Autonomous Weapons: A Thought Experiment

Human Rights Watch is one of the driving forces behind the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, who make headlines from time to time in their current quest to get “lethal autonomous weapon systems” banned under the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. I have no particular beef with HRW, it’s an admirable organisation, but since the newspapers are in full-on “reprint the press release” mode after the publication of an open letter calling for a ban on autonomous weapons signed by a lot of scientists, it’s probably worthwhile pointing out that HRW has choices to make. Like: choosing between a world where states can make (usually imperfect) interventions to prevent mass atrocity, and a world where they can’t. The TL;DR version of this blog post is: if you ban autonomous weapons then aircraft carriers become floating junk, next time someone starts massacring people don’t expect anyone to ride to the rescue. That’s not to say the “the West” has a particularly admirable track record in atrocity prevention, but most of the arguments that now happen usually pre-suppose that if Western political elites could be coerced or persuaded, then they would have the technical means to deliver military forces to some point on the planet where very bad things are happening to civilians.

"Reaction time is a factor in this, so please pay attention."

“Reaction time is a factor in this, so please pay attention.”

The problem with the autonomous weapons debate as it currently stands is that, for the most part, it ignores the current bits and pieces of automatic and autonomous systems that are part and parcel of everyday military life. Like the Phalanx Close-In-Weapon-System (CIWS) and other bits of gear that are designed to shoot down incoming missiles. Because shooting down missiles is something that humans are physically incapable of doing, outside of Hollywood. If one would like the capability to shoot down a missile, then you need a largely autonomous system to do the heavy lifting of identifying, tracking and targeting that missile, and the human being “in the loop” is largely reduced to something to whom a weapon system says: “Hey, meatbag, press the button so that I can save your life.”

"Look Dave, I can see you're really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over."

“Look Dave, I can see you’re really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.”

In theory, you don’t even need the human. Phalanx, and like systems, are tied to command and control systems such as AEGIS, which can be set to an automatic mode with user-defined “If… then…” routines doing the work. Like “If a missile is heading towards this ship, then please shoot it down as soon as possible.” The reason this is necessary is that one doesn’t want to entrust the ability to protect a ship to a person who is, well, liable to die when the anti-ship missiles start flying. Having a system the keeps working despite casualties is a sensible design for a military system. “But wait,” cry the detractors, “We’re not talking about missiles, we’re talking about machines that can make the decision to select and kill human beings (insert lengthy disclaimer about drones being controlled by human beings here).” That may be true, but from a machine’s point of view (and this is perhaps the core of the problem) the means of identifying an object as a missile is not too different from identifying a human being. If someone does conjure up a weapon system to run around killing human beings, then the difference is likely to be most evident in the sensors designed to detect human beings (over, say, a supersonic missile) and the code that interprets the information derived from those sensors, than in the actual process of going from detection to destruction. The difference between “automatic” and “autonomous” is merely the capability of the system to sense different objects, and what to do with them once it senses them. A system designed to identify humans and avoid them is one rule-change away from a system designed to identify humans and kill them. Program an autonomous weapon system to shoot down missiles and it’ll carry that out to the best of its technical limits, just as if you programmed it to shoot readers of young adult fiction over the age of 29, which, I think, is why the ethicists (and adult Harry Potter fans) are correct when they point out that autonomous weapon systems are disturbing. So why not ban them? The problem, returning to the Phalanx CIWS, is that they’re here to help, and in certain situations, autonomous systems are impossible to replace.

"Come with me if you want to live."

“Come with me if you want to live.”

The problem with aircraft carriers is that they are quite expensive, relatively rare, and vulnerable to missiles designed to kill them. America has ten Nimitz class aircraft carriers. They are the cornerstone of American power projection worldwide. By way of comparison, Russia has one, and China has one. I’ll leave it to my colleagues in KCL’s Naval History Mafia (err, “Laughton Naval History Unit“)  to debate how good any of these actually are. America’s carriers are so expensive that it takes over half a billion dollars to de-commission one. Of course the alternate route to decommissioning an aircraft carrier is to hit one with enough missiles to sink it. Logically enough, this is China’s approach to America’s 10:1 advantage in aircraft carriers. For this reason, anyone seeking to deter America needs some kind of long range anti-ship missile capability. For America (or anyone else using an aircraft carrier) you need defensive capabilities mounted on your aircraft carrier and support ships that stand a chance of shooting down said missiles, otherwise they become a bit useless in contested areas.

Contested areas are important, partly because the kind of regimes that carry out massacres usually have powerful friends. Consider Syria. Way back when in 2013, when meaningful international intervention was still a possibility, Russia transferred advanced anti-aircraft missile systems and anti-ship missile systems to the Syrian government in order to effectively forestall said intervention. In effect, Russia escalated the likely cost of international intervention by providing Assad with an asymmetric capability. Perceived costs are important because: politics matters. To return to HRW and autonomous weapons: there is a big difference between persuading America to intervene in a situation, and persuading America to intervene in a situation which puts one of its aircraft carriers at risk.

Alternate use for a Nimitz class carrier: attempt to save Pearl Harbor.

Alternate use for a Nimitz class carrier: attempt to save Pearl Harbor.

So here’s the issue as I see it: if you want to ban the military use of autonomous weapon systems, then you’re going to need to ban the kind of autonomous systems that are currently in service, and any that are being developed to combat anti-ship missiles in future. If you ban those kind of point defence systems, then any kind of power projection becomes very, very risky and costly for the country involved, so even though America has a poor track record, don’t expect them to help in future if a brutal regime is killing its citizens. This ushers in a world where states like China and Russia can effectively prop up any regime that they like, and, given the studied neglect-to-care about human rights in either country, this reduces the capability of states that purportedly care about human rights to intervene in the world at large. This lack of capability to intervene will reduce the incentive for would-be human rights abusers to adhere to the vaguest interpretation of compliance with human rights standards. This is a legal, political and technical issue – given the makeup of the UN Security Council – but at the moment Western states still have a technical means to intervene (if not the legal authority to do so, or the political will), forcing them to abandon the autonomous systems that they use to defend their prime military assets would deprive them of that. As disturbing as autonomous weapons are, is a world where dictators can massacre their populations without fear of reprisal better or worse?

Oh, and just to muddy the waters a bit: they already figured out how to point Phalanx at small surface ships that would probably contain human beings.

Share
Standard

Leadership Beyond Your Control

This week’s CCLKOW discussion looks at leadership. In this case, however, we remove the individual as the arbiter of its quality. Instead, our piece today argues for a perspective that takes account of external factors which define the limits of leadership. Using the contrasting narratives of two officers from the Chosin Campaign, the role of influences beyond the control of the individual emerges. Read, ponder the questions, and join the discussion on Twitter at #CCLKOW.

 

In the cold — wickedly cold, really — days at the end of November 1950, the epic drama of the Chosin Campaign played out in North Korea near the Manchurian border with China. Within the larger story, two sub narratives of triumph and disaster, redemption and destruction, life and death were also unfolding. These are the individual travails of two Lieutenant Colonels awarded the Medal of Honor in the campaign, Raymond G. Davis and Donald C. Faith. Davis led his unit to the successful completion of an overland, nighttime march to relieve Fox Co. and secure key terrain in the evacuation route south to Hagaru-ri for 5th and 7th Marines. By contrast, Faith gained at best an operational Pyrrhic victory for X Corps: his Task Force slowed the PLA advance towards the 1st Marine Division as it was defeated in its attempt to withdraw from the reservoir to Hagaru-ri.

