Why Military History is Important

H/T Calculus of Decay for turning me on to this Blog.

History and War

What is Military History

The popular (mis)conception of the military history is that it is all about armies, battles and generals. But while these are undoubtably a significant part of military history, battles are only a fraction of what military history is about. Psychology, administration, logistics, biology, environment, climate… all these areas, and more, are crucial for understanding and studying military history. In fact, military historians talk more about food than anybody other than dedicated food historians, simply because without logistics, you cannot have an army.

Three major areas of study of military history are technological, social and organizational. This of course does not mean that the traditional campaign history (“drums and trumpets” history) has been or should be abandoned; it has however been mostly left to amateur historians. Technological approach sees the changing technology – be it military or civilian technology – as the main motivator of military change…

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Military News: 10 Wars That Could Break Out In The Next Four Years

The incoming Commander-in-Chief already has a handful of issues waiting for him or her on January 20th and surely doesn’t need any more foreign policy headaches. Unfortunately, the job is “Leader of the Free World” and not “Autopilot of the Worldwide Ramones/P-Funk Block Party.”

Inevitably, things go awry. Reactions have unintended consequences. If you don’t believe in unintended consequences, imagine landing on an aircraft carrier emblazoned with a big “Mission Accomplished” banner. By the middle of your replacement’s second term, al-Qaeda in Iraq is now ISIS and the guy who starred on Celebrity Apprentice is almost in charge of deciding how to handle it.

Think about that . . .

Here are ten imminent wars the incoming Chief Executive will have to keep the U.S. out of… or prevent entirely.


1. China vs. Everyone in the Pacific

In 2013, China declared the Senkaku Islands (or Diaoyu Islands, depending on which side of the issue you’re on) to be part of its East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone. Since then, Chinese and Japanese air and naval assets have taken many opportunities to troll each other. The Chinese people see these provocations as violations of their sovereignty and anti-Japanese demonstrations erupted in China. World War II memories die hard.

The islands themselves are just an excuse. The prominent ideology espoused by Chinese President Xi Jinping is that of the “Chinese Dream,” one that recaptures lost Chinese greatness and prestige. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is a hardline nationalist, is unlikely to bow to Beijing just because of a military buildup. On the contrary, Japan’s legislature just changed the constitution to allow Japanese troops to engage in combat outside of a defensive posture for the first time since WWII.

Elsewhere, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam are all vying for control of the Spratly Islands. The Spratlys are a small, seemingly unimportant set of “maritime features” in the South China Sea that would extend each country’s maritime boundary significantly. They sit on trade routes. Oh, and there are oil and natural gas reserves there. China started building artificial islands and military bases in the Spratlys, which is interesting because the U.S. now has mutual defense treaties with Japan, the Philippines, and Taiwan. So the next U.S. President will also have to be prepared for…


2. China vs. The United States

The term “peaceful rise” isn’t thrown around quite as much as it used to be. That was Chinese President Hu Jintao’s official ideology, but he left power in 2012. China under Xi Jinping is much more aggressive in its rise. Chinese hackers stole blueprints for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter just before China’s military revealed a homegrown design, which looked a lot like the F-35. The People’s Republic also finished a Russian-designed aircraft carrier, its first ever. It now has a second, entirely Chinese one under construction.

The Chinese specially developed the DF-21D Anti-Ship missile for use against carriers and other advanced ships of the U.S. Navy. The ballistic missile looks a lot like nuclear missiles and can carry a nuclear payload. Once a Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile sinks its first U.S. carrier, there’s no going back – a downed carrier would kill 6,000 sailors. This is why China develops weapons to deny the U.S. sea superiority and deter American aggression in their backyard before a war begins.


3. Russia vs. NATO

The expansion of NATO as a bulwark against Russian hegemony in Eastern Europe is a challenge to the status quo of the last thirty years. While the end of the Cold War should have changed the way the Russians and the West interact, Russian influence is still aggressive. Russia does not take kindly to the idea of NATO’s expansion into former Eastern Bloc countries like Ukraine, which resulted in the 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.

Now the Alliance is deploying thousands of troops to Poland and the Baltic countries as a counter to Russian aggression. Threats made by Russian President Vladimir Putin are always serious. He didn’t just annex Crimea. In 2008, he invaded the former Soviet Republic of Georgia to “protect Russian-speaking minorities” in the Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Putin claims the right of Russia to protect the rights of Russian-speaking minorities abroad and uses military force to do so.

Read the Remainder at We Are The Mighty

Cyber-Warfare Front: NSA Chief Makes ‘Secret’ Israel Trip to talk Iran, Hezbollah Cyber-Warfare


Admiral Rogers said to meet with IDF intelligence officials, including head of 8200 unit, during visit last week

The director of the US National Security Agency, Admiral Michael Rogers, reportedly paid a secret visit to Israel last week to discuss cooperation in cyber-defense, in particular to counter attacks by Iran and its Lebanon-based proxy Hezbollah.

