Academic journal article Military Review

Targeting the American Will and Other Challenges for 4th-Generation Leadership

Academic journal article Military Review

Targeting the American Will and Other Challenges for 4th-Generation Leadership

Article excerpt

Everything changes; nothing is extinguished ... What was before is left behind; what never was is now; and every passing moment is renewed.--Ovid (1)

Portions of this article were presented at the "7th Annual Conference on War and Media," The Center for the Study of the Korean War, Graceland University, Independence, Missouri, 24 February 2006.

THE U.S. MILITARY is currently focused on deliberate transformation to meet the challenges of the contemporary operating environment (COE) and the requirements of future wars, but something might be lacking in the military's rush toward transformation: true transformation is more than reorganization and reequipping; it is a process of creation in which things are made anew. The most important transformation the U.S. national security apparatus must make as it prepares for future conflict is not limited to organizational or technological change; it requires transforming the military culture to manage the complex tasks of counterinsurgency and to avoid endangering the most cherished American values.

On 6 February 2006, the Department of Defense (DOD) released the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), a document deeply rooted in the recognition that the United States is engaged in a "long war." (2) QDR 2006 validates and continues the trends evident in QDR 2001, the Transformation Planning Guidance of 2003, Joint Vision 2020 (JV2020), and various other roadmaps and proclamations of transformation the country has produced during the past four years. (3) These documents emphasize information dominance, intelligence gathering and synchronization, and capabilities-based planning while demanding the military transform into a smaller, more agile, network-enabled organization.

However, the nature of the operating environment facing U.S. forces today is not, and is not likely to be in the future, one we can best confront with technological enablers. Indeed, the fourth-generation threats we will face during the next decade will effectively negate our technological superiority in weapons systems, sensors, and even communications. Paradoxically, our current opponents are at once immune to many of our technological advantages while they themselves leverage the nature of the Information Age in their attempts to defeat us.

Defining the Threat Environment

Before describing what changes in our military culture are necessary to combat these threats, we need to define the threat environment itself. In doing so, an ethical dilemma posing a significant challenge to the military becomes evident. Pundits and defense professionals alike define the COE in myriad ways, yet all seem to agree that we have entered into a protracted struggle.

It's when we begin weighing the significance of the struggles against insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan that analyses about the COE really begin to vary. For instance, some consider these insurgencies to be separate from the War on Terror, while others consider them integral. Iraq, the Army's main effort for the foreseeable future, has been described by some as a warfighting anomaly, essentially a problem to be dealt with before we move on to more conventional threats. Unfortunately, this seems to be the prevailing opinion among those authoring the QDR. The technologically enabled force they envision is well suited to fight cold war threats and ill suited to combat insurgencies or conduct other stabilization and reconstruction missions.

In his excellent book, The Sling and the Stone. On War in the 21st Century, Colonel Thomas X. Hammes derided current transformation documents for this same failing: "If the smug tones of our professional journals and 'idea' papers, such as JV2020, 'Network-Centric Warfare,' and 'Transformation Planning Guidance,' are an accurate indication, we believe our systems exceed the capabilities of any opponent and will provide us with near-perfect understanding of the battlefield. …

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