as have only a small handful of military thinkers I have come across in my career.

I served over 31 years active duty with the Marine Corps, saw combat in both Korea and Vietnam, and attended service schools from The Basic School to the National War College. Yet only toward the end of my military career did I realize how little I really understood the art of war. Even as a Pfc in Korea, after being med-evaced along with most of my platoon after a fruitless frontal assault against superior North Korean forces, it seemed to me there had to be a better way to wage war. Seventeen years later, commanding a battalion at Khe Sanh, I was resolved that none of my Marines would die for lack of superior combat power.

But we were still relying on the concentration of superior firepower to win—–essentially still practicing Grant's attrition warfare. And we were still doing frontal assaults!

When I first heard Bill Lind speak, I must confess I resented a mere civilian expressing criticism of the way our beloved Corps did things. After all, he was not one of us, he had not shed blood with us in battle, he was not a brother. And I had strong suspicions that he would have difficulty passing the PFT. But what he said made sense! For the first time I was personally hearing someone advocate an approach to war that was based on intellectual innovation rather than sheer material superiority: mission-type orders, surfaces and gaps, and Schwerpunkt, instead of the rigid formulas and checklists that we normally associate with our training and doctrine. It was a stimulating experience!

Through Lind's articulation, years of my own reading of military history began to make a lot more sense. But why all this from a civilian instead of a professional soldier? In fact, the entire movement for military reform is driven largely by civilian intellectuals, not military officers–one notable exception being retired Air Force Colonel John Boyd.

When you think about it, this is not surprising. We have never institutionalized a system that encourages innovative ideas or criticism from subordinates. Proposing significant change is frequently viewed as criticism of superiors, since they are responsible for the way things are, and borders on disloyalty if not insubordination. So it is not surprising that the movement for reform comes from outside the military establishment....

B. H. Liddell Hart once remarked that "The only thing harder than getting a new idea into the military mind is to get an old one out." In 1925, when he was expounding such heretical theories as the "indirect approach," the American General Service Schools' "Review of Current Military Literature" dismissed one of Liddell Hart's major works as: "Of negative value to the instructors at these schools." I expect Marine Corps schools to receive this publication with similar enthusiasm. But I cannot believe a professional military officer would not benefit by reading it.
Never mind that a 31-year veteran of two wars declares that the ideas will be beneficial to any professional military officer. Never mind the fact that attempting to disqualify an idea on the basis of its genesis is to commit the basic logical fallacy known as the Genetic Fallacy. If one simply recalls the famous Clausewitzian aphorism that "War is the continuation of Politics by other means", then it should not be even remotely surprising, much less controversial, that an intellectual with a deep background in Politics might have something insightful to say about War.

Labels: ,

96 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous October 30, 2014 7:28 AM  

I dont believe I've ever read a more clear and pertinent treatise on war as the writings of Mr Lind.

I've read the Art of War, I've read Clauswitz, I've read Musashi, and I've studied many many (auto)biographies of veteran soldiers. My granfather was injured at Gallipoli and my father served in North Africa, Italy, and Germany. I've war-gamed on boards, on screens, and in actual forests and hills.

Not in any of these contexts have I seen a greater willingness to lay aside predisposition and emotive attachments and simply assay the facts at hand with remorseless logic and insight.

I have long wished for more analysis from Mr Lind and will be reading his collected past essays with great appreciation.

Thanks Vox for your part in making that happen.

Anonymous Stilicho October 30, 2014 7:35 AM  

The basics of maneuver warfare:
1. Hit 'em where they ain't.
2. Get there firstest with the mostest.
3. Don't let 'em catch their breath.

All else is a matter of refinement. The same principles can apply in 4GW but in different contexts (e.g. More defensive and political operations rather than the offensive operations that are more often associated with maneuver warfare). Warfare encompasses ALL potential fronts.

Anonymous VD October 30, 2014 7:40 AM  

Thanks Vox for your part in making that happen.

You're quite welcome. Actually, for me the most fascinating thing about the Maneuver Warfare Handbook is that it essentially describes the way I play ASL and other wargames. I'm very bad about setup, especially on defense; I often just throw my counters more or less wherever because I don't know what to expect from the opponent. As it happens, Ender is openly contemptuous of my current setup as the Imperium in Fifth Frontier War.

But once I see what the opponent intends, I set about disrupting his plan while sending counterattacks deep into his lines with the objective of maintaining pressure on the troops that break on my strong points and preventing them from rallying.

I know Tom Kratman is very skeptical of the OODA loop, and perhaps he is correct to observe that a concept based on 1v1 aerial dogfighting is inapplicable to mass ground combat. But it certainly does apply to wargames.

Anonymous PA October 30, 2014 8:07 AM  

Any idea if the book will be available in hardcopy? Amazon only shows it in Kindle edition.

Anonymous VD October 30, 2014 8:08 AM  

Any idea if the book will be available in hardcopy? Amazon only shows it in Kindle edition.

Eventually, but not for a while.

Blogger Tommy Hass October 30, 2014 8:10 AM  

" Even as a Pfc in Korea, after being med-evaced along with most of my platoon after a fruitless frontal assault against superior North Korean forces, it seemed to me there had to be a better way to wage war."

"superior North Korean forces"

On one hand, there is the idea of USA as a military hegemon. On the other hand there's this. I have a tough time reconciling those ides.

Everybody says that USA is superior to every other nation in conventional warfare. Yet there are instances where there are "superior" opponents. (later, there is the retreat against Chinese "volunteers")

Similar things could be said about Hezbollah kicking Israel's ass in Lebanon. German veterans saying that Red Army soldiers were superior to US soldier because more risk taking.

Either I am overestimating US/"strong military" power or I am right and I just didn't take into account small successes at the tactical level.

Anonymous Quartermaster October 30, 2014 8:17 AM  

Kratman's skepticism of the OODA loop is misplaced, although I can understand it. The laws of Physics, as one example, are simply descriptions of reality. Boyd did the same when he described the OODA loop. Every combat unit goes through that. The process is simplest when it involves one man vs another man. With an Army, it involves thousands of men, filter the info at every step, making the loop more complex, but the same loop is still present regardless.

Anonymous VD October 30, 2014 8:18 AM  

"superior North Korean forces"

You're not interpreting it correctly. He's not talking quality, he's talking quantity.

Blogger Dark Herald October 30, 2014 8:31 AM  

I can't say I enjoyed reading On War.

After all who enjoyed listening to Cassandra?

But it did fascinate me. In 2003 I knew we would have no trouble brushing aside Saddam's army and we would have no hope of controlling his country.

Nobody was listening to me or any of us who were handing out jarring little warnings about just how raggedy of a meat grinder we were about to try and fuck.

Of course anybody who wanted to hang on to his career dared breath a word of criticism about our incredible grand master strategy designed by Donald Rumsfeld and rest of the Rummys.

But Lind could see it clearly and accurately. A future that closing in front us like a fist.

However, the one place where Lind gets little fuzzy is squad level tactics. That bit about wearing soft covers instead of helmets in Fallujah. (*shudders*)

If Castillia is headed in this direction, it could use a first rate tactical mind.

Vox, have you considered contacting H. John Poole?

None of his stuff is in E-book format, I realize he wants to control it's distribution to strictly American Servicemen if possible. However Kindle was introduced seven years ago, when the average squad leader was all of fifteen years old. They just aren't interested in something as Jurassic as a paperback. And it's a little pricey for corporals and sergeants.

And Gunny Poole's stuff needs to get out there.

Anonymous Ryan ATL October 30, 2014 8:32 AM  

VD-

Do you think a coach who never played the sport above say a high school / youth club level could ever be truly successful, in the collegiate or pro ranks? Let's frame this question in regard to soccer and American football.

Anonymous VD October 30, 2014 8:33 AM  

Everybody says that USA is superior to every other nation in conventional warfare.

They are correct from the 2GW perspective: the US can put more firepower anywhere than anyone else. But that doesn't mean that in any given encounter, the US forces have more firepower available to them at that moment.

Anonymous VD October 30, 2014 8:37 AM  

Do you think a coach who never played the sport above say a high school / youth club level could ever be truly successful, in the collegiate or pro ranks?

Sure. Few NFL coaches ever played in the NFL. Chuck Daly was a Hall of Fame basketball coach who never played basketball. And look at how many great professional players were abysmal coaches.