Haaretz newspaper quoted a senior Israeli official as saying that the NSA chief, who also heads the US’s Cyber Command, made the trip to meet with the commanders of the IDF’s famed 8200 intelligence unit, which specializes in signal intelligence (SIGINT) and code decryption. Rogers also met with other senior Israeli intelligence officials, Haaretz said late Sunday, but not IDF Chief Gadi Eisenkot or Military Intelligence director Herzl Halevi.
Over the last two years, Israel has been targeted by a number of cyber-attacks. Officials say hackers affiliated with the Iranian government and Hezbollah, a Shiite terror group long at war with Israel, were behind some of the infiltration attempts.

Earlier this week, Israel said it has charged a Palestinian hacker from Gaza with breaking into the feeds from IAF drones and collecting information on troop movements and civilian flights for Islamic Jihad, a terror group that also has ties to Iran.

Majd Ouida, a 22-year-old Gazan who Israel has indicted for hacking into IDF drone feeds, traffic cameras and other Israeli computer systems, in a Beersheba court on March 23, 2016. (Screen capture: Channel 10)
Majd Ouida, a 22-year-old Gazan who Israel has indicted for hacking into IDF drone feeds, traffic cameras and other Israeli computer systems, in a Beersheba court on March 23, 2016. (Screen capture: Channel 10)

In June 2015, the Israeli ClearSky cyber-security company said it had discovered an ongoing wave of cyber-attacks originating from Iran on targets in Israel and the Middle East, with Israeli generals among the targets. The goal is “espionage or other nation-state interests,” the firm said.

The hackers use techniques such as targeted phishing — in which hackers gather user identification data using false web pages that look like real and reputable ones — to hack into 40 targets in Israel and 500 worldwide, said ClearSky. In Israel the targets have included retired generals, employees of security consulting firms and researchers in academia.

The US has also seen “intensified cyberspace operations by state and nonstate actors,” Admiral Rogers told the US House of Representatives panel earlier this month, according to a Department of Defense report.

Read the Original Article at Times of Israel

The Rise of the Hybrid Warriors: From Ukraine to the Middle East


The Iraqi Army defenders of Ramadi had held their dusty, stony ground for over a year and become familiar with the increasing adeptness of their opponents waving black flags. At first, these Iraqi Army units simply faced sprayed rifle fire, but then it was well-placed sniper rounds that forced these weary units to keep under cover whenever possible or risk a death that only their comrades — but never the victim — would hear. Tired, beleaguered, and cut off from reinforcements from Baghdad, they nonetheless continued to repulse attack after attack.

The last months witnessed a new weapon — car bombs. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and its predecessor, al-Qaeda in Iraq, had long been the masters of using car bombs, but almost always against isolated checkpoints or undefended civilians. But an old tactic found a new situation. Car bombs, now parked against outer walls and driven by suicide bombers, were thrown against the Iraqi Army’s defenses in Ramadi.

The defenders were professional soldiers, and the last decade of war had taught them a great deal about the use of concrete barriers to defend against explosives of all kinds. So while the car bombs created a great deal of sound and fury, they availed little.

Then one bright day in May 2015, the defenders awoke to a new sound. Crawling forward slowly toward the heavily barricaded road was a bulldozer followed by several large cargo and dump trucks. The soldiers began to fire as the bulldozer entered the range of their machine guns and rifles, but it was armored by overlapping welded steel plates. The bullets bounced off the advancing earthmover. The defenders lacked one key weapon system — an anti-tank missile that could penetrate the armor of the tracked vehicle.

So while the soldiers kept up a steady volume of fire, they were helpless as the dozer began to remove the concrete barriers that blocked the road between their positions and the row of large armored trucks. One layer of concrete was removed after another until the road was clear.

And so the trucks begin to pour through. While creating vehicle-borne bombs is an ISIL specialty, the technology is actually remarkably simple, as each truck carried in its five-ton bed the same basic formula used two decades ago by Timothy McVeigh at Oklahoma City — ammonium nitrate fertilizer soaked in gasoline. As each truck closed on the defenses, its suicide bomber detonated the payload, shocking beyond reason those who were not killed outright. As truck after truck delivered its lethal payload, black-clad fighters poured from behind the trucks to exploit the newly created hole in the defenses. The survivors fell back and tried to maintain some semblance of order, but it was far too late to have any hope of saving this day. Ramadi had fallen.