How can we reconcile the entirely disparate outcomes of the units led by Faith and Davis at Chosin? Leadership provides a unifying theme by which to explain events, although in this case we must understand leadership to go beyond the standard definitions and transcend the individual as either agent or arbiter of quality. The differences in leadership, and hence outcomes, can be attributed only to fortune or fatal ambition if the assessment is limited to the individuals, as these details provide too little information to make sense of the full scope of events. For their actions at Chosin, each man would be reckoned a hero of the highest order, although that heroism must be described as triumphant and tragic in turn. As field grade officers with previous combat and/or command experience, at campaign’s start they would have been considered equals in anticipated capabilities. In sum, these were two officers similarly qualified as leaders to meet the challenges of command on the battlefield. And yet, not only were the outcomes different for each – success for Davis and failure for Faith – but the narrative clearly points to different qualities of leadership as well. Thus, factors well beyond the individuals, beyond their heroism or competence, determined the quality of leadership each man brought to bear in his respective battle.

The Faith/Davis narratives suggest that leadership’s manifestation in combat is determined by the individual in situ by the influence of external factors. Absent obvious incompetence or particular genius, the environment within which an officer must act will define the quality or effectiveness of his leadership, and therefore, ability to command. Taking consideration of their environments fully explains the leadership outcome for each officer, success and failure, notwithstanding the heroism displayed by either. These conclusions can be made without undue attack upon Faith, for as this analysis suggests, others determined his failed leadership. The paradox of Faith’s simultaneous heroism and failure is reconciled because, while the bulk of the former is derived from within the individual, leadership in action is largely determined from without. This point is true as well in Davis’ case, for if it is to have more than mythical importance it, too, is best understood within its proper context.

While definitions of leadership abound, their focus traditionally has been limited to the individual. From one compilation of essays on the subject of leadership we find this characterization: “Effective leaders create an environment in which people motivate themselves.” [1] In another similar compilation, published in large part for the benefit of teaching leadership to future Army officers at West Point, we find this explanation: “Leadership is the art of inspiring the spirit and the act of following. The following must be voluntary. The individual and the group of individuals must want to be guided by that person for the latter to be called a leader…. Leadership is about trust….”[2] If most discussions of leadership – and for this sake of this analysis I will stick with Kolenda’ Leadership: The Warrior’s Art, as a solid example of the literature – are limited to the narrow scope of what the individual as leader must do,  then they operate from the assumption that the individual is the arbiter or agent of leadership. The problem is that such a formulation ignores the long, arduous, and mundane process required to get the leader to the point where he can lift his head and eyes to the horizon, to function as a leader and exercise effective command. He must, in effect, be able to do nothing but think sometimes. So, yes, a young officer, according to one essay in Kolenda, needs to know what to do with the opportunity and responsibility to lead. [3] He should also learn those factors external to his control that can shape the experience. He should know that no matter how well prepared, it is very hard to run a race if your legs are broken at the start. Even if Kolenda et al. are correct and leadership is the warrior’s art, the individual can only work with what he is given; he is defined by his context, good or bad. Thus, individuals may manifest leadership, and are certainly responsible for its quality, but a multitude of other individuals and circumstances determine that quality. In battle, the individual is not in control of his own leadership. He may do everything right, or may know, especially in retrospect, what he should have done right, he may be imbued with every talent, and still his attempts at leadership can be undone by factors beyond his control. As with all other matters military, the individual is bound up in the group, the organization, and the events.

Given this situation, I propose this revised set of standards that take account of the external factors that influence: chain of command leadership (superior and subordinate), followership, and circumstances. These criteria provide the most comprehensive and comprehensible explanation for the leadership outcomes in the Chosin campaign, and may offer a perspective that is useful to contemporary considerations of leadership. To understand their role in these events, here is a very brief sketch of the contrasting external circumstances faced by each man:

 

What was the quality of the superior leadership shown to Faith and Davis?

The view from the top offer the first significant distinction between the two. Davis enjoyed an operational situation that saw him ensconced within the warm embrace of two levels of leadership directly above him. His regimental and divisional commanders, Colonel Litzenberg and General Smith, were close at hand, available to provide guidance, strength, and a general sense of operational security. Alternatively, neither of his two commanders was the sort to meddle overmuch, thus allowing Davis to exercise his discretion in the planning and execution of his mission. By contrast, Faith came to command at Chosin when the 31st RCT commander, Colonel MacLean, was killed in early and confusing contact with PLA forces. This meant that on the ground at Chosin Faith enjoyed no superior leadership. At further remove, the divisional and corps leadership did not seem to grasp the enormity of what was facing the task force. Appleman’s point in East of Chosin that Generals Barr (7th ID CG) and Almond (X Corps CG) could have sent General Hodes, 7th ID ADC, to take command of the task force, is ironically sustained by the extension of that criticism in other literature to General Smith, who could have spared one of his senior colonels to the cause. Finally, by comparison Davis’ direct chain of command served him better than Faith’s because Smith’s proximity to the fight gave him a clearer picture of the threat posed by the PLA’s offensive, whereas it would take the Army commanders (7th ID, X Corps) critical hours to come to understand the changed circumstances. The relevance of this distinction bears out in the movements of X Corps towards the Yalu River, where Smith had taken a relatively conservative approach to the attack which maintained the integrity of the division as a whole, in contrast with the almost head-long rush 7th ID took to get to the reservoir. Whereas the Marine division would retain its ability to act as a coherent and supporting whole when the mass of the Chinese attack opened, 7th ID was dispersed to the point that the sum of the parts were weaker than the measure of the whole.

What was the quality of the subordinate leadership shown to Faith and Davis?

Moving to the supporting network below, the disparities remain. Davis enjoyed a strong subordinate command presence. Many of his NCOs had prior service in WWII, and his junior officers were capable if untested. Furthermore, throughout the campaign he did not suffer significant losses within these ranks, thus maintaining a sound subordinate chain of command. The strength of Davis’ leadership would be transmitted through this web to the Marines. At the start of the campaign, the units that would comprise Faith’s task force did have their fair share of good subordinate leaders. However, the task force suffered throughout the battle a steady hemorrhage of these leader. Their loss would weaken the leadership web supporting Faith degraded the unit’s combat cohesion at every level and critically handicapped his ability to maintain the integrity of the withdrawal.

What was the quality of “followership” shown to Faith and Davis?

How the troops responded to their leadership would vary significantly as well. There is no greater affirmation of the Marines’ followership than the constant refrain from the overland march that the strength of Davis’ example motivated and inspired the already strong extant “Marine spirit.” [4] Alternatively, the fragility of the task force’s followership is made manifest with the rapid disintegration of unit coherence with every challenge and setback to the withdrawal. Where once Faith was able to rally the troops via threats of severe punishment, the second attempt at the same tactic reaped insignificant results, primarily because the troops could no longer sustain their “faith” in his leadership to change the circumstance. Furthermore, there is some indication that Faith’s lack of combat experience worked to the detriment of establishing good followership from the start. Contrast this with the sense of security Davis’ experience must have given his troops.

What were the circumstances facing each?

