Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Battlefield Preparation and Ft. Hood

All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.

- Sun Tsu

Battlefield Preparation occurs before the first shot is fired. The obvious (and uninteresting) goal is to degrade the enemy's assets - to destroy tanks, anti-aircraft sites, and command and control links. These will be (hopefully) sorely missed when you launch your forces into the fray.

The less obvious (and more interesting) goal of battlefield preparation is to paralyze the enemy. Sometimes you can do this without firing a shot, like when Paton's First US Army Group at Dover immobilized critically needed German reinforcements that might have turned the tide in Normandy.

This paralysis opens up tactical opportunities that would not be otherwise available. Battles are often won in what are essentially small unit actions - Napoleon's dictum that there is a single point on the battlefield where the moment of decision will occur ultimately translates down the TOE to a single column, or battalion. A successfully executed strategy is a massive force multiplier on the tactical level.

So what happened at Ft. Hood? Actually, all you have to read to know the answer is this (via Instapundit):

U.S. intelligence agencies were aware months ago that Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan was attempting to make contact with people associated with al Qaeda, two American officials briefed on classified material in the case told ABC News.

According to the officials, the Army was informed of Hasan's contact, but it is unclear what, if anything, the Army did in response.

The Army knew that this guy was a terrorist in the making; after all, they're not idiots. They had been immobilized by al Qaeda's battlefield preparation. Ft. Hood was a tactical target of opportunity, made by an expendable, tactical asset in the War of Terror (their side), enabled by a wildly successful execution of their strategy. Everything else was mere body count.

The only conclusion that we can reach is that al Qaeda has achieved a stunning strategic victory, using the West's Political Correctness to freeze our response. In retrospect, this perhaps shouldn't be a surprise, because we've seen this before:
During the early aftermath of September 11th, when I happened to be recounting the pre-September 11th events concerning the Moussaoui investigation to other FBI personnel in other divisions or in FBIHQ, almost everyone's first question was "Why?--Why would an FBI agent(s) deliberately sabotage a case? (I know I shouldn't be flippant about this, but jokes were actually made that the key FBI HQ personnel had to be spies or moles, like Robert Hansen, who were actually working for Osama Bin Laden to have so undercut Minneapolis' effort.)
And before anyone blames the current administration, this is a good time to reflect that the PC induced organizational paralysis certainly dates through the Bush and Clinton administrations. And it's not just the military. Eight years into the War on Terror, we see that Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr was right. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose: the more things change, the more it's the same old thing.

There's a saying in business, when you're doing competitive analysis. Don't look for your enemy's weakness - if he's dangerous, he'll fix that. Look for the weakness in his strength. He doesn't want to fix that.

Our strength, as western societies, is openness and tolerance. al Qaeda has found the weakness in that strength. We don't want to see what bumps up against that tolerance; actually, we're afraid to see. Afraid to be criticized as not tolerant we close our eyes, and that opens up tactical opportunities like Ft. Hood. When you combine that proactive paralysis with regulations that makes reacting difficult or impossible, you prove another dictum:
Enough layers of management ensure that disaster is not left to chance.
Our entire society consists of soft targets of opportunity. There's no other way to look at the Ft. Hood battle (for that is what it was) as anything that cannot be replicated across the land, from sea to shining sea. Politically Correct induced paralysis combined with we don't encourage self-help induced paralysis means that loosely affiliated terrorist cells - or individual actor "micro cells" - will be find a wealth of tactical targets of opportunity.
Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can?
- Sun Tsu

UPDATE 9 November 2009 21:02: Paralysis in pictures.

UPDATE 10 November 2009 09:34: Bumped. Having slept on this, it seems more significant than my usual blather. I don't want it to get lost in the flurry of today's blather.

UPDATE 12 November 2009 10:26: Welcome visitors from New Jovian Thunderbolt. If you're interested in this post, you might also like this one.

