Friday, August 09, 2002

Game on!

Another great column by the WaPost's William Arkin on the Pentagon's ongoing wargame which seeks to test new concepts of warfare. (As Arkin notes, this wargame was in the planning stages well before 9/11).

Arkin makes a few references to how this wargame exemplifies the ongoing battle between the Old School and New School of warfare in the Pentagon. For instance:

Mlitary sources also point out that war games begin with a non-negotiable commitment to "jointness" -- that is, that all of the services play equally and at the same time in exercises and in wars. These sources say this requirement means the pace of warfare is actually slowed down to give lumbering ground forces a chance to catch up with airpower and cyber warfare. The important point for the MC 02 is that RDO (and its conceptual cousin, Effects-Based Operations) are concepts for future warfare. They are by no means the "dominant" view in the Pentagon, particularly not in Central Command (CENTCOM), the Tampa-based Middle East command that is dominated by the Army.


Those who argue for military transformation and prosletyze on behalf of future warfare concepts worry about the bias -- still rampant not just in the Army but in the media and public mind -- that real war is merely an updated model of World War II's mechanized battles. They believe that such outmoded thinking is responsible for recent news reports which envision U.S. ground troops marching on Baghdad with great physical destruction and unacceptable costs in human lives. These military thinkers argue that warfare has already changed. They point to the first precision war in Desert Storm in 1991 and the victory in Kosovo's 1999 air war as evidence that there is a better way to approach battle, even against a mechanized foe like Iraq. Millennium Challenge will not resolve this conflict, but it goes a long way to introducing concepts other than physical destruction and attrition warfare to a military still dominated by conventional ground forces.

Supporters of the newer theories have a tough task on their hands. Emphasis on physical destruction and attrition have been a part of the American conception of warfare for a long time, well beyond WWII. For more on this, see Robert Leonhard's The Art of Maneuver: Maneuver-Warfare Theory and Airland Battle. Although this book was written with the an armored clash between the Warsaw Pact and NATO in mind, the general principles and critiques still apply.

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