Military Strategy Magazine - Volume 8, Issue 1

Volume 8, Issue 1, Summer 2022 14 II. Essential Observations Space limitations do not permit an extensive discussion of each of these documents; hence, this section presents only essential observations. The first of these concerns FM 3-0. Given the central role FM 3-0 plays in the US Army’s fighting doctrine, it ought to convey a conceptual understanding of a way of war. To its credit, it contains several statements suggesting a general awareness of a way of war, such as: “Tactical success wins battles, but it is not enough to win wars.”[v] But FM 3-0 assumes the nature of battle is the same as the nature of war, and it describes the conduct of operations based on that assumption. Section III below defines the difference between the two in more detail. As graphic evidence of this battle-centric perspective, we have the oft-maligned Joint Operations Phasing Model (see Fig. 1) [KL1] also known as the “Sand Chart,” which clearly emphasizes Phase III “Combat Operations” as the most important of the phases. While the model holds true for some cases, it is more atypical than typical of the situations the US Army is frequently tasked to resolve. Figure 1 shows a dark-blue line indicating the reality that many opponents, recognizing US superiority in Phase III, have “backloaded” their resistance efforts into Phases IV and V; in this way they can employ small, militia-type organizations more effectively. The light-blue line indicates the relative degree to which information operations and other conditionsetting measures have increased in importance to the goal of “dominating” the situation. This rendition of the Sand Chart is now under revision. But it is unclear how much it will be changed. Instead of depicting an ideal case, US Army and US Joint doctrinal publications should show multiple cases and thereby downplay the traditional assumption that dominance is typically achieved through battlefield victories. In addition, FM 3-0 stresses the centrality of the tenets and principles of the concept of AirLand Battle (agility, initiative, depth, and synchronization), which characterized the US Army’s operational doctrine through most of the 1980s and 1990s. These battle-centric tenets and principles were successfully applied in the annihilation of Saddam Hussein’s forces during Desert Storm. But one decade later, in the aftermath of the rapid collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regular forces, these principles proved insufficient for the extensive counterinsurgency campaigns US military forces and their coalition partners had to conduct in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hence, counterinsurgency principles had to be rediscovered and reintroduced to America’s military leadership, which in turn sparked considerable controversy. [vi] Unfortunately, battle-centric perspectives of this sort generally focus on only one type of military “grammar” at a time (where grammar is a given set of principles) and tend to want to refine that grammar to perfection, often doing so without considering policy’s logic which may require alternative grammars. Whereas Clausewitz famously said war has its own grammar but not its own logic, battlecentric perspectives tend to reverse that precept, allowing military grammar to drive policy’s logic. The principles and tenets of AirLand Battle have definite merit and reincorporating them into FM 3-0 was hardly wrong-headed. But the US military ought to have had an opportunity to debate their limitations and constraints, and tohave had the resultant caveats incorporated into the latest doctrine. For example, encouraging battlefield commanders to take initiative invariably means accepting the possibility that they will have to act without, or contrary to, political guidance, especially because the speed of combat in the twenty-first century is too fast for centralized control. That possibility, in turn, means some loss of political control over military operations will likely occur, particularly because political processes can be complicated and require time—and thus policy changes can arrive too late. One of the differences between a way of war and a way of battle is the former acknowledges the potential political and/or sociocultural implications of applying a given principle or tenet. Thus, the US Army’s expert knowledge must follow suit and discuss the potential political and sociocultural tradeoffs that might come with applying a specific military grammar. The 2017 edition of FM 3-0 has the appearance of having been rushed into publication. Perhaps it was. After all, interest in strategic competition has been increasing since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014, and the seemingly rising possibility of a major conflict with Russia or China, or both. Hence, the US Army (among others) may well have updated FM 3-0 and other doctrine, albeit hastily, to signal it was still conceptually prepared for large-scale operations. Yet the signal it sent has not been deconflicted with messages sent by the emerging guidance on “MultiDomain Operations (MDO)” and “All-Domain Operations (ADO),” which is moving the US military toward different principles.[vii] Even if FM 3-0 (2017) is only an interim publication intended to reorient the US Army toward largescale operations, the publication’s battle-centric focus is worth noting so follow-on publications can avoid the error. The second doctrinal publication this article considers is FM 3-24 Insurgencies and Countering Insurgencies (2014). The previous edition of FM 3-24 appeared in 2007/08 with great fanfare. It was intended to assist the US Army and US Marine Corps in reorienting intellectually from how to achieve success in large-scale, force-on-force operations to how to defeat insurgencies. Regrettably, FM 3-24 is not well synchronized with FM 3-0 (or ADP 3-0) which, again, may be a function of the hasty, interim nature of FM 3-0. Indeed, FM 3-24 and FM 3-0 read as if they were written by authors from two different armies, each completely isolated from the other. FM 3-24 does, unfortunately, share an important similarity with FM 3-0, namely, its lack of appreciation for the political and sociocultural implications of the concepts it describes; for instance, it sheds little light on the fact that counterinsurgency campaigns essentially amount towars of The Persistence of America’s Way of Battle Antulio J. Echevarria II