Accuracy in Media

The incident between three U.S.
warships and about half a dozen Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps
(IRGC) “go fast” boats in the Straits of Hormuz (SOH) Sunday a week ago
is not necessarily “new” news: U.S. Navy ships patrolling in the Persian Gulf
have encountered these small boats for years. What’s new is that the
IRGC boats seemed intent on drawing fire from the U.S. Navy ships,
perhaps to spark an international incident prior to the President’s
trip to the region.

most reports of this latest incident have focused on the political
aspects of the Iranian maneuver, it points out a potential for future
war that is causing major concerns among U.S. and allied military professionals.

The Persian Gulf
is fairly small. At any given time there are about 1,500 vessels, large
and small, plying the shallow and constricted waters of the Gulf and
the SOH. The U.S. Navy has to identify and operate among all of them.
This is no small feat when a Navy carrier battle group is running up
and down the northern gulf at 30 knots launching and retrieving fighter

The mix of Iranian capabilities arrayed against the U.S. and allied Navies in the Arabian Gulf
and along the Straits of Hormuz has always concerned our sailors. Quiet
submarines, fast missile-armed medium patrol boats, ground based
anti-ship cruise missiles, anti-ship sea mines ? and the swarms of
“armed run-abouts” present our sailors with multiple, simultaneous

How serious a potential threat this poses was aptly pointed out during a summer 2002 war game conducted in Norfolk.
In that game the “red team,” commanded by retired U.S. Marine
Lieutenant General Paul K. Van Riper, used swarms of small, fast boats
armed with machine-guns, rocket propelled grenade launchers, and
explosives along with more conventional weapons like cruise missiles to
virtually sink most of the “blue” naval forces, effectively winning the
sea battle before the land campaign could start. 

cheap technology, costing at the most millions, and innovative tactics,
Van Riper’s red forces defeated tens of billions of dollars of high
tech ships. It was such a devastating blow to “blue” forces that the
war game had to be restarted.

the U.S. military is the unchallenged master of conventional, high
intensity war characterized by high-tempo movements of heavy maneuver
forces across long distances supported by networked intelligence and
communications systems and precision, high volume air and ground
delivered fire support. Our enemies and potential enemies understand
that fighting the U.S. conventionally is the surest way to lose.

enemies are proving themselves much smarter than that. Evidence of that
fact abounds from the attacks on 9/11 to the recent Hezbollah/Israeli
war in Lebanon. In the summer 2006 war in Lebanon,
the conventional Israeli Army was fought to a standstill by an
irregular or “hybrid” force, Hezbollah. Long a terrorist organization,
Hezbollah transformed itself after the Israelis left Lebanon in the spring of 2000 into a formidable force focused on defeating the Israelis the next time they entered Lebanon in force. They were well supplied with conventional weapons by their sponsors in Iran and Syria.

fought the Israelis using a mix of information operations and
propaganda, massed missile attacks against population centers in
Northern Israel, focused ambushes of Israeli Army mechanized units from
well prepared defensive sites, hit and run attacks from Lebanese
villages and towns, ground launched anti-ship missiles, and even
unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicles (UAVs). Who “won” this campaign
is still the subject of much discussion amongst military professionals.

Is this the face of future war?

current, accepted term for this style of conflict is Irregular Warfare
(IW) and figuring it out has been the subject of an intensive effort in
the U.S.
services and our allies. IW describes a mode of war where the primary
target is the mind and will of the enemy, the battlefield is the
“amongst the people,” and the activity of war ? the combat ? is
multifaceted, wildly variable, and brutal.

called Irregular Warfare, combinational war, Fourth Generation War,
unrestricted war (a Chinese military term) or another idea on the rise,
“Hybrid War,” the challenge that faces our forces is to maintain the
major-war winning capability represented by our conventional prowess
and protect the homeland while at the same time generating increased
capability to defeat hybrid challengers who will seek to engage us in
“complex environments,” including densely packed urban centers.

It can’t be “either/or” ? it has to be both. U.S. forces have to be capable of operating across the entire spectrum of current and potential conflicts around the world.

James Conway, Commandant of the Marine Corps, has described how to
prepare for hybrid wars in complex environments by saying the Corps has
to be a “two-fisted fighter” capable of jabbing and sparring
continuously to keep agile opponents off balance ? while still
maintaining that round-house right, able to send any heavyweight
opponent to the mat. He maintains that our forces, now and in the
future, have to be trained, ready, and capable of being that
“two-fisted” fighter.

and other military leaders have also said that our armed forces don’t
have to get the future exactly right, but the military, government and
our nation cannot afford to be disastrously wrong.

this “mostly” right is very important to our nation’s security. Next
time you see political candidates (Presidential or otherwise) in your
neighborhood, ask them what they are doing to help the military and
security establishment “get this right.”


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