In current and future battles against global terrorism, U.S. military
forces would benefit from flexible command structures, so they can
“learn as they go,” according to military analysts.
The training of U.S. conventional forces, particularly, does not
emphasize asymmetric threats, said D. Robert Worley, a senior research
fellow with the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. Pentagon planners
view acts of terrorism as classic asymmetric threats, because they
take advantage of U.S. vulnerabilities to surprise attacks by terrorists
equipped with weapons of mass destruction.
“Commanders and leaders at the tactical level must be prepared
to adapt,” Worley said. “The asymmetric actor may apply
low-technology means and methods against U.S. conventional forces.”
In his opinion, the enemy will adapt continuously to U.S. tactics,
through trial and error, so tactical commanders need a more flexible
Worley said that the U.S. military has not yet abandoned the war-planning
practices of the Cold War. Such mindset still dominates large and
important segments of the military hierarchy, he said, particularly
in Europe, Korea, and Washington, D.C.
Current military training, for example, is built around “deliberate
planning,” as Worley puts it. He defines deliberate planning
as the “subject of an 18-month joint strategic planning process
that is repeated every two years.” Deliberate planning, he
added, “is distinct from crisis-action planning that is commonly
practiced by naval expeditionary forces, XVIII Airborne Corps, and
special operations forces, for example.”
In a paper titled, “Learning to Cope with Asymmetry’s
Uncertainties,” Worley noted that the United States and its
allies had decades to understand the Cold War problem and to put
forward solutions in the form of war plans. “All that remained
was to execute. We trained execution.” Against a world of
asymmetric actors, said Worley, “we must be prepared to learn
as we go.”
That does not mean, he said, “that we shouldn’t plan
for what we can, but we must build organizations that can improvise.
Those that can only execute a plan according to fixed doctrine will
fail in the new environment.”
In other words, he stressed, “we must build organizations
that can perform improvisational jazz, not organizations that can
perform symphonies from sheet music.”
A proper response to the changed environment, said Worley, is to
adopt a different command model, which he calls adaptive command.
This type of command, he explained, is structured from the bottom
up, “from the smallest tactical units practicing combined
arms. Configuring and reconfiguring forces into combined arms teams
appropriate to the evolving environment should dominate small-unit
doctrine and training.
“The evidence from military operations in urban environments
consistently shows that combined arms teams are required at the
lowest tactical levels to deal with this asymmetric environment,”
These small combined arms teams also should include combat support
and combat service support elements. “They are not found in
garrison or in doctrine,” said Worley.
Worley said that, “the new world will be dominated by crisis-action
planning,” the strategy used by the Marine Corps expeditionary
In conflicts such as the current war on terrorism, he said, “the
chain of command [in the field] must learn how to deal with the
uncertain geo-strategic environment, and must not wait for the producer
chain of command to produce a solution that can be taught and trained.”
“If we had too great a reliance on training our forces to
doctrine and standards, then we have not trained our forces to innovate,”
But there is evidence, from recent conflicts, said Worley, that
adaptive command is becoming more common. “Coping mechanisms
can be found in past military action, but may become central doctrinal
concepts in asymmetric environments.”
An adaptive command would be ideally suited for the war against
a loose organization of terrorist networks, Worley said. Adaptive
command favors a decentralized command and an execution based on
reconnaissance during contact with the opposing forces rather than
an execution pushed solely by intelligence gathered before the contact.
“Combat development has got to take place on the field,”
The terrorists are “going to keep changing their tactics,
so we should get ahead of them and deal with the root cause of the
attack and pre-empt other types of actions,” Worley said.
“We can’t be chasing the symptom.”
He predicted that the U.S. response to the terrorist acts would
look mostly like raids. “This is hard to do,” he cautioned.
“You will come from outside that country, go in, do something
and leave as quickly as possible.”
Special operations forces are prepared and trained for such raids,
said Worley, but there is always the concern about pulling them
out of a sticky situation quickly enough. “There are ways
to get them out, but we can’t do that in large numbers,”
Although command and strategy are important, cultural sensitivity
is also a critical component in fighting this war. Addressing possible
operations in Afghanistan, against the Taliban regime, Worley said,
“When we go to those other countries, we don’t need
to make enemies out of the neutral population.”
“We can’t turn the refugee population [in Afghanistan]
against us, but that is tricky,” he added.
Harvey Kushner, chairman of the criminal justice and security administration
department at Long Island University in New York, agreed with Worley’s
view that the traditional premises of war do not apply in this conflict.
Kushner authored several books on terrorism, including, “The
Future of Terrorism: Violence in the New Millennium.”
“We cannot think this is Vietnam, because Vietnam wasn’t
really going to come back and destroy us. This will,” said
Suicide bombers do not work on actuary tables, he noted. “The
enemy is not crazy, is not insane. He is very clever and cunning.
... You sometimes have got to fight the enemy with his own manual.”
Kushner explained that the United States will have to infiltrate
the enemy’s network. With the establishment of a White House
homeland defense office, he said, it is now time for all agencies
to share information and “not get into petty turf wars.”
The United States has developed highly sophisticated technologies
to collect information, Kushner said, but that is not enough. “Human
intelligence gathering should be revisited,” he said. “We
no longer have the luxury of denigrating human-intelligence gathering
like the CIA and FBI. We have to take the stigma off of them.”
Kushner said that the United States does not know its enemy. “Our
troops were attacked by this conspiracy since our Marines were slaughtered
in Beirut,” he said. “I hate to say this. I am embarrassed
how bad we handled this attack. It is disgraceful. We were caught
with our pants down.”
Now, it is going to take massive amounts of money and willpower
to fight the enemy, cautioned Kushner.
The United States spends $30 billion on intelligence a year. “You’d
think that somewhere along those lines, [U.S. government agencies]
would have gotten an indication about this [attack],” said
James Bamford an author who studied the National Security Agency
in his book, “Body of Secrets.”
The intelligence agencies often cannot process information they
gather, because very few people speak Arabic, said Bamford. More
emphasis needs to be laid on language training. Agencies also have
to “look for indications and intercept traffic on subtleties,
because these people [terrorists] talk in much more subtle terms,”
said Bamford. U.S. intelligence agencies have to put more emphasis
on analysis rather than on worldwide collection,” he added.
The U.S. intelligence community has not been trained adequately
to penetrate foreign terrorism organizations, Bamford said. “People
at the CIA are trained to try to recruit spies over cocktails.”
In Bamford’s opinion, one of the best ways to acquire human
intelligence is to use foreign organizations that are already in
existence. “We could have Pakistanis or other [foreign nationals]
in the area somehow infiltrate and pass along the information to
the United States,” he said.
The United States has to wage a war on two fronts: the terrorism
training camps and domestically, said Van Hipp, chairman of American
Defense International, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in government
affairs. Hipp was the deputy assistant secretary of the Army for
reserve forces and mobilization and was responsible for deploying
Army reserve forces during Operation Desert Storm.
Hipp said the United States should invest more money in technologies
for emergency notification, security, detection and also medical
technology to combat biological warfare.
He said that more attention needs to be paid to radar technologies
that make it possible to detect people behind walls. “This
is not only a great search and rescue tool, but is also good for
officials put in harm’s way,” Hipp said. The Pentagon
already has funded projects to develop these technologies.