Although they diverged in degree, both men faced essentially the same situation. The Chinese offensive made their current positions untenable and necessitated withdrawal. And, as aptly framed by General Smith, this would be no administrative march to the rear, they really would be “fighting in the other direction.” [5] The grand plan of the Marine division’s attack to the south planned for the constant defense of the column in its progress, by control of flanking terrain and key feature with all units in mutual and coordinated support. [6] Necessary to secure a key junction in the route, Davis’ mission to relieve Fox Co. and reinforce the position they held atop Turkey Hill was by no means going to be a walk in the park, was not guaranteed to succeed. It demanded of the Marines two efforts not a part of the campaign or standard practice: cross-country and by night. However, as part of a larger campaign, whose objective was entirely achievable by the division, Davis was given a manageable piece of a larger plan whose rationality he could appreciate. Other intangible effects of the mission context was the difference made in the Marine mentality of the aggressive, offensive nature of the mission – rather than waiting for the enemy to bring the battle to them in the withdrawal, they were moving pro-actively to gain the upper hand against the enemy. This they would achieve, successfully making their way south to Colonel Puller’s position further south to reform the division as a whole for its continued exfiltration to the port at Hungnam. Task Force Faith, on the other hand, was destroyed as a unit and nearly in detail attempting the very same. Lacking the support to generate a plan of any consequence, as well as the subordinate officers to execute it, Faith was left to collect his men, wounded, and vehicles and hope that they could fight their way south directly. Little would be done to secure the flanks or the way ahead, and these omissions would allow the Chinese soldiers to defeat the column. Harrying the vehicles and men from the high ground surrounding the road throughout, which slowly weakened Faith’s collected force, the Chinese were also able move ahead roadblock the progress of the march at regular intervals. Blooded throughout, there were only so many obstacles the task force could overcome and regroup from before it was simply too weakened by casualties to continue as a whole. In the final hours of December 1, only 5 miles from where the march had begun, both Faith and his task force died.

 

Considering the terms of this leadership framework, the discussion for this week is driven by a single request:

Obviously there is little that can be done when one faces the worst of circumstances across every factor. However, singly these deficits can be mitigated, if not overcome. Looking at each of Faith’s challenges, imagine yourself as his only and capable staff officer, what would you recommend to him? How would you improve the quality of the factors or counteract the negative effect of their weakness?

 

 

 

[I am happy to provide a bibliography of the campaign to those interested.]

 

Notes

1. Military Leadership, Taylor and Rosenbach, eds., p. 2.

2.  Leadership: The Warrior’s Art, Kolenda, ed., p. xix.

3. Dardis and Brower, “Teaching Combat Leadership.”

4. I had the opportunity to meet many of those Marines, to include General Davis, at the 1/7 1999 reunion of the Chosin Marines. I will write more about them in November at the anniversary of the campaign. As well as the pathos of battle, there will be consideration of such subjects as frozen turkey bombs, life-saving Tootsie Rolls, a silver service, cooks with rifles, and a reminder of the provenance of the Rule of 4/6ths.

5. The misinterpretation of this quote is one of the greater sins of history. It was always a simple explanation of the martial terms of the withdrawal.

6. I will reissue my perennial call: Colonel Alpha Bowser’s quickly designed plan was a thing to behold, and more should be written on it.

Share
Standard

For whom the Channel referral tolls…

It appears that things are picking up in the wonderful world of radicalisation. Following hot on the heels of David Cameron’s speech on extremism, the Evening Standard reports that a primary school has referred one of its pupils to the Government’s multi-agency Channel programme because a child that can’t be older than 11 was “deemed at risk of Islamic radicalisation.” Yes, folks, you heard that right, because “the behaviour of the child’s parents caused concern among staff” a kid is now the subject of government study. That’s because non-violent extremism leads to violent extremism, even in the case of primary school children. Except it doesn’t, or at least doesn’t work like a conveyor belt.

Here’s the resulting paradox in a nutshell: we live in a country that retains global power pretensions (even though we fudge on paying for it) and are committed to retaining a nuclear deterrent to bolster that self-image. At the same time, in a supposedly free and democratic society, we are referring under twelves to a counter-extremism programme because otherwise… bad things might happen?

Channel operates in “pre-criminal space”, which is a nice way of saying that a Channel referral doesn’t require an actual criminal offence. The Channel vulnerability assessment framework is particularly worth reading in full:

1. Engagement with a group, cause or ideology Engagement factors are sometimes referred to as “psychological hooks”. They include needs, susceptibilities, motivations and contextual influences and together map the individual pathway into terrorism. They can include:
• Feelings of grievance and injustice
• Feeling under threat
• A need for identity, meaning and belonging
• A desire for status
• A desire for excitement and adventure
• A need to dominate and control others
• Susceptibility to indoctrination
• A desire for political or moral change
• Opportunistic involvement
• Family or friends involvement in extremism
• Being at a transitional time of life
• Being influenced or controlled by a group
• Relevant mental health issues

2. Intent to cause harm Not all those who become engaged by a group, cause or ideology go on to develop an intention to cause harm, so this dimension is considered separately. Intent factors describe the mindset that is associated with a readiness to use violence and address what the individual would do and to what end. They can include:
• Over-identification with a group or ideology
• Them and Us’ thinking
• Dehumanisation of the enemy
• Attitudes that justify offending
• Harmful means to an end
• Harmful objectives

3. Capability to cause harm Not all those who have a wish to cause harm on behalf of a group, cause or ideology are capable of doing so, and plots to cause widespread damage take a high level of personal capability, resources and networking to be successful. What the individual is capable of is therefore a key consideration when assessing risk of harm to the public. Factors can include:
• Individual knowledge, skills and competencies
• Access to networks, funding or equipment
• Criminal Capability

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m pretty sure that any 10 year old fulfils: “A need for identity, meaning and belonging/A desire for status/A desire for excitement and adventure/Susceptibility to indoctrination/Being at a transitional time of life”. Cynicism aside, the basic problem with this vulnerability assessment framework is that it contains very ambiguous criteria that effectively makes being pissed off at the current state of things a red flag for authorities. This wouldn’t matter so much except that the latest Counter-Terrorism and Security Act put it on a statutory footing. From a not-quite-half-arsed grab bag of indicators that someone might (and could) commit a terrorist offence, to a statutory duty for Councils everywhere to assess people in this way. I have no idea whether a ten year old can develop the intent to cause harm, but I somewhat doubt that they have the capability to cause harm. The question for the rest of us is how well we’d fare if put under the microscope by someone who may, or may not, have any of the training necessary to differentiate between, say, a lonely person and a lone wolf nutcase. Just remember not to express “extreme” opinions to anyone official in future, just in case, like.

Identity? Status? Dehumanisation? That’s got Kafka written all over it.

Share
Standard

Bridging the Gap and the Art of Record Keeping

In this week’s CCLKOW blog, we welcome back our Colonel Panter-Downes with this piece on learning between the services. While few argue against the value of experience to inform contemporary wisdom, knowledge sharing across the domains and individual services is too often blocked by service culture myopias. Wisdom must necessarily be stunted, lessons foresaken, where such siloing of knowledge is imposed. The last 75 years of military history have seen a rise of institutional jointness in strategy, doctrine and operations, and capabilities have improved from the synergies that have emerged. It seems then, we find ourselves at the last frontier of resistance, where the jointness must be encouraged at the level of individual development and thought. Providing examples of the valuable lessons found within the pages of naval and air experience, Colonel Panter-Downes offers an excellent starting point to begin a discussion on past learning and future opportunities. Read his piece and join us on Twitter at #CCLKOW.

 

I first went to sea at the same age as my father, aged 16. The difference between us however was that while he went to sea for 18 months (and returned home to the right house to find a different family in residence, my grandparents having moved house some 12 months after he went to sea), I went to sea for only two weeks, albeit on a “Tall Ship”. Before I left however, my mentor at school (a decorated RAF Bomber Command veteran) gave me two things, a camera and a journal to record my experiences. While I remain an indifferent photographer, the habit of keeping a (professional) journal has remained.

