Monday, November 09, 2015

The Scots-Irish and the Battle for the Mind of the Army

As James Webb put it well, the Scots-Irish were "Born Fighting." In the American context, if ultimately Ulsterman or not, if you have a "Mc" - culturally you are probably part of the gaggle even if you don't want to be.

If you have a problem with that, we can take it outside once I finish my drink.

If you really wanted to do something interesting in the study of race and ethnicity beyond the anti-intellectual exercise of 1970s theory as practiced by the DOD diversity industry, you would pull the thread on an ethnic group just as distinct as Nixon's "hispanics" (Webb has mostly done it, but more can be done) - just doesn't have its own paternalistic recognition month. That OK, they are used to being looked at as peasants anyway, and generally thinking, they wouldn't take kindly of being treated as a special snowflake anyway. That is an weak-livered English concept. 

There is a reason that the Commander of ISAF/US Forces in AFG was McNeil, then McKiernan, then McChyrstal ... but let's get back to the topic at hand.

I was reminded of this when reading Mark Perry's bit over at Politico, Inside the Pentagon’s fight over Russia. It is full of Scots-Irish posturing at each other, throwing barbs, and generally looking for a fight. In this case; Macgregor, McMaster, and McCain.

It has to do with what army that we need, not particularly what we may want - and the ideas and views that are shaping the argument;
For those villagers eagerly snapping pictures on the side of a road in the Czech Republic in late September, the appearance of the line of U.S. “Stryker” armored fighting vehicles must have seemed more like a parade than a large-scale military operation. The movement of some 500-plus soldiers of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment from Vilsack in Bavaria to a Hungarian military base was intended to strengthen U.S. ties with the Czech, Slovak and Hungarian militaries and put Russia’s Vladimir Putin on notice.
But not everyone is convinced. “This Stryker parade won’t fool anyone in Moscow,” says retired Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor. “The Russians don’t do many things well, but they have been subverting, destabilizing, invading and conquering their neighbors since Peter the Great. And what’s our response: a small unit of light armored trucks.”
... an intense debate inside the Pentagon over the appropriate response to the Kremlin’s new, not-so-friendly global profile — and over the future of the U.S. Army. And now the debate has spread to Capitol Hill: later this week the Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing addressing the same issue.

Ironically, this Washington war of ideas has pitted against each other two brainy career Army officers who fought together in one of the most famous battles of modern times.

On one side is Macgregor, an outspoken and controversial advocate for reform of the Army — whose weapons he describes as “obsolescent,” its senior leaders as “self-interested,” and its spending as “wasteful.” Viewed by many of his colleagues as one of the most innovative Army officers of his generation, Macgregor, a West Point graduate with a Ph.D. in international relations (“he can be pretty gruff,” a fellow West Point graduate says, “but he’s brilliant”), led the 2nd Cav’s “Cougar Squadron” in the best-known battle of Operation Desert Storm in February 1991. In 23 minutes, Macgregor’s force destroyed an entire Iraqi Armored Brigade (including nearly 70 Iraqi armored vehicles), while suffering a single American casualty.
In the wake of the battle, however, Macgregor calculated that if his unit had fought a highly trained and better armed enemy, like the Russians, the outcome would have been different. So, four years later, he published a book called Breaking The Phalanx, recommending that his service “restructure itself into modularly organized, highly mobile, self-contained combined arms teams.” The advice received the endorsement of then-Army Chief of Staff Dennis Reimer, who ordered that copies of Macgregor’s book be provided to every Army general.
... the crux of Macgregor’s argument: Today the U.S. Army is comprised of BCTs rather than Reconnaissance Strike Groups, or RSGs, which is Macgregor’s innovation. Macgregor’s RSG shears away what he describes as “the top-heavy Army command structure” that would come with any deployment in favor of units that generate more combat power. “Every time we deploy a division we deploy a division headquarters of 1,000 soldiers and officers,” Macgregor explains. “What a waste; those guys will be dead within 72 hours.” Macgregor’s RSG, what he calls “an alternative force design,” does away with this Army command echelon, reporting to a joint force commander — who might or might not be an Army officer. An RSG, Macgregor says, does not need the long supply tail that is required of Brigade Combat Teams — it can be sustained with what it carries from ten days to two weeks without having to be resupplied.

Macgregor’s views line him up against Lt. General H.R. McMaster, an officer widely thought of as one of the Army’s best thinkers. McMaster fought under Macgregor at “73 Easting,” where he commanded Eagle Troop in Macgregor’s Cougar Squadron. McMaster, however, had more success in the Army than Macgregor, is a celebrated author (of Dereliction of Duty, a classic in military history), and is credited with seeding the Anbar Awakening during the Iraq War.
The military is taking Macgregor’s challenge seriously, in part because the retired colonel has spurred interest in his reform ideas from one of the most important players in the defense community, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain. McCain was said to be impressed after Macgregor and Admiral Mark Fitzgerald briefed him on the new force design last January 17, telling his staff to set up briefings for Macgregor with other senators. Then, in September, after Macgregor’s simulations were completed, he briefed senior Senate Armed Services staffers, arguing that replacing BCTs with RSGs would make Army formations more lethal and eliminate the budget redundancies in the current system, with potential savings of tens of billions of dollars.
That is just a taste. Read it all.

It does have me wondering about who in our Navy is engaging in these deep, structural discussions about needs, wants, and the requirements the world presents us. The closest we have in the open, for now, is the Hendrix-McGrath ongoing creative friction on the role of the big-deck carrier.

Hey, McGrath ... a good Scot-Irish name, or just Irish. Matters not. This Hendrix guy? Hmmm ... sound like a gene pool with a prediction for wooden shoes, bad food, good cheese, and legal vices ... almost English ... but we'll take him.

If you are so interested, we interviewed Douglas Macgregor on Midrats back in 2010. He has been at this awhile.

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