In this episode of the Modern War Institute Podcast, MWI’s John Amble sits down for a conversation with Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley. He is the deputy commanding general of Army Futures Command as well as director of the Futures and Concepts Center.
Given Lt. Gen. Wesley’s role, the discussion touched on a variety of topics related to the future of war. But it focused most closely on multi-domain operations—the concept that describes the way the Army expects to fight in the future. From the technologies and weapon systems that will play an important role in the concept to important questions about leadership and service culture, the wide-ranging conversation gives listeners the opportunity to hear a nuanced view on multi-domain operations from a senior leader who is deeply involved in helping to shape the concept’s development.
Listen to the full conversation below, and be sure to subscribe to the MWI Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast app. While you’re there, please consider giving the podcast a rating or leaving a review. It’s a great way to help us reach even more listeners interested in the conversations we feature.
Image: Lt. Col. Wilson Blythe, Jr., Battlefield Development Plans Chief for Army Futures and Concepts Center, conducts a briefing on MDO to select senior staff representatives from NATO Allied Land Command, NATO Rapid Deployable Corps Italy, and NATO Rapid Deployable Corps Greece. (Credit: Jakub Klepek, NATO)
From the Congressional Research Service (CSR) item "CRS INSIGHT: The U.S. Army and Multi-Domain Operations" of January 17, 2019, by author Andrew Feickert, specialist in military ground forces:
"MDO is described in detail in 'The U.S. Army in Multi-Domain Operations 2028.' MDO was developed in response to
the 2018 National Defense Strategy, which shifts the previous focus of U.S. national security from countering violent
extremists worldwide to confronting revisionist powers—primarily Russia and China—who are said to 'want to shape a
world consistent with their authoritarian model—gaining veto authority over other nations' economic, diplomatic, and
security decisions.' The Army contends:
'China and Russia exploit the conditions of the operational environment to achieve their objectives without resorting to
armed conflict by fracturing the U.S.'s alliances, partnerships, and resolve. They attempt to create stand-off through the
integration of diplomatic and economic actions, unconventional and information warfare (social media, false narratives,
cyber-attacks), and the actual or threatened employment of conventional forces. By creating instability within countries
and alliances, China and Russia create political separation that results in strategic ambiguity reducing the speed of
friendly recognition, decision, and reaction. Through these competitive actions, China and Russia believe they can
achieve objectives below the threshold of armed conflict.' "
As an alternative to the ideas presented above, consider that what Russia and China may actually want to achieve today, this is to (a) defeat the U.S./the West and, this, (b) in much the same way that we defeated them during the Old Cold War.
Thus, as per this thesis, their goal is to cause the U.S./the West to cease and desist in our efforts to transform their [Russia and China's] states and societies more along modern western political, economic, social and value lines — and to cease and desist in our efforts to transform other states and societies along these lines also.
The manner in which Russia and China seem to be going about this such "containment"/"counter-revolutionary" activity, this would seem to be in the much the same way that we took on these tasks — versus them — in the Old Cold War.
In this regard, note that the "expansionist"/"revolutionary" activity by the U.S./the West, noted above — much like the "expansionist"/"revolutionary" activity by the Soviets/the communists during the Old Cold War — these activities, quite understandably, provide for such things as "natural allies" and "natural enemies." Herein:
a. The "natural allies" of those pursuing "expansionist"/"revolutionary" causes; these, logically, are often the more-liberal elements of the populations, to wit: those who are more likely to consider, embrace and tolerate significant political, economic, social and/or value "change." In sharp contrast:
b. The "natural enemies" of those pursuing "expansionist"/"revolutionary" causes; these, logically, are often the more-conservative elements of the population — those determined to fight and die rather than allow significant such "change" — and especially as relates to their traditional social values, beliefs, and institutions.
a. In the Old Cold War of yesterday — when "they" were doing "expansion" and "we" were doing "containment" — the more-liberal elements of our population, and those of other states and societies also, these were our "natural enemies"/the ones that caused us the most concern. While:
b. In the New/Reverse Cold War of today — when "we" have been the one's doing "expansion" — and "they" have been the one's doing "containment" — it is the more-conservative elements of our population, and those of other states and societies also, who have become our "natural enemies" and, thus, have come the ones that cause us the most concern.
As to this such contention (see my "b" immediately above), consider the following observations:
“Compounding it all, Russia’s dictator has achieved all of this while creating sympathy in elements of the Right that mirrors the sympathy the Soviet Union achieved in elements of the Left. In other words, Putin is expanding Russian power and influence while mounting a cultural critique that resonates with some American audiences, casting himself as a defender of Christian civilization against Islam and the godless, decadent West.” (See the "National Review” item entitled: “How Russia Wins” by David French.) (Remember our similar "tarring" of the Soviets/the communist, in the Old Cold War, with the similar "godless, decadent" label?)
“Russian efforts to weaken the West through a relentless campaign of information warfare may be starting to pay off, cracking a key bastion of the U.S. line of defense: the military. While most Americans still see Moscow as a key U.S. adversary, new polling suggests that view is changing, most notably among the households of military members.” (See the “Voice of America” item entitled: “Pentagon Concerned Russia Cultivating Sympathy Among U.S. Troops” by Jeff Seldin.)
The thesis presented by the NDS and the MDO above — that, re: Russia and China, what we are dealing with are "revisionist" entities who "want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model—gaining veto authority over other nations' economic, diplomatic, and
security decisions;" this such thesis, I suggest, does not well explain the phenomena I have described above.
A thesis, however, which suggests that what Russia and China are trying to do today to the U.S./the West, this is exactly what we tried (and did) to them in the Old Cold War; this such thesis, I suggest, may be better supported by the matters I have presented here.
Thus if, based on such evidence as I have presented here, my thesis is considered more reasonable, then how and when might we get about the business of crafting a new NDS — and a replacement for MDO — so that we might (a) better achieve "our" objectives and (b) better thwart and defeat "theirs?"
For emphasis, let me restate my argument/contention above, possibly in a more succinct manner, as follows:
Neither our Multi-Domain Operations — nor our National Defense Strategy upon which it is said to be based (from the Congressional Research Service item I provide above: "MDO is described in detail in 'The U.S. Army in Multi-Domain Operations 2028.' MDO was developed in response to the 2018 National Defense Strategy … ") — NEITHER of these, it would seem:
a. Adequately identify and/or explain why Russia and China would see our more-conservative/prevent change/more-isolationist groups, and our military, as their "natural allies" (and target them accordingly) — and see our more-liberal/embrace and promote change/more-progressive groups as their "natural enemies." Likewise (and accordingly), NEITHER of these such documents and concepts seem to:
b. Discuss strategies, means, mechanisms, etc., by which to take on and defeat this such threat. (A threat which, as I suggest in initial comment above, looks lot like "containment?")
Accordingly, should we say that what this indicates is that the U.S./the West now accepts — as its fate in the Post-Cold War — that:
a. By way of "containment" efforts made by such entities as Russia, China, Iran, N. Korea and the Islamists after 1989,
b. The U.S./the West has now, in fact, been defeated, "contained" and stopped dead in its tracks; this:
c. Much as the Soviet Union/the communists, in the Old Cold War, accepted their similar such fate; in that case, at the hands of the "containment" strategy employed by U.S./the West?
(Or, in the alternative, do we simply go back to the proverbial "drawing board," acknowledge the threat as "containment" and move to develop new NSS, NDS and "operations" concepts to defeat same accordingly?)