Calming the Cold Worriers Pt 2
As the Pentagon entered the new century, it was clear to many national security experts that the Defense Department and basically spent the nineties buying one type of military while operating another…In essence, the misalignment of strategy and operations had become painfully obvious to most observers by 2000, as each service was cannibalizing platforms like aircraft for spare parts, and military families were stressing out form the high rates of overseas deployments by their loved ones…
You cannot keep buying these expensive, high-tech platforms for some distant future war and expect the military to have enough resources left over to deal with all of today’s operations…
By building one sort of military for some imagined future while operating another sort of military in the here and now, the Pentagon stressed itself out far more than the Clinton Administration, Congress, or “global chaos” ever could.
Thomas P.M. Barnett writing in The Pentagon’s New Map
This week we are discussing Hybrid Warfare, as an alternative to the old fashioned industrial style or conventional warfare favored by some, who fear we have neglected preparing for wars involving heavy tanks, fighter jets, and giant warships. The “Cold Worriers”, as they are dubbed by Dr. Barnett, feel we must buy decreasing numbers of very expensive and hard to build Cold War-style weapons for some obscure future conflict. This idea from conventional warfare advocates, who consider wars against small and agile insurgent armies as aberrations, not likely to occur anytime soon, goes against the advancement of warfare that you can fight new types of warfare with old tactics. I can point specifically to what happens to nations who fear change, as we look back into the Napoleonic Era.
In the days preceding motorized transport, Napoleon Bonaparte of France brought the foot infantry to the peak of perfection. Future generals, notably the North and South during the American Civil War successively copied the Little Corporal’s style of warfare some 50-60 years later. The tactics of Union and Southern generals were often compared to the French conquerer, notably George McClellan and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, yet these also had the benefit of rail transport for their particular battles.
Light infantry during these times were born after the heavy linear tactics proved too inflexible. In the mid-1700s Austria deployed wild Croat light infantry called Pandurs to contend with the Turks, and later their primary adversary, Prussia under Frederick the Great responded with the Jagers. The famed soldier/emperor was forced to respond in kind, who also added light cavalry to his irregular battalions, followed soon by the French. More famously did Britain raise light companies about this time, after much hard experience in the Americas.
The permanence of the new infantry was not to be in the traditional armies, however, as more conservative thought resurged itself, the heritage of Marlborough and Gustavus Adolphus being too strong. after their major wars were concluded, Prussia, Austria, and the English soon returned to the linear tactics involving huge lines of infantry packed together solidly on the battlefield, slugging it out toe-to-toe. Only in France did the new tactics take hold and evolve into swarms of skirmishers. The very chaotic nature of the French Revolution would feed this change.
Rising to power in the late century, Napoleon Bonaparte saw the potential of making something from the chaos. Rejecting the stringent and sluggish linear tactics of the era, that should have died out after the American Revolution, he led his columns the length and breadth of Europe and even to Africa, outmaneuvering the combined armies of the Great Powers, England, Russia, Austria, and Prussia, among others. That it finally took the combined might of these nations to tame the dictator, plus some adapting of similar tactics for their own armies, after numerous humiliating battlefield defeats, is a testament to the change that had enveloped warfare.
In so doing, Napoleon invented a form of hybrid warfare, adding a mixture of skirmishers to the heavier line, called an ordre mixte, to the new column. This new unit allowed him to perform swarming tactics, also known as “horde tactics” against a heavy linear army, even if the latter was better trained, more numerous, or better armed. It was devastatingly effective and could be adaptive to the particular terrain on which the French Army was fighting, from the Swiss Alps, to the African Deserts, the Austrian Valleys, and the Russian steppes. As noted with the Civil War, the tactics remained viable for much of the century, until it was replaced with something new.
All of the above should be seen as a warning to the traditionally minded general who seeks to keep well-tried and familiar practices intact in an era of clear change in warfare. All of the signs are there that change is upon us, of small nations who hold the world superpowers hostage. Though these powers eventually prevail, the cost for the victor is far in excess of that to the perceived loser, and too often a Pyhrric one, making the great power more cautious to challenge the loser than previously. You see examples of this with the ongoing piracy off Somalia, this nation being one of the world’s most impoverished, yet the slaying of US peacekeeping troops there in the 1990s loom heavy in the minds of military planners and politicians. Also, we see militarily insignificant nations such as North Korea and Iran, blatantly defy the international community, who grudgingly tolerate the continued nuclear threats, plus these rogue state supporters of other terrorist and insurgent groups, and criminal activity the world over.
It is obvious the supercarriers, the fighter wings, and armored divisions can no longer keep us adequately secure to influence those nations who threaten us most often. Third World countries know we dare not use overwhelming force, or at least aren’t so naive as Saddam Hussein to push us too far. The deterrent style forces which served us well into the peer conflicts of the last century are increasingly so much extra baggage, needed less and less in the new century. Our funding priorities should reflect this dynamic change in warfare. Perhaps we can manage a while longer fighting the new Hybrid Armies with our Cold War linear tactics, but the costs of such an undertaking alone should be a deterrent, forcing us to learn the new warfare before the next Napoleon comes along.
A Concise History of Warfare by Bernard Montgomery
Encyclopedia Of Military History by Trevor and R.E. Dupuy