It seems apposite that an RAF veteran started me on the path of journal keeping. I have been very lucky in my service in that parts have been with the Royal Navy (including sea time) and in an Air Component HQ. The chance to serve so closely with (as opposed to alongside) sister services is relatively rare in both the UK and the US. My experiences with the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force have highlighted both mutual and exclusive strengths and weaknesses in much the same way that my current exchange to the US Army has. And yet, when it comes to inter-service learning, it seems to me we all tend to focus on our relative strengths and pay considerably less attention to learning from each other than we do to disparaging each other (and in this regard I have seen no difference in ethos between the US and UK armies). Nowhere is this more pronounced than in the realm of leadership practice. In the British Army we proudly extol that we “equip the man” (to fight) while the other Services “Man the equipment”. There is an element of truth in this but also a gross oversimplification as all Services are a system of systems and it also gives to those of us ‘in green’ a perhaps arrogant sense of moral superiority. It is in this vein of wisdom sharing and learning across Services that I want to look at the art of journal keeping.

At the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst officer cadets are also required to keep a journal, with a prize awarded for the best journal overall. I enjoyed keeping my journal at Sandhurst but what I do not recollect is any clear direction on what should be contained in the journal. Recently, while reading an autobiographical account of a midshipman in World War 2, I came across the following guide:

Journal for the use of Midshipmen

1. The journal is to be kept during the whole of a midshipman’ sea time. A second volume may be issued if required.

2. The Officer detailed to supervise instruction of Midshipmen will see that the Journals are kept in accordance with the instructions here under. He will initial the Journals at least once a month, and will see that they are written up from time to time during the month, not only immediately before they are called for inspection.

3. The Captain will have the Journals produced for his inspection from time to time and on a Midshipman leaving the ship, and will initial them at each inspection.

4. The following remarks indicate the main lines to be followed in keeping the Journal:-

(i) The objects of keeping the Journal are to train Midshipmen in

(a) The power of observation.

(b) The power of expression.

(c) The habit of orderliness.

(ii) Midshipmen are to record in their own language their observations about all matters of interest or importance in the work that is carried on, on their stations, in their Fleet, or in their Ship.

(iii) They may insert descriptions of places visited and of the people with whom they come into contact, and of harbours, anchorages and fortifications.

(iv) They may write notes on fuelling facilities, landing places, abnormal weather, prevailing winds and currents, salvage operations, foreign ships encountered and the manner in which foreign fleets are handled, gunnery and other practices, action in manoeuvres, remarks on tactical exercises. On the ship making a passage of sufficient interest they should note weather and noon positions.

(v) Separate entries need not necessarily be made for each day, full accounts should be given of any event of interest.

(vi) The letterpress should be illustrated with plans and sketches pasted into the pages of the Journal.

5. The Journal is to be produced at the examination in Seamanship for the rank of Lieutenant, when marks to a maximum of 50 will be awarded for it. [1]

Despite even this faltering initiation, the British Army officer corps seems pretty antipathetic to keeping journals which is cause for regret and concern. Journals are both an effective tool for professional development, but also a rich source for analysts and historians of the future. I never made my subalterns keep journals when I was in command, and with hindsight I wish I had. Time in command is short but fiercely formative, none more so than perhaps one’s first tour of command. Maintaining a record of time in command that includes professional analysis and acts as a vehicle for mentoring seems to me to be useful tool for both leaders and subordinates and one best learnt early. It is a lesson that the Royal Navy learnt but that the British Army appears to have remembered but dimly.

Looking broader afield there are also lessons aplenty to be had by looking at the experiences of other Services, and reading outside of one’s Service or component domain is inevitably rewarding.

One of the best books that I have read on organisational culture and (Mission) Command is “Rules of the Game: Jutland and British Naval Command”, an incisive critique on how to (mis)prepare an organisation in peacetime for war and the tensions inherent between what is needed in peacetime and what is needed in war. if you want to understand the development of systems and integration of new technology can be decisive then Stephen Bungay’s “The Most Dangerous Enemy” is a must read. Bungay’s book clearly illustrates how the development of an effective system can trump isolated flashes of superiority (whether technical or tactical) and how the development of such a system requires not just vision, but humility as well as technical competence. Neither of these two books are about the land domain, but they are profoundly illuminating to the common military endeavour and I gained many pertinent insights into how the army does, could and should operate from them.

So from rediscovering the art of journal keeping from the Royal Navy, to realising that for all our differences we share more similarities than we often acknowledge with our Sister Services, the challenge for #CCLKOW is (apart from keeping a journal) to identify what good practice in terms of ethos, training or leadership that you can take from a sister service.

I wish you all “A willing Foe and Sea-Room”. (Or, for the Americans, Fair Winds and Following Seas.)

 

Notes:

1 “A Home On The Rolling Main” by AGF Ditchman

Share
Standard

It AINT COIN, but this is

#CCLKOW this week turns to the matter of confronting insurgency. Seemingly beaten to death, I would submit that the subject is in fact in need of some rigorous thought, especially as there are clearly two defined schools of strategic approach, broadly characterized by their different focuses. Where one is concerned to fight the insurgency as manifest, the other seeks to undermine the terms of its strength to vastly reduce the intensity of the conflict, or anti-insurgency and counter-insurgencyUnderstanding the difference between the terms and consequences of different strategic approaches is important given that with the geo-strategic landscape and the role of rapid communications we may find ourselves in a time when might, as expressed in destruction, no longer sufficiently or reliably translates to right. Rather, might applied to the resolution of root causes is an alternative path to right that deserves better and more serious attention against the changing landscape of conflict. So, read the piece and join the discussion on Twitter at #CCLKOW.   

 

The subject of confronting an insurgency being less in favor these days seems to me to present the best opportunity to examine it with a bit more dispassion, and hence more rigor. In particular, here I would like to consider how we use COIN. As it stands, COIN is used broadly to describe all approaches to warfare against an insurgency. However, I find this unsatisfying as there is significant divergence in what people mean by this term. To rectify this problem, I propose new terminology to distinguish  between strategies which make the use of force against the rebellion the primary effort versus those that seek to undermine and eliminate the sources of support to the rebellion first thus reducing the scope of direct confrontation. Both envision scenarios which seek attrition, it is simply the means in each which differ. However, I believe there is an importance to this difference, and I think terminology which recognizes it is thus necessary. To describe these distinct approaches I use anti-insurgency and counter-insurgency accordingly, or AINT and COIN.

For clarification, a few points of terminology must be settled. (1) To begin, when I speak of insurgency, I mean a conflict within governed space against the standing order. Those in opposition are characterized by a committed cadre at center, are generally weaker than the forces of the prevailing order, and often resort to asymmetry and other alternative and low cost/low training means. While they may enjoy popular support, it is enough that the population simply be neutral to apathetic. With respect to the pivotal terms of this essay, I will offer that my understanding of this distinction between anti- and counter- goes back to an old lecture on terrorism in my early academic days that has stuck with me for its clarity and utility. In brief, it sorted the approaches to dealing with terrorism into the two categories depending on the focus of effort, whether at dealing with acts and actors directly by fighting terrorists in the act and seeking them when not, or at undermining their ability to organize and act to reduce frequency, efficacy and numbers of attacks.

