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Published by Mark Cheney

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Published by: Mark Cheney on Feb 23, 2009
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the Principles
he lessons to be learned from Operation Iraqi Free-
dom still are in the formative stage. It is not too

early, however, to begin to examine the military principles that influenced U.S. and British war plans in Iraq. Our leaders at the highest levels now speak of a \u201cnew kind of war.\u201d The headlines proclaim the emergence of a \u201cnew doctrine for wa r.\u201d Even before 11 September 2001, President George W. Bush challenged us to \u201crede- fine war in our own terms\u201d in response to the conflicts of a new century. To meet the President\u2019s challenge, we must revisit the principles of war and determine their ap- plicability in the 21st century.

Immutable Principles?

Our current military doctrine is shaped by principles of war rooted in the Napoleonic Wars and the early Indus- trial Age. As a young Prussian officer, Carl von Clause-

witz witnessed the raw force of Napoleon\u2019s armies as they pushed to the far corners of Europe. His classic 1832 study of warfare,On War, became the central reference for any discussion of the theory and practice of warfare. After Hel- muth von Moltke\u2019s victories for Prussia in 1866 and 1870, Clausewitz\u2019s star was ascendent. His work stressed the im- portance of chance and confusion\u2014the \u201cfog of war\u201d\u2014but soon it would be cited to quite different purpose. Under the influence of Positivism, other military thinkers believed that rigor and method would yield the natural laws gov- erning the conduct of wa r fare. By the end of the 19th cen- tury, the notion of a body of enduring principles was widely accepted. The work of definition and abridge- ment was well under way. The list of nine principles that appears in Navy doctrine publications today has not changed substantially in more than 50 years.

The military principles derived from the experiences
of Clausewitz and his successors still enjoy great influ-
Proceedings / October 2003
By Rear Admiral John G. Morgan, U.S. Navy, Dr. Anthony D. Mc Ivor,
and the Secretary of the Navy\u2019s Action Team
the Principles of
Reprinted fromProceedings with permission\u2014Copyright \u00a9 2003 U.S. Naval Institute. www.navalinstitute.org

ence, but have they stood the test of time? Many respected military strategists have argued that the principles derived from these works are immutable. Henri de Jomini\u2019s fa- mous injunction, \u201cMethods change, but the principles are u n c h a n g i n g ,\u201d speaks the minds of many. The Jomini school of thought, which influenced leading naval strategists, including Alfred Thayer Mahan and Sir Julian Corbett, was that the principles were \u201cindependent of the arms em- p l oyed, of times, and of places.\u201d1 Their history, however, suggests otherwise. Lieutenant Colonel Marshall Fallwell, an instructor at the A r m y \u2019s Command and Staff Colleg e , was the first to illuminate the argument in modern terms.

Colonel Fa l lw e l l \u2019s 1955 study of the principles of wa r \u201cmade it obvious that their statement and even their num- ber [had] undergone steady change and refinement\u201d over the years.2 By reexamining the first steps toward a mod- ern list of the principles, Fa l lwell was able to draw out the uncertainties and ambivalence surrounding their adoption by the U.S. armed forces. For 26 years, leading up to mid- century, the Field Service Regulations \u201ctreated the prin- ciples\u201d but would not venture to list them. The debate on occasion was rancorous, but one point was never in doubt: the principles continued to matter.

Fallwell\u2019s work, and the studies that followed, opened the door to a continuing reinterpretation of the principles of war. Some have maintained that the real genius of Clausewitz\u2019s analysis was that it contemplated and eve n laid the foundation for just such refinements. But the Prus- sian was silent on when change was necessary and how military strategists might determine what changes to make . Looking back, we see that such reflection can be triggered by new threats and by technological watersheds.

So, what compels strategic thinkers to reevaluate the
principles today? Three factors figure prominently:
\u2022The battle space has expanded dramatically and become
much more diffuse, with the enemy seeking cover and con-
cealment in cities and towns among civilian populations.
\u2022We have witnessed the reemergence of a hostile force
that draws no distinction between combatants and civil-
ians. In fact, it pointedly targets civilians.
\u2022The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction has
placed them in the hands of dangerous and unpredictable
forces\u2014both rogue regimes and stateless actors.

Each of these emerging changes is serious by itself. Magnified by open-source technologies, they force policy makers to revisit their approaches to national defense. With radically new kinds of enemies and battlefields, we no longer can presume with Jomini that the principles of wa r are static or timeless.

A re New Principles Emerging?

Of the nine principles catalogued in Naval Doctrine Pub- lication (NDP)-1,Naval Warfare, and the joint doctrine publications, several seem well positioned to retain their place in the canon. Surprise and security still are essen- tial concerns for commanders on the modern battlefi e l d .

Other principles such as objective, economy of force, ma- neuver, and simplicity may remain relevant today, but mil- itary thinkers are likely to take exception to their inclu- sion without an update.

Offensive, defined as the ability to \u201cseize, retain, and exploit the initiative,\u201d appears more apt than ever and, in fact, perfectly captures the predictive and preemptive doc- trine President Bush expounds in the National Security Strategy. \u201cAs a matter of common sense and self-defense,\u201d the President has said, \u201cAmerica will act against such emerging threats before they are fully formed. We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best.\u201d

E ven so, the evolving nature of the battlefield and the growing political constraints on warfare bring several prin- ciples under question. Our heavy reliance on precision mu- nitions raises doubts about the common application of the principle of mass. And coalition campaigns that include diplomatic and economic as well as military efforts raise n ew issues with respect to unity of command. Concur- rently, there is a growing body of evidence that makes a persuasive case for the addition of new principles such as will and simultaneity. Let\u2019s start with mass.