UPDATE 14 November 2009 08:41: Welcome visitors from Arguing with a Fencepost.


Burt said...

The USS Cole was in a foreign port when RIBs approached. The captain took the "politically correct" decision, as dictated by the Pentagon: do not fire on approaching unidentified boats.

As a member of "repel boarders" teams, I was trained on several rifles (M14, M16, M60, M79) as the standard issue .45. When I stood watch on the USS La Salle (homeport: Bahrain), our standing orders were to fire 3 shots in the air - and then empty our magazines into the craft and any/all occupants aboard.

Let's just say that I did have occasion to fire at more than paper targets, and leave it at that.

The USS Cole's "repel boarders" team probably had weapons, but orders to NOT fire: it would attract attention and annoy the natives.

That same attitude - disciplining and expunging undesirables would attract attention and annoy someone - is the reason that the US Army's hands are tied. Politicians are afraid of "offending someone".

The blame for the Ft. Hood massacre lies at the feet of President Obama and his advisors, not at the feet of the Joint Chiefs.

Paladin said...

Early Man survived, and evolved, in some part because when he saw a saber toothed cat - he didn't feel that it was necessary to give it the benefit of the doubt before reacting to it.

He just assumed that it would try to kill/eat him, since that's what saber toothed cats do.

Abandoning that survival instinct in a bizarre quest to avoid potentially hurting someone's feelings will mean our doom.

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

oooooo, good post.

Borepatch said...

Burt, there's plenty of blaim to lay at the feet of the current administration. You and I will have to agree to disagree on the Joint Chiefs: this has been growing for years (decades, really). They've allowed the enemy to prepare the battlefield.

It's their job to understand this. What's sadly missing from those who wear stars is leadership, at least regarding this. Someone needs to man up and say it like it is, that Political Correctness has immobilized the military in a significant way, and that soldiers are dieing because of it.

Otherwise, they will keep their job (and pension) safe while those under them die.

I don't see how you could have a bigger abdication of command responsibility, really.

T-Bolt, thanks. It left me very depressed.

Borepatch said...

Paladin, that's it precisely. I unfortunately do not have a lot of confidence that the E Ring gets that anymore.

TOTWTYTR said...

Sadly BP you are correct. Even more sadly, nothing will change. At least not right away and maybe not soon enough for us to win this war.

The PC shit is killing us, literally.

ASM826 said...

Not bad, Find the weakness, then determine the right amount of force to apply to it.

It would lead to the conclusion that not only is our defense flawed, using nation-based military assets in a traditional combat occupation is the wrong force applied to the wrong point as an offense, too.

Burt said...

BP, I'm not defending the Joint Chiefs. They can only do what they can do, and can only do it within the bounds of the UCMJ. Technically, if they take an action that wasn't directly approved by their superiors, they are in violation of military law.

In the current PC environment, the expulsion of Hasan *without a chargeable offense* could have resulted in a politically-charged backlash ending up with charges of discrimination and civil rights lawsuits.

That they don't have the courage to risk their careers by standing up and doing what needs to be done -- that's where you and I *do* agree. They are protecting their careers... but that's what the highest-level military leadership has done almost forever. (Billy Mitchell had to FORCE the JCS to accept the use of aircraft in combat - and he was DEMOTED for it!)

Without political support, you can be assured that the JCS won't even *try* to do what needs to be done.

McChrystal told Obama what REALLY needed to be done in Afghanistan, and the result was that Gates (a civilian) told McChrystal (a general) to "shut up". Do you think that, when promotion time comes, McChrystal will get another star?

"Speak truth to power", my ass.

In the current political environment, with this damned fool Obama in charge, and with White House advisors who tell generals to "shut up", the JCS won't do a damned thing.

Epididymus said...

I just thought ya'll would be interested to know that the Ft. Hood traitor was working for Obama on his Homeland Security Transitional Team. He's credited in this report as a "task force team participant," whatever that means. Just thought you'd like to know.