Here we see the distinction between the study of "war" and the study of "warfare". War remains the same and a general theory may apply, whereas warfare is specific to the time and interaction in question. Each of the theorists I mention above - -including Clausewitz - dealt with both in their analyses, many times quoting Clausewitz or assuming a general theory foundation and then developing their own specific "art of warfare" based on military history/personal experience for their own epochs. It is this art of warfare for the particular epoch which in turn supplies the basis for military doctrine. My copy of JCS Pub 1 defines doctrine as "Fundamental principles by which the military forces or elements thereof guide their actions in support of national objectives. It is authoritative but requires judgment in application."
So to recap my distinctions in terms of strategic theory, we have the general theory which applies to all wars and we have the "art of warfare" of a particular epoch, both of which are retrospective in nature and of only limited predictive value. On the other hand we have Doctrine - the actual operational military guidelines - may be based on an art of warfare, or not, but the general theory of war would only exist in terms of "basic principles" (or essentially truisms) due to their highly abstract and general nature. The real distinction however is that doctrine provides a guide for present and future action, whereas strategic theory (both the "war" and "warfare" variants) does not.
The importance of these distinctions is obvious, I would hope. The idea for this post came to me slowly as a result of a series of posts made concerning first US politics and later the Afghan War. Recently a blog-friend of mine, Lexington Green, created a stir with a post he made over at Chicagoboyz:
The Glenn Beck rally is confusing people. Why? He is aiming far beyond what most people consider to be the goalposts. Using Boyd’s continuum for war: Material, Intellectual, Moral. Analogously for political change: Elections, Institutions, Culture.
Beck sees correctly that the Conservative movement had only limited success because it was good at level 1, for a while, weak on level 2, and barely touched level 3. Talk Radio and the Tea Party are level 3 phenomena, popular outbreaks, which are blowing back into politics.
Someone who asks what the rally has to do with the 2010 election is missing the point. Beck is building solidarity and cultural confidence in America, its Constitution, its military heritage, its freedom. This is a vision that is despised by the people who have long held the commanding heights of the culture. But is obviously alive and kicking . . . Political and policy choices rest on a foundation of philosophy, culture, self-image, ideals, religion. Change the foundation, and the rest will flow from that. Defeat the enemy on that plane, and any merely tactical defeat will always be reversible.
Please read the whole post to get an idea of the tone. Green repeatedly uses the language of warfare to describe the essence of what Beck is supposedly attempting to do.
In a follow-on post Green describes the two sides in question:
Today’s tools favor our side in this struggle, which I am calling the Insurgency.
The Insurgency is based on individual freedom, autonomous decision-making, spontaneous order, voluntary association, open-mindedness, adaptiveness, transparency, networks rather than hierarchies. It is at bottom a fun loving and joyful and open spirit. In many cases this is based on religious faith. (I raise my hand.) In others it is based on love of human potential and creativeness, or other positive factors. This model works. And it works better and better with the tools of today and tomorrow.
The Opposition is based on the outdated legacy systems of the Industrial Era. It is based on assembly lines, bureaucracies, railway timetables, rationing, coercive and rule-bound action, mandatory schedules, forcing people into niches and categories, stripping them of autonomy, and turning people into petty little beasts subject to political control. That is the vision of the Opposition: People standing in line, people asking permission, people filling out forms, people without cars, without money in their pockets, who need a political favor to get anything done. It is based on nostalgia for the old-time “Big Unit” America that worked tolerably well in its day, the period roughly 1900-1950. (Michael Barone wrote about this recently.) But a system of centralized control that barely worked in its heyday is utterly unsuited to the world of today. It is increasingly falling on its face. Our institutions no longer work, because they are ill-suited to who we are, what we need, and where we want to go.
Notice that the two sides are very human in the initial post, "us and them", whereas in the second the "opposition" is re-introduced as an out-dated attitude lurching towards the dustbin of history. The fact that our "military heritage", the military industrial complex behind it, and in fact the whole national security state are part of opposing "Big Unit" America is masked by the moral certitude that Green displays.
This certitude comes out even clearer in his concluding post on the Afghan War roundtable discussion that I participated in at Chicago Boyz:
I. Moral Clarity
I am posting this on September 11, 2010. We attacked the Taliban regime because they supported and granted havens to America’s enemies. That initial invasion was just.
