Despite my preoccupation with political war (or insurgency), I still think about high-intensity war or maneuver warfare. I fear that as we focus more and more on counter-insurgency operations, we risk losing our ability to use initiative to win in high intensity conflict.
While I believe all our future wars will be political, many will have high intensity campaigns. Operation Iraqi Freedom is a perfect example of a high intensity fight transitioning into political conflict. Unfortunately, it also changed the mindset of the modern U.S. Army. As we transitioned to daily counter-insurgency operations we became dramatically more static as a military. Majors and Lt. Colonels have spent the bulk of deployments behind computers fighting war through email and PowerPoint. In the nine years of counter-insurgency since 9/11, we have trained our officers to be static or complacent.
My battalion serves as an example. We have one human resources officer, a signal officer, a logistics officer, an assistant logistics officer, a operations major, an assistant operations officer, one assistant lieutenant for air operations, one chemical officer, one intelligence officer, one assistant intelligence officer, an officer for fires, and sometimes an extra lieutenant. An executive officer leads this crew and a lieutenant colonel leads this entire staff and the maneuver elements. Brigade staffs have three to four times as many officers. I haven't even mentioned the NCO counterpart to every individual mentioned above. To plan future operations, all of these disparate elements need to come together.
And, this organization applies to every battalion.
Obviously, this process is slow and unwieldy. Frankly, planning quickly is hard with multiple voices. Without rapid thinking and rapid acting, the initiative is lost.
The army is moving more and more towards static continuous operations because that is the life of counter-insurgency. The question is, how will this affect the military when again we have to move towards maneuver warfare? With the training of leaders to think in terms of static positions and running tactical operations centers (training extremely similar to daily garrison operations), our army will have a rude awakening if we do go toe to toe with China, Iran, North Korea or another determined enemy in maneuver warfare. If an enemy can figure a cheap solution to counter our air, ground and sea firepower, we could find ourselves in a precarious situation. Our leadership must remember the value of agility, initiative and rapid decision making; it must also remember that, more often than not, in organizations less is more.