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The Army has taken a huge step toward establishing the “human dimension” as its seventh war-fighting function.
It happened Aug. 26-28, as Training and Doctrine Command held a strategic landpower limited-objective exercise at Fort Belvoir, Va. The exercise teamed the Army, Marine Corps and U.S. Army Special Operations Command with experts from the State Department, national intelligence and academic communities.
“Ultimately, it’s about winning the clash of wills,” said Lt. Gen. Keith Walker, deputy commanding general of Futures, and director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center. “You have strategic victory when you influence the will of the people, influence the will of security forces, ultimately influence the will of a government.”
The idea birthed a strategic white paper published in May that identifies the growing problem of linking military action to achieving national objectives. In it, Army leadership makes clear its assertion that weapons alone won’t win a war, and challenges contemporary strategic modeling to consider why past tactical and operational successes have not always achieved strategic outcomes and to seek new ways to prevent and contain conflict.
“Some in the defense community interpret this rebalancing to mean that future conflicts can be prevented or won primarily with standoff technologies and weapons. If warfare were merely a contest of technologies, that might be sufficient,” the cover letter reads. “However, armed conflict is a clash of interests between or among organized groups, each attempting to impose their will on the opposition. In essence, it is fundamentally a human endeavor in which the context of the conflict is determined by both parties. Operations in the land domain (that must increasingly leverage cyber interactions among people) are most effective at achieving the human outcomes that are a prerequisite for achieving national objectives.”
The latest exercise looked at ways to influence the will of the people, to include local and national governments, to achieve set objectives and how the military can change behavior to benefit our national interests. Though revolutionary as a defense strategy, the concept is not new.
Recognizing that democracies flourish when nations reach specified literacy and income levels, the U.S., during the Cold War, worked within the human dimension to increase both within targeted nations. Schools and infrastructure were built. Training was provided. Alliances were formed.
By 1989, as the Soviet Union neared collapse, 29 countries had been democratized (39 were functioning democracies when the Vietnam War ended). In that time, the number of nations allowing free and fair elections jumped from 27.5 percent to 63 percent. Most governments had been toppled without a shot being fired.
But this approach doesn’t always work. Iran’s White Revolution in 1963 had American fingerprints all over it. But it was too much for conservative Muslims led by Ruhollah Khomeini, a people with whom the U.S. had no influence.
Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was ousted in 1979, and 52 American diplomats were held hostage for 444 days.
The strategic landpower exercise also focused on:
■How conventional and Special Forces troops can work together, no matter who is in the lead.
■Using the Internet and social media as a predictive tool or a means to discover trends or indicators of potential flash points.
■How the military can better transition between incoming and outgoing units in relief-in-place/transfer-of-authority environments.
The goal is to improve efforts “left of the bang” by building campaigns and coalitions that can achieve an end state before a joint task force is needed.
“The way we conduct operations [and] engage with host nations — in my view, there was an incomplete body of knowledge about how that should be applied,” said Lt. Gen. Charles Cleveland, USASOC commander.
The white paper identifies two key factors that cause this repetitive shortfall. First, the “physical insularity of the U.S., coupled with its egalitarian ethic, underpins the simplistic idea that other people are like us or, at least, want to be like us.” Second is the American culture’s focus on technology and productivity, which drives a tendency to view conflict as a technical problem to be resolved primarily by technical means.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno has long asserted that combat ultimately is a human endeavor, and success requires the soldier to understand the human dimension, especially as the world becomes more complex. Simply put, some people will see their government, their society and their circumstance differently than others will.
That means soldiers can expect immersion in language, regional expertise and culture training as the human dimension takes its place in the Army 2020 doctrine. Units assigned to the new deployment model will spend a lot of time training allied armies to do things they are now unable to do. Many missions will be proactive rather than reactive. There will be a lot of joint and partner-building exercises to increase U.S. influence and enhance the nation’s ability to gain access if required.
The question of whether the human dimension should be a domain of war fighting or a seventh war-fighting function has met opposition from some doctrine purists. But its time has come, Cleveland said. He used the example of air power, which was an extension of ground maneuver in World War I. But Billy Mitchell, a seasoned pilot with his sights set on separating the Air Corps from its Army control, did the unthinkable. In 1921, he led a team of pilots who, in 22 minutes, sank the battleship Ostfriesland — a floating fortress that had taken 18 hits from British battleships, struck a mine and was ready for action two months later.
“When he sunk the battleship, eyes opened up,” Cleveland said.
Air power and strategic bombing were primary strategies in World War II, and the Air Force was established two years later.
“We have used traditional land power as a tool, and through most of history, we’ve been able to do that, to some effect,” Cleveland said. “But things are different today. The enemy has coalesced differently. ... Traditional land power tools certainly have a place against other land power forces. They are relevant in deterrence and they are relevant in winning the nation’s wars. But ... they may not be sufficient as they stand under the current [doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel and facilities] construct to actually prevail.”
To acknowledge the human dimension as the seventh war-fighting function would be “significant and fundamental,” he said.