Academic journal article Military Review

Spectrum of What?

Academic journal article Military Review

Spectrum of What?

Article excerpt

A DECADE OF CONFLICT has refined and expanded our understanding of war. Our lexicon must change as well. Operations to stabilize under-governed regions and manage internal instability, once thought to be "operations other than war" or "low-intensity conflict," are now understood as wars that may include intense combat. At the same time, sophisticated nation-state adversaries have expanded the spectrum of military operations by investing in advanced technologies designed to blunt U.S. power projection and thwart traditional U.S. advantages. Precision long-range ballistic missiles, anti-ship cruise missiles, integrated air defense systems, anti-satellite weapons, and cyber weapons have the potential to complicate U.S. concepts of operation against adversaries who possess these technologies. Meanwhile, nonstate actors, not content with merely terrorism and insurgency as methods of warfare, seek more sophisticated weapons to enable them to impose new costs and risks on Western militaries and frustrate their attempts to seize terrain. These weapons, traditionally available only to state actors, include precision-guided anti-tank missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, sophisticated man-portable air defense systems, anti-ship cruise missiles, and precisionguided rockets, artillery, and mortars. U.S. defense planners refer to these new threats and U.S. concepts for countering them as counterinsurgency (COIN), anti-access/area denial (A2/AD), and "hybrid" warfare, respectively.1

We must revise and expand the spectrum of operations or range of military operations to cover these new threats, with irregular operations like COIN, counterterrorism, and stability operations on the "low end" of this spectrum and counter-A2/AD concepts of operation on the "high end." Conventional maneuver warfare, often labeled major combat operations, is now only a relatively small slice of the spectrum of operations. Conventional war is also not at the highest end of this spectrum of conflict, but rather in the middle. The high end features sophisticated A2/AD threats that require new U.S. capabilities and concepts of operation to counter. (One could plausibly extend this range even further to encompass nuclear exchange.) This new, revised spectrum of operations varies not in level of effort or intensity of violence (COIN operations can exhaust immense resources and be extremely violent at times), but rather in scale and sophistication of adversary capabilities.

The Lexicon Today

Existing DOD joint lexicon fails to cover this new, expanded spectrum of operations in a meaningful and interesting way. Joint Publication (JP) 3-0, Joint Operations, describes the range of military operations as varying from "crisis response and limited contingency operations" to "major operations and campaigns."2

The range of military operations in JP 3-0 delineates military operations along the dimension of level of effort, which is not very useful. Operation Enduring Freedom-Afghanistan and the stabilization of Iraq are both "major operations." These campaigns have swallowed the efforts of, at times, 100,000 troops or more in each nation, lasted for years of sustained conflict, cost hundreds of billions of dollars, and resulted in thousands of U.S. servicemembers killed and tens of thousands wounded. By any reasonable measure, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are major operations. In fact, the stabilization phases of the Iraq and Afghan wars turned out to require a significantly greater level of effort and duration than the invasions to topple those nations, both of which lasted only weeks, not years.

Stability operations and conventional force-onforce conflict differ significantly in terms of forces required and training and equipment. For example, the force that invaded Iraq in 2003 was superbly trained and equipped to defeat Saddam's army, but less prepared (initially) for the stabilization and counterinsurgency challenges that followed. The range of military operations presented in JP 3-0 does not draw this distinction. …

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