Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Soft pol-mil breakdowns and the Winograd Commission

Center for Defense Information's Haninah Levine did a great translation and summary of the Winograd Commission's interim report. Among the report's findings, Haninah picks out three main themes that aren't strangers to this blog:

1. Western militaries are in active denial concerning the limitations of precision weapons.

2. There are real consequences to overstretching a military

3. Rhetorical praise for the troops must not interfere with honest assessment of their abilities

To be honest, I think Haninah's the second point is a little tautological. The term overstretched implies negative consequences that stem from having more responsibilities than one can handle.

It is still a wonderful analysis, but I propose rearranging the logical so that it flows more naturally. Specifically, the military's denial of the limitations of guided weapons warfare and a popular aversion to criticizing the military can lead to an 'overstretching' of military capabilities.

This conundrum is what could be called a "soft" breakdown of the classical Huntingtonian political-military relationship. In the Huntington formulation, civilians exert total control over military strategy, while military leaders are given control over tactics and operations. Problems arise when the line between strategy and operations/tactics is not clear and leaders on both sides are faced with the prospect of overstepping their authority. A "soft" breakdown occurs when civilian and military leaders avoid a conflict in this grey area by simply ignoring one another.

Last summer's war between Israel and Hezbollah is a perfect example. The IDF did not warn the civilian leadership that it was given an set of strategic priorities that were greater than its capabilities. At the same time, the Olmert government failed to probe these capability gaps when they became apparent on the battlefield. This mutual distaste for broaching uncomfortable topics allowed the IDF's ineffective bombing strategy to drag on for days before new tactics were adopted.

The same could be said about the first 2-3 years about the U.S. experience in Iraq, but I will save that for another time.

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