Todd Haley never played college football, but then, he hasn't been a SUCCESSFUL head coach either.

Anonymous VD October 30, 2014 8:38 AM  

Vox, have you considered contacting H. John Poole?

Already talked to him. He has zero interest in ebooks. I may try again after we announce our next author.

Blogger Dark Herald October 30, 2014 8:43 AM  

I was afraid of that. Ah well.

Blogger Nate October 30, 2014 8:53 AM  

I am re minded of another amateur. An untrained civilian that raised his own company and lead it so effectively that his tactics changed the way war was fought for the next 100 years.

Nathaniel Bedford Forrest

Anonymous Steveo October 30, 2014 9:02 AM  

One of my fathers lessons to us was the OCS story where the officer candidates planned for an hour or two to raise a big pole as an exercise... at the end of their planning, the answer was "Sergeant, raise that pole".

Had Machiavelli ordered Giovanni's subordinate to drill the soldiers the real point would have been made; for Giovanni didn't drill the soldiers either (although obviously he could).

Col. Studt's statement, "We have never institutionalized a system that encourages innovative ideas or criticism from subordinates." examines the point of failure of any system with entrenched &/or stale &/or arrogant leadership - innovative ideas can come from anywhere and much of the time in the criticism from subordinates or ideas sparked from that criticism. I believe everyone reading here is actually receiving such valuable information important to their success & disregarding it due to their personal bias or habits. Blinders are a bitch.

Anonymous Ryan ATL October 30, 2014 9:12 AM  

VD,

I would have included any level of college ball to meet the requirement for experienced as a player. I'm talking guys who never played above high school level football. Like Weis, Paul Johnson, the Pirate Mike Leach, etc... Has there been a NFL head coach who never played collegiate FB at all?

Anonymous VD October 30, 2014 9:19 AM  

Has there been a NFL head coach who never played collegiate FB at all?

Todd Haley is the most recent. However: "In 26 of the past 28 Super Bowls, the winning head coach had no NFL playing experience."

I have no idea why you think college football experience is relevant. Playing at Wesleyan University (Bill Belichick) or Bakery University (Mike McCarthy) has about as much to do with the NFL as playing European club soccer.

Blogger Tommy Hass October 30, 2014 9:43 AM  

"Nathaniel Bedford Forrest"

*reads wikipedia article*

"waah waah waah unacceptable"

Why aren't Southerners engaging in car bombings against these cocksuckers? I've never even stepped foot in America, never mind being a Southerner and I hate their guts. How must Stars and Bars guys feel?

Anonymous Anonymous October 30, 2014 10:05 AM  

Re: On Vinegar, honey and Robert S. McNamara

There is an ancient saying, expressed in different forms and attributed to various Saints, that "one can more easily win a soul for Christ with a thimble of honey than with a hundred barrels of vinegar".

Attacking soldiers for not immediately recognizing the undoubted genius of Mr. Lind strikes me as the "hundred barrels of vinegar approach".

Also, it might be best be kept in mind, that the U.S. military has never quite recovered from its experience with another civilian expert: Robert Strange McNamara. Another guy who was widely billed as smarter than all the Generals and Admirals. And maybe he was; but he led the U.S. military to defeat.

Further, It may me wise to look at the present day DOD. It is overrun, indeed dominated, by civilian experts who treat the uniformed Big Bosses with undisguised contempt.

Finally it is the Sergeants, not the Generals, that have to be convinced. It is, IMO, these guys who actually make things happen. The Generals have spent more time at school (either as teachers or students) than doing anything else. Every time there is a Commandant at a military school he or she brings with him a great, new idea which will allegedly transform the military.

Mr. Lind is just one voice among literally thousands of civilian experts, some of which have powerful political backing, trying to "transform" DOD. The military Bosses after a while get a bit jaded and more the a little deaf with and by this type of thing.

Perhaps a little more honey is in order?

God bless

Richard W Comerford

Blogger Matthew October 30, 2014 10:51 AM  

Nate, can you recommend any particular biographies of (or other books about) Bedford Forrest?

Blogger Dewave October 30, 2014 10:55 AM  

"On one hand, there is the idea of USA as a military hegemon. On the other hand there's this. I have a tough time reconciling those ides.

Everybody says that USA is superior to every other nation in conventional warfare. Yet there are instances where there are "superior" opponents. (later, there is the retreat against Chinese "volunteers")"

He is describing a specific incident where a frontal assault was undertaken against an enemy that had obtained local superiority. You cant really draw any conclusions about the overall quality of the combatants, other than that the US military was fond of ordering unwise frontal assaults.

Anonymous Anonymous October 30, 2014 10:58 AM  

Henry Knox owned a bookstore in Boston when the American Revolution broke out. He was an avid reader of military history but had no practical experience. He delivered the guns of Ticonderoga to General Washington because he did not know that dragging the heavy artillery across 300 miles of frozen wilderness could not be done.

He later served as our first Secretary of War, albeit now with eight years of hands-on experience in war.

Blogger Matthew October 30, 2014 10:58 AM  

Will CH be publishing a homeschool curriculum on military history and theory? I'd buy that.

Anonymous Anonymous October 30, 2014 11:17 AM  

Mr vitasbrennus:

You posted in part:

"Henry Knox owned a bookstore in Boston when the American Revolution broke out."

OK. But there are a gazillion examples like Mr. Know. And IMO it does not matter.

The U.S. military is already run by civilians. The Generals and Admirals have, relatively speaking, little say on the really big issues.

The civilian politicians appoint their civilian minions to thousands of well compensated positions throughout DOD.

These minions become the gate keepers to the pigs' trough that is the DOD budget. They decide who gets to stick their snout into the trough.

Meanwhile the very entrenched and quite numerous DOD civilian employees are doing their best to protect their fiefdoms.

And the Flag Officers? Right now my guess is that they are far more preoccupied with what to do with out of the closet transsexual soldiers and sailors than with whatever an undoubted genius like Mr. Lind has to say.

The soldiers who correctly point out that Mr. Lind has never gone into harm's way for the USA are not the problem here.

God bless

Richard W Comerford

Anonymous VD October 30, 2014 11:37 AM  

Finally it is the Sergeants, not the Generals, that have to be convinced. It is, IMO, these guys who actually make things happen. The Generals have spent more time at school (either as teachers or students) than doing anything else. Every time there is a Commandant at a military school he or she brings with him a great, new idea which will allegedly transform the military.

You're completely wrong. The sergeants know less about the strategic issues involved than the average wargamer does. Your comments here are demonstrating the importance of not listening to people simply because they have some military experience that is unrelated and irrelevant to the topics at hand.

Mr. Lind is just one voice among literally thousands of civilian experts, some of which have powerful political backing, trying to "transform" DOD. The military Bosses after a while get a bit jaded and more the a little deaf with and by this type of thing.

Mr. Lind deals with the subject of "Transformation" in no small amount of detail. Rather than continuing to opine on a subject of which you clearly don't know anything, why don't you try actually reading the book? I suspect you will enjoy it and it might even change your mind.

And since the military answers to the civilians in the USA, isn't it a good thing if the civilians actually try to understand something about the institution for which they are ultimately responsible?

Anonymous VD October 30, 2014 11:39 AM  

The soldiers who correctly point out that Mr. Lind has never gone into harm's way for the USA are not the problem here.

They may not be THE problem, but they are A problem. Because they are dishonestly resorting to a logical fallacy in order to attempt to shut down a discussion through disqualification rather than convince the other side through reasoned discourse.

Anonymous Student in Blue October 30, 2014 11:43 AM  

So, because there are already a lot of civilians trying to tell the military what to do, you suggest Mr. Lind should use a "little more honey" so that the military will notice and accept him?

If you're in a position where you're competing with a ton of other voices, the only way to have yours be known is to A) be right, and B) be loud about it. All honey would do is just make it easier to ignore, because then it'd be like all the other million suck-ups trying to get their due. And if you're exactly like all the other suck-ups, then it becomes a game of who you know, not what you know.

I mean, you attribute that saying of a thimble of honey to the saints, but what did Jesus do? Was He right, and loud about it, or did He temper His words with honey?

Anonymous Stilicho October 30, 2014 11:43 AM  


The soldiers who correctly point out that Mr. Lind has never gone into harm's way for the USA are not the problem here.


