Thursday, January 13, 2005

More Men on the Ground 3

A reader provides four links, all related to the subject of troop strengths and occupation.

  1. RAND's Lessons Learned;
  2. Steven Budiansky in the Washington Post;
  3. Colonel Daniel Smith's Iraq: Descending into the Quagmire; and
  4. James Quinlivan's Force Requirements in Stability Operations in Parameters

Everything except Budiansky and Smith's articles are a few years old. The ratio between occupying troops to population described in these publications can be calculated as follows (thanks to the reader, who does not wish to be identified, for the summary table)

Country Ratio per thousands
Germany 100 rapidly descending to 25
Kosovo 20
Bosnia 18.6
Japan 5
Somalia 5
Haiti 3.5
Afghanistan 0.2
Iraq countrywide 6
Baghdad only 11
Malaya (Emergency) 20
Northern Ireland (on occasion) 20
Horn of Africa ?
Central Asia ?

The reader notes the Parameters article sets out the following historical ratios of adequacy for troops to population ratios.

Scenario Ratio
Policing 2.2
Some resistance 4 to 10
Serious counterinsurgency 20

Iraq veteran and Marine Chester has more thoughts on the concept of a "Colonial Corps" -- a force whose primary mission is stabilization and reconstruction. He notes that the Robert Kaplan argued in Indian Country that smaller, but more focused American contingents actually do better than massive deployments of large formations. Kaplan said:

In months of travels with the American military, I have learned that the smaller the American footprint and the less notice it draws from the international media, the more effective is the operation. One good soldier-diplomat in a place like Mongolia can accomplish miracles. A few hundred Green Berets in Colombia and the Philippines can be adequate force multipliers. Ten thousand troops, as in Afghanistan, can tread water. And 130,000, as in Iraq, constitutes a mess that nobody wants to repeat--regardless of one's position on the war.

Of course this is in some sense a comparison between apples and oranges. A perusal of the provided links shows how different one occupation is from another. It was surprising to find from the RAND study that "The United States and its allies have put 25 times more money and 50 times more troops per capita into postconflict Kosovo than into postconflict Afghanistan" or that by today's standards Harry Truman and George Marshall would be regarded as abject failures.

George Marshall was seriously concerned about the potential economic collapse of Germany in winter 1947, a concern that led to the passage of the Marshall Plan in 1948, three years after the end of the war. Japan had one of the slowest rates of recovery among the case studies. Per capita incomes in Bosnia have recovered much more rapidly; those in Kosovo exceeded preconflict levels within 24 months of the end of the conflict. In Japan, this did not happen until 1956, over a decade after the end of the war.

Against Kaplan's observation there is the undeniable fact that there is an historical inverse relationship between the number of occupation troops deployed and American casualties. But just as in the case of Kaplan's observations, this too may be apples and oranges.  There is at least some question about comparing a society like Japan's, occupied in the age of mass armies by an America willing to resort to an Atom Bomb, with the politically correct warfare that is waged by professional armies today. Chester rightly draws our attention to a formation which he suggests has certain characteristics of a proto-colonial corps, the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa.

"Combined" means it has forces from more than just the US, and "joint" means it employs members of all US forces. This task force has in the past had responsibility for military training and operations, sometimes diplomacy, humanitarian assistance, and intelligence collection in the countries of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Yemen, Kenya, and Tanzania, though not all of these are currently listed on its website. ...

It must be noted that these ad hoc colonial operations efforts incorporate the concept of "jointness" in a much greater way than has been the case in the past. Though jointness is only mandated by law amongst the military services, it has now expanded to include the incorporation of subject-matter experts from a variety of government agencies -- the State Dept, the Treasury Dept, the FBI, the CIA, etc. – within military units. Jointness concepts continue to expand – the consultation of foreign military advisors by Central Command has recently been in the news. In this sense, jointness means using existing agencies, personnel, and capabilities in cross-functional and interdisciplinary ways to tackle complex problems (like reconstruction, or colonial operations).

Neither Chester nor the unattributed Belmont Club reader touch on what the Defense Science Board study called strategic communication: something an earlier generation would have called political warfare or the propaganda war.

Strategic communication -- which encompasses public affairs, public diplomacy, international broadcasting, information operations, and special activities -- is vital to America’s national security and foreign policy. Over the past few decades, the strategic communication environment and requirements have changed considerably as a result of many influences. Some of the most important of these influences are a rise in anti-American attitudes around the world; the use of terrorism as a framework for national security issues; and the volatility of Islamic internal and external struggles over values, identity, and change. ... America needs a revolution in strategic communication rooted in strong leadership from the top and supported by an orchestrated blend of public and private sector components.

But then an earlier generation would have been ignorant of bloggers like Chester and the "joint" response of Internet outlets to propaganda attacks mounted by the enemy through traditional media channels.


