26 February 2013

Second and Third Order Effects of Politics by other means

War is politics by other means.  If you can't get the enemy to submit politically you can resort to violence.  If the enemy then refuses to submit, then you are left either giving up or killing them all.  But in between "doing nothing" and "killing them all" is the fight where you seek to use force (or carrot and stick force and reward) to get the enemy to do what you want.  This is where that second and third order effect analysis is useful.

Killing them all works well when killing them all is an achievable task.  I found this portion of a comment by Jimmy the Saint over at WRSA and thought that it deserved expansion.  This was in response to what I originally wrote about second and third order effects.
The Indian fighters in the American West found that it was far easier to go after a tribe’s women and children than its warriors (e.g. The Battle of the Washita). The Oradur sur Glane massacre forced parts of the French Resistance to change their operations to avoid any further such reprisals. Communists in SE Asia were very effective at undermining government authority by killing the families of soliders and officials, too.
 Generally we look down our noses at genocide.  Just so you know my New Years resolution last year was to cause no genocide and I'm happy to report that I kept that one.  This year it is to not detonate any nuclear warheads.  Next year I'll resolve not to develop bio weapons in the kitchen sink.  Much easier to resolve to not do something you hadn't planned on doing anyways.

Enough about my new years resolution, back to the fun topic of genocide, why did genocide work in the American plains and in SE Asia and not in Nazi Germany?  They were much more efficient killers in Germany, but they still failed to eradicate the Jew.  The truth is that the American Indians were not fools, and all to often submitted to the cruel peace demanded by the American government through force of arms.  In Germany (and Poland, Russia, etc) the Jews fled, hid, and resisted as they were able.  In SE Asia, when you plan to rule by terror, it is good to terrorize, no? 

In a related comment, lets take a look at what Herman Snerd wrote, illustrating for all the world his brilliant ability to read a book and then quote it.
In his book, In Retrospect the tragedy and lessons of Vietnam, the late Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara admits none of the Ivy League whiz kids who ran the US during JFK and LBJ understood that VN was about the Vietnamese seeking to throw centuries of imperialists out of their country. China, Japan, the French and the US. Communism had nothing to do with it. They bought their arms from the reds because they couldn't buy them from us.

The "kill a commie for Christ" green machine followed its brain dead orders. Didn't know what it was doing. Didn't care. Apparently you still don't. Congratulations. 58,000 Americans and hundreds of thousands of other people died for absolutely nothing. The official version of history is almost always wrong. Be careful that the "collateral damage" your military action causes isn't raping and murdering our liberty or that of other nations.
Evidently writing a blog post about recognizing second and third order affects is an excuse for Herman to get on his soap box and tell me I don't know what I'm doing, don't care, and have no clue about history or learning from it.  Personally I'm more amused than insulted, mainly because Herman based his supposition on a technocrat instead of a military historian.  Take a clue Herman, explain to me what the British did right in Malaya that the French and US did wrong in Vietnam.  Here's a hint, there's a book about that one too, and if you can repeat your brilliant act of being able to read a book, might help you understand that counter insurgency isn't "cause specific."  Counter insurgency is always people specific.

In Herman's defense, what McNamara wrote is true, the whiz kids were basing their predictions off of the same WWII data that said, "more rounds fired equals a better chance of winning the war" without ever stopping to look at the political situation in Vietnam.  When people try to reduce warfare to a numbers game the only people who win are wargamers who learn to game the systems.  A lot of times what makes a counterinsurgency successful is not quantifiable.

In my career the bulk has been spent "boots on the ground" save for the last two years, where I was moved into operations and planning, first at BN and then at BDE level.  Identifying second and third order effects is easier to do in hindsight than with any sort of prediction.  At the BDE level very few staff officers have the time to conduct a proper second and third order analysis (although we do a great job of hasty analysis) as during training we are "reacting" to events instead of conducting deliberate long term planning operations.

If you think that war and politics aren't the same thing, then listen to this quote, about gun control in the state of Washington.  This is martial language, and it reflects a political goal that Senator Ed Murray (D-Seattle) has to violate the property rights of Washingtonians.
We will only win if we reach out and continue to change the hearts and minds of Washingtonians,” Murray said. “We can attack them, or start a dialogue.”
Make no mistake about it, the bill in question has been introduced three times now, all with the same "mistake" language, and the endstate desired is disarmement by means of force if necessary.  I consider the inclusion of the "mistake" a tactical error on the part of Democrats in Washington State.  Tactical mistakes often have strategic impact, such as Mai Lai or Abu Ghraib.  Strategic victories can have tactical impacts as well, such as the election of Ronald Reagan to the Embassy Hostages held in Iran. 

In the end, Jimmy the Saint understands the truth of tactics that aim to influence human behavior (that whole politics thing).
Like a lot of other tactics it can work, but it is by no means certain that it will.
Clearly the Democrats thought that they could capitalize on the Sandy Hook shootings the way they capitalized on Jim Brady before.  Hell, it worked in New York, right?

And that is why you have to analyze the second and third order effects before you choose to use a lethal effect to target the behavior of your enemy.  Anyone who says, "if you do X the enemy will surely respond in Y manner" is a fool.  People are not machines that always respond in the same way.  That is why the crafty warrior fights the battle in his (or her) head before ever going to paper, and then fights the battle on paper until the best way forward comes out.  This is what makes staff time so tedious, but it is what keeps you from making a mistake that sets you back years.  I hope the Dems in Washington are set back years from this faux pas, but I know that Dems are tenacious if not smart, expect to see the same mistake next year.


