Army’s New Capstone: Overcoming the moral challenges to shape the environment for our national interests in the homeland and abroad

by Scott Creighton

policyThe U.S. Army has a new strategic vision which seems to center around the Special Operations Command (or SOCOM for short) doing “shape and prevent” operations for the benefit of our “national interests”. For those of you who don’t know, SOCOM runs the military’s “unconventional warfare” programs among other things. That’s not really a remarkable statement of purpose. If you read Gen. Smedley Butler’s 1935 work War is a Racket, then you will understand this has been our foreign policy for a very long time.

What’s interesting is who they say they are going to be primarily gearing up to fight… and where… and why.

You can read the new Army Capstone Concept (ACC) paper here. It’s a PDF.

In section 3-1 titled “The future army” they lay out the new priorities this way:

In accordance with this guidance, the joint force must access its capabilities and make selective additional investments to succeed in the primary missions of the U.S. Armed Forces: counterterrorism and irregular warfare; deter and defeat aggression; project power despite anti-access and area denial challenges; counter WMD; operate effectively in space, operate effectively in cyberspace; maintain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent; defend the homeland and provide Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA); provide a stabilizing presence; conduct stability and counterinsurgency operations; and conduct humanitarian, disaster relief, and other operations.11 The Army, as part of the joint force, must provide the land component forces necessary to accomplish each of these primary missions. ACC

Notice that “defend the homeland’ is way down on that list. That’s understandable because we face no real threat from any aggressive actor out there unless of course we provoke the Chinese or the Russians and by “we” I mean Hillary Clinton if she ever comes out of hiding.

“Irregular warfare” or “unconventional warfare” is first on the list.

Here is a write-up on the new ACC from the Army homepage.

The ACC’s regional alignment component aims to “prevent, shape and win,” Hix said, meaning “working with the other services, our partners and our allies to prevent wars and shape the environment to the benefits of our national interest as well as that of our partners and allies and to contribute to stability around the world….

…”We’ve done this work throughout our history,” Hix said, citing war games and experiments on maneuver warfare in the interwar years of the 1920s and ’30s, as well as post-war assessments. It just went by other names.” ARMY homepage

On that same homepage they have a photo of a 3rd Special Forces Group member training African soldiers in Mali.

On the last page of the ACC document, page 24, they clearly lay out the new course for the Army:

Chapter 5
Summary
a. The ACC describes the anticipated future operational environment, what the future Army must do based on that environment, and the broad capabilities the Army will require to accomplish its enduring missions successfully. The future operational environment includes economic challenges which will impact the U.S., and its allies and partners; a U.S. shift in strategic focus towards the Asia-Pacific region while maintaining a presence in the Middle East, and continued proliferation of WMD. The environment is uncertain and complex and its threats include: criminal organizations, terrorists, states and no-state actors, insurgents, transnational groups, proxies, technologically-empowered individual, and paramilitaries. These are increasing in number and capabilities, and may operate as regular, irregular, or hybrid threats that can and will challenge conventional military forces. Enemies will use anti-access and area denial, and advanced threat tactics and technologies, to challenge U.S forces. ACC

“Criminal organizations”? “Transnational groups”? Is that what the nation’s army is supposed to be targeting? A “technologically empowered individual”?

This goes beyond the old adage “if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail”. This is something else. This is a doctrine of nation building and world policing. But for the benefit of whom? The privately owned central banking system, perhaps? Bechtel? Exxon? United Fruit?

When you consider that what our nation’s leaders consider “stability” usually consists of a dictator running roughshod over his economically oppresses people (Mubarak, Ben Ali, the Shah, Suharto, Jordan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Kosovo, Qatar, Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti (Papa Doc), etc etc) and the death squads that are needed to keep them in power, then you start to understand that what seems to be happening here is a doctrine of support for these very types of people.

Again, not a new concept in the history of our military but certainly not something they put to paper as their guiding principles.

Perhaps there is a clue in the next to the last paragraph of the ACC document:

The Army must maintain a credible, robust capacity to win decisively and the depth and resilience to support combatant commanders across the range of military operations in the homeland and abroad. This places a premium on operational adaptability, the fundamental characteristic of the Army–a quality that Army leaders, Soldiers, and civilians possess based on critical thinking, comfort with ambiguity and decentralization, a willingness to accept prudent risk, and an ability to make rapid adjustments based on a continuous assessment of the situation. Operational adaptability requires resilient Soldiers and cohesive teams that are able to overcome the psychological and moral challenges of combatACC

In the film Saving Private Ryan we all watch the scene where the Tom Hanks character decides to let a German captive walk back down the lines to other Allied forces who will pick him up rather than allow his team kill him in retaliation for the death of one of their own. We watch that scene having seen the film before, knowing that in the end, that same German soldier is the one who eventually shoots and kills Hanks. We also know that it’s the translator who is most adamant about not killing POWs who ends up shooting the German after capturing him in the end in retaliation for killing Hanks.

We watch that scene where he sets the German free and we understand something; Hanks explains to one of his angered soldiers that every man he kills takes him one step further from his home. His morality, though noble, seals his fate.

And for that, he is the best of us and how we would like to see ourselves reflected in our soldiers at times of war.

Is that what this document ends with or are they talking about a comfort with a moral ambiguity, the kind of comfort which would allow soldiers to launch hellfire rockets at funerals and first responders? The kind of moral ambiguity which would allow them to train terrorists to blow up civilian targets in Damascus? The kind of moral ambiguity which would create the kind of images we saw from places like Fallujah and Abu Ghraib?

Is that what overcoming the moral challenges to shape the environment for our national interests in the homeland and abroad means?

I certainly hope not. But the more we see how these corrupt politicians, bankers and CEOs misuse our armed forces, the more one has to wonder.

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3 Responses

  1. I wonder if “trans-national groups” includes Gazprom and the Chinese oil and mineral concerns.

  2. What a blizzard or Orwellian newspeak. “Counterterrorism and irregular warfare”( destabilizations for the purpose of imperialism),”operate effectively in cyberspace”(control the internet),defend the homeland (help maintain the police state),”humanitarian, disaster relief”(public relations). And that’s just one paragraph. “Criminal organizations, transnational groups”(I take it they’re not talking about the Bilderbergers here),”comfort with ambiguity”(no guilt),”decentralization, a willingness to accept prudent risk”(learn to think like an imperialist, and take actions based on those thoughts, of course, you will be hung out to dry if you fuck up). I could go on and on but I’m tired of parentheses and quotation marks. Thanks for posting this Scott.

  3. I see we Indians are on the list. If your country attacks us, we can depend on our Muddle Class rolling over and surrendering before the first shot is fired.

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