Sunday, March 11, 2007

Copying The Japanese Submarine Service

Toady, the Observer reports on serious misgivings from senior US officers at the Association of the US Army meeting at Fort Lauderdale in Florida. It seems no-one expected the insurgency to be smart.
In a bleak analysis, senior officers described the fighters they were facing in Iraq and Afghanistan 'as smart, agile and cunning'.
In Vietnam, the US was eventually defeated by a well-armed, closely directed and highly militarised society that had tanks, armoured vehicles and sources of both military production and outside procurement. What is more devastating now is that the world's only superpower is in danger of being driven back by a few tens of thousands of lightly armed irregulars, who have developed tactics capable of destroying multimillion-dollar vehicles and aircraft.

By contrast, the US military is said to have been slow to respond to the challenges of fighting an insurgency. The senior officers described the insurgents as being able to adapt rapidly to exploit American rules of engagement and turn them against US forces, and quickly disseminate ways of destroying or disabling armoured vehicles.

The military is also hampered in its attempts to break up insurgent groups because of their 'flat' command structure within collaborative networks of small groups, making it difficult to target any hierarchy within the insurgency.
This level of surprise is right up there with surprise at there being no rosepetals for the liberators, surprise at the existence of an insurgency in the first place or surprise at a Shia-Sunni sectarian feud.

As William S. Lind, the man who literally wrote the textbook on counter-insurgency, noted last month:
One of the most basic phenomena of war is that the enemy thinks and learns. It doesn't always happen; an example of an enemy who did not think and learn was the Japanese submarine service in World War II. It kept on doing what it knew didn't work right through to the end. The result was about a 1:1 exchange ratio between Japanese submarines and their targets, a truly remarkable achievement in the annals of submarine warfare.

But it is so routine for an enemy to think and adapt that it is difficult to imagine one that did not. In fact, such an exercise might prove enlightening. What characteristics might a non-thinking enemy have?
Lind goes on to enumerate those characteristics. Such an enemy would be highly centralized with major decisions made far from the battlefields in large headquarters who then stifle individual creativity in officers nearer the action. It would ignore the experiences of other militaries in similiar situations, only send "good" news up the chain to it's political masters, who would be as insulated from the real world as possible and it would make sure as much planning as possible was done by private contractors who used to be generals and were more set on protecting their "legacies" than effective policy.

Lind concludes:
Some may object that a military so carefully structured not to think is hard to imagine in the real world. That is true, since its fate would be so sure. What kind of government would be so corrupt, so unconcerned about the security of the state it leads and the vast sums it would be wasting as to tolerate such a military? Simple self-preservation would dictate sweeping military reform.

Of course, it would be anyone's dream to have a non-thinking military like the one I have described as an opponent. Any thinking military, even one with the most paltry of resources, could look forward to victory presented on a silver platter.

Who might have such exquisite good fortune and vast favor of the gods as to acquire a non-thinking military as their enemy? Anyone who fights us.
Or as Prairie Weather puts it today:
we don't understand our own limitations, and we refuse to see how sophisticated and effective non-state aggression has become. We're still shocked when we lose.

Less arrogance, more training in foreign languages and cultures, a more accurate mirror which we look into regularly and which reflects who we are and what we are really capable of before we lose more lives to flawed ideologies, a greedy defense industry, and lousy planning -- those are what we really need.
Until then, the US will continue to emulate the Japanese submarine service.

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