Embroiled in insurgencies in foreign countries, the United States is struggling with adapting to the ever-changing environment as well as adjusting the response of our forces in order to succeed. Although the United States military is adapting and learning valuable lessons while fighting the insurgency in Iraq, time is running out. The clock is ticking with regards to the American population. I contend that the national will of the American population is the Strategic Center of Gravity for the United States. Here is where the real power lies that enables the nation to be a Superpower.
What is the United States military's strategic Center of Gravity? In order to answer this, we must first define the term Center of Gravity (COG). In his book On War, Carl Von Clausewitz defined the term as "the hub of all power and movement, on which everything depends." The question that needs to be asked when trying to determine what could be a COG is, "What is it that alone could possibly cause the enemy to yield if it were attacked?" The COG represents a concentration of strength that is most vital to the overall accomplishment of the goal. This, if targeted, would be the most effective target to attack with the resources currently available. This term can be applied to any of the three levels of war, strategic, operational or tactical. Each level of war can have a different COG. Understanding what a Center of Gravity is allows the application of this term to the current environment.
The United States is currently engaged in fighting insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq. These low intensity conflicts (LIC) or operations other than war (OOTW) came about after a decisive conventional victory was achieved by the U.S. armed forces in each of these countries. The tactical and operational battle was quickly won and then the follow on operations began. The premise of these operations is to provide enough security to create a stable environment to allow regular civil and social activities to occur.
During this second phase the guerrillas or insurgents initiated a campaign of subversion to resist the stability effort. They quickly gained momentum and notoriety with the media. They resisted the forces that were attempting to secure and stabilize these countries after the collapse of the previous regimes in an indirect manner. There are many irregular groups fighting against coalition forces (CF) for various stated reasons in each nation. Focus of this article will be on Iraq for simplicity. The common immediate goal for insurgent forces is to expel the foreign forces from Iraq. Only then can they proceed with the individual plans that each group has in mind.
Based on the fact that the U.S. national will derives from an extremely impatient and isolated culture, there is a limit to how much hardship they will endure. The insurgents are exploiting this impatience and intolerance at that strategic level causing more rapid erosion of our staying ability. The military is attempting to learn and adapt at a rapid pace to achieve the aims of our political leadership in the region. Ultimately, military forces only have staying power if they are funded and taken care of by their host nation.
The insurgents are a living and thinking enemy that has done his homework. They have seen where the United States failed in Vietnam, not because of any tactical or operational defeat on the battlefield, but because of a strategic defeat at the home front where popular support was eroded on the national and then political level. This erosion ultimately led to a reduction in the willingness to support the war effort and then the complete pullout of U.S. armed forces in that country. Ultimately this set the conditions for North Vietnamese success in invading and conquering South Vietnam.
Americans also became extremely casualty conscious after Vietnam. Resistance to the use of military units in small engagements began to …