The Taliban are one of the most vicious and evil enemies America’s soldiers have ever faced. Killing them is just. Our soldiers are on the correct side of the moral equation in this struggle. The Taliban murdered hundreds of thousands of people in the decade they controlled Afghanistan. Destroying their rule was a just cause. Destroying them forever may be beyond our power. But it would be worth doing if it could be done at tolerable cost.
No one else mentioned this moral dimension except me, in the post that began the Roundtable. And I only did so in an update, after an email exchange with our friend Nate, who is actually serving over there.
Whatever the wisdom of our strategy, whatever the outcome of our effort, whatever the ultimate fate of Afghanistan, the enemy was mightily worth killing. Our warriors can have pride in their effort and their cause.
If anyone digs back in 40 years and considers the moral issue, that will still be the correct conclusion.
So, once again, this moral dimension, this moral element "of Boyd's continuum of war", described here as "clarity" and obviously an objective fact since for our side it is morally right to kill (even all) the enemy, who are evil. Just as in US politics the insurgency - under the supposed leadership of Glenn Beck - operates with the same moral advantage against the Big-Unit "enemy". Where exactly does this concept originate? Is it the thought of John Boyd or something closer to a religious belief?
Since Frans Osinga's Science, Strategy and War, The Strategic Theory of John Boyd is considered by the Boydians as the best author on explaining Boyd, I refer to him:
Boyd also adopted [JFC] Fuller's concept of the three spheres of war - the physical, the mental and the moral dimension, using this idea to structure his argument and develop three modes of conflict. Respectively, these spheres dealt with destruction of the enemy's physical strength (fighting power), disorganization of his mental processes (thinking power), and disintegration of his moral will to resist (staying power). . . Central to his argument is the notion that paralysis should be the aim in war and that the mental and moral dimensions should be the prime target of a military operation. page 32.
Three kinds of conflict. Based on the 'panorama' of military history, Boyd argues that one can imagine three kinds of human conflict:
In Moral warfare the aim is to [quoting Boyd], "destroy the moral bonds that permit an organic whole to exist". pp 166 & 171
To start this is only the first critique of Osinga/Boyd (assuming his interpretation of Boyd is valid), nothing near a last word on my part. In fact I think a full Clausewitzian review of Osinga's book would be quite intensive and critical.
Here I am only interested in bringing up this concept of Fuller's moral sphere, which Boyd expands into a strategic element (pp 209-17). It is interesting to note that in the Fuller book that Osinga quotes there is no mention of this moral sphere. To find that, one has to go back to Fuller's Foundations of the Science of War of 1926. In chapter VII of that book, "the Moral Sphere of War", Fuller starts off by praising Clausewitz and quoting from Book 3, Chapter 3, of On War. It is also clear that for Fuller, following Clausewitz, these spheres concern the tactical and operational levels, that is the Fighting Forces, not the strategic level at all. They are tied very closely with military leadership, but are not to be confused with political leadership where quite different circumstances apply. Thus Fuller's concept of the moral existing as a link between will and action (which Osinga repeats) concerns soldiers operating under orders in war, not to entire populations during wartime or political crisis. In fact, Osinga compounds the confusion by having Fuller maintain, "The physical epoch had come to an end; the moral epoch was dawning. There was no longer a need to literally destroy the enemy's armies in the field. . . Paralysis and collapse were central themes." (page 32).
I have not been able to find Fuller maintaining this "dawning epoch of the moral" and suspect that Fuller is referring to the mental element or "mind warfare". Also when Fuller does speak of a possible moral sphere at the strategic level he refers naturally enough to WWI propaganda:
The strangle-hold of the blockade created a fertile soil sowing the seeds of propaganda, and not - not excepting the American Civil War - in no previous war was it so virulent and vile . . . The reason was that, in times past war was waged to change the enemy's policy, and not to change his government - the policy maker. Its aim was to change the government's mind, and should the government be overthrown, there would be no stable authority to negotiate a peace with. the world was then still sane, and the idea of creating a social anarchy in an enemy's country would have been considered contrary to common sense. The Conduct of War, p 179
So following Fuller, a "dawning epoch of the moral" would mean far bloodier and extensive wars, not ones less destructive. In fact as he warns in Chapter XII of the same book, the distinction between war and peace would be lost.