Do you realize that those "soldiers" are often the flag officers who are defending the status quo (and the system that created and rewarded THEM)? And they are a problem when they try to avoid hard truths by attacking the messenger.

The civilian politicians appoint their civilian minions to thousands of well compensated positions throughout DOD.

A significant number of whom are former officers.

Mr. Lind is just one voice among literally thousands of civilian experts, some of which have powerful political backing, trying to "transform" DOD. The military Bosses after a while get a bit jaded and more the a little deaf with and by this type of thing.

Lind has decades of experience as a military advisor (one actually employed by the military to help them become better at their job), including extensive experience teaching Marine officers and advising Commandants (and, IIRC, a lecturer at the Army Staff College). He is not "just one voice", he is a well known and respected voice who literally wrote the book on the Corps' version of maneuver warfare.

Anonymous Krul October 30, 2014 11:44 AM  

Tommy Hass - I've never even stepped foot in America, never mind being a Southerner and I hate their guts. How must Stars and Bars guys feel?

Like this

Anonymous Krul October 30, 2014 11:48 AM  

We have never institutionalized a system that encourages innovative ideas or criticism from subordinates.

To Col Studt's reasons, I add the simple fact that a military is a bureaucracy. As Mises explained, innovation is contrary to the essential nature of bureaucracies. If it comes, it must come from outside.

Anonymous Noah B. October 30, 2014 11:58 AM  

At least Mr. Lind's ideas haven't consistent proved to be incorrect over the past 50+ years, unlike the established counterinsurgency doctrine of the US military.

Anonymous Noah B. October 30, 2014 12:04 PM  

"...I add the simple fact that a military is a bureaucracy. As Mises explained, innovation is contrary to the essential nature of bureaucracies."

Absolutely. A militia, on the other hand, has the advantage of allowing new ideas to be tested and, if successful, rapidly put into widespread use.

Anonymous cheddarman October 30, 2014 12:04 PM  

The General Staff in the U.S. Army and other branches of the Armed Forces have a powerful incentive to kill any movement away from second generation warfare.

After retirement, generals and well connected colonels often get high paying jobs at weapons contractors such as General Dynamics, Boeing, etc. They use their influence to direct policy in congress and within the military, and help the contractors sell more expensive weapons systems.

A shift in the military away from 2nd generation tactics would stop the gravy train for the these "officers and gentlemen," as we would be focusing more on proven weapons systems like a better Rocket Propelled Grenade, better air support aircraft like an updated A-10, and less on 300 million dollar flying pianos like the F-35 lightning.

Anonymous Stilicho October 30, 2014 12:41 PM  

I always lusted for a good RPG variant. Never thought much of the LAW.

Anonymous VD October 30, 2014 12:46 PM  

Will CH be publishing a homeschool curriculum on military history and theory?

Yes, an author is working on it now.

Anonymous RedJack October 30, 2014 12:51 PM  

This isn't just about warfare. The ideas of "4th Generation Warfare" are applicable to the business world.

In short, most American companies are in the 2nd generation style of check lists and command and control. The better companies are in 3rd generation of allowing the lower levels to actually address the goals instead of the "process".

Not sure what the 4th generation looks like, but with the rise of 3d printing and such things I have a decent idea.

Anonymous Dumb founded October 30, 2014 12:52 PM  

I see that Tim Cook is doing his bit to defeat ISIS:

http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2014/10/breaking-isis-drops-iphones-after-apple-ceo-tim-cook-opens-up-about-being-gay/

Anonymous Dumb founded October 30, 2014 12:54 PM  

"I always lusted for a good RPG variant."

Yes, it would be good if someone came up with a replacement for the RPG-7. Something that can be created with local materials although adding an Arduino or something for guidance would be good too.

Would that be an instance of 4GW?

Anonymous Noah B. October 30, 2014 12:56 PM  

"I always lusted for a good RPG variant. Never thought much of the LAW."

I've never had the pleasure of firing any of them. The AT4 looks pretty sweet though.

Anonymous RedJack October 30, 2014 1:01 PM  

I know Tom Kratman is very skeptical of the OODA loop
And rightly so (as it is currently used). It means that there are multiple levels running multiple loops. In a bureaucratic situation, it means each level has to control the data going up and down to further their own goals. So by the time the "act" part comes down, it often time no longer fits the situation at hand.

Simply put it often means you stop focusing on the goal, and instead focus on the process. Companies go broke doing that (and military operations fail).

Anonymous Mike M. October 30, 2014 1:26 PM  

Two major comments:

First, civilian commentators are frequently fanboys of one sort or another. Very fond of gadgets and gimcracks, good with statistics - and terrible with strategy. The military wariness of these people is entirely justified.

However, once in a while you get a civilian who IS a serious student of war. Focused on strategy and policy. And since he is a civilian, not mired in the minutia of small unit management and tactics. It's worth noting that many of the greatest naval strategists have been civilians - most notably Sir Julian Corbett (who headed up the brain trust that won the First World War for the Royal Navy). The key is knowing how to sort the wheat from the chaff...and being willing to put the wisdom of an intelligent outside observer to good use. Corbett had the advantage of working with Admirals Fisher and Jellicoe, both of whom were willing to listen.

Second, the OODA loop works...but Boyd didn't invent it. See the campaigns of Napoleon (especially the Italian campaigns and Ulm), and Stonewall Jackson's Shenandoah Valley campaign. Take the initiative, move quickly, get the opponent off-balance - and KEEP the advantage. I've seen that OODA loop credited to the Naval Postgraduate School...with the caveat that there were indications that the Soviets had worked it out ever earlier.

Blogger sysadmn October 30, 2014 1:27 PM  

Nathaniel Bedford Forrest

I'd add John Mosby (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_S._Mosby) as well. A small time lawyer who joined the Army of the Confederacy as a private; two years later he was leading the 43rd Battalion Virginia Cavalry.

Anonymous Anonymous October 30, 2014 1:28 PM  

Mr VD:

Thank you for your reply wherein you posted in part:

"You're completely wrong"

I often am. However this is one of the very few areas (as in getting new things and ideas past the gate keepers albeit in my case very small things and ideas) that I have some real world experience in.

You also posted in part:

"The sergeants know less about the strategic issues involved than the average wargamer does."

IIRC my comrades often knew when the Politicians and Generals were doing something very, very stupid - and how to right matters.

You also posted in part:

"Your comments here are demonstrating the importance of not listening to people simply because they have some military experience"

I have not and am not citing my inglorious military experience. Rather I am citing my not inconsiderable bureaucratic experience in and out of uniform.

You further posted:

"Rather than continuing to opine on a subject of which you clearly don't know anything, why don't you try actually reading the book?"

As previously posted I have read everything I could find online by Mr. Lind. And I had hoped to get a copy of his new opus for my B-Day.

Finally you posted in part:

"And since the military answers to the civilians in the USA, isn't it a good thing if the civilians actually try to understand something about the institution for which they are ultimately responsible?"

Of course. But the point I am trying to make is that it is the civilians, not the Generals, who run DOD.And DOD has nothing to do about defending the USA. Rather it is about making a handful of folks very, very rich indeed; and providing secure, comfortable employment to a somewhat larger group.

God bless

Richard W Comerford

Anonymous DavidK October 30, 2014 1:30 PM  

When I was still in high school, I happened to find a hardcover book on Strategy by BH Liddell Hart, which discussed the most successful military commanders from the time of the ancient Greeks up through World War 2. Ever since then, I understood the wisdom of the indirect approach over the direct approach, as well as the fact most military commanders aren't going to come up with a better idea then a massive frontal attack to overwhelm an opponent.

So when I came upon Lind as he was regularly publishing these articles over a decade ago, I enjoyed the similar approach and the explanation of 2GW, 3GW, and 4GW. I was somewhat surprised by his descriptions of the Pentagon but I better understand the futility of bureaucracy now.

And of course having been there reading Lind's prediction as he made them, and agreeing with them, and then watching them turn out to be correct, all I can say is if you want to understand the reality of the nation-state and its inability to solve real problems with outdated forces, you should check out the book.