There are different types of Fobbits.  I suspect that at this point in my career I will be a fobbit for the forseeable future.  A normal career has this progression, you sign up, get to work where the rubber meets the road and do exciting things outside the wire, then you get more rank and get pulled up to a supervisory position, or placed on staff (which is kinda like limbo, not sure if you are in hell or not).  Eventually you get out of limbo and get to go do real work again, or you end up being a permanent fobbit who remembers what life was like outside the fob.

There are other normal career progressions.  One of which starts fobbit and stays fobbit.  Some of these people are incredibly dedicated, brave, and have their heads on straight.  On the other hand you have the "Pirates of Pogadishu" who could fuck up a wet dream.  I knew a supply sergeant who wouldn't let his underlings take breaks until all the water was loaded for transport because he knew the Infantry wouldn't get breaks in the shade, and running a forklift isn't strenuous enough to warrant a cooldown period on the heat index scale.

My experience in Bagram was much the same as the other Captain who wrote "Pirates of Pogadishu".  And my experience with people being denied access to flights (after they've already been flown somewhere) also extends to US Soldiers with a particularly islamic sounding last name (yes it happened, yes we straightened it out after we got him back from the fobbit Air Farce security goons).

One thing that I've learned to loathe in my career is a petty bureaucrat who has the power to totally fuck with mission accomplishment and delights in doing so.  I don't care how damn important your paperwork is, when peoples lives are at risk you fucking take the goddamn time to help me get things straight. 

Some people think that by putting on this uniform we all become knife in the teeth patriotic commandos willing to scale Point Du Hoc to lead the charge against fascism.  There are plenty of fascists and petty blockwarts in our own organization.  Some of them even quote doctrine like it was holy script instead of a mutable document that should change with lessons learned.

Anyone remember all the "no sunglasses will be worn with a wraparound appearance" crap that went on in the 90's until we realized that wraparound ballistic eyewear makes a lot of sense?  Now I have Soldiers who get yelled at for wearing Aviators (which are still specifically authorized by AR-670-1).  You can't win with the Pirates of Pogadishu, simply small minded people struggling for relevancy.

10 February 2013

Second and Third Order Effects

Often I will hear, "Well once we start targeting their wives and kids that will knock the snot right out of them!" which is both simplistic and wrong.  You don't win wars by killing civilians, you win wars by making the enemy military inconsequential to the outcome (in an insurgency you make the military inconsequential by winning the hearts and minds of the populace).  You can do that by destroying their Army, or by dropping Nukes on their industrial base, but simply killing civilians has never been a major factor in winning a war.  The London Blitz and the firebombing of Dresden should give you an idea of how ineffective targeting civilians for lethal effects is in the history of war.

On the flip side, targeting civilians for non-lethal effects can produce amazing results.  The peace movement in the US during the Vietnam war was the Communist second front.  The attitudes of the British citizens during Ghandi's peaceful crusade is another good example.

Do you want to know how to make a fanatic?  Someone who will devote their life utterly to the cause of destroying you?  Take something irreplacable from them, like their wife or children.  But it is a second/third order effect.

Cause 1: Wife and kids assassinated.
Effect 1: Jack Booted Thug very angry.
Cause 2: Jack Booted Thug very angry.
Effect 2: Jack Booted Thug works harder to punish those he feels responsible.
Cause 3: Jack Booted thug works harder to punish those he feels responsible.
Effect 3: Less freedom of movement and maneuver for insurgent forces.

When you are trying to figure out second and third order effects, the primary effect becomes the secondary cause, which causes a secondary effect, which becomes a third order cause.  You could follow this down the rabbit hole as deeply as you want to go, but generally the third order is as far as anyone wants to look into the foggy crystal ball.

On the flip side, there is the law of "unintended consequences" which basically states that every time you plan to get an effect that is advantageous for you, you run an equally high risk of creating another effect that is negative to your cause.  And because you aren't smart enough to predict what that is, it will blindside you because you didn't have the information in you needed to avoid that consequence.

Imagine the negative consequence if that wife of the Jack Booted Thug was a well loved volunteer at the local Veteran's Hospital who took her kids in to play checkers with those in recovery?  Unintended consequence becomes that the insurgents are viewed as murdering scum and the JBT is viewed as a legitimate victim who has a reasonable passion to bring justice to the villains who wounded his heart.

Now imagine if you inserted pro Freedom arguments in the head of the wife, and pro freedom arguments in the heads of the children?  Can you measure that effect as the JBT has to argue his position at the dinner table that he really isn't a bad man?  No, you cannot measure that effectiveness in terms of enemy killed or material destroyed.

But winning the war isn't about destruction, it is about making the enemy irrelevant to the outcome.  You can do that by destroying the Army, but that rarely happens in an insurgency.  We never defeated the British Army in our Revolution, we simply defeated the small portion that was stationed on the Continent.  The British eventually took their ball and went home until the War of 1812.

You can apply the 2nd and 3rd order effect methodology to any tactical mission, and sometimes you can see strategic consequences arise (think Abu Ghraib or Mai Lai).   Sometimes they aren't so clear cut and you have to give your best guess into the murky reactions of the enemy to try to optimize outcomes in your favor. 

I have seen the consequences of military units that focused solely on lethal battlefield effects.  They create more insurgents than they kill, and they manage to kill a lot of them (or so they think, insurgent corpses look an aweful lot like civilian corpses).  The units that focus heavily on non-lethal effects, and use lethal effects to enhance security where only absolutely needed have been much more successful.

01 February 2013

Light Posting

For the rest of the month of February I expect to be generally busy and far away from civilian internet access.

It is funny, when you think about it, every post a blogger writes could be the last one.  It would be ironic if my last post was "Light Posting."  I do plan to get back into the swing of things in March, so if that doesn't happen feel free to assume the worst.