Thoughts on Strategic Landpower

Mar 1, 2013

By Ground Forces Dialogue

There has been some discussion in the trade press about the agreement between the Army, Marine Corps, and Special Operations Command (SOCOM) to stand up a task force examining the concept of "strategic landpower."  We recently had an email exchange with a rep on the HQMC staff noting both the opportunities and risks that are posed by this effort...

The services most impacted (the services with distinct missions that intersect in the human terrain) have a legitimate need to systematically examine the last ten years to identify lessons learned about how to achieve enduring effects within human populations.  This is a challenge fundamental to the effectiveness of the joint force...all the elements of the joint force.  There is the OPPORTUNITY to:

1. refine our understanding of how military capabilities can and do influence human behavior and interactions;
2. reevaluate our cultural predisposition (American way of war) to favor the physical vs. social science of warfare, and its implications for the challenges that face early entry ground forces in particular;
3. critically examine our ability to achieve desired strategic outcomes, not just tactical ones;
4. use the totality of the above to better articulate the relevance of forces that operate in the human terrain, especially through the lens of the 'new normal'...non-states, sub-states, terrorists, insurgents, proxies, etc...

There is also RISK if this effort goes down a path of 'domain' parochialism.  The success or failure of the effort will be largely measured in its acceptance by the joint force, the defense establishment, and the makers of strategy. The strategic 'wholeness' of the joint force is enhanced by a better linkage of how ALL elements of the joint force contribute to influencing human decisions.  THAT is the strategic part of this effort, not an effort that pits forces operating in one domain against those that operate in another.  If these questions are addressed objectively and critically, and in the context of strategy, the resulting advancement of collective knowledge could be very powerful.

We will continue to follow the strategic landpower initiative to see how it evolves.  Send comments to groundforces@csis.org.