Anonymous Anonymous October 30, 2014 1:40 PM  

Mr VD:

Thank you for your reply wherein you posted in part:

"They may not be THE problem, but they are A problem. Because they are dishonestly resorting to a logical fallacy in order to attempt to shut down a discussion through disqualification rather than convince the other side through reasoned discourse."

The embittered, young Field Grade with a purple heart with 5-clusters on his chest who stands up in class and complains about ANOTHER civilian expert telling him how to suck eggs is exactly the type of guy you want as an ally.

This young warrior king has probably already spent the biggest chunk of his career in schools as either a student or teacher hearing about the newest and bestest thing from civilian experts The next biggest chunk of his career has been spent on staffs again listening to civilian experts. Even if he is a real fighter he has spent relatively little time leading and commanding other fighting men.

Now he has another book to speed read with a bad attitude.

Win him over. Make him a disciple. Do not start out by complaining that he (the soldier) is complaining that Mr. Lind is a civilian.

God bless

Richard W Comerford

Anonymous Anonymous October 30, 2014 1:45 PM  

Mr. Student in Blue:

Thank you for your reply wherein you posted in part:

"the only way to have yours be known is to A) be right, and B) be loud about it"

Personally I never saw that method work. Instead see how Army Chief if Staff Shy Myers went about getting Delta Force stood up. He was quite stealthy.

God bless

Richard W Comerford

Anonymous Anonymous October 30, 2014 1:52 PM  

Mr :Stilicho:

Thank you for your reply wherein you posted in part:

"Do you realize that those "soldiers" are often the flag officers"

No. I do not think the Generals (in the main really care. The Generals are concerned about big dollar projects, I am thinking about angry young Field Grades who want to radically change the Army.

You also posted in part:

"Lind has decades of experience as a military advisor"

I think that (sadly) it matters not. So do a couple of thousand other guys - some of whom are tied to powerful and monied interests. In the Pentagon, more than anywhere else, money talks.

God bless

Richard W Comerford

Anonymous RedJack October 30, 2014 2:17 PM  

Mike M.

OODA works at the local level. Each of your examples did so without the "benefit" of a chain of command thousands of miles away making tactical decisions.

We have a situation where a Lt. is asking for permission to fire back from someone on the other end of a sat phone. That isn't good management, that is nuts.

When you have layer upon layer of command management, each layer will want to have a "say" and influence on every part they can. We aren't talking about a local commander reacting to local conditions to drive an agenda, we are talking about a guy in the Pentagon trying to decide how a local squad leader reacts to a situation in Iraq.

OODA loops are a perfect example of a good idea carried way to far up the chain. The simple fact that we keep sending troops down the same road even after it was mined twenty times is proof of that. To much command and control makes you predictable, and that makes you vulnerable.

Anonymous RedJack October 30, 2014 2:28 PM  

richard w comerford,

Special forces have their place, but their overall strategic importance has often been blown out of proportion. They suck up a huge amount of resources which in many situations would be better served going to different areas. Kind of like the above mentioned A10 in a ground support role makes more sense than a F22 that costs 20 times more in the same role.

Also, we can afford to lose some A10's (or regular infantry). Lose some Special Forces guys (or F22's) when you have based your whole doctrine on them and you have a problem.

Getting back to the topic of the thread, we flooded Afghanistan and Iraq with lots of high resource assets. We still lost because we didn't see the fight for what it was. Using Delta or the SEALS to kill Bin laden (or using an F22 to bomb a hut) is good PR domestically, but doesn't further the strategic goal of victory. Killing Bin Laden using Special Forces was in many ways, a strategic failure. He (Bin Laden) was not the head of anything, so it did not affect the overall operations of the islamists. All it did was turn Pakistan further against and create a powerful martyr image.

Just like bombing "ISIS" targets will not stop them. They are not using a C&C structure like we do, and their logistics are such they are not as vulnerable to disruption. All we are doing is wasting resources and turning people against us.

Anonymous VD October 30, 2014 2:34 PM  

But the point I am trying to make is that it is the civilians, not the Generals, who run DOD.And DOD has nothing to do about defending the USA. Rather it is about making a handful of folks very, very rich indeed; and providing secure, comfortable employment to a somewhat larger group.

Agreed. Agreed. Agreed.

Win him over. Make him a disciple. Do not start out by complaining that he (the soldier) is complaining that Mr. Lind is a civilian.

If the guy doesn't have the brains to understand that the guy has reliably made predictions that turned out to be correct means that he is someone worth giving a fair shake, he's not someone who is even CAPABLE of being an ally of mine.

We may be on the same side, but I can't talk to him. I'm not complaining that he is complaining, I'm simply dismissing him because he's an idiot. I have zero respect or time for anyone who seriously subscribes to the genetic fallacy. If they can't grasp logic 101, they are of no more use to me than if they can't read or talk.

Anonymous ENthePeasant October 30, 2014 2:35 PM  

The strangeness I feel about all that's going on with this blog and Castilia House is the equivalent of reliving one's childhood from the perspective of others. My original copy of "The Maneuver Warfare Handbook" was "liberated" from a Marine Maj who was too stupid to grasp it's importance anyways... that had to be the early to mid 80s if memory serves. And regardless of who thinks what about who, the Marines were as unsuited culturally and philosophically to adopt maneuver warfare as a pit-bull is to paint murals. Marines do what they do and they may have a few people within the structure devoted to learning, but often times that's more of a counterpoint to separate them from teh army. Not many people become Marines to innovate.

Soon after 9-11 I dropped it all. I've had email relationships at least with all the major reformers of the 80s and 90s and everyone was getting old by that time and was ready to move on. I thought it was all dead and gone. I knew instinctively that my views would make no difference, it was all up to those serving. Prior service may get you a place at the VFW bar but don't misunderstand. It's always about the men serving and they are not big on listening.

The thing about being an old guy is you realize that you've repeated your stories over and over... I'm sure I've written about Lind, Boyd, Spinney, and many others dozens of times on this blog... without gaining much traction. But we never know when good ideas (like bad ideas) will rear their pretty head. I'm just glad this is all coming up and thanks VD for making this happen.

Anonymous Cheddarman October 30, 2014 2:53 PM  

"I am re minded of another amateur. An untrained civilian that raised his own company and lead it so effectively that his tactics changed the way war was fought for the next 100 years.

Nathaniel Bedford Forrest" - Nate

And King Leonidas of Sparta would still kick his ass six ways from sunday.



Sincerely

Cheddarman

Anonymous Sam the Man October 30, 2014 3:04 PM  

Very interesting thread: Never was much in the way of an expert on any of these matters being discussed but a few observations that have not been mentioned:

1) Career Sergeants really have very little input on the way wars are fought on any level above tactical, and even at that level have very little influence (if any), beyond the fire team and squad level. Where they do have a larger influence is thought the NCO support network on matters related to morale and/or methods of enhancing the unit cohesion. Officers do seem to listen to 1st sergeants and SGM on those matters. The NCO support chain is actually now part of the formal structure of the Army, but limited to providing that feedback only.


2) From what little readings I have of Lind back in the day and others, it is clear that the German Army was tactically better lead on lower levels from November of 1942 through mid to late 1944. The same is true of the Army of Northern Virginia from 1862 through late to fall of 1864( compared to the Army of the Potomac). However in both cases (late winter of 1944/45 and winter of 64/65) the US Army, through hard frontal fighting and massive use of firepower had eliminated that advantage. While in both cases it was not tactical finesse but raw firepower, the result was the same. The US army by the spring of 1865 and 1945 was able to run rings around the formally tactically superior foe. As such one could say there is a certain “quality to quantity" that is unique. This is what a lot of the US army’s massive use of firepower is about. While this may fail on the 4th gen war, it is a quality and capability that should be valued if we ever have to fight another major land war.


3) From my very limited view of the US army as a guardsman, it would seem a lot of very good leaders did exist at the lower levels of the officer corps (captains and below). These chaps did read a lot of books and studied the art of war. However the higher you go, at least at the state NG level, the higher you go the more political it becomes and much of the officer corps at field grade and above seems to be concerned with the outer trappings of military traditions and not the serious study of the art of war. Also the efforts to remake the NG into a state emergency response force did/do not help. No idea if that applies to the real Army.