If you were wondering about the title, this is where the odd construction becomes relevant. The “it” and “this” refer to two pieces written by others which illustrate the two models. They are important here because the first, on AINT, inspired the conceptualization, and the second motivated the writing in this moment. Very interestingly, they are both by British authors, representing two ends of the security spectrum and long traditions of service. The AINT article is a theoretical description of the model by William F. Owen, formerly of the British Army and currently active in the field of military affairs. (2) The second is a blog piece on neighborhood policing by an anonymous but currently serving British police officer of significant experience, Nathan Constable. (3) While it may seem unorthodox to use a policing example to describe a strategic approach insurgent conflict, the principle, parties and activities are similar enough for these purposes. Where the absolute scale of force and violence may differ, I believe that plotted relatively they are sufficiently comparable. Thus, as a good enough comparative, I will go further to add that in this case the conceptual box is safely, and I hope fruitfully, exceeded.

Turning to the first piece, in Owen’s “Seek and Destroy,” the AINT model is clearly explicated. As a counter-insurgency strategy, I cannot disagree with it more. However, under the AINT construct, while I may not agree with its utility, I must similarly recommend that it is an entirely correct construction. The opening sentence is unambiguous: “The purpose of this article is to argue that the destruction of the enemy’s forces lies at the heart of countering both terrorism and insurgency.” (p. 12) If the end is compliance with the status quo, this will be achieved by attrition, and more specifically by fighting the insurgent force in order to kill or capture its members. Elimination of the rebellion in arms will eliminate the rebellion. That is iconic AINT.

For COIN, the Nathan Constable blog on neighborhood policing includes a vignette fully describing the contours of the countering model. His piece deserves to be read in its entirety, but for our purposes here a brief synopsis of the relevant portion will suffice. The circumstances of the case were a local police force dealing with significant and recurrent problems of anti-social behavior (the “insurgency”) that demanded police resources without improving by their interventions. Watching this approach fail to do more than “stick a plaster on” the ritual disturbances (the “insurgent activity”), he shifted course.

This adaptation meant considering the problem in other terms. Using intelligence gathering to understand the nature of the disorder and its causes, who might be the ringleaders, and what motivated the presence of the larger numbers of participants, the author describes how he and his police force changed their approach to the problem. Learning that many of the participants in the trouble were at a loss for anything better to do on a Friday evening, the police reached out other agencies and organizations to create sport and other entertainments for local youth so that they had safe spaces to spend an evening. As well, to reduce the influence and draw of alcohol, they worked with local businesses to eliminate or reduce sales to those under 21. Although the cadre of troublemakers remained (the “committed cadre” who drive the insurgency), without the broader participation of other youths (the rank and file who give the movement its force) these numbers were more easily dealt with by traditional policing methods. More importantly, the broader results of this combined effort away from the point of conflict was a reduction in the number of calls to police for that area and an overall improvement in the quality of life for the community as previously unpleasant to unsafe spaces were reclaimed and the youth had positive attractions for their energies. That is, by countering the problem rather than continuing to fight the obvious manifestation it was more enduringly solved.

It should be clear these two approaches vary significantly in principle and in practice. As played out at the level of conflict and war when considering insurgencies these differences are important and manifest at every level, from political to tactical. While it is certainly not necessary in practical strategic terms to choose one at the complete absence of aspects of the other, representing as they do very different philosophical perspectives on the conflict and its proper resolution, the likelihood is that one or the other will dominate. That is, if presented with the same situation, Owen and Nathan Constable would, according to their models, design very different strategies to achieve the ends of peace and order. These differences matter in costs and consequences, and must be considered in detail in deciding which should be chosen, because despite Owen’s claim, the efficacy of one over the other, is not an “obvious and enduring fact.” Where force of arms has come to dominate Western conceptualizations of warfare, this preference is not necessary in war.

Given this, the question for this week’s discussion is broad, intended to drive consideration of the terms of each approach and debate their relative merits against historical or hypothetical cases. Simply, it is:

 

When and where is each the more practicable approach and why?

 

Add your thoughts on Twitter at #CCLKOW.

 

 

 

Notes:

(1) These are the product of a wide reading across history and military affairs. They are attributable to many and none. I can offer no real credit, but neither is there anyone else to blame. These are, simply put, my definitions.

(2) Owen’s piece was published in Infinity Journal, Issue 2, Spring 2011, “Seek and Destroy: The Forgotten Strategy for Countering Armed Rebellion,” pp 12-15. It is freely available to those willing to sign up with the journal.

(3) Due to my unorthodox interpretation and application of the case, I chatted with Nathan Constable regarding my use of the blog. He was curious to see the alternative application, and forwarded supporting public documentation of the events — news articles which provide detail on the circumstances and the steps taken by local police and naming the officers involved. I have no need or intention to identify him, but for the purposes of this essay the verification of the events only added weight to my thinking on it.

 

Share
Standard
Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau

Tikrit: An Iraqi Saratoga?

 

In this week’s #CCLKOW piece I tread warily into analogy to offer a framework to consider policy and strategy of intervention. There is no wisdom in asserting Situation A is just like Historical Event B. Analogies in policy are impossibly tricky, and the most we can do is to understand well the terms of the past as we consider what may be possible in the present or the future. In this case, “the Saratoga turning point” and the subsequent French participation in the American War for Independence offer some insights into an effective intervention. Why Saratoga enabled a shift in French policy to full diplomatic support of the Colonies in Rebellion and how the assistance was managed were key factors in the objective to assist the American cause. Keeping these in mind as the western nations contemplate whether and how best to assist Iraq against IS offers a compelling alternative perspective to the narrative of intervention which has framed much of American military policy and doctrine since the end of WWII. Read the piece, give a thought to the questions at the end, and join the discussion on Twitter at #CCLKOW. Enjoy!

 

Last July IS opened its overt campaign within Iraq. In rapid fashion they took and held key points which they added to their holdings in Syria to form their Franken-state. Contemplating the gains from Jihadi Blitzkrieg, many did not give the remaining territory or the political entity of the republic much of a chance to survive. As a military historian of the American tradition, I have come to view with scepticism the decisiveness of opening campaigns, so I did not count the contest as over. And in the face of the dominant theme of imminent collapse, through summer’s end and into fall and winter the Iraqi state managed a remarkable political and strategic makeover and turnaround. The clear manifestation of the local will in this fight was the recent ejection of IS from Tikrit. Site of one of IS forces’ more irredeemably abominable acts at Camp Speicher, this victory demonstrated the Iraqi state’s ability to fight and win for themselves.

In much the same way victory at Saratoga manifested American devotion to their cause in the fight for Independence – and the feasibility of their efforts – sufficient to gain allied support from France, retaking Tikrit offers a potential moment and basis to act in the current conflict. As well, this example offers a framework to better understand how to act effectively in the wars of others. War is political, but the terms of those politics are decided by where one sits in the conflict. Thus, from the perspective of a party considering intervention, Saratoga and the French intervention offer some useful markers. There is first the utterly necessary manifested political will of the party seeking assistance, as well as their ability to lobby support for their cause effectively. Second, the policy and strategy of intervention must serve own needs, but is best written in the client state’s terms. Whether the Iraqis are the Americans in Rebellion, the thornier, less considered question may we be whether US could ever match the French policy and strategy.