\u2022Mass versus Precision.The shift in the application of

mass is both measurable and illustrative. As Robert Ka- plan observed, \u201cWhile the average engagement during the Civil War featured 26,000 men per square mile of battle- front, the figure is now 240. . . . it will dwindle further as war becomes increasingly unconventional and less de- pendent on manpower.\u201d3 Precision munitions offer another benchmark change. During World War II, we allocated an average of 600 bombs per target. Today, we can destroy the same target with a single Joint Direct Attack Muni- tion. The new generation of Global Positioning System- aided Joint Stand-Off Weapons provides accuracy within 3 meters, with an air launch range of 200 miles.

There are obvious advantages to eliminating a threat with one shot instead of 600. But do these technological advances mean we no longer have to contemplate mass- ing large numbers of troops or weapons to obtain our ob- jectives? The question highlights a fundamental point about the interdependence among the principles of wa r. The on-

Proceedings / October 2003
Nine principles, bearing the indelible imprint of the
early 19th century, guide U.S. naval doctrine
\u2022Unty of Command
\u2022Economy of Force\u2030
Currently listed in Naval Doctrine Publication 1,Naval
Warfare, as of this writing, they remain unchanged in
the revised edition of NDP-1, scheduled for release in
early 2004.
Nine Principles Guide Doctrine

going debate about the adequacy of the size of the U.S. force in Iraq drives the point home. Today, the salient prin- ciple in sizing the force is economy of force, not mass.

The heart of the issue may lie in the concept behind the principle. Napoleon used a mass of firepower and per- sonnel to achieve a desired effect because the limitations of his technology required it. It took a great number of cannonballs to hit, let alone destroy, a target. If Napoleon\u2019s industrial base had allowed him to achieve the desired effect without the expense, he would have done so.

Looking again at our ability to destroy a target with one shot and considering the likelihood that the target will be in an urban setting, we may consider the principle as more accurately a concentration of effect rather than of mass. Significant advances in the lethality of conventional mil- itary weapons bring additional weight to this considera- tion. The military world may not be ready to jettison mass from the list of principles, but the concept of \u201cpersistent precision\u201d offers a more contemporary alternative.

\u2022Unity of Command versus Unity of Effort.Napoleon con-

trolled his forces through a strict hierarchy, directing large sections of his resources to perform identical tasks in a small area in unison. Today\u2019s forces, operating jointly and in coalitions, act more in concert than in unison as dis- persed groups coordinate independent actions to achieve the overall objective. Unity of effort may now contribute more to ultimate success than unity of command.

There is a subtle but important distinction between the concepts of \u201ccommand\u201d and \u201ceffort.\u201d Unity of effort ac- knowledges the pluralism inherent to Clausewitz\u2019s axiom that war is the extension of politics. In the global war on terror and Operation Iraqi Freedom, the focus is on eco- nomic and diplomatic objectives as well as military ones.

We are targeting terrorist bank ac- counts to deny economic power. We are creating coalitions to politically iso- late terrorists and the regimes that support them. We are dispensing eco- nomic, medical, and cultural aid\u2014de- fined as soft power\u2014to attack the bru- tal living conditions that give rise and rationale to terrorism.

Today\u2019s military leaders also are re- quired to ensure unity of effort with other governmental agencies. The strengthened relationship between the military and the Central Intelligence Agency, for example, played a princi- pal role in the first act of Iraqi Free- dom. Evan Thomas and Daniel Klaid- man ofNewsweek gave us a vivid description of CIA Director George Tenet\u2019s race to the Pentagon to con- fer with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld before meeting with the President to confirm reports of the sus- pected location of Saddam Hussein.

This information quickly was relayed to military leaders in theater, and within hours, F-117A stealth fighter- bombers and Tomahawk missiles launched in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea roared toward Baghdad.4

Later in the Iraqi campaign, a B-1B aircrew provided an eye-opening example of the time compression avail- able to combatant commanders. Within 12 minutes of com- pleting an aerial refueling over western Iraq, the aircraft dropped four satellite-guided GBU-31 bombs that flattened t a rgets in the Mansur neighborhood of the capital. Total time elapsed from the receipt of targeting intelligence at the Pentagon to delivery of the bombs in Baghdad: 45 minutes. The coordination of effort, magnified by the tempo of operations, makes it possible to think in new ways about unity of effort as well as the closely aligned concept of simultaneity.

Unity of command certainly incorporates unity of ef- fort, but the changing nature of modern warfare, combined with new technologies for battlespace management, prompt us to ask whether the principle should be refocused and renamed. As more coalition efforts fall outside the con- ventional battlefield, \u201cunity of effort\u201d better expresses the goal of unifying military and nonmilitary measures to achieve our ultimate objectives.

\u2022Time to Recognize Will.Strategist Basil Liddell Hart

once observed that loss of hope rather than loss of life is what decides the issues of war. Following that line of thought, after World War II, morale was added to the of- ficial British list of principles.

The concept of will is no less a factor on today\u2019s bat-
tlefield. Dr. Harlan K. Ullman, principal author ofShock
and Aw e,the book that inspired the first phase of Iraqi
Freedom, put it bluntly: \u201cThe idea is to crack the enemy\u2019s
Proceedings / October 2003

One factor that is critical on the battlefield but missing from the current list of
principles is will. The resolve of a nation and its war fighters\u2014here, Iraqi soldiers
surrender to U.S. forces\u2014is often the deciding factor in combat.


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