4) All of the really effective armies we read about seem to come about as of unexpected defeat or dire need. The Germans were good because they had to first learn why they lost against Napoleon in 1807, then in a hundred years in WWI. The Israelis, Swiss (in the middle ages) and Spartans were all small, relatively poor nations that literally could not stand one defeat. Hence a small groups that always seem to innovate better than large bloated organizations. In the case of the US of A, we have the luxury of not really fearing a serious invasion nor do we have any real serious nation status threatening defeats that would argue reform. The most serious defeat we suffered, (Vietnam) lead to mid 1980s reform, resulting in a very good maneuver army that was able to defeat Sadam in 1991 ( and then decay). The result seems to be between wars that Army bloats up with fat, that is then painfully discarded when the next serious war comes along. And once a serious nation threatening war does come along (such as the Civil war and WWII), the Army fixes itself in the space of 2 to 3 years.

Anonymous Student in Blue October 30, 2014 3:11 PM  

@richard w comerford

Personally I never saw that method work. Instead see how Army Chief if Staff Shy Myers went about getting Delta Force stood up. He was quite stealthy.

Well it's good to know that you believe that former Chief of Staff Edward Meyer is a higher authority for how to do things than Jesus Christ.

Now, can you stop cherry-picking my posts and attempting to rebut selected points by only dropping names (an appeal to authority)?

I'm not a military historian. It's not my cup of tea. So unless you can explain what you meant by "how Army Chief if Staff Shy Myers went about getting Delta Force stood up", the only thing a quick search can tell me otherwise is that he was under pressure by the Joint Chiefs and President Carter in order to back Delta Force instead of Blue Light as the chief counterterrorism unit. So you look like a liar unless you can explain. source

And another thing... even if you proved that sometimes going stealthy works, how does that even prove that your first point in your first post, that "a bit of honey" is better than being "loud and right"? It doesn't, logically. You're moving the goalposts.

Do keep in mind that I am only being this horrendously rude at this point, because you have failed to engage points I have brought up multiple times. You have disrespected me, and so now I will disrespect you.

Anonymous Stilicho October 30, 2014 3:30 PM  

And regardless of who thinks what about who, the Marines were as unsuited culturally and philosophically to adopt maneuver warfare as a pit-bull is to paint murals.

If it was good enough for Chesty, it is good enough for you!

The truth is, the Corps' amphibious mission places constraints on the ability to implement maneuver warfare on a significant scale in those situations. If you have to take an Iwo Jima, there are going to be frontal assaults involved. In recent decades, the Corps' small size relative to the Army and its mission as an expeditionary force have allowed it some leeway to experiment, but, as always (and as Lind attests), the resistance to trying new methods always comes primarily from the top of the bureaucracy. One of the primary reasons (aside from various turf battles and $$$ disputes) is that failure is not allowed in our military. This means that everyone, especially those in higher ranks making a career of it, are heavily incentivized to not take chances or try new things because their career could be over if it doesn't work. The Corps works very hard to encourage NCO's and company grade officers to take the initiative, then proceeds to beat the initiative out of field grade officers before promoting any of them to flag rank.

Now, if you want to see a service that is temperamentally unsuited to adopt a new approach to how they do things, take a look at the Navy. It's in the dictionary next to "hidebound".

Anonymous Noah B. October 30, 2014 3:48 PM  

"In the case of the US of A, we have the luxury of not really fearing a serious invasion..."

Ironic, since a serious invasion is happening right now.

Blogger JaimeInTexas October 30, 2014 5:14 PM  

Tommy Hass: "How must Stars and Bars guys feel?"

I cannot tell from the context. Are you referring to the Yanks? Then, it is the Stars and Stripes. The Stars and Bars is the 1st national Flag of the CSA.

Anonymous Anonymous October 30, 2014 5:21 PM  

Mr VD:

Thank you for your reply wherein you posted in part:

"If the guy doesn't have the brains to understand that the guy has reliably made predictions that turned out to be correct means that he is someone worth giving a fair shake, he's not someone who is even CAPABLE of being an ally of mine."

You are being logical again. Kindly cease and desist forthwith.

Perhaps, as usual, I am not communicating well.

Let us take a look at our guy who objects to Mr. Lind's book. He is a young Major. Now @ 34. 12-years in. On the downhill to 20 and out. He entered West Point at 18. Commissioned Infantry @ 22.

He has spent about half of the past 16-years in schools. Another 4-years on some sort of staff or teaching at a school. He regards about 90% of what he learned and what he taught as useless at best.

But he spent about 4 of those 16-years as a warrior king: a Rifle Platoon Leader and Rifle Company Commander. Paradise (or Valhalla). The only way for our guy to return to Paradise is to be promoted to LTC and then be selected to command an Infantry Battalion. This will happen to only @ one out of 20-Infantry Majors. His only chance to get promoted, do his Twenty and get selected and to return to Paradise is to KEEP HIS MOUTH SHUT. Not be that nail that sticks out of the wood and needs to get hammered.

Yet he stands up in class, a rated class, and tells his instructor who is pushing Mr. Lind's book that what Mr. Lind is selling is B.S.

And that is exactly the type of guy who when he actually reads the book will become a convert and put his career on the line to transform the U.S. Army. Further he is exactly that kind of guy who will inspire the NCO Corps. An Army can survive bad Generals it cannot survive a bad NCO Corps.

God bless

Richard W Comerford

Anonymous Student in Blue October 30, 2014 5:32 PM  

@JaimeInTexas
I cannot tell from the context. [...] The Stars and Bars is the 1st national Flag of the CSA.

Yes, that wasn't a mistake.

From his post, "Why aren't Southerners engaging in car bombings against these cocksuckers? I've never even stepped foot in America, never mind being a Southerner and I hate their guts."

The subject of "I hate their guts" are the "cocksuckers" that Southerners aren't engaging in car bombings against. He's not talking about hating the Southerner. He's talking about not quite grokking why Southerners aren't being more violent.

Blogger JaimeInTexas October 30, 2014 5:33 PM  

I do not remember when I started reading Lind's articles but it wa a loooong time ago. I also began reading David Hackworth. Lind did the theory, Hackworth the grunts perpective. The "perfumed princes" are the problem.

Maybe Castalia could also do a collection of Hackworth's writings.

Anonymous Stilicho October 30, 2014 5:58 PM  


Yet he stands up in class, a rated class, and tells his instructor who is pushing Mr. Lind's book that what Mr. Lind is selling is B.S.

And that is exactly the type of guy who when he actually reads the book will become a convert and put his career on the line to transform the U.S. Army. Further he is exactly that kind of guy who will inspire the NCO Corps. An Army can survive bad Generals it cannot survive a bad NCO Corps.


Wrong. If your hypothetical major is stupid enough to call Lind's book and theories B.S. before he even bothers to read it or learn the subject matter, then he is far too stupid to be put in command of a battalion. I expect the only thing he would inspire would be similar stupidity.

I think I see where you are coming from: salty combat vet doesn't want to hear what some stupid civilian thinks, so dismisses theories without examining them. The reality is, a salty combat vet is going to be open to learning new things that will help keep him and his troops alive, especially since he's likely seen the failures of traditional doctrine in the last decade. If he's a field grade officer, he's also likely heard of Lind as well, so it's not probable that his first reaction is going to be "who the hell is this joker?"

Anonymous Anonymous October 30, 2014 6:20 PM  

Mr. Stilicho:

Thank you for your reply wherein you posted in part:

"If your hypothetical major is stupid enough to call Lind's book and theories B.S. before he even bothers to read it or learn the subject matter, then he is far too stupid to be put in command of a battalion."

I have never personally met a Field Grade who I would consider actually stupid. Sadly I have met more than a few who appeared emasculated. My young, angry Major however is not one of them. And he is the type of guy, who will lay his career on the line,so that he can transform the Army.

God bless

Richard W Comerford

Anonymous trev006 October 30, 2014 8:10 PM  

Sergeant Comerford, two points:

1) Lots of people can be intelligent- sometimes very much so- yet still make decisions that are very unwise. This goes double for intelligent people who aren't very flexible or creative. Wisdom is needed more than a willingness to openly defy authority, though the will is needed.

2) It's possible that many people who can't adapt will leave. I think implementing 4GW will take daring actors a lot more than it will need highly ranked truth-tellers, and losing officers without track records of -strategic- success is acceptable. Change will come from the ground up- or, in a failing empire, come from outside the politician-controlled military.