First, to deal with the initial resistance to this comparison. It is not my intention to directly relate the two conflicts or the parties, but rather to utilize the key diplomatic and policy and strategy issues arising from the outcome of that battle to consider alternative terms of assistance to the Iraqis in this fight. Furthermore, it is to remind that significant though this battle was in the course of the American War for Independence, this advance did not preclude a future rocky course nor the constant refrain of tactical and seeming strategic setbacks. To argue that Tikrit might portend a significant political shift is not negated by critical weaknesses in the ISF or battlefield setbacks. Ando, even as the naysayers have been shouting “But Ramadi!” since the start of this piece, it is worth remembering that after Saratoga the Americans went on to struggle through Valley Forge and a trail of defeats on its way to winning the war. And while I certainly do not need to, I want to make it abundantly clear that IS is not Great Britain, nor do its forces offer anything like the clear superiority of the British Army or Royal Navy facing the Americans. As well, to be fair to France, the United States and the west have more capabilities than Louis’ 18th century France. Finally, it should never be forgotten that France had clear political interests to serve in assisting the Americans. Very often lately this is seen as some bit of seemy double dealing, but it would be best not to be naïve about why states aid others – there must always be some benefit to sustain the intervention. Thus, while I maintain caution as to the analogy, it is necessarily adequate to the current context, especially as it offers a different perspective on policy and strategy options.

Turning to the critical political outcome of the battle, French participation in the war. In the military terms of the alliance, from my perspective, the very compelling aspect of the French intervention was its strategy. Most fundamental to this, France did not assume it was their war. Important points of their participation in the American cause must be remembered. That the needs of the Americans and their military strategy were not France’s primary concern. In alliance they agreed to provide the support the Americans requested as they could. Second, they brought a significant augmentation to the naval war, which degraded British dominance and culminated at the Battle of Chesapeake. Increasing the cost and difficulty of British transport and logistics in the war would reverberate across the entire effort through to Yorktown. When it came to the French Army’s direct participation the style was distinctive. In sum, they subordinated their activity to American needs, their commands to American leadership. Rochambeau’s Army arrived with political and military respect for their allies, and the French commander in chief put himself and his forces at Washington’s discretion. Deficient though the American military forces may have been in comparison to European armies, the role of French advisors was relatively minimal with respect to their total effort. It should also be noted that the French deployed to the American colonies as friends and were hosted warmly by the locals of Newport in their first winter.

The obvious problem here is that the US is not in the habit of subordinating itself politically or militarily. Whether other western powers would be willing to do so may be irrelevant given that American resources would likely dominate any significant intervention. Thus, while the politics in Iraq have a clear chance, how the US and the west respond will determine whether their action aids the cause.

And so, for discussion I would like to consider the issues which confront and confound the strategic latitude the French enjoyed in their intervention:

 

Can the US military ever effectively work as the subordinate force? Is the refusal to a weakness of the American system? What is the view of other western forces on this issue? Do you even agree that it is necessary or wise in this case or ever? 

Does the west have the patience to weather a campaign of difficulties and setbacks on the way to the eventual defeat of IS in Iraq? 

French officers served in American forces. Should western militaries allow professional sabbaticals so that their own might serve abroad in certain causes?

Share
Standard
2The_City_London

Brexit and The City: A Security Question?

The 2017 referendum concerning the UK’s membership of the EU will turn on many factors, even if most sage observers think that the vote to remain will be won. Those factors splay across nationality and identity politics, the Scottish question, the cohesion of the Conservative and Labour parties, contested economic analyses and the various mystery x-factors such as the far more likely ‘Grexit’.

So, despite the received wisdom being that the vote to remain will be won (and Open Europe declared on the 5th June – with its methodological workings – that the chance of Brexit sits currently at 19% and the chance of the vote being lost as 28%) the City of London has begun to speak with a louder voice about why it sees its core interests being best served with a UK that sits in the EU. That the City feels moved to speak is both interesting and important: it is interesting because it implies that they feel that there is a chance of Brexit beyond that which they can reasonably sit back and ignore. It is important because 1) there are political and economic impacts to be endured by The City (and thus the wider economy) in a time of political uncertainty prior to December 2017, and thus potentially after that date too and 2) because there are other important sub-questions around Brexit too that deal with the type of economy the UK will continue to enjoy, and to whose benefit these sorts of political issues are settled.

The economic impacts to be endured are most likely to be felt as investment decisions. Uncertainty is the enemy of investment: the UK will already be being priced with a risk premium, and this will only get worse as we get nearer to 2017. As the pre-eminent financial centre in the EU (for mostly historical reasons initially, but now in terms of sheer weight of activity), the City carries great sway over the conduct of financial services in the Union. The proposed banking union (which the City and the UK government opposes) might be developed as a rival bloc to the City which would impact upon the UK’s global competitiveness, whilst the move to encourage EU level business activity away from bank-led finance to alternative forms of financial instrument would likely be led by the UK – who is the largest player in this field currently and who has the best developed understanding of the regulatory frameworks required for it in the post-2008 climate. Simple politics would dictate that European rivals will be quick to question why the UK should have an influential say over this area if it looks to be disengaging from the European project altogether.

The City and financial services amount to 9% of the UK’s GDP. Damage to this area of activity (particularly to a host of investment decisions) has a whole-economy impact. My question – as a security studies academic – is does the potential impact, and thus the roll out across the entire economy, amount to a security impact? Strapping on various different lenses – that of economic performance and the money to invest in key attributes to maintaining fighting fitness (and not necessarily military fitness) is one holistic way to assess an economic impact. Such an analysis fits closely to the far reaches of ‘hybrid warfare’, and looks at the maintenance of education and health as elements of holistic effect. The other is to look at the maintenance of the integrity of social fabric. We can draw simplistic correlations around a time of economic contraction and the emergence of complex threats generated by the disaffected.

In terms of ‘the business dimension’ to Brexit. The City wants to remain in. Small businesses, who are doing less and less trade with continental Europe, might reasonably want to leave. Large manufacturing concerns have welcomed the prospect of having more flexible regulatory conditions outside of the EU – and so divide reasonably equally. Looking at the question from a UK Plc perspective, where is our influence best felt? Where do we exercise most ‘power’? In an era that has seen and will continue to see us effectively winding down our military power (SDSR 2015 will need to do something radical to stop this rot), activities that we do that our globally important should be retained. Even in the context of the disaster of 2008, the City remains a vastly overpaid wealth generator for the nation, and a lever of power on the international stage. Looking from the outside the UK, if one was to do an assessment of what to try and undermine in the UK as part of a hybrid war, the City would be a large target. Where are the successor sources of wealth generation outside of The City?

The fate of the City in the question around Brexit is fundamental to whether the UK remains a mid-range power, or a small power with an expansive history. More particularly, it is a security question.

Share
Standard

@BritishPolice: Research, Policy and Community on the Frontiers of Social Media

On Sunday I had the opportunity to chat, via direct message on Twitter, with a Chief Inspector from West Midlands Police. He had tweeted pictures and comments from his course on Public Order Policing, and I had some follow up questions for him. Over several exchanges he happily discussed with me official tactics and approaches, as well as a bit of his experience. For a variety of reasons I value this sort of first hand, practitioner based material in my research. This was not the first time I have used Twitter to further my understanding or sustain my interpretations, but the fact that I can do so speaks to something much more important.

Policing in the United Kingdom is in the midst of a quiet but revolutionary experiment to make itself proactively available to the public by way of social media, and particularly Twitter, in unprecedented numbers and across the chain of command, to include senior leadership. The prospects for this, for its influence on society and policing, are momentous. While its ramifications cannot yet be known, there are three areas in which this phenomenon highlight important opportunities across research, policy and community relations: the human element which emerges, the self-narrative or portrait of the institution and its character, and the engagement philosophy.

