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Friday, March 28, 2003

Future Shock and Awe

Last week I wrote a post about the likelihood that Newt Gingrich is heavily involved in the actual war planning for the Iraq invasion. I had no proof other than some gossipy items in newspaper columns. However, I have since been informed that Newt has had almost unequalled influence in long term strategic military planning for many, many years.

And, when he introduced the Generals to his intellectual mentors in the early 1980's he began a revolution in military affairs that is playing itself out in the Iraqi desert at this very minute.

Last November, Newt spoke to the U.S. Joint Forces Command about the future of the military in the 21st century. He spoke of fast paced deployments, joint services, men on horseback with cell phones commanding B52’s, “The Bridges at Toko Ri” and “The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean" and a whole lot of other stuff. It’s quite a speech and he’s given many just like it for the last 20 years.

… in 1979 as a freshman congressman …

My dad retired as a lieutenant colonel, and here is a brigadier general [Donald Starry] in the United States Army asking me to advise on the core pattern of how you fight a battle. I promptly said to my staff, "Hold the phone calls, postpone my next appointment…He said, “We have a real problem.” I whipped out a legal pad and said, “Now to understand what we're doing, let me share with you a framework so you can advise them." I was thrilled. Back then, this was pretty powerful, and he pulled out a little flip chart from his attaché case, and for 45 minutes he walked me through every battle doctrine.


Now, the thing that actually sold me was when he left he had taken notes that would begin a dialogue which continued until 1987. I advised the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command from the spring of 1979 through the fall of ’87 on Army battle doctrine. Oh, and I guess in that sense the only elected member of Congress to have ever done anything quite like that.

He says in the same speech:

…my stepfather who was an infantryman who was stationed in Orleans, France, and he took me to the battle field for the Verdun, and we spent a weekend with a friend of his who had been drafted in 1941, sent to the Philippines, served in the Bataan Death March and spent 3 1/2 years in a Japanese prison camp. And at the end of the weekend of Japanese prison camp stories at night and Verdun battle fields during the daytime, I had this sense that this stuff's all real. People die, and not just in Tel Aviv malls, but, as we discovered on September 11th, in our biggest cities.

So I come down here with a passion which is the equivalent to the passion some of you may have felt in combat…

One supposes that those who have actually been in battle might feel differently, but there you have it. In any case, Newt has been advising the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) for many years, (where he also spent a lot of time talking politics apparently.) He remains very active in military matters since he left office:

(June 18,2002)Command leaders briefed Gingrich, who was accompanied by the Commander in Chief of U.S. Joint Forces Command and Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic, U.S. Army Gen. William Kernan and Deputy Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic, British Admiral Ian Forbes, at the JFCOM Joint Warfighting Center.

During those early years in congress he was also heavily involved with some other big thinkers, the authors of the popular bestseller, “Future Shock,” Alvin and Heidi Toffler. He introduced his good friends to the above mentioned General Starry in 1982 and they soon came to have an almost unimaginable influence on a certain group of military planners in creating a new military doctrine called alternatively “third wave” and “information warfare.”

This doctrine relies on the Tofflers' thesis that the United States is in the midst of a transition between the 2nd wave industrial society and the 3rd wave information society. This concept is the single biggest influence on Newt Gingrich’s “vision” and the military is the one place where Gingrich seems to have been taken very seriously as a planner and long term strategist from very early in his career. (At one time he had 5 active military officers serving on his congressional staff, a fact which raised eyebrows but since he was the Speaker nobody said much about the obvious conflict of active duty personnel directly involved in the political process.)

After the Gulf War the Tofflers wrote “War and Anti-War: Summit at the Dawn of the 21st Century,” in which they claimed that the first Gulf War was the first war to occur between the 2nd wave and 3rd wave of civilization and was the greatest military victory in history. There were
but many in the military began to plan along the lines that the Tofflers suggested developing a theory called Information Warfare.

In its most benign form it is merely a doctrine for attacking and defending the ever more important information systems (i.e command and control.) But the concept became merged with another doctrine called the Revolution in Military Affairs or RMA that includes the ideas of small, fast “niche” special forces, “information driven” airpower, psy-ops and propaganda and as Don Rumsfeld called it “Exquisite Intelligence.” And these ideas are the basis for Rumsfeld’s military transformation, including his personal favorite “effects based warfare.”

To 3rd wave military enthusiasts, Information Warfare is the thrilling notion that:

"Information dominance is superior situational awareness applied to seize and maintain the initiative, influence the enemy's actions, and induce operational paralysis while denying your adversary the ability to do the same."

In other words, war as mind fuck. “Shock and Awe,” falls into the Information Warfare doctrine with its psy-ops goal made possible by information driven precision weapons. IW relies upon the assurance that, in the face of proper information (i.e. the massive superiority of the offensive force) that logically the enemy will not fight. Well...

The target of information warfare, then, is the human mind, especially those minds that make the key decisions of war or peace and, from the military perspective, those minds that make the key decisions on if, when, and how to employ the assets and capabilities embedded in their strategic structures.