Major Mike writes in Comments:

All-in-all I think the comparisons of the various occupation force levels, while mathematically interesting, take little of the operational differences of each of the circumstances into account. I won’t belabor the point, but insurgency strength and organization, insurgency weaponeering and available re-supply, leadership capability, popular support, terrain, insurgent tactics, and occupier objectives will all drive the force levels and organization. Generally, the better the weaponeering of the enemy, the more difficult the terrain, the more popular support for the insurgency, the better the tactics of the insurgents; the more forces it will take for the liberators/occupiers to be successful. I think the variables are too great to put a marker down as the “correct” number or ratio.

Casualties will not correspondingly be lowered simply because occupying forces add troop strength. Occupying force casualties will certainly rise if these forces are unable to adapt their force structures and tactics to EFFECTIVELY combat the insurgent group(s) or population. Adding more troops on the ground without developing winning strategies and tactics only increases the target density for the enemy. Highly effective and adaptive tactics could easily have the effect of lowering the overall troop requirements and casualties. Conversely, poor tactics and strategies have always resulted in higher unit casualties, and bear a greater role in overall casualty rates than force strengths. This is true in all operational environments.

Additionally, I cringe a bit with talk of re-organization to “colonial” style forces, or a variation thereof. The post World War I explosion of nationalistic movements throughout the world can be attributed directly to the occupation of nations by colonial forces. Fighting an insurgent nationalistic force would be logarithmically more costly than fighting a disgruntled band of malcontents and outsiders. Our current reliance on our conventional forces necessitates development of efficient and effective tactics to be successful in Iraq. In our current situation, our force limitations are a driving factor for immediate tactical innovation and strategic re-thinking, both key elements in finding a quick, but decisive tactical/strategic combination for exiting Iraq. Developing specific occupation forces would lessen this sense of urgency, re-invigorate grass roots nationalistic movements world wide, and plant the vision of the US as a global conqueror.

The reasons for post-invasion occupation success are as varied as the situations in which they have occurred. Docile and defeated populations, free from outside agitation, have been relatively easy to pacify. Divided nations where the unpopular will of an outside nation is being imposed, have been costly and deadly to occupy. I doubt this will change in the near future, regardless of the amount of strategic analysis that occurs. I submit that our current force structures, with our ability and experience in task organizing, our weaponerring, and our advanced military educational programs, can provide workable solutions long into the future without major force or structural changes. In the end, it will be our mastery of the operational art that will be the difference between success and failure, not mathmatics.

Part of the problem of wanting something is that you might get it. The desire to have "more boots on the ground", to 'bring freedom to the Middle East' sets in train a number of activities which may not turn out exactly as one expected. In the comments section of the torture posts I pointed out that while the United States had historically ceded unilateral military advantages to the enemy in order to stay within its self-appointed moral bounds it just as often developed compensating capabilities. Thus, it avoided using poison gas on Iwo Jima and Okinawa because that was proscribed but it developed "blowtorch and corkscrew" tactics which, by combination of demolition and flamethrower, buried the Japanese defenders alive when they did not roast them: that was permitted under Geneva. During the Cold War there was a clamor to renounce a first strike on the Soviet Union so America built an arsensal so large that it could survive any Soviet pre-emptive strike and still incinerate the enemy. Current criticisms of the DOD's shortcomings in planning for the occupation of Iraq may in time generate a Colonial Corps that Major Mike warns against.

The Defense Science Board study pointed out that agitation for this kind of interventionary capacity pre-dated OIF. The clamor for the organizational wherewithal to engage in nation-building, dealing with failed states, humanitarian intervention, etc. is ironically something that the Left has long wanted and which Conservatives may wind up providing. Perhaps one argument for the existence of God is the occasional discovery that a joke has been played on humanity. But that remark is not entirely facetious. Sam Huntington, author of the "Clash of Civilizations", recently gave an interview in Japan Today (hurry before the link expires) in which he argues that God, in some sense, is the greatest ideological force today.

In an interview with Kyodo News on postelection America and the world, Huntington, a professor at Harvard University, said the United States is now going through a period of religious "Great Awakening." ... We have gone through several religious revivals. They are called "Great Awakenings." We had one before the (American) revolution, which many historians say created the basis for the revolution, another in the early 19th century, which generated all sorts of reforms, including the abolitionist movement to abolish slavery. I think we are going through such a period of Great Awakening now. The movement is in a way meeting a great concern of the American people about the decline of morality and traditional values.

 The first Great Awakening in the 1730s and 1740s coincided with the intensification of the wars between the British and the French, which were fought in part here in North America. It certainly played a major role in promoting the development of an American sense of nationality. ... The current (Great Awakening), with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of the U.S. as the only superpower, it seems to me, has reinforced the sense of confidence in ability to go out and change the world in ways in which we think it should be changed. That is very notable in the policies of the Bush administration.