The explosion of ISIL onto the international scene in June 2014 informed the world that a new type of force had arrived. In some ways, this should have been less of a surprise. ISIL had seized Fallujah the previous January, and there were also several clear precursors of this type of force. The Israelis had experienced a near-defeat in their fightagainst the non-state actor Hezbollah years earlier. And only a month after the fall of Mosul, Russian-backed separatist forces in Ukraine would shoot down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17.

None of these actors — ISIL, Hezbollah, or the Ukrainian separatists — can be classified as traditional insurgent groups, guerrillas, or terrorists. All three groups possess capabilities that take them beyond more familiar non-state actors without qualifying them as full-fledged armies. Whether the bulldozers and social media savvy of ISIL, the missiles and electronic warfare of Hezbollah, or the high-altitude air defense of the Ukrainian rebels, all these forces have deployed capabilities traditionally associated with nation-states. The hybrid warriors have merged these capabilities with traditional insurgent tactics in their fight against nation-state forces.

While the debate rages on about the utility of the concepts of “hybrid warfare” and “gray zone conflict,” this article is not about these debates. This article is agnostic as to whether these types of warfare are best called “hybrid wars” or “political warfare.” It is similarly agnostic as to whether the “gray zone” concept is “hopelessly muddled “or “real and identifiable.” These debates, while important, are not what this piece attempts to settle. Rather than discuss the strategies and operations conducted in these ambiguous physical and legal spaces, this paper is concerned with the new actors emerging in said spaces. This essay maintains that there is something interesting and new occurring, as it relates to the actors operating in this space. While calling them “hybrid warriors” when the larger concept of “hybrid warfare” is still deeply contested may be linguistically problematic, there is no necessary linkage between the terms. That these fighters are a “hybrid” of insurgent and state-sponsored strains seems very clear, and therefore appropriate, regardless of distinct and separate debates over the characteristics of the environment.

Hybrid warriors are new (or at least new to us). These non-state hybrid warriors have adopted significant capabilities of an industrial or post-industrial nation-state army that allow them to contest the security forces of nation-states with varying degrees of success. Retaining ties to the population and a devotion to the “propaganda of the deed” that characterizes their insurgent and terrorist cousins, these non-state hybrid warriors present a challenge unfamiliar to most modern security analysts (though those who fought against either America’s 19th-century native tribes or the medieval Knights Templar, might see similarities).

Hybrid warriors specialize in the ambiguity of the “gray zone,” a term this essay will continue to use despite its definitional issues. While they can both administer territory (at the low end of the spectrum) and fight conventional war (at the high end), it is in the spaces in between that they truly excel. Girded by their relative safety from police forces, immunity from international norms (characteristic of all places where the state and rule of law are weak), and the active or passive support of the population, these hybrid warriors enjoy a low degree of risk, at least when compared to open warfare against Western interests. Within their sanctuaries — so long as they survive the occasional airstrike or commando raid — hybrid warriors face few security concerns, save when local armies probe the boundaries of their loosely controlled terrain. And yet — as the United States clearly learned on 9/11 — non-state groups possess a new ability to launch attacks against the integrated state system. These hybrid warriors live among the insurgents and counter-insurgents, terrorists and counter-terrorists, spies, saboteurs, propagandists, organized criminals, and money launderers — but while they may participate in any number of these activities, they are not limited by them.

Read the Remainder at War on the Rocks


How NATO Can Disrupt Russia’s New Way of War


Here are a few things the West can do against Moscow’s potent combo of special forces and electronic warfare.

The Ukrainian soldiers peered over the cold dirt edge of their trench. The artillery had abated, but the whine of a nearby spotter UAV promised its imminent return. In the distance, they could see camouflaged spetsnaz moving into position with suppressed Vintorez marksman rifles. Looking at his radio, a lieutenant dared to hope. “Aleksei, you see this? Radio’s working. Maybe a break in the jamming.” “Is that really a good thing?” his sergeant responded. “Go ahead and call, that’s what they want. The Russians will hear you first and send their thermobaric regards. That is if the spetsnaz don’t get here first.” The young officer slumped. His comms gear was useless; he and his men were cut off and alone.

Much has been written about Russia’s innovative concepts of operations in Ukraine and Syria, variously dubbed “hybrid” or “non-linear” war, but specific tactics have received far less scrutiny than they deserve. A look, in particular, at Russia’s use of electronic warfare (EW) and special operations forces (SOF) suggests ways that U.S. and other NATO forces might prepare to counter them.

Technology and new EW doctrines have accelerated thedecades-old competition between active attack systems and countermeasures, shortening the evolutionary cycle from weeks and months to mere hours. In The Nature and Content of New-Generation War, sometimes described as a “how-to manual” for the seizure of Crimea, two senior Russian military officers note the importance of EW in the Gulf War and assert the need for sustained “electronic knockdown” attacks in future conflicts. They recommend that Russian ground forces “be continually improved and equipped with…EW capabilities.”