Newt put it more prosaically in a speech at the Hoover Institute last July:

…their [old] answer has been to design campaign plans that are so massive - I mean the standard plan in Afghanistan was either Tomahawks or 5 divisions, and that's why Rumsfeld was so important. Cause Rumsfeld sat down and said, "Well what if we do this other thing? You know, 3 guys on horseback, a B-2 overhead." And it was a huge shock to the army. I mean, because it worked. Now I'll tell you one guy who does agree and that's Chuck Horner who ran the air campaign.

You can still find people out there who are warriors who came up during the Reagan years, all of whom will say flatly to the Secretary of Defense, "The right model is simultaneous, massive, immediate combined air and land forces, period."

Now, some people see much of the Afghan campaign as a failed strategy, particularly the battle of Tora Bora, which was roundly condemned for its misjudgment of the Afghan “allies” and a failure to put adequate troops on the ground. (Sound familiar?) This was the battle from which Osama bin Laden was believed to have escaped. The guys on horseback with cell phones didn’t quite get the job done.

After Operation Anaconda was proclaimed a victory, (why, we do not know) Junior turned to Condi and said “what’s next?” Immediately, the planning began in earnest for the invasion of Iraq. News reports said that Rumsfeld and crew initially believed that the operation would only require 50-60,000 troops, in keeping with the rapid deployment of “niche” special forces theory. And although they were ultimately persuaded that a much larger force was needed, events of recent days suggest that the adjustment was badly planned and then micromanaged.

Certainly, it would seem that the planners badly miscalculated the Iraqi response to the invasion, sent in light armor when heavy armor is more appropriate and is now scrambling by putting forces into areas for which they are not specifically trained. Perhaps most importantly, their exquisite intelligence was very selective:

Intelligence officials say Rumsfeld, his deputy Paul Wolfowitz and other Pentagon civilians ignored much of the advice of the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency in favor of reports from the Iraqi opposition and from Israeli sources that predicted an immediate uprising against Saddam once the Americans attacked.

Perhaps this is the fatal flaw of this 3rd wave Information Warfare theory (although there are many.) Relying upon rosy scenarios is a human failing, particularly amongst those who are invested in certain beliefs and ideals. No matter how good the information, if ignored it is useless.

(All of this was, of course, predicted by the Millenium Challenge wargames played earlier this year in which they simply refused to adapt to the idea that “the crazy middle eastern dictator” was not going go along with the script.)

This article from the Intl. Herald Tribune from last fall is interesting in light of Rumsfeld calling it “Franks’s Plan” today. Newtie himself said at the time:

Gingrich, who also is a member of the Defense Policy Board, a Pentagon advisory panel, said he was confident that General Tommy Franks, the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, would not be swayed by suggestions that he include more reinforcements and plan a more cautious attack.
He said that Franks, an army general, "will probably have a more integrated, more aggressive and more risk-taking plan."

"If the chiefs wanted to be extremely cautious, extremely conservative and design a risk-avoiding strategy, that would be nothing new," he said in an interview.

It appears that the high command of the military is not as smitten with the Toffler’s New Age vision as a military plan of action. They came through Vietnam and their desire for political support and a clear goal makes them McClellans to the civil war buffs like Cheney and the RMA types who read too much Tom Clancy. Derision toward the traditional idea of overwhelming force is emblematic of Newt and his 3rd wave super true believers.

I do not know how much Gingrich has been involved with the war planning since 9/11. There have been numerous reports that he has been advising Rumsfeld and we know that he is a member of the Defense Policy Board. But, even if he isn’t, in his own way, he has been as influential on the thinking in military affairs as any of the neocons (which he isn't, really) and his influence is being felt today and will continue to be felt for many, many years to come. He’s the man who brought pop futurism into the American military and got a lot of people to believe that we can run the world militarily without having to commit human beings in great numbers to face the enemies that result from such adventures. Perhaps someday that may be true. kosovo worked out ok, but Milosevic wasn't laboring under any illusions that his neighbors might join the fray or that he could leverage world opinion. The Afghanistan campaign was a very middling success considering the circumstances and Operation Exquisite Intelligence is turning out to be messy and ill-planned at the very least. The post war scenario looks quite grim.

I have no great quarrel with the Tofflers. They are pop futurists and they have had an enormous influence on the way we think about change and the information age. But, it is truly amazing to me that their thesis has become a serious basis for military planning. While these concepts are intriguing and give one plenty of food for thought about how the future will play out, they are also extremely limited. Their prescriptions for how to deal with new challenges in a non-military sense are almost entirely utopian nonsense and have no practical application. There is no reason to believe that their thinking about military strategy is any more realistic.

The vision of Information Warfare is premature at best. We would like to fight a 3rd wave war. But, it appears that Saddam, still mired in the 2nd wave, refuses to cooperate.

In “Creating a New Civilization, The Politics of the Third Wave,” the Tofflers define their ideas as this:

“The way we make war reflects the way we make wealth and the way we make anti-war must reflect the way we make war.”

I know that I will always be grateful to Newt Gingrich for introducing that kind of clear thinking into our military back in 1983. We can only be more secure as a result.