11 10 04 Biddle Military Power

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Published on February 26, 2008

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Slide1:  Military Power Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle Stephen Biddle November 10, 2004 From Military Power, published by Princeton University Press, copyright Princeton University Press, 2004 Agenda:  Agenda What is “military power”? Standard explanations A new explanation Recent experience: Afghanistan and Iraq Implications What is “Military Power”? :  What is “Military Power”? Ability to take and hold territory Ability to inflict (and avoid) casualties Time required Initial focus: mid-high intensity conventional warfare Standard Explanations:  Standard Explanations Material Preponderance (Quantity) Technology (Quality) Force Employment (Strategy, tactics, skill, motivation) A New Explanation:  A New Explanation Force employment-technology interaction as key Radical lethality as dominant technological fact of post-1900 battlefield Survival requires exposure reduction Since 1918, “modern system” force employment has been key to exposure reduction – and thus, successful operations Problems with the modern system: Very hard to do Politically unpopular side effects Result is wide variation in degree of implementation Where fully implemented, limits impact of weapons’ growing lethality, range Where little-implemented, troops exposed to full weight of modern firepower Increasingly grave consequences as firepower has grown more lethal Growing gap in real military power of those who can, and cannot, implement Effects of technology depend on force employment: Technological change can have opposite effects depending on force employment Modern system force employment can compensate for wide range of technical, numerical, shortcomings Lethality Trends:  Lethality Trends Ongoing, progressive increase in lethality for last 100 years Central problem of modern tactics: How to survive long enough to perform meaningful missions? The Modern System :  The Modern System Cover, concealment Dispersion Small unit independent maneuver Suppression Combined arms Problems with the Modern System:  Problems with the Modern System Very hard to do Individual, custom decision making by thousands of jr. leaders Tight coordination between dispersed, moving units, multiple commanders Leaders must master employment, support requirements of multiple, radically dissimilar weapon types Unpopular Political, Organizational Side Effects Requires devolution of authority; autonomy, initiative at jr. levels Harder for superiors to control subordinates’ behavior Yields territory early Requires high military proficiency New Theory Summarized:  New Theory Summarized Recent Experience: Afghanistan and Iraq:  Recent Experience: Afghanistan and Iraq Does 21st century technology undermine modern system, overturn new theory? Many see ongoing military revolution requiring transformed military; Afghanistan and Iraq as examples New theory sees no revolution: incremental extension of trends dating to First World War Do Afghanistan or Iraq suggest radical departure? No. Recent warfare as further examples of force employment’s role in surviving modern firepower Afghanistan, 2001-2:  Afghanistan, 2001-2 Many see Afghanistan as campaign of standoff precision warfare At first it was: indigenous Afghan Taliban unskilled, unable to reduce exposure, easily defeated by standoff precision As target base shifts to better-skilled al Qaeda, close combat increasingly necessary Al Qaeda adopts important elements of modern system; reduces exposure Operation Anaconda (3/02): Under 50% of al Qaeda's actual fighting positions identified prior to ground contact, in spite of intensive intelligence effort Most fire received by US units came from initially unseen, unanticipated al Qaeda fighting positions Iraq, 2003 :  Iraq, 2003 Why were Coalition casualties so low? Many credit technology: warfare transformed by speed, precision strike But Iraqi force employment very permissive: non-modern system In 2003, 21st c. firepower punishes non-modern-system exposure very severely 2003 does not suggest that new technology can overwhelm modern system exposure reduction Caution warranted in extrapolating technology’s effects vs. other militaries Central Findings:  Central Findings Force employment and technology interact in powerful, nonlinear way Predictions of combat outcomes based on materiel alone subject to gross error Future warfare debate exaggerates change, underestimates continuity Technology’s role in war commonly overestimated Force employment’s role understudied, underemphasized Current developments are extensions of longstanding trends; no revolutionary discontinuity in prospect Implications: Policy:  Implications: Policy Force Structure Many advocate radical restructuring to shift away from orthodox close combat, toward standoff precision and/or SASO, COIN Risky: Works well vs. non-modern-system opponent Ineffective otherwise Cannot guarantee that we will never again face a modern-system opponent Joint Doctrine Many advocate radical change: Emphasize speed, nonlinear operations; avoid close combat Neither take nor hold terrain per se Replace concentration-breakthrough-exploitation with simultaneous operations throughout depth of enemy positions Neither necessary nor desirable Warfare not being revolutionized: radical change not necessary to keep up Radical doctrines require unskilled enemy to work; cannot guarantee this Change is needed, but orthodox incremental adaptation is sufficient Backup Slides:  Backup Slides How to Explain Military Power?:  How to Explain Military Power? Formal modeling Small-n case method testing Operation Michael, March 1918 Operation Goodwood, July 1944 Operation Desert Storm, January-February 1991 Large-n statistical testing COW CDB90 (“HERO”) Miltech Ex ante simulation experimentation Implications: IR Theory:  Implications: IR Theory Standard material indicators are poor proxies for actual capability Empirical literature likely to underestimate effects of capability relative to resolve, audience costs, signaling Potential effects across wide range of empirical studies in IR Offense-Defense Theory misspecifies technology’s role To do better, must account for force employment Central role of states’ internal characteristics Force employment variance driven by states’ varying internal politics, social organization Avenues for research: Other conflict types Explanation of variance in force employment; ex ante prediction Data development for force employment variables Historical Test: Operation Michael, March 1918:  Historical Test: Operation Michael, March 1918 Historical Test: Operation Michael, March 1918:  Historical Test: Operation Michael, March 1918 Typical of Western Front stalemate Rough parity between attacker, defender Numerical Balance: 1.17:1 theaterwide troops 1.5:1 initially engaged troops Typical of Western Front stalemate Technology: Historical Test: Operation Michael, March 1918:  Historical Test: Operation Michael, March 1918 Typical of Western Front stalemate Rough parity between attacker, defender Numerical Balance: 1.17:1 theaterwide troops 1.5:1 initially engaged troops Typical of Western Front stalemate Technology: Modern-System German attack Non-Modern-System British defense Exposed Force Employment: Historical Test: Operation Michael, March 1918:  Historical Test: Operation Michael, March 1918 Typical of Western Front stalemate Rough parity between attacker, defender Numerical Balance: 1.17:1 theaterwide troops 1.5:1 initially engaged troops Typical of Western Front stalemate Technology: Modern-System German attack Non-Modern-System British defense Exposed Shallow Forward Force Employment: Outcome: Breakthrough 47 battalions of British infantry annihilated 530 British guns overrun Exploitation fails 40 mile advance Exhaustion, Allied reserve arrivals halt offensive 250K casualties ea War continues Orthodox theories predict shattered offensive New theory predicts offensive breakthrough, but limited consequences Experimental Test: Refighting the Battle of 73 Easting:  Experimental Test: Refighting the Battle of 73 Easting Many see Desert Storm result as technologically predetermined New theory implies not: if Iraqis had used modern system, no rout Test via Janus recreation of 1991 Battle of 73 Easting Counterfactuals: What if Iraqis had used modern system in 1991? What if US technology had been less advanced? Findings: Outcome not technologically predetermined Technology’s effects influenced powerfully by force employment Modern system defensive tactics negate Iraqi technological inferiority Anaconda Battlefield:  Anaconda Battlefield

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