When's the last time the military made a series of changes you felt proud about? You've got an interesting example, but I'd like to know- has a major done something like that in your personal experience?

Anonymous Anonymous October 30, 2014 9:28 PM  

Mr. trev006:

Thank you for your reply wherein you posted in part:

"Wisdom is needed more than a willingness to openly defy authority, though the will is needed."

Doubtless. Well put.

"When's the last time the military made a series of changes you felt proud about?"

I was blessed to work for a number of bosses (to include guys I did not like) who placed honor and patriotism above career and self interests. I was also blessed to serve (in a very minor capacity) on a number of tasks and projects that showed what the Army, to include its bureaucracy, can do when it wants to.

That being said the Army can only do so much on its own. In a way the Army reflects country. And the USA is in dire need of a moral awakening.

The vultures are gathering. Our country which seems so powerful is IMO quite vulnerable (I think Hezbollah vs. Israel in 06). The USA desperately needs an Army that can actually defend it rather than act as an ATM for the elites.

God bless

Richard W Comerford

Anonymous trev006 October 30, 2014 9:35 PM  

Sergeant Comerford,

You know, maybe you should bring this book to the attention of your former officers. If they're as smart and hard-working as you say they are, they'll listen to a sergeant who's given his life towards defending the nation, and to good advice no matter where it comes from. If not... well, how smart could they really be? After all, you understand the seriousness of the situation, so shouldn't officers understand it even more readily? It is their job!

But take heart- while the Army reflects the country, the Army remains one of America's most popular institutions, diametrically opposite of Congress' popularity. People on all ends of the spectrum should contemplate what that means, and why.

Anonymous Anonymous October 30, 2014 9:51 PM  

Mr trev006:

Thank you for your reply wherein you posted in part:

"maybe you should bring this book to the attention of your former officers"

They may well have read Mr. Lind. Even I a knuckle dragger have read his articles in the past - although I did not know who he was.

But this is a point I have been trying to make; and I am not doing it very well, the career officers are really and truly overwhelmed with books, lectures, courses and schools - both military and civilian. There is a staggering education requirement placed on them. IN a way there principal occupation is schooling of one type or another.

They have long ago reached saturation point. So many books have been presented to them as revolutionary, transforming or brilliant that they have become quite jaded.

I have 2-old bosses who are retired and teach at one of the big war colleges. I hope to sound them out on Mr. Lond's opus.

God bless

Richard W Comerford

Blogger Akulkis October 31, 2014 2:50 AM  

Those who doubt the baility of theorists to be correct about anything in war. "Operational Theory" was invented in WW2, and on if it's biggest successes was defeating the U-boats in the 6-year-long Battle of the North Atlantic. The entire group was a bunch of desk-bound mathemetician types.

Blogger Akulkis October 31, 2014 3:21 AM  

I know Tom Kratman is very skeptical of the OODA loop, and perhaps he is correct to observe that a concept based on 1v1 aerial dogfighting is inapplicable to mass ground combat. But it certainly does apply to wargames.

If the OODA loop didn't apply to ground warfare, we would still be relying on face-to-face communication of orders from superior to subordinates at all levels of warfare.

Instead, we have gone from horns to visual signals to chappe semaphores to telegraph to telephone to radio to enciphered radio to encrypted radio to encrypted radio with rapid frequency-hopping such as SINCGARS.

So, in this respect, I disagree with the Colonel. For example SINCGARS allows many messages with times and locations to be transmitted instantly, ieliminating a few minutes of enciphering/deciphering, and for longer messages which would be exploitable beyond the immediate future (2 hours or less), completely eliminates lengthy, and error-prone work breaking down messages into keywords, prefixes, suffixes and individual letters and transforming them into 3-letter groups by a code-book...and then turning those 3-letter groups back into a message using the decode-book. Messages which only 40 years ago required, at battalion or company level 30 minutes to 2 hours to prepare for transmission can be, today, sent as soon and as quickly as the officer or NCO can formulate the words to speak them out of his mouth into a microphone, without the intense, error-prone labor by a trained radio operator.

Blogger Akulkis October 31, 2014 3:28 AM  

And Gunny Poole's stuff needs to get out there.

I've read every single one of his books regarding Muslim and terrorist ways of war -- these books are like a Rosetta Stone for seeing into the minds of those combatants. Absolutely worth their weight in gold.

Blogger Tom Kratman October 31, 2014 11:20 AM  

A. Note that my criticism of OODA is criticism, not so much of a civilian theorist or his theory as of a military theorist and his theory. B. Read the criticism before criticizing it. C. You can find it by googling "Indirectly Mistaken Decision Cycles." D. I think OODA has nearly zero validity in collective ground combat, and the place where it does have a general validity is not in maneuver, but in stopping maneuver cold via presenting said maneuver with decisions (read: defenses) prepared long in advance, hence out of the decision cycle process. Think here: Kursk, where every mine, every bunker, every wire belt, every Pakfront, every dug in Russki with a rifle or a grenade representing actions that needed to be decided on and taken, but of which there were simply too many for the Germans to deal with.

Oh, and Machiavelli's Art of War made little sense anyway. He's more or less trying to recreate a Legion, with a somewhat different mix of equipment, for changed circumstances, but never seemed to have understood how and why the legions operated as they did. I've got two or three versions...three, I think, to include a copy of the first English translation, complete with fold out drawings...and it never made sense technically or tactically.

Blogger Tom Kratman October 31, 2014 11:25 AM  

"But it certainly does apply to wargames."

It can, but need not. It is entirely possible to base one's approach to a wargame on sheer attrition and still prevail. However, more importantly, wargames - turn based wargames - are poor simulacra of war, that do a fair to excellent job of looking like they're good simulacra of war.

Blogger Tom Kratman October 31, 2014 11:29 AM  

" too many for the Germans to deal with. " Addendum: "as they were being, not out decision-cycled, but out-attritted."

Blogger Akulkis October 31, 2014 7:12 PM  

Communication both laterally and up/down the chain of command IS part of the OODA loop. It creates delays between Observe & Orient (sending in intel upwards)... and then another delay between Decide & Act (distributing intel and orders downwards).

Play some of the Civl War, Brigade (CWB) games, originally published by The Gamers, now bought out and published by Multi-Man Publishing. The CWB series rules revolve around issuing orders (at field-Army level), and getting them down to the brigades. Themere location of the overall commander effects the OODA loop, as his orders can only be distributed to subordinates (Corps Commanders) at the speed of horseback (unless he meets with a/some subordinates face-to-face). Try playing one of these games with at least 3 people per side -- one as overall commander (who can only move his headquarters, and the senior officer on the field)...and at least two to fulfill the role of corps commanders, such that if two corps are given orders which tie-in to each other's activities... each of those players can only do what he thinks the orders mean... a corps commander going off half-cocked to try to take advantage of a small break in OPFOR lines is going to find his ass hanging in the wind, because nobody else has any orders to support him.

On a modern battlefield, with realtime communication, it's not the factor it was ...the profile of OODA, and where the majority of time is spent is constantly changing... but I don't think it can ever be eliminated.

Blogger Akulkis October 31, 2014 7:22 PM  

It can, but need not. It is entirely possible to base one's approach to a wargame on sheer attrition and still prevail. However, more importantly, wargames - turn based wargames - are poor simulacra of war, that do a fair to excellent job of looking like they're good simulacra of war.

Lanchesters laws (mathematical model of attrition rates) have both continuous and descritized forms.

The interesting thing, is that the descrete-form is actually a better representation of how combat really works -- most especially for naval warfare. (although Lanchester derived his equations for land-combat ... one equation for face-to-face fighting, (swords, clubs, fist-fights, bayonets, knights-on-horseback [vs other mounted knights or vs. rabble] etc.) and another for direct-fire ranged-weapon fighting (javelins, bows&arrows, firearms). I'm sure some modification can be derived to work for indirect fire weapons, too.

The surprising thing that comes out is that if the correct scale and time-interval is chosen, turn-based wargames can be surprisingly accurate. [Start with perfecting naval surface warfare, then flat-desert/open-steppe land warfare, and then proceed to more complicated terrain]. Not all games are good simulations, and not all good simulations make good games... but ther e are some games which are also good simulations [although they have a reputation for one turn taking longer than the amount of time being modelled].

