Tag: Summer Essay Campaign

Summer Essay Campaign Results!

By Major Matt Cavanaugh We’ve come to the end of the Summer Essay Campaign.  It was a lot of fun and I’m very proud to have had a part in getting some of these ideas out there.  For all those that participated I owe...

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Essay Campaign #19: Choose Wisely – Terrorist versus Insurgent

Summer Essay Campaign #19: “Choose Wisely – Terrorist versus Insurgent”

To Answer Question #1: “What is the difference between a terrorist and an insurgent?”

By Christina Bartzokis, Yale University NROTC

In 1964, in the midst of the Supreme Court case Jacobellis v. Ohio, Justice Potter Stewart offered this description of pornography: “I know it when I see it.” Eleven years later, Gerald Seymour wrote in his novel Harry’s Game, “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” In the years following, both phrases have been offered as platitudes to reassure analysts, policy makers, and the public alike that a clear definition of the word “terrorism” need not be extracted from the shifting historical and contemporary web of ambiguous violence: such a definition has been deemed either unnecessary or impossible by many. Consequently, terrorism has been conflated with a wide range of violent behavior, especially insurgencies. The word has become a propaganda tool, describing any kind of violence the user deems objectionable. Additionally, the accurate classification of conflicts as terrorism or insurgency is a precursor to developing an effective and corresponding response: counterterrorism (CT) or counterinsurgency (COIN).

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Essay Campaign #18: Room to Breathe – How the Military Supports Civilian-led Counterinsurgency

Summer Essay Campaign #18: “Room to Breathe – How the Military Supports Civilian-led Counterinsurgency”

To Answer Question 2: “Beyond stale slogans (i.e. “hearts and minds” or “money is a weapon”), what practical tasks does counterinsurgency entail at the tactical and operational level?”

By First Lieutenant Sarah Grant, USMC

The updated FM 3-24, issued in May 2014 and now called “Insurgencies and Countering Insurgencies,” locates insurgency within the category of irregular warfare and describes it as “a struggle for control and influence, generally from a position of relative weakness, outside existing state institutions.” It further defines it as “the organized use of subversion and violence to seize, nullify, or challenge political control of a region.”[i] Let’s take particular note of that last bit, about insurgency being about political control. Insurgents aim to upset the status quo and assert an alternative vision for the proper distribution of power and resources in society (what politics is all about).

                  Although devoted Clausewitzians would point out that all wars are waged for political objectives, insurgency and its antithesis counterinsurgency are political not just in aim but also in conduct. The effectiveness of the methods used by both insurgents and counterinsurgents is ultimately decided in the social and political, not the military, realms. Insurgencies cannot be defeated in a military sense unless every single participant is identified, located, and captured or killed.[ii] And even then, the grievances that drove those individuals to subvert the current order will likely remain, to be repossessed by others in the future.

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Essay Campaign #17: Paradigm Shift – Unmanned Systems and General Beaufre

Summer Essay Campaign #17: “Paradigm Shift – Unmanned Systems, General Beaufre, and the Seventh Phase of Land Operations”

To Answer Question 2: “How do unmanned systems impact modern battlefields?”

By Officer-Cadet Artur Varanda, Portuguese Army

1.    Beaufre’s Dilemma

In his important work An Introduction to Strategy (1965), French General André Beaufre describes the purpose of strategy as achieving decisionAccording to Beaufre, “the decision is a psychological event that one wants to produce in the mind of their adversary”, in order to “convince him that starting or continuing the struggle is useless”. Beaufre’s work achieved fame because he admitted that the strategic decision could be achieved not just by military means, but also by economic, political, or diplomatic strategies. As for the military decision, it is the one that “in its purest state results from a victorious battle”.

The capability of achieving military decision has varied throughout history, following what Beaufre calls the operational possibilities of the period, byproduct of the methods and means of warfare of each epoch. He then states that one “rarely attributes a just value to that variability”. In his work the six different phases of land operations are then explored, in order to illustrate the importance of that variability.

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Essay Campaign #16: The Strategic Utility of Space and People

Summer Essay Campaign #16: “The Strategic Utility of Space and People”

To Answer Question #7: “How do geography and demographics impact a nation’s grand and military strategic choices?”

By Kevin Black

There are different means of forcing nations or cultures to submit to one’s will. Aside from indirect means using economic and diplomatic strategies, the most direct alternative is a military strategy.  When each strategy is integrated toward one common goal or approach, a grand strategy exists.   Strategies are not created out of a vacuum as many factors contribute to their development.  (Whether or not they are overtly recognized is another issue.)  At the nation-state level many factors contribute; history, culture, and government are just some examples.  This paper is concerned with geography and demography. 

