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):
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.
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 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.
- Sun TsuCan you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can?
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.