The positioning of EW forces in the Russian order-of-battleunderscores their importance. Every military district houses an independent EW brigade, supplemented by strategic battalions with specialized EW equipment and a special independent EWbrigade carrying the title “Supreme Main Command” (only two other units in the Russian Armed Forces reportedly carry this title).

In Ukraine, Russia frequently jams its enemies’ tactical communications through a variety of means. During the initial Crimean seizure, cellphones in the area were reportedlyjammed by Russian warships. As the conflict moved to the Donbas, pro-Ukrainian and OSCE UAVs found their data links persistently jammed. Further, Russian UAVs that can carry theLeyer-3 jammer and direct artillery fire have been spotted inUkraine and Syria. Where Ukrainian forces have acquired encrypted radios, Russian EW troops hone in on their stronger signal to geolocate their position. These and many similar tactics enable Russia to erode its adversaries’ intelligence-gathering, communications, and command and control.

Russian EW gear may even threaten strategic collection platforms. For instance, the Murmansk-BN long-range jammer was recently deployed to Crimea, and the Krasukha-4 advancedEW system has been observed in bothUkraine and Syria. Even though the technical capabilities of these two systems are likely exaggerated for propaganda purposes, they are believed to have the potential to interfere with low-earth orbit spy satellites, airborne surveillance platforms, and other collection systems. In any case, their deployment certainly allows them to prove their capabilities against advanced U.S. and NATO platforms.

Russia also uses its EW capabilities to amplify the effectiveness of its special operations forces, the “little green men” used to such noteworthy effect in Ukraine. In his famous article on hybrid warfare, Gen. Valery Gerasimov asserts that SOF and internal opposition are used “to create a permanently operating front through the entire territory of the enemy state…” To the authors of The Nature and Content of New-Generation War, SOF are maneuverable shock infantry that gather targeting information for Russian strikes and “roll over” weakened enemies. Retired Colonel-General Anatoly Zaitsev writes how the ultimate goal of SOF “is to destroy the enemy’s critical facilities and disrupt or destroy his forces’ systems.” Russia’s renewed interest in SOF is further illustrated by the creation of the elite Komanda Spetsial’nikh Operatsiy (KSO) command and deployment of various SOF forces in Ukraine and Syria.

It’s hard to comprehensively track Russian SOF, but they have been observed operating throughout Ukraine. At the beginning of the conflict, KSO and naval spetsnaz units seized several strategic sites, including airports, surface-to-air missile batteries, Ukrainian military facilities, and the Crimean parliament building. As the conflict shifted to the Donbas, otherSOF elements were deployed to protect Russian technical trainers, instill control over the separatists’ chain of command, and train and support separatist fighters.

In Syria, the Russian SOF deployment is more ambiguous and less overt. KSO elements have recently been“redeployed” from Ukraine to help coordinate Russian airstrikes. In addition, “highly-secretive” Zaslon SOFpersonnel have been deployed to guard sensitive Russian equipment, personnel, and information. Additional SOF activity is likely as Russia’s involvement in Syria expands.

Moscow has proven adept at using EW and SOF in concert to fragment and slow adversaries’ strategic decision-making. While “little green men” secure key locations and train local forces, electronic-warfare forces distort ISR collection by adversaries and third parties, limiting their ability to project an accurate counter-narrative to inform confused domestic audiences and a divided international community. And even when a defender does manage to grasp the situation, RussianEW attacks on their command, control, communications, and intelligence disrupts their response.

Nations threatened by Russia’s hybrid warfare can strengthen their resilience through investing in two areas. First, build stronger and more redundant C3I by encrypting radio, data links, and satellite communications, and developing promising new technologies such as cognitive EW. Although Russia’s advanced EW capabilities can attack nearly any system, redundancy can limit their impact. Second, improve the ability to monitor and understand the battlespace by improving tacticalISR. UAVs are key: hand-launched ones, medium-altitude drones with greater endurance, and airborne ISR platforms with electro-optical/infrared sensors and signals intelligence payloads—all of which must be supported by secure data links.

Yet since no single platform or system provides a silver-bullet solution to hybrid warfare, the U.S. and its NATO partners must explore developing new operating concepts; for example, ground forces should be prepared to mimic the U.S. Navy’s “emissions control” by operating in the absence of a data network. They must increase joint training against conventional and unconventional Russian military scenarios, allowing NATO to strengthen its response, practice its interoperability, and and signal its defensive resolve. Ultimately, they must learn how to assess their own prowess, doctrine, strategy and tactics against an adversary whose expertise in hybrid warfare is growing by the day.

Read the Original Article at Defense One