Concrete Hell is Out!

Concrete Hell is now out and available from Amazon and at many bookstores!

As some of you know, I teach urban warfare to US Army officers at the army Command and General Staff College. This book is based on my class research, my academic work in the area of Urban Geography and my work for the army writing Field Manual (FM) 3-06, Urban Operations.  Much of what is written here is what I teach to those who are and will practice urban warfare in the coming years.

This work revisits some familiar historical topics like the classic battles for Stalingrad and Hue. In looking at these topics I take the approach of evaluating them in terms of what timeless aspects of urban warfare are revealed in the historical record.

I also look at several urban battlefields that have received less attention. Two areas where I think this book breaks new ground is the evaluation of the Israeli Operation Defensive Shield (2002) and the look at US forces in the Battle of Ramadi (2006-7). I think Concrete Hell is the only comprehensive look at these operations currently in print.

Ultimately, what I intended, and what I think Concrete Hell achieves, is a thorough look at the evolution of urban warfare over the last fifty years. By isolating and focusing on this history, and what it tells us in terms of the conduct of warfare, I think Concrete Hell also describes the nature of the most important battlefield of the 21st Century: the urban battlefield. Thus, though a history, Concrete Hell presents not only an accounting of the past but a vision of the future. Recent battles in Lybia and current fighting in Syria seem to validate that vision.

The subject of urban combat and it’s relationship to today’s military issues is vitally important and one in which I’m intensely interested.  If you have any comments, questions, or want to air your own views on the subject please use the comment section here to do that, or email me at dimarcol@aol.com.

To give you an idea what the book covers here’s the table of contents:

Chapter 1 Urban warfare Past and Future

Chapter 2 An Operational Debacle:  Stalingrad 1942

Chapter 3 American Urban Warfare:  Aachen 1944

Chapter 4 Urban Warfare fro the Sea:  Inchon and Seoul 1950

Chapter 5 Complex Urban Warfare: The Battle for Hue 1968

Chapter 6 War inthe Casbah: The Battle of Algiers 1956-57

Chapter 7 The Log Urban War:  Operation Banner, 1969-2007

Chapter 8 Urban Death Trap:  The Russian Army in Grozny 1995

Chapter 9 Invading the Urban Sanctuary:  Operation Defensive Shield and the Bttle for Jenin 2002

Chapter 10 Systematic Urban Warfare:  “Ready First” in Rarmadi 2006-07

Chapter 11 Urban Combat in the 21st Century

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“History of the Horse” Coming Soon

Above is the trailer for a six part documentary entitled “The History of the Horse” that will be on most PBS stations later this year (dates and times TBD).  I helped out some with the episode on the horse warrior.  I have no idea what the final product looks like but the trailer promises a pretty interesting project.

See below for more information.

Saddle Up with Dennis Brouse is a television series airing on public television stations across the nation

The show celebrates the relationship between horse and human. Whether you own a horse or just love to watch them in the movies, we have a storied partnership with this magnificent animal. This series showcases everything from training tips for horse owners to trail destinations for recreational riders. We visit ranches and other locations where our bond with horses is illustrated in countless ways.

Click here to follow to the webpage.

Book Review: Bullets and Bolos

Bullets and Bolos:  Fifteen Years in the Philippine Islands Fighting Insurgents with the Philippine Constabulary.  John R. White.  St. Petersburg, FL:  Hailer Publishing, 2007 (originally published New York: Century Company, 1928), 348 pages, $29.99.

 Bullets and Bolos is the story of one American’s experience during fifteen years (1901-1916) as an officer of the Philippine Constabulary.  John White’s narrative is a fast paced, interesting and insightful read about how a former American soldier adapts to the challenge of leading foreign indigenous troops in combat.  It almost reads like a novel, but is full of intelligent insights and wisdom regarding an important and complex aspect of counterinsurgency.

 John White’s story begins when he joins the Philippine Constabulary after his service with the U.S. volunteers  during the Spanish American War.  As that war evolves into the Philippine Insurrection, the army mustered the volunteers out.  White elected to muster out in the Philippines and seek service with the growing U.S. civil service.  He first worked as a civilian clerk for the army commissary, but then enlisted as an inspector in the new Philippine indigenous police force –the constabulary.  White describes the highlights of his next fifteen years service commanding Filipino constables as they track and fight insurgents, bandits, and Muslim warriors through swamps, jungle, mountains, and even at sea.  White quickly proved himself to be an exceptionally effective leader, and a string of promotions and more challenging assignments took him to the rank of constabulary colonel and district supervisor.

