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Good ideas from a good guy

From probably the best DIA director in recent times comes an idea that, if there is any sanity in our armed forces, should gain traction quickly:

Retired Lt. Gen. Patrick Hughes, a former chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency from 1996 to 1999, and whose military career encompassed irregular warfare from Vietnam through Somalia and Bosnia, made the argument in a paper he distributed earlier this month [that the military needs a new institute to teach irregular warfare].

Hughes said that the increasing use of unconventional warfare tactics, like terrorism and insurgency, was rendering conventional military thinking “both tactically inadequate and strategically dangerous.”

“Unintended consequences, exploitable mistakes, and peculiar responses to our best intentions have become a real concern,” he continued, arguing that “In some cases our response to irregular warfare, notably in Iraq, has been circumstantially more deleterious to our cause than the original events we are responding to.”

It has been said that every Marine is a rifleman first and every soldier gets trained in the most rudimentary Infantry tactics, but it isn’t until you earn a spot in Ranger school or prepare to join as SOF unit that you start to learn the finer points of fighting “dirty.” Fans of The Patriot and students of martial history know that this is an age old problem: you’re always building up forces to fight the last war. OK, we’ve got the massive forces assembling on a field of battle for a knock-down-drag-out routine down. We’ve got it down so well we are the dominant force on the planet for such an approach. Yet no matter how many times we are taught the lesson, we fail to expand our ability to compete in modern conflicts. By that I mean we show up ready to play American football while the opposition is ready for Lacrosse. We can flatten a few players here and there, but their maneuverability and skill at moving the ball tires out even the best conditioned gridiron hero.

By all means keep teaching our ground forces how to fight the good, traditional fight, but recognize that these basic skills are just that, and make irregular warfare training the capstone course for the combat arms. This doesn’t mean that every ground-pounder need be Ranger qualified (though doubling the number of Ranger battalions and a 50% increase in SF groups would both jack up available resources and reduce the deployment churn and flight to PMCs) but your standard issue GI should be able to show up in the next garden spot we fight ourselves with real training under his belt and not have to learn the hard way – if he makes it that long – on-the-job. We need this now (we needed it yesterday) because we’re fighting insurgents in Iraq now, we’re fighting terrorists in Afghanistan now, we’ll be in Somalia soon enough. Even if you are one who thinks China is the next big thing we should be preparign for, let’s not forget the work of this guy named Mao . . .

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji spent nearly 20 years in the US intelligence community. Trained in both SIGINT and HUMINT disciplines he has worked at the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and the National Reconnaissance Office. At various points in his career he served as an expert in information warfare, computer network operations, computer forensics, and indications and warning. A veteran of the US Army, Michael has served in both strategic and tactical assignments in the Pacific Theater, the Balkans, and the Middle East.