First, to the human element. Many of the police accounts, corporate and informal, are associated with an individual. Not just a role, but a particular character and human emerges from the communications. I am a memoir, experiential based military historian by training, and within that as well I value the quotidian and the little things that are said and done for the wisdom it conveys. Happiness, Limeade on Guadalcanal… was written in earnest, as it must be accepted that while seemingly irrelevant on the surface, from these details of the personal experience often emerge profound insights. [1] And the material in public and on social media is just the tip of the iceberg. The human element has a practical story to tell about the work, in general and in detail, and deserves more attention in the course of police research.

Turning to a more meta perspective, taken together this messaging creates the self-image of British policing. From both its personal and corporate accounts, in words and images, the characters of the forces and their constituent parts, as well as the broader national service, are created. Assessing this, in its grand vista and detail deserves attention as well for its influence in policy, practice or communications. At the practical level, for example, to understand that how the police conceive themselves in a particular situation or issue differs from how they are viewed by the public will help to identify areas for redress.

Finally, the matter of engagement and Police-Community Relations (PCR) has particular resonance in this discussion. Timely to do so, as BBC’s “The Met” has people talking. Having seen it, I would say the work is very interesting, definitely worth a watch. [2] Throughout, the participants confronted a host of hard issues about community relations, particularly those relating to race and policing. And they are discussing it today. Many of the individuals mentioned above are on Twitter answering questions and comments regarding the documentary. And as individuals it is clear that many of them are compassionately engaged with their work. On a purely social media front, thinking back to the disorders, it is a long way since the Met was overwhelmed by mass BBM’s, and one wonders how the police would use their new presence in similar circumstances today. More importantly, the documentary identifies the clear rift still to mend. Improving identification between police and disaffected members of the community will require effort across many fronts and over time. Nevertheless, what the Twitter activity of policing suggests, both online and in the metropolis (and the UK at large), is that the police themselves are open to, if not actively interested in, expanding and improving their conversation with the public they serve. It will be interesting to track how this philosophy of engagement will be taken up in and by the challenged communities.

Perhaps the recourse to social media is natural. Gregarious by nature, the British Bobby has simply taken up a new beat. What has changed is that this activity is now visible to a greater percentage and cross section of society. Subtly, 140 characters at a time, over the course of thousands of tweets, this will affect the shape of policing and consent, as well as the understanding of both.

 

 

 

Notes:

1 Funny to discuss that blog in this one on social media and Twitter as its title was too long to tweet in its entirety. Sigh.

2 One point I would make, as it focused on the Duggan shooting, the riots, and the influence of the Inquest verdict, it was strange not to include something on the vigil the following Saturday. Its peaceful terms deserved highlighting.

Share
Standard

Why chess is not the right metaphor for human conflict

Author: Giorgio Bertolin is a doctoral candidate in the Defence Studies Department of King’s College London.

 

On the cover of books and journals, or as the logo of consultancy firms and think tanks, chess is omnipresent when the topic concerns international security. A set of chiselled wooden pieces is indeed much more elegant than exploding IEDs or wounded fighters. After all, the game of chess seems to represent a battle between two medieval armies, as the presence of knights and siege towers (the rooks) suggests. But can chess really represent a good metaphor for human conflict? I contend that it does not, and that the use of chess to allude to the realities of war is little more than an insult to Caissa. Comparing chess to armed conflict is overly simplistic, and can lead us to inadvertently attribute wrong connotations to the latter.

In chess, the two sides enjoy the same amount of force. They can be said to be equal, even though white’s privilege to move first gives them the edge in the initial phase of the opening. On the other hand, perfect symmetry is virtually non-existent in the reality of warfare. There are just too many variables influencing the magnitude of the forces in the field both qualitatively and quantitatively. Therefore, archives of military history would be scanned in vain searching for such an unlikely event as a battle between two perfectly equal armies. So-called asymmetrical conflicts evidence this tendency even more starkly, in sharp contrast to the clash represented on the chessboard. Moreover, in chess just two players are involved in the fight. While this can be a realistic scenario, contemporary conflicts are often more complex. This is the reason why the US Marine Corps, for example, has added a “neutral cell” (green) to the planning of combat operations, an activity that previously used to contemplate just friendly forces (blue) versus hostile entities (red).

Deliberately giving the enemy more time is an option endorsed by doctrine in certain types of operations. This option is not available to the chess player, who can lose tempo but cannot avoid the obligation to move. This is particularly important in the endgame, when a seemingly winning position can result in a draw because of this rule. The possibility to hold back fire is particularly important in the contemporary landscape, where carefully conducted information operations can leverage the combatants’ actions to produce considerable psychological effects.

Chess is a zero-sum game. Many theorists, in particular those belonging to the school of classical realism, argue that international confrontations are a zero-sum game as well. While this is debatable at the political level, at the strategic level this statement is unconvincing. The influence of non-rational, cultural factors can be massive. Rationality limits choices in chess as much as cultural factors limit choices in warfare. There are no ruses of war in chess, whereas thinking outside of the box has enabled more than one commander to overturn a seemingly stronger enemy.

A flat battlefield, two armies lined up and tidily facing each other, each one waiting for its turn to strike. This situation can be applied to chess and to the skirmishes of the Seven Years’ War – and a very restricted number of other cases. Geography in chess is so abstract that it bears little resemblance to the geographies in which contemporary conflicts take place. Yet, geography is one of the most important variables in warfare. Urban operations, rural insurgencies, and space warfare evidence a broadening of the battlefield, and a crucial role for the peculiar features of the landscape in terms of physical and human geography.

In chess, decapitation strikes work by definition, since the ultimate goal of the game is to checkmate the king. It is moot whether this can be applied to the reality of warfare. Decapitation strikes came to the spotlight with the recent deployment of lethal UAVs – such as the Predator and, especially, the Reaper – in the fight against organised terrorism. In many ways the fight against terrorist networks is a fight against a Lernean Hydra, and decapitation strikes, while generally useful, are not decisive. In other conflicts they can be more relevant, but the situation is still distant from the mathematical clarity of chess. The main obstacle is the availability of viable substitutes to guide an organisation, individuals that sometimes prove to be more talented and innovative than their predecessors. The king is dead, long live the king.

It must be admitted that there are some interesting similarities between chess and human conflict. To begin with, pattern recognition has advantages and disadvantages in both activities. This process is useful to capitalise lessons learned, but at the same time patterns risk crystallisation into dogmatic assumptions that limit strategic thinking. Secondly, in both chess and war tactical actions can have strategic consequences. Mission command and the strategic corporal concept are expressions of this trend in contemporary warfare. Then, it must be noted how the value of chess pieces is subordinated to other factors, such as tempo and position. Again, this is mirrored in the dynamic reality of armed conflicts, where details make the difference, and material capabilities alone are not sufficient to guarantee victory. The presence of these correspondences, however interesting, does not justify the extensive use of chess as the signifier for a human phenomenon that cannot be reduced to a symbol.

 

The use of chess as a metaphor for war can be misleading. Both chess and war are far more complex than this analogy suggests. And, in other respects, they are simpler. They are qualitatively different, and not as correlated as it may seem on the surface. It would be useless to look for alternative icons. Liberating chess from war, and war from chess, is a sign of respect for activities that are otherwise being trivialised.