Blogger Tom Kratman October 31, 2014 7:34 PM  

Personal opinion: Lanchester's Laws are mainly horse manure, dangerously preposterous nonsense, hence precisely what you would expect of an intellectual.

Start at the beginning, his pre firearms equations. Man v. Man. Nope, absolute horseshit. The numbers killed, per se, while fighting hardly mattered because the important attrition was against the opponent's _morale_. Weakness and defection came not from the fighting in front, but from one's own rear. Slaughter happened after morale was broken. And he didn't seem to have the slightest glimmering of that.

So, again, dangerously preposterous nonsense.

Anonymous VD October 31, 2014 8:18 PM  

Weakness and defection came not from the fighting in front, but from one's own rear. Slaughter happened after morale was broken

It's interesting how many ancients games fail to reflect this. Retreat has historically begun from behind.

Blogger Tom Kratman October 31, 2014 9:08 PM  

It's the only place it can begin. The guys in front can't turn around without getting a spear in the back. The guys in the middle have people behind them, physically preventing desertion. But the guys in the rear could run and eventually would, at least on one side.

That was actually one of the more brilliant aspects of the manipular legion; it was built around man as he is, not some fantasy. The Triarii getting placed into battle was pretty rare, rare enough that it was remarkable enough to be, in fact, remarked on when it happened, as at Cynoscephelae. What they did do, besides that aspect of last ditch reserve, was tacticly threaten any who bolted from the Hastati or Princeps with suimmary execution. As the old Ashanti war chant goes, "if I go on, i shall die. If I stay behind, i shall be killed. It is better to go on." OTOH, I doubt that that had to actually execute anyone very often, precisely because they would. That knowledge, in, say, 17 year old Miles Biggus DIckus of the the tenth maniple of hastati would have something like the following effect. "Gods, I'm so scared I want to run, just run. Those Libyan spearmen, professional to a man, look _tough_. And everybody around me feels the same way; I know they do. I don't want to be left alone here to die on my own to no good purpose. On the other hand, Pater and Uncle Festus are back there with the hastati, right behind me. Festus might not run me throughif I bolt but the old man would in a heartbeat, then go home and beat mom for turning out a bad product. So I can't run. I hope Cousin Marcus in the next file over understands that Festus will chop him down if he runs. He must; he must understand his dad the way I know my own. And, come to think of it, there isn't a man in the maniple who doesn't know that desertion means death and disgrace, a death more certain and a disgrace worse than anything Brother Pune over on the other side can dish out. So what the hell am I worried about? Nobody in this maniple or any other is going to run, because that's certain death. So we'll stand and it will be the Punes who frighten...yeah, that's the ticket. We're gonna kick some Phonecian ass today,. boys..."

Blogger Tom Kratman October 31, 2014 9:09 PM  

Coorection, "Back there with the triarii."

Blogger Akulkis November 01, 2014 12:02 AM  

Lanchester's laws covers attrition, and nothing else. But it's the basis for everything, Kind of like carrier mobility covers the movement of electrons or holes, and but doesn't even explain HOW a diode or transistor works -- but nevertheless, without the charge mobility equations, you'll never have a basis for actually predicting the actual characteristics of a semiconductor device before it's fabricated.

Morale tends to be something which layers on top of Lanchester's laws. (And by playing with the constants, you can demonstrate quite vividly the difference in effectiveness between, say, elite troops who are at the range every other week, line troops who get to the range a couple times a year vs freshly mobilized reserve components who go to the range only once per year vs militia made of deer-hunters who wouldn't think if making a 50-meter shot in only 2 seconds.

Likewise, the effects of body armor can be modelled quite well just by throwing a fraction < 1 in front of the opposing force's hit-probability factor.

You might think it's nonsense, but a hell of a lot of the real world, even the behavior of living things, can be modelled quite accurately with algebra, even more with calculus, and damn near everything except chaotic systems (such as weather) can be accurately modelled with differential equations.

Combat is DIFFICULT to model well...but the primary reason is because data is so difficult to obtain.
MILES II helps a bunch in the data-collection department, but the morale factor isn't there. It's one thing to press home an attack when 90% of your platoon are casualties in a laser-tag engagement.... quite another to do it when the wounds of your buddies involve real blood, not beeping helmet bands.

But the difficulty of ascertaining the values for the multipliers and exponents doesn't mean Lanchester's laws are worthless -- it just means that getting accurate values is difficult.

Conversely, we can play around with ideas that we KNOW will have certain effects (increasing/decreasing factors for our own hit probabilities or enemy hit probabilities), and the models might not tell us absolute results, but they will tell us whether a certain TTP or piece of equipment and the trade-offs involved pushes the attrition rates in the direction we want, or not.

Computer Programming is, ultimately, an art, not a science (despite the plethora of Computer Science departments!), but nonetheless, we can make mathematical observations about different programming techniques and styles.

Same goes for combat. Morale is just another variable...and sometimes most variable variable of all.

Blogger Akulkis November 01, 2014 12:11 AM  

You're right about the "retreat beginning in the rear."

I don't think that indicts Lanchester's laws.... in fact, Lanchester's laws can help show HOW the retreat in the rear happens. What are the men in the rear seeing/hearing? Is there something there which leads them to believe the battle is lost even while the men still standing and fighting in the front line think no such thing? And what have those men seen and heard before? Best bet -- put solid veterans in the rear, because they're least likely to get spooked by a momentary setback, and they're most likelyu to have "seen it all" -- including victories snatched from the jaws of defeat.

Blogger Akulkis November 01, 2014 12:12 AM  

"in fact, Lanchester's laws can help show HOW the retreat in the rear happens."

s/happens/gets triggered

Blogger Tom Kratman November 01, 2014 12:35 AM  

Yes, they purport to cover physical attrition. What dif when physical attrition took a very distant second place to attrition of morale and confidence? What dif when it was THAT attrition that actually matter, and most casualties would show up in the pursuit?

Yeah, sure, right, common wisdom and at the core of I go-you go wargame design, but still nonsense. And that was the earliest and simplest, and the one Lanchester should have been able to peg, and he missed it entirely. So we should have confidence in his more modern conclusions? I'll pass.

Blogger Tom Kratman November 01, 2014 12:43 AM  

One is reminded, with regard to all such systems to measure combat performance and combat power of a joke popular during Vietnam. In the joke, there is a massive and massively powerful (for the day) computer, into which every aspect of the war is fed daily. Finally, sometime in mid 1968, McNamara's whiz ninnies ask the computer, which has all imaginable data to measure and judge, "When will we win the war?" The computer whirrs for a bit, some lights flash, it rattles and rolls some, shakes and shivers, and then out pops a paper on which is printed, "What do you mean? You won two years ago."

Blogger Tom Kratman November 01, 2014 12:46 AM  

There was an academic who had some issues with my assertion that, in the miltary, all the really important things cannot be well measured and all the really measureable things aren't very important. I answered thusly:


What's the objective morale value of a pickle?
How many standard deviations to the right is victory?
What is the square root of defeat?
Had Whistler answered that silicon was not a gas, would he have been a combat effective major general?
Taking a standard college freshman English class, how long can they delay the Third Mongolian Shock Horde? How long can Harvard? How long can Yale?
How many Thespians does it take to convince 298 or so Spartans to die?
What is the precise relationship between scores on the rifle qualification range and enemy dead in Falujah?
Which is the greater value, the Knights' Cross to the Iron Cross, the Victoria Cross, or the Medal of Honor? Please defend your answer.
What is the precise value, in morale terms, of officers eating last?
What is the relationship between Article 15s in the 11th Air Assault Division in 1962 and the first engagement by 1st Cavalry Division in the Ia Drang Valley?
What is the precise value in morale and esprit from paying an engineer battalion, while under fire, iin Japanese currency in the vicinity of Manila?
What is the precise value in recovering the bodies of your dead?
How much injustice can a combat unit withstand?
What is the followership value of military bearing?
What is the rate of transmission of courage?
What is the half life to failure of decisiveness?
What is the cube root of dependability?
What is the miles per gallon of endurance?
What is the sound of enthusiasm on a night infiltration?
What is the range, in meters, of determination?
What is the certain reciprocal of loyalty?
What are the group tasks, that must be performed as a group, of Poli Sci 101? Under what conditions? Under what conditions that simulate war?
What is the burst radius of tact?
How many casual perusals of basic texts on education will get the 29th Infantry Division ashore at Omaha?