Geography can be defined as the arrangement of places and physical features given a specific location.  Let’s examine its key elements of size, position, and resources.   Size refers to the physical extent of a nation.  In terms of grand strategy, the Soviet Union leveraged its size as a defensive deterrent against a European invasion during the Cold War.  The Nazi goal of “lebensraum” acted as a political justification for their invasion in 1941.  In military strategy terms, size enabled the Red Army to trade time for space, stretching the Wehrmacht to its brink.

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Essay Campaign #15: Geography, Demographics, and Strategy – Blessing or Curse?

Summer Essay Campaign #15: “Geography, Demographics, and Strategy – A Blessing or a Curse?”

To Answer Question #7: “How do geography and demographics impact a nation’s grand and military strategic choices?”

By David Eisler

Perhaps it seems self-evident that geography and demographics should affect a nation’s grand and military strategies. Mountain ranges, open plains, coastlines, and other topographical masterpieces created by several hundred million years of forces operating on the earth have blessed some nations with natural boundaries and cursed others with fewer resources. Border lines drawn on maps of these features have grouped populations that are sometimes hostile towards each other despite sharing a common nationality. But a deeper look at the influence of these variables reveals a more fundamental question– are geography and demographics permissive relative to a state’s strategic choices, or are they restrictive?

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Essay Campaign #14: Tactical Decision-Making, Military Psychology, and the Boyd Cycle

Summer Essay Campaign #14: “Tactical Decision-Making – A Military Psychology Perspective on the Boyd Cycle”

To Answer Question #3: “Where are the human cognitive, psychological, physical limits with respect to combat?”

By Major Jason Spitaletta, USMCR

The US Marine Corps’ doctrinal conceptualization of warfare (HQMC, 1997) is inherently psychological and therefore understanding the human cognitive, psychological, and physical limits with respect to combat are essential and identifying these limits should be the sine quo non of military psychology[1].  Combatants must confront chance, uncertainty, friction (Mattis, 2008), volatility (Laurence, 2011), and urgency (Zaccarro et al, 1995) while contending with existential threats.  Combat is a fundamentally uncertain form of competition (Boyd, 1976) where consequential decisions are often based on incomplete, inaccurate, or even contradictory information (HQMC, 1997), and thus decision-making is the principal human factor in warfare (Krulak, 1999).  Boyd’s Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action (OODA) Loop (or Boyd Cycle) is not an answer to the question at hand, but it provides a means of investigating human cognitive, psychological, and physical limits as they relate to tactical decision-making.  Bryant (2006) and Benson & Rotkoff (2011) were correct that Boyd’s model was not the result of psychological theory; however, the OODA Loop can be synthesized with the neural process model of automatic multi-structure controlled social cognition, the X and C systems, (Lieberman et al., 2003) as well as Baddeley’s (2003) working memory model to provide a neuroanatomical and cognitive reference point to the original. The combination of the model and those reference points provides us with an appropriate framework through which to describe and address the question at hand.

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Essay Campaign #13: A Tool, Not a Limitation – Decentralizing Execution to Proactively Shape Public Opinion

Summer Essay Campaign #13: “A Tool, Not a Limitation – Decentralizing Execution to Proactively Shape Public Opinion”

To Answer Question #8: “How does public opinion shape military operations – and vice versa?”

By First Lieutenant James Schmitt, USAF

The members of the Profession of Arms are by now well-versed on the importance of public opinion. Public opinion, at home or abroad, has been the defining characteristic of the US military’s last two wars. With sensitivity towards popular opinion already well-instilled in current and future warfighters, leaders must turn to the practical ramifications of the focus on public opinion at the strategic and tactical levels. The present command and control structure for managing public opinion inhibits both the development of strategic aims and the optimization of tactics to achieve national objectives. To ameliorate both problems, theater commanders should shift their focus from optimizing rules of engagement (ROE) to translating strategic goals into operational aims, while junior commanders take on the burden of shaping their tactics to meet the theater commander’s intent.

Recent initiatives to shape public opinion have focused on resolving crises caused by civilian casualties. Theater commanders are faced with pressure from national leadership to reduce these casualties due to their strategic damage; in the War in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has been known to limit operational authority in response to civilian casualties. Faced with the need to act, theater commanders take the most immediate step: amending the rules of operation for forces under their authority. In response to a 2011 helicopter attack that killed several children for example, General David Petraeus, then commander of US forces in Afghanistan, ordered a review of the tactical directives given to combat troops. This approach allows senior leadership to present tangible evidence of action taken to domestic and foreign leadership. However, redefining theater-level ROE is not an effective means of resolving tactical problems, even if the crises generated strategic ramifications.

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