Read Complete Review Here.

Intuitive Decision Making and Military History

One of the recent popular books that delves into the subject of critical and creative thinking is Malcolm Gladwell’s best selling Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. This book y is a fairly in depth discussion of intuitive decision making. What is interesting is that I was not expecting Gladwell to talk about the military, but he does. The following is an excerpt from the book:

“Of all the interviews I conducted while researching Blink, the one that made the most lasting impression on me was my interview with General Paul Van Riper –the hero (or villain) of the Pentagon’s Millennium Challenge war game…. I remember being surprised when he took me on a tour of his house by the number of books in his study. In retrospect, of course, that’s a silly thing to find surprising. Why shouldn’t a Marine Corps general have as many books as an English professor? I suppose that I had blithely assumed that generals were people who charged around and “did” things; that they were men of action, men of the moment. But one of the things that Van Riper taught me was that being able to act intelligently and instinctively in the moment is possible only after a long and rigorous course of education and experience. Van Riper beat Blue Team because of what he had learned about waging war in the jungles of Vietnam. And he also beat Blue Team because of what he had learned in that library of his. Van Riper was a student of military history.”

What Galdwell is implying is that a foundation of intuitive decision making –thinking without thinking –is study and preparation, and for the military professional a major component of that study is military history.  Now to just get the senior military leadership to buy the concept.

Book Review: The Philippine War, 1899 – 1902

The Philippine War, 1899-1902, by Brian McAllister Linn (Lawrence:  University Press of Kansas, 2000), 427.

Brian Linn’s The Philippine War is the best history of the U.S. war in the Philippines from February 1899 to July 1902.  Linn’s work systematically covers all aspects of the war, all the major personalities, and makes a special effort to address the major myths and misconceptions regarding the war.  Linn’s history is simply the best, clear, and objectively reasoned discussion of  the military aspects of the war yet written.

One of the great values of Linn’s work is his efforts to provide balance and accuracy to the many misconceptions and myths that have been created or perpetuated by earlier histories of the war.  Thus, though conceding that Generals Otis and MacArthur were quirky personalities who made some serious mistakes, he also recognizes that each of the first two American commanders were essentially competent and in different areas, very capable.  Otis, the trained lawyer, laid the foundation of the President McKinley’s benevolence policy, while MacArthur recognized the need for and supervised the well run counterinsurgency campaign of 1901.  Linn backs up John Gate’s analysis that the major part of the insurgency was won by the time MacArthur gave up command in the Summer of 1901 and makes the point that the Samar and Batangas campaigns, the most infamous of the war, were not typical of the war in general.

Read Complete Review Here.

Ender’s Game: Insights into Training Tactics, Strategy, and Critical and Creative Thinking

Just finished reading Orson Scott Card’s science fiction novel, Ender’s Game.   It is a recognized sci-fi  classic and my intent here is not to review it.  There are over 2,000 positive reviews of it on Amazon (as well as over 60 negative reviews) and I encourage that all who are interested in the book graze over what the Amazon readers have opined.  Despite the few very critical reviews, I found the book a quick, easy, and interesting read.  I recommend it strongly to those interested in sci-fi in general, military sci-fi in particular, and training military leaders.

My interest in Ender’s Game is that it is a sci-fi novel that is mostly about training for battle.  The actual war is wrapped up in the last 30 pages of the book.    I think the important points that the book makes are about training; and the most important points about training that it makes are the importance of immersion in the training environment and the focus on creative solutions.  It also makes the point that it is absolutely critical to focus on the development of individual leading and thinking skills.  Acquiring knowledge, technical skills, and collective training are important but secondary educational requirements.  The leader is the single point of failure in military endeavors.  Knowledge, skill, and collective training mean little unless uniquely trained and exceptionally competent leaders employ soldiers and units correctly and most effectively.  Ender’s Game makes the point that leaders make two vital contributions to military success:  first, effective decision-making and second, maximizing the abilities and potential of subordinates.    

