principled deterrence E LaMont Gregory MSc Oxon
... all military doctrines have costs, human and material, associated with them, however, increased military expenditure does not necessarily lead to increased capability or security E LaMont Gregory
the relevance of this discussion to Central Asia, and the Middle East speaks to its urgency
In order to demonstrate to a potential foe that violence and aggression does not pay, Robert McNamara, believed an aggressor must be constrained properly by a deterrent. And, to make the deterrent credible, one must be explicit about the level of destruction the US was willing to inflict in response to aggression.
The high art of the level of destruction strategy was the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction - MAD. Mutually Assured Destruction relied on deterrence by the ability to demonstrate the level of punishment that an aggressor would receive as well as the precision with which that response could be applied. However, ultimate credibility was achieved by our having twice demonstrated our willingness to use such force including the sum of all fears scenario.
For the sake of clarity we will call MAD the Eisenhower Doctrine.
Kennedy came to consider that the nuclear deterrent was simply unacceptable. And, having a military deterrent strategy that one would never use was of little value to the security of America and its interests.
Kennedy advanced the doctrine of 'graduated deterrence – flexible response’. The flexible response doctrine envisions having multiple options that would allow the US to respond with an appropriate amount of force across a spectrum of possible military conflicts.
The flexible response doctrine was devised by Kennedy in 1961 to address his administration's skepticism of Eisenhower's New Look policy and its reliance upon the strategy of Massive Retaliation. Kennedy suggested that the graduated deterrence - flexible response approach would provide mutual deterrence at the strategic, tactical, as well as, conventional levels. Thus, giving the United States the capacity to respond to any aggression across the spectrum of warfare, not limited to those circumstances where the threaten use of nuclear arms would act as a sufficient deterrent.
This would improve our deterrent credibility, in Kennedy’s view, because the US would show a capability and willingness to use force, albeit low-intensity options, rather than to assume that the idea of massive retaliation, the all-or-nothing option, actually provided a deterrent.
There is no indication that Kennedy realized the cost implications of having a counter force for every possible conflict scenario across the spectrum of the conventional and non-conventional battlefield. Nor, is there any evidence that Kennedy understood just how cost effective Eisenhower's doctrine was actually. The Cuban missile crisis taught Kennedy one important lesson and that was to get out from under the threat of nuclear war, and he was determined to set a course to do just that.
In fact, the Kennedy doctrine set in motion a series of eventualities that led to the removal of the ultimate deterrent option altogether, which only left the flexible response approach to provide security for the United States and its interests.
It is my premise that the only military doctrine that the US has had since the 1960's is flexible response. And, that the flexible response military doctrine has associated costs, and the increased costs associated with the flexible response doctrine has not led to increased security.
Flexible response has not only increased the cost of our military preparedness significantly, but has also increased American casualties dramatically as well. Reliance on the flexible response logic has kept us in active conflicts since its inception. And most importantly, is not a credible military doctrine with which to counter the use of urban guerrilla insurgency tactics that target civilians to undermine belief in the ability of authorities to provide safety from indiscriminate attacks, that is, unless we intend to be like Czarist Russia who suffered terrorism for 100 years between 1817 and 1917.
What flexible response tells a potential adversary is that they can fight the US, because we are willing to fight them at their level of capability. And, this explains, in part, why we have been mired in deadly conventional and non-conventional wars in Vietnam, and the counter insurgency conflicts in Somalia, Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Telling an enemy that you are willing to fight them by simply countering the level of force they bring to the battlefield and signaling your willingness to do so in their backyard, is not a credible deterrent, and does not deter conflicts, in fact, it inspires them.
Without a credible deterrent, the policy of flexible response will only draw us into more and more deadly and long drawn-out conflicts.
After, Kennedy's foray into the abyss - The Cuban Missile Crisis - all subsequent presidents have continued along the lines of putting the nuclear deterrent to rest, for example, during the SALT Talks the Soviet Union proposed the inclusion of a 'no first strike clause', and Reagan's 'tear down this wall' signaled the desire of the US not to initiate Armageddon.
History records the influence that the book 'The Guns of August,' had on Kennedy's decision making during the missile crisis. And, shows that he came to understand the essential lessons of how some rather basic miscalculations had sparked WWI. And, to prevent a war from breaking out between the USSR and the US, JFK was able to devise alternative strategies to those presented to him by his top military leaders, who thought that there were no alternatives to military action against the Soviets in response to their introduction of nuclear weapons onto the island of Cuba.
