In 1806, the Prussian Army, having been outwitted by Napoleon's grand strategic shaping of the battlefield, were set up in the perfect place for him to exercise his operational art . The Prussians were totally annihilated on the fields of Jena, crushed like bugs under the foot of the master of an elusive style of warfare that European and American soldiers would spent a century trying to copy. No one could have predicted that Gerhard von Scharnhorst, a Prussian officer participating in the battle, would lay the ground for Germany's future rise to power and the annihilation of France barely sixty years later in a campaign of similar brilliance. Needless to say, predicting the future is a difficult business.
So this is a good jumpoff point to discuss both Gulf War I and FM 100-5 Operations, formulated and published two years after the conclusion of Operation Desert Storm. Adding to the discussion from last night, Crispin Burke makes this crucial point:
Critics of counterinsurgency doctrine often claim that a well-conceived foreign policy at the strategic level would preclude the use of American forces in counterinsurgency-style conflicts. Yet, as a wise man once said, "Always in motion, the future is". Few could have predicted that the defence of Saudi Arabia would kick-start a chain of events which would eventually give rise to a figure like Osama bin Laden.
Who wouldn't want to be like Sun Tzu and win without violence at all, or simply through the deterrent use of force?. Force is a very wasteful and unpredictable way of resolving disputes. But if that were all to the game of statecraft, Sun Tzu's The Art of War would have been a substantially shorter book, no? But if Sun Tzu saw a need for all of those lengthy chapters about marching and besieging castles, we should all take note of the difference between ideals and reality.
Questions of strategy and force weighed heavily on those who faced the task of building America's truly first post-Cold War operational doctrine. To those who have studied recent doctrine, TRADOC historian John Romjue should be a familiar name. He wrote a flurry of books and monographs about the evolution of AirLand Battle and the transition away from Active Defense. In his 1998 monograph American Army Doctrine for the Post-Cold War, Romjue retells the story of how the Army adapted to the challenge of a post-Cold War in doctrine. The challenge of doing so was perhaps the most momentous intellectual task the Army faced in decades.
The challenge of facing down the Soviet Union in Germany was over. Neither Presidents H.W. Bush or Clinton were really successful at imagining or executing a vision of the post-Cold War. For a military planner, this intellectual vacuum forced the doctrine team for FM 100-5 to largely work on their own. In a familiar story that is now approaching cliche, a visionary military intellectual (General Frederick Franks) gathered a group of wise men together and formulated a new doctrine through rigorous debate.
The technical details aren't really as interesting as the assumption of global deployability that Franks worked off of. The idea of an fast, smart Army that could rapidly deploy to put out brushfires as per the dictates of US foreign policy dictated force structure and doctrine. The idea of simultaneity, of striking the enemy simultaneously with deep and integrated fires (as opposed to AL-B's combination of the close and deep fight) also was a platform from which the "post-industrial" Army After Next would be built off of.
Did they get it right? It depends on your perspective about the future. From 1993 up until 2003, the force structure and doctrine that Franks and co developed served the direction of US foreign policy. Now, according to the Economist, NATO is dusting off plans to defend Europe from Russian military power. Only this time it is not necessarily tanks and BTRs but cyber-warfare and missiles that seem to be causing the biggest worry. Perhaps the correct answer is that we still haven't really figured out the post-Cold War, and that we are still adapting to a new reality: twenty years later. And from this perspective FM 100-5 was the first of many drafts to come.