The most intriguing aspect of the book is the use of simulation and technology to train critical and creative thinking and decision-making.  Written in 1985, this book advocates many of the training characteristics I did in my article “Training Tactics in Virtual Reality” ten years later. 

What I think is still frustrating to me is that, though I believe the technology is there to support it, the military in general still has not made the leap to using technology to train individual thinking and decision making skills.  Much like my earlier comments regarding Star Trek, Ender’s Game demonstrates that military sci-fi can be a creative inspiration for how we should be thinking about and using technology to make our military more effective.

Click here to go to Orson Scott Card’s Website.

War Horse Reviewed in Military Review

A very nice review by someone who knows both horses and military history:

WAR HORSE: A History of the Military Horse and Rider, Louis DiMarco, Westholme Publishing, Yardley, PA, 432 pages, $29.95.

Louis DiMarco’s War Horse: A History of the Military Horse and Rider is a fascinating one-of-a-kind book that looks at military history through the evolving science of horse riding, training, and breeding. Its unique approach offers a fresh interpretation of classic military history from the ancients through operations in World War II.

War Horse is a remarkable book on many levels, beginning with the ancient Egyptians’ use of the chariot. DiMarco describes how the desire for increased mobility and economy drove the creation of the warrior on horseback and traces the evolution of horse breeds, horsemanship, tack, the evolution of cavalry warfare, and the contributions of cavalry to warfare: its tactics, operational art, and even grand strategies through the centuries. These developments produced operational and tactical mobility, shock, and firepower. DiMarco illustrates through battle and campaign narratives how the great captains skillfully translated an understanding of mounted forces into battlefield success. He also describes how a lack of appreciation for horses and mounted forces could lead to failure.

The book’s ability to penetrate to a level of significant detail, overturn repeated myths, summarize suc­cinctly, and back up its judgments and conclusions is significant. When I began teaching at SAMS I wanted a book like War Horse to educate the officer corps on the constant and turbulent evolution of opera­tional art. The book demonstrates how ideas about doctrine, weapons, branches of service, and organiza­tional designs evolve in a messy but inexorable way.

DiMarco is uniquely qualified to write about horse cavalry. He is a retired Army officer and has served in positions from cavalry troop through joint staff. He served as a doctrine writer at the Armor School, specialized in reconnaissance doc­trine and urban and counterinsur­gency warfare at the Combined Arms Command, and is currently teaching military history at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leav­enworth. Most importantly, DiMarco is an accomplished horseman who has actively owned and trained horses for more than 20 years.

As a horse book and horse cav­alry book War Horse is in a class of its own. The natural sentiment toward the horse and horse cavalry doesn’t get in the way of solid and deeply researched history. The book provides many detailed facts about horse types and breeds not often found in books on horse cavalry and delves deeply into the details of riding “tack” and cavalry weapons. I find the battle reconstructions more credible due to DiMarco’s research and knowledge of horsemanship, tack, and weapons.

This is my kind of history reading: interesting and intellectually stimulat­ing. It’s the kind of book I like to move through slowly, mulling over the con­tent, fitting the pieces into the messy filing system of my mind. In short, the book is a fascinating and detailed account of an important contributor to human history—the war horse.

 BG Huba Wass de Czege, USA, Retired, Easton, Kansas

Military Review, May-June 2009

Published in: on May 8, 2009 at 10:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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What’s in a saber?

usafa-saber-busafa-saber-a

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does anyone know, or care, what a USAF officer’s dress saber looks like?  I’m not sure if they do.  And, I’m not sure its important. 

But maybe it is.

What started me on this train of thought is two things. First, I managed to purchase a very nice, but badly maintained USAF Academy cadet dress saber (before and after pictures above).  I always wanted one of these but after losing two USMA cadet sabers in football bets with the USAFA I gave up on it.   It cleaned up very well and I am very happy with how it looks and especially that I got it for a small fraction of the price of what a new one costs (though I would rather have won it in a bet as per the original plan).  

Second, my oldest daughter is now in AFROTC and looking at eventually a commission in the USAF. 

That got me wondering what a USAF saber, not a cadet saber, looks like.  After a bit of research I found out that the two sabers are essentially the same.  Actually, the USAFA saber is the  USAF saber.  The only difference is that on the blade the USAFA saber has etched “U.S. Air Force Academy,” while the USAF saber says “U.S. Air Force.”  From this I can draw a couple of conclusions.