Share
Standard

Beyond Deschamps: Addressing Sexual Harassment and Assault in the Military

Welcome to this week’s CCLKOW discussion piece. Former Supreme Court judge Marie Deschamps recently released a report condemning the extent of sexual harassment within the Canadian Armed Forces. This has prompted calls for change and the formation of a fact-finding mission to examine how cases of harassment and assault are handled in other countries, such as the United States and United Kingdom. This week, we reflect on the nature and extent of the problem in these countries and what can be done moving forward. Read the piece and join the discussion on Twitter at #CCLKOW.

Late last month, a report regarding sexual harassment in the Canadian Forces (CF) was released. Authored by former Supreme Court judge Marie Deschamps, the report is a damning indictment of how the armed forces address harassment.[i] Deschamps’ recommendations include changes to policy that would allow ‘victims to be able to either formally report incidents of sexual misconduct, or simply request support services without having to trigger a formal complaint.’[ii] In addition, she has called for the creation of an independent agency to investigate cases.[iii] The release of the Deschamps report has sparked significant controversy and further allegations in connection to cadets at the Royal Military College in Kingston.[iv] Major General Christine Whitecross has been tasked with spearheading the military’s efforts to address the report’s recommendations. Over the following months, Whitecross will travel to countries such as the United States and United Kingdom in order to assess how Canada’s allies have tackled the same problem.[v]

Throughout the past decade, the United States has made a number of key advancements in confronting reports of sexual harassment and assault. In 2005, Congress created the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office or SAPRO to, ‘provide oversight, guidance and accountability of sexual assaults within the Department of Defense.’[vi] Furthermore, US military units include sexual assault officers, ‘who are responsible for implementing policies as well as receiving complaints.’[vii] Finally, complaints can, ‘either be restricted, meaning they don’t trigger an investigation, or unrestricted.’[viii] Despite these developments, formidable obstacles to change remain. Former Marine Greg Jacob of the Service Women’s Action Network has pointed out that SAPRO primarily gathers data and does not have the power to change policy. Moreover, he has underlined that unit commanders remain responsible for deciding whether to proceed with the prosecution of cases. Jacob and others have argued that an external authority should deal with these complaints.[ix] The release of relevant statistical data has also made it clear that harassment and assault remain a major problem. A recent US Department of Defense study concluded that in 2014, ‘at least 18,900 service members—10,400 men and 8,500 women—experienced unwanted sexual contact.’[x] However, only around 10% of reported cases led to courts martial.[xi] In addition, a RAND military workplace study indicated that around 55% of respondents experienced some form of bullying or retaliation after reporting an assault.[xii]

Across the Atlantic, the conviction of Sergeant Edwin Mee for, ‘16 sex attacks on nine female recruits,’ has served to draw attention to this issue in the British armed forces.[xiii] The 2014 Armed Forces Continuous Attitude Survey, commissioned by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), noted that roughly 10% of personnel stated that, ‘they have been the subject of discrimination, harassment or bullying in a Service environment in the last 12 months.’[xiv] Figures secured by BBC reporter Sima Kotecha through a Freedom of Information request also revealed that, ‘75 allegations of rape and 150 of sexual assault were made to military police between 2011 and 2013.’[xv] Although there have been calls for change in the media, a spokesperson for the MoD has argued that there is no evidence to suggest that these problems are any more prevalent in the military than in wider British society.[xvi]

Sexual harassment and assault are often presented as issues that only concern servicewomen. This is not the case. These problems can seriously impact the lives and career paths of both female and male soldiers. The vast majority of service personnel in Canada, the US and UK serve honourably and represent values of both integrity and respect. Consequently, it is vitally important that allegations of harassment, assault, bullying or violence of any kind be dealt with swiftly. However, these problems cannot be solved through policy change alone. Brigadier Nicky Moffat of the British Army has argued that some officers rely too heavily on, ‘equality and diversity statements,’ to address the matter and believe the ‘job done.’[xvii] Instead, Moffat suggests that, ‘every leader needs to make clear that this sort of behaviour is unacceptable. It’s about speaking out and making sure your voice is heard and understood.’[xviii] The authors of a Human Rights Watch publication on the subject have also identified strong leadership as a central driver of change. The military can begin to encourage this process by recognising both senior and junior leaders who respond effectively to abuse.[xix] This will create a safer environment for all soldiers, both present and future.

The question for this week is:

 How can officers at all levels encourage lasting change?

[i] Paul Koring and Bill Curry, ‘Canadian Forces turn to US for advice on combating sexual harassment,’ Globe and Mail (1 May 2015), http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/canadian-forces-turns-to-us-for-guidance-on-combating-sexual-harassment/article24229697/.

[ii] Lee Berthiaume, ‘Canadian military looks to US counterpart on dealing with sexual misconduct,’ Ottawa Citizen (14 May 2015), http://ottawacitizen.com/news/politics/canadian-military-looks-to-u-s-counterpart-on-dealing-with-sexual-misconduct

[iii] Bill Curry, ‘Canadian Forces to create independent agency to handle misconduct complaints,’ Globe and Mail (1 May 2015), http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/canadian-forces-to-create-independent-agency-to-handle-misconduct-complaints/article24223640/

[iv] James Cudmore, ‘Royal Military College facing new cadet assault allegation,’ CBC News (27 May 2015), http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/royal-military-college-facing-new-cadet-assault-allegation-1.3089634

[v] Koring and Curry, ‘Canadian Forces turn to US,’ (1 May 2015).

[vi] Greg Jacob and Estefania Ponti, ‘Learning from our Allies: Reforming the US Military to Stop Sexual Violence,’ Service Women’s Action Network, http://servicewomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Learning-From-Our-Allies_Final.pdf

[vii] Berthiaume, ‘Canadian military looks to US counterpart,’ (14 May 2015).

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Ibid.

[x] United States Department of Defense, Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military Fiscal Year 2014 (22 Apr 2015), RefID: D03CD9B6, http://sapr.mil/public/docs/reports/FY14_Annual/FY14_DoD_SAPRO_Annual_Report_on_Sexual_Assault.pdf

[xi] Koring and Curry, ‘Canadian Forces turn to US,’ (1 May 2015).

[xii] Andrew R Morral, Kristie L Gore, Terry L Schell, Barbara Bicksler, Coreen Farris, Bonnie Ghosh-Dastidar, Lisa H Jaycox, Dean Kilpatrick, Stephan Kistler, Amy Street, Terri Tanielian, and Kayla M Williams, Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment in the US Military: Highlights from the 2014 RAND Military Workplace Study, http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB9841.html

[xiii] Sima Kotecha, ‘Army must “speak out” against harassment, says brigadier,’ BBC News (19 May 2015), http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-32780009; ‘Army sergeant Edwin Mee guilty of more sex attacks,’ BBC News (6 May 2015), http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-32610403.

[xiv] Ministry of Defence, Statistical Series 6-Other Bulletin 6.03—Armed Forces Continuous Attitude Survey 2014 (21 May 2014).

[xv] Kotecha, ‘Army must “speak out” against harassment,’ (19 May 2015).

[xvi] ‘Male rape prevalent in UK army, Ministry of Defence figures reveal,’ IBTimes (20 Dec 2014), http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/male-rape-prevalent-uk-army-ministry-defence-figures-reveal-1480413

[xvii] Brigadier Nicky Moffat, as quoted in, Kotecha, ‘Army must “speak out” against harassment,’ (19 May 2015).

[xviii] Ibid.

[xix] Human Rights Watch, Embattled: Retaliation against Sexual Assault Survivors in the US Military (Washington DC: HRW, 2015), http://www.hrw.org/reports/2015/05/18/embattled-0

Share
Standard