Although Kennedy was able to find a way not to stumble into a tragic war, as it turns out the lessons of the "Guns of August' that is, that Germany did not want a war was false. Germany had wanted and planned for war.
Nonetheless, in devising the flexible response doctrine, it must have seemed to Kennedy that preventing a nuclear war was the most important thing to be accomplished. What was not clear to him was the fact that removing the nuclear deterrent did not mean that a deterrent was not necessary or useful, and that he had invited the escalation of conventional and non-conventional warfare as a result.
And thus, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, and Reagan continued with the strategy of removing the ultimate deterrent from the thinkable. At the same time each of these presidents continued to grow the flexible response doctrine with little questioning of its basic premises.
George Herbert Walker Bush, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, toyed with what he called the 'The New World Order Military Doctrine.' The idea being that our allies did not have to maintain an army of any significant size, because they could just pay us and we would go in, stop the fighting, disarm the warring factions, hold an election and then get out.
The deterrent factor in the Bush doctrine was the idea that once the US was about to take on the role of stopping the fighting and disarming the combatants, it would come to be known by those on the receiving end that the US was not going to invest a lot of time in getting the job done. And, at that juncture most warring factions would see the logic of going directly to the election phase rather than to see the complete destruction of their armies.
What is important here is that GHW Bush was thinking in terms of what would constitute a credible deterrent. And, that deterrent was the sheer willingness of the Americans to do the job, to do the job effectively and, do it quickly.
The Bush doctrine when materialized fully was thought to involve us in conflicts for a matter of hours and days, not even weeks or months.
Bush outlined the following steps in a typical American led campaign; isolate the battlefield, stop all arms from entering the conflict zone, give the combatants an opportunity to surrender, go in, stop the fighting, disarm the combatants and destroy all military equipment, hold an election and, get out.
Bush's influence in the field of military doctrine development however, lasted only the four short years of his presidency. Clinton, GW Bush and Obama, have returned to the policy of flexible response without a deterrent and the consequences have been rather obvious. We continue to put the force onto the battlefield that our adversaries put onto the battlefield, and as a result we remain mired in numerous long drawn out and costly conflicts.
And, we do not have a credible deterrent in the arena of terrorism.
... the Gregory military doctrine
... a deterrent is always better than a response
In the mid 1990's Prime Minister Tony Blair afforded this author an opportunity, over an Easter holiday break, to put on his fax machine at 10 Downing Street a plan to end the hostilities in The Sudan. That plan called for the partition of The Sudan into a north and a south. It would be nearly 14 years, and untold suffering later before the partition plan would be implemented. But here was an opportunity, without the use of military force of any kind to end a war, and the suffering of millions of civilians.
The principle applied here is that there did not seem to be a workable coalition in The Sudan that could be assembled to govern the country as a whole, and since the demarcation line, a north and a south Sudan, already existed in cultural terms, that is, de facto, the recognition of that reality in geopolitical terms, de jure, was warranted.
In my plan the United States would immediately recognize the two new nations and sign protection accords with each, to the effect that the United States would be committed to defend either country should they be attacked, principled deterrence.
It is often stated that we, the US, cannot be the world's police force. I beg to differ, what we have become and should not be is the world's conventional army, who counters rather simplistically the force metered out against us by local insurgents.
What we cannot do is to continue to arm insurgents and other spontaneous uprisings to remove brutal dictators. What we cannot do is to spread conflicts in order to end them. A world community without a credible police force is a very very dangerous place.
Some 55,000 civilians (at the time of this writing) have been killed in the last five years in the drug wars in Mexico. This violence has spread to the United States. In fact, there have been more people killed in the United States in the decades-old war on drugs than died in the Civil War, making the drug war the most costly in US history.
Principled deterrence calls for sweeps and not surges. If we had the will, and could see that it was in our national interest to end the slaughter in Mexico, we could, if staged properly, interdict every drug cartel leader in Mexico in one and the same hour, and most of the principal drug gang heads and their enforcers in a day or two.
American law enforcement is highly skilled in conducting sweeps and this technique has been used quite effectively in temporarily reducing drug related crime waves in a host of American communities. Literally hundreds of people are arrested simultaneously and charged in the course of a sweep.