1.  The USAF, as an institution, does not put a premium on its history.  If it did, why would it adopt a ceremonial weapon that is not related to its (the USAF) history?  A ceremonial saber is a way that members of a service connect with their past, and it reminds them they represent the history of the future.  Both perspectives are important to sustaining morale and esprit in military organizations.  The RAF has its own unique saber and their history and linage is no more important than that of the USAF.

2. The USAFA saber design compliments the mission and role of the USAFA and USAF (in the details of the design) and includes a nod to the institutional history of West Point (which saber the overall style closely replicates) which was used as an early model for the concept of the USAFA.  These are understandable and in fact laudable characteristics of the USAFA saber.

3.  Probably the USAF copied the USAFA saber design because it was easy and cheap. 

4.  Because something is easy and cheap doesn’t mean that its right.  In fact, most often it means that a more difficult right is being avoided.

5.  The USAF, if it truly values its history should design and contract for a ceremonial officer’s saber that represents the USAF, not the USAFA.

Interestingly, the Naval Academy, and Navy officers share the same sword.  However, unlike the USAF, the USNA adopted the standard naval officer’s sword, rather than the other way around.  Thus, the USNA and the USN officer’s sword share the history of the USN.

My recommendation is that the USAF adopt a unique USAF  officer’s ceremonial saber.  That its design be loosely based on the U.S. Army’s officer 1902 dress saber (as a nod to the 40+ years the the service was part of the army) and the RAF saber, but modified to be distinctly American Air Force.  The modifications would include a USAF script on the blade, a blue/grey wire wrapped sharkskin hilt, and a carved eagle pommel.  Such a saber would be unique and truly indicate not only that the USAF was a seperate service deserving of its own ceremonial regalia, but also it would demonstrate that the USAF had a unique and proud history –one that today’s USAF honors and perpetuates for the future.

This might seem an inconsequencial issue with two wars going on and the country in an economic tailspin (note the aeronautical reference :).  But in the USAF’s multi-billion dollar budget it probably would cost a few thousand dollars to have Weyersberg, Kirschbaum & Co (WKC) design the sword.  USAF officer’s would privately purchase them.  So, for almost nothing, the USAF create’s a part of history which, like the sabers of the other services, will be passed from airman to airman  for centuries.  That’s a good deal in any economy!

FM 3-07 and History

The new army stability manual, FM 3-07, Stability Operations, proposes using lines of effort to visualize the execution of stability operations tasks.  Specifically the manual states, “A line of effort links multiple tasks and missions to focus efforts toward establishing the conditions that define the desired end state. Lines of effort are essential in stability operations, where physical, positional references to an enemy or adversary are less relevant. In these operations, where the human dimension typically becomes the focus of the force, lines of effort often work best to link tasks, effects, conditions, and the end state. Lines of effort are essential to helping commanders visualize how military capabilities can support the other instruments of national power.”  The history of U.S. stability operations validates the concept as expressed in current doctrine.  It also offers some insights into the issues and importance of lines of efforts and stability operations in general.

For a presentation at the National Defense University entitled “Lessons of History:  U.S. Transitions in Cuba and the Philippines,” I took the history of two U.S. stability operations and superimposed that history on the LOOs as outlined in FM 3-07.  The results confirmed that, though they did not have a formal doctrine, the leaders of previous intensive stability operations, identified and executed critical tasks that align very closely with current doctrine.

Studying the history a little more closely revealed several important insights into stability operations:

1. The major influence on stability operations policy is domestic politics.  Congressional control of budgets and the ability of the Congress to enact legislation that constrains or sets policy is a major influence on operations.  Most importantly, the popular opinion of the American people, as expressed through their votes, has a strong influence on both the Congress and the Administration.

2. The American experience with stability operations includes both Civil and Military led operations.  There was no obvious difference between the two.  However, historically, the War Department (now DOD) was the lead agency and the civil administrator reported directly to the Secretary of War.  One clear aspect of the historical experience is that there was no ambiguity regarding who was in charge.

