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If you haven't seen it, you'll find this August 2005 study by Institute for Defense Analyses (pdf) right on point: "Learning to Adapt to Asymmetric Threats." It focuses on how to make adaptability a centerpiece of training across the services. They note that the Army in particular is ahead of the other services in focusing on adaptability due to its recent experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq. As you note, the Marines already have in their DNA a certain amount of adaptability for different sorts of warfare. The Navy and Air Force, however, seem to sling the jargon, but not much else.

From the viewpoint of your "counterinsurgency is hard" series, there are several striking themes of the study. (1) the need to incorporate strategic and operational levels into training, not just tactical. (2) the need to run training exercises through lots of different scenario branches, not just take one direct path through to conclusion -- learning how do make good decisions in new, complex environments "on the fly" is more important than perfecting "by the book" execution. (3) the need for combined arms training at the unit level -- e.g., the skills an artilleryman needs isn't just to fire his guns properly when called on but to adjust tactically (might we even say, creatively) as a contributor to a group mission.

Given the important linkages between decision-making that affects the political-social-economic-cultural-diplomatic spheres and "pure" military decisions, it's nice to see the emphasis on strategic and operational levels. Inter-agency coordination is always a nightmare, especially in a conflict zone, but it's got to be easier if the officer corps has been sensitized to those other issues as part of their understanding of their job and of what constitutes "leadership."


Ooops -- here's the link for the study. Your comments function seems to have stripped the link from the previous comment.


As always this is a fascinating discussion that is opening up thoughts in my mind. I've always struggled to understand the role of chem-bio weapons (when the US had an offensive program) and the waning and waxing support for this capability. Your points on the US Army's focus on strategic nukes and Western Europe is a very valid point and somehow links to the US offensive CB warfare effort. I just have to push it around in my head and do some more research on the issue.

But as to your series - you really, really need to get this stuff published in some military/political journals. Your analysis easily ranks with, if not exceeds, many of the articles we see every day from Cordesman, Kaplan, Peters, Barnett and the rest out there. Seriously, don't keep this limited to the blogosphere.


I strongly second J.'s endorsement of your series. It's far superior to most of the stuff that's out there on the topic. Which is why I compared your series favorably with the rather uninspiring piece on WaPo's op-ed pages today on "lessons from Vietnam". (Sorry, our trackbacks don't work -- it's at

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