Urban Warfare; the Future of U.S. Military Operations

Article excerpt


During a Rand conference on urban warfare in 1999, Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales derided the emphasis on urban warfare that was then becoming trendy by reiterating the Army's traditional concept of bypassing cities or laying siege to them.

Gen. Scales' schedule did not allow him to stay for questions and answers, but he left behind a firestorm of controversy among officers with recent urban combat experience, including several Russians in the audience. Say what you like about Bob Scales; he speaks his mind, and he does so in his latest book.

In "Yellow Smoke," Gen. Scales, since retired, continues the trend of no holds barred advice, offering an authoritative insider's view on how the Army sees itself transforming. The book is both a personal reflection and professional prospective on land combat in the 20th and early 21st centuries.

The author's informed views benefit from several key Army assignments, including the Army After Next project in the '90s and service as commandant of the Army War College. The book is an excellent compilation of trends in ground combat from the perspective of fighting units (tactical and operational levels in military speak), making good on the book's subtitle: "The Future of Land Warfare for America's Military."

Those who follow defense trends will find themselves in familiar territory since the book offers thoughtful predictions on technology's impact on future combat. These predictions correlate well with the Army's view of its highly visible "transformational" program, titled the Future Combat Systems a high-tech approach to ground combat.

They also resonate with observations gleaned from recent ground combat operations. The predictions range from the obvious to the subtle, and each poses a challenge to implementation within the mammoth Department of Defense. The trends Gen. Scales describes reflect internal tensions that technology is creating within today's Army. He points out the need for smaller combat organizations that can get to the fight, a change that will require time and political capital to put in place. Equipment for these smaller forces needs to be light enough to get quickly to the fight, but developing the right equipment will consume significant Army resources and more political capital. …