Anonymous Akulkis November 01, 2014 11:54 PM  

Lanchesters laws reflect the effects of firepower, and can be made to include things which cause firepower to vary.

Lanchester's laws were never meant to reflect the reliability of a unit to even engage in the first place... that's why many games have mechanisms such as "morale checks" and other such things... to model what Lanchester's laws don't model.

That being said, these things are all probabalistic, and it seems that the lower the level of the simulation, the less accurate the information derived from most scenarios. A game with counters for individual men all controlled by one player on side A or side B presupposes a lot of things -- that all of the men on that side are telepathic. This, of course, leads to erroneous results.

Blogger Tom Kratman November 02, 2014 7:40 AM  

Lanchester's laws are the ravings of a diseased mind. He simply didn't have much of a clue how war on the ground works, at any level, at any time. I am pretty sure that he was pretty sure that his most thoughtless musing were still so brilliant that he didn't need to do more than muse to be more right that anyone who ever lived.

I actually talked myself out of a TV series that way - by slamming Lanchester's "laws" - a few years ago.

Anonymous Anonymous November 02, 2014 10:31 AM  

Mr. Akulkis
Re: Operational Research (OR) & Operational Effectiveness (OE)

Back in the day the Bosses were driven to distraction by something called "OR". (It turned out that Mr. Lanchester was one of the fathers' of OR.) OR came to the Army right after SECDEF McNamara and his infamous "whiz kids" introduced a similar system (or for all I know it may have been the same thing) into DOD during the Vietnam War.

As happens with such things in the Army a fiefdom grew up around "OR". Guys hitched their careers to the OR star. Classes were held. A forest or two of trees were sacrificed to provide mountains of books to students. Officers and NCO's became "OR" qualified; and every unit down to company had to have an OR qualified expert.

The Bosses as far as I could see were not best pleased.

Eventually, as these things tend to do, the enthusiasm for OR died out and the titled OR experts took their OR certificates down from the wall. Then after a decent interval of about 10-years OR came back as OE. And everyone had to go back to school to get OE qualified.

(The funny thing is that OR seemed to dominate in the S3/G3 shops and OE seemed to dominate in the S4/G4 shops.)

I have no idea whether OE/OR or Mr. Lanchester's theories worked or not. There is a scene from an old movie titled, I think, "Go tell the Spartans" starring Burt Lancaster as a crusty Army Colonel in the Mekong who is warmed by his Geeky, OR-type staff officer that something bad, very bad is going to happen...and it does and old Burt gets KIA.

For all I know OR works. But is was presented to the soldier not as a theory but as a proven, infallible, scientific system; and if anything went wrong it was because the soldier did not follow said system.

God bless

Richard W Comerford

Blogger Tom Kratman November 02, 2014 12:15 PM  

ORSA (that's what we called it in the Army, anyway, also called FA 49) works, or can, anyway - only when it doesn't forget that the key is people. There's a great ORSA story - alleged to be true - about someone being hired by a Mexican corporation to find a systemic way to stop loss of tools in their extensive vehicular maintenance shop. The ORSA type looked at everything, dug into everything, interviewed everybody and came up with a solution. He had the company issue a .44 magnum to the guy who ran the tool shed, and promised him a percentage of the value of the tools no lost when he retired. The next guy who came up demanding a tool and not wanting to sign for it got the muzzle of a .44 stuck on his nose until he signed. Then he got the tool, the value of which would be deducted from his pay if it was not returned.

Anonymous Anonymous November 02, 2014 1:41 PM  

Re: ORSA - correct title

And that shows you I was asleep in the OR/OE classes.

God bless

Richard W Comerford

Blogger Tom Kratman November 02, 2014 7:19 PM  

Thing to remember with any new fad or buzzword in the military is that nothing will change. The buzzword will be redefined, more or less quickly, to describe what we've always done. The same will happen to the meat of the fad. That's how things like "Auftragstaktik" become code for lock step drills, the crushing of initiative, and excessive command control. I recall being colonel's orderly as a spec 4, sitting in on an OE class for the battalion (4/10 Infantry, Fort Davis, CZ, early 77). What the OE guy was talking about made sense then, to a SP4, and it makes sense now, to an O5 (R). But NOTHING CHANGED. If, perchance, something looks like or even has created a positive change - I am thinking BTMS, here - it will be strangled, sooner or later.

Anonymous Anonymous November 02, 2014 8:01 PM  

Colonel K;

Thank you for your reply wherein you posted in part:

" If, perchance, something looks like or even has created a positive change - I am thinking BTMS, here - it will be strangled, sooner or later.
A Boss, then our Company Commander, said something along the lines that BTMS should be Company Training Management System.

He cited the WW II Germans who trained at the Company level. My old Boss claimed that the Company Cdr. knew his Company better than anyone else; and that each company was different.

Now this CO, with multiple combat tours in Vietnam, knew what he was about. And I thought he was onto something. (And may God keep him wherever he is now.)

It was my impression that the higher the decisions were made for training soldiers other factors (like dare I say war profiteering) counted more than actually getting ready to fight.

God bless

Richard W Comerford

Blogger Tom Kratman November 02, 2014 8:53 PM  

If I were God, or a least His junior partner, Richard, I'd require and enforce a 1/4 to 3/4 rule for troop time (as opposed to the 1/3 - 2/3 rule for mission prep). By that I mean that DIvision would get 1/4 of the days for everything division or higher wanted to do, to include training holidays I mean everything: guard, post cleanup, ARTEP, Christmas half day schedule, division norganization days, NTC rotations, mandatory bullshit lectures originating from on high; IG inspections, that's all they get. Call it a max of 65 days. I figure I wouldn't have to have shot more than 2 two stars before the rest got the message. Brigade would get 1/4 of the remainder, call it 49 days, then 37 for battalion. The remaining 110 go to company, inviolable and for the company commander's use in his sole discretion. As a rifle company commander, I actually got a lot more days than that, probably on the order of 220 or so myself, but that was a peculiarity of Ft Stewart, at that particular time (85-87) joined to the fact that my battalion commander took no obvious real interest in his job. My successor in command was not so lucky.

Anonymous Anonymous November 02, 2014 10:23 PM  

Colonel K;

Thank you for your reply wherein you posted in part:

"If I were God, or a least His junior partner, Richard, I'd require and enforce a 1/4 to 3/4 rule for troop time (as opposed to the 1/3 - 2/3 rule for mission prep)"

I have been reading a series of books by a retired Brit General named Michael Reynolds wherein he describes the battle history of the I and II SS Panzer Corps. He tries also to dissect them and to find what made them tick (other than Nazi nuttiness).

What struck me is that again and again either a "destroyed" unit written off by Allied Intelligence; or a brand new unit created seemingly out of nowhere, was made ready for combat in a startling short time.

BY short time I mean about 6-weeks. IIRC all the training was done at the company level. The emphasis was live fire and "sports"! Each company commander was expected to train his own company in a manner different from his peers; because each company was regarded as a unique collection of unique individuals.

Fortunately we had the Red Army on our side back then.

God bless

Richard W Comerford

Blogger Tom Kratman November 02, 2014 10:30 PM  

Some of that is a peculiarity of German culture, too. I suspect there's a lot more of an explanation of German miliary prowess in "Gemuetlichkeit" than in "GeneralStab."

It's also probable that Nazi nuttiness had little to nothing to do with. There were quasi outsider eyewitnesses (say, for example, a chaplain seconded to LSSAH from the Kriegsmarine) who've said that the men didn't take the ideology, such as it was, or the ideological indocrination, seriously at all.

Anonymous Anonymous November 02, 2014 10:40 PM  

Colonel K;

Thank you for your reply wherein you posted in part:


" I suspect there's a lot more of an explanation of German miliary prowess in "Gemuetlichkeit" than in "GeneralStab."."

Bingo! That makes sense. The young German men (Very often boys) culturally seemed took to the military very easily.

I am told that there is a direct line from the Teutonic Knights, Prussia. Imperial Germany and the Third Reich where soldiering became imbedded in the culture.

God bless

Richard W Comerford

Post a Comment

Rules of the blog

<< Home

Newer Posts Older Posts