Now, consider Boyd's three kinds of war. Only the first, attrition war, covers limited wars or wars of limited objectives. The aim is the enemy's will to resist and thus compel him to negotiate, while he remains more or less intact. That is the kind most disparaged by Boyd's followers - attrition war - is also the most common in history and also characterizes the less bloody wars. For Boyd the aim of both maneuver and moral war is the enemy's collapse, that is total victory. Which would leave the victor attempting to pick up the pieces of the enemy state, which is hardly going to be a bloodless outcome, as witnessed by recent US military experience.
Finally, at the strategic level - Osinga puts this under "A Moral Design for Grand Strategy":
If the previous argument is accepted [Boyd's concept of moral isolation], it follows that for designing grand strategy the name of the game is to 'use moral leverage to amplify our spirit and strength as well as expose the flaws of competing or adversary systems, all the while influencing the uncommitted, potential adversaries and current adversaries so that they are drawn toward our success' Put another way, 'one should preserve or build-up moral authority while compromising that of our adversaries in order to pump-up our resolve, drain away adversaries' resolve, and attract them as well as others to our cause and way of life . . . p 215-16
For Boyd, this moral authority has an objective quality. Played the right way it is possible to convince any enemy population in wartime that it is not their own side, but the enemy who has their best interests at heart leading of course to political collapse. I suppose in Boyd's "strategic" universe, influenced as it is by Heisenberg and Gödel, such could be possible, but in strategic theory? Are there any such incidents in military history?
Another result of this approach is that this quest/drive for moral authority permeates all levels of strategy, the professed political purpose and achieving moral dominance requires continuous action at the operational and tactical levels.
In addition, information itself - how else is a nation at war to convince the enemy of their superior cause? - becomes a weapon of war. I would wonder if not the rise of influence of Boyd's ideas have not gone hand in hand with recent attempts at domestic information operations by the Pentagon. In other words, under a Clausewitzian system, propaganda would be the responsibility of the state alone, that is of the political authorities, whereas with Boyd's new moral epoch it is the responsibility of the military as well?
My conclusion in regards to Lexington Green's posts? I think he is following closely a Boydian perspective in all three posts that I quoted. The assumption of a objective or clarified moral element - assumed moral authority - is in line with Boyd as I understand Osinga to present him. The problem is much deeper in that Boyd's approach is not what Clausewitzians understand as strategic theory, which is actually the same definition that Osinga uses (pp 13-14). Boyd's moral assumptions belong to the realm of faith, not strategic theory. My intention here is simply to point that out.
Finally, strategic theory, especially of the Boydian type, is not very applicable to current domestic political analysis for several reasons. First, strategic theory concerns the use of power with the possible use of violence/coercion. The Western idea of representative government deals, not with potential violence, but with workable political solutions, that is compromise and consensus. Even if you don't mean "enemy" when you say "enemy" it still comes out the same way. Second, the assumption of moral authority is dubious especially in terms of politics. One side is painted black while the other paints itself white, whereas the reality is all gray. Of course this level of hostility on both sides could reflect the actual situation within the political community - in which we are dealing with more the nature of a war than of a political disagreement. In that case we perhaps need a clear strategic view now more than ever . . .
Postscript 1: As to Fuller's "new epoch" . . .
Armies are conservative organizations ; they adapt themselves slowly to new environments, and especially to new mental surroundings. To-day a new epoch of war is dawning, and we are surrounded by a veritable fog of new ideas. We must neither accept them as they stand nor pass them by, but we must examine them and test out their values.What are they, and what changes do they foretell? If armies are to be endowed with anew means of movement, then most of the existing offensive and protective means of waging war will be changed. As the three physical elements of war change their present values, so must our present conception of war-the expression and value of the mental elements - change with them and not only with them, but we must foresee these changes. If mentally we cannot keep pace with the changes in the physical elements of war-the changes in weapons, movement, and protection-then our strategy and tactics will remain obsolete ; that is to say, they will not enable us to express the principles of war when once again we are called upon to apply them. We shall go to war as we did in 1914 - under a misconception. If fortune favours us on the battlefields, we shall learn from the changed nature of these elements most costly lessons.If our luck be out, or if our adversary be mentally superior to ourselves, we shall be annihilated, because whilst in 1914 we misjudged weapons-weapons which could be countered by the use of trenches-in the next war we shall have misjudged movement, which has rightly been called " the soul of war." Fuller, 1926