The five-city sweep to interdict human traffickers across the US is just one example of the effectiveness of this technique, and the ability to coordinate simultaneous arrests over great distances.
All the warlords on the entire continent of Africa could be apprehended in a day saving the lives of thousands of civilians, and hundreds of millions in humanitarian assistance which should more properly be applied to medium and long range strategies to ameliorate the dire conditions that exist in many conflict torn areas on that continent.
The Milosevic principle, that is, we go after the heads of armies or any other organization that systematically attacks civilians, should be the core principle. We do not put a conventional force on the ground to conduct conventional battles; we go after the heads of the army or group.
In Libya our goal was to end Gaddafi's brutal rein of instability. It was a mistake to arm a rebel group, and many of the arms used in Libya are now being used to topple other governments in North Africa. Thus spreading the conflict, rather than containing it, which was the primary goal, ostensibly.
In addition, the Obama administration's decision not to use superior military assets in Libya, such as, the A10 air-to-ground warplane that our NATO allies lacked, prolonged what could have been a few weeks war into a campaign of more than six months and increased casualties from a few thousand to tens of thousands. The A10 was the missing deterrent asset on the Libyan battlefield.
The goal in Syria is to end the Assad reign of terror, and that should be our singularly unique goal. We should not arm another group of rebels whose use of the weapons we supply after Assad is no longer in power is unknown and unpredictable.
Not too long ago, ‘we’ found the person responsible for planning the Beirut Barracks bombing and blew him up in this car in downtown Damascus. These are the types of surgical interdictions that principled deterrence affords as a military doctrine. Oppose world peace and we will come after you, not your people and with the least possible amount of collateral damage, however we will remove the threat to stability.
The US is the only credible deterrent to aggression, and we must have a military policy, a doctrine, that reflects that reality. We must be willing to do what is necessary to achieve stability. Flexible response is an inadequate response to terrorism. Just as counter insurgency is a poor response to guerrilla warfare, especially urban guerrilla warfare.
The argument by past administrations that we ought downsize the US military, or alternatively, increase military expenditure for conventional conflicts, is at best misguided, and at worst inherently dangerous. And, while much of the costs of maintaining our military bases abroad are being borne by the host nations, there is no need to signal those who oppose us that we are moving into a retrench position, or our willingness to counter conventional wars and insurgencies.
The new welding tank IED's that have shown up on the battlefield, many of which can be launched and are reasonably accurate over a distance of about one-half mile. These missiles are manufactured, that is, parts ordered and assembled and then delivered to the battlefield. Stopping this activity is not a military activity, but a policing operation. And when our current military establishment realizes what is the proper role of the police as distinguished from the proper role of the military, we will be able deploy the two forces into the mix as the realities on the ground demand.
It is the premise of this argument that a new military doctrine is needed to reflect 21st Century military requirements. And, that the continued reliance on the doctrine of flexible response does not serve our modern military needs. In fact, the flexible response doctrine with its logic of only opposing the amount of force that we encounter on the battlefield has propelled us into long and costly conflicts, and will continue to do so.
A policy of Principled Deterrence is advanced as a means of addressing the modern battlefield, which increasingly reflects the use of non-conventional aggressive strategies; in fact, Marshall McLuhan suggests that World War III will be a non-conventional global information war with no clear divisions between civilian and military participation.
This is an apt description of the current ransomware attacks on the US and our allies emanating from Russia, that is, with no clear divisions between civilian and military participation.
The ideal deterrent, by definition, should provide a means that guarantees with certainty that anyone who upsets the peace would be interdicted, so that peace and stability can be preserved.
Principled deterrence offers just such a system.
It is becoming generally recognized that since the November 2020 election, two things will have to happen.
First, a realistic approach to our domestic economic woes must be devised and implemented; and second, some rather decisive corrections in our military and foreign relations doctrines will have to be advanced.
- in process
The second part of, the Gregory Military doctrine, begins with the following subtitle:
... in a pandemic, as in war, a deterrent is better than a response - E LaMont Gregory MSc Oxon
In this section of our exploration of the modern battlefield as envisioned under a principled deterrence approach, remembering that all knowledge is comparative, we begin by looking at two real world, yet contrasting approaches employed in the early days to counter and contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
We compare two provinces, Ontario in Canada, and a province in eastern France.