Communicator (communicator) wrote,

Military strategy

From Crooked Timber, an account of poor military strategy that I find directly applicable to non-military contexts: micro-management, refusal to listen to low-level officers who are near to actual events, disparagement of those bringing news which conflicts with strategy.

All the following a quote from Chris Bray, a graduate history student on duty as a sergeant in Kuwait:

"The most remarkable examination of this topic is Sean Naylor’s recent book on Operation Anaconda, an American effort in 2002 to trap and destroy a force of hundreds of al Qaeda warriors in a valley in Afghanistan. Naylor’s book, Not a Good Day to Die, is far too detailed to come close to summarizing here. But two themes reappear throughout Naylor’s narrative. First, the American military has grown higher headquarters like weeds in rich soil. … Here’s a typical laundry list for a single meeting: “Representatives from K-Bar, the CIA, Task Force 11, CFLCC, the Coalition and Joint Civil-Military Operations Task Force, and Task Force Rakkasan had been invited.”… Four-star generals reviewed plans down to the platoon level.

"Second, the coordination of those many different elements and agendas meant that painfully negotiated plans became locked into place simply because they were painfully negotiated. After members of a Delta Force team pulled off the seemingly impossible feat of walking up the side of a mountain in the Afghan winter to get a firsthand look at the valley, operation leaders received reports that there were somewhere around 1000 enemy, not the 200 the American plans had called for—and then they learned further that the enemy was not in the valley, where the plans put them, but were instead on the high ground around it.

"Leaders of the battle decided to go ahead with the plan as written, reluctant to throw out weeks of hard-fought staff work on the word of Lt. Col. Peter Blaber’s Delta operators. The plans trumped reality, because the plans had come with political and institutional costs.

"Finally, one of the ways that Army officers managed the problem of ignoring the Delta Force intelligence showing 1000 enemy on the high ground was to regard the special operators who delivered that intelligence as out-of-control and untrustworthy. Leaders ridiculed the Delta team reports, and “mocked the independent role that Blaber had carved out by calling him ‘Peter the Great’ and ‘Colonel Kurtz.’” The enforcement of institutional orthodoxy allowed leaders to ignore realistic bad news. Today’s U.S. Army in a nutshell, right there."

Chris Bray's full account in a lengthy blog entry here

  • Phew what a scorcher

    I see Gove has backed down on climate change and it's back in the curriculum again.

  • GCSE Computer Science

    My book is now for sale

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