3. Insurgent resistance to the stability operation has an important effect.  This effect is not direct.  Historically, the U.S. military has demonstrated a capability to eliminate insurgency.  The important effect is on domestic public opinion.  Insurgency’s most important capability is to influence U.S. domestic politics (see 1. above).

4.  Economics and the economic LOO are extremely important.  It is the key to long-term stability and is more important and difficult to achieve than building the institutions of governance.  The latter are relatively simple to create but will fall apart if they are not supported by a sound economy.  Often, because of U.S. domestic politics, the focus of stability operations is on economic matters that relate to the U.S. economy and diminish the importance of economic issues that relate to the indigenous population.

5.  Cultural understanding is a key to assisting the indigenous population to achieve stability.  U.S. institutions will never be a perfect fit to another culture.  A deep understanding of culture is essential to making the critical decisions required for successful stability operations.  Governance, security, and economic issues all depend on identifying policies and techniques that will work within the context of the unique operational environment.  Leaders have to decide when to leave the culturally accepted method in place; when and how to adapt a unique foreign concept to the culture; and when and how to impose a completely foreign concept on the culture.  Making the right decision is the key to success along the LOOs and cultural understanding is the key to the right decision.

6.  Finally, stability operations are inherently difficult and complex.  Each of the LOOs is related to and dependant on the others for success.  They complement each other and set the conditions for each other’s success.  The amount of time forces are engaged in stability operations permits the tasks within the LOOs to develop.  As the individual tasks are accomplished, time permits their effects to mature and reinforce other tasks.  Rushing stability operations incurs the risk that systems and institutions built as part of the stability operations will erode for lack of support in an immature environment that lacks a cultural history that supports those institutions and systems.

Ending Phase IV Operations

The new Administration will likely oversee the end of U.S. operations in Iraq.  The end has already been set-up by the Bush Administration’s agreement with the Iraqi government to end the U.S. troop presence by 2011.  The only real questions are if the Obama Administration will move the time table up, and exactly what the U.S. presence will be, if any, after the agreed upon withdrawal.  While contemplating the nature of the post-withdrawal presence, DOD planners and policy makers should consider the examples of history.  History shows us that although hasty withdrawal from occupation operations is politically attractive, it is often improperly conceived and fatal to the objectives of the occupation.

Two Cases in point:

In 1877 the U.S. army ended occupation operations in the former Confederate States.  That same year all of the Confederate states reestablished conservative Democratic governments, in large part operated by former Confederates –the same leadership that attempted to secede from the Union and plunged the country into the deadliest war in its history.  For the next 80 years the South was ruled at the local level by the white population which actively governed to keep the former slave population subjugated.

In 1902 the U.S. army ended its post Spanish-American War occupation of Cuba and withdrew all American troops from the new Republic of Cuba.  Four years later the U.S. army returned as the  government in Cuba fell into corruption and was about to be overthrown by a popular revolt.  In 1909 the army left again and the Cubans were left to their own devices.  Republican government was never firmly established in the country which eventually came under the control of the autocratic Batista regime which fell to the Castro revolution.

In both cases the army was withdrawn not because it had completed its mission, but in response to domestic U.S. politics.  What was the army’s mission in occupation?  In the South and in Cuba the mission was achieving the U.S. strategic objective of stable democratic government.  In both cases the army withdrew after putting in place the structure of democratic government.  However, structure was not enough and was quickly  subverted.

 

U.S. Troops in Cuba circa 1902

U.S. Troops in Cuba circa 1902

In the case of the South and of Cuba, the failure of democracy  resulted in long-term adverse effects for the United States.  The Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s ultimately rectified problems in the South.  Cuba remains a problem to this day.

So, as the new administration considers policy in Iraq, it must realize that a premature withdrawal from Iraq will likely result in a failed policy and future problems.  The U.S. has built the structure of democracy in Iraq.  However, Iraq as a society has no experience or tradition of democracy.  For democracy to succeed will require U.S. mentorship, active support, and most importantly, large scale engagement with the Iraqi government.  This can only happen with a long-term U.S. military presence in the country.  Even after hostilities have ceased.  Without time and continued U.S. support to ensure the viability of democracy, Iraq will follow the history of previous occupations, and previous attempts at democracy in the Middle East, and revert to chaos. 

For further reading on the subject of failed U.S. occupations see my paper on the U.S. army in Reconstruction or the following books:

 

 

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