« In Memoriam: Paddy Griffith | Main | From COIN to "Bags of Money" »

October 29, 2010


Joseph Fouche

As far as quantitative thinking, I wonder if the sheer massiveness of current world populations has truly sunk into the minds of contemporary military thinkers. Looking at Lee's repeated failures of envelopment, the younger Molke's failure to envelope a quarter of France in 1914, and the failure of Operations Barbarossa or Case Blue to envelope a decisive number of Soviet troops may indicate that in the past the military mind has lagged behind the reality of population growth as it has unfolded since the onset of the Agricultural Revolution.

Current militaries seem built on the notion that teeny-tiny forces dwarfed by those of World War II can potentially control populations that dwarf World War II era populations. This may be true if some force multiplier as crude as firepower or as sophisticated as Therimin Muzak were employed on a larger scale but the current trend towards "operational inducement" in the West seems to favor manpower intensity over anything that reeks of "disproportinality". Accepting Wylie's contention that the end goal of any strategic enterprise is control, here's the dilemma behind our current force structures: how do you achieve control over a target with a fragmented media environment, large populations of varying domestication, no manpower, pervasive communications, and strong inhibitions against collectively applied sanctions for contrary behavior?


This was a point I heard someone make at a lecture here a couple days ago. In COIN, even with the fabeled 500,000 troop number exercising real control in a large population over a vast space (much of it urban) seems a bit bizarre.

Sven Ortmann

We lack informative experiences. The Russians had more troops in Chechnya than Chechnya had population, and that's obviously not the necessary ratio.

Urban combat could easily replace the World War trench lines on open ground as coining image of war. Urban warfare has a attracted much attention since about '94 and many interesting small unit tactics have been developed for it.

Contrary to intuition, urban combat could turn out to be viciously offensive, with quick shifts between locations